Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trent Dilfer - the jury never delivered a verdict on his career

I'll give credit where it's due. Trent Dilfer has accomplished more than most of us ever will, with his money and ability to rise over mediocrity - at times - as an NFL quarterback.

He really did overcome enough obstacles to earn his keep. Few manage to endure a lengthy NFL career, including a memorable Super Bowl victory with Baltimore. Though let's face it, no one was going to beat the Ravens defense that year.

Nowadays, Trent is learning to be a broadcaster, which I find to be unfortunate. If he ever gets to call games he may be better but his analysis is tough to handle with all that smiling and the lights glaring off his dome.

I happened to catch a bit of his diatribe directed to Al Davis on firing fellow Fresno State alumnus, Lane Kiffin.

I know Trent is a decent guy on many levels but he really is annoying as well.

It's almost a Ned Flanders kind of annoyance. The guy who doesn't realize how frustrated he makes other people. In Trent's case, playing well only some of the time.

On one hand, I can admire a guy who's been at both ends of the spectrum on the field. I can recall games he played so bad it seemed impossible he would even be kept through the next week. That takes a lot of grit and confidence to overcome.

Still, there is the somewhat suspicious, homoerotic photography with chum Matt Hasselbeck. What are we to make of all this?

I kind of see Trent's duty as backup to Hasselbeck as more prominent in his career than his wins as a starter with Baltimore. He played well enough to not lose a Super Bowl but he's humble enough to not just hold the clipboard and be a locker room strength for Seattle. This was an honorable pattern he developed as a veteran.

Trent also has the distinction of being an old school, orange clad Tampa Bay Buc. He took his lumps but he bounced back as a career backup with a lot of teams.

All told, I'm not sure we can have a firm conclusion one way or the other what to make of Trent or his career. Good? Bad? Bad but wanting to be good and it not working out as often as he'd like?

I guess we'll wait for the jury to come back a while longer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jets vs Raiders, a winnable game for Oakland?

With everything going wrong for the Oakland Raiders, the smart money is all going on the New York Jets this Sunday. Whatever the point spread, you just have to figure the Jets have the edge.

As expected, Brett Favre is still slinging arrows all over the field and that simple formula is exactly what has destroyed the Raiders thus far this season. With a stagnant offense unable to pull it's own weight, an overworked, vulnerable defense puts the Raiders precariously close to another blowout loss.

Yet, there is hope. The Jets defense has been anything but impressive. Despite being 3-2, the Jets have not coasted. They are earning their yards and their wins with grit.

If we can block out the opening day fiasco to Denver and last week's laugher at New Orleans, the Raiders have had their share of leads this season thus far. They have tasted some success and will treat each Sunday as new life. Tom Cable is right about one thing, the Raider players are professionals and they are not going to abandon their will to win.

A few breaks, some special teams play in Oakland's favor, it is entirely possible Oakland could emerge victorious.

I wouldn't count on Darren McFadden being game ready. Turf toe tends to really hurt and linger. I would be surprised if he came back strong so soon from that particular injury.

I think if Justin Fargas is healthy and we finally see more of Michael Bush, some life from the receivers, there is a chance for a win. I'd like to see the Oakland passing game show some consistency. If I was in Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp's shoes right now I would continue to turn Jamarcus Russell loose. Throw downfield, get Chaz Schilens in the game if our top guys are not getting it done. I never thought I'd say this but Ronald Curry, you are really stinking it up.

Hey, Javon Walker. Why are you only in the game the first series or two? Are you tired or WTF? Get your ass out there and make some plays.

It's criminal Todd Watkins is not active. What is the deal with that baloney. The guy can catch and run at a professional level. The Raiders need those types of guys so the fact he is not in the game and getting an opportunity can only mean the Raiders are once again hurting themselves with bad decisions.

It is interesting this game is such a longstanding rivalry. These two franchises first met in 1960 in the AFL (the NY Jets were the NY Titans at that time). There have been some great games between the two teams, often with much at stake.

For this upcoming game the Jets could realize they are going to need to stick with the grit strategy to pull out a win. This is an Oakland home game and a chance for the Raider Nation to get behind their beleaguered team. If this does end up a Jets blowout, I want to see them earn it at least.

I have not heard the latest on ticket sales for the game but Oakland Coliseum will likely be sold out since Favre is a draw for people to come out. If it was Chad Pennington coming to town I doubt this game would come close to selling out.

As the NFL moves forward, the Raiders stumble to keep pace

In 1963, Oakland Raiders majority owners Ed McGah and Wayne Valley tried to sell Al Davis on becoming head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Believe it or not, Al was not stoked on the idea at first.

Al still had his heart set on making it in the NFL. The AFL was no sure thing but gave him a foothold in the professional coaching ranks. The Raiders ownership group and their methods of team organization were unimpressive to Al.

What really bothered Al was that Oakland did not even have a decent field to play on let alone a stadium. One of his major conditions for taking the job was that a world class football stadium be built.

He got the concession. It didn't hurt that McGah and Valley were real estate magnates. Eventually, after a few years of hiccups, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was born in 1966.

It's not a bad stadium but it is no longer state of the art. Despite millions of tax dollars building so-called luxury suites and incorporating amenities in recent years, the Coliseum just can't compete and never will be able to compete with other NFL stadiums in terms of modernization.

In today's market, you also need corporate naming rights to add significant value to the franchise.

In the latest Forbes valuations of NFL franchises the Oakland Raiders are valued next to last (31), right behind fellow Bay Area stumble bums, San Francisco 49ers.

In this day and age of corporate branding, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is now at a disadvantage. McAfee (who acquired former rights holder Network Associates) has decided not to renew their stadium naming rights agreement, which they paid the Oakland Coliseum Authority 12 million for.

The reality is finding a corporate sponsor willing to lay down double digit millions to be affiliated with the Coliseum is a serious long shot.

The additional reality is most corporations would not want to be affiliated with a Raiders-only facility. The Oakland Coliseum's other major tenant, the Oakland A's, have already committed to re-locating within the San Francisco Bay Area to an as yet to be built stadium sometime in the next decade.

This type of deal must have been a slap in the face to Al Davis and the entire Raiders organization. A brand new, state of the art facility is exactly the crown jewel that has long eluded Al.

He'll never get it either. The nutshell version of this tale is the Raiders are stuck with Oakland Coliseum as much as the city of Oakland is stuck with the Raiders. It is in a irreparable political quandary. Plus, how can anyone expect to do business with Al Davis? You'd need $100 million for lawyers. It's a bad investment the politicians of Oakland have been paying for mightily for years now. When they agreed to bring the Raiders back to Oakland they agreed to stay in bed with Al Davis for the sake of having the Raiders stay in Oakland. This has cost the tax payers of Alameda County millions of dollars as a result.

The most damning is the Raiders have the perception of attracting troublesome fans. On one hand, the Raiders experience can be family friendly but on the other hand, we're always hearing about fights and problems on game days. Not that every NFL stadium doesn't have troublemakers but with the Raiders, sometimes that perception proves to be too true. It just provides more reason not to do business with Al and his renegade stature. NFL= family friendly, Al Davis=unfriendly fartbag.

There's just no easy to way to explain the morass of why the city of Oakland is still affiliated with the Raiders franchise since 1966. It's just too complicated a tale but what is of interest is speculation the franchise will move once again, when their lease with the Oakland Coliseum expires in 2013 (recently extended from 2010).

"The Raiders' more passionate fan base makes them more likely to stay," the Forbes writeup tells us.

It is more likely the reason the Raiders will stay is because they have nowhere else to go. My speculative guess is the franchise has been unable to make any substantial progress with a re-location plan or a new stadium plan of any merit.

Amy Trask, Raiders CEO, commented that a possible solution is to build up the surrounding area with commerce. It' s not a bad idea. A few restaurants, ice cream shops, that sort of thing can only help. There's no eats around the Coliseum now at all that is really accessible or inspires confidence with most fans to stray from the concourse. It would be a tough sell though because it is questionable the area around the Coliseum would really attract potential revelers (unless it's tailgating).

So what about a scenario that has the Raiders re-locating? It's a hassle moving, not to be taken lightly. Another reason why they probably won't ever leave. Going back to Southern California is probably not going to work. Las Vegas and San Antonio have been ruled out. Who is going to pay for a new stadium in Oakland with surrounding commerce?

I'm sure there are land developers out there though it would not be easy of course to make such a deal. A main problem is Oakland is one of the top murder capitals in the U.S. It's a full fledged ghetto and unstable in many ways.

