Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know" Book Review

We interrupt our regularly scheduled moping to bring you the following review of 100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die (Triumph Books; $14.95), a new book by Paul Gutierrez with a foreword by Jim Plunkett.

Now, the literary canon of the Oakland Raiders contains no shortage of fast-fact books showcasing the lore of the Silver & Black. What makes this one different, however, is its currency. It’s unique because it’s not all about the storied glory days. Rather, it takes you nearly right up to the present day, steering the reader through the scorched earth of Shell II, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson’s failed power grab. Heck, this book is so current that it even has chapters on Mark Davis, Terrelle Pryor and the Al Davis torch lighters.

Of course, many Raiders fans would like to forget the past 10 years, but they are now an indelible fact of our teams history, and since misery loves company, we might as well get used to it.

Sure, there is plenty of majesty and mystique detailed in this book (The Heidi Game! The Snake!), but those stories are increasingly showing their age. The freshest material is naturally the most morbid, but also entertaining in its own way. Remember when the players showed their support for Cable by chanting "Cable, Bumaye!” after he socked Randy Hanson? Remember when our offensive coordinator was hired away from his bed and breakfast operation in Idaho? Remember when…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

There’s also some fresh historical material as well. For example, did you know that Al Saunders was born in London, but grew up in Oakland and tried to sneak into a Raiders game at the old Frank Youell Field as a kid? There’s also good material on the characters who inhabit the Black Hole, as well as a recap of the Al Davis and Marcus Allen feud, not to mention a chapter on Ice Cube’s Straight Outta L.A. retrospective. Todd Marinovich, Ricky’s Sports Bar, The Ghost to The Post…It’s all in there.

In other words, while this book could be considered similar to other short-chapter, look-back titles such as Raiders Forever, The Good, Bad & The Ugly, and Stadium Stories: Oakland Raiders, it’s ultimately far more granular and sweeping in its scope, making it a unique entry into the Raiders canon.

The bottom line: 100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is a rollicking tribute to the enduring mystique, recent follies and ultimate greatness of the Oakland Raiders, making it a perfect stocking stuffer for yourself and your fellow Raiders fans.

Check it out on Amazon

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Man, that was an ugly-looking football game.

2. Last year, at quarterback, we started our third-stringer and a guy who's no longer playing in the NFL; this year, we are starting our presumed quarterback of the future; last year, we had no money to spend; this year, we had $60 million; last year, we were coming off of a draft with #1 and #2 picks who barely contributed; this year, our first two picks are two of our strongest players; last year, we picked up Charles Woodson as a defensive leader; this year, we added Woodley and Tuck, two other guys with Super Bowl rings, to further set a leadership tone; and yet...we're demonstrably worse on the field? 

3. Sometimes, it just seems like the Raiders are cursed. That fumble from McFadden just had to fly right into the defender's arms, just like the Denarius Moore bounce at the end of the game in New England.

4. I like the fact that Sparano demonstrates some emotion, it's a nice break from the deadpan Dennis Allen. I don't think we'll go 0-16, but...

5. If we find ourselves at 0-10 or something like that, I wouldn't be surprised to see some in-season changes at the executive level. I have no sources, I have no insider info, just a gut feeling. 

Update: I forgot to add a haiku, back by popular demand:

It's a kick, no it's
a pick; at least we still have
a chance to win...whoops!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Browns Gameday Thread

Well, infamy is pounding on our door, we need to answer with a win against the beatable Browns. The time is now, GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Tony Sparano may be 0-2 as the Raiders head coach, but he's 2-0 against the Clown Car.

2. Still, I'm not about to buy into the Moral Victory business. We've lost two apparently winnable home games over the past two weeks, and we are now the only team in the NFL without a win. Anyone caught celebrating will be punished with writing each of the Raiders' two mottos (Just Win, Baby; Commitment to Excellence) a hundred times on the chalkboard.

3. Case in point, from the Trib: "The 0-6 start is the worst for a Raiders team since 1962, a year before Al Davis joined the organization."

4. Needs on defense: where do we start? Needs on offense: #1 running back; #1 receiver; #1 tight end; improved line. That's all.

5. Back, by popular demand, the Raider Take Raiders Haiku:

Victories, moral
but not real, winless, and
so with the first pick...

