Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Five Postgame Takes

1. Why are we throwing on third and one while down two points with six minutes left? Next, why are we punting on the subsequent fourth and one at our own 44-yard line? I know the answer: percentages. The problem with percentages is that they are general to the NFL experience, not specific to our team’s reality. What do the percentages tell me about today, right now, with the game on the line? I doubt that the “percentages” take into account the fact that Kerry Collins is misfiring on short passes. I doubt that the percentages accommodate the fact that the Raiders are suddenly dropping easy balls. So is that really a “high percentage” pass, or is it simply another bad idea? So now it’s fourth down and we punt. Afterward, the “percentages” were invoked in defending this call to punt. Indeed, the percentages say that you punt in that situation. But the percentages have never heard of Zack Crockett. The percentages don’t take the pulse of an enraged home crowd prepared to win or die trying. The percentages don’t tell you that the Raiders averaged 4.2 yards per carry on Sunday, yet they didn’t run the ball to gain a single yard on two successive downs with the game on the line.

2. At this point, I could incite more circular “chicken or the egg” analysis about what’s wrong and how to fix it. I could make my argument, and then you would make yours, and pretty soon we’re in a pissing contest about stats and “what ifs.” I’ll bet this is exactly why Mr. Davis coined the simple phrase: Just Win, Baby.

3. Jerry Porter stopped by Everett & Jones BBQ a little after 6 p.m. for the KSFO radio postgame show. He showed poise and class in the wake of a rough defeat. However, the Raider Nation was justifiably riled up, and several callers (who were piped into the restaurant’s speaker system) breathed some righteous fire. At one point, someone called in to challenge, among other things, Jerry’s statement that the Raiders are still better than their record indicates. The caller asked Jerry to back his statement up. It was a fair question, but moderator (and Raiders legend) George Atkinson intervened and told Jerry that he didn’t have to respond. Why not? If Jerry can take big hits and hang onto the ball like he did in D.C. last week, why can’t he handle a simple question? At that moment, you could feel a shift in the room, a darkening of the mood. Then, still trying to mount a defense for the Raiders’ coaching and execution, George made the mistake of saying, “Sometimes what the fans don’t understand is…” He tried to make the point that sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent. But it was too late. The silver and black cat was out of the bag. At that moment, some dude stood up amid the tables, as if possessed by the collective Raider Nation. He’d had enough. “This is the Raiders,” he hollered, interrupting the live broadcast. “I’m from Oakland. This is the Raiders! Ain’t no one should be able to stop Jerry Porter and Randy Moss. You know it, you just won’t say it!” The room broke into applause. Jerry Porter just smiled. George Atkinson and co-host Rich Walcoff looked mortified. There was no hiding behind the phone lines now. It was a small yet epic moment. Lesson: don’t call out “the fans” in front of the fans.

4. During the waning minutes of the game, my cousin and I watched an exodus of folks walk up and out of the Coliseum (I hate to say it, but I saw it, it’s the truth). As they passed us by, we couldn't help heckling: “Don’t you remember Heidi?!” The problem is, the coaches apparently don’t remember Heidi, because Kerry Collins was still throwing 10-yard passes to the middle of the field with no timeouts during the last minute. I don’t care. I’m not budging until time expires. I still believe.

5. These are the days you will remember. These are the times upon which character is built. When the Return to Glory is complete, you will want to say you were here, right now, still proud, still standing. Across the bay, they are “the faithful.” Fine. Over here, we the loyal and the unshaken. It doesn’t sound as cute, but it matters even more.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Haiku: Raiders 21 / Dolphins 33

Catch and release—the
Fish swim away, a cold wind
blows over Oakland.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Gone Fishing

Before I hang out the “Gone Fishing” sign for the weekend (we’ll be grilling red meat the parking lot but seafood on the field), I am inspired to remember the greatest moment in Raiders-Dolphins history: The Sea of Hands.

With 4:54 left in this 1974 playoff game, with the Raiders down by five points, Ken Stabler threw a strike to Fred Biletnikoff, followed by a 72-yard touchdown pass to Cliff Branch. Alas, the Raiders allowed Bob Griese to march the fish down the field for their own score. Stabler then led the Raiders back down the field, to the eight yard line. With 24 seconds remaining, Stabler remained cool amid a ferocious pass rush. With a defender pulling him down, Stabler found his target. Clarence Davis outmuscled three Miami defenders for the winning score amid a “sea of hands.”

In the words of the Oakland Raiders: “The crowd went wild, completely raving wild. Couples kissed for the first time in years. People pounded on their Coliseum neighbors. It was a scene out of a movie script that would probably be rejected as ‘too far-fetched.’ But this was reality. This was pro football at its best. This was Raiders football -- great players, great coaches, great plays and great games.”

