Former Head Coach John Madden (middle)
The Oakland Raiders have experienced a lot during their 57 years in the NFL, and seen plenty of Hall of Famers don the Silver and Black. Of all those great players and coaches, the Raiders had one of the best football minds in league history as their head coach for 10 seasons.
John Madden is an iconic figure in the football universe for many reasons: he never had a losing season during his tenure with the Raiders, won a Super Bowl, made it to the conference championship seven times with the team, is one of the sports' best commentators, and was integral to the development of the iconic video game that bears his name.
Wednesday afternoon, Madden, along with former NFL Coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, hosted their annual bocce ball tournament, intended to raise money for charities across the nation. While attending the event, Madden took the time to discuss current Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the team's progress.
"There was a time when the Raiders needed Jack Del Rio, that was exactly the perfect thing for them," Madden said. "They needed him, he came in did exactly what he had to do, or more. I'm just so proud of him and the Raiders, and the way they're playing."
After a 14-year playoff drought, the Silver and Black have definitely "returned to greatness," as Del Rio would say, but the team is obviously aspiring for bigger and better things in 2017 and beyond. The addition of Del Rio has undoubtedly contributed to the team's success, but General Manager Reggie McKenzie has provided Del Rio with the tools to excel.
The draft selections of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr, and wide receiver Amari Cooper are all well and good, but Madden is happier to see that the team has put a point of emphasis on the linemen.
"One thing that they understand is, you can't get carried away with quarterbacks, and running backs, and wide receivers, and defensive backs," Madden said when asked about the team's weapons. "You need linemen, and that's what they're getting now. You need offensive and defensive linemen to win in this league. Now I know it's all about quarterbacks, and I believe that and it is, but dog-gone-it if they're going to be successful you better have guys that can protect the passer and rush the passer."
As an old school coach, Madden understands the importance of the rushing attack, and converting important third downs. In 2016, the Raiders rushed for 98 first downs, which was good for 12th best in the league. With Marshawn Lynch joining the squad, the team is most likely going to take advantage of the bruiser in short-yardage third down situations, and Madden hopes to see more of that.
"One of the worst things in pro football now is short-yardage and goal line offense," Madden said. "Teams can't get first downs by running, and they get down on the goal line and they're down there on the one-yard line throwing the ball, what's that about? I think if Marshawn Lynch can take them out of that, if he can get first downs on third downs, and if he can get touchdowns on goal line, that'll be a great big deal for the Raiders."
Judging where the team was three years ago, the Silver and Black have made some big strides over the past few years. The NFL is witnessing its next wave of stars emerging all over the league, and fortunately for the Raiders they have a handful of them on the team. The ultimate goal is winning a Super Bowl, and that could be achievable if the team follows Madden's advice.
"I think that's the thing they have to work towards," Madden explained. "Just getting better all the time."