FROM THE MOVE of Rich Gannon to the Raiders or Jerome Bettis to the Steelers or Chad Pennington to the Dolphins just last year, there is ample evidence that one quality veteran can revive a foundering NFL franchise.
That's Richard Seymour's mission, to chip away at six years of Raiders' irrelevance and make the franchise matter once again.
With his play and presence, his leadership and influence, Seymour beginning tonight against San Diego has to take charge of the league's losingest outfit. He has to hurdle the innate barriers unique to this franchise and show it how to win, validating the shot-calling of Raiders boss Al Davis, who even as his kingdom crumbles at his feet insists he still can dial up a stroke of brilliance.
For Al's latest gamble to prove more successful than those of recent years, Seymour's impact here has to be similar to that of the late Reggie White in Green Bay.
Understand, Seymour is not Reggie White. No one is. White conceivably was the most complete defensive lineman ever, a man of immense character, equally phenomenal against passers and runners, capable of playing any position in any defensive scheme — equal parts Albert Haynesworth, Shawne Merriman and the Rev. T.D. Jakes.
This impressive, imposing blueprint is the one Seymour has to study and follow.
After two years in the defunct United States Football League, White in 1985 signed with Philadelphia in the NFL and spent eight seasons there, racking up 124 sacks. A free agent after the 1992 season, he was the subject of fierce recruiting wars.
Then 31, White and his wife went on a nationwide tour, meeting with numerous clubs, indulging in various red-carpet receptions. White ended up signing with, of all teams, the Packers.
White said God told him to go to Green Bay. Others snickered that He was playing a cruel joke. The Packers had managed two winning seasons the previous decade and hadn't made the playoffs in 21 years. And they were in Green Bay, which loves its team with a matchless passion but is the most remote outpost in American professional sports.
So White, handpicking his employer and destination, chose NFL Siberia.
He then put Green Bay back on the sports map.
There was talent in Green Bay, notably wideout Sterling Sharpe and safety LeRoy Butler. Then noted personnel executive Ron Wolf arrived in November 1991 and two months later hired head coach Mike Holmgren. Wolf and Holmgren waited one month before trading for a young gunslinger quarterback named Brett Favre.
History began taking shape a year later, when White came aboard, bringing a ton of credibility to a place without an ounce of it. The Packers posted winning records in each of his first five seasons, each time reaching the postseason. They played in three NFC Championship games, won a Super Bowl and played in another.
Favre was marvelous, but the turnaround began with White. The second he signed with the Packers, they mattered.
Do the Raiders matter? Not at the dawn of the 2009 season, as they sit on a six-year skid in which they have lost 72 games.
Indeed, the Raiders franchise is not dramatically different from where the Packers were in the early 1990s. There is plenty of glory, all of it old. There is ridicule about the direction provided by a thin, dysfunctional front office. There is the leaguewide perception, hard to argue, that nobody with options chooses Oakland.
Seymour, who turns 30 next month, didn't choose to come here; he was sent here, surely against his wishes. After nearly a week of soul-searching, family discussion and shock recovery, he seems willing to accept his assignment.
He's joining a mostly unimpressive unit that has some talent, beginning with peerless cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Young linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard have the speed to benefit from being behind Seymour.
And there is, as in Green Bay, a gifted young quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, still finding his way.
Do the Raiders have enough structure around Seymour to allow him to do his best work? Well, no. But he has to do it anyway.
The good thing for the Raiders is there may not be a better player and man for this monumental challenge. If Seymour wants to play tonight, let him. He can't possibly be a liability to a team and franchise making a habit of running into itself.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.