Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Raiders are Falling on Their Own Sword

If you are into the art of killing yourself slowly then you are an Oakland Raiders fan.  The epic slow motion drama of failure continues.  Another QB named Matt enters the building.  The new Matt (Schaub) has a receding hairline and a lot more career yardage than the old Matt (Flynn)  thanks to having Andre Johnson to throw to in Houston.

Unlike Matt Flynn who sported flashy sunglasses upon his arrival and had just about nothing to show for his career except an end of season 400+ yard game over Detroit,  Matt Schaub is much more humble. Especially now that his starting job in Houston has been usurped by journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Ouch, traded for a 6th round pick.  Schaub is fresh off a disastrous 2013 season in which even Andre Johnson could not bail him out. 

And Dennis Allen, the genius of a head coach he is, puts the mantle of QB savior squarely on Schaub even before the ink is dry on the contract.  No pressure there Matt.  Hey, we know you can bounce back.  The question is will you?  Unlike Jim Plunkett, you won't get to bide your time on the sidelines awaiting a second chance.  See, Dennis Allen is basically a lame duck.  The NFL takes no prisoners and ol' Dennis can't win more than 4 games in a season.  So if Schaub's woes extend into the 2014 season it wouldn't just be business as usual.  Heads will roll.  They have to and that would include GM Reggie McKenzie along with the latest addition to the master plan - Schaub and his multimillion salary.

Here's the thing - there is no one left to blame. Al is dead. The salary cap money he clogged up by overpaying and taking too many risks on players who did not come through is for the most part overcome.  Reggie has made some decent personnel signings recently but overall he has been far too conservative and ineffective - at least so far.  He doesn't have any margin for error at this stage.  Every player he signs has to live up to their contract.

Reggie is no doubt a terrific guy.  He is a man of upstanding character. However, this is the grand finale we have all been waiting for by letting go of a lot of bad contracts.  Now, we need that dead money replaced with the truckload of dependable talent to re-launch the franchise to respectability.

The last few seasons can be summed up with a few simple truths: Mark Davis is not a football guy.  He's much better at managing the business aspects of an NFL franchise than his father was but he does not know how to build a winning team on the field.  He admitted as much when he sought help from luminaries John Madden and Ron Wolf, resulting in the hiring of Reggie McKenzie as GM.  Unfortunately, as good a man as Reggie is personally, he has been entirely lackluster in his managing of roster moves in addition to making a bad head coaching hire.  The team needed a veteran head coach and we got a rookie head coach who has been stumbling and bumbling, groping around for solutions but coming up empty. Who knows what else has gone wrong that we are not seeing.  The scouting is either terrible beyond compare or they are not pulling the trigger where they need to. 

Let's not get into salary cap woes and the like.  The money is there to find players.  For all their complaining they had to make due with Al's players, they have done very little to patch those holes.  The fact is at this rate of acquiring talent they will not be able to climb out of the AFC West basement.  Let's also not point to long range plans because that is always an excuse.  The Chiefs rebuilt in a single season.  There are countless other examples.  Reggie does not seem up to the task.  Mark Davis wouldn't know who to hire if not for Madden and Wolf's advice.

I am not holding my breath draft picks will change anything this upcoming season.

If 2014 collapses on the field, it is time to fold up the tent.  Seriously, Oakland Raiders fans - you are not getting a new stadium.  Oakland is a sewer.  No one will invest in anything there nor would they want to invest a billion in a franchise that sucks so bad.

The best that can be accomplished is to sell the franchise.  Someone will relocate operations, blow it up and rebuild the right way.  What is happening now is a travesty.  The franchise should be handed off to investors who know what they are doing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Raiders are Going Every Which Way at QB

I read a scathing article written by Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper .  All of Cohn's articles on the Raiders are scathing but this one caught my attention because he criticized the franchise's inability to develop Tyler Wilson.

Let's be fair.  The Raiders have never developed their QBs.  Not even Ken Stabler was a product of great coaching while with the Raiders. He benefited from a few years on the bench learning from George Blanda

In the case of Tyler Wilson, everyone had high hopes.  Yet, if we look at this realistically, it is only fairly recently a fourth round draft pick is expected to shine in his first camp.  It used to be expected that mid to lower round draft picks would be lucky to make the team for whatever reasons. If they did, they would be backups and work their way into playing time. Nowadays the Raiders are so depleted of talent, the thinking is every draft pick has to be a home run.

