Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Raider kickers are always in the sweet spot

What's the safest job on the Raiders right now as far as a special teams roster spot? Jarrod Cooper? All-pro punter Shane Lechler? You'd have a good case for Shane even though his work habits are not very good, case in point would be pulling a quad in camp. Sure, that could happen at any time but let's be real. Shane plays golf in the off season. He doesn't work out. When you don't work out and prepare yourself, you get injured. This is especially true with kickers. Same with his buddy Sebastian Janikowski. YET, as the kicker, Jano is probably in the safest spot there is to make the team even though a guy filling in for him in pre-season nailed a 50 something yarder.

So Jano lames out in pre-season, costing the team a valuable roster spot to backfill while he "rehabs" a hammy.

Isn't that unusual. A kicker with bad training habits gets a free ride sitting on his duff. Jano is untouchable and a multi millionaire as a result of him just simply hanging around since 2000. Occasionally he'll nail a few field goals, blowing a hefty share of others. Jano accumulates points out of longevity but what he is really all about is playing golf, pulling muscles, getting arrested, being socially awkward while fending off haters in public, shunning the media so he doesn't come off as a jackass, tripping over himself and making pathetic attempts at tackling, missing most field goals other kickers typically make and who maintain higher percentages in the 40-50 yard range, standing around doing nothing in training camp and standing around useless in general. Yea, that about sums him up or maybe not. I'm too lazy to google his full rap sheet.

In no way does Jano measure up to being a professional kicker except in leg strength.

A professional athlete understands the value of preparation. It's not there for Jano. Case closed. Al sacrifices the kicking game for his own reasons, whatever they may be.

Interestingly enough, Jano is not the first kicker to get a free ride. I'm sure there were others but who stands out to me most is Errol Mann. Who is Errol Mann you ask? Let's put it this way; Errol Mann played in an era (60's, 70's) when missing several extra points per season was "acceptable" apparently because few GMs at the time cared to go out and find someone better for the job. Especially so since soccer style kicking had not yet affirmed itself. They just rolled the dice with guys like Mann (who played for other teams than the Raiders). Why Al would want a kicker who was reliable only in the 20-25 yard range is a mystery. Errol stood almost exactly behind the ball. No "wind up" or anything. Just stand there and swing the leg. In looking at the tapes, there's no technique involved (apparently). Yea, it took a while for the kicking game to evolve in pro football.

When the Raiders beat the Colts in the 1977 playoffs (in Baltimore), Mann was the FIRST guy off the sidelines celebrating the offense's overtime heroics. Meaning, he was more grateful than anyone because he was not put on the hot seat to make a field goal.

So the question is what value was there for having a kicker if he was not dependable for most field goals? Don't you want a good kicker on the team who can win games for you? Not Al Davis apparently. And John Madden must have concurred since they took him along to Super Bowl XI with them.

Do you think George Blanda would have stuck around so long if he had missed the majority of his field goals and extra points? The answer is YES. Of course he would have. That's how Al manages his special teams. Though if you look at Blanda's stats, he did have some horrible seasons as an Oiler as well as a Raider. Still, there is something to be said for sticking with the guy you issued your faith in to do the job. Besides his versatility on the field, Blanda was a personality Al saw as essential for the well being of the team. I don't see equivalent value in Mann or Jano in that regard though.

Through it all, Jano is aloof. His legal troubles with booze or fighting some tough guy public drunk, that's no big deal. It doesn't reflect well on him but it comes with the territory of being a Raider. It's obvious Jano likes to party and mingle with the ladies and why not, he's entitled to it just like anyone else is. Go Jano you stud.

How about Cole Ford? He was a winner too huh. What did he do again, fired gunshots at Siegfried and Roy's love castle? Turns out Ford really had lost his marbles and is forever in some deluded state.

Go team go, just kick it baby.

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