Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Raiders are Going Every Which Way at QB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Another Memo to Mark Davis: The Fat Lady is Singing

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Raiders' New Stadium Hopes are Twisting in the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 17, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Comparing the Chiefs and Raiders Rebuilding Processes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Old Raiders Mystique Really Is Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Quick Snapshot of Raiders Offseason Moves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

(credit to Jerry McDonald for capturing the KNBR transcript)

Jones said:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why the Raiders Need Vince Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Raiders Long Range Plan is Moving in Slow Motion

If recent speculation is true the Raiders are bringing in Vince Young for a workout, I am all for it.  Vince has made his share of mistakes on and off the field but like anyone, he deserves another chance.  Why not?  It's obvious by now, the current regime is not liking everything they have seen from Terrelle Pryor and have given up on him.  Pryor is seen as an Al pick and therefore, will serve out his contract and be released as weill Carson Palmer on whatever timetable.  Vince Young just might have learned his lesson and the guy can play.  Remember, he was a pro bowler in 2007.

Then again, Carson Palmer has made the Pro Bowl a few times as well.

A recent published interview with Hue Jackson revealed that before Al Davis expired, he offered Hue the General Manager position. There is no reason to doubt Hue on this. It explains why he stated in a press conference (when he was still the Raiders' head coach) he intended to have more influence in personnel decisions and why he was the point man for the Carson Palmer trade.

Had Hue taken the GM job it would have been far more disastrous for the team. Hue is a capable coach but does not seem suited to take financial responsibility for a franchise.

Fortunately, Hue passed on taking the GM job but unfortunately, lost his head coaching job as a result. His one act while in the capacity of pseudo-GM did not pan out. As we all know, the Palmer trade has not paid off a return on investment. The only upside is having a veteran QB capable of running an NFL offense.

Now with Reggie McKenzie running things upstairs, with all of the other cap moves and not re-signing all of their of free agents, what we are looking at is a complete rebuilding effort. Realistically, you can't do that in a single season or even two.  It happens over the span of at least 3-4 years. This is likely what Reggie had in mind all along and probably why his contract as well as Dennis Allen's runs for 4 years.

It also seems reasonable Reggie and Dennis expect this as part of their long range plan.  It does not make anyone happy but with other teams in the division on the upswing (including the Chiefs who were the worst team in the NFL last season), it's just going to keep getting tougher to come by wins.

What this amounts to is a lot of opportunities for rookies and free agents to win jobs.  This could be a good thing.  The bad news is you need an entire team of them to overachieve at an NFL level week in and week out.

The Raiders are looking at another 4-11 or 5-12 season in 2013.

You have to wonder if Mark Davis will think long and hard about the big picture. Thus far he has struggled to make a decisive decision one way or the other. I get the sense he will go with a status quo.  He has not (yet) pulled the trigger on hiring an executive for Reggie to report to and add the extra balance in weighing the tough football decisions.  Though he interviewed some well known candidates for that job.  Maybe that hire is forthcoming after the draft.  As it stands now, it sure looks like Mark is taking some time growing into the big chair, unfortunately, just as Mike Silver predicted he would.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Carson Palmer Dilemma

The reason Carson Palmer is a member of the Oakland Raiders at this time is because he was fed up with losing in Cincinnati so he held out. It wasn't about getting a big new contract.  He was a number one draft pick. He had his share of paydays with the Bengals and had he stayed a Bengal he would have continued to be paid very well. He held out because he did not like the franchise ownership and the way they went about building a team. It's not a new story.  The Bengals organization has that type of reputation.

Palmer was looking to play for a contender. He came to Oakland because Hue Jackson recruited him to replace the injured Jason Campbell. Hue broke the bank to make Palmer a Raider.  Overall on the field, Hue did ok as a head coach and Palmer did pretty well at QB.  Together as a unit, this may have been a solid long term solutions for the Raiders.

The death of Al Davis changed that course of events from ever happening.

New Raiders owner Mark Davis has had ample time to reflect on the chain of events. By his own admission, Mark was not the football mind the franchise needed. He relied on old timers John Madden and Ron Wolf to guide his decision what to do next after Al passed away. Reggie McKenzie was hired as GM. Over a year later, Mark Davis  realizes he needs more direct help than just a GM.   His next maneuver will be the hiring of an executive to oversee football operations. A year too late but better late than never.

