When the Oakland Raiders hired head coach Norv Turner, it meant that the franchise was returning to its roots. The West Coast Offense of Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan – gone. With Turner arriving in January of 2004, the Raiders returned to their roots with the combination of the power running game and vertical passing game.
That idea sounded good considering the Raiders signed quarterback Kerry Collins, whose specialty is the long ball, as a free agent. Collins, however, began the season as the backup quarterback before replacing Rich Gannon, who orchestrated the previous regime's offense to perfection. Gannon suffered what is likely a career-ending neck injury in a Week 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Oakland had a receiver who could stretch the field in Jerry Porter and later with Ronald Curry. The rebuilt offensive line featuring rookies Robert Gallery and Jake Grove performed solidly. There was, however, one problem. The power-running game never materialized and was the least productive in the NFL.
Oakland has since released Tyrone Wheatley and acquired Lamont Jordan as a free agent from the New York Jets. It remains to be seen if Jordan can take advantage of his long-awaited opportunity of being a lead-horse runner after four years of playing behind Curtis Martin. Jordan, however, appears to be an immediate upgrade over Wheatley and Amos Zereoue.
The splashiest move the Raiders made was trading linebacker Napoleon Harris and the No. 7 overall pick in the draft for wide receiver Randy Moss. Much has been made of Moss' baggage but the fact that he and Porter can stretch the field along with out-duel opposing defensive backs for the ball cannot be overlooked.
"It's kind of like we know that we have the personnel to do it, and we know now it's up to us to go do it," Porter said. "I mean, on paper, we're going to be hell to deal with. We just got to go out and produce. That's all it boils down to."
How good can the Raiders offense be? Potentially, it's the best Raider offense since the 2002 team that set records galore and advanced to the Super Bowl. The major difference is that Oakland had at least an above-average defense that season. Have the Raiders done enough to significantly improve a defense that ranked No. 30 overall? That's debatable.
Offensively, however, Collins agreed that it stands to reason that the Raiders have made the necessary moves on offense so they have no excuse not to produce.
"I definitely feel that's true," Collins said. "The most talented teams don't always win. There are reasons why people don't win and there are excuses why teams don't win."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org