Monday, December 10, 2012

A New Stadium for the Oakland Raiders? Don't Count on it

You have to like Commissioner Goodell's gumption.  He stands in front of media and 150 Raiders season ticket holders and basically says "we want to help you build a new stadium"

The guy in the gorilla suit can't believe what he's hearing. "Wow!  You mean I get to keep hamming it up like an idiot?"  The guy in the gorilla suit has found a life purpose.  Yay for him.

Goodell continues by saying the NFL NEEDS people to fill stadiums. But, there's a caveat.  Goddell is really talking to people willing to pay for ALL game tickets, not just the cheap seats of the Black Hole.

How are Raider fans going to do that?  A fraction of fans can afford Oakland Coliseum tickets as it is today, in a state of decay.  No one would even mind if the team was doing well but they are not and there are no glimmers of hope things will ever turn around. A new stadium or a refurbished Oakland Coliseum will just make it more expensive and people either can't afford it or won't make the investment if the team is sucking.

We'll see how many "Raider4lifers" put their wallets where their tattoos are.

“The priority is what the community and the team work out” Goodell said.

Wait, stop right there Roger.  What do you mean by that?  Don't change the subject on us, tells us what you really mean!

The problem is the damage bequeathed by Al Davis.  There are tumultuous, unresolved lawsuits, money owed, money promised, money swindled, political incompetence and political - you name it between the City of Oakland, the Joint Powers of Alameda County (who runs the coliseum) and the Raiders franchise .  Resolving that is not going to be simple.

Roger knows this.  He knows it all too well which is why he's saying what he's saying. The Raiders are dead last in the NFL "to do" list of priorities and why it took until after the death of Al Davis to even address it.  By coming out to Oakland for Thursday Night Football and bringing the dog and pony show to hopeful Raiders fans, claiming the NFL is willing to pony up 200 million for a new stadium IF the City of Oakland, the Joint Powers of Alameda County and the Raiders franchise can all agree to let bygones be bygones.

Yea right.

Can't we all just get along and forget about all those millions pissed away and still owed?  Gee, I don't know, let's ask Jeff Birren.  What would Al want?  Let's ask Jeff.  No, let's ask Roger instead.

“I think it’s a great benefit that there’s a stadium across the bay that’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility.  That’s terrific.  So that’s an option if this community and the Raiders choose that.  But that’s a decision they have to make.”

So the big question: What will Mark Davis do now that he has at least a verbal commitment from the NFL to help rebuild Oakland Coliseum into a state of the art facility OR, as Goodell's power play more likely suggests, the Raiders bite their tongue and ask the 49ers if they can (gulp) share their new facility 40 minutes south of Oakland in Santa Clara.

Goodell is smart.  He knows the Raiders will not be able to make peace with their regional foes in politics.  It's not going to work,  Despite an offer to help, the league is just tossing the guy in the gorilla suit and other gullible followers a banana.  Don't expect the league to ever lift a finger to help the Raiders.  The man responsible for that is Al Davis and his top henchman, still in the Raiders organization, Jeff Birren, General Counsel.  The slack jawed gape of the gorilla tells me he doesn't know what that means.

What is likely to happen is more extensions of the current lease at Oakland Coliseum, a fanbase continuing to shrink due to horrible play on the field and dwindling options for a revival.

If LA is an option, that will bear itself out eventually but it's not on the horizon as of now.

New memo to Mark Davis - cut your losses send sell while you still can.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

10 Reasons why the Oakland Raiders' 2012 Season Tanked

Is it worth bemoaning all of the problems?  There is nothing else left to do now that the Raiders are irrelevant and basically, a non-franchise.  They have slipped below being expansion team quality and are now on the brink of being considered practice squad quality.

It's not like they gave up.  There just isn't enough talent and manpower to get the job done.  We can even make the argument the coaching did not deliver.

10 reasons why the 2012 Raiders season tanked (in no particular order):

1.  After he was hired, head coach Dennis Allen struggled putting a staff together. More to the point, Allen had no experience and not enough connections to put a good staff together. Hiring his friend Greg Knapp was a mistake and Jason Tarver was a desperation hire because Allen couldn't find anyone else among his good ol' boy network. Emmitt Thomas turned him down (and wisely so, since Thomas knew what he would be getting into).
2.  For all of his excellent credentials, Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver has done jack squat to convince anyone the Raiders have a credible defense. His nickname, The Mad Chemist, speaks for itself. What is a guy with a Master's degree in biochemistry doing trying to communicate on the same level as NFL players. At Stanford, Tarver was the right fit, not in Oakland.  Tarver is a good coach in the wrong job.

3. Giving away draft picks to the Bengals for Carson Palmer.  If you look at this objectively, we can all see having  Palmer, an experienced, gritty veteran as QB probably worked out better than putting Matt Leinert, Kyle Boller or Joey Harrington out there (is there really a difference with any of those guys?). But they gave up too much for Palmer.  Those lost draft picks and the salary overhead have not worked out well for the Raiders. Palmer has been ok as an offensive leader and putting up decent stats, all things considered, but bottom line is he has not overachieved as we needed him to do and he has not won many games as a Raider.

If the coaching staff bucks up and admits this season is a wash then we should see Terelle Pryor soon enough.  Though, I suspect Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp are too stiff necked to admit the season is tanked and play Pryor.

4.  Not pursuing veteran receivers on the open market such as Plaxico and Houshmandzadeh, even, dare I say, Terrell Owens and/or Chad Johnson. Why not?  Any of those guys would have helped. Those players are not "distractions." The only distraction is being a bad team which is what the Raiders are now. The organization  decided to go with mostly young talent which have not turned out to be consistent and reliable targets for CP to throw to. Having seasoned veterans would have helped the offense score points and move the ball, not to mention mentor the young receivers.

5. First round picks need to pan out for you. Coming out of college, Rolando McClain had stellar credentials and looked the part of a champion. It was easy to have high hopes for him but as it turned out, McClain did not have all the requisites to be a leader of an NFL defense. He just took the money and played half-hearted, then pretended to earn his keep with dedicated film study. In game situations however, he was mostly average on his best day. Maybe he will succeed elsewhere but as a Raider he washed out.

The gold standard for a Raiders MLB would be in the mold of Greg Biekert.  You need a guy with heart and work ethic to make full use of their talent.

6. Linebacker is where the Raiders have suffered the most on defense.  They have let too many linebackers walk away to free agency over a span of several years. As just some examples: Chris Clemons, Thomas Howard, Kamerion Wimbley and we can even add Trevor Scott to that list.  There's a lot more we could add and not all of those guys would still be in their prime at this stage but the point is, hang on to what you have. What happened instead was they backfilled talent they lost with mediocrity and practice squad guys.  This did not work well and has left them paper thin at a critical place on the field.  It is hard to believe Aaron Curry was brought in at all. His final act in football was being a failed Al Davis reclamation project. Ricky Brown would be an upgrade to what is out there right now (with the exception of Philip Wheeler) and that about says it all.  Do you remember when Brown was handed the MLB spot?  It is almost the same situation as this season where too much is expected of rookie Miles Burris to be an impact player.