McKenzie, though a capable GM, ousted Hue and then proceeded to make the wrong head coaching hire in Dennis Allen who in turn has made questionable assistant coaching hires. This entire combination has not been effective to get the most out of Carson Palmer, star running back Darren McFadden, the receiving game or even the defense which has suffered even more than it typically has in years past.

Oh but there's a bright spot. Penalties are down. Don't everyone applaud at once.

The big picture now is the Raiders want to be as competitive as possible obviously and they don't have a more capable QB than Palmer on the roster.  However, Palmer is neither medically sound nor was his 2012 play indicative of what a winning team needs. He tallies big stats but the team still loses and it's not all because of a soft defense.  Palmer knows it and has owned up to it.  Logic dictates they unload him and his massive salary.

Palmer must have changed his tune by now as far as career aspirations.  He knows the Raiders won't win a Super Bowl in his time with the team. He's in a much worse situation than he ever was at Cincy.  It's all about the money for him now.  He is hoping his body will at least last him a few games so he can claim his 13 million in 2013.  That's what it's all about for him.

Making Palmer's ambition seem likely to come to fruition is Terrelle Pryor  may not yet ready to be a big time NFL QB.  Maybe he is not the mobile QB prodigy that other teams have in the form of RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or even an injury addled Michael Vick  Still, Pryor deserves a chance to develop as the starter.  That's why Al drafted him. The logic continues to dictate he gets the playing time but if he does it's going to come at a risk even if he lights it up and outright wins the job in preseason.

It's damned if they do, damned if they don't. Palmer or Pryor may bring the same results.  It is conceivable that both start games in 2013.

Despite the problems outside his control, I see Dennis Allen as a lame duck. He won't last another season if the teams ends up 4-11 or 5-12.  Well, he shouldn't last but he is under contract for another 3 years.  It will be up to Mark Davis or his executive in charge of football operations to make that call if/when.

It's not all Allen's fault.  His predecessor, Hue, made a disastrous trade decision, using that booming voice to convince Mark Davis they needed to make the Palmer deal with Cincy.  Now we are all regretting carrying Palmer's dead financial weight, his questionably effective play and battered body, not to mention the lost draft picks. What do we have from Carson Palmer other than stats?  = zero.  Maybe inching along development of a few receivers at best.

Barring an unexpected division championship and playoff run, Mark Davis or the football executive he hires will have to make a call on cleaning house (again) in 2014. The big question is what will McKenzie do right now to salvage the 2013 season?  If Palmer refuses to restructure then how much further damage would there be if they cut him and went with Terrelle Pryor or a free agent or a draft pick?  Probably not much.  We are still looking at a 4 or 5 win season. Mayyyyybe 6 wins but doubtful.

Either direction is (still) rebuilding.  It's just a matter of choosing personnel and players wisely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

After I fire Reggie and Dennis Allen, this is what I'll do

Whether he is ready or not, Terrelle Pryor must inherit the QB role for the Raiders in 2013. Barring a trade or free agent signing for a different QB, there is no better time for Pryor to start. Pick Six Palmer needs to go.

The question is, who will help develop Pryor?  New Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson does not have a notable track record in developing QBs.  Olson has been a QB coach in the NFL for several teams.  He has also been an Offensive Coordinator with several NFL teams.  Here's the thing. Nothing stands out with the guy.  As one example, Josh Freeman struggled with the Buccaneers under Olson.  Then Freeman really came alive when Olson was replaced by Ron Turner as QB coach.  That's just one example.  If a QB is successful only after his coach is fired, what does that tell us?  Why do we need another unsuccessful retread leading the offense and coaching the QBs?

Regarding why Olson was hired, I will credit Levi Damien (prolific Raiders blogger) for catching this statement made by Dennis Allen via Paul Gutierrez of Comcast Sports Bay Area.

"I like his demeanor, I like his philosophy I like the way he wants a tough, physical and yet explosive-type offense. And I liked the fact that the fact that he talked about, we've got to fit the scheme to the personnel, to the guys that we have and try to do the things that they do really well. And really limit the times that we ask them to do things that maybe they aren't as good at."