Cardinals Gameday Thread

Time to give Carson a rude welcome back to Oakland. Go Raiders!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. Three cheers to "the Sparano effect." For at least one week, burying the football on the Dennis Allen era seemed to put some pep in the Raiders' step. Brick hands and defensive breakdowns remain an issue, but at least there was some competitive energy yesterday.

2. Five dropped passes...in the first half.

3. Is it just me, or does it seem like once or twice per year, Darren McFadden just turns it on and runs like a mad beast, seemingly out of nowhere? 

4. How about Derek Carr? He looked decisive and in command for most of the day. He seems to have "it." And if that's the case, we're in new territory at the quarterback position.

5. The notion that this is some sort of moral victory doesn't fly. The Raiders are now 0-5. Don't celebrate too hard just because we finally looked like a football team. That is a pathetically low bar. After three years, another full draft and $60 million to spend in the offseason, Reggie McKenzie's roster should be routinely competitive. That should be the base default expectation, not something to get giddy about.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chargers Gameday Thread

Well that was an awesome start to the Tony Sparano era. One minute down, 59 to go!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The "New" Raiders Narrative

Remember the national media narrative on the Raiders after Al Davis passed away and his son gave the football reins to new general manager Reggie McKenzie?

Let me remind you. The narrative was all about chasing the ghost of Al Davis out of the organization. Remember the Sports Illustrated piece, the one about how Reggie was modernizing the Raiders, upgrading the practice field, building a true scouting department and getting rid of the overhead projectors? Finally, what everyone was asking for (including myself) had happened: The owner had hired a general manager, let the general manager hire a coach, and got out of the way so that they could get to work.

Well, lo and behold, we suddenly have a brand new narrative, and it's this: Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie aren't really to blame for this mess, and they're still (or in DA's case, were) being held back by the ghost of Al Davis. 

The new narrative has been on full display this week, and I heard it loud and clear on ESPN's Football Today podcast this afternoon.

I would like them all to answer this question: How did the Raiders get even worse this year after three offseasons, two full drafts and $60 million to spend in free agency this year? No one wants to ponder that question, because it doesn't fit the new narrative.

I was pretty critical of Mr. Davis toward the end, but this is getting ridiculous. Al Davis Derangement Syndrome is back, and the national media are afflicted.

Yes, Al Davis left this team in a bind, no one disputes that. No, reasonable Raiders fans didn't expect a Super Bowl champion in Reggie and DA's third year. Yes, we knew it would take time. But no freaking way did anyone expect the Raiders to still be worst team in the NFL after three years, riding a 10-game losing streak, and getting their asses handed to them virtually every week.

Part of the new narrative is that elite coaches and players will continue to avoid coming to Oakland, further lengthening this slow-motion death spiral--and that this is also Al Davis's fault. 

No, it's not his fault. The fault lies at the feet of the men, Mark Davis, Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen, who in three years have failed to create any sort of winning culture or shown any sort of consistent competency. And Mark Davis hasn't been running the draft, running free agency or running the locker room, so he can only be so culpable.

And if it's true that the Raiders can't attract an elite coach or player, wouldn't that suggest that it's time for a new general manager? If not the general manager, then who else is most responsible for failing to make the Raiders somewhat attractive? Al Davis passed away three years ago this week, and don't you dare tell me that he is the one still keeping elite players and coaches away from the Raiders.

The bottom line is that the new narrative is the same as the old narrative, except that the protagonist left us 1,090 days ago. 

The national media need to stop mailing it in with the pretzel logic and start applying a little more due diligence to the story of the Oakland Raiders. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why Dennis Allen Got Fired

It's pretty simple. The 2012 Raiders were awful. The 2013 Raiders were awful. And the 2014 Raiders, after another full draft and $60 million to spend in the offseason, are worse than the two previous editions. If that happens under your watch, you're going to get canned.  

And yet here comes Pro Football Talk with a logic-challenged screed titled "Mark Davis fires the guy who really wasn't to blame." From the piece: "If Allen deserves to go, so does G.M. Reggie McKenzie.  And if they bear blame for the current mess, so does the late Al Davis, who stubbornly refused to step aside from running the football operation in the latter years of his life."

