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Raiders Season Highlights and Lowlights

The 2009 Raider season was different than the Aaron Brooks year. This year was nothing like the Daunte Culpepper days, or the Jeff George days. This year bore no resemblance to the Gannon years. 2009 was a roller coaster of highs and lows for Raider Nation, who experienced both the top of the world, and the belly of the beast in watching their beloved Silver and Black.

The box scores and analysis were familiar.

Can't score/Can't stop run/Can't win turnover battle/Can't protect the QB/Can't get the receivers involved/Can't win two games in a row/Can't win more than five games/Shane Lechler is the League's best punter

But, it didn't feel like just another bad Raider season. This one was full of peaks and valleys. Let's take a look back at the best and worst moments of 2009 Raider football.

The Best

-Darren McFadden looked impressive when lined up as a receiver. Defenses were drawing all focus on him every time the Raiders ran these formations. His ability to create in space, opened options for the Raiders to move the ball down the field. McFadden made some incredible plays catching the football, and showed what a weapon he can be given the opportunity.

-Michael Huff had a great year. He came out of The University of Texas with a reputation of being one of the hardest hitters in the game. He supported that reputation this season with dropped ball causing hits against the normally ultra-reliable Heath Miller and big bad Brandon Marshall. Huff was a huge part of the defense's success this year and I don't believe he'll be getting benched for Hiram Eugene again any time soon. More to come on Hiram in the "Worst" section of this article.

-The Raiders beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a game that ultimately cost Mike Tomlin's squad an appearance in this year's Playoffs. Bruce Gradkowski led the team to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including a two minute game winning drive that came with only one time-out in the bank. Gradkowski took them the distance, threw a touchdown pass to Louis Murphy, and left with the victory and an un-used time-out. Textbook two minute drill. Best Raider victory in recent memory. Oh, and Gradkowski grew up about ten to twenty yards from Heinz Field.

-Richard Seymour claims the Raiders "Will make the Playoffs, this year!" Obviously, didn't happen, but when was the last time any player of his pedigree was so confident in the Raiders ability to win games? It was exciting for the fans and they're excited to see more from Seymour next season.

-The Raiders beat the Broncos in Denver and effectively cause a once 6-0 team to watch the playoffs from home. "I'm talkin' about a little place called...Aspen" to quote the Great Lloyd Christmas. The Broncos were over-achieving early in the season when they steam rolled the Raiders in Alameda. We thought the Rockies were a little rockier than this. We were right. And, Raider fans learned that even without the presence of Shanahan and Cutler, knocking the Broncos out of the playoffs is as good as it ever has been.

-Bruce Gradkowski breathes life into a flat organization. Gradkowski took the Raiders to unfamiliar waters with wins over the Bengals and the Steelers. Both were come from behind victories. Louis Murphy had his biggest game of the year against the Steelers. He was a favorite target of Gradkowski and was targeted four times on the Raiders winning drive. The receivers were apart of the game and were an effective weapon for the first time in three years. Gradkowski brought an energy to the team that JaMarcus couldn't provide.

-Nnamdi Asomugha earned a spot on the Pro Bowl team this year. He was a dominant force once again and complety shut-down opposing receivers. His highlight of the year came in a lost game to the Redskins. Nnamdi had left early in the third quarter with injury and JaMarcus was busy doing what he did best and turned a four point deficit into a twenty point deficit. Asomugha, though the game was far out of reach, re-entered in the fourth quarter and made a ferocious tackle, as if for nothing else then to say to the fans, that he hasn't quit, and he's mad too. It was great, he is great.

The Worst

-The Raiders get boat-raced in Oakland following a win against the Eagles. The Jets came into town reeling and left town feeling like a potential playoff team. They beat the Raiders 38-0. The Deuce had two early turn overs that spotted New York a 14 point lead in the first two minutes of the game. Mark Sanchez enjoyed one of the Colosseum's hot dogs during the fourth quarter of the game, with mustard. Not exactly shaking in his boots over a fourth quarter comeback.

-D...H...Bust. The Raiders first round draft pick was a healthy scratch the last four weeks of the season. Michael Crabtree started in week seven and had 48 catches for 625 yards on the year. He didn't exactly have the benefit of stellar quarterback play either. Wouldn't be a big deal if DHB had held up his end of the deal and showed Raider fans that he was the better choice. Didn't happen, not even close. 9 catches for 129 yards, for the season, for the guaranteed 23.5 million dollar man.

-The Raiders lose to the Chargers for the twelfth and thirteenth time in a row. They lost on opening night in the final seconds, in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. They lost in San Diego too. They always lose to San Diego, and until they beat them, odds are, they aren't going to make a push for the division title.

-Hiram Eugene gets trucked by Willis McGahee in the last game of the season. Eugene was one on one in the open field with Willis and was pushed to the ground with a mammoth stiff arm. There hasn't been a greater representation of bigger and stronger in Oakland since Bo Jackson ran over Brian Bosworth.

-JaMarcus Russell shows no improvement in his third year. He flattened the offense and continued to make terrible decisions with regard to protecting the football. He sputtered and refused to step into a pocket and took way too many sacks. He couldn't get the receivers involved, who proved themselves capable when given an opportunity, as seen with Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski. JaMarcus Russell gives this team no opportunity for consistent winning, and he's probably going to cost Coach Cable his job. What a world.

-Bruce Gradkowski suffers torn MCL injuries in both knees immediately following his big win in Pittsburgh. Raider fans knew that there would be little to no entertaining football after he went down. Charlie Frye was better than JaMarcus, but was incapable of putting together four quarters without being injured. After Gradkowski's injury, the Raiders signed Las Vegas Locomotive standout JP Losman, who took one snap in the win at Denver. Gradkowski offered consistency at the QB position that the team desperately needed and exposed Louis Murphy as a steal in this year's draft. Without Gradkowski, the Raiders lost their momentum, and the first hint of swagger they'd had in seven years.

-Al Davis said that he is "Inclined to fire Tom Cable." Even after he watched him go through the media firestorm that surrounded the alleged physical abuse against Randy Hanson, and seeing Cable tow the company line throughout it all. Even after presumably forcing Coach Cable to start JaMarcus Russell after releasing Jeff Garcia. Even after watching Cable prepare the team for victory against good teams like the Eagles, Steelers, Bengals, and Broncos. Even after he managed to keep his team together through three starting quarterbacks and key injuries to the offensive line. Even after it's common knowledge that no one with any credibility will want the job, and that there's no way on earth Mr. Davis will find anyone more invested in this team than Coach Cable.

The Raiders will have the eighth overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. At this stage in the game, who knows what will become of the selection? Who knows who the coach will be next year? Who knows if JaMarcus will start? Who knows if they'll be able to break their seven year, eleven or more loss streak? Who knows when they'll get back to the playoffs? Who knows when they'll get anywhere? Who knows what it'll take to make the Raiders good again? Mr. Davis thinks he knows, he always has, and Raider fans will be back next year to see if he does.

Jake Simmons