Wilson did not have a productive training camp and was beaten out for third string by undrafted Matt McGloin of Penn State.  McGloin is a welcome surprise and may in fact end up the starter by season's end. Wilson went unclaimed in waivers and is hanging by a thread on the Raiders practice squad right now.

First of all, you don't "develop" a QB in one training camp.  If the guy is expected to make the most of every snap as a third or fourth stringer then you are putting too much pressure on the guy and the pressure is unwarranted.  The second criticism Cohn makes is the reason Wilson did not make the 53-man roster is he was a slow learner (whatever sources Cohn has assigned that label to Wilson).  Cohn does make a good point that the Raiders should have evaluated his football IQ before the draft.  I think Reggie wanted Matt Barkely and when he was gone, they just grabbed the next best QB on the board which happened to be Wilson.  They obviously did not do their homework with him well enough.

Of the many holes to fill this past off-season, the Raiders did not seem to know what to do at QB.  It was obvious they did not like Terrelle Pryor. In three seasons, Terrell Pryor has gotten next to no help from the coaching staff to get where he is at today. He hired his own QB coaches and his own trainers in the off-season.

Unfortunately, Pryor is only an interim solution.  It is likely NFL defenses will key on his running ability and allow him to throw downfield and make mistakes.  Pryor's accuracy is questionable on his best day so he will have to prove he can handle that aspect to his game. Pryor is a read-option QB so he will also have to prove his durability by taking some hits.

In today's NFL, does the coaching staff take an active role in "developing" their young talent or do they just expect them to hit the ground running all the way down to film study and workout habits?  This is partially what led to the failure of Jamarcus Russell - though not even the very best of coaching could have salvaged him.  The fact remains, if you don't take an active role in nurturing your talent, they will fail.

The current QB coach is John DeFilippo who has been around and was actually on the coaching staff during the Jamarcus Russell debacle.  DeFillipo is not going to make a difference on a coaching staff no matter what angle is played. He is a non-factor.  So why is he there?  Well, there is no premium placed on developing QBs in the Raiders franchise.  It's that simple.  Reggie McKenzie and his flunky Dennis Allen made no change in this Raiders tradition.

Think back to the wasted talent of Andrew Walter. He came in and did pretty well at first but as the years went by, he languished behind the erratic play of Kerry Collins AND Marques Tuiasosopo.  Tui was a fan favorite until he got significant playing time.  Then he looked horrible, deflating the Tui myth. Yes, Tui did suck badly but you all thought he would be good, didn't you?  How could he have been good if no one coached him to be good as a pro?

We all thought Andrew Walter would be good too when he got his chance.  Well, he bombed out and when claimed off waivers, the Patriots coaching staff was astonished.  They could not understand how a gifted young QB could have regressed so badly in his years in Oakland.

Matt Flynn is certainly not the first high profile QB acquisition to fleece the Raiders. I think he was worth taking a chance on but not for 30 something million.  Are you serious Reggie?  I guess you are. Flynn is a big risk to rely on as your number one guy, especially so when your OL is in shambles.  Flynn is not a mobile QB but what makes him a viable option to Reggie is he is from Green Bay and everything from Green Bay must be salvageable because Reggie is familiar with it.  Right? Isn't that your logic Reg?

What is disturbing is the Raiders OL is in shambles trend has been in effect for a while. At times over the last 12+ years it has come together but not with any consistency. Actually the curse has been in effect ever since Barret Robbins wigged out on the eve of the Super Bowl.  The idiot chose that particular time to allow his mental illness to disrupt the team - and its legacy.  The O-line has never been the same since that fabled day.

Not that Robbins is the sole reason the Raiders lost so badly in that SB but he deserves to spend his life living under a bridge as punishment.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another Memo to Mark Davis: The Fat Lady is Singing

I know everyone is tried of hearing my criticism of the Raiders.  I'm tired of writing it so I have resisted posting for a while.  I can't believe how my faith went from relief upon the transfer of GM power to Reggie McKenzie to almost zero over the last year or more.  The Raiders have ceased to be a franchise in my view.

