Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Free Agency: Fizzle or Foundational?

The Raiders haven't exactly been very aggressive during this 2015 free agency (and trading) period marked by big names, loud headlines and major movements.

Now, whether or not that's a good thing is open to debate. 

The one thing you shouldn't do in free agency--and especially if you're a rebuilding team with tons of money to spend--is spin your wheels or actually get worse. 

That's a test that Reggie McKenzie failed last year, as the team didn't get better, and arguably took a step back, during last year's free agency period. 

Just consider the running back position. We lost our best running back in Rashad Jennings in free agency, and retained McFadden and signed MJD, both of whom are now gone. Despite a few fireworks from Latavius Murray, we were dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2014. Epic fail, and an awful way to support a promising rookie QB. And now here come Richardson and Helu. Yay! Or more like: Yawn.

Last June, I penned a take called The Skill Drill, questioning the obvious lack of playmakers on offense. I don't want to have to repeat that take this year. 

That said, Reggie had a questionable draft in 2013, and then raised his draft game in 2014.

If he can execute similar improvement on the free agency front (results pending at the moment, but I'm not exactly psyched right now), and continue to draft well, then he'll have the Raiders in a viable position for becoming a contender sooner rather than later. If not, the pace of improvement will continue to be glacial.

It's clear that Reggie's not overly anxious about making a splash in free agency, otherwise he would have done it by now (and don't give me this business that big-name free agents don't want to come here, if Reggie has this team on the right path, then prospective free agents will notice and buy in; if the Bills and Dolphins can get players, we can too).

You might rue some of the names that have passed us by so far, but it's pretty clear that Reggie is following the model of the Packers, Patriots, etc. Those teams don't make a habit of throwing big money at big names in free agency.

I think that this is the guiding vision of the Raiders right now. That's the only explanation for what has transpired (or not) so far over the past few years during free agency, short of some sinister secret shackles put on Reggie by Mark Davis.

So I think there's a definite plan at work. Whether or not it's a winning plan (and if it is, how long it will take to translate to wins) is up for debate. And that's where you come in. Fire away...

Monday, February 09, 2015

That's The Spirit, Jack

Jack Del Rio on the Jim Rome Show:

Q: At 3-13 it would seem like the team is a long way from where you want it to be. Is that the case or do you see this thing turning around pretty quickly?

Del Rio: I’m not very patient, so we’re going to need to turn it around quickly. I don’t expect to come in here and look for excuses why we can’t get it done. I’m going to look for reasons why we will. I was visiting with Kenny Norton, and obviously we got Kenny done and got him here and I reminded him of how we were in Dallas in ’89 when we were playing together and that team was 1-15. And if you look at how many players three years later were hoisting a Super Bowl trophy, a good number of those players were on that roster at that time. So you just can’t look and come into a situation like this and dismiss and say there are no players there. There are players on every team across the league that can play. Our job is to add to those players, some quality, some competition, some structure, and then strive for the excellence.

My take: LOVE IT. 

No excuses, no patience. It's about time for both of these things. 

I'm starting to feel bullish. Here's where it gets complicated, however. Was last year's team really a six-or-seven win team in disguise, done in by a tough schedule, some bad breaks and the inanity of retaining Dennis Allen for an abbreviated third year when it was clear he didn't have what it takes? Or was the team truly a three-win, clown-car edition?

Our expectations for Del Rio should be calibrated to the answer of that question. 

If the record didn't really reflect the truth of this team, then 8-8 or better is the minimum expectation, is it not? If the record really did reflect the truth of this team, however, then .500 would be a nice achievement.

The AFC West is due for a shakeup. Manning looked old in the playoffs, and Rivers isn't getting any younger. Their teams may still be tough to handle, but they sure don't look like they're poised to get better anytime soon. The Chiefs are who we thought they were: competent. Nothing more, nothing less. 

So now's the perfect time for the Raiders to bust a move and gain the divisional pole position within two or three years, as long as Del Rio has the ability to establish the right momentum

Based on his words today, he certainly has the mindset to do it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Welcome Jack Del Rio

I think I'm down with Jack Del Rio as our new head coach.

Look at this murderer's row since 2006: Shell II, Kiffin, Cable, Jackson, Allen (and Sparano, if you want to get technical). By those standards, Del Rio is an upgrade.