What exactly has Travis Goethel done other than get opportunity after opportunity?  Nice guy but if he's not helping, let's find better talent for depth at the MLB position.

7. Not keeping Rod Woodson as secondary coach.  Was he asked to leave or was it his idea to walk away from a one year experiment as a coach?  You can't just replace the knowledge of a guy like Rod Woodson. Then, not drafting or acquiring decent playmakers in the secondary has basically cut off the feeder system.  Walt McFadden = fail. Demarcus VanDyke = fail.  Not grooming Chimdi Chekwa for success = fail.  The list can go on.

Look at how many short term guys they brought in to cobble together a semblance of stability at corner.  The one year contract veterans in place are just that - temporary.  Shawntae Spencer is not even able to complete that contract due to injury and Ron Bartell is damaged goods as well. Pat Lee didn't last and there are other guys in that group who are not making an impact.

We need genuine talent to take over roles in the secondary. They paid Stanford Routt millions while getting away on the cheap with other positions in the secondary. Drafting, overpaying and keeping Stanford Routt believing he would blossom into a top cornerback was one of Al's worst mistakes ever.

At free safety, Michael Huff has shown flashes of All-Pro caliber play but he's hit or miss (and when he misses, he misses badly).  Even the robust Tyvon Branch at strong safety has some terrible highlight reel burns this season. Mike Mitchell is only effective if he is not blocked.  He's not a quality safety.

The secondary is a mess.  The only guy I'd keep is Matt Giordano. But then again, who is available to replace the entire secondary?  You  can't do it so easily.  This is a major hole that will take more than a one off season and draft to repair.

8.  Re-signing Richard Seymour was a risk that backfired.  Though he is an animal when healthy he is at the point in his career where his body is failing him.  Far too many health issues with arthritis and hamstrings and whatever else.  The guy has been a complete non-factor and he has been paid top dollar to do nothing. Seymour was being counted on to be a strength of the defense. The rest of the D-line has not been able to sustain a level of consistency.  Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly. Desmond Bryant, Matt Shaughnessy are good players. They have not been nearly enough to stop the run, a death knell which has plagued this franchise for too many lackluster seasons.

9.  Overall, failed draft picks and washouts with free agency has led to minimal cap space. Too much contract overhead for duds like Routt, guys on the sideline instead of the field (McFadden, Seymour, etc.) and average players (Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, etc.) has resulted in a lack of free agent money to target more quality starters.  You know, like finally solidifying the OL among many other needs.

10.  Too many injuries to key players. I know this is unavoidable in pro sports but it has snakebit the franchise.  Chaz Schilens could have been something special but he never panned out with injury after injury.  It took Darren McFadden a few seasons to emerge as a star but it's a lost cause thinking he will ever last an entire season. We really needed Jacoby Ford this year as a potential difference maker.  There's more and of course injuries take their toll for every team but really, this is something the Raiders have not been able to overcome.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Oakland Raiders have been "demoted" to the CFL

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis announced he has brokered a deal with the Canadian Football League.  The Raiders will be leaving the NFL and joining the CFL for the 2013 season.

"Well, actually we were asked to leave the NFL", Mark Davis said.  "As you know, Roger Goodell is in town for our Thursday night game against Denver.  I'm grateful he delivered the news to me directly rather than through an email from one his assistants.  I can understand their reasoning.  I'm not happy about it but thankfully, the CFL is taking us in.  Will we do better in the CFL?  I don't know."

We can speculate on the many reasons why the Raiders have been ejected from the NFL.  Roger Goodell was tight lipped when asked about it. "I'm not going to get into the details.  I think we can all agree a change was needed."

Mark Davis seemed upbeat despite the setback for the franchise.  "We have a dedicated fanbase.  I know they'll come out and support us no matter what."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Look Raiders are Floundering

The highlight of 2012 thus far for the Raiders was a heroic effort to beat the Steelers.  Other than that, I'm not getting the impression the Raiders are much of a franchise. They may as well be an expansion team: no direction, some good talent on the roster but not enough, too much spotty play, looking clearly outmatched against most opponents.

While I like Reggie McKenzie as GM,  Head Coach Dennis Allen is dull and generic. He says nothing of relevance and just seems to be a good ol' boy from Texas who goes to church and raises a family.  That's all well and good but as far as what is needed to coach in the NFL, I'm not sure he really has a plan for leadership other than playing "better."

I do like Jason Tarver.  I'm just not sure the right place for his talents is Defensive Coordinator of the Raiders.

Greg Knapp is not an asset. His offensive schemes will not make much difference one way or the other.  What I really don't like about Knapp is he has yet to take responsibility for anything. He says his methods work fine. We just need patience.  Failures are somebody else's fault, usually he lays the blame on the players.  He is quick to say he is "pleased' when things look good to him.  I have never heard a self-critique when things don't go well. Good coaches know they made mistakes and they own up to it.  Knapp does not.  He is very prideful of his 10+ years in the league but that's just an indication he has been good at making connections.

The Raider Nation must concede 2012 has been another lost season. Even without Al Davis in the picture, there is so little to work with as far as quality personnel, offensive and defensive strategy misfires, it's just not working out.

The full blame for the Raiders sinking to generic irrelevance is on Al Davis. He is the reason for the failures of the franchise due to his mostly bad personnel decisions over the last decade, leaving the new regime in a tough spot to improve right away. The last several years have been terrible as far as building a team and coaching staff to its strengths. Instead, Al's reluctance to have a viable vision has torpedoed the franchise he built into a contender prior to Jon Gruden's departure after the 2001 season.

Despite some success since the last Super Bowl win in 1984, the real problems came to surface when Al soured on Jon Gruden. If he would have backpeddled a bit, conceded some room in the building for Chucky's popularity (which outweighed Al's), things would have been different. Gruden has stated he was in no hurry to leave. It was Davis who got rid of him.

We know the history since that fated move. The Raiders did indeed have almost immediate success after Chucky, winning the AFC championship, only to be pasted in the Super Bowl by a team coached by Gruden himself on the opposite sideline.  Don't look past the irony of this event.  Just about nothing has gone right for the Raiders since this Waterloo.

The Raiders must expel the ghost/albatross. Despite the passing of Al Davis, the franchise is struggling to find a winning combination.  I'm not seeing it happen this year.  It may not arrive for a few more seasons to come.  Reggie needs time to rework the roster and tweak the coaching staff to make best use of the talent they bring in.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Raiders win due to Chad Henne's lame performance

A win is a win but it is worth noting the Raiders were powerless to stop Jags QB Blaine Gabbert before he injured his shoulder.  Gabbert is a good prospect at QB but he has not enjoyed many great days in his NFL career thus far.  He was rolling along before being injured. Combined with the loss of excellent RB Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jags had limited offense.

The Raiders won due to Jags backup QB Chad Henne's inpetitude and the Jags OL not performing up to task.  Henne has been an on again, off again type of QB in his NFL career.  Today he was way off.