The cap situation and bad contracts bequeathed by Al is all understood. I just don't think ol' Reg has done a good job at all in creating a roster that can compete.  I don't think the guy has brought in the necessary talent to compete.  I wish he did but he hasn't.  I find it hard to believe a guy with his experience in a front office has failed that badly.  I have absolutely no faith at all the Raiders will win more than 4 or maybe 5 games (again) in the 2013 season.  That may even be overestimating. Watch how many more games the Chiefs will win this year after being the very worst last year.

The Raiders have a shitty head coach, a less than impressive coaching staff, a sub-par roster on all fronts.  I think Reggie bit off more than he can chew. Mark Davis needs to capitulate the franchise, sell and have the new owners move to a better market, away from the ass dumper of Oakland, away from this horrendous embarrassing display.

If I eat my words, great. I just think the Raiders have regressed below expansion team status into non-existence.  There's no where else for them to go.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Raiders' New Stadium Hopes are Twisting in the Wind

The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have more in common than fans want to believe.

1) Both teams play in the oldest stadiums in the entire NFL.  Oakland Coliseum was built in 1966.  San Diego's stadium in 1967.

2) Al Davis coached both teams at some point in his career. In fact, if it was not for the LA Chargers, Al Davis would never have had an opportunity to become involved in the Oakland AFL franchise at all.

3) Both teams desperately need a new stadium built and are unlikely to get funding to do so.

The key difference in point number 3 is Chargers owner, Dean Spanos, could fund a new stadium if he wanted to but he won't.

The numbers simply do not add up in favor of a new stadium being built in Oakland or anywhere in the Bay Area. A new stadium is estimated to be in the 800 million to 1 billion range. Public taxes are not a solution. In the case of Oakland, the City, the County and the Raiders franchise are collectively STILL at least 100 million in the hole for stadium renovations made when the Raiders returned from LA.

The Raiders also suffer from a severe lack of corporate interest and sponsorship. You fill a lot of premium seating with corporate interest. The Raiders are simply not an attractive business investment for a number of reasons.

Like the demise of Al Davis himself, it is a slow burn for the Oakland Raiders franchise.

Mark Davis has offered to pony up 300 million into the project.  That is quite a hefty figure but it will not be enough even if the NFL kicks in another 200 million as they seem to do for other NFL franchise stadium projects. The hitch is the City of Oakland, County of Alameda have no such financing available to pick up their end nor can they get close to anything resembling it. Nor would they allocate that money towards professional sports even if they had it to give. The reality is law enforcement needs that money if it ever materializes. Oakland is continually battered by idiots rioting and protesting, destroying their neighborhoods and local businesses when they are not busy robbing and murdering.

Look around you, the economics are impossible and no one with deep pockets cares enough about the Raiders to bail them out. There will be no new stadium in Oakland because it is a losing venture. That is the reality.

If you want to compare the Raiders to the 49ers situation, the 49ers have generated more than $400 million from the purchase of seat licenses for their $1.3 billion, 68,500-seat stadium in Santa Clara.  Do you really think the Raiders can equal that figure in seat licenses?  They can't.  Remember that experiment backfired when they moved back from LA.

Now, the only real option for the Raiders is to move back to SoCal.  That is if:

a) A stadium even gets built there.  A SoCal stadium is not a done deal. Farmer's Field is still just a vision. The location near Dodgers Stadium is even further from a reality. Not to say a stadium in SoCal won't happen.  Anything is possible but as of now, nothing is happening.

b) Does SoCal even want the Raiders back? Remember, Al Davis left a bitter legacy in dealing with city and county officials. Whatever the problems and whoever is at fault, the mess is not cleaned up.  Money is owed, corruption and finger pointing and bad politics dwarfs the prospect of any reasonable solution. Just because Al is deceased does not mean all is forgiven.

c) Would the NFL allow the Raiders to re-locate? It's not up to the franchise. Remember, Al Davis left an even more bitter legacy when he shoved his middle finger in the face of the NFL by moving to LA and then suing the league for 1 billion (then Al's lawsuit was laughed at and thrown out of court). There's an old saying, don't shit where you eat. Al thought he was above it all and genuinely believed he could beat whatever odds he faced to make the Raiders great. Just about all of his beliefs turned out to be untrue and now his son Mark is operating at a disadvantage to salvage the Raiders integrity and the franchise itself.

