Commentary

12 things: Oakland Raiders revival

Smart coaching, personnel moves have driven Oakland's growth

Updated: November 12, 2010, 3:20 PM ET
By David Fleming | ESPN The Magazine
JaMarcus RussellKyle Terada/US PresswireGetting rid of JaMarcus Russell helped spark the Raiders' resurgence.

It's been more than seven years in the making, but the Raiders' turnaround actually began in earnest back on May 6 when the franchise owned up to a colossal mistake, which is something rare and spectacular for a guy like Al Davis.

On that day, the Raiders bit the bullet and ate almost $39 million in wasted cash, cutting quarterback JaMarcus Russell, a former No. 1 pick, after less than three seasons. Since 1967 only one other player taken first overall (Indy's injury-plagued Steve Emtman) washed out that quickly with his original team.

At a pudgy 260 pounds and with a QB rating of 50, in more ways than one, Russell had become the biggest bust in draft history and an anchor around the team's neck. I broke down Russell's fundamentals and technique during the offseason, and let me tell you, it was 10 times scarier than anything you'll ever see from the fans of the Black Hole. The Raiders were never going to move forward until they owned up to their mistake and dumped Russell's (considerable) baggage.

That karmic release closed the door on one of the darkest chapters (seven straight seasons with double-digit losses) in pro sports history and capped a string of wise, difficult and sometimes inspired choices that have the 5-4 Raiders, winners of three straight and the talk of the league.

Here are some of the others:


To find out the other 11 reasons why the Raiders have been able to turn around the franchise, you must be an Insider.