The Oakland Raiders could make the playoffs this season. Scientists could cure cancer tomorrow. It’s possible, but improbable.
I was asked at the Raiders Roundtable last week how many games they will win this year. I stated, “Three. Look back at the Oakland squad that went 2-14 in 2006, and you could argue that team had better talent.”
Not as crazy as it sounds. Shall we compare the 2006 and 2013 personnel?
The 2006 Raiders relied on a washed-up Aaron Brooks and overmatched Andrew Walter. Together they ran from constant pressure and totaled six touchdowns and 21 interceptions while steering an offense last in the league in points scored and total yardage.
Terrelle Pryor has a long way to go to become a reliable passer, but after two NFL career starts he already appears more effective than his 2006 counterparts. Advantage: 2013
The bane of both teams, the 2006 crew featured Barry Sims, Robert Gallery, Jake Grove, Kevin Boothe and Langston Walker. Like the 2013 version, they struggled with injuries. Sims’ skills were in noticeable decline, Gallery was Gallery, Grove was serviceable, and Boothe and Walker underperformed. Names like Cory Hulsey and Chad Slaughter were forced to start at times, and the unit surrendered 72 sacks. Are the nightmares beginning to return?
Today, Jared Veldheer is shelved indefinitely, and the club has resorted to playing rookie Menelik Watson and retread Khalif Barnes at left tackle. Lucas Nix (left guard) and Tony Pashos (right tackle) are worrisome NFL starting linemen, but center Stefen Wisniewski provides hope. Advantage: 2013 (barely)
Easy. Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece and Rashad Jennings get the edge over Justin Fargas, an aging Zack Crockett and a broken LaMont Jordan. Advantage: 2013
Despite his pouting, a 29-year-old Randy Moss was still an automatic double-team in 2006, and Ronald Curry caught 62 balls. The latter filled Jerry Porter’s role, who was banished to the doghouse most of the year. Denarius Moore has yet to catch 60 throws in a season.
Both the 2006 and 2013 teams are thin at tight end (hopefully Jeron Mastrud and Mychal Rivera improve more than Courtney Anderson). Advantage: 2006
Believe it or not, the 2006 Raiders featured a front four that was one of the league’s most dominant (at rushing the quarterback at least). Tommy Kelly emerged this season, and Derrick Burgess and Warren Sapp both collected double-digit sacks. Tyler Brayton didn’t record a sack, but he fulfilled his role as a run-stopper at left end.
The 2013 group remains a work-in-progress. Advantage: 2006
Oakland in 2006 fielded a young, talented linebacking trio, but like many of Al Davis’ recent draft picks, they severely underachieved. Kirk Morrison (third round, 2005), Thomas Howard (second round, 2006) and Sam Williams (third round, 2003) swarmed the field and collected stops, but they were often out of position and gambled too much.
The modern squad features non-sexy free agent additions like Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach, and Kaluka Maiava, but they have garnered a reputation for working hard and rarely making mistakes. Promising youngins Sio Moore and Miles Burris should have long-term roles as well. Advantage: 2013
2006 was Nnamdi Asomugha’s year. The All-Pro collected eight interceptions and achieved one of the greatest performances for a cornerback in NFL history. The rest of the secondary, which included combine celebs Fabian Washington, Michael Huff, Stanford Routt, and Stuart Schweigert , ran hot-and-cold. But at the end of the day their unit led the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed.
The 2013 secondary has its own star (Tyvon Branch), a declining one (Charles Woodson) and a pair of pedestrian starting corners (Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter). Hope lies in the form of 2013 first round pick D.J. Hayden. Advantage: 2006
Sebastian Janikowski is hard to judge against himself, but Shane Lechler is a legend whereas Marquette King is not (yet.) Advantage: 2006
So my words weren’t far-fetched. Many things went wrong for the 2006 Raiders, but they featured a dominant aerial defense and a lineup on paper that could compete for the AFC West.
However, I didn’t mention the biggest difference between the clubs: coaching! Dennis Allen is Bill Belichick compared to the overrated Art Shell, who recruited Tom Walsh and his outdated playbook (from a resting lodge) to run his offense. Shell rubbed his players the wrong way (see: Moss, Porter) and simply didn’t belong on football’s biggest stage. On the contrary, Allen is respected in the locker room while simultaneously demanding accountability. Why Davis rehired Shell, nobody knows.
Coaching is mostly why the 2013 Raiders, while weak in comparison to other NFL rosters, will outperform the 2006 club. The team is in safe hands, Raider Nation.