The Raiders have finished 4-12 the past two seasons, have gone through extensive roster renovation the past three offseasons and reside in the AFC West, which produced the AFC-champion Broncos and two other teams -- the Chiefs and Chargers -- that went to the playoffs in 2013.
Yet some Raiders players have big visions for 2014.
When veteran Oakland safety Charles Woodson was interviewed recently on Bay Area radio station KGMZ-FM, he was asked if all the offseason moves point to the Raiders being a playoff team this coming season.
“No doubt about it, I don’t see why not,” Woodson said. “I ain’t looking four or five years down the road. I fully expect to be in the playoffs this year.”
And, after signing with the Raiders as a free agent last week, veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew was enthusiastic about the new season, saying the team now has “a ton of talent here.”
He pointed to quarterback Matt Schaub, defensive end Justin Tuck, offensive linemen Donald Penn and Kevin Boothe and linebacker/defensive end LaMarr Woodley as some of the new veterans on the roster who have won in the past and want to prove they still are at the top of their games.
“These guys that are coming from programs and winning and know what it takes,” Jones-Drew told the media. “Granted, most of us have chips on our shoulders, something that is going to drive us and push us to that next level. … I think what (GM) Reggie (McKenzie) is doing is he’s creating a great environment to be successful, and as players we have to keep bringing that on, get it going.”
But with so much ground to make up in the AFC West, are the Raiders being realistic or delusional?
There’s no doubt the Raiders roster appears much better stocked than it has been in several years – with the draft still to come and McKenzie still with about $10 million of salary-cap money to spend on additional moves, according to the latest reports.
And, quick turnarounds can occur in the NFL.
In 2012, the Philadelphia Eagles finished 4-12 and at the bottom of the NFC East, but won the division in 2013 at 10-6. The Chiefs went from 2-14 in 2012 to 11-5 this past season. And the Chargers missed the playoffs at 7-9 in 2012 but became a playoff team this past season at 9-7. And, in San Francisco, the 49ers were 6-10 in 2010 before going on a 13-3 roll – and making the NFC Championship Game – in 2011.
So, it is possible. But the Raiders face a long, uphill climb and head coach Dennis Allen still hasn’t proven he can win. It will be Allen’s task to get all the players from different teams – veterans and youngsters -- to play together.
Yet for a player such as Jones-Drew, building a winning team is one of the most exciting things about coming to the Raiders.
“Obviously, we are in a tough division,” he said. “But that’s OK. That’s exciting to be able to compete against the best – Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, these defenses, these other runners – Jamaal Charles. It’s going to be exciting to go out there and compete against these guys.
“That was one of the things, some people ask why I would want to go there (Oakland). They have a tough schedule. It’s not about that. … I get to compete against some of the best.”
And, he hopes, win games.