Raiders Fans Need More Patience
I observed one of the worst examples when Bill Walsh took over the 49ers for the 1978 season. The team had been ravaged by Joe Thomas before he was fired and there was little left. Walsh’s first draft brought in Joe Montana and Dwight Clark but he needed much more than that. He was so desperate for players who could help that, unknown to the players who were there, he was bringing in players for short tryouts at lunch time. He got Dwight Hicks that way.
His first year was a disaster, another 2-14 season. The next season started the same ways but the team finished strong for a 6-10 season – and Montana had emerged as the starting quarterback. Watching that and noting that the Atlanta Falcons had gone from a 6-10 season the year before to the playoffs, I predicted that the 49ers would do the same. They did spectacularly better, of course, and started a great run that eventually got them five Super Bowl wins.
Before that season, though, there were lazy sportswriters, of whom there are always an abundance, writing that the Niners would soon be looking for a new coach!
There’s another example from 49ers history when a team did change immediately, when Jim Harbaugh took over and got his team to the Super Bowl. But that was an unusual situation. The 49ers actually had a good team but that had been obscured because they’d had a series of bad coaches. Harbaugh is a very good one and he changed everything.
The current Raiders have much more talent than the team Walsh inherited but less than what Harbaugh had, and there’s no question they don’t yet have the winning attitude they need. They’re still playing not to lose, which only guarantees that they won’t win. And, the NFL did them no favor by scheduling two top level opponents to begin the season. The residual hatred of Al Davis remains, which is entirely understandable after his many years of giving the NFL establishment the finger.
It will be the job of head coach Jack Del Rio and his defensive coordinator, Ken Norton Jr., to change the mental attitude of the team. Both have known success and are tough-minded individuals so I’m sure they’ll be able to do it in time, which may mean by next season, not this one.
And, of course, they’ll get no support from sportswriters, who are no more patient than fans – and often, no more knowledgeable. I make an exception for Tim Kawasaki, who is easily the most intelligent and reliable of Bay Area sportswriters.
This is not a happy message for Raiders fans, who have experienced little besides pain since the Raiders lost the 2003 Super Bowl. But the best you can hope for now is improvement, not a huge overnight change.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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