For the first time in recent history, the Oakland Raiders were playoff contenders this season. They didn’t make the playoffs, but they were in contention up until the end. Finishing the season 8-8, a few adjustments could put the Raiders into the playoffs.
The first of these adjustments would be their new head coach, Hue Jackson. In order to have success, Jackson will have to keep a positive relationship with his players. Hue has built and kept such relationships in the past. He has kept the harder to satisfy players on track such as T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ochocinco. He also helped Michael Vick when he was imprisoned for dogfighting charges. As important as these coach-to-player relationships are, Jackson must not show favorites, or the less favored will get frustrated and mad. It is a fine line to walk, but Hue has done it before.
The next necessary adjustment is retaining their free agents. Quite possibly the most important of these free agents is Nnamdi Asomugha. Although Asomugha doesn’t have a big effect on the game on a leadership level, he is very talented and has a big impact on the opponent’s passing game. Asomugha has not been on a winning team in Oakland and this year was his first .500 season with them. If he is offered the same contract with the Raiders as with a better team such as Philadelphia or Baltimore, I cannot see him returning to Oakland.
The next most important free agent loss would be Richard Seymour. Seymour made it to the Pro Bowl this year, Seymour seems more likely to return than Asomugha as the Raiders may be his best choice. Seymour, at 31, might not have a lot of options besides Oakland.
Michael Bush, Oakland’s backup running back, is also up for free agency. Although, because Bush is behind Darren McFadden, Bush leaving has less of an impact than Asomugha or Seymour.
The next question about Oakland is whether or not quarterback Jason Campbell will perform well enough to lead his team to victory. Campbell has been in the league for six seasons, and still hasn’t reached his full potential. The play-action pass could be very effective because of the Raiders’ high-end running game. Campbell has some threats in the passing game, such as Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy.
Overall, the Raiders can have success next year if they do the right things to retain players, manage their team, and maximize their players’ strengths.