During and after World War II Oakland grew real fast and had a solid working class economy so that is why the AFL wanted a franchise there in 1960. The economics are not the same in 2008.

The good news is there is plenty of Raiders fans elsewhere in northern California so people should not look at the possible moving of the Raiders as a bad deal. They would probably sell out a 50,000 stadium if they moved to Sacramento (where a stadium would need to be built). Maybe not 70,000 which seems to be the desired size of new stadiums these days. I would say they would also fare well if a stadium were to be built somewhere in the Central Valley.


East Bay Express
Matier & Ross

Monday, October 13, 2008

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush on the trade block?

CBS Sports reported a scoop today that Justin Fargas and/or Michael Bush are potential trade material before Tuesday's NFL deadline.

So, the pattern continues. Someone is intentionally and selectively feeding high profile NFL journalists with early scoops supposedly obtained from an un-named source inside Raiders HQ. Last time it was Jay Glazer at Fox Sports and Chris Mortensen at ESPN. This time it went to CBS Sports.

Lane Kiffin is gone. So that means my source at Ricky's Sports Theater & Grill was incorrect that Kiffin was the information leak. Maybe Kiffin's friend Mark Jackson, still on staff within Raiders HQ in some low level administrative capacity is the overlooked element.

It just doesn't seem to be Team Al's style to concoct a clever ploy to stir the pot of controversy, like a propaganda technique. For what purpose? That would imply an oaf like John Herrera, laconic PR specialist Mike Taylor or some unknown individuals within Raiders HQ have some form of sophisticated PR mindset - which we know they don't. Or if they do, wow, that would be shocking.

All Raiders HQ has ever shown in the way of strategy is to emphatically deny everything, regardless if the information would help or hurt them in the public domain. Ineptitude is an appropriate description most of the time when it comes to anything to do with Raiders public relations.

Here's the bottom line: Raiders Senior Executive John Herrera has denied Fargas and Bush are on the trade block. This means they are in fact on the trade block.

The Christmas Grinch Arrives Early for the Oakland Raiders

Some people never learn. Take John Herrera for instance. John is perhaps the top Al Davis henchman, vigilantly standing guard for any affronts to the Oakland Raiders organization.

John must be thinking that his attitude has worked just fine for however many years he has been with the Raiders. Therefore, there's no reason to change, despite being outted as a tough guy wanna be in the Raiders media room just a few short weeks ago.

Underlying a big problem with Raiders organization, John Herrera answers to no one but Al and therefore, has the flexibility to exert his poor judgement. This bad business model is one of the main reasons the franchise is in such steep decline in the front office as much as it has been in the standings.

According to a New York Times article on 10-10-08, Herrera objects to Lane Kiffin and Jamarcus Russell staying in contact.

“That’s not a good thing. When somebody leaves any organization, they shouldn’t be meddling or trying to meddle. It’s not right and we will make some decisive decisions there as to how to deal with that.” Herrera is quoted as stating.

Sounds like the Christmas grinch arrived a little early this year. Hey Mr. Herrera, lighten up. Loyalty cuts both ways. If people want to remain friends what is the threat to Raiders management?

"Meddling" is friendly advice. Deal with it Herrera. I mean, no one takes you seriously. Let's be real. Al just keeps you around as muscle because that is all you are capable of, trying to throw your weight around.

Jamarcus is a good vibes type of guy but the dark side of the force runs rampant at Raiders HQ. There's no escape from the black cloud of tension. Jamarcus is in a tough spot. Understandably, his frustration has been flaring up more and more as the weeks progress. When you're not winning, you don't need dumb, off the field distractions getting in your head.

Contractually, no doubt there is something forbidding conduct interpreted as detrimental to the team. Staying in communication with a terminated head coach could potentially become a more serious issue than it needs to be on top of the team's on the field woes, just because John Herrera feels like being a mean SOB.

It would be interesting if Al would have Herrera's back in this instance.

Al has wisely said nothing relevant about John Herrera's media room clown act. In my view, the Herrera incident comes second only to Sean Salisbury's cell phone episode at ESPN as the dumbest move by someone involved in pro football in 2008.

I guess we'll find out if Herrera or some other team representative, perhaps even Al himself, addresses the issue of Jamarcus staying in open communication with Lane Kiffin.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A closer look inside Raiders HQ

I made my way towards the back of Rickey's Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, California. I had been receiving mysterious messages on my voicemail for several weeks now, all leading up to this encounter with a source who claimed he knew the secrets of Raiders HQ.

I spotted my contact seated at a table eating beer battered onion rings and drinking Lagunitas Copper Ale, an excellent choice. I knew I was in good company.

"I would be eating the wings but you know, first of all they're from Buffalo and second, they're messy as all get out", my source remarked.

The waitresses at Rickey's wasted no time. I ordered a Jack n' coke and a refill for my new friend.

"John Herrera would never betray Al Davis. That is Raider sacrilege. He's not the leak at Raiders HQ" my source dove head first into the topics at hand.

I have to admit, I have given my initial theory more thought and sort of regret pinning the leak on Herrera simply because he seemed like the obvious choice.

Why would loyal Team Al guys talk to a guy like Chris Mortensen? Everyone knows Mortensen is not respected. Why not go to someone they respect at least?

"It wasn't Mike Taylor either" the source said as he polished off his Lagunitas Copper Ale and thanked me for the refill.

"It was Kiffin" he said flatly, as if it was obvious all along.

He was right. I was hoodwinked. It was Kiffin. Though why would Kiffin be so forthcoming with media guys about his imminent firing?

Because Kiffin has always been clueless with the media. He has no tact. Mortensen and Jay Glazer probably got in touch with Kiffin, not the other way around. Doh! I goofed in my initial analysis.

"Don't worry, it's happened to the best of them. Al has had newspaper men chasing their tales for forty years now." source said.

"So let me ask you something" I said, "What about Al's professional liar remark from his last press conference?"

Mike Taylor is a man of few words but his long standing incredibly effective stealth as Public Relations director came to an abrupt end with a two word e-mail to a newspaper man, stating "Yes, Chris"

"Yes" as in validating Al was in fact calling Mortensen a professional liar, not Kiffin.

It is entirely possible the leak was inadvertent as starts and stalls with Al actually following through. It is possible a Team Al member was simply reporting what they knew at the time.

Team Al is:

Al Davis
Jeff Birren, chief legal counsel for over 20 years.
John Herrera, senior executive with extensive job security within the organization
Mike Taylor, public relations man

"So we can rule out Team Al feeding info to Mortensen as some clever misinformation campaign?" I sheepishly asked.

"Well, you can never rule anything out but you'll notice Mort's scoops have come only during Kiffin's reign." source affirmed.

We continued to hash out theories for the next hour and a half. I gladly absorbed the bar tab as his insight poured forth. Finally, his cell phone alarm was triggered.

"I have to run. Thanks for the beers. We'll find out if you, me or Al is full of shit if Mortensen gets any scoops in the Tom Cable era"

And with those closing remarks, we all move into the next phase of the Raiders 2008 season.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Billy Cannon, the Original Raiders Outlaw

Billy Cannon was a special talent in the 1950's, earning legendary status with LSU, including a Heisman in 1959. Cannon was a powerful, fast, smart ball carrier. He could run it, catch it, field kicks, whatever. He dominated in college.

In the 1950's south, it was well known Cannon was a roughhouser type from "the wrong side of the tracks." One trait that stood out with Billy was his street smarts. He got away with a lot because of his status as football hero.

Cannon signed a three year contract in November 1959 for $50,000 with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL. He even held a press conference with then-Rams general manager Pete Rozelle. Then on New Year's Day 1960, as soon as the Sugar Bowl ended, Cannon, before 83,000 fans, signed another contract, this one with the Houston Oilers of the AFL. That contract offered him $100,000 over three years, a $10,000 gift for his wife and a slightly used Cadillac.

He just had to throw the symbolic Caddy in there. It shows Cannon's thinking at the time. He was a man in search of the high life. He wanted to cash in on his athletic fame. Problem was, pro football had not yet become the cash cow it is today. Billy had to play his hand the best he could - and he did pretty well at it.

The Oilers were a very strong team in the AFL winning the Championship in 1960 and '61, losing in OT in '62. Cannon led the AFL in rushing in 1961 but hurt his back in 1962. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1964.

This trade to Oakland is not a coincidence. Al Davis had been head coach for one year and was re-modeling the team in his own image.  There could not have been a better fit. Billy Cannon represented a true Al Davis reclamation project. You know how Al loves absorbing former number one picks on a downswing. Billy Cannon had become fat by this point because of his back problem.  He had slacked off on his exercising and playing time had diminished significantly.