The Jags defense played excellent for the most part.  It took everything the Raiders had to scratch and claw back to tie the game late in the 4th quarter.  It was only because of many three and outs for the Jags offense under Henne that enabled time management to swing in Oakland's favor

Carson Palmer is not a great QB.  His best days are behind him.  Actually, he has not done much since 2007.  He's a gritty guy and surprisingly resilient so he may very well be one of those crusty veterans with just enough left in in him to bring the Raiders to .500.

The running game is mostly Mike Goodson now.  Who would've thunk in training camp things would turn out this way.  Goodson is unquestionably the go to guy.  McFadden is better at catching out of the backfield. He may break one every now and again but he's not doing too well as a straight ahead runner this year thus far.  Marcel Reece has all but disappeared in his pass catching role as of late.

The young receivers are playing pretty well, all things considered. 

We all know Knapp is crap but don't expect a change any time soon.

A win against the Jags is not much to build on, especially when the team looked much better against Atlanta last week.  The Falcons are supposed to be a much better team than Jacksonville.

Bottom line is this Raiders bunch is in re-building mode under Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie. Nothing is going to ignite a playoff run. Though, it is entirely possible the Raiders will earn back to back wins for the first time this season against the Chiefs next week. Let's not forget that most everyone thought the Jags would roll over. Instead, they came into Oakland Coliseum and dominated until their first string offense suffered injuries to key players.  If the Chiefs are anything like the Jags, they just might have the same sort of success, especially playing at home.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oakland Raiders critics are saying everything we already know

How quickly the fickle fans turn ugly.  Last week, the Raider Nation was riding high after a hard fought and deserved victory over the hated Steelers at home.  The following week a harsh loss to the Donkeys deflated the Raider Nation faster than a bad fart chokes everyone on an elevator.

Let's face it.  The Raiders simply do not have the manpower to seriously compete week after week in the NFL.  The last decade has proven that.  A coaching turnover won't change that right away.  A roster turnover won't change that right away either.  Really, the Raiders are kind of like an expansion team right now except for the fact they play in a concrete slab of a facility built in 1966.

Let's look at the team's lone victory out of four tries thus far this season.  The Steelers defense is not much without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.  With those two guys out, the Raiders run game was successful.  If you notice, the Raiders run game has not been successful against anyone else thus far in the young season.  That is because of a weak OL. It does not matter what system they run.  Call it a zone blocking scheme or call it whatever. The OL is second rate.  There is no disguising that fact.

As for the passing game, Carson Palmer is starting to throw with a lot better accuracy than he was the first two games. He is finding his rhythm and Greg Knapp, as beleaguered as the guy is, wasn't at fault for the team's offensive woes in the second half against the Donkeys.  Palmer just needs some more reliable targets.  Brandon Meyers has stepped up at TE and we need that.  However, we're past the point where they woulda, coulda, shoulda picked up some veteran talent at WR.  They are stuck with developing their young players.  As we are finding out, receiver is a very tough job out there.  You can get your head taken off so finding guys willing to step into that seam and make plays are going to have to emerge for the passing game to get rolling.  Thus far it has been inconsistent finishing completions in the red zone.

The running game just isn't doing much unless we get McFadden in open space.  When in doubt, find ways to get it Marcel Reece.  The man has some wheels.

It sounds simple to say but it's true.  The longer the offense sustains drives and finishes it off with points, the less time the defense is on the field.  The Raiders defense is having serious problems.  The strength of the unit was supposed to be the DL.  Instead, the DL is getting mauled.  Richard Seymour has been invisible until this week when he talked to reporters and tried to convince us things aren't as bad as they seem.  Yes they are Big Dick.

I don't know if it's true or not but it sure looks like Big Dick Seymour is pretty much done for his career. He is not looking like the force he once was.  Maybe because his knees are giving him problems. In fact, barely anyone on the DL is playing well enough to stop the damn run.  I haven't looked at the stats but based on what I see, only Lamarr Houston is pulling his weight.

I don't even want to hear about the secondary.  There is no other way to describe it other than they are getting eaten alive.  Linebackers are not faring much better.  Though, if we have to pick an all pro candidate at this point on that lackluster unit it would be Phillip Wheeler.  He is making some plays and doing it in fine style.

I don't anticipate the bye week is  going to make much difference heading down to Atlanta to face a tough Falcons squad next weekend.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Real Reason for the Al Davis-Marcus Allen Feud

I don't know how many of you read the autobiography of Marcus Allen.  It is a very boring piece of work.  If you can manage to find it buried in the morass of boredom, in the book and elsewhere we can learn about the conflict Marcus had with Al Davis.  Nowhere is it explicitly stated what the conflict is about but to me it is obvious.


What else could it be?  What else do players complain about with franchise management?

Al was not the type of guy to dislike a player based on "lifestyle", as is the popular expression used to describe the feud.  Marcus wanted more money, whether it be during a contract negotiation or however he presented the idea to Al, obviously rubbed him the wrong way.  This is not expressed in the book, only the aftermath.

If there is anything crystal clear about Al Davis is it was never a good strategy to try and muscle him when it comes to anything Raiders.  He's not going to be swayed with your reasoning to pay you anything. He will pay whoever he wants whatever he wants.  End of conversation.

Marcus was a great running back, no question about it but he was a lousy negotiator. There are all kinds of caveats to the feud.  This was in a different era than today when it comes to the players association legitimacy and representation, free agent rules and so forth. The bottom line is Marcus felt he was worth more than he was currently getting and Al denied him an increase in salary.  Al saw it as a means for Marcus to flaunt his wealth southern California style with his buddy O.J. Simpson and whoever else.

That is why the decision of Mark Davis to ask Marcus to light some kind of torch ceremony in honor of Al means nothing. It does not end a feud or close a chapter in Raiders history.  Al would likely not approve of the gesture and wherever he is now, he probably still hates Marcus.  Likewise, Marcus still hates Al.  Al denied Marcus significant dollars, benched him in the prime of his career.  Al did not like the Hollywood attitude of Marcus. There's nothing that will erase the bitterness on either side.

This is why it is surprising the involvement of Marcus in the torch lighting was even necessary at all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reggie's New Era of Excellence Will Take Some Time

I should be the last guy to stick up for Greg Knapp but here I am doing it. Not that I see value in his work as offensive coordinator in the least.  It’s just that the sluggish start of the Raiders is not all on his shoulders.

Look at what the new coaching staff and franchise management inherited.  We all knew there would be problems working with a roster limited in talent.  You had guys overpaid.  You had guys on scholarship.  You had guys underperforming.  Al Davis traded away all of the team’s high draft rounds.

All things considered, the coaching staff are doing the best they can with what they have pieced together thus far.  If it wasn’t for the dirt on the infield, maybe Travis Goethel would have made those snaps and the Raiders stood a chance against the Chargers opening game.

Maybe if they would not have cut Demarcus Van Dyke and coached up Chimdi Chekwa, they would have two serviceable cornerbacks ready to step up right now.  Maybe, just maybe if they were not so anxious to fire Rod Woodson as secondary coach after last season, the team would not be suffering such hardship right now trying to fill holes.

Where could you possibly go wrong in having Rod Woodson coaching your DBs?  He’s one of the greatest to ever play DB.  Michael Huff could sure use some good coaching.  He has regressed. He had an all-pro caliber season last year and is now he is back to where he was, arriving late for tackles. 

