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.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rob Ryan and Lane Kiffin are out of synch

It's hard not to like Rob Ryan. As frustrating as the Raiders defense has been at times throughout his stay as Defensive Coordinator, the guy projects well. He looks and acts the part of Raiders coach. There's something about his presence that makes me want to place my faith in him.

Those qualities are overshadowed now. The larger issue is he is showing why he isn't head coaching material by ranting to the media. Maybe this type of approach explains why Rob Ryan was not promoted to Raiders head coach.

He interviewed for the job at least once but maybe twice for the job in the past and for whatever reasons Al decided not to give it to him. To most team decision-makers if you have head coaching aspirations you can't risk a guy making undisciplined statements to the media.

If Al had this notion in mind though, he had no way of knowing Kiff would end up the way he has. Lane still hasn't even tried using coachspeak to not be so accurate in statements to the press. By doing so he apparently made Rob Ryan upset who in turn tells us to "put it on me."

Ok then, the main questions about the defense have not been answered. Mainly, why you are transparent in your tactics and formations. Other teams have the book on your defense because there is no variation from year to year- or at least none detectable enough to fool anyone.

Sure, we agree, it's just one catastrophic game to be 0-1 on the season. It is hard to just flat out admit "I was schooled" so we'll give credit/sympathy where it is due. We have no choice but to move past the Monday Night game even though the topic will remain unanswered for eternity. Just like so many other Oakland Raider issues, comings and goings. Or maybe things stay just as bad and then we really have some problems.

As far as acquiring coachspeak the Raider way, learn from the downfall of Bill Callahan. Bill did ok until he went off the deep end a little bit with his dumbest team in America comment. He let the pressure get to him and he cracked. You have to have a thick skin in that line of work.

A lot of people are down on Jon Gruden. I think he's one of the best head coaches in the NFL based on his incredible commitment to the game and the fact that he is wired to go on hardly any sleep so he is hours ahead of everyone all day. Even with no sleep, you would have to admit Gruden's coachspeak is pretty good. Give him the players and the full authority as far as staff and complete game planning he will be successful. I have no doubt if he was given that latitude he would have won Super Bowls with the Raiders.

Anyway, for future coaching gigs around the NFL, Kiff and Ryan have done themselves a disservice thus far in their working relationship as "head coach" and defensive coordinator. It must be hard for Kiff to stand there with his hands in his pockets. I bet he did not envision his role as head coach would be to"oversee" everything as he stated today.

You have to show some awareness of your situation and maturity to the media. You don't have to be guarded and salty but your mission really should be not to stir up controversy on your own team. Notice, it's not the players rocking the boat. The last thing you want to see are your coaches getting on each other which is what is happening right now. It's hard dealing with the media but you need it as part of the coaching skill set. Otherwise, you don't look real good to the fans.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Raider Nation reprezent Pt. III

I know what you're thinking, "Don't unfairly label those of us that are there just to see the game and show support." yea, yea, won't anyone think of the children?

Dozens of brawls reported at Raiders game
By Angela Hill
Oakland Tribune

The ugliness of Monday night's Oakland Raiders loss to the Denver Broncos at McAfee Coliseum was not limited to the score, as several nasty brawls were reported in the stands and outside the stadium, police said.

One of the most dramatic incidents took place at Gate C before the game had started, police said. Three Oakland police officers were attempting to detain a man who was drunk when another man, who was later discovered to be on parole, walked up and "sucker punched" one of the officers in the face, police said. The man then punched a police sergeant, and others in the crowd began fighting. When it was all over, the sergeant and one of the officers had received significant cuts and bruises on their faces and the third officer suffered a broken finger. They were all treated on the scene.

Three men were taken into custody in that incident.

"Our goal is to make this a family type event," said Oakland police spokesman Roland Holmgren. "But there are some people who want to come just to cause trouble. That kind of behavior will not be tolerated and those individuals will be dealt with."