My feeling is the NFL league office is going to watch as the Raiders get backed into a corner they can't get out of and then force Mark Davis to sell. Roger Goodell the statesman is very good at blowing smoke but the larger plan he has in mind is to let the Raiders flap in the wind.  The league owes the Raiders nothing and just because they are a team with lots of history does not mean they have a leg to stand on. They are one of the lowest valued teams in the NFL financially.

Unless a super savior emerges to fund a new stadium where the old one currently exists or the City of Oakland and County of Alameda pulls a rabbit out of their ass, the best outcome would be the Chargers and Raiders sharing a stadium in SoCal. Stranger things have happened.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Amy Trask's Departure, New Raiders Stadium Intrigue and Mark Davis Being Consistently Inconsistent

I don't get Mark Davis. On one hand, I respect him for being humble when he said "I know what I don't know" during his first foray with the media after his father passed away.  However, now, he is saying “In my lifetime, we’ve had three successful seasons. That’s the absolute truth. That’s the way I live my life. That’s the way we live our lives. What we’re trying to build is a team that is going to go after Super Bowls. It can’t just be a one-shot deal.”

Ok, so if Mark lives his life according to the same win at all costs philosophy as Al did, then why wasn't he more involved in football decisions his whole life?  The latter statement sounds like Mark's attempt to convince himself and others he is a chip off the old block but the reality is pretty obvious. Mark is nothing like his father in any way shape or form.

It's no secret Al controlled all decision making with everything Raiders during his lengthy reign but he did solicit input from other people. If Al bequeathed the franchise to his only son, it would stand to reason there must have been some sort of knowledge transfer long before Al passed away. BUT that does not seem to have ever happened. Based on what we are seeing thus far from Mark, at least not in the volume enough for Mark to hit the ground running when he took over.  Very few people outside the franchise were even aware Mark even existed prior to Al's death except a handful of Raiders boosters who participated in golf events where Mark was present (Mark likes to golf).

Mark seems to want to honor certain principles his dad maintained as sacred.  The uniform and logo of course remain unwaveringly unchanged. Nike rolled out it's 2013 uniforms and equipment to all teams with options to incorporate  new technology to help player performance.  I can't imagine why Mark would not want his players wearing uniforms that offered superior fit and flexibility.  Yet, not even colorblocking jerseys and moisture wicking pants was approved.  Not even something as simple as tapered collar was acceptable. The Raiders identity must remain as static as Al was colorblind (which he was).

Uniforms aside, we have the sudden departure of longtime Al Davis crony, Amy Trask, who acted as the friendly face of the franchise since Al was unable to do that.  Insiders hint that Trask and Mark Davis did not see eye to eye on many issues. My guess would be Trask's resignation may have to do with the lack of progress with finding a new stadium solution.  The quick recap of that situation is here,  Roger Goodell put on a good show for the Oakland hopeful but what it amounts to is simply leaving the prospect of a new stadium up to the city of Oakland and the Alameda County Joint Powers Authority to pony up a significant part of the cost.  That would never happen. Oakland is not far behind Detroit and other decaying urban cities in deep financial trouble.

In Al's day, it was a lot easier to build a stadium. Al held the key to the city and in the 1960's the Oakland Coliseum was not a bad design. To demolish it and rebuild it now is something beyond modern economics can do. Not even the most daring of real estate developers would tread on that dump.  Amy Trask's idea of a super mall in that location was nothing short of ludicrous.

The Raiders do not have anywhere near the same type of community support as the 49ers who were able to negotiate with a bay area city for a new stadium sharing the costs.

Nobody wants the Raiders as tenants as evidenced by their being unable to find a new home locally.  Trask may have been "the fall guy" for this since Mark's efforts also failed and he can't fire himself obviously.