The team has thin depth everywhere.  The lack of a legit number two back to turn to when McFadden is not getting it done has hurt the running game.  The offense is really good at flicking it underneath coverage and picking up yards.  They even broke one for a long TD against the Dolphins.  However, the problem is generating momentum and finishing drives.

There is a complete lack of leadership in the receiver corps.  The biggest threat is DHB who is good but he is still a work in progress, not an established number 1 guy.  Derek Hagan helps but he's more of a middle of the road player as well.

GM Reggie McKenzie has stated the approach they are taking is to groom young receivers.  That is all well and good but young receivers are unreliable. Why not bring in guys who Carson Palmer already has established a rapport with?  How much harm could it cause to see what Chad Johnson could do at this stage in his career?  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was actually on the team last year and not re-signed. Terrell Owens or Plaxico may make some sense for a short term fix.  But of course, Reggie won’t hear of it. They are banking on their young receivers to step up. 

Hey man, it’s not working.  Are you saying we should be patient?

How long will they put up with Palmer being inconsistent?  He makes a great play and then follows it up with 2 plays out of synch.  They will not bench him because he is making too much money to sit.  Even Leinart is getting over 2 mil to be a backup. They have not even suited up Terrelle Pryor – who would be effective in my view.

If you are breaking in young receivers, why not a young QB too?

Never mind, Reggie and the coaching staff have a long range plan and they will stick to it, even if they go 4-12 this season.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Some things I thought I would never see

Was that really Shane Lechler throwing his helmet to the ground so hard it broke?  Shane, you have several million reasons to not lose your cool.  A breakdown in getting punts off certainly is infuriating and a few times it looked like your legs just might get broken.  BUT, you are still in the sweet spot.  Just think Billy Dee Williams cool.

Yea, this loss to the Chargers looked worse than the Raiders had been dealt over the entire last decade.  Even the blowout losses don't compare. Despite only losing by 8 points, it was the worst debacle since the first few years of the franchise. Getting your hat handed to you in a packed house in front of millions of television viewers is not the way the Raiders wanted to start off the new era of excellence.

Who would've thunk an in injury to the first string long snapper would unravel the Raiders so harshly?  Who would've thunk with two additional centers on the roster (Stefen Wisniewski and Alex Parsons) neither of them would be pressed into long snapper duty?  Instead, a linebacker was tasked!  A linebacker who had not long snapped since high school and had just a few warmups on the sideline.  Not a single practice snap to the punter.  So are we saying neither Wisniewski or Parsons could have done better than Travis Goethel? 

The result was muffed snaps which made the team look amateurish and put an All Pro punter in harm's way for serious injury. Not to mention giving up 50-60 yards in field possession not once, not twice... three times.

Well, Head Coach Dennis Allen admitted his lack of preparation for this chain of events. To compensate for the oversight, the Raiders have signed Nick Guess - a long snapper who was released by the Chargers prior to the start of the season.  How is that for irony?

It remains to be seen what the long term solution is now that iron man long snapper Jon Condo is a concussion victim.

You could feel the terror in the building.  San Diego's defense smelled blood for almost the whole game. No one is talking about it but other than the first quarter, the Raiders offensive line was just about non-existent.  What started off as a promising unit looked downright amateurish.  They looked like arena league caliber as the Chargers swarmed at will.

I see decent stats for Carson Palmer on the evening but the guy throws with no touch.  He fires bullets and I saw several throws that just had no chance.  Lack of depth at receiver aside, Palmer has to give guys a chance to make plays.  His accuracy is as off as it was the last game of last season when he drilled an INT to cap things off.  I'm all for bypassing Matt Leinart at this point and let Terrelle Pryor run the show.

None of this west coast offense wannabe crap.  Greg Knapp is not Bill Walsh.  Sit Palmer for a game and let Terrelle Pryor develop.  Let him use his dual threat capabilities.

I am loathe to even discuss Greg Knapp.  We all knew Knapp was the wrong guy for the OC roleHe has nothing in his toolbox that will fool any defense.  If defenses smell blood all season and make the Raiders OL non-existent like they did on Monday night, of course Knapp will be fired.  Why was he hired in the first place?  Good old boy networking.  Terrible.

The good news is the Raiders play the Dolphins this Sunday and the 'fins have a rookie QB who struggled in his debut last weekend.  We can only hope Ryan Tannehill does not get knocked out of the game.  We want him upright and throwing INTs like he did last week.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I stand corrected. Jano DOES get laid

Isn't that amazing? This proves there are all kinds of women in the world and one of them must have gone for Jano. She not only married him, she just gave birth.  I never would have thought it possible for a woman to go for Jano - ever, unless he paid for it. Not just because of his past with GHB (a date rape drug), his numerous arrests for anger management issues and his other legal entanglements. 

I'll cut him some slack even though Jano is King Ugly and has no personality to speak of.  I won't harp on my opinion she got with him for the money. Some women would do anything for financial security BUT, like I said, I won't harp on it.  Maybe he is a handsome man in her eyes.

Even more surprising is that incredibly shitty song Ice Cube rapped as the so called Oakland Raiders anthem.  Sponsored by Pepsi?  Did someone write that piece of shit song and then Ice Cube just collected a check? You have got to be kidding.  That song sucks VERY SERIOUS ELEPHANT BALLS.  I won't link to it from here.  You'll just have to find it and listen to that piece of shit yourself.  I am not a fan of hip hop music but there must have been plenty of other choices. Who chose that song and why?  Raiderhed would have been a good choice but whoever made the decision must have wanted to pay Ice Cube.

Onto roster matters, the coaching staff has been bringing in recycled players to fill needs at CB and LB.  If they had options they would also bring in more receivers and tight ends too.  By next year most of the entire roster will be different than it was in 2011.  Not a bad thing. Any new coaching staff and GM will try and reshape the roster.

Change is good but sorry to see Jamie Cumbie get waived/injured.  He has a bit of a troubled past.  At Clemson he punched a kid out and hurt him very badly.  A drunken mistake that cost him graduating college, got him booted from the team and cost him being drafted.  He has come a long way to get a shot in the NFL.  I thought he did well but apparently not good enough to make the final roster.

I am also bummed they did not keep Chad Kilgore at LB.  He would've helped.  Instead, they are bringing in waiver wire guys with a bit more experience. They are really digging hard to find a kick and punt returner too while Jacoby Ford rehabs.

Also, the steady decline of the Oakland Raiders operating revenue has them in deficit spending territory.  No surprises there.  In 2012 their overall value has been ranked 30th of 32 NFL teams as determined by Forbes who does the assessment every year.

The only thing saving the Raiders is brand marketing.  If not for the merchandise revenue, the team would be worth nothing at this point.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oakland Raiders 2012 Final Roster Predictions

I have a few theories on the Raiders final 53 man roster.