Well, once again, I will preface this by saying I am not a professional football guy.  BUT, I do know incompetence when I see it and that my friends is evidence that Dennis Allen is the wrong man for the job. He's not even qualified to hire at Burger King. If the guy cannot or will not evaluate talent, instead, go by his convictions and generic nonsense, then there is no hope at all he will succeed as a head coach.  

Olson played QB in college (then again, so did Greg Knapp).  John De Filippo is the QB coach on staff for the 2013 season.  De Filippo is as underwhelming as Dennis Allen is.  Coach Flip is a young guy and capable of running drills. That's about it. The problem is you need some achievements to go along with your resume. Just having NFL experience does not add up to what we need which is to develop Terrelle Pryor or any draft pick brought in to win and win now.

The real shame of it all is the Raiders could have done a lot better than Olson.

Offhand, I can think of five available coaches with better qualifications, actual accomplishments in leading teams, being both a mentor and a leader of players.  Who knows if these guys would be interested but here's who they could have at least interviewed:

Jeff Tedford
Chris Ault
Terry Shea
Mark Mangino
Jim Tressel

Tressel, Shea, Tedford and Ault are top notch QB coaches with the credentials to also lead an NFL offense. These are the types of guys you want analyzing your QBs strengths and weaknesses, prepping him for the system you want to run and teaching the guy along the way.

Here are my fantasy candidates as GM after I fire Dennis Allen and Reggie.

Jeff Tedford:  He had a good run of success at Cal but eventually washed out because he did not recruit a good enough QB to succeed Aaron Rodgers. He never matched his success after Rodgers left. However, Tedford is a gifted QB coach as well as offensive strategist. He knows how to groom players.  Numerous Tedford players have moved on to the NFL with success. I get the sense if he was handed a pro offense,  he would get it done.

Chris Ault:  Arguably, an even more gifted offensive strategist than Tedford who won games with far less talent and resources at UNevada.  And yes, Ault won even without Colin Kaepernick. Ault was the man at Nevada for several decades.  He did it all as player, AD and head coach.  His pistol offense is now used all over the U.S. at every level.  This guy would step in and make a difference in Oakland. He has the all around skills set you want. He can relate to players with his knowledge and affable personality, coach to the talent on board and design game plans around strengths.

Terry Shea - A dynamic coach who has been around a long time (like Ault has).  Shea coached Jeff Garcia at San Jose State and also later in the CFL. Shea's forte is developing QBs but he is an offensive mastermind as well.  There is no doubt Shea has seen it all and can therefore prepare an offense as well as anyone in the NFL.  Shea would be the senior level hire the Raiders need to instill a sense of structure (which is obvious they do not have under Dennis Allen).

Mark Mangino:  I admit he is the longshot of the bunch but the guy has a great track record of building winners. He deserves a closer look.  He got the most out of his players at UKansas. Mangino raised the Jayhawks from dormancy by instilling a program of hard work and discipline.  He just wasn't disciplined enough with his own behavior to keep it going. It would be interesting to see what he could do with a pro level offense with players expected to behave like professionals. Mangino is big on character. He might have a problem identifying with the aloof mentality of many pro athletes. Still, it would be a pretty intriguing experiment.

Mangino was Offensive Coordinator with Oklahoma when they won the 2000 National Championship with Josh Heupel as QB.  That has to count for something. I am getting the impression Mangino has been humbled by his dismissal from Kansas. I could be wrong and he could very well return to his blustery firestorm ways when he returns to coaching but I like him.

And the guy I would probably hire in my fantasy GM role:

Jim Tressel:  Is there a better candidate to mentor Terrelle Pryor?  Hardly. My bet is Tressel never even showed up on Reggie or Dennis Allen's radar to fill the Offensive Coordinator position and that is a shame. Tressel is a guy who has consistently won everywhere he has been.  He was considered among the best of the best college head coaches at Ohio State for a long time.  It all came crumbling down due to what?  His players exchanged jerseys for tattoos?  Who cares?  Anyone who thinks that's a crime or breach of ethical rules needs to seriously get a life. No seriously, check your own past mistakes and see if any of them are less flagrant than not peering down so deep into players' lives to see if they gave jerseys away for tattoos.