Still, it did not take a genius to see he had could run with power and could still catch the ball. He was an ideal Tight End and a potent guy to have in your lineup.

Billy's contributions with the Raiders ran through 1969. In fact, he was an all star in 1969, after which he retired. For his career he amassed 3,656 yards receiving, 2,455 yards rushing and 1,882 return yards for a combined total of 8,003 yards and 63 touchdowns.

Sportswriter Rich Koster described Cannon ending his career as a "loner who snarled at sportswriters."

Though his luck ran out a few years after football when he was arrested for counterfeiting and did prison time.

A journalist from Los Angeles called Cannon "the most repugnant young profiteer ever to sell his talents to anyone who'd bid."

During the offseasons, however, Cannon had gone to dentistry school. With five children, Cannon knew he had to prepare for the future. Because of his popularity, Cannon's practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year.

It still was not enough for Billy who craved mass wealth. He continued on a path of bad business deals of many varieties, none working out, some breaking the law.

As an elderly fellow, Billy has done more prison time and not in country club style. Billy has lived in Angola, Louisiana as punishment for his greed. Symbolically, he's got a little too much Raider in him.

Super Bowl II: Raiders vs Packers

Super Bowl II is a long forgotten contest played by two iconic, old school football teams: the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. Everyone expected the Packers to win and they did, methodically and convincingly with long drives, chipping away with field goals and the occasional TD.

We all know about the Packers offense and Bart Starr. For their part, this was a pretty good offensive starting lineup for the Raiders:
SE Bill Miller
LT Bob Svihus
LG Gene Upshaw
C Jim Otto
RG Wayne Hawkins
RT Harry Schuh
TE Billy Cannon
FL Fred Biletnikoff
QB Daryle Lamonica
HB Pete Banaszak
FB Hewritt Dixon

The Raiders limped into Super Bowl II. The entire team was really banged up after a very physically exhausting 13-1 regular season. Their one loss came against the Jets. The high margin of victory (40-7) in the AFL championship game against the Houston Oilers does not reflect the fatigue the team experienced. Getting to this Super Bowl took just about everything they had. Both the Raiders and Pack had three weeks rest before the game. The Raiders main loss to injury was running back Clem Daniels. With Daniels in top form, the Raiders running game had tremendous speed to compliment their power with guys like Pete Banaszak and Hewritt Dixon. An overall healthier Raiders team may have given the Pack a better game.

Super Bowl II was not Daryle Lamonica's best day as he threw an unfortunate interception returned for a TD which sealed the game. The Pack's defense played very well all game in fact. Other highlights include Ben Davidson knocking Bart Starr out of the game. Though by that point the Raiders were down 19 points (26-7). This game was never really in doubt. The final score was 33-14 Pack. It was Vince Lombardi's final game as head coach.

John Madden was a Raiders assistant coach in Super Bowl II. Bill Walsh would have been but he left the Oakland Raiders coaching staff prior to the 1967 season to be head coach and general manager of a semipro franchise, the San Jose Apaches. Al Davis was just a few weeks removed from his stint as AFL commissioner and was still solidifying his executive authority with the Raiders. Despite the Raiders' success in getting to the Super Bowl and head coach John Rauch being AFL Coach of the Year, relations between Al Davis and John Rauch was never strong and in fact, had deteriorated over the course of the 1967 season. After leaving his post as AFL commish, Al sought to establish his executive command and set his sights on getting rid of Rauch the following season in 1968.

In 1968 the Raiders went 12-2 and lost to the New York Jets in the AFL Championship game. The Jets went on to beat the Baltimore Colts in the historic Super Bowl III. The Jets were a fierce AFL rival so the sting of finishing the 1968 season on a sour note was tough for Al to take. No matter how many times the Raiders beat the Jets from that point forward it did not remove the crushing blow of that particular loss in the AFL 1968 Championship game.

The Raiders always felt they should have been the AFL representatives in Super Bowl III. They wanted another shot after getting beaten by the Pack the previous year. Al Davis couldn't let it go. Head coach John Rauch was fired after the 1968 season, replacing him with John Madden. Rauch ended up in Buffalo and would never again come close to the type of success he had with the Raiders.

It would take Al Davis, John Madden and the Raiders eight more seasons to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Anti-Raider Nation emerges from within the Nation

* the Yin and the Yang
* Night and day
* Friday and Saturday night at Ricky's Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, California, epicenter of the Raider Nation.

Usually, both nights are equal. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference. This year, Saturday nights are traditionally a rally night at Rickey's as a prelude to Sunday's Oakland Raiders game. That's where all your staunch silver and black foam finger waver types can be found, doesn't matter what the team's record is or any issues surrounding the organization. They just support. They have invested too much time, money and energy to even consider showing any chinks in their armor of "Go Raiders!" resolve, their chosen passion in life.

This Friday night however, October 4th 2008, drew a surprising number of rabble rousers proclaiming the Anti-Raider Nation movement was officially afoot. No longer will such blind obedience from the foam finger wavers go without an obvious sneer from the anti crowd.

You wouldn't be able to tell the Anti-Raider Nation from a foam finger waver because the two are one and the same, wearing team merchandise (as was I this evening).

This firing of Lane Kiffin has upset a lot of fans. The difference between this firing and others is:
* people knew Art Shell was not the right guy for the job at that particular time.
* Norv Turner was not highly regarded.
* Bill Callahan punched his own ticket out of town as did Jon Gruden.
* No one remembers who Joe Bugel is anymore so why mention him or Mike White.

Kiffin was fairly well liked for his honesty and more or less competent handling of affairs. Despite a horrendous first game embarrassment and his questionable judgement with the media, the team was getting better. They're battling, they're getting close to learning how to close games out. The general thinking is we're not playing bad all of the time.

Raider fans are highly disturbed by Al more than ever as his walls of secrecy have finally come tumbling down. This key point cannot be overstated in its importance. Really, up to 2008, most of the Raider Nation turned a blind eye to Al's ways, at least in spirit. At this specific moment in time, the Nation is highly disturbed and truly fed up with the downward spiral.

If the conventional thinking is a divided house cannot stand then this year's Nation defies that rule. The Nation is intent on making it through this latest power play by Al. Looking ahead to better days is an old standby but it's all that's left.

Overall, the Anti-Raider Nation people I spoke with felt that the team would be better regardless of head coach but the whole way the team is run has become a tired tale of one man's arrogance.

The Nation, anti or not, has really become a parody of itself, at least on Friday nights at the Nation's epicenter. What you get is an extravaganza of Raider memorabilia, walls of satellite TVs and every element of the Raider Nation in your face.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The reason for this blog part II

Since I started this blog just a few months ago I've gotten a few different reactions. Some people like it, some people ask me what the point is. Some think I have an axe to grind against Al and the Raiders.

Actually, I think my real axe to grind is with the Raider Nation. You're a sad sack nation yet smart enough to know your loyalty means getting other people rich by burning your budgets on everything Raiders. Yet you don't care. You keep Al's cash cow alive. That's your problem is you feed the very root of the problem. You don't just feed it, you are obsessed with it.

Go ahead, call me a hater. That's real original.

I back up everything I put in here as best as possible. If you feel differently, I will gladly revise any mistakes. Just leave a comment if you are so inclined. I make it a point to re-visit and challenge my own assumptions. I will make corrections as needed, ongoing.

I'm not doing this for site hits or popularity or some ego quest. This is a very part time hobby, assembling all of the data I have accumulated over the years and current web searches. I see Al and the Raiders as separate components. I know others may see it differently but consider the fact that the Oakland Raiders existed before Al arrived. The Raiders concept is not his creation. Not even the emblem is his creation though he tweaked it a bit.

I do not regard Al Davis as the beginning or the end of the Oakland Raiders franchise. He's just a highly intelligent weasel with a dominant personality who seized control of the franchise. That's it man. That's all it is.

It doesn't matter what Al's accomplishments are or if they were a bad team prior to him becoming head coach in 1963. Today is different. Nobody needs Al to have a winning franchise anymore. Not in the front office, not on the sidelines, not in the luxury box.

The legacy of Al Davis is not a commitment to excellence. Thanks to Al's bluster over the years, there is still the residue of past glory. The franchise still carries an illusion of itself as the greatest in professional sports. Obviously this is not the case. Even if someday they win another Super Bowl, WHO CARES. The legacy of Al Davis will simply be that he made a $180,000 investment in 1966 and it became an 800 million dollar business 40 years later.