No surprises at QB (Palmer, Leinart, Pryor).  As for protecting the QB, this is the first season in as long as I can recall where there is a good core in place.  Jared Veldheer (LT), Cooper Carlisle (LG), Mike Brisiel (RG), Khalif Barnes (RT), Joseph Barksdale (RT), Alex Parsons (C/G) and Tony Bergstrom (G/T) will all make the team. Stefen Wisniewski (C) will too but if he is not ready to go, he could end up on PUP or even injured reserve.  They will have to weigh the pros and cons of keeping Wiz out and opening that roster spot for some help where it is needed.

No surprises either at RB.  Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones will get the bulk of touches.  There is no depth if either of these guys get injured. A longshot to make the team, Lonyae Miller, would only be useful for short yardage and Mike Goodson has been slow to emerge as a factor.  Can’t go wrong with Marcel Reece and Owen Schmitt at FB.  I am very glad they got rid of Manase Tonga (FB).

No surprises at TE. Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon will battle it out. Hopefully, one of these guys just wins the position.  They all seem even in skill.

At WR, new signee Roscoe Parrish has a good chance to make the team on the basis of both Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford being injured. Parrish needs to play well in his chances at kick and punt returns as well as receiver. If Ford can come back healthy, Parrish could be expendable unless he shows his old form.

Receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Juron Criner, Rod Streater are all sure bets to make the team.  I like what I have seen from rookie Brandon Carswell but he may very well end up on the practice squad. 

Defense is going to need a lot of healthy bodies.  The deepest position is at DL.  Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant and Dave Tollefson are sure to make the roster. Christo Bilukidi is a 6th round draft pick and has played well enough to warrant consideration as well.  Though he faces strong competition from fellow rookies Jack Crawford and Dominique Hamilton.  Jamie Cumbie is a second year player who has made his presence felt.  He was in camp last season and ended up on the practice squad.

My impression on the DL is injuries will play a factor with who they keep. It is possible Bilukidi’s speed and athleticism will earn him a place on special teams.  Speed is where Crawford, Hamilton and Cumbie don’t equal Bilukidi.

LB is dicey and the one area where the Raiders are desperate for quality play. It looks like Aaron Curry will not be returning, at least not anytime soon. I don’t think he would be effective even if 100% healthy. That leaves the door open for  Miles Burris to receive a baptism of fire very early in his NFL career.  Rolando McClain, Philip Wheeler are obvious locks.  Beyond that, I would think you have to go with the most impressive performers in preseason.  Chad Kilgore and Carl Ihenacho should make the team on that basis alone.  Both of those guys are quality LB backups and would impact special teams.  Travis Goethel is a toss-up.  Personally, I don’t think he has shown much but other observers seem to feel he is the right guy to be backup MLB.  I get the impression the coaching staff is not high on Nathan Stupar who will be lucky to even make the practice squad.

At CB, Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer will start.  I think Pat Lee is a lock to be a backup.  I also don’t think they will give up on Chimdi Chekwa or DeMarcus Van Dyke just yet.

At Safety, you have to go with the obvious: Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Mike Mitchell and Matt Giordano.

My gut feeling is both K Eddy Carmona and P Marquette King will be practice squad players if they clear waivers.  I suspect both Janikowski and Lechler will be trade bait after the 2012 season to try and fill other needs.  As stated previously, both Jano and Lechler are overpaid, despite their productivity, the team needs to clear cap space to bring in more talent.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Some Observations on the Raiders Offensive Strategy Part II

The Raiders finally win a preseason game.  Does it really matter?  Of course not. Though, my latest experiment with social media leads me to believe some Raiders fans actually take the preseason seriously.  I am not only stunned by the very low level of intelligence being generated by the Raider Nation on Facebook, I am irritated.  Usually on fan sites there is debate and maybe not everyone has the same level of insight into topics but my forays on myspace and facebook have left me lost for words other than "Wow, I have never seen such a collection of morons - ever."  Shit for brains doesn't even come close to describing it.

Then of course you don't need social media to clearly see there is a stupid ass inside a gorilla suit in every photograph on every fan page - even beyond facebook.  The gorilla tard must have such a need for attention that he makes himself the focus everywhere he goes by acting like a clown. The black hole in general is a sad sack parody. The gorilla makes it worse. I'm no psychologist but it's easy to see his strategy is to catch people's attention so they can chuckle and be entertained.  Ha ha, isn't that clever.  A Raiders themed gorilla suit clown.  Ok, we've seen the joke and it is no longer clever or funny.

Onto some observations of the Raiders preseason victory over the Lions....

Carson Palmer did not look very good.  While he must take the blame for that, the offense is in serious trouble with Greg Knapp. The guy is not a legitimate offensive coordinator and now we are starting to see what to expect this season.  As discussed a few times already, Knapp has never succeeded as an offensive coordinator in the NFL  He is qualified to be a QB coach.  No argument there but he did nothing of note in Atlanta or Seattle or his last stint in Oakland for that matter.  Do you see Jim Mora Jr still in the NFL?  Then why is Knapp?  Mora was the guy who hired Knapp in Seattle and Atlanta.  Naturally, Knapp deflected attention to everyone but himself when describing reasons for the offensive failure in all his journeyman stops.

If you noticed in the preseason game against the Lions, Terrell Pryor created plays that led to points but not the way Knapp drew it up.  Pryor has been upset with his play lately and has now lit a fire under himself to improve.  He did take steps forward, even if his success came against Detroit Lions backups.

Jano on the other hand has returned to his inconsistent ways. Last season was a fluke.  The guy has no training other than eating well and playing golf. Raiders fans only have a memory span of a few nanoseconds but if they did have memory cells, they would know Jano has been very unreliable throughout his career with the exception of a few hot streaks (last season being his best, achieving All-Pro).

Too bad Marquette King could not overtake Shane Lechler.  I don't like Shane Lechler because I think he is overpaid.  Both Shane and Jano laugh all the way to the bank.

King just did not have the enough polish to be a legitimate threat to Shane's job though they may keep him on the practice squad as insurance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Oakland Raiders Have Big Questions at Linebacker

There are six rookie linebackers in the Oakland Raiders 2012 training camp. Not all of the rooks will make the final roster of course.  There are just a handful of veteran linebackers in camp, none of whom can be considered above average in NFL performance to date.  What this tells us is the defense will be hard pressed to solve stopping the run.

The defensive line is looking pretty solid with depth.  Though it will take more than big bodies and athleticism to shut down opposing running backs.  Having top linebacking is crucial to the success of the defense.

GM Reggie McKenzie could have sought out free agent veterans to bring in but thus far, only Phillip Wheeler qualifies as a veteran LB signing.

Does the coaching staff expect so many rookies to actually make the team and contribute?  Early progress in training camp indicates all of the rooks have a long way to go before they can be counted on to make a difference. The preseason will reveal more of course. The idea being live game reps will resolve inconsistencies.

A lot has been put on the shoulders of Miles Burris, a fourth round pick out of San Diego State. While he was the first pick made by the Raiders in the 2012 draft we have to put into context that he is a fourth rounder. Transforming that reality into an impact player in year one of his pro career is a lot to ask out of the guy. Burris does have the advantage over other rookie LBs in that he is getting first team reps due to veteran Aaron Curry being out with a knee injury.