If a new stadium gets built in LA it could still potentially go to the Raiders but it is a longshot. The Vikings fixed their stadium problem with swanky new digs on tap.  Though, due to proximity, unless San Diego can get a new stadium in SD, they seem a logical bet to move to LA.  If not, St. Louis seems the next logical choice because they have a much more favorable history with the NFL than do the Raiders.  I'm not even sure Oakland would get the nod over Jacksonville if it came down to it.

What it all means is now Mark needs to pull a rabbit out of his hair - I mean hat, I mean...well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comparing the Chiefs and Raiders Rebuilding Processes

I can’t say I followed Andy Reid’s career closely over the years but I have wondered how he held onto such a difficult job in Philadelphia for so long.  He has got to have nerves of steel to cope with that nutty fan base. Philly is a city so sports low on patience they once booed Mike Schmidt. How can anyone boo Mike Schmidt?

Thankfully, he probably won't need as thick a skin in KC as he needed in Philly. I think Reid is just what the Kansas City Chiefs need as head coach and architect to re-invigorate the franchise.  It remains to be seen how the Chiefs do on the field but in terms of infrastructure, I really like all of his hires. Reid has made calculated coaching hires and personnel decisions that fit together pretty well. I especially applaud his hiring of Chris Ault as offensive consultant. Not that Chris Ault is a mastermind but he is an innovator with an accomplished track record. The Chiefs will now benefit from his experience.

Now, consider that this has all taken place over just a few months time, coming off a season where they were the worst team in the NFL.  How would you compare the way the Chiefs have rebuilt in less time than the Raiders are in the process of doing?

I completely understand the Raiders salary cap constraints which have been talked to death by now.  I completely understand the mess Al Davis bequeathed his non-football-knowledgeable son Mark. I completely understand Reggie McKenzie being a rookie General Manager and his rookie hire of rookie head coach Dennis Allen who continues to make very rookie-like mistakes.

I understand at this point the Raider Nation has no choice but to give Dennis Allen time to grow into the role. That is what his boss, Reggie McKenzie, is doing and that is what team owner Mark Davis has stated the plan of action is for the foreseeable future.

But the NFL is a win now league. So if I was in Dennis Allen's shoes, I would be looking for a home run hire to score points.  I'd look for someone to add to the coaching brain trust who can help shape the focus of where we want to go in as short a time span as possible. Surely DA knows he can't do it alone or rely on his mentor and good friend John Fox with the rival Denver Broncos. Does anyone else find it ironic how the Broncos and Raiders are not bitter enemies so long as those two guys are head coaches of those teams?

Yet, DA's reliance on his own network failed him with the hire of Greg Knapp to run the offense in year 1 of his reign.  Now, a reliance outside his network seems to point in the same direction for year 2.

I do not agree with the hiring of Greg Olson as offensive coordinator.  Why?  Because Olson has held that role before in the NFL and has not stood out as a difference maker.  You need guys with the kind of experience who can turn a weak program into a competitive program quickly, not mediocrity.  You need guys who have seen it before and know what to do. I am tired of Dennis Allen’s “we’ve got to get better” statements.  Oh really?

A previous post of mine tosses out a few ideas. Maybe these guys are not a good fit or maybe too high priced, who knows.

Terry Shea is a proven asset to coach QBs. Jim Tressel is a bona fide winner. Jeff Tedford is still available. These guys would help solidify the direction of the offense. Instead, Dennis Allen went with just another guy named Greg.

Apparently they feel the Mad Chemist, Jason Tarver, is all they need as a defensive brain trust.  I will leave that one be for now.

The Chiefs are on track to go from league worst to the middle of the pack. The Raiders just seemed to have re-tooled their roster with different names with different salaries along with a few minor coaching changes. It is wait and see of course but where do you honestly think the Raiders and Chiefs will end up in the standings in 2013?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Old Raiders Mystique Really Is Dead

...and it may not be a bad thing,.  We just don't know what the new Raiders mystique is yet or even if the franchise will have a mystique at all.

The Mark Davis/Reggie McKenzie/Joey Clinkscales/Dennis Allen era of Raiders football is upon us in full swing. Maybe what we are seeing now is how hard it is to rebuild an NFL roster from scratch over a year's time.  The Oakland Raiders have all the earmarks of an expansion franchise - a rookie owner; a rookie GM; a rookie Director of Player Personnel, a rookie Head Coach.  Even though those guys have been on the job for over a year and have plenty of NFL experience in other capacities, it's still a rookie brain trust.