Now, those standards are pretty low, which is why I have no doubt that Del Rio is an upgrade. But how much of an upgrade? Hard to say at this point, but hey, at least the arrow is pointing up.

I don't necessarily consider it an advantage that Del Rio is an East Bay native who rooted for the Raiders back in his youth. I'm over this sentimentality business with the Raiders. It doesn't matter come gametime. An elite coach will find a way to win, ties or no ties.

There's a bit of "deja vu" with this as well, as it's our second time in a row that we've hired a Broncos defensive coordinator as our head coach. 

That said, Del Rio brings a bit of gravitas to the proceedings. Not necessarily a lot, but at least some. He's had tenure as a head coach, has been to the playoffs, and is still relatively young. There are worse starting points.

The Raiders' interviewing process seemed a little strange to me. If the reports are true, there wasn't much consistency to the various interviews, and it's hard to say how involved Reggie McKenzie was in the Del Rio hiring. We do know that Reggie didn't tag along on Mark Davis's trip to Hooters after the big Del Rio interview.

The choice of coordinators will be key. Trestman could be a good grab, his stock is low, but he's known as a cerebral quarterback guru. In the wake of his Cutler-hastened exit from the Bears, it's easy to forget just how well he had Josh McCown playing last year. 

Anyhow, let's see how this plays out. This isn't the most sexy selection, but it seems to be a solid one. 

I've given up on the Raiders taking quick, bold, innovative strikes toward a swift turnaround. They don't seem very capable of that, it's apparently not in the organizational nature. 

But if they're going to plod along, it seems to me that they're plodding in the right direction: upward.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Same Ol' Raiders?

Say out out loud: "John Madden, age 78 and 30+ years removed from coaching, sits in with Mark Davis on an interview with Mike Shanahan (!) for the Raiders head coaching job."

When you say it out loud, how does it sound to you? To me, it sounds friggin' crazy. 

What is it about the Raiders gravitating to the rear-view mirror instead of the windshield?

Look, I love John Madden. I also love Jim Otto, but I don't want him to play center next year. 

Of course, that's a little harsh. Madden has a ton of experience and perspective. I get that.

But at some point, we just need to make a clean, firm break from the past, don't we? If only to telegraph the right message to the rest of the world (ie: other top coaching candidates and coveted free agents). 

So no matter how helpful Madden might be, or how viable Shanahan might be as a candidate, what do you think when you hear "John Madden sat in on a Raiders interview with Mike Shanahan"?

You think the same thing you thought when the Raiders went 4-12, 4-12 and 3-12 under new ownership and new management: Same 'ol Raiders.

Yet the decks are still clear. The road is wide open. There's still time. No decisions have been made, and the candidates are aplenty. 

Let's hope that the windshield, and not the rear-view mirror, wins the day.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Broncos Gameday Thread

Well, here we go on the final leg of a quest to reach 4-12 for a third straight time. Let's keep the Clown Car on ice and break the Broncos. Go Raiders!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. I was there, and it was a blast. As always, the tailgate was the best in sports. The festive energy and unquestioning camaraderie and endless plumes of smoke from smoking meat and kids throwing balls with their dads...I know folks want a new stadium (and the team is essentially demanding one), but be careful what you wish for. This type of open tailgating is becoming extinct, and it will be a shame if the day comes that Raiders game tailgating is scaled back or eliminated.

2. The Raiders came to win yesterday. They were fired up from the start. These players really seem to understand the privilege of playing for such a rabid fan base, and make an effort to fire up the crowd at the right times.

3. I was a little disappointed to hear the home crowd loudly booing Schaub when he came into the game briefly for a hobbled Carr. Schuab may not be a good quarterback anymore, and you can be disappointed in the fact that the Raiders saw fit to sign him for so much, but by all accounts he's been a good soldier, and his sample size this season has been pretty small. Not a guy I would boo for just coming into the game.

4. That 50-yard strike by Carr to Holmes on third down with five minutes left was epic. Carr's arrow is pointed up, and he is a joy to behold. After going to so many games and seeing the likes of Kerry Collins and Andrew Walter and JaMarcus Russell and Jason Campbell and even Carson Palmer, it's nice to see a Raiders quarterback who is visibly jacked up to be out there, and always engaged. 