Sadly, Tressel has not caught on elsewhere as a viable coaching candidate since that undeserved fall from grace. In a perfect world, he would be installed to run the Raiders offense. I would even put him as head coach.

Mark Davis said "I know what I don't know".  Let me offer what I do know: The Dennis Allen experiment has not worked out.  Another 4-12, 5-11 or even 6-10 season won't get it done.  Meanwhile, plenty of experienced, winning head coaches are available to replace the mistake. Jim Tressel is more than qualified to take that challenge on.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Loose Women, Guys with Money and Bad Decisions Part II

Say it isn't so Dan Marino.  C'mon, you have to be kidding. One of the greatest QBs in NFL history, a guy with about as intense a determination you can ever find to play the game gets outed for siring a love child.

Why on earth would you bang a woman who is not your wife without wearing a bag?   What's that you used to say on behalf of Isotoner?  "Take care of the hands that take care of you."

Life is tough sometimes.  We get bored, perhaps frustrated with our regular partner. Maybe even get turned away (for any number of reasons).  It's only natural to seek relief with someone you have no emotional attachment to, just to get it over with.  It's human and it is hardly unique. The big deal is to not lose sight of the big picture. It's really, really important to protect your assets.

Child support is no joke, especially when you are loaded.  That means you are open game.

Now Dan Marino is in the same class as doofs like Terrell Owens, Vince Young, all the guys mentioned in Part I of Loose Women, Guys with Money and Bad Decisions and every other pro athlete, former pro athlete that shanked themselves by boning a woman interested in their money first and foremost.

Why can't guys just get their head straight before indulging?  It's not about satisfying yourself.  The game is about the woman playing you.  Yea, they really are faking it so they can get pregnant and screw you over.

I was a Jets fan in an era with Dan Marino's most epic battles with Ken O' Brien - sometimes Ken won, sometimes Dan won but it was impossible to not concede to Dan Marino's incredible talent. Sad to see the man's image take a tumble.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Leaders Means No Progress for the Oakland Raiders

Over the last few weeks, John Madden, Chris Johnson and a few different media sources confirmed unsettling suspicions about how the Raiders perceive themselves inside the organization.

Madden told an beat writer that Dennis Allen was working with less than optimal talent levels on the roster in 2012. If Madden says it, you can be sure Mark Davis knows it, even without the SFGate article.

The lack of roster talent should have been obvious to everyone but more often than not it takes someone "in the know" to comment for people to finally see the light.

It's not just a matter of salary cap woes that brought on the lack of talent problem. Though this is an appropriate fallback position for GM Reggie McKenzie to take.  I have to wonder what else in the way of strategy Reggie has in mind to fix this problem. What else does he have to say to Mark Davis about the noticeable regression in performance during 2012? Dennis Allen has nothing to say other than "We have to play better."  The salary cap loosening up a bit only goes so far to address the issues.

The bigger problem is apparent thanks to some recent comments by former Raiders CB, Chris Johnson.  Johnson told a beat writer the locker room he was part of while with the Raiders had no leaders. None to speak of. The guys paid to be leaders did nothing except show up to collect their game checks.

This is something else that should have been obvious - and addressed. For years Al Davis paid big money to guys with the expectation that they helped win games. I have to wonder how much Al emphasized being locker room leaders to his large payroll signings. Clearly just adding talent to your team does not add up to a winning team. Leadership has to be there.  Just ask Ray Lewis.

The problems keep compounding for the new regime.  Not only was there no leadership a few years ago, there is no leadership now either. The coaching staff, which is supposed to lead the leaders, has no leaders among them to speak of.  Not a single one.  The head coach may as well be driftwood.

Factor in a first round draft bust in a position the team desperately needed to come through at Middle Linebacker and what is left?  Just about every position needs to be looked at as a need not a nice to have.  That adds up to a lot of rebuilding years to come.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Look Raiders May Be Continuing to Re-Shape the Front Office

On one hand, I can't help but think the Raiders are completely stuck in the same gear heading into Spring '13  with the draft, OTAs, mini-camp and even into next season.  On the other hand, the draft, potential trades and free agency always offers an opportunity to help change that perception.

