New offensive coordinator Greg Olson (center) is one of several Raiders hires on the coaching staff since last season. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
As a longtime executive with the Dallas Cowboys, Gil Brandt helped evaluate talent and build an NFL powerhouse.
Now as a senior analyst for NFL.com, it’s Brandt’s job to study the moves of NFL teams and provide his take on where they’re going.
This week, Brandt focused his attention on the Oakland Raiders, and came away with the same conclusion almost everyone else has reached: don’t expect the Raiders to go to the playoffs in 2013. For this coming season, the Raiders will once again be fodder for the rest of the AFC West.
However, Brandt believes the Raiders are headed in the right direction for the long term.
“Over the past month, I’ve talked to people in the Raiders organization, including players, and I’ve been very impressed with the positive attitude I’ve encountered,” he wrote. “Everyone in the NFL, of course, tends to be excited about the future around this time of year, but the Raiders seem to be especially gung-ho.”
Because of several factors, Brandt believes predictions that the Raiders might be awful enough to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft are wrong. Oakland, he says, should win “about two more games” this coming season, which would put the Raiders at 6-10.
That may not seem like much, but a 6-10 season – with the chance to acquire more talent in the draft and another year of “culture change” and growth under general manager Reggie McKenzie – could build some positive momentum for 2014 and beyond.
For one thing, Brandt believes the Raiders have made a big upgrade in their coaching staff with the hiring of offensive coordinator Greg Olson, offensive line coach Tony Sparano, special teams coach Bobby April and linebackers coach Bob Sanders.
The roster, of course, is littered with question marks. Nobody knows at this point if Matt Flynn will be an effective starting quarterback, if Darren McFadden can be healthy and productive in the running game, if the defensive line can mount a pass rush or the young, mostly-untested receiving corps will be up to the task.
But Brandt looks at the Raiders as a glass half-full situation, a team that finally is moving forward under smart leadership in head coach Dennis Allen – whom he says is “very detail-oriented” – and McKenzie.
“Oakland doesn’t seem to have quite turned things around just yet,” Brandt writes. “But the Raiders are definitely moving in the right direction.”
It’s a feeling that Allen himself voiced after the conclusion of the Raiders’ recent mandatory, three-day minicamp.
“I know there’s a lot of experts out there that might think differently,” Allen told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “But I like this football team.”
With a massive roster turnover, at least, the Oakland franchise has some young talent and new faces. And, says Allen, a new outlook.
“I like their mentality,” Allen said. “And I like the way they work.”