Police said fans were particularly rowdy in sections 224 and 324, and officers used stun guns on several people to break up fights during the game. Oakland police reported at least 30 arrests for drunkenness, fighting and assault and about as many ejections for more minor offenses, such as sitting in the wrong seat. The Alameda County

Sheriff's Department also made 15 arrests for such things as drunkenness, fighting and some drug charges, and ejected 55 people from the stands.

Oakland police and Alameda County Sheriff's deputies regularly provide back-up security at Raiders games.

One officer, who has worked at numerous Raiders games, said the incidents were not as bad as they could have been considering the game was a Monday Night Football contest against a major rival and the fans were likely upset at the team's performance.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Raider Nation reprezent Pt II.

A few months ago I set up a myspace account to follow Raider Nation activities. I was interested in tailgates in particular.

I could not stand it after just a few days. There were too many drama queens and people yelling "Fuck the haters" at no one in particular. Chicks were posting sparkly things on my profile every single day that had nothing to do with football or anything relevant. Basically, just a lot of thumb up the yayhoo folks with nothing interesting to say in the least.

You can always tell folks are a little slow in the head because they re-post everything, as if to try and gain some sort of team spirit from their online friends. "Look what this hater said", yada, yada.

I guess I should have known better. It's not like I wasn't already familiar with the Raider Nation mentality.

Still, I was disappointed at how uniformed most of Nation is. Their blind ignorance and blind loyalty was now making me sick. I had to start deleting people. I reached my absolute limit just this past week when one of their re-posted mails read, "For the Donkey game, wear black to show support!."

Ok, that's real original. I mean, how long did it take you to come up with that one sparky?

Before the first game of the season, a summary of Raider Nation commentary was "Let's kick some Donkey ass."

After the game a summary of Raider Nation commentary is "Fuck the Donkeys."

So you can see the quantum leap in comprehension of events.

Still, there is the attitude among the Raider Nation that "you don't understand."

Of course everyone understands. You are loyal because you are committed to being a lunkhead with your fellow lunkheads. You like the social aspects to the Raider Nation. But, as in all things Nation, you miss the point.

To most, being a Raider fan is just a social outlet. That's what it all amounts to. They can say whatever they want about "bleeding silver and black" and their booster clubs can say it's all about doing it for charity or point to some "big plans" yet to be unveiled. Yea, yea. The truth is you just need something to believe in, something to look forward to and why not go where everyone is as gullible as you are and every day is Halloween.

This is what they choose do with their personal budgets and with their time. We all have our respective interests so maybe this isn't as bad as other pursuits. As reluctant as I am to admit it, I do drink at Ricky's occasionally and I tailgate when I get the urge. I wear Raider gear as well. Maybe I am a dumbass for being a member of the Raider Nation. Yet, I insist on speaking about them in the third person so at least in my mind, I don't feel like such a fool being a Raider "fan" (meaning, I want to see the team do well, not embrace their ignorant ways).

Of course, we know from this evening's opening Monday night bashing 41-14 from the Donkeys, shirt color, loyalty and everything else meant nothing. Raider Nation support amounted to a hill of beans except for a nice cash-in at the till for the Raider organization and the NFL and whoever else had a stake in dollars spent on the night. All out of the Nation's blue collar pockets. Even when the franchise loses, they win.

You know who's keeping this team afloat? You are Raider Nation. Oh, but let's fall back on Uncle Al's axiom - "The greatness of the Raiders is its future." Hey Al, you're wrong on that point or you can take the new agey approach and insist the future will eventually bring success. Right now is last year's future and so on down the line. You won't have a future star running back because your questionably efficient offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp is calling plays with our speed back acting as a power back taking big hits. The offensive line is a horrendous joke not even on par with most college teams. I don't care what "system" they are playing, I don't think it's going to work. Sorry to crash enthusiasm but I have not seen anything to say differently.

On one hand, there's guilt for kicking a guy when he's down. On the other hand, the Raider Nation never learns and deserves what they got. Tonight's game was deja vu from opening night against the Chargers in 2006. Has anyone seen a lick of improvement since the Art Shell era? Maybe a little bit but not much.

