“Just win, baby.” That was the late Al Davis’ infamous motto when describing the mission for his football team. With the Oakland Raiders at 3-2 and the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 4-1, the Bay Area football teams are doing just that, winning, an unexpected pleasant surprise for Bay Area fans. The Raiders and 49ers both looked like cellar dwellers prior to the season, but both are playing good football under rookie head coaches.
You may be looking at Oakland’s record and saying to yourself, “wait a minute, 3-2 is barely over .500.” Considering how bad they have been since their Super Bowl XXXVII appearance, a winning record is an accomplishment. They lost in the final seconds to the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 and played the New England Patriots tight for four quarters in Week 4. While 3-2 is nothing remarkable, the Raiders have finally found an identity that they’ve been lacking. They’re tough in the trenches and have a premier running back in Darren McFadden. On defense, they have a promising star at linebacker in Rolando McClain. Former Patriot Richard Seymour is not only an all-pro, but his veteran presence will only help their young defenders grow and adapt. The defense is still a work in progress, but if they can take advantage of the skill sets of their young players, along with their potent offense, they can certainly win games.
So far, head coach Hue Jackson is taking the right steps in building a “bully” that he’s envisioned since taking over as head coach, and with two weak teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos in their division, it’s not a stretch for them to be able contend with front running San Diego Chargers for the division crown.
The vibe across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco is just as pumped for their re-energized team. Former Stanford Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh has revamped the Niners offense, playing towards his quarterback’s strengths while maintaining the run game with Frank Gore. Many fans and analysts wondered how Harbaugh would be able to incorporate his offense with shortened offseason. Somehow, some way, he’s making it work, as five weeks into the season they are scoring 28.4 points per game.
Last season, the Niners barely managed to score over 19 points a game. Alex Smith seems to have found new life after failing to live up to his first-overall draft selection in 2005. Through five games, Smith has thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception with a quarterback rating of 104.1. Only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have higher ratings. The 49ers defense is improving too as they are only giving up just 15.6 points per game, second in the NFL behind only the Baltimore Ravens. Through five weeks last season, they had given up an average of 26 points. That’s an impressive turnaround considering that nine of the team’s 11 starters returned from 2010.
With five weeks of the NFL season in the books, Bay Area fans have reason to be excited about their respective teams. Sometimes teams get off to hot starts and fall apart as the season progresses, but both teams look like they’re here to stay. Early success of these two teams can not only be attributed to the players, but their head coaches too as they are playing major roles in building team chemistry and character aside from the X’s and O’s. Having the right coaching staff in play can lead to years of success. Looking at the stability of the Patriots, Steelers, Saints and Packers, those organizations are now competitive almost every year and the class of the NFL, a status that Oakland and San Francisco once had and one they are looking to regain.
2011 just feels different for the Niners and Raiders. There are quite a few similarities between where these two franchises are coming from and where they are headed. There is even talk about the two teams sharing a stadium like the Jets and Giants do in New Jersey. There’s a positive vibe surrounding both organizations that hasn’t been felt for a while. The glory days of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers may be long gone, but who’s to say that Hue Jackson and Jim Harbaugh can’t establish their own legacies become the next John Madden and Bill Walsh of the Bay area. NFL glory days are back for Bay Area football and 2011 may prove to be a season to remember.
From time to time we like to recognize our hard working interns by letting them shine in the field they aspire to work in. The article above was contributed by Travis Chan who is doing some fine work for us here at RotoExperts. Congratulations Travis, keep up the great work.
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