My nagging doubts about improvement next season are based on what I saw this past season. It was a step back even from the Tom Cable era and the mockery Lance Kiffin made of things as well. On top of the Knapp catastrophe phase 2, I was not impressed with Dennis Allen at all.  Even taking into account the lack of roster talent to work with, the guy just showed nothing and he says nothing either.  He's just a very limited individual.  He's not a leader and that is what bugs me.

Then again, Hue was too much of a loose canon and clearly had no concept of trade value.  As a result of  Hue Jackson, the Raiders do not have a second round draft pick in '13.  Instead, we have Carson Palmer carrying 20 million in salary over the next two years (unless he retires).

So we have weak coaching, an erratic QB that is damaged goods, a star running back that just wants to leave after next season and sparse talent on defense.  Yea, there is upside like Marcel Reece at FB, Lamarr Houston at DT,  and Phillip Wheeler at LB.  It's just not enough to carry the team.

It's a tough job for Reggie McKenzie to get more out of less as a GM.  Maybe one year is not fair to judge his progress but in the business of pro sports, patience from fans wears thin quickly.

The front office is saddled with salary cap problems due to bad payroll decisions by Al Davis.  His efforts to win at all costs has really cost the Raiders the ability to bring in talent for the future.  How ironic.

The bottom line is Reggie has not improved the personnel very much since taking over as GM.What we have seen brought in for the most part are dollar store/bargain bin guys who we really don't need except on special teams.

What we do need is talent and the only way to get more talent is to give up underperforming talent and sacrificing some talent that is a bit painful to part with (like Jano and Shane Lechler for example).  Maybe Reggie's  logic with not seeking to trade Darren McFadden is because McF is probably the team's best caliber athlete. One more year of McFadden (before he hits free agency) may be worth hanging onto instead of trying to backfill with an unknown quantity at RB. With so many other needs to fill, that thinking makes sense.

RB Taiwan Jones has not fit into the plans much. Mike Goodsen is a nice change of pace back. See, if we had a second round pick we could go after a guy like Eddie Lacy to potentially take over for a departed McFadden.

I would have to think they will go defense in the first round.  There really isn't a top 5 CB in the draft so maybe a DT or LB.

Wishful thinking is Carson Palmer retires. The problem is, who would replace him?  Unless they draft or trade for a QB, Terrelle Pryor is the logical choice to take the job. I can't see them replacing Palmer with a retread like Matt Leinart.

Of course, we know Dennis Allen (and perhaps Reggie as well) is not a fan of Pryor's abilities. He has seen very little action and was not even suited up most game days.  Not developing Pryor at all is a mistake. No need to look further than across the bay to see what a dual threat guy with a big arm can do for you.

We need a mobile QB.  In my fantasy GM role, Dennis Allen is forced to play Pryor so we can develop his talent.  Bring in a guy like Vince Young in on the cheap to mentor him.  Yes, that Vince Young,  At this point a humbled and hopefully more mature Vince Young will do a lot more good for Terrelle than a washed up Carson Palmer.  Heck, bring in Michael Vick too if he is available as a backup on the cheap.

I have read where Mark Davis is possibly seeking an executive for McKenzie to report to instead of Davis directly.  This would help offset Mark's need for oversight.  Mark has already said judging football talent is not his strength.  With McKenzie firing blanks thus far, a football executive, like a VP or something to be Mark's eyes and ears would be a benefit - if Mark found the right person to fill that niche. That is a wait and see item but I like it as far as Mark Davis making strategic moves to build an infrastructure where none previously existed in the front office except Al's yes men.

Right now, I sense McKenzie and Allen are on thin ice and can be considered lame ducks if the team starts slow next season.  A losing record all but assures them an exit pass.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reggie's Comments are Out of Whack

Like most of you I tend to read what local beat writers have to say about the Raiders.  A recent piece by Vic Tafur on caught my attention.  I could not believe what Reggie McKenzie said regarding Dennis Allen's handling of the Zone Blocking System.

“I was proud the way he identified the issues and attacked them,’’ he said. “He didn’t just continue to run this (zone-blocking) offense … He stood up and said, ‘OK, we’re going to make a change.”

When exactly did the Raiders stop using the ZBS?  After the season ended? Firing Greg Knapp solves only part of the problem.  So how exactly did DA attack this issue and solve it if both Reggie and Dennis Allen were behind the ZBS?

