If Al Davis knows anything about his Raiders, it's their history. He can recall times and dates and details, cite the tiniest examples of the NFL's mistreatment of his franchise.
Presume, then, that the owner is keenly aware of the common thread among the five Raiders teams that have appeared in Super Bowls and the three that came away winners.
Davis surely knows that the essence of every contending Raiders team -- even those that failed to win the Super Bowl -- is a center strong enough to bully opposing linemen, big enough to anchor the line, smart enough to dissect opposing defenses and tough enough to sprint through a steel garage door.
Strong as in Barret Robbins, big as in Don Mosebar, smart as in Dave Dalby, tough as in Jim Otto.
The Raiders haven't employed a center of such quality since Robbins faded so horribly all those many years ago, playing at a Pro Bowl level for most of the 2002 season before wrecking a knee and eventually going AWOL from the team -- and from his own sanity -- during Super Bowl week.
So when Davis, the team's ultimate shot-caller in every draft, makes his initial 2011 selection Friday, in the second round of this three-day extravaganza, he shouldn't ignore the history whispering in his ear. He has to find a center, because the Raiders never have gone very far without one.
And there will be one available, even if Oakland holds onto the 48th overall pick.
One of the many ways in
Whether you blame Davis for making wrong choices or poor Jake Grove for getting hurt and being, well, another wrong choice, the Raiders have taken to handing the role to a bunch of burlap sacks and piles of old adhesive tape.
They've tried Grove, tried Adam Treu and tried Jeremy Newberry. They've tried Chris Morris and John Wade and Samson Satele.
So desperate were they at one point last season that they turned to a 6-foot-8 rookie from tiny Hillsdale College, Jared Veldheer, in hopes he could revive the tradition. Like the others, he failed to establish himself -- but might have found a home at left tackle.
They can't turn the clock back to Otto; he's 72. Dalby died tragically in the summer of 2002. Mosebar was a three-time Pro Bowler whose career was cut short by an eye injury. As for the troubled soul that is Robbins, he was sentenced last month to five years in a Florida prison.
These four men were Raiders centers of distinction. They need another, need him now.
And they might find him by, yes, turning to their legacy.
The best available centers in the second round of this draft are Stefen Wisniewski, who went to Penn State -- as did his uncle, former Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski -- and Florida State's Rodney Hudson. Each has the physical and mental qualities to command the role. Either would be acceptable.
Given the condition of Oakland's offensive line, there might be room for both, with one playing guard.
Veldheer might be the most impressive lineman on the team and surely is the only one on the verge of locking down a position for a decade. The rest of the line is a motley mix of free agents, fringe players and vessels of potential. Then, too, the line is in the midst of dramatic transition, with new head coach Hue Jackson ready to rely more on power schemes than the zone blocking tactics preferred by predecessor Tom Cable.
Wisniewski (6-3, 313) and Hudson (6-3, 299) have the goods to be a part of this transition. If moving up closer to the top of the second round is the only way to get one, it's worth it.
Davis last season managed the best Raiders draft since the team moved back to Oakland in 1995. After years of falling in love with flash and dash, drafting athletes rather than football players, he went back to the core of the game.
The core of the Raiders, when they have been a power, is the heart of the O-line.
They won two Super Bowls with an offense led by quarterback Jim Plunkett, who never made a Pro Bowl. They won with unheralded running backs such as Clarence Davis and Kenny King, got there with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown running on fumes.
But the Raiders have neither won nor reached a Super Bowl without a center worthy of the shield.
I'm guessing Davis need not be reminded of this.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.
Join NFL writer Jerry McDonald for a draft chat live from the Raiders headquarters beginning at 3:30 p.m. Friday.