While watching the 1980 Oakland Raiders edition of America’s Game on NFL Network, I noticed some similarities between that team and the 2014 squad. Not every element is a side-by-side comparison, but there are some uncanny similarities. Until the final 53 man roster is in, it is hard to make specific comparisons, but there are some to be made. Like the 1980 team, not many are giving the current team much of a chance this season. This year’s team is constructed a lot like the 1980 team.
This team has several cast-offs and veterans who have some tread left on the tires, combined with some talented young players, just like the 1980 team. You could compare Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley to John Matuzk and Lyle Alzado in a lot of ways. Their personalities are different, but they are the same aggressive and talented type of players on the field. The offensive line is also similar. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare Donald Penn, Austin Howard and company to the likes of Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and the rest of the 1980 line. It would be ludicrous since that was arguably one of the best offensive lines ever assembled. The player types are similar, however.
There is a young rookie linebacker this year in Khalil Mack that can absolutely be compared to the rookie LB that was on the 1980 team, affectionately known as Matt Millen. Both of those guys are big, strong, aggressive and physical with some perennial hall of fame veteran presence to mentor them. Mack, like Millen is capable of becoming a general on the field. He is smart and talented. The secondary is different altogether this year than the 1980 team, but they have the potential to be just as effective, at least on paper.
The running backs and receivers are also similar in that other than Cliff Branch, there were no big name players at these positions on the 1980 team. This year, the situation is the same. James Jones has a Super Bowl ring like Cliff Branch did in 1980, but the rest of the receivers are rookies and young journeymen. As for the backs, there are some similarities, but not too many. The same goes for the TEs.
One thing that Matt Millen said in his interview for the show really made a lot of sense to me. He stated that the team had one very important ingredient which made them great and allowed them to win that championship. That one thing is confidence. He went on to say that winning breeds confidence and confidence leads to winning. That is a vicious (in a good way) circle that these Raiders will have to enter if they want to be successful.
So how does that come about? The answer is simple. It starts with a winning attitude. The veteran players that have been brought in could start the ball rolling and pass it on to the younger guys, but it doesn’t have to be one of them. Anyone can take on the leadership role and become the catalyst. Either way, it has to start somewhere. Of course, the rest of the team will have to buy into it like the 1980 team did. Without confidence across the board on this team, you can have all of the talent in the world and it won’t do any good.
This team has all of the tools in place to end their 11 year streak and finish above .500. With a lot of confidence and a little bit of luck, they may even surprise some people and make the playoffs, despite the best analysis from the experts. All they need to do is truly believe in themselves and refuse to lose. There is no doubt that Raiders fans have plenty to get excited about in 2014.