The author is half right. But trying to deflect Dennis Allen's responsibility for fielding a competent team onto Al Davis (who passed away a full three years ago) is just another case of lingering Al Davis Derangement Syndrome, the symptoms of which include irrationality and frequent breakdowns in logic.

Al David didn't line up two corners against a three-receiver bunch in the red zone last Sunday. Al Davis didn't lose 10 games in a row. Al Davis didn't fail to make adjustments at halftimes. Al Davis didn't look lost on the sideline. Al Davis didn't lose nine games by 20+ points in 2.25 seasons. Al Davis didn't give up two of the most egregious point totals in Raiders history within 2.25 seasons. Al Davis didn't make this team worse than last year's edition.

Al Davis didn't sign veteran quarterbacks over the past two years who couldn't beat out third stringers. Al Davis didn't draft a cornerback coming off a life-threatening injury in the first round last year, followed by a guy in the second round who'd only been playing the game of football for two years. Al Davis didn't lose Rashard Jennings in free agency and replace him with Maurice Jones-Drew. Al Davis didn't lose Jared Veldheer in free agency, and then replace him with a guy who failed his physical. Al Davis didn't fail to get a true impact player with $60 million to spend in the offseason...

Do you get my drift, PFT? 

There's no doubt that Al Davis put the Raiders in a hole before his death, but due to Al Davis Derangement Syndrome, some people act like Reggie and Dennis were the first GM-coach duo to ever inherit an NFL team that was in a deep hole. 

As if the 0-16 Lions didn't go to the playoffs three years later. As if the 2012 Colts didn't make the playoffs with 30.1% of their adjusted cap devoted to dead money. As if the Dolphins didn't once go 11-5 right after going 1-15. As if the Chiefs didn't go 11-5 last year after going 2-14. Those are extreme examples of quick turnarounds, of course, but let's not forget that Reggie and Dennis inherited an Al Davis-led team that had gone 8-8 in its two previous seasons. 

Yes, the Raiders were in a hole. Three years later, however, they appear to be in a deeper hole. After two complete drafts. After $60 million to spend. After nearly three years of Reggie and Dennis Allen having the opportunity to exert culture change and competence and consistency. Well, you could say that they've given us consistency...

So there you have it. That's why Dennis Allen was fired. And that's why Reggie McKenzie is next. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

One Postgame Take

I'm not going to dignify this performance with my usual five postgame takes. One is sufficient. It still boggles my mind how the 2014 Oakland Raiders are playing worse than last year's edition, after another complete draft and a ton of money to spend in free agency. How could this team possibly get worse? That fact alone will result in a head (or more) rolling. The buck stops somewhere. 

If you're Dennis Allen and you have to make your case to Mark Davis tonight, your only option is to point the finger at the general manager: Look, we lost three key starters in free agency, including our best running back, we got a bunch of older guys in free agency instead of true impact players, we don't have a true #1 running back or receiver, last year's draft was a wreck, for two straight seasons our presumed starting quarterback signings have proved to be a disaster, I had to start two third-string level quarterbacks last year, and this year my best option is a rookie quarterback, etc.

He may have a point, but that still doesn't explain how this team somehow got worse after two miserable seasons, and how a defensive-minded head coach can't seem to exert any sort of competence on his defense.

Mark my words, we will have a new head coach after the bye week, and the seat under Reggie McKenzie has to be red hot. You might be able to get away with taking a full year to deconstruct a team, and you might be able to get away with minimal progress in the next year. But you can't roll out a sh**show like this the third year, not if you're Dennis Allen, and not if you're Reggie McKenzie. 

We are on the brink of starting over, again. 

Dolphins Gameday Take

Well, I think there's more on the line in London than a mere win or loss today. The Raiders really need to step up, not only to save face, but to possibly save Dennis Allen's job. If things don't go well, then it will be difficult, as the British say, to keep calm and carry on. But let's not borrow trouble. The Dolphins are an eminently beatable team, so it's time to fry the fish and wash them down with a cup of the Queen's tea. GO RAIDERS!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. The way we lost was so typical. With a potential win on the line, just yards away from shocking the NFL and ending that ridiculous East Coast losing streak, Denarius Moore clearly takes his eyes off the ball, and it bounces right off his chest into the arms of an awaiting defender. 