With Al Davis, we knew what we were getting when it came to his player personnel decisions.  There were some gray areas but it usually came down to physical measurables and a belief that the players Al chose to wear the silver & black would embrace the Raiders mystique and wear the uniform with pride. In Al's belief system, this pride would carry over to success on the field.  Al rewarded who he chose to reward based on this singular logic.

Times certainly passed Al by in more ways than we can count.  Players, especially younger players who may not even have been born when the Raiders were a feared team in the NFL, did not really care about Al's image of what the Raiders are and should be. Sure, any diehard Raiders fan can play up the legacy angle, maybe even as well as Al can pitch it.  Young players can be awestruck for a few minutes when they see the trophy case and portraits of hall of famers lining the walls at HQ.  BUT, it is debatable if players really care what NFL team they are playing for so long as they get paid. It just so happens they ended up with the Raiders so they made the most of it.  It's a fact.  Pro sports is all about money, not team pride.

I don't think the Raiders mystique exists anymore and it hasn't for a long time.  The nail went into the coffin long before Al passed away. The day the old Raiders really died was Super Bowl XXXVII.  John Gruden, the man who helped revitalize the Raiders mystique, was the same guy who crushed it. It is time to realize and accept the old Raiders are never coming back. Mark Davis doesn't want a bully.  Reggie and Dennis Allen surely don't want a penalty-laden team either. The new players representing the silver and black are all about trying to build a career in pro football, not restore greatness.  End of story.

Welcome to the new reality of Raiders football.  Players change allegiances quickly as we all do when we decide to change jobs.

So the housecleaning led by Team Reggie is not a surprise but what is unclear is what kind of team now exists on the field. There are lots of players with experience but what does it all amount to when they all come together?

I'm not so sure they have upgraded personnel since 2012. It just seems like different personnel with better depth. So few of the current roster players have distinguished themselves other than at collegiate programs. New draft pick Sio Moore talks tough but looks a step slow in the clips I have seen. That's my youtube analysis anyway. Like every other rookie, he has to show he can play the faster pace of the pro game.

Veteran Tracy Porter has the best highlight reel of any defender on the roster but then again, so did Gibril Wilson when he came over after a solid performance for the Giants in one of their Super Bowl runs.  New QB Matt Flynn is not a face of the franchise.  He has had one good game as a pro.  Ok, one great game but it was at the end of the season against Detroit.

I still don't have confidence in Dennis Allen. Reggie should have hired a head coach with better connections to build the type of staff that can work with an expansion/start-up roster.  I think DA will give us 4 years of below 8 wins a season.  In fact I think if he does get us 8 wins in a season it will be his peak.  It's a tough job and he's not the right man to do it.

How many of these players will be around by the time DA is fired and maybe Reggie as well? Probably none since they will keep turning over the roster.  That is the new reality of Raiders football.  Keep bringing in guys from Houston or Wyoming or wherever you can scrape them from until you find guys that "fit the system."

On the brighter side, all teams are in the same boat.  The NFL is all about parity now and finding the handful of stars to form your team identity (think Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Rodgers, etc).  Until someone claims that role on the field for the Raiders, this group does not have an identity.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Quick Snapshot of Raiders Offseason Moves

I really like the transition away from Carson Palmer to Matt Flynn at QB.  I didn’t get the impression Palmer really wanted to be in Oakland.  His attitude reminded me of a zombie corporate guy going to work with no emotion.

The bottom line is Flynn will get his shot in Oakland.  How that plays out is all speculation right now.  Flynn does give the Raiders a better pocket presence than Terrelle Pryor.  If the Raiders planned to run a read-option offense then Pryor would be the best fit and they would have brought in a similar type of talent to compete but that is not the case.

Flynn has lived a charmed life thus far in the NFL.  He has not been called upon to do too much yet has been paid very well.  In limited action he has shown good ability.  I don’t think we should read too much into Flynn getting beat out by Russell Wilson in Seattle.  Wilson is a great talent.  If Seattle or any NFL team knew how well Wilson would be able to handle the rigors of running an NFL offense as a rookie, Flynn would still be Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay.