My purpose here is not a crusade to bash Al Davis (that would be too easy to keep taking cheap shots). For the percentage of people who actually get it, my objective has become to dispel myths and illuminate the motives of Raiders HQ. I don't claim "cold hard facts" in all cases because at the end of the day, football blogging is all about speculation.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are entertained.

Raiders vs City of Oakland Gets Ugly - a look back at 1995

He saw disaster looming, but could only watch
By Tom FitzGerald San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A half dozen death threats were left on his answering machine. When he went to public hearings to inveigh against the Raiders deal, he wore a team jacket -- for camouflage.

In 1995 public officials were blasting Joe Debro. They said he was spiteful that he hadn't gotten more jobs for his construction business. One accused him of a "shakedown." Another called him "damaged goods." Actually, he was just a concerned citizen with an eye for the fine print and a contractor who was used to battling the big boys.

Ten years later, Debro says he takes no solace from the fact that he was right and so many people were wrong about the potential costs of the deal that brought the Raiders back to Oakland.

Sitting in his cramped office in his East Oakland home, Debro, 77, said there's no badge of honor for him in the costly public embarrassment the Raiders deal became. "No, that doesn't do anything for me or the people who were wrong."

From the beginning, he thought the deal smelled bad. "What I wanted more than anything else was for the citizens to vote on it,'' he said. "I looked at the documents and they were misleading."

Others thought so, too, he said. "I was the only visible person. Nobody else was prepared to be visible, because it was not pleasant. ... I was vilified.''

He felt projections of the stadium expansion cost of $85 million were "insane. It ended up costing $150 million." The contract was awarded to a company headed by builder Ronald Tutor, a friend of Raiders owner Al Davis. "It was a no-bid contract," Debro said, "and that was against state rules."

Raiders attorney Jeff Birren and Dina McClain, attorney for the Oakland- Alameda County Coliseum Authority, both dispute that contention. "When the deal was structured, the Raiders owned the stadium capital improvements," Birren said. "As a private entity, they weren't subject to those provisions."

McClain said the contract was legal but that cost overruns on the expansion forced the authority to use much more of the personal seat license revenue than was anticipated.

In 1995 Debro also took aim at what public officials were calling a $63.9 million "loan" to the Raiders. "There was no collateral, there was no repayment schedule, there were no provisions for default,'' he said. "It was simply not a loan. What I called it was a payoff."

Birren and McClain insist it was a loan. "The Raiders pay $525,000 a year (on it), plus half the parking and concessions, which amounted to $1.2 million last year," McClain said.

The NFL felt it was a fee rather than a loan and therefore had to be shared with other teams. The league won a lawsuit over the Raiders on that issue. Debro had no luck in his own court battles against the deal, the final case being thrown out in 2001 because, a judge ruled, it was filed after the statute of limitations to challenge the deal had expired.

He had projected that the deal would cost the taxpayers $400 million. "It looks like it's going to cost $600 million in subsidies by the time the bonds are paid off," he said. "At the end of the 16th year (2010), there are no provisions for any kind of payments (to the city and county). So the subsidies are going to have to go up. That's just atrocious. We have schools that are falling down, a school district that's in default."

He claims city/county officials were duped into the deal by people who had a lot to gain from it. And now?

"I don't think there's any way out of this," he said. "They've antagonized Davis, and they don't have any leverage."

At the same time, Debro has nothing but admiration for Davis. "I just wish we had somebody on the public side who fought as hard for what they believed as he does."

The City of Oakland & The Raiders make strange bedfellows

Raiders and Alameda County kiss and make up
Oakland Tribune, Dec 5, 2006 by Paul T. Rosynsky

The decade-long legal war between the Oakland Raiders and its government landlord came to a peaceful end this week as the team decided not to pursue further appeals.

"This ends all the litigation between the Raiders and its landlord," said Raiders General Counsel Jeff Birren. "We are committed to taking all of our energy and channeling it towards improving the game day experience."

The team's decision comes almost three weeks after it was sacked by the state appellate court which overturned a 2003 jury verdict awarding the organization $34 million.

In deciding not to seek further legal remedies, the Raiders forfeited their right to seek an opinion from the state Supreme Court and any chance of winning back the jury's original verdict.

Team officials said they choose the path of cooperation, in part, because of the good working relationship that has developed between them and the Authority.

That relationship began last October when the team and the Authority agreed to kill the woeful Personal Seat License concept and hand control of ticket sales to the Raiders for the first time since the team returned.

As a result, the Raiders have sold out their first five home games this year, well above the three sellouts a year the organization has averaged since 1995. The team also increased its season ticket base by 30 percent despite a two-win season.

"The business relationship that has existed since October... has enabled us to work with the (Authority) on matters effecting the facility and our fans," Raiders Chief Executive Officer Amy Trask said. "We are thrilled to be working directly with our fans."

The agreement to end all legal challenges also improves chances the team and the Authority will develop a plan for a long-term lease extension at McAfee Coliseum.

City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, a member of the Authority since the team returned, said the Raiders decision is just another sign of progress in the relationship.

"We can now put everything behind us," De La Fuente said. "I have been involved with this from the beginning and I am just really happy now."

The legal war began almost before the team jogged onto the grass at renovated Oakland Coliseum.

No sooner did Al Davis sign a 10-year-lease agreement did information become public the Authority had failed to sellout the stadium for all Raiders home games.

Davis had claimed he was told it was sold out and after the Authority sued the Raiders in fear the team would try to break the lease, the Raiders counter sued saying they were victims of fraud.

Had the team known the stadium was not sold out, Davis has said in the past that he would have never returned.

The team sued for $1.1 billion claiming lost business and opportunity.

After listening to testimony for five-months, a Sacramento jury partially agreed with the Raiders stance. It awarded the team $34 million, a figure the jury calculated based on how many empty seats were at the Coliseum during Raiders games.

But last month, the 3rd Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal overturned the jury verdict saying the team had given up its right to sue for fraud because it signed another agreement in 1996.

That agreement not only reaffirmed the original agreement but it also gave the Raiders new benefits.

Under California law, a person or organization cannot sue for fraud if they changed the terms of the original agreement for their benefit, the appellate court ruled.

Regardless of the ruling, both the Raiders and the Authority now say they are ready to start a new, friendly chapter in the relationship.

"What we need to do now is plan for the bigger picture," said Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, the authority chairperson. "It took us a long time to be working all together. For 10 years we were fighting."

Both Steele and De La Fuente said they will turn there attention towards securing a long-term lease extension with the Raiders.

The Raiders had asked for an extension last year but were denied as the authority choose to see what would happen with the Oakland Athletics.

Now that the Athletics have signaled their desire to move to Fremont, the chances for a Raiders lease extension is more plausible, De La Fuente and Steele said.

Trask and Birren said the team will listen to proposals.

"Certainly, we are willing to listen and to engage in discussion with the (Authority) about any matters concerning the facility," Trask said. "The (Authority) recognizes the facility is 40 years old and must be modernized for all of its tenants."

Added Birren, "We will take a cautious wait and see approach."

The Raiders take their case to the Supreme Court and lose

July 3, 2007

Raiders lose yet again - in high court

Retrial request blocked by state panel; verdict stands

By Paul T. Rosynsky

It appears the Raiders' recent struggles on the field followed the team into the court room.

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 2001 verdict against the team in its lawsuit with the National Football League should stand, ending a case that began in 1999.

The ruling also ends, for the first time in at least 20 years, any litigation the team has in the court system.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed a decision by a state appeals court that denied the Raiders a retrial in its $1.2 billion lawsuit against the NFL.

The decision stems from a 2001 Los Angeles-based trial in which the Raiders sued the NFL, claiming the league interfered with the team's deal to build a new stadium in Hollywood Park.

Though a jury in that trial ruled 9 to 3 in favor of the NFL, the Raiders successfully argued that the case should be re-tried because of jury bias and misconduct.

Raiders attorneys and some jurors said that at least two jury members broke the law during deliberations. One juror claimed he had lost a bet on the Raiders, hated team owner Al Davis and would never award the team damages. Another juror, who was an attorney, supposedly directed deliberations and told the jury how to weigh evidence.

The Raiders won a ruling from a Superior Court judge for a retrial, but the NFL appealed the decision claiming the juror who claimed he lost a bet was only joking.

The appeals court ruled in favor of the NFL and the Supreme Court agreed Monday saying the judge who ordered the new trial failed to state a reason for the decision.

And without a reason, the Supreme Court said it could not order a new trial because there were too many contradictions from other jurors.

