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.