The other rookies are not currently getting first team reps. This includes Chad Kilgore (Northwest Missouri State), Carl Ihenacho (San Jose State), Kaelin Burnett (Nevada), Mario Kurn (San Diego) and Nate Stupar (Penn State). With the exception of Burris, all of the rooks are longshots to make the final roster and if they do, are likely to be utilized for special teams coverage - an unheralded but much needed role.

The real unknown involves veteran MLB Rolando McCLain. Does he actually care?  Is he just doing enough to get by, putting in minimal effort to collect a big paycheck? Based on his NFL experience to date, it sure looks like he takes plays off sometimes. It has been widely speculated he may not be interested in or capable of living up to the first round talent he is supposed to be.

There are far too many questions surrounding McClain's performance as well as off the field issues that will loom for the entire season unless McClain has a breakout year. If he does not fulfill his potential, that leaves a very weak area on the field at MLB.  Not to mention the wasted investment.

In addition, there is Aaron Curry who has already blazed the path Rolando McClain seems headed towards. Curry is a fellow first round pick who was cast out of Seattle after not fulfilling his potential there. Draft pundits were sure Curry would be the second coming of Lawrence Taylor. It is unsettling that McClain and Curry are two key components to the 2012 Raiders linebacking unit.

Backing up McClain are more questions. Travis Goethel is not a rookie but he may as well be. He has been consistently injured since joining the team a few years ago.  Maybe he will show something in preseason games and finally make the team this year. Behind Goethel, is Nate Stupar.  According to beat writer reports out of camp, Stupar is not ready for prime time.

I can't believe I find myself wondering if the Raiders would have been better off keeping Ricky Brown for another season at MLB.

While Burris mans the weakside in place of unreliable Aaron Curry, the strong side is handled by veteran free agent Phillip Wheeler, to replace Kamerion Wimbley.

The strong side is so named because that is where an extra man is lined up on the offensive line.  The strong side LB has to account for that extra man (typically a Tight End) who will either be a blocker or a receiver on each play. So the strongside LB has to read and react quickly as well as get past his blocks to make plays.

In 2011, strongside LB Kamerion Wimbley had little success in pass coverage and he was also marginal against the run. In nickel defense situations an extra defender plays "centerfield" giving the LBs some flexibility to pass rush. Wimbley looked like a world beater in these situations where he became the club's most consistent pass rusher as a result. Though, this is not what is needed from Phillip Wheeler.

At Indianapolis last year, Wheeler had 47 solo tackles and assisted on 37 more. If we look at just his stats, he looks pretty good. As a team however, the Colts ranked 29th in the NFL against the run in 2011. The Raiders really need a strongside LB with a run stopping pedigree. You want a guy accustomed to reading run plays, making contact off the line of scrimmage when needed. Wheeler fit Indy's 4-3 alignment, cover2 scheme which did not rely as heavily on the LBs to stop the run at the line of scrimmage.  Wheeler was making most of his tackles conceding significant yardage.  The bottom line is Wheeler seems ok.  We just don't know how he will adjust to his new role with the Raiders as both a run stopper and being effective in pass coverage.

Maybe the new look Raiders defense will utilize 4 LBs at times. I expect a lot of guys will cycle in and out of the defense in 2012 as they may use different formations to try and find the right balance.

Do Raiders fans remember Chris Clemons?  He played for the Raiders in 2007 and opened everyone's eyes as a defensive playmaker, standing stout against the run and tallying eight sacks. I forget how he good he was against the pass but I get the feeling he is exactly what the Raiders need right now at strongside linebacker.  BUT... he recently renewed his contract with the Seahawks.

Isn't it ironic that the Raiders now have Aaron Curry and the Seahawks now have Chris Clemons. Curry flopped as a long term solution as the Seahawks' strongside LB.  The Raiders should have signed Clemons to a long term deal when they had the chance after the 2007 season.

Overall, there is a lot of rookie depth and highly questionable veterans at LB for the 2012 Raiders. Unless the coaching staff can get this unit to overachieve and the players mature into their roles, the defense is going to be seriously challenged to prevent yards.  Since as we know, every NFL opponent is ruthless in taking advantage of vulnerable areas of the field.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Memo to Mark Davis: More Housecleaning is Needed at Raiders HQ

There's a fresh coat of paint on the Raiders franchise in 2012. Instead of Al's approach to leadership where closed ranks and an iron fist rules the day, the even-handed leadership of his son Mark has taken over.  His first big decision was to hire the astute Reggie McKenzie as General Manager. In turn, Reggie has fostered optimism by hiring a new coaching staff with a new vision.

The press (and therefore, the general public) no longer has to deal with John Herrera and his bad public relations skills.

But… there is still a dark corner left in the building. It is Al's fleet of attorneys. A legal mindset defined the life of Al Davis as far back as his one man coup d'etat to seize the franchise. This mindset evolved into a litigation machine in perpetual motion either going on the attack or fighting back with vigilance at the slightest hint of feeling threatened. Jeff Birren, legal henchman of Al Davis (Birren's official title is General Counsel), spearheaded the Raiders litigation machine with a passion spanning decades.

The Raider Nation is oblivious to who Jeff Birren is and the damage Al's history of outrageous and frivolous lawsuits have caused to this day. Still, the reality remains, Jeff Birren represents a long stretch of history that amounts to nothing productive for the long term health of the Raiders franchise. Jeff Birren no longer fits with the ideals of the Oakland Raiders in the post-Al Davis era. 

When the state of California Supreme Court shot down the Oakland Raiders' $1.2 billion lawsuit against the NFL, denying the Raiders a new trial on their accusation that the NFL drove them out of Los Angeles in 1995, Birren remarked, "the Supreme Court's ruling is incomprehensible."  Further, Birren lamented "the facts were so egregious that it cried out for this decision."

The last time I heard the word "egregious" it came out of the mouth of Don King!  What is egregious is the billion dollar price tag Al thought he was entitled to. I wonder how they came up with that amount. Perhaps Jeff had his team of underlings come up with all kinds of financial projections and models for how much revenue the team would have generated had the LA plan worked out.

Since law involves facts, it is laughable Birren insists the facts in their lawsuit stand on their own merit. Even though I am not a legal professional, anyone can smell bullshit when it comes their way.  In 2001 a Los Angeles jury agreed and found that Birren and his army of litigator underlings failed to prove the league sabotaged plans for a new stadium in Los Angeles. In a unanimous decision, the state of California's Supreme Court further said the Raiders were unable to show that any of the jurors had been biased or guilty of misconduct. Though Birren's underlings must have burned the midnight oil trying to prove otherwise.

The ruling marked the very end of Al Davis' effort to show that NFL officials undermined his plans to keep the team in the larger and more lucrative Southern California market. That is called a nail in the coffin.

The "ruling should enable the league and the Raiders to turn their focus to the football field rather than to courts of law," NFL attorney Gregg Levy said at the time.  I am sure Jeff Birren and Al Davis took Levy's advice to heart.

Another humorous quote by Jeff Birren in his now famous letter to the University of Tennessee powers that be, complained about Lane Kiffin.