What you are really saying Reggie, is that it took you guys all season to figure out the ZBS was a mistake.  You are supposed to be the football expert at Raiders HQ.  You were hired to understand the team's personnel, hire a head coach and sign off on a coaching staff that would match up a strategy that suits the talent on the roster.  Yea we get the need to build for the future but also, make decisions based on the present.

Why did you hire Dennis Allen if it's ok to not understand our flagship running back is not suited for the ZBS before the season even started?  Did you not see that he was successful without it?  You were hired, Reggie old pal, to make that analysis when you were hired, not after a blown season.

Proud of Dennis Allen?  Ok, coaching in the NFL is a hard job and the guy is a rookie head coach.  BUT, if all the guy brings is his faith, a choir boy mentality and ZERO personality (you know, not the kind of personality that players can step up and really want to play for) then what justifies bringing in Allen at all?

We understand the franchise is in deficit spending mode, the salary cap situation forbids us from loading up on talent and replacing dead wood like Carson Palmer. But please, Reggie old pal, get it straight on how this team should be led.  If this is a 5 year plan then maybe DA will pan out.  Right now, this is looking like a crash and burn for another season.  That is something the Raider Nation does not deserve.

Darren McFadden is going to walk away after the 2013 season when he is a free agent.  Why keep him if he clearly does not want to be here and we need the draft picks or at least comparable talent in a trade?

Step up to the plate Reggie.  It's your move in the house of cards on Harbor Bay Parkway.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Oakland Raiders Defense Needs a Major Overhaul

In case you missed it, Stanford football had a good year, losing only two games and winning the Rose Bowl. This was not in small part due to an excellent defense which at times looked dominating. If not for a letdown at Washington and a close call against Notre Dame, Stanford may have had a shot to play for a National Championship.  Had they been undefeated, their signature win over Oregon would have pushed them into the top 2 or 3.

Jason Tarver was defensive coordinator at Stanford in 2011 and helped build that excellent defense.  However, as Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator, he was less than spectacular in 2012.  Granted, the personnel on defense wasn't much to work with but it still falls on the DC to have something to show for your efforts overall.

Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp had little to show for his efforts too and he was fired along with the offensive line coach AND linbebackers coach Johnny Holland.

So why would the LB coach be asked to leave and not the DC?  Was it Holland's fault Rolando McClain is a washout?  That Travis Goethel couldn't stay healthy (what else is new?)?   That Miles Burris was better suited on the outside than in the middle?  That there was no one else capable of playing MLB?

Somehow Tarver survived the purge but he won't be so lucky if the Raiders tank next season like they did in 2012.  Dennis Allen will be first out the door, followed closely by Tarver and possibly GM Reggie McKenzie.

The bottom line is Tarver is in the situation where he must make lemonade out of lemons. The Raiders front office has to help him out by swinging deals to bring in talent on defense. They must also draft superbly well and reel in quality free agents.

Let's look at the almost empty shelf that currently makes up the Raiders woeful defense.

The defensive line was once a Raiders strength but has pretty much deteriorated when Richard Seymour's arthritis or his knees or hamstring or whatever, made him a very expensive benchwarmer.  Seymour likely is now gone.  It is debatable whether Andre Carter has anything left to be an adequate replacement.  Probably not.

Matt Shaughnessy is now a free agent.  He never fulfilled the great promise he showed as a rookie, partially due to injuries.

The Raiders' best DL, Lamarr Houston will be heading into the final year of his contract in 2013 making a mere $575.000.  His agent is Drew Rosenhaus.  If Houston has another good season we can expect Houston/Rosenhaus to tell the Raiders to show him the money. We all know what that means.  Good luck keeping him around.

DL David Tollefson was barely part of the action as was rookie DL Jack Crawford.  DL Desmond Bryant is a FA and may not be invited back.

If nothing else, DL Tommy Kelly has proven he is not slacking off just because he's already been paid double digit millions.

OLB Phillip Wheeler is a bright spot.  You can look at OLB Miles Burris as a bright spot too if you want. To me he looked like a rookie and was beaten as often as he made plays.  Though he tallied a lot of tackles, it didn't really amount to much. He may not even win a starting OLB position on a team with better depth.

Journeyman LB Omar Gaither will be lucky to stick around and we can be sure Rolando McClain is going to be shopped around as trade bait.