5. That's three home wins in a row. Beating the Broncos in Denver next week to eke out a 4-12 record is a tall order, but what began as an awful season has become a little more palatable with a dash of minty fresh, thanks to these three wins.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bills Gameday Thread

Greetings from the Coluseum! Go Raiders!

Monday, December 15, 2014

One Postgame Take

1. More like a one-word take: Meh. That's how I feel about the game. Not a Clown Car edition, but a weak, uninspired effort. This team has given us some exciting moments, but it's not a good team, and there's a lot of work to do in order to make it a good team, starting with a new coaching staff. Time to stop with the bargain basement coaching hires. If this team is truly on the right track, there should be no problem attracting elite coaching talent. Most confident, elite-level coaches love to walk into situations where things are on the right track and there's nowhere to go but up. If things aren't perceived to be on the right track, however, that could complicate things. Either way, Mark Davis needs to pony up and make it happen. The fans have done their part, packing the stadium during yet another lost year. Time to invest some of that goodwill revenue into an elite coach.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chiefs Gameday Thread

Go Raiders!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Maybe, just maybe, we witnessed a pivot point in the fortunes of the Bay's two NFL football franchises.

2. I sure thought I heard Carr scream "Dang!" after the Raiders racked up a delay-of-game penalty. Dude is even wholesome when he's pissed.

3. Mack and Moore...From their farcical celebration against the Chiefs to their in-your-face takedowns of Kaepernick, those dudes know how to make noise, and they're looking like they might be two badass building blocks for the future. 

4. Say what you will about Tony Sparano, he's demonstrating and eliciting more passion that Dennis Allen ever did. As far as Harbaugh is concerned, I wouldn't let the Niners' fade this year dissuade me from considering him. This is his M.O., everywhere he goes (San Diego University, Stanford, SF), he wins, but over time he rubs people the wrong way and maybe the players start to tune out or the organization begins to tire of him. But there's no denying his ability to walk into a dicey organization (or college) and right the ship and win.

5. What we need next is for the Raiders to finish strong, to show that the Rams game was an anomaly, and that this team isn't some 2-14 outfit with a few flukey wins, but rather a different kind of 4-12 team than the last two editions.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

49er Gameday Thread

Well, this could be a good, close game based on the Niners' recent play (that is, of course, if the Raiders aren't "tanking"). Let's GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Don't worry, historic butt-kickings at the hands of mediocre teams is all part of the plan, right?

2. Not really. One of the persistent myths being peddled right now is that a season like this is perfectly sensible and a reflection of a job well done by our general manager. Sorry, any rebuilding plan that includes fielding the worst team in the NFL in year three is not a sound plan.

 3. Darren McFadden is averaging 3.4 yards per carry this year. He averaged 3.3 yards per carry the previous two years. MJD's average last year was 3.4 yards, and he's now averaging 1.9 years. Why would you or the Raiders expect anything different this year from these guys?

4. When you trade for a guy known for throwing pick-sixes, don't be surprised when one of the first things he does for your team is throw a pick six.

5. According to the broadcasters, Sio Moore told them that Tre Mason doesn't back down from anything, but that "we're going to make him regret that." Then Mason proceeded to score three touchdowns. Moore likely regrets his comments.  
 Weekly Haiku:

What happens when a
Clown Car meets a runaway 
train? Fifty-two nothing.

Rams Gameday Thread

Wow, this is quite a clownshow in progress...what does it mean?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five Postgame Takes


2. My game ball goes to Tony Sparano for fielding a highly motivated team amid a lost season. I loved seeing him yell and holler after a bad call. By comparison, Dennis Allen didn't have much of a pulse, and neither did the teams he fielded.

3. McFadden and MJD? I counter: Murray and Reece. 

4. Love Carr having such command during that last drive, then firing up the crowd to help the defense stop the Chiefs for the win. Also love him thanking Jesus afterward. Cynics will say, well, I suppose Jesus made you go 0-10, too, right? But that's not the point.

5. Mack is a force, but the old man set the tone. Woodson was everywhere tonight. Dude's a gamer. 

Weekly haiku:

Cocky Chiefs stuck in
the Oakland mud, Raiders step
on their necks, scoreboard!