"In sum, the testimonial evidence submitted by the parties in the form of juror declarations is sharply conflicting on every material issue," wrote Supreme Court Judge Joyce Kennard. "The Raiders submitted no other evidence to support their motion for a new trial."

NFL Executive Vice President Joe Browne issued a statement saying, "We are pleased that this lengthy litigation is finally over."

Raiders General Counsel Jeff Birren called the decision "incomprehensible."

"The Supreme Court ruled that because the judge failed to insert a few words of additional explanation in the order, the Raiders should be denied a new trial," Birren said sarcastically. "The Supreme Court ruling is incomprehensible."

Last year, the team lost an appeal of another lawsuit filed against its current landlord, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. In that case, the Raiders originally had been awarded $34 million by a jury that agreed that local leaders lied to Davis about sellouts at the Oakland Coliseum.

An appeals court overturned the verdict and said the trial should never have occurred.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How Tom Cable rose above the Raiders head coaching candidates

Finally, some movement on ousting Lance Kiffin. The infant of a man has been distributed his flotation device.

Here are some thoughts on possible replacement candidates.

Rob Ryan

Probably ruined whatever chance he had by showing his unprofessionalism in front of a microphone. Too much of a regular guy and not enough savvy as a leader.

James Loften

He'll probably be a head coach at some point, who knows if it will be with Oakland. Apparently, Al does not feel Loften is the right fit for head man at this time. The players would most certainly see such a move as a little too convenient. If logic has any role in Al's decision, you want to keep your players in the right frame of mind (all eyes forward on playing the game). Moving Loften over may have created some controversy with the locker room. Just a guess since everything else about Loften speaks of a tough, get things done type of guy.

Paul Hackett

He has not been on the sidelines this season. His involvement with the team thus far has been in the film room. It would be a lot to ask for the guy to step into a head coaching role in stride. Both Al and Hackett have been around long enough to know that formula presents high risk to be successful.

Greg Knapp

He probably didn't want the job. Interviewing him was a formality, perhaps even more of a discussion on keeping things consistent. Knapp prefers to focus on what he is currently doing, which is managing the offense.

Tom Rathman

Not enough coaching experience, at least not yet.

Tom Cable

A safe choice. He has been low key throughout his time with the franchise. There is no disputing the offensive line has made great strides since he came aboard following a one year stint with Jim Mora Jr's Atlanta Falcons.

If you recall the Falcons were not an effective team under Jim Mora Jr. but not a complete failure. Atlanta led the NFL in rushing in Cable's one season, Just that stat alone goes a long way on the resume.

Cable's hiring would also emphasize the Raiders offensive strategy won't be changing. They still have a strong commitment to the run (as long as they have backs to carry the ball) and there are no disruptions as far as system, play calling, etc.

You may have been one of many who thought Kiffin was calling plays all this time. I disagree he ever had full latitude. He probably had his way some of the time but I would speculate the majority of plays were part of a game plan decided on in advance by the offensive coordinator. Kiffin had more decision-making when it came to special teams and managing the clock (which he did poorly).

Cable has good experience being offensive coordinator at UCLA for two seasons (2004-05) and serving as the head coach at Idaho for three years (2001-03). He also spent six years at the University of California, serving as the offensive line coach. he was also O-Line coach for Rick Neiheisel's Colorado Buffaloes.

Even though his only head coaching experience was with Idaho it shows Cable at least has knowledge of how to lead a staff and manage players. His Idaho stint may not have amounted to that much but I'm sure it helped.

I like Cable's demeanor a lot more than some arrogant Southern California boy who drives a Mercedes. What kind of Raiders coach would drive a Mercedes? A "me first" kind of guy which is what Kiffin is.

Cable's hire puts an interesting spin on the rumor that Knapp and cable are Seattle-bound following this season to join Jim Mora Jr's staff.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Raiders can't hold a 4th quarter lead for the second straight week

The sold out crowd at Oakland Coliseum was cautiously optimistic about how the Raiders would fare against the Bolts today. From my vantage point the Chargers looking uninterested out of the gate, like they would rather phone the game in.

That's the best excuse I can think of other than San Diego simply not taking the Raiders seriously. Maybe they're bored beating Oakland twice a year for so long. Today was no different but the way it unfolded was a bit of a surprise. The Chargers never panicked when they were down by five points. They appeared to finally feel some pressure when it became 12 and then 15 point deficit. In fact, the Chargers were stymied most of the game and did not gain the lead until the fourth quarter.

This game was actually decided in the last two to three minutes oft he game. It was a tie score and then a special teams break down by Oakland led to great field position. If San Diego needed a plot ending script the Raiders provided one. The Silver & Black just did not have the gas in the tank to do anything about giving up ten points in the last two minutes.

That's how it ended but let's look at how it started.

I want to believe in Greg Knapp's offensive system but I'm not doing a good job if it. The way the first series went for Oakland gave me some hope that perhaps Knapp was opening things up. All of a sudden, instead of trying to grind a team down slowly with the run, they went for and connected on some nice open field strikes. One of which went to Javon Walker with perhaps his best catch and run as a Raider.

The only problem was this type of fearless play calling deteriorated as the game progressed. Javon Walker was nowhere to be found. Jamarcus had less and less time in the pocket, the majority of Raider receivers were just not up to the task. Even Zach Miller wasn't money on every play.

Though with final game stats of 22-for-37 for 277 yards, Jamarcus earned his "progressing" label. I think he was frustrated with how the game went though. His body language when coming off the field revealed JR to be unsatisfied. You can't blame him considering how poorly they did on third down conversions. They were 3-15 today. They were 2-12 against Buffalo last week. Jamarcus needs more time in the pocket.

The reasons for this comes back to the longstanding problem of the offensive line. The zone blocking scheme is better suited to run block than pass block. Still, that is not an excuse for not having a left tackle who can play. If that is the best he can do, Kwame Harris is not going to make the grade. Put Mario Henderson back in.

On the flip side to that, I understand how the defense would cave in. When your offense is not making third downs that means your defense is spending a lot of time on the field, doesn't matter how beautiful a punt Shane Lechler lays down. You get fatigued being on the field and with just a few exceptions, the Raiders are not a well conditioned defense. They are going to fade down the stretch if they have to play intense through the fourth quarter. Maybe that will change but that is what the Raiders have shown the last two games.

The highlight of the defense has to be the line. DE Kalimba Edwards has been playing outstanding. He is one of those former first rounders Al picked up on waivers from the Lions. Edwards does have a rehabbed knee in his history though he is exhibiting real potential as a true free agency find (as Derrick Burgess was) if he can stay healthy. If Burgess can get healthy and they have Edwards and Jay Richardson rotating in on the opposite edge that is what you want.

I was also impressed with Terdell Sands making two sacks. He's playing like a beast in the middle. If Gerard Warren gets healthy, he is a force and thus far, Tommy Kelly is also playing well.

Ronald Curry is not the same player has been in season's past. Whatever the problem is has to end. He is just about completely useless out there.

Why is Todd Watkins still inactive? He is not injured. He earned a roster spot by having a great camp but the coaching staff apparently does not believe he can contribute. Why else would he not even suit up? The Raiders need good WRs so there is a problem somewhere especially since a guy who catches well is on the bench and guys who are not making plays (Curry) are on the field.

There were a few of those "would of, could of" moments, such as what if the Raiders scored a TD on the opening drive instead of a FG? What if the offense had managed the clock better and got into FG range to close out the first half?

Lane Kiffin has no notion of game time management. He's been missing that talent for as long as he has been a head coach. That is one reason how lack of experience can bite you. Kiffin is just plain awful at working the clock to the team's advantage and he's not learning to do it well either.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jim Otto, elder statesman of the Oakland Raiders

Recently I re-read Jim Otto's autobiography "The Pain of Glory" and was reminded of how much of a gladiator he was and how much of a football legend he stands as today.

Every Raiders fan owes it to themselves to read this book. To understand the Raiders mystique you have to understand it through the eyes of Jim Otto, who precedes Al as an Oakland Raider.

Basically, Jim Otto is a tough guy who had a tough early life, who toughed out an extensive and storied pro football career. Though what we see today is gnarled, shopworn medical catastrophe sitting in the luxury box with Al Davis. Both of them, behind the glass appear as fossils.

Though make no mistake, Jim is no Al bootlicking Yes Man. Jim Otto is his own man, incredibly forthright and personal is his book on a variety of subjects. His relationship with Al Davis as a coach, mentor, friend and team owner is all laid out.

Jim listened to the Green Bay Packers games on the radio as a youngster and there was an instant connection. Jim knew he had to learn to play the game and be just as great as his home team.