2. Perhaps my favorite part of the game was Derek Carr appearing to bark loudly at Moore for taking his eyes off the ball. Good for Carr, that bodes well for his leadership abilities.

3. In the preseason, I noted that we don't have a #1 at running back or receiver. That chicken has come home to roost on Reggie's shoulder. Meanwhile, Rashard Jennings yesterday racked up 175 yards and a TD on a bad Giants offense against the team that slaughtered us last week. Now, I'm not saying he would produce similar numbers on the Raiders, but there is no doubt that he was our best back last year, and he would be this year as well. We have taken a step backward at running back, and it shows.

4. I'm already sick of the excuse of: "Well, they're playing a rookie quarterback, this comes with the territory." No. Matt Schaub was brought in to precisely avoid that type of scenario, and Matt McGloin has starting experience as well. We were told that Matt Schaub didn't lose the job, but rather that Carr earned it, and that Carr gave us the best chance to win.There was no injury that forced Carr into a starting role, like what happened yesterday with Bortles and Bridgewater. The "rookie quarterback" is not a viable excuse in Oakland.

5. All that said, this was a much better effort. The Clown Car was parked, and a tough assignment on the road was met with competitive performance. A decent offense would have won that game for us. Right now, we don't have a single playmaker. The stakes in London are racheting upward, and some jobs could be on the line.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Patriots Gameday Take

Well, this isn't going to be much of a take. The Raiders have a chance to surprise us all with a competitive effort today. By 1 p.m. Pacific time, we'll know if there's a glimmer of hope, or if we're further lurching into oblivion. Bang your takes here as the game progresses.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Revisionism or Realism?

Here's some gasoline on the fire that you may have missed...

In this piece by Steve Corkran, Jared Veldheer has this to say about his departure from the Raiders: "The whole time, the understanding was that something was going to happen, there was something that was going to be done," Veldheer said. "But then nothing ended up happening. There wasn't any back and forth that kind of let me know where I stood."

Here's more:

As they prepare to play the 49ers on Sunday, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer and Matt Shaughnessy are far away from the disaster they believe began with the dismissal of Hue Jackson as coach.

"Guys loved playing for Hue," Palmer said. "Hue was a great head coach. Unfortunately, they decided that it was time for him to go, and a number of our guys that had been there awhile."

However, it's worth reminding Palmer and the others that if they loved playing for Hue so much, why did they go out with such a whimper in 2011, losing four out of five to close the season? On that note, Just Blog Baby has this rebuttal to all of the Hue love.

There are really two points to discuss in Corkran's piece. The first is whether or not it was a mistake to fire Hue Jackson. I do believe that the players liked and responded to him on some level, but he really prepared his own walking papers at the end of 2011 with all of his blather and power grabbing. It would have been interesting if he'd checked his ego and stuck around, I doubt it could have been worse than what we've got with Dennis Allen, and it might have been much better. But it's all water under the bridge. 

The other point is the one made by Veldheer, and it's more troubling and relevant to our current season. I suspect that there's some fire to that smoke. We lost Veldheer, Jennings and Houston in fairly rapid succession during free agency. To me, that suggests some sort of operational or communication shortcoming, as Veldheer suggested. 

If you are trying to figure out how this team might possibly be worse than last year's edition (and so far, it's looking that way), then our free agency losses are probably a good place to start. 

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Bye" Bye

For the sake of Dennis Allen's job security, the one thing the Raiders couldn't do this year was get worse. Yet, based on the first two weeks of the season (as well as the tea leaves of the preseason), it seems like that's exactly what they've done.

It's one thing to take a step back from eight wins to four wins in your first year when the ship has already run aground. It's even another thing to still only win four games in your second year amid varying excuses (some valid, some not) and the promise that things will get better.

But after yet another full draft and a free agency period flush with cash, and with another year of experience under the coaching belt, and with ample time logged at the helm for exerting culture change...if, after all that, the team gets worse on the field?

Well, that's when the axe will fall, and it will fall sooner rather than later if something doesn't change very soon in the on-field performance of the 2014 Oakland Raiders.