Yet, the Nation continue to pump money into the Raiders merchandising machine, every season the tally increases. You continue to show up in droves on game day, this year specifically to see their hopeful new star running back and QB. And they get treated like dirt for their dollar.

It's a tired old tale. Almost as haggard-looking as you know you who.

Yet the vibe before game time was pretty good tonight. There was cautious optimism mixed with great anticipation. Everyone knows the Raiders have big problems. Still, the Nation had faith. The new code of conduct imposed by the NFL took away their tailgating music but they still came out to grill, consume alcohol and pass the doobie in the parking lot.

People arrived by plane from far away lands to the bay area. People drove hundreds of miles, took time off work, did what they had to do to get to the game.

What else can be expected though as far as support from the Raider Nation.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Broadway Joe, Weeb & Super Bowl III

Long before he damaged his reputation by making a pass at a female sideline reporter on Monday Night Football, Joe Namath was the poster boy for the American Football League's challenge to NFL supremacy in the late 1960's. This was an era in which players with crew cuts such as Johnny Unitas were the model citizens of professional football. Along comes Namath and his eye popping $400,000 salary to usurp center stage from the NFL old guard. Broadway Joe represented everything that was great about the AFL. He was brash yet smooth, charming, humorous, likable, unabashed at living the high life. Though being in New York at Shea Stadium, Miller High Life was not available, just rancid Schaefer, the beer to have when you're having more than one.

Joe quickly became known as an enviable, true to form womanizer. Combine that with some genuine quarterbacking talent and you have one of the all time icons of the sport, despite his drunken antics of his later years.

The 1960's saw the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets build one of the fiercest rivalries in all of pro sports. Each time they played it seemed to be high stakes action. In the 1968 season, the Raiders were seeking to return to the Super Bowl after losing to the Green Bay Packers the previous season. They stood an excellent chance of doing so with a high powered, tenacious team. All that stood in their way was the Jets. Unfortunately for the Raiders, this was the Jets' year. Broadway Joe did not stand alone. There was the hulking Matt Snell to carry the ball and George Sauer, Don Maynard and Emerson Boozer to catch it. The man at the helm of the Jets was none other than Weeb Ewbank with two NFL back to back championships to his credit as head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and '59.

Weeb is probably the most unheralded of great coaches. He was one of the best, hands down. He played the old school way which means you absolutely had to control the clock with the run and attack with the pass to keep opponents chasing. It sounds simple but few teams succeeded in executing that way. Those that did, like the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions (believe it or not) of the 1950's, were emulated because they won championships.

You know the rest of the story. Namath guaranteed Jets victory over the Colts in Super Bowl III. They got it and Joe was vindicated for making the guarantee of certain victory. Though if you really look at the game, what won it was ball control. There wasn't a whole lot of scoring and if you compare the game to the previous two encounters between NFL and AFL teams, this one was played differently by the AFL team. Weeb had his Jets playing NFL style ball and that was the difference-maker. No Joe Namath heroics to be found. Not a single jump pass with those creaking knees. No last minute drive. Just efficient football, foiling the Colts at their own game. If the Colts had Johnny Unitas available instead of Earl Morral, would the result have turned out differently? Maybe but Johhny just could not go and Colts Head coach Don Shula may not have even played him anyway. Morral was enjoying a superb season, leading a juggernaut Colts team to a 13-1 record. Morral was NFL MVP in 1968 so there's irony there since he did not play well in Super Bowl III.

It wouldn't do any good to speculate what would have happened had the Raiders managed to beat the Jets in the AFL playoffs in 1968. They certainly had the team to do it. They almost did beat the Jets. It was a close game with just a 4 point margin of victory decided in the final quarter. But that season belonged to the Jets. It was one of the best Super Bowls even if the thrills were few. I was too young to experience it but at least there's the DVD highlights.