Starting out was rough since he did not have the right mentorship to learn how to play the sport. Jim was demeaned by his high school football coach and he stuck it out as a benchwarmer until getting ultimately getting his shot.

Though he was a strapping blonde dude who had no problem enjoying himself socially, his greatest passion was football. His perseverance conquered his limitations.

As his head coach in 1963, Jim describes Al's coaching style as curt and gruff, not a player’s coach. His primary focus was teaching and then demanding execution the way the position was supposed to be played. That means, as a player, nothing in your life mattered except mastering your assignments, exceeding your own limitations wherever possible. Other teams will have no mercy on you. You have to not only survive the other man’s onslaught but you have to excel and dominate. You don’t get glory without reaching for it and squeezing everything you have to achieve your goal. Whatever it takes, do it.

This became the Raider way, as defined by Al Davis in the 1960's and lived through the embodiment of Jim Otto. That's why he gets invited into the luxury box. It is the reward for a career of sacrifices made for the game and for the franchise.

Jim Otto of the Oakland Raiders showed up every year in my football card collection. He was distinctive because of his double zero. Plus, he was the only guy who wore a neck brace. I always wondered why he chose to use that particular piece of equipment.

Finally, by reading his book, I learned the history behind the neck brace. Jim had a chronic neck injury where he would get stingers. The brace was intended to at least provide cushion to blows that sent his head backwards. Amazing that he played with that injury for his entire pro career.

After football, Jim became a self-made man. His highest salary as a player was $70,00. When he retired, he claimed about twice that amount in deferred pay and he parlayed that into a fast food empire. He's a millionaire now and he did it after his career simultaneously while challenged with constantly requiring all kinds of medical maintenance and repair.

To me, this is partially what makes Jim Otto so great in that he never let any situation defeat him. Regardless of his circumstances he excelled.

As a retired, medically disabled warrior, he formed his own identity. You have to give credit where it is due. Jim played the game as intensely as humanly possible and he endured through the ups and downs of life as a pro athlete, as a great teammate and all as a diehard Oakland Raider.

Jim Otto is iconic in his accomplishments in the game of football. His book is as open to the reader as possible so you really learn about the man and his life inside and outside of football.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raiders Front Office Profile: John Herrera (and friends)

Talk about stealth, turns out John Herrera is no simple flash in the pan media room enforcer. He's been around the Oakland Raiders front office since season one of Al's arrival in Oakland (1963).

In the beginning, Oakland was not the ghetto it is today. In the early 1960's, Oakland was actually an up and coming mid-sized type city. In terms of football, the Raiders were not an overnight sensation so when Al arrived in 1963, on his agenda was establishing positive relations with the community and raise awareness of the team.

Naturally, turning around the team's success on the football field was first priority but Al Davis understood the value of having front office people in place to handle the off the field issues since they continually required attention.

In the very beginning, Al was wary of the press and their cigarette smoke, fedora hats and such. But out of necessity he decided he would co-exist harmoniously with the bay area media. Whoever said Al was not a new age guy was dead wrong. He winced a little but soon the northern California peace and love vibes of the 1960's put Al in a better mood.

Though Al was no hippy. Al wanted to be a tough guy like his football players. It's no secret Al never had the athleticism to be a tough guy on the gridiron so he did the next best thing in moving into coaching and then management.

Still, Al's macho man mentality shaped his destiny. The macho man mentality is what makes football what it is. You shrug off injury, you play with ferocity. You put it all on the line - forever, or don't you come back here you sniveling coward.

As Jim Otto found out, the pain of glory has a very steep price. Al recognized the sacrifices Jim Otto made for the Raiders and in his own way, rewarded Jim as a franchise hero. No argument there. Jim Otto is a legend.

Al has been good to John Herrera as well. John carries the same mojo, the same grit and mentality of old school loyalty. You don't last that long in the Raiders organization without being one of the team, for having ceaseless tenacity, for not caving in to the lying bastards of the media.

The media is smoking pot and making up stories about Al Davis. Sic 'em John!.

But it wasn't always that way. The 1963 fedora crowd didn't quite know what to make of the cagey, not very forthcoming prodigy of Sid Gilman. But that inaugural and immortal Al Davis 1963 season showed results. The Raiders were now a valid professional football franchise.

The press responded to success with accolades. Al won awards from the city and endeared himself to then team owners. Al was very generous in return, handing out gifts to the newspaper people who covered his Raiders. One year he gave out new color TVs. Whoever said Al has a bad relationship with the media obviously never got a TV set in 1960 something.

Everybody loved a good sponsor and who better than Herrera Buick right on Broadway, Oakland, CA? You may think there's sarcasm afoot but when it comes to 1960's cars, hoo boy, some of those nifty vehicles from the era sure are enviable.

So, Al became friends with Raiders sponsor Andy Herrera and sure enough, his young son John found himself summer employment, not chasing balls on the practice field but in the office where Al put him to work.

Not a bad gig if you can get it.

With the exception of a two year stint in Saskatchewan as GM of the CFL Roughriders (early 80's), John Herrera has been a fixture in Raiders HQ throughout the entire Al Davis era.

Unfortunately, all we know of John (until now) is what we saw on video. We saw an angry John Herrera. I'm sure everyone at some point has been ticked off and wanted to take care of biz the old fashioned way, Marquis of Queensbury rules and all that. BUT, man you just can't do that in a media room with rolling cameras. You do that in a bar if you really have to. Now, Mr. Herrera is forever known as the Raiders bully PR guy. But hey, in the eyes of many, that's not a bad thing.

In all truth and fairness, the outburst by Mr. Herrera is forgivable. It's not that a big a deal really but it is funny.

What is also funny but at the same time ridiculous is John's style of trying to stifle information.

I'm not a PR professional myself but I know enough to not say "It never happened" when in fact something DID happen. Bad PR guys try to shoo issues away like waving your hand, use the force Luke. In John's case, that didn't work so he goes for the intimidation when all is lost. He had no further cards in his deck other than the mafioso routine which still cracks me up a day later.

No need to have any sympathy for Lane. If this had come out of the blue for no reason then yea, Lane deserves some love. BUT, he started this war with the franchise owner.

1. Lane lacked the savvy to figure out how things are run at HQ. It shouldn't take that long to figure out if you can handle a job or not. High profile or not, Kiff walked into the job and tried to make things happen without regard for the boundaries and then got pissy through the media when things did not go his way. Regardless of what Al represents, they chose to do business with each other. I agree with the company line on this one. If you signed the contract then you live up to your contract OR, you can end the contract if you are not happy.

2. He did not present his plan to replace Rob Ryan to Al before trying to assert control over his coaching staff. I think Al has been forthright in the past in that if you have a problem, you work it out in-house. If there are obstacles to that then you need to figure out how to deal with it before starting a media storm.

3. Lane continued a pattern of sharing information to the media. In January 2008 he was quoted, "where there's smoke there's fire" being the one comment in particular which seemed to set the dogs loose to where we are currently..

4. Lane in fact escalated his side door hammerings through the media against Al and the organization which seems to come pretty close to insubordination.

If insubordination was a clear cut case then the firing would have happened already. Al just does not want to pay for a buyout so that is the delay.

Lance, I mean Lane is a nice guy. Anyone can see that but this is mostly his fault so he gets no sympathy. Once you realize your situation all you have to do is look out for number one. Quit or talk to Al, figure out an exit strategy or a way to get your ideas heard, suck it up and focus on other things or do something constructive other than speaking so glib to the media. That is what got him into trouble.

No one was happy with 4-12 in 2007 but it was not going to get him fired. If that did happen, so what, he would collect his 4 million.

The Raiders may not even win 4 games this entire season and he still stands to collect 4 million so yea, this is about money. If it isn't, why put yourself through this? Quit! Quit and find a new gig. Go spend time with your family. Enjoy your financial freedom.

Stay and you have to deal with the blogger nation, the increasing media attention and of course, John Herrera, PR henchman, since Al has made himself so scarce these days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who is the information leak at Raiders HQ?

Up to now, I was really getting tired of the Oakland Raiders soap opera but today, I was really amused.

John Herrera, Raiders Senior Executive, almost flew off the handle in a Raiders HQ media room with several key Bay Area sports reporters in attendance. In the following video I can see Nancy Gay from the San Jose Mercury News and Ray Ratto (hoo boy) for the San Francisco Chronicle looking on with interest.

The following video pretty much shows that John Herrera takes his role as protecting the world of Al Davis very seriously.