By the time the draft rolls around and there are more free agent signings, there should be a good workhorse contingent ready to compete in the backfield for depth.

Right now we are young with talent at receiver.  Hopefully there is a gamebreaker in Juron Criner to go along with Rod Streater and Denarius Moore and we find a tight end.

I am a more concerned at this point how the defense will hold up.  Rebuilding a defense is not easy but GM Reggie McKenzie is doing the needful in bringing in (hopefully) healthy bodies to fill some gaps.

We have three free agent linebackers added to the roster with the expectation that all will win starting jobs.  Last year McKenzie hit a home run by adding free agent linebacker Phillip Wheeler.  No one, myself included, expected Wheeler to be such a beast.  His loss this year will truly be felt.  If McKenzie has the same mojo with Kaluka Maiava,  Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett then that would really go a long way to finally turning the corner on D.  It remains to be seen where 2012 weak side starter Miles Burris fits into that picture.

It is obvious Nick Roach will supplant Rolando McClain in the middle.  That is of course unless they utilize a 4-3 set in which case Roach will occupy an inside slot.  Roach is exactly what the defense needs. You need smart, tactical guys in the inside.  

Maiava is lauded as one the finest football talents to ever come out of the State of Hawaii.  He is a solid LB and should outright win the strongside role.  He signed for 3 years at 6 mil overall.  That includes a signing bonus of $2 million,.  They must have high confidence in him.

Also added were free agent defensive linemen Jason Hunter and Pat Sims. Base salaries are 1 million for DT Pat Sims, $715,000 for Hunter.  A pretty good bargain to fill some much needed real estate on the line to partner with Lamarr Houston.

Big question mark at punter with Shane Lechler gone, Marquette King must step up.  Thus far he has been less than impressive along with injury slowing him down.  King has to come through.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Will Dennis Allen's Culture Change Work for the Raiders?

I found recent comments by Dennis Allen regarding his intent to change the culture of the Oakland Raiders to be curious.  As we know, the culture under Al Davis lent itself to players having a sense of entitlement, especially the well-paid players.  After you had a conversation with Al Davis you knew where you stood in the organization. You didn't feel accountable to the head coach or other coaching staff as much as you did to Al.

Though, the problem with Al's methods is it leaves it wide open how players choose to professionalize themselves (if at all). When players make the jump from college there is not only financial considerations to factor in with young talent but maturity and work ethic.  Players have to grow up fast and that is easier said than done.  Many players choose not to grow up at all.  This problem is throughout pro sports but with the Raiders it was especially damaging.

A few years ago, former 49ers Tight End Brent Jones put together a group of investors (which also included Steve Young) and approached Al with the idea of buying the franchise. Surprisingly, Al listened to the pitch but not surprisingly, decided to decline the offer.  Jones was upset at being rebuffed and spoke out publicly what he would have done with the franchise had the offer been accepted.  Jones wanted to immediately change the culture.  What he (and many others) saw in the Raiders was a complete lack of infrastructure to support player development.  Sure, you have the weight room and physical therapy available but a professional organization requires professional people.  The Raiders had none of it.

(credit to Jerry McDonald for capturing the KNBR transcript)

Jones said:

“I don’t want to take away my respect for Al Davis, because he was one of the brightest guys in this league and certainly had been spectacular up through the 70s and early 80s. But to be able to hold on to absolute power, what happens is it eventually corrupts, and you can’t get smart people, you can’t get bright people.

“You don’t give anybody the ability to make decisions, and it’s just shocking how just drastically depleted the scouting, front office, the organization, I mean, it’s just, I feel the worst for young players who come to play, because they think they’re coming to the National Football League and they’re going to Oakland Junior College.”


There is no finer recent example than Rolando McClain for how this epidemic played out. When he was drafted by Al, McClain did and said all the right things. Coming off a National Championship at Alabama, the first thing he did was ask to see the Raiders playbook. Though McClain usually brushed off the media (and fans, often refusing to sign autographs) and was edgy whenever he did interview, the coaches continued to praise his work ethic.  There was no question McClain studied film and prepared himself to play.