Merely matching last year's efforts would be a dubious distinction and worthy of a pink slip by year's end. But actually taking a step back? Well, that's when a bye-bye can be expected during the bye week.

If that happens, the seat under GM Reggie McKenzie is going to get awfully hot as well. 

To date, the main complaint from the Raider Nation and owner Mark Davis is that the progress has been painfully slow under DA's and Reggie's watch.

But now, with the progress yielding to apparent regress, we are on the brink of yet another regime change in Alameda.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. The more things change, the more they stay the same, so fire up the Clown Car! I have also included a screenshot from Arian Foster's first-quarter touchdown romp. Look at the Clown Car, look at the screenshot, and let me know if you notice any resemblance.

2. This isn't just a matter of being 0-2. It's how we got here, with a weak effort against the Jets, and a beatdown by the not-so-mighty Texans in our home opener. We are clearly bad in all phases of the game right now. At this point, it's looking like we'll be lucky to win four games. 

3. What is it about the Raiders that turns a perfectly competent #2 receiver from the Packers like James Jones into a bumbling, careless double-fumble offender? Alameda is like the Bermuda Triangle, where fundamentals go to die.

4. Derek Carr will likely be fine. I think he has the ability and mindset to be a cornerstone quarterback. But he's been thrown into an awful situation. He's like the lone beacon blinking through the dirty fog of a vast wasteland. He deserves better. 

5. I said it before, but it bears repeating: No matter what situation Reggie and DA walked into three years ago, there's simply no excuse for a lack of improved performance after three years of (alleged) culture change, two full drafts and a free agency period with tons of money to spend. So either things will improve, or we'll be watching the end of the Reggie-DA era in slow motion as the season progresses.

Texans Gameday Take

Here's the thing...The reason the Raider Nation is (justifiably) freaking out right now is that the Raiders are showing little indication of on-field improvement in 2014 compared to 2013 and 2012. 

That may change, hopefully starting today, but that's where things stand right now for anyone who has eyeballs.

Now, here's the other thing...No matter what situation Reggie and DA walked into three years ago, there's simply no excuse for a lack of improved performance after three years of (alleged) culture change, two full drafts and a free agency period with tons of money to spend.

So either things will improve, or we'll be watching the end of the Reggie-DA era in slow motion as the season progresses. 

That, amigos, is where we stand right now, and time is getting short.

So here come the Texans and J.J. Watt for the first home game of the season. It's time for the Raiders to step up and give the Nation a glimmer of hope that this team is better that it has looked so far. GO RAIDERS!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Five Postgame Takes

1. In my pregame take, I noted that this was no time to be conservative, and that the Jets' secondary was considered "depleted" going into the game. But as Steve Corkran noted after the game, "The surprise came in how little offensive coordinator Greg Olson called for rookie quarterback Derek Carr to throw downfield. Just about every pass until real late in the game called for Carr to get rid of the ball in a hurry, near the line of scrimmage and without risk of being sacked or hit. In other words, just the opposite of what Carr did so well against the Seattle Seahawks, even if much of that came against the Seahawks backup defense."

2. Look, we were flush with $$$ during the offseason. So now you tell me where we made a substantive positional improvement during free agency with all that money. Reggie has had three years figure out a way to stock our skill positions, and we still don't have a legitimate #1 running back or receiver. DMac and MJD (combined 26 yards) looked like two guys on downslope, which is what they are. Streater, Moore and Jones are okay, but come on, none of them are true #1 receivers. Jones was brought in to help set the pace, yet he started the game on the bench behind Moore. Who's minding the skill position store for this team? 

3. Therefore, Derek Carr can't be faulted for what happened. today. The playcalling was questionable, the protection was inconsistent, and his support was limited. I just hope that he keeps his chin up, particularly if we keep trotting him out into greasefires like this one. Don't kid yourself, the score looks close on paper, but the game didn't pass the eyeball test. We looked awful.

4. Our defense was a train wreck. No pressure on the QB, receivers left wide open, the dreaded "big play" on the Chris Ivory run. Different year, same ol' Raiders "defense."

5. I am this close to revving up the Clown Car on this game. But somehow, some way, we technically kept it close, so I'll keep it parked for now.