Bottom line here is Raiders HQ seems to have no problem burying themselves in their own dirty laundry. They spend all this energy defending themselves with the press and in the end, they put the spotlight on themselves as they throw a little boy tantrum.

If the video does not render, try this link.

Regarding what is being said, the audio on the clip is not the best. They are arguing about an article that was allegedly circulated by a "Raiders staff member" to the media people in attendance. Mr. Herrera is insisting no one on the Raiders staff distributed it. The media, specifically Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News is making light of it in fact. John Herrera reacts strongly, "Get your hands off me!"

Who is this guy kidding? Tim Kawakami was not starting any trouble and kudos to him for not even flinching, behaving professionally throughout, realizing the episode was being taped.

Does this sound familiar?

Man, the more things change the more they stay the same with the Raiders.

So it occurred to me, John Herrera is in the same situation as everyone else, waiting for the axe to fall on Kiffin. I think John Herrera is really chomping at the bit to get rid of Kiff and he's a bit on edge.

As key Raiders spokesperson, John Herrera is usually at the forefront of information released from Raiders HQ to the public domain. He is passionate in his protecting the integrity of what is said in the media about the Raiders.

Someone inside Raider HQ is feeding information to big name media peeps. Namely, Jay Glazer with Fox Sports and Chris Mortensen with ESPN, who always seems to be the first to know when Al sneezes.

It make senses John Herrera would be the leak. In fact I'm willing to bet on it. After this article I am calling Vegas and getting the line. Who else but a high ranking PR guy would have Jay Glazer and Chris Mortensen's cell numbers?

Another name being floated around the blogosphere as the potential source is Raiders Public Relations man Mike Taylor. Interestingly, Mr. Taylor is also mentioned in the same breath as being in the suffocatingly tight Al inner circle.

Who knows, perhaps the undermining source within Raiders HQ is a lesser known employee who skulks in shadows, maybe he has Al's walker bugged.

Or perhaps the leak is more sophisticated. Could it be Raiders CEO Amy Trask? She is well informed at a field level more so than one might think. But, I don't see how she would intentionally speak off record to sports media. It's not her style. She is too lawyerly and loyal.

Al's son, the 40 something Mark Davis? Still very much a mystery to most...for now. What we do know of Mark is he is actually a nice guy who likes to play golf and probably enjoys a financially carefree lifestyle. He has not shown any football insight publicly. His role with the organization appears to be more on the business development side. My personal take on Mark is he does not carry a chip off the old Al block type of swagger. At any rate I think he would be uninterested in being a back channel source of info for the media.

A conspiracy theory is the leak is one of Al's varied bodyguard/medical staff. Some of those dudes might be the fly on the wall. Hey you never know.

Nah, the leak is the reckless John Herrera who today, managed to show less media savvy than Lane Kiffin, the very man he wants vilified for the same offense.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

4th Quarter conditioning a big factor in the Raiders loss to Buffalo

In looking around Oakland Raider forums and blogs this evening it looks like the majority of Raider faithful want to blame the defense or Rob Ryan specifically for the last second loss to the Buffalo Bills today. Though, the fact is the defense was the only reason the Raiders even had a chance to win the game and almost carried the Raiders to a victory.

The Raiders were up by 16 points at one point and it would have been 23 points if not for a turnover, giving Buffalo a short field to work with and capitalize on for a touchdown.

Not that blame should be assigned for mistakes made by anyone or plays that did not go the Raiders way. This was a tough game to win. It's not easy to travel across country to a hostile environment in Buffalo and play well. Though at the onset, the Bills did not look ready to play and the Raiders did.

The fact that the Raiders almost went the distance in this one shows a lot of grit and character. It is also proof that the Raiders can overcome adversity and be competitive with anyone in the NFL.

I'd like to see the Raiders who played Buffalo today rewind and play Denver next week but I'll take San Diego as a good second choice.

For most of the game the Raiders defense played with a ferocious intensity, like a team desperate to prove their worth. They played like a team willing to put it all on the line for the win. That was great to see. It really did remind me of Raider teams of old.

So I will give credit where it is due to Rob Ryan for making the necessary changes in his game planning and allowing his guys to really play.

The defense got after it and effectively shut down the Buffalo offense in the first half. Except for a few decent gainers of under ten yards, Lynch was having trouble running all game.

The Raiders have shown now in two consecutive games they can throw an offense out of sync with a strong pass rush and potentially even knock a QB out of the game.

Ironically, the Raiders defense today and last week is a perfect example of the Al Davis defensive philosophy, "The quarterback must go down and he he must go down haahd." Though they did not get to Edwards enough to rough him up. That's what was missing from today's contest.

What this loss also proved though was that you can't go full throttle with the pass rush all game. You wear yourselves out and have nothing left for your other assignments. I suspect this was why the defense let up late in the game. I suspect this was also why DeAngelo Hall was playing soft on his corner in the later stages of the contest.

The Raiders defense is at their best when they are collapsing the pocket. This gives receivers less time to finish their routes. It also gives the QB less time to find the open guys. Where the Raiders lost the game was giving a good QB in Trent Edwards time to find his receivers late in the game. In fact, the Raiders let up at the worst possible time - in the clutch.

So the real difference was full game conditioning. It's very tough to play at top speed in the 4th quarter. The Bills scored 17 points in the 4th quarter. They wanted the game more it seems and they willed themselves to victory though it was never a sure thing.

Had the Raiders full game strategy worked to perfection it would have give them two road wins early in the season. Would have been nice but I think the team is on the right track.

I also suspect if McFadden was available at full strength, they may have had more success on third down conversions and kept drives alive. Oakland was 2-12 on third down conversions. McFadden is not the same player trying to cut on the foot wearing a steel plate in his shoe.

Remember Kiffin's training camp comment how Johnnie Lee Higgins was the kick returner only because he couldn't find someone better. Today Higgins was a difference-maker against the Bills with long kick returns giving the offense good field position. Higgins also caught a home run TD ball from Jamarcus Russell, the first big play from the offense all season.

If WR Ronald Curry has lost his mojo and Javon Walker isn't really able to play as advertised, then the Raiders need to let the receivers capable of producing get into the game. Why is Todd Watkins inactive? If he has great hands and made the team by virtue of his skills then he should be on the field.

San Diego is a winnable game next week. The Chargers are not doing much to scare anyone as of late. They are on a short week playing the Monday night game. The timing could be good for the Raiders to take this one at home.

Mario Henderson is turning out to not be the disaster Lane Kiffin said he was at Left Tackle.

For a team that has had it's O-Line maligned for several seasons, they appear to be blowing teams off the ball as of late. The Bills D-line did not get penetration often and running lanes were there all game.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Raider RB Injuries are the Result of Poor Coaching Decisions

I don't want to harp on the guy because I know he is doing his best with his given system. However, with each passing week my confidence dwindles in Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp. I just don't think he has an innovative playbook and I don't think Kiff has the authority to do anything about that since (old story by now but requires mentioning) Greg Knapp was handed the keys to the offense by Al, not Kiffin. I know it's easy to believe that Kiff is running things and you can believe whatever you want. Fact is, any one of us could stand there in a headset holding a laminated play chart. I'll give him some slack though. Kiff and Knapp probably collaborate. I'd like to know who's final call it really is but whatever the case, I think our offensive playbook is mis-using our most productive players.

What has really bothered me is how McFadden has taken a pounding in pre-season and in the first two games. Why run him between the tackles so consistently where he has taken some solid hits. His style of play is not a battering ram.

So was it really worth it for McFadden to destroy the hapless Chiefs so badly? Well, someone had to score other than Jano. Glad we had a guy with big play ability. But there's a price tag with those stats.

Now McFadden has turf toe and a lingering shoulder stinger from the Denver game. His total career thus far is just two NFL games. McFadden is the team's biggest weapon and the best hope for a successful Raiders season. He should not have been put through the gauntlet so early in pre-season and he should not be the workhorse against Buffalo. We want him to be a 15-20 carry a game back all season. Where he's at now heading into game three is McFadden, is on the cusp of sitting out with injury. Who knows how long he will be able to stay in the game against Buffalo.

But this is the life of the career NFL running back and young McFadden has already started a life of lingering injuries. Turf toe and stingers tend to stay with you. I hope the severity isn't bad but as any former player can tell you, the game ends but not the pain.

Jerry McDonald called this out in one of his blogs but honest, I was wondering the same exact thing with the Fargas injury. Why was Fargas running a deep route when he hobbled up? That looked like a play where McFadden was supposed to run that route. My bet would be they had the wrong personnel grouping so that one is on the coaches.