Unfortunately for Jets fans, the team has never come close to repeating the same measure of success.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Raiders in the AFL

I've been reading a book called Pride & Poise: The Oakland Raiders of the American Football League by James McCullough. I was hoping for a few things out of this book. First, a real sense of the history of what went on in the Raiders organization from its inception in 1960 through Super Bowl II (the 1967 season was the Raiders' first Super Bowl appearance). I was also interested in details about players, coaches, management, how the organization developed the way they did.

What this book turns out to be though is a compilation of news articles from the era. There is no commentary by the author at all or so it seems that way. In fact I think it would inaccurate to call James McCullough an author and I don't think he would disagree. The way he describes himself, he seems like Joe Raiders fan. Just another guy in the stands wearing a jersey. He admits somehwere on his web site that he is not a writer and was just a guy interested in the Raiders history so he did a little digging.

The tip off is the book literally reads like newspapers from the 1960's with all the antiquated lingo intact. This is really obvious. I don't understand why the guy did not simply state this was his intention from the very start. You know, like actually write an introduction. What is even more awful is we don't know what newspapers the information comes from or when. Commentary just streams forth as one continuous fragmented tale. There are no footnotes or bibliography either. It would have been nice to know the sources of material James has compiled but hey, I guess that would be considered a luxury unfit for the blue collar Raider Nation.

Though, to his credit, without James doing the legwork and sifting through microfilm at local libraries, all of this information would still be buried. The Raiders organization has never made an effort to detail their history. It's just a few statements here and there but no real details of the games other than the big ones like Super Bowl II.

There was so much more going on of course than what the press caught wind of. Any time you are dealing with teams and leagues and games you are supposed to get stories. We get a lot of details in the book on who scored and how but no sense of what any of the players experienced. You have lesser known Raiders such as Wayne Hawkins and Cotton Davidson but no clue what their real contributions are aside from game commentary. The Raiders main skills players were RB Clem Daniels and WR Art Powell, two guys that really deserve a lot more visibility in Raiders lore, who battled through jim crow and really produced big on the field. You can be sure the Raiders would have lost a lot more without Clem and Art. As an interesting side note, Clem is still a respected public figure in the city of Oakland and owns a Raiders-themed bar that hardly anyone even knows about (it's called The End Zone located at 1466 High Street, Oakland, CA).

So, what the book amounts to is not coming close to the potential a project like this could have been - unfortunately.

This cartoon is from a game program of the black and gold Oakland Raiders taking on the LA Chargers. This would had to have been sometime from 1960 to 1962 since the Raiders changed to silver and black in 1963.

The book does delve a bit into the impact Al (or Allen as he was referred to in 1963) Davis had on the franchise. Al is given all the credit for turning things around for the moribund Oakland Raider franchise. He had worked his way up from various collegiate coaching jobs, much like anyone would do in the profession today. He started off at the bottom and ultimately got his shot in the pros with Los Angeles where he caught on as a receivers coach with the AFL Chargers before landing the head job with Oakland. In those days, pro football was nowhere near the big production it is today. It was a lot easier to get involved if you could handle the physicality of the sport and gained experience. Al loved the action and was an excellent coach. His big skill was in teaching the game. In fact, Al wrote articles for publication. Al the football scholar was quite an impressive young lad in the AFL era both as a coach and then rising in rank to AFL commissioner and then managing general partner of the Raiders as well all know.

Even though Al was not athletic he had a passion for the game that as the football nation would learn, was unrivaled by most.

However, for accuracy sake, let's deconstruct the myth of Al Davis being the guy who set the precedent for bringing along the black athlete in pro football. That was an AFL idea from the very start (1960) since the NFL was slow to accept the black athlete. Al was not part of AFL management in 1960 and he neither thought of the idea first (recruiting black athletes in an era of jim crow) nor implemented it first. He liked the idea obviously because he utilized it but he had nothing to do with it's inception. That's a fact.

Next, there is a myth that Al was somehow the originator of the idea for AFL teams to play NFL teams in a super bowl. In 1961 Barron Hilton, then owner of the LA Chargers, challenged the NFL to a championship game. That's where the idea came from. The NFL looked down on the AFL in a big way and could not be bothered with the proposal though. Anyway, the Chargers had not beaten AFL champs Houston in 1960 and were destined to lose again to them in the 1961 AFL championship.

