Silver and Bleak?
That's an unfortunate nickname for the Oakland Raiders. But it seems to fit as of late.
Way back in 2002, quarterback Rich Gannon helped lead the team to Super Bowl XXXVII.
Since 2003, the Raiders are 49-111 and have gone 10 straight seasons without a winning campaign.
And there was more disappointment in 2012 as the team finished 4-12 after showing some signs of improvement the previous two years.
But Reggie McKenzie has been a busy general manager this offseason.
And the Oakland Raiders will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2002…
If: New quarterback Matt Flynn, obtained from the Seattle Seahawks via trade in April, can come in and be efficient. Carson Palmer did throw for 4,018 yards last season and completed 61.1 percent of his throws. But his 22 touchdown passes were offset by 19 turnovers (14 interceptions, 5 lost fumbles). Of course, Palmer also didn't get a great deal of support from the Oakland ground attack as only four teams in the NFL ran for fewer yards than Dennis Allen's club in 2012.
And: The Oakland defense comes together. To say that the Raiders will have a few new faces on this side of the football would be an understatement. Left defensive end Lamarr Houston and strong safety Tvyon Branch look like the lone incumbents on a unit that gave up 46 offensive touchdowns. Free agency brings a whole new linebacking corps in Nick Roach (Bears), Kaluka Maiava (Browns) and Kevin Burnett (Dolphins). There are also new cornerbacks in Tracy Porter (Broncos) and Mike Jenkins (Cowboys). Get the picture?
But: If talented running back Darren McFadden can't stay on the field for an entire season then it's hard to imagine the Raiders making that much of a jump in the standings. And the first-round pick in 2008 has yet to play all 16 games for the team in any of his first five NFL campaigns. The team did sign free agent running back Rashad Jennings (Jaguars) to back up McFadden but it's certain that Allen would like to see less of the reserve performer in 2013.
So what do you think? This looked like a team that was making some strides. The Raiders did finish 8-8 in both 2010 and 2011 and that first year the club was a perfect 6-0 vs. the division. Of course, that was also a few head coaches and quarterbacks ago. And moving up in the AFC West could be easier said than done these days. But is the Silver and Black again ready to commit to excellence?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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