Fargas needs to be put in a situation where he can succeed. Play to his strengths, which is not catching passes downfield. The offensive play calling has not been matching up to the team's talent correctly.

Don't be fooled by McFadden thrashing a seriously woeful Chief squad. There were still NFL players out there in red and gold so we will give KC the respect that is due but the reality is, this proved the Chiefs are in much worse shape than the Raiders in every which way.

Bottom line is the Raiders should have won that game and needed to win that game. They did win it so onto week 3.

I will eat some crow since the Raiders O-line is really working well as a team. I have to admit, I have yet to find fault in Robert Gallery's play thus far.

Bummer about McQuistan. He's a good kid, works hard. I hope he is able to come back from his injury.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Inside Raiders HQ

The following article contains an apt and often overlooked observation of Amy Trask to accompany analysis of Raider HQ dysfunction.

People often think Amy Trask is somehow the softer voice in the organization because she is a woman. Not true. She is a Yes Woman in Al's world and as stated here from a voice who knows (Monte Poole has been covering local pro teams for a long while), she is also feared within the building.

Raiders are a team in need of a bridge
By Monte Poole
Staff columnist, Oakland Tribune

Though some in the Raider Nation believe their favorite team would be better off without Al Davis, others insist the solution is finding yet another coach.

It's OK to disagree on what's best for the Raiders, but they should all agree on this: Fixing this mess is less about a new face on the sideline than about having a smart, talented facilitator.

Best person for that role? General manager.

Despite the coverage and debate as Davis deliberates firing Lane Kiffin, we all know a coaching change is not the panacea. The Raiders can't become winners until someone can unify an organization that now exists as a collection of departments, each mostly unto itself.

There is one island for the players, another for assistant coaches, a third for the head coach. There is an island for player personnel, another for administration and the biggest, of course, belongs to Davis.

Missing in too many instances are bridges to connect these islands. Some are in disrepair. Most are neglected. A few have collapsed.

Organizations rarely succeed without unity, and the Raiders have been without it since Bruce Allen left to take a similar position in Tampa Bay.

When discussing the struggles of the franchise, employees past and present roll their eyes and point to a number of factors, such as the whimsical owner; the instability; the self-serving individuals; the misplaced priorities; the strained working relationships and those whose loyalty to Al has obscured what's in the best interest of the organization.

For nearly all, though, it comes back to Allen. He found clever and subtle ways to challenge Davis, reach the coaches and address the unease in the building. Allen was the antidote to chief executive Amy Trask, who has earned a reputation as a tough woman, fiercely loyal to Al, with the people skills of a chain saw.

Allen was the one man during the past 13 years whose credibility ensured his words would be considered by anyone in the organization.

With Allen holding the place together, young coach Jon Gruden could do his job. It was a successful formula. During the Allen-Gruden years (1998-2001), the Raiders were 38-26. Subtract those seasons, and the Raiders are 50-96 since their return to Oakland.

Allen's nominal replacement, Mike Lombardi, may have known more about football but he never had Al's trust to the degree Bruce had. Furthermore, Lombardi did not — or could not — assuage fractured relationships in the same easy manner as Allen.

Lombardi left before the 2007 season. His nominal replacement, Mark Jackson, came at Kiffin's request but without the NFL credentials of Allen or Lombardi. Jackson's role is more restrictive, confined mostly to managing Kiffin.

Truth be told, every Raiders Super Bowl appearance has followed direct contributions from someone who could influence the roster, the coaches and the owner. They had Ron Wolf from 1966-75, and again from 1978-90. Davis and Wolf, at their peak, may have been the most effective executive duo in the NFL. Davis and Allen were pretty good, too, once Gruden arrived.

Gruden melted some of the ice around the organization. That he achieved a bit of celebrity was not appreciated by Davis who, according to several sources, undermined contract negotiations to keep Gruden in town, then traded the coach to Tampa Bay.

Having witnessed the Joe Bugel debacle of 1997, Allen had hustled to keep Gruden in Oakland. When Al called an audible, the 2002 NFL Executive of the Year, feeling undermined, lost his Oakland mojo and left after the 2003 season to join Gruden in Tampa Bay.

Wolf and Allen were able to challenge Al, reason with him, influence him. Though Wolf kept mostly to football, Allen facilitated numerous aspects of the operation.

Nowadays, no one can effectively challenge or reason with the boss. Unstable are bridges between Al and his coach, between the head coach and the assistants, between Amy and those trying to avoid her wrath, between the world as the Raiders see it and the world as it really is.

Firing Kiffin doesn't fix the Raiders any more than a marijuana arrest wins the War on Drugs. It fails to address the larger problem.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Can we just get this over with already? Al Davis says, not so fast. I'm enjoying this.

Let’s quickly rewind the flow of events as they transpired since Norv Turner was canned. Not that the Norv era isn’t relevant to the discussion but we only have so much time and space on the page.

Somehow, Art Shell and his dinosaur ways AND staff selections are installed to lead the team back to greatness. Or if we are to believe Al Davis, Art was supposed to “bring back the nasty.” To spearhead that effort, Aaron Brooks was awarded a nice financial package to be the QB. No need to rehash here how dreadful all of this worked out.

The question is, how did this happen? Any one of us (that includes non-Raider fans) could have looked at the resumes and concluded this was not the best fit. I don’t need to play Madden video games or fantasy football to understand personnel. Al made the most moronic decisions EVER in his history to cascade his franchise into complete disarray.

Things were in disarray prior to Art but the cascade was all Al’s doing. You would have to be completely out of touch with reality to think the moves just mentioned would restore the Raiders to so much as respectability, never mind greatness.

This partially answers my own question – how could it happen? The other part is, no one else would take the job. That is, no one with a clue would take the job. Al’s strange ways are not unknown to those qualified to be a head coach in the NFL. That’s why he found himself digging through the college ranks and not the upper echelon candidates of the college ranks (like say a Pete Carroll), the lesser experienced college ranks were being sifted through. Let’s add another level of obviousness to the equation. Al had no options for head coaching candidates other than people who had already interviewed but had not met Al’s Yes Man criteria (like Denny Green for example).

Of course, any rational thinking NFL team owner could find suitable head coaching candidates. There are plenty of coaches out there at both pro and college level who would be more than capable of doing the job. BUT, Al moves at a different pace than the rest of humanity (which could explain his longevity. If his body clock is slow, maybe time itself bends to his will and moves slower for him!). By the time Al is done finishing breakfast, the best candidates have been signed to other teams.

So Al goes after young candidates like Steve Sarkisian, offensive coordinator at USC. Not that Sark would have been a bad choice but look at his experience. What experience? There you go. Sark knew he would be out of his league and the last thing you need in that role is to report to Al Davis, the man who has his gun sights set on your demise the minute you meet him for the first time (unless of course you live to serve his empire).

Does Al want his head coach to succeed? Of course he does but you can bet when things don’t go right, you better fix it now or your career suffers. And you have to do it with no authority which is the Raider way.

Enter Lane Kiffin. Wet behind the ears and offering no credentials to be an NFL head coach other than bloodlines. But, Al is a genius. Al will show us how he can turn a 31 year old brat into a world beater head coach. Remember Nation, the greatness of the Raiders is its future. And for what it's worth, the Raiders are the greatest team in professional sports according to Al.

Alright, that's enough laughing you! This is serious business we got going on here.

Now that Kiff has laughingly painted himself as a clown who has no clue, any time he speaks it is redundant and stupid. Al won’t fire him just yet because that would fall in step with what people are waiting for. Especially so because that is what the media expects him to do. Even his death is taking eons because he refuses to cooperate with the laws of nature.

Everything has to be on Al’s terms or he won’t cooperate a smidgen. If it means sacrificing a few games or a playoff opportunity or the season, Al’s pompous pride wins the day.

So what does this tell you? It speaks the truth in that Al does not care a wink about you, the fans, the money you invest in being a fan. It means the concept of “commitment to excellence” is window dressing for “screw you but thanks for your support.” That’s what being a Raider loyalist has become baby.

While we’re all waiting for the axe to fall on Kiff maybe re-thinking any misplaced support of an arrogant little boy pretending to be an NFL head coach would help clarify reality. Lane Kiffin is laughing behind your backs Raider Nation. He just wants his 4 million salary and his spouting off to the media is clear evidence of that. He's got nothing else to do but stand there and pretend he's involved with the team. The really sad part for Kiffin is Al is going to make him crawl through the mud to get that payoff. That means, expect additional layers of lawsuits and junk muddling up another season and beyond.