Raiders managing general partner Al Davis turned 79 on July 4. It's no secret that he doesn't move around as well as he once did, but he still approaches each season as if it is yet another opportunity for his beloved Raiders to win the Super Bowl. This season is no different from any of his previous 45 since he joined the Raiders in 1963.
To that end, Davis tapped into the resources made more plentiful by the recent sale of a percentage of the franchise and made his annual push to bring back greatness to a Raiders team that has lost 61 of 80 games the past five seasons.
"The old man is tired of losing," a person in the front office said early in training camp. "If the Raiders lose, it won't be because of money. He wants that old feeling back."
Davis was 54 the last time the Raiders won a Super Bowl and he experienced the euphoria that fuels his desire to push on year after year. The Raiders are 185-198 in the 24 seasons since the Raiders last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
So it was that Davis authorized huge contracts for defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, running back Justin Fargas, wide receiver Javon Walker, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, strong safety Gibril Wilson, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and running back Darren McFadden within the past eight months.
You can't turn back time, but you can turn around a team's fortunes in today's NFL in short order. The precedent is there.
The Atlanta Falcons went from 7-9 in 1997 to 14-2 and a Super Bowl berth in one season. The St. Louis Rams jumped from 4-12 in '98 to 13-3 and Super Bowl champions the next season. The New England Patriots went from 5-11 in 2000 to 11-5 and winners of the Super Bowl the ensuing campaign.
In other words, the Raiders see hope where others might see the makings of a sixth straight disastrous season.
Davis' thirst for a return to glory is palpable. It spews forth in get-to-know-you meetings with players such as Wilson.
"Oh, yeah, I know he would love that," Wilson said, when asked how much it means to Davis for the Raiders to win a fourth Super Bowl. "He would love to get one more.
"I know I'm trying my hardest to get him one, and I know the defense is. I know that everybody in this organization is trying to win one for him. "... He's tired of losing, the city is tired of losing, and we have to get back on that winning track."
Coach Lane Kiffin is the one shouting directions.
However, the Raiders likely are going to get only as far as quarterback JaMarcus Russell, 23, and McFadden, 21, take them — neither player was yet born the last time the Raiders won a Super Bowl.
"The way it is set up right now with how much that you pay the rookies and you invest so much in them, they have to be such a big focus," Kiffin said of his wunderkind.
To that end, Kiffin will rely upon Russell, a second-year player, and McFadden, a rookie, a great deal, with running back Justin Fargas and tight end Zach Miller being the other key offensive players.
Defensively, the Raiders moved Kelly from right end to fill the void created by the retirement of tackle Warren Sapp, traded for Hall, signed Wilson from the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and increased the responsibilities of pass-rushing end Derrick Burgess.
Another reason for optimism is a schedule that features only one game within the first 12 — vs. the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 28 — against a team that posted a winning record last season.
In the end, the Raiders might be right back where they were at the end of the past five seasons, wondering where things went wrong, thinking how things can't get any worse, and waiting for Davis' next move.
Can the Raiders right their ship?
"We really can with the guys that we have on offense and defense," Russell said. "Things are looking pretty good for us. I hope it turns around."
As Davis knows all too well, it's about time.
Notes: The Raiders confirmed the signing of wide receiver Ashley Lelie on Tuesday. They released veteran defensive tackle William Joseph to make room for Lelie on the 53-man roster. ... The agent for free-agent receiver Chad Jackson said his client was scheduled to visit the Raiders on Tuesday. Jackson was released by the Patriots on Sunday. A Raiders official said he was unaware of Jackson's presence at the Raiders' facility in Alameda. ... Davis chartered a jet so that 11 people with past or present Raiders ties could attend the memorial service for NFL players union chief and former Raiders guard Gene Upshaw in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. The following people represented the Raiders: Davis' wife, Carole, Clem Daniels, Otis Sistrunk, Morris Bradshaw, Tom Flores, Rod Martin, Willie Brown, George Atkinson, Raymond Chester, Art Thoms and Jack Tatum.
Contact Steve Corkran at firstname.lastname@example.org.