Friday, November 25, 2005

Gear of The Week

Affordability is typically a factor in my selections for Gear of The Week. I am sensitive to the fact that Raiders gear might not have priority over your heating bill or your child’s education (what’s wrong with you?!).

But today I’m going to break with Raider Take tradition and select something that is a little pricey: the authentic Oakland Raiders throwback helmetby Riddell. Hey, at least it’s on sale ($30 off). Maybe Santa Claus has deep pockets this year? There is also a nice replica versionfor $99.

This helmet is the original logo design from 1963, when Al Davis first prowled the sidelines. It would look pretty sharp in your den, wouldn’t it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

News You Can't Use

It’s time once again for “News You Can’t Use.” Special thanks to Raider Nation Podcast for tipping me off to this one.

As I said when Raider Take launched News You Can’t Use, these posts are not meant as personal attacks on sportswriters, but rather to promote fairness, accuracy and intellectual rigor in media coverage of the Oakland Raiders. Alas, the San Francisco Chronicle has published a piece that fails on each of these fronts. In baseball, that’s called batting a thousand. Hey guys, great effort!

Just for fun, I’m going to apply the time-tested Fallacies of Philosophical Reasoning to this piece…

“The coach and the quarterback usually get blamed when things are not going well. But let's be realistic here. The Raiders have had just three winning seasons since they returned from Los Angeles in 1995.”

Fallacy: Red Herring. What does 1995 have to do with analyzing the personal performances of Norv Turner and Kerry Collins on Sundays in 2005? Congratulations, you have insulted the collective intelligence of the Raider Nation.

“Derrick Burgess is the kind of player the Raiders should pursue in free agency but rarely do; he's just 27.”

Fallacy: Misrepresentation. Merry Christmas, here’s your abacus. Now you can do the math: Randy Moss is 28 and LaMont Jordan is 27.

“The problem is, however, that Al Davis' fascination to patch the roster each year with veterans and his aversion to rebuilding masks a fundamental problem.”

Fallacy: Suppressed Evidence (Bonus fallacy: using the word “problem” twice in the same sentence). You mean the problem that resulted in veterans such as Rich Gannon, Rod Woodson and Jerry Rice helping lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl berth in 2003? Yes, it’s truly a shame that Al Davis doesn’t follow the Dr. York model instead of “patching” his roster with veterans like Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan and Derrick Burgess.

The upshot of this article is that the Raiders have been a total bust since returning to Oakland. Interesting premise…Do you know how hard it is, in today’s NFL, to win your division three straight years, as the Raiders did from 2000 through 2002? As I’ve said before, this is a favorite anti-Raiders tactic, this denial of the 2000s, as if it didn’t happen. Who are you to criticize Mr. Davis for the bad years and then deny him his great ones? Thought so.

And that, Raiders fans, is news you can't use.

P.S. The "email" icon at the bottom of this and other posts enables you easily to sound the Raider Take alarm via email. Please feel free to spread the word to your favorite friends (and sportswriters). With your help, the tide of anti-Raiders propaganda will be turned...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Five Postgame Takes

1. The Oakland Raiders are starting to mimic the Chicago Bears. The expectations on offense are methodically being lowered, to the point that minimizing mistakes is becoming job number one. At the same time, the defense is emerging as a powerhouse that is counted on to win the game. It’s an astonishing turn of events, considering our personnel, but there are worse fates. It was certainly good enough for a much-needed victory on Sunday.

2. I am falling in love with coordinator Rob Ryan (no, my wife need not worry). In addition to leading the Raiders defense to unexpected heights, he’s making a big contribution to the aesthetics of the Raiders sideline. He’s going caveman this year, with that unruly hair and beard. He’s raising hell, barking orders and spitting nails. He’s becoming a chip off the ol’ Buddy Ryan block. At this rate, he’s going to turn into Ted Nugent. I say keep it up. Caveman is good.

3. The red zone is still the dead zone for the Raiders offense. That’s the sum of my take on that subject. What can I add? They're trying, but they just can't do it. It’s not a strategy issue anymore. It's a capability issue. It’s like telling my cat to recite Shakespeare. There's no strategy for that.