"It cannot be in the best interest of the University to continue to serve as his ally in his personal, though misplaced, war to rewrite the past. Please understand that the Raiders intend to vigorously pursue all of its rights and remedies and we will not stand idly by as your employee continues to go out of his way to damage the Raiders."

A "personal, misplaced war to rewrite the past"  That is interesting use of language. You don't think Al Davis ever had a personal, misplaced war to rewrite the past at any point do you?  I never liked Lane Kiffin either but the last thing Kiffin ever did was go on a war campaign to discredit Al. No, Al did that all on his own - discredited himself in his interactions regarding Lane Kiffin. Those facts are very easy to spell out though no reason to discuss them all here.

...and another funny quote by Jeff Birren, came after the Raiders lost yet another lawsuit. He claimed the reason the Raiders lost the suit was because the judge "failed to insert a few extra words of explanation in his order."

It's always somebody else's fault when things don't go your way. That was the Al Davis perspective and that is the same approach Jeff Birren consistently took as well. That's likely what enabled him to hold onto the job as Al's lackey for so long.

So all this is why I find it curious that Jeff Birren is still on staff at Raiders HQ. If Mark Davis wants to take another step forward in cleaning up the Raider culture internally, publicly and its image with the NFL then having Birren move on to other pastures would be a good move. It would just be a gesture and a political one at that. No one sheds a tear when an attorney gets booted. The league and Roger Goodell in particular certainly know who Jeff Birren is and fully comprehend his legacy role doing Al's bidding. If anyone thinks the league sees him in any other light then dream on. Birren's dismissal from all maters concerning the NFL would be viewed by the league office as a glitch that is simply erased.

Still, by cutting ties with Jeff Birren (and don't forget to make sure the underlings clean out their cubicles too), you are showing the league that you want to establish a new era of relations.  Legal entanglements would then be an embarrassing historical footnote.  No need to get rid of CEO Amy Trask, even though she also qualifies as an Al Davis crony.  She is pretty good at what she does. That being, successfully straddling fences politically while maintaining a semblance of congeniality.

Without Al Davis and Jeff Birren around, the relentless conspiracy theory that the NFL was against him, was AND STILL IS against the Raiders and will do anything and everything to keep them from being successful will be one step closer to truly being a thing of the past.

For all I know Mark Davis and Jeff Birren are golf buddies. To shake off the past however, Birren and whatever company he keeps has got to go.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Expect the NFL to Lift a Finger to Help the Raiders

Three NFL teams are vying to become tenants in a proposed new stadium in Los Angeles.  Provided this stadium comes to fruition, the NFL is poised to get two teams to share tenancy.  The St Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are the top prospects for one or two of those slots.

It is my belief that the Raiders will be the odd man out. All you have to do is take a look at the history of the NFL, Al Davis and his misguided relocation of the Raiders to Southern California in 1982 as proof.

Al Davis bequeathed to his son Mark a massive courtroom footprint. So we have to look at this in light of where the franchise is right now. A big reason why Al left such a legal legacy to begin with is because he recognized the stadium problem from an early going.  He wanted out of Oakland so badly he packed up the team and headed south to Los Angeles. Things had been simmering long before the actual move. The NFL objected to the Raiders re-locating.  Stadium issues are nothing new in the history of the AFL and NFL but the way things are done, are done so by committee and votes. Al went rogue and bypassed all of that because the league office and team owners wanted to control the LA market.  Al believed he was entitled to that market.

The Raiders moved to Los Angeles only after winning an antitrust suit against the NFL. So Al got his wish. Playing at the LA Coliseum however, was not any better than playing at the Oakland Coliseum.  In fact it was worse. the sightlines were awful, the seats much further away from the field due to the track surrounding the playing field. Season tickets did not materialize in quantity. A whole generation of losers, thugs, gangs and cholos adopted Raiders merchandise as their own, all with Al's blessing, further embellishing the Raider image as one of anti-social behavior.  If you think the outlaw image of the Raiders is cool or somehow sticks it to the powers that be. Think again. Most "fans" of such ilk are not season ticket holders.  They just wear the merchandise  Most of the Raider Nation support the fashion statement and do not attend games.  You may disagree but ticket sales as evidence bears this out as proof.  If the Raider Nation at large was in fact paid ticket holders then the Oakland Coliseum would be filled on game days and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

In the 1980's, when the LA Coliseum proved to be nonviable for the long term, Al proceeded to try and broker deals with various city governments for a new stadium complex.

After lots of fits and starts, reneged promises and money changing hands, Al became fed up with being lied to by various city governments, the double standards and so forth.  The Raiders were back in Oakland 13 years later, lured by the joint powers of the City of Oakland and County of Alameda with promises to somehow get a full stadium of fans every game day.  It would be like old times again or so they thought.  Only this time the joint powers of Oakland-Alameda handed the Raiders 32 million for new facilities. That part has worked out.  Raiders HQ has served its purpose.

The ticket situation however, was a fiasco. What happened instead was a new set of problems dealing with the Oakland joint powers commission and more reneged promises. A new set of lawsuits was looming but the core issue with Al and his legal henchman Jeff Birren was hitting back at the NFL for alleged conspiracy in interfering with Al's ambition of landing a new stadium deal at Hollywood Park in Inglewood CA.  General Counsel Jeff Birren, (still, a remaining vestige of Al's inner circle), was the definitive mouthpiece of Al Davis in the courtroom for a few decades.

The Raiders argued in their lawsuit that the NFL had caused the Hollywood Park negotiations to fail by insisting on unacceptable conditions, including a requirement that the team share the new stadium with a second franchise. Imagine that!  The very same conditions apply today. Do you see the logic brewing here? The Raiders sought $500 million for the failure of the stadium deal and $700 million for vacating the Los Angeles market.  Al unloaded on the NFL in a conspiracy suit accusing the NFL of breach of contract and other violations of the NFL constitution. It also alleged the league acted with "oppression, malice or fraud" in its dealings with the Raiders.

That about seals the deal right there. Look at the legacy of how Al treated the league and the role of commissioner prior to Goodell and you can see why bygones will never be bygones. If you think history plays no role here and the Raiders will be treated as just one of the guys now then you are sadly off target.  Here's the fatal flaw that requires cleaning up:  instead of working with the league to solve problems for all those years, Al Davis mistakenly believed lawsuits and bringing guns to bear on the league as well as anyone who appeared have slighted Davis' agenda would bring the necessary pressure to accomplish what he needed to. Al Davis never mastered the art of negotiation and business etiquette. From the earliest stages of his career he sought to crush his enemies. First in the AFL as commissioner and then after the leagues merged, when he was passed over to be NFL commissioner, he was intent on driving home his point that he would do whatever he wanted with his team and then sue when he didn't get his way, even when those suits were without merit. Lawsuits were just designed to make other people suffer for crossing him, not even necessarily with the intention of winning those lawsuits.