Chiefs Gamenight Thread

Well, there's nowhere to go but up! GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Our offense puts the offense in offensive.

2. When you're down by a touchdown and you have 11 seconds left on the 41 yard line, you probably don't want to run around for eight seconds and then throw a ball to the five yard line. Just saying. Plenty of games have been won or tied on Hail Marys in the endzone. None have been won on the five yard line with no time left. Work backward from that fact and call your plays accordingly. 

3. This is the worst rushing team in the history of the Oakland Raiders. It's enough to make you pine for the days of Justin Fargas and LaMont Jordan in the 2-14 season of 2006. Maurice Jones-Drew is averaging 2.2 yards per carry.

4. Our offensive line stinks, our running backs have no future upside, and our wide receivers are middling at best. That's all.

5. We are being conditioned by many in the media and some in the Raider Nation to believe that 0-9 (and 16 straight losses) is actually part of a winning "process." Which is bullshit. When you embark on a rebuilding program, bumps on the road are expected. But when you're three years into that program, the bird's eye view should show steady progress, especially after two full drafts and a free agency period flush with cash. Yet the Raiders are going downhill, on a road paved with flimsy excuses. We are being conditioned to accept a 2-14 or 1-15 season. And what then? Then 4-12 becomes "progress" next year, and the next year we maybe we get back to 8-8, and then in year six or seven or eight into this rebuilding we actually achieve a winning record? Not acceptable.

Weekly haiku:

Five seconds into
the game, fumble, welcome to
16 straight losses

Chargers Gameday Thread: Angry Edition

It's time to start getting pissed. The Raiders are 0-15 in their last 15 games. 

When you embark on a rebuilding program, bumps on the road are expected. But when you're three years into that program, the bird's eye view should show steady progress.

Yet the Raiders are going downhill, on a road paved with flimsy excuses. We are being conditioned to accept a 2-14 or 1-15 season. And what then? Then 4-12 becomes "progress" next year, and the next year we maybe we get back to 8-8, and then in year six or seven or eight into this rebuilding we actually achieve a winning record?

To be accepting of such a timeline right now, after two full drafts, and a free agency period flush with cash, is insane. 

If you look around the Raiders Nation, a sort of complacency has set in. We've been beaten into submission by a dozen straight years of crap, and now losing is the norm.

We need to shake the new norm. Don't accept the unacceptable. 

Today is a winnable game. The Raiders have proven that they can hang with the Chargers. Now it's time to do something about it. The Raiders themselves need to stop accepting the unacceptable. Go out and win.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saluting The Nation

Today is Veterans Day, and it's time to say a few words about that...

Yesterday, I went to a local joint to watch Monday Night Football and grab a bite, scanning the web on my iPhone during commercials for the latest news in the Raider Nation. It was just another day in the United States of America, comfortable and uneventful. 

But I don't take it for granted, because there are many men and women in uncomfortable circumstances around the world who have put themselves in harm's way so that we can reap the rewards of freedom and prosperity.

Last night, there were camouflage accents on the NFL sideline gear, presumably in honor of Veterans Day, and ESPN did a nice job of incorporating things like veterans memorials and the Marine Corps birthday (November 10) into the broadcast. But let's not confine our appreciation to such token nods, but rather keep it top of mind, because that's what our veterans deserve. 

I never served in the military, although my brother did for a spell. We don't come from a military family. But I can't help but have a profound respect and an enduring gratitude for the veterans of the U.S. military, past and present. 

It's sickening to me how many people today take our freedoms for granted, and who use those very freedoms to constantly rag on the home team, always pointing out the country's flaws while demeaning its greatness. We have become spoiled brats.

If you have time, go search the "Omaha Beach" scene from Saving Private Ryan on YouTube. It's a profound depiction of the unfathomable sacrifice that so many have made for us. The veterans of World War II are now in their 90s, and they are leaving us at a rate of more than 500 per day. 

Let us never forget them, nor those brave souls who came before and after them. If you see a veteran, or an active military member, consider thanking them. I was coming out of the bank a few weeks ago, and this older guy with a Vietnam Vet hat held the door for me. I said thanks, and thanks for your service to our country, too. He seemed taken aback, but also appreciative. I need to speak up more often.

Today, we honor not the Raider Nation, but our real Nation, the United States of America and the men and women of our military.