Michael Huff is on the back side of his career but we can expect him to return.  He was awarded a 4 year 32 million dollar contract n 2011 that he is still lazily making his way through.  He's not the CB or Free Safety we need.

Our cornerbacks are pedestrian:  Brandian Ross, Coye Francies, Phillip Adams, Joselio Hanson are all bargain bin types. It's like the dollar store. You'll get usable merchandise in a pinch but is it really what you want?

The only guy worth keeping is FS Matt Giordano.  He's a playmaker and so is Tyvon Branch though he took a step back in 2012. Branch whiffed on tackles and basically looks a little shopworn, like a boxer that has taken too many hits to the head. NFL players do not have a long shelf life normally and Branch's body has taken a lot of abuse at Strong Safety lined up in the box.  He's not the force he was two+ years ago.  No, Mike Mitchell is not the answer either at SS.

Adding more bargain bin guys is not going to cut it.  Reggie McKenzie needs to pull off some good trades to rebuild this defense in a hurry.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ok, Greg Knapp is Fired. Now What?

As it stands today, the Oakland Raiders are a non-team, completely irrelevant and without proven leadership that can carry out a successful rebuilding phase.

Dennis Allen is still a rookie head coach and he has done very little (if anything) worthy of praise in year one. In fact, as Owner Mark Davis stated, the team's performance regressed from early season promise. This includes the coaching.  Allen should resign but that is rare for a coach to give up voluntarily.  He is still under contract and so is GM Reggie McKenzie.  They will be given at least one more season to perform as an NFL caliber team.

The brain trust of Mark Davis and unofficial consultant, John Madden, are guiding the ship.  It's just not good business sense to turn over the GM and head coaching posts so soon.

The problem facing the franchise in 2013 will be finding enough talented players to make a difference from 2012.  They need to unload underperforming, over-priced guys like Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer, see if they can acquire additional draft picks, trades, anything to start filling gaps, especially on defense.

We all know how bad an OC Greg Knapp was. However, he cannot be blamed entirely for the team's offensive failures.  The firing of the OL coach indicates they are going to place a premium on that area in the forthcoming rebuilding.  They need to keep whoever they have at QB, upright.  

Unless Palmer agrees to a massive pay cut, they are surely going to try and trade him.  The problem is his massive contract will make that difficult to do, especially considering the beating he has taken thus far in his career. He's a very expensive liability for any team.

It remains to be seen if Matt Leinart will be with the team in 2013 with a contract renewal. Terrelle Pryor is still under contract but he's not that expensive.  Maybe they will give him a chance to earn his keep but he doesn't seem to have the qualities of a number one guy just yet.  Neither does Leinart or a washed up Carson Palmer.

The bottom line is if the Raiders select a QB with their first round pick in the draft, that is a lot of salary overhead to invest at QB position.  The problem is the Raiders don't have a pick in every round in 2013. Look for McKenzie to select the best OL on the board in round one and swing deals to try and land the best QB available and load up on defense with the rest of whatever picks he can get.

That is unless there are some trades between now and April.

Darren McFadden has already been paid the bulk of his massive contract. He has one year remaining at a "measly" six million. This is the best time to trade him for some draft picks or for talent at other positions. Each year he has shown ability but he has never been consistent.  The Raiders need the draft picks.  It's that simple.  Finding serviceable running backs like Mike Goodson to replace McFadden is achievable in the draft and free agency. McFadden should be used as trade bait.

It sounds crazy considering how reliable Sebastian Janikowski has become, but with one year remaining on his contract, he would bring in good trade value.  It will be interesting to see if they hang on to Jano or try to trade him.  Can they find another reliable PK?  Probably not as money as Jano but what is the trade off?  A shitty defense for another season because the team can't rebuild with just draft and free agency?

Shane Lechler is a free agent.  Doubtful they will re-sign him for big money with so many pressing needs elsewhere. Maybe he will re-sign for a reasonable salary.  Same for Richard Seymour even though he seemed disinterested to be a Raider last season.

If the Raiders can head into Spring OTAs and mini-camp with a QB who has solid credentials (whose name is not Carson Palmer); an improved offensive line; a handful of good running backs and receivers; a rebuilt defense from stem to stern, then there is good reason for optimism in 2013.