The AFL was quite a cast of characters which ultimately gave the league some legs. It must have been a grueling experience to be part of the Raiders in their losing the first few years but things did turn around with Al's imprinting the pride and poise mantra on the franchise for the next 40 something years.

Top 20 Most Controversial Raiders

By Bill Soliday, Contra Costa Times, August 17th, 2005

1. Jack Tatum. The hit on Darryl Stingley, the mystery of the Immaculate Reception and the style with which Jack played not to mention the accusations of Chuckles Noll that he was part of the NFL's "criminal element" puts him atop any list.

2. Barret Robbins. Maybe time will un-do some of what has been done, but I have my doubts. So sad it almost makes you cry.

3. Ken Stabler. Namath didn't do anything Stabler didn't do and Stabler did it with just as much machismo, if not more. Put him in New York and watch his rating jump.

4. Chip Oliver. The younger generation probably isn't even aware of him, but old-timers are. He was his generation's Ricky Williams. He quit to be an organic hippie and the smoke that came out of that was very big in 1970.

5. Todd Marinovich. All I can think to say is "wow, dude. Gnarly"

6. Bill Romanowski. What he did on just one afternoon in his two year tenure in Oakland earns the nod.

7. Ben Davidson. How could anybody leave the guy out?

8. Darrell Russell. Unbelievable headline-maker, unbelievable waste of talent.

9. George Atkinson. Radio Free George was the other half of Noll's criminal element accusation. Ask Lynn Swann about the guy teammates called "Weasel."

10. Lyle Alzado. A badder boy, if a bit less goofy than Matuszak. Of course, the machete that Hayward police found under Tooz' car seat one night on Hesperian Boulevard does get Matuszak brownie points. Let's make them an entry.

11. Sebastian Janikowski. He's cleaned up his act, but for a while there, between the controversy of his selection in Round 1 to his night time achievements, nobody could touch him.

12. Dan Birdwell. The day this defensive tackle vomited all over the ball (and the Denver center's hands) after a night on the town, may have been the top fable in 45 years of Raider trivia. Let's not forget the time he tried to cheat on bed-check by sticking a floor lamp under the covers of his bed at the El Roacho Tropicana in Santa Rosa to go out on a carousing binge. Didn't work. When the bed-check coach got to Birdy's room and flipped the wall switch, he nearly keeled over when what was supposed to be Birdwell's snoozing body began to glow.

13. Randy Moss. Although he's been anything but controversial in Oakland so far, his mighty reputation precedes him.

14. Phillip Buchanon. Yikes. The Raider Nation is famous for sticking up for its Raiders but Showtime didn't get a hall pass. Controversy is his middle name.

15. Cole Ford. And in case you need evidence, you might put together an animal act and move to Las Vegas. Also once hijacked the team bus in Kansas City and wrecked the thing. Once told me not to write about him because he didn't want his name to appear on the same page of the newspaper as the penile enlargement ads. A genuine space cadet.

16. Jeff George. Hello. How's your groin? Goodbye.

17. Rickey Dudley. Living proof how difficult it is to replace Andrew Glover.

18. Chester McGlockton. Tried to woo Marty Schottenheimer to trade for him during a game, wore a trench coat to practice and once hinted to me that he was right when he jumped offsides. He's now serving burgers in Pleasant Hill. As for his cable company, don't ask.

19. Steve Wisniewski. Killer on the field. Man of God off.

20. Marcus Allen. Still two words not mentioned in the House of Al and all sorts of theories as to why it is so.

List of honorable mentions: Warren Wells (what talent, what a waste); Billy Cannon (what a character, what a lousy counterfeiter); Frank Middleton (came with a reputation he rarely failed to live up to); Andre Rison (a one-eyed girlfriend, a burning house, a rebirth and pffft, he was gone); Charles Woodson (Just ask Bill Callahan).