Five ways Oakland can improve

December, 13, 2008
12/13/08
8:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The return of Randy Moss to Oakland this weekend is just another reminder for the Raiders and their fans of their failures.

They've traded for stars. They've spent big money on free agents. They tried to draft a franchise quarterback. They've tried and they've failed nearly at every turn.

 
 Kirby Lee/NFL/Getty Images
 Raiders owner Al Davis is expected to have another busy offseason.

That's why the Raiders are stuck in its NFL chasm. Is there a way out? Look at the Miami Dolphins. They won their only game of the 2007 season a year ago this weekend. A year later, the Dolphins are pushing for the AFC East title.

It can happen, but rebuilding won't be easy in Oakland. The Raiders are mired in a six-season abyss. Oakland is 3-10 heading into Sunday's game against Moss' Patriots. The Raiders play host to Houston on Dec. 21 and then end the season at Tampa Bay. With another loss, they will be the NFL's first team to lose at least 11 games for six straight seasons.

Oakland basically has to start over in the offseason. A turnaround can happen. Here are the five most pressing issues Oakland must address to turn it around:

Develop quarterback JaMarcus Russell: The Raiders have to make this work. After all of the misfires on trades and free agency, they have to make sure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft is not a bust.

Russell has struggled in his first season as a starter. But he is salvageable. He has too strong of an arm to fail. Russell has to be the focal point of the organization. All of next offseason has to revolve around Russell and the offense. He has to make quick strides.

Of course, he needs help. In addition to Russell feeling comfortable in the offense, he needs a better receiving corps, better protection from his offensive line. He needs coaching stability.

These are all other major Oakland issues. Without the help, the Raiders' No. 1 need -- Russell's development -- will not pan out.

Hire an offensive-minded coach and keep him: It has to be obvious to everyone, including Al Davis, that the Raiders need stability in their coaching staff. During this six-season disaster, Oakland has had five head coaches, including current interim coach Tom Cable.

The Raiders have to make a commitment to a coach. They also need to make sure the new coach is a quarterback specialist. Russell needs and deserves that attention. Oakland should look at reliable veteran coaches such as Dennis Green and Jim Fassel.

Davis loves unearthing young coaching talents but after the Lane Kiffin fiasco, it might be best that Davis looks at Green or Fassel. He needs a steady hand. He needs a veteran presence. Both Green and Fassel have had NFL success and both would provide both the X and O's part of the game that is needed in Oakland. They would provide the experience and stability that has been missing.

Trade for Chad Johnson: Yes, it's risky. Yes, the Raiders previously traded for a disgruntled star receiver in Moss. It didn't work as Oakland gave up the No. 7 overall pick and starting linebacker Napoleon Harris to Minnesota for Moss in 2005. Two years later, Moss was shipped to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. That pick turned out to be cornerback John Bowie of Cincinnati. Bowie saw limited time as a rookie last season as Moss broke the NFL record for receiving touchdowns. Bowie is on the injured reserve this season.

Couple the Moss situation with the disaster that has been the Javon Walker signing and Oakland might be hesitant to acquire another big-name receiver. But why not?

The Raiders receivers have been among the least productive in the league this season. Johnson still has plenty in the tank and he likely wouldn't cost too much. Russell needs a go-to receiver. Johnson can be that guy. He can shore up the receiving corps. Oakland's running game is in good shape moving forward with Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden in the backfield. The addition of Chad Johnson would give Oakland the balance it's been missing.

Draft a star tackle: The final piece of the Russell puzzle is to give him a standout blocker. The Raiders likely won't draft high enough to get a shot at Alabama's Andre Smith, but he would be a perfect fit for Oakland. The Raiders have tried to find the answer at left tackle in recent years with Robert Gallery and Kwame Harris. They didn't work out.

Russell needs a better blindside protector. We've seen in the last couple of years what a standout left tackle can mean to an offense as Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long have all come in and made an instant impact.

If Smith isn't available to Oakland, then it should seriously consider Virginia's Eugene Monroe or Mississippi's Michael Oher. It's time for Oakland to solve its issues on the offensive line.

Hire a personnel man: In his famous news conference to fire to Kiffin, Davis mentioned that he might try to get another football man in the front office. That is necessary. It is clear there is no check and balance system in place in Oakland. There needs to be someone in place with both a history and the gumption to stand up to Davis and help make key decisions.

We all know the recent history in Oakland is not good. But it can change but only if these necessary steps are taken.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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