Unfortunately, McClain did not fall in step with the coaching in Oakland and this led to his demise. LB coaches Mike Haluchak and then Johnny Holland could not get the most out of him. You could see the slide in his play.  He started off with potential but never developed to the level the Raiders needed.  As a pro, McClain's star fell and his off the field behavior speaks for itself.  You could tell he was and still is tuned out.  I would bet not even the veterans in the locker room or team chaplain could reach him to help guide the kid.

Whether it was the big money contract making him feel invincible or the immaturity or whatever happened to Rolando McClain, it is not an isolated incident. At the pro level, players are expected to take responsibility for themselves but you need a support system within the team structure.  That has to be there.  These players need to feel motivated and committed to performing up to their contract. Otherwise, they crash and burn quick.

Maybe Dennis Allen's culture change is religious in tone. That is just my guess and there would be nothing wrong with that.  Religion in football is very common.  It probably would have helped McClain and many other washouts to have more of a chance to succeed at the pro level if they bought into that type of team environment.  That is a big IF though.  A player has to want to be part of the structure to give himself a chance.

So if DA's culture change plans pan out (whatever those plans might be) then hopefully this blight of having our draft picks wash out will stop and the team can rebuild.

If that happens then I would not mind DA being a boring head coach.  At least we would see tangible change for the better.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why the Raiders Need Vince Young

It's really simple.  Carson Palmer is a medical disaster. Remember what finished him off last season - a savage sack that damaged not just his rib cage but a lung.  Think of the many other injuries Palmer has suffered throughout his career.  He is a warrior, probably on the same scale as Favre, but he does not have the same track record of clutch plays as Favre. Palmer has limited mobility at this point in his career.  He has the ability to throw for yards but all it will accomplish is him finishing out his monstrous contract. He's not going to lead the team to the playoffs.  He's just a physically degenerating NFL QB.

Terrelle Pryor does not seem to have impressed Dennis Allen or Reggie McKenzie thus far.  He too, is just finishing out his contract. What I find really odd is Pryor hiring QB consultants on his own to help him develop and get ready for training camp.  To me it's a statement Pryor has not been given the level of professional training needed for him to succeed as part of the team.  The Raiders have been deficient for many years in developing their QB talent.  Some guys deserved to wash out (like JaMeatloaf) but other guys could have developed into something better and didn't (such as Andrew Walter) and now possibly Terrelle Pryor (unless he makes a big splash in camp).

Even without Al pulling the strings, the Raiders are still in the pattern of plugging in the big, strong armed guy (like a Kerry Collins, Jason Campbell, Carson Palmer, Marc Wilson, Jay Schroeder, etc.). There is always a place in the NFL for the big arm guy but the intangibles of the game right now are better served by a QB that can improvise.  Terrelle Pryor has that potential but we don't know where he will end up as far as playing time

The fact is when a mobile QB is utilized, you have more options. When he was on his game in his prime, Ken Stabler set the standard for this in his era. That is what I think of when I think of Raiders football.  I don't think of Plunkett's wobbly passes.  I think of Stabler and how he got his nickname "Snake".  That's how he ran through defenses and avoided sacks.

I am thinking right now, Vince Young is a good solution.  I also think if Young's head is screwed on right, he can be a mentor to Pryor.  The problem as I see it as I don't think either Young or Pryor is a Dennis Allen kind of guy, whatever that may be.  To me, DA is extremely generic, kind of like cardboard. I just haven't seen or heard anything from him in the way of actual analysis or proposed strategy.  He bullshits us with attempts at coachspeak but it is flat and just horribly contrived statements of nothingness.  At least Reggie McKenzie says something tangible.

I'm curious how much different DA will be in year 2 as head coach.  I don't see guys like Vince Young or Terrelle Pryor able to fit into that cardboard world of DA as well as a guy like Carson Palmer who is adept at being cardboard himself.  Cardboard relates to cardboard very well.  Hey, if I was making 10 million or 12 million for my efforts, you bet I could be cardboard too if need be.  This is where Carson Palmer has us all beat.

Real change is not around the corner BUT... I will consider buying season tickets again for the first time in a few years IF Vince Young is brought on and wins the starting job.