This presents a problem now that the Raiders are seeking some help in finding a new stadium.  The aftermath of Al's relentless, agonizing and unnecessary legal attacks is that now, the post-Al Davis era leaves the Raiders in an aging stadium with no hope of doing anything about it without some serious bailout assistance from somewhere.  What makes this difficult to overcome is due to inept personnel decisions made by Al over the last decade, his team has performed bad or mediocre. The fan base is shrinking due to wavering support.  The Raiders have lost fans capable of and interested in buying season tickets. They have lost sponsorships from meaningful business entities. If you look at how other franchises run their teams, they have good relationships with local corporations and businesses. In turn you sell them tickets, luxury suites and provide them perks to keep their interest.  The San Francisco Bay Area is brimming with companies capable of these types of relationships but not a single one wants anything to do with the Raiders. All because of the highly questionable character of Al Davis and his historical penchant for litigation, not to mention the lack of quality football and an unattractive stadium.  That is going to take a while to reverse now that Al is out of the picture.

As for me personally, I like going to games at the Oakland Coliseum.  I don't mind it one bit.  However, the big picture is, to be competitive from a season tickets standpoint, with sponsorships and people who have the money to spend on NFL games, whether it be luxury suites or just good seat locations, you need to have a first class facility.  Most other teams have accomplished this or are positioning themselves to do so. The Raiders did not "flip the script" as second string beat writer Paul Gutierrez stated recently.  The Raiders still have poor attendance except for notable games such as opening day and Monday Night Football.  If things go well this season, that could change but the last several seasons have been dismal.

There is no way the legal history has gone unnoticed by NFL HQ, which, under the razor sharp watch of Roger Goodell, does not miss a so much as a blade of grass out of place within his purview.  He's not going to simply overlook a billion dollar lawsuit (not once but twice on appeal) by Al Davis to bring the league down into the mud with him.  Al Davis has not left his former franchise a leg to stand on when it comes to gaining any favors from Goodell or the league in general.  The Raiders have gotten generic, minimal acquiescence from the league as stipulated by league bylaws and common courtesy, nothing more.

The irony of the situation was never lost on anyone when Goodell visited Raiders HQ, one particularly gloomy, rainy weekend in 2009.  It was the first visit by an NFL commissioner to Oakland in decades and it was not Al who brokered the meeting.  It was Raiders CEO Amy Trask who invited Goodell, who would not have bothered to come if not for Trask's invite.  Goodell chose his words carefully to the press when asked what he and Al Davis discussed in their meeting.  He said "mostly stadium issues."  When pressed further, on whether the league would help the Raiders find a new stadium, Goodell flatly stated, there are "no plans to replenish or replace the G3 stadium-funding program, which is a virtual death knell to any fantasies that the Oakland Coliseum will be replaced by something resembling a modern facility. A common stadium facility in the Bay Area would be an ideal long-term solution." However, as more than a few people have observed, given the history between the 49ers and Raiders and their respective fan bases, this seems an unlikely scenario.  Why would the 49ers want Raiders fans to enter their facility and treat their shiny red seats and first class facilities as their own home?

Roger Goodell did what he needed to do.  He made a showing in Oakland in 2009.  He held discussions with Al.  He held discussions with the joint powers authority that runs Oakland’s sports facilities. He met with fans in the Black Hole. He even watched the New England Patriots dismantle the Raiders on the field. Most notably, he also spent time with Mark Davis, no doubt discussing stadium issues but reaching no solutions and certainly no promises. 

Fast forward to 2012, Mark Davis is a cordial businessman in the owner's seat. Perhaps Goodell is receptive to his overtures for peace between the league and the Raiders. Al Davis is deceased but the damage he left in his wake is the reason why the NFL would never help the Raiders. If the league wanted to work with the Raiders to find a new stadium, they would have done so much earlier than Goodell's 2009 visit. which essentially was just a political courtesy by the commissioner.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Options are Limited for a New Raiders-Only Stadium

Like many bay area residents living near the 580 and 680 freeways, I see a lot of traffic.  One thing impossible to also miss is how much open land is out there. The further east you go, the more vacant land you see, all with real estate broker phone numbers attached them.

Developers have long been trying to turn that land into viable commercial enterprise.  Things have been slow but now, we have some big residents moved in or about to occupy premium commercial space. Just a few short years ago the town of Livermore, CA resembled a wild west cardboard cutout – a place to stop off to water your horse. Now, Livermore is a pretty big, family friendly town, bustling even at 10PM on a Monday night.

A new high end shopping plaza is being built right off 580.  An enormous Target with parking spaces as far as the eyes can see is already there with a BJ’s Brewhouse next door.  More is planned.

What I see is plenty of room for a football stadium with surrounding commercial properties already in place.
I do know that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has had his attention fixed on a spot in Dublin, CA to build a new stadium. He’s had this idea at least since 2008 when he mentioned it to a news reporter (one of Mark’s very few public statements prior to the death of his father Al Davis). I’m not clear where the funds are supposed to come from to build a new stadium.  That part has remained unanswered but it is no secret Mark feels Dublin, CA is the right place to build the stadium on land currently owned by NASA and the U.S. Army.  It is land not being currently used for anything. However, the Mayor of Dublin has openly and politely declined the offer to have the Raiders build in their neighborhood. The residents of Dublin would surely shoot it down if it ever went to vote.

No, money won’t talk in this instance. Dublin is far too small. Stadium traffic would cause all kinds of problems and it’s a dumpy little town anyway. There is nothing whatsoever appealing about Dublin, CA. My question is, if Mark Davis was given the green light at this Dublin, CA spot, does that mean there is a fund somewhere to build a new stadium?  Why hasn’t Mark looked at all that open space east of Dublin where cows, I mean, open land abounds?  You don’t need a city to build in if you can build between cities, right?
The advantage to an east bay location is you would easily draw the Raider Nation faithful from as far south as the central valley. To the north they would come from Sacramento and beyond.  Isn’t this what people do now anyway?  The travel to games would be even easier.

If you look at the demographics, most of the Raider Nation fans come from well outside Oakland. You are not going to lose many fans by moving out of Oakland city proper. Let’s face it, Oakland is a city in perpetual decline anyway. The endless back and forth with the city of Oakland, the County of Alameda, the red tape, all of it has led to just a lot of entanglement.  The bottom line is, the Raiders need a new stadium and it’s a real longshot for that to happen in Oakland.

I’m just brainstorming. I wouldn’t know if a stadium was even possible in all this open land, east of Oakland.  First of all, it is deadly hot out there. Second, there are all sorts of electric power and water and all sorts of building issues that would likely take a while to figure out.  If it is feasible, I would be surprised if Mark Davis has not already looked into this option. Finding a new stadium has been his priority long before he inherited the Managing General Partner role of the Oakland Raiders franchise.

If a new Los Angeles stadium is in the cards then nothing will stop that move from happening.  Whatever decision is made in that regard will be in joint concert with the NFL.  The authoritarian Roger Goodell will make sure of that.  However, the Raiders can’t rely on moving to LA.  They certainly can’t rely on the dysfunctional powers that run Oakland and the County of Alameda to build a brand new football-only complex on the same site as the existing Oakland Coliseum.  They also cannot rely on the benevolence of the San Francisco 49ers to allow them to share their swanky new home in Santa Clara, CA when that facility gets built.

We’re already sitting in traffic along the east bay freeway.  Adding Sunday traffic  in the fall would be a welcome change of pace to the view we have now of that open, somewhat green land.