4. I believe that the defense literally saved Norv Turner’s job on Sunday. Allow me to explain. It’s first and goal on the one-yard line for the Raiders with 2:20 left in the game. From my perspective, they have two options: score the touchdown or chew up as much time (or Redskins timeouts) as possible before settling for a field goal. The Raiders did neither (and you wonder why I cited “time management” as a major issue in my pregame take?). Sure, they started off with two runs for no gain from Jordan (fair enough, although Zack Crockett might have been a better choice for one of those carries). But the next play was an incomplete pass to Crockett. Why is Zack Crockett catching, instead of running, in that situation? The clock stops, a timeout is spared, and the Redskins have 1:08 and one timeout to march down the field to tie or win the game. Based on past and recent experience, the Raiders are the last team that should be handing an opponent time to march down the field in the last minute. Luckily, this time, the defense saved the day. But if they hadn’t, if the Redskins had scored and eventually won, I think that the playcalling on that last possession would have been the final nail in Norv’s coffin (an extra wide coffin that would also accommodate offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye).

5. We in the Raider Nation are walking a fine line between agony and optimism right now, and that’s certainly better than simply being mired in agony. The Raiders have won a total of two games against teams with winning records, and none against division rivals. Without the surprising toughness of the defense, things would be even worse. And yet…and yet we are close. I’m dead serious. Many of the losses have been close. The offensive still has extraordinary potential (did you get a load of Jerry Porter yesterday!). The machine is still sputtering, and if I was a mechanic, I’d still run my first diagnostics on the coaching and the quarterback. Whether or not that means replacement parts or a tune up remains to be seen, but the fact is that the Raiders are not as bad as their record, and the near future may indeed be bright. Return to Glory: in the slow lane, but still going forward.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Haiku: Raiders 16 / Redskins 13

Take your hog snouts and
skirts and go home, D.C.—Norv’s
your daddy today.

Pregame Prediction for 11/20

When all hell breaks loose, in business or in football, you simplify. You regroup, identify your core problems, and focus on simple solutions. Then you pound them until you’re out of the tall grass and into the clear.

In my estimation, here are the core problems facing the Raiders: (1) faltering commitment to the running game, which puts everything on Collins, who doesn’t perform well in such situations; (2) pressure from the blitz disrupting the offensive rhythm; and (3) poor clock management, including a lack of purpose and urgency in crucial situations.

Thus, my pregame prediction is conditional on implementing the following solutions:

1. Run the ball. Or, RUN THE FREAKIN’ BALL. I’ve flipped out about it here before, and it still holds. Credit to Raider Nilbilly on the Raider Nation Podcast board for crunching the following numbers: LaMont Jordan is averaging 25 carries and 105 yards in Raiders victories this year, and 16 times for 54 yards in the losses. Enough said.

2. Neutralize the blitz. The Chiefs chewed us up with it, and so did the Broncos. There are methods for dealing with a steady blitz, aren’t there? Quick slants, perhaps? Forget halftime adjustments…It’s been two weeks now. Can we make some adjustments yet?

3. Improve time management. Last week, we had the five-minute drive while three scores down (sorry, I’ll stop reminding you of that soon). Against the Chargers, Coach Turner sat on our timeouts before the end of the half. This is becoming a regrettable pattern, this bizarre lack of urgency in the face of defeat. Conversely, hurling the ball for a repetition of three-and-outs against the Broncos demonstrates a failure to, when necessary, slow things down to our advantage.

If the Raiders run the ball, counter the blitz and manage the clock with improved purpose, I predict that they will whip Danny Boy’s ‘Skins to the tune of 33 to 20.

Gear of The Week

Whether you’re riding your bike or rooting for the Raiders in enemy territory (be it Denver or Mill Valley), you might as well protect your noggin in style. Hence, the Raiders Multi-Sport Helmetas my pick for Gear of The Week.

Next time you pull up to the coffee house on two wheels, show those brightly manicured bicyclists who’s boss. To purchase, click here

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Sound of Silence

Last week, Raider Take asked a pertinent question: Is it a good or bad sign that Randy Moss has not spoken publicly since September 8?

Well, this week, Randy split the difference. He spoke with silence. If you’re a Raiders fan, you’ve already read about Randy’s “endorsement” of Coach Turner. But have you heard it? If not, click here to listen to the clip from ESPN, followed by a solid analysis by Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (and if you can keep from gagging at the sound of Dan Patrick, hang in there for a second take on the Moss soundbite). When you land on the page, look to the right sidebar and click “play” on the “Best of ESPN Radio” file for November 17.

Friday, November 18, 2005

News You Can't Use

This sure is an odd time to publish an article entitled: “Collins becoming the reliable quarterback Raiders hoped he’d be.” Can’t you just see this Associated Press writer sitting in the press box at the Coliseum, as a hail of boos rains down on Kerry Collins while the Broncos take his third pickoff down the field to punctuate the Raiders' sixth loss of the season, thinking, “Hmmm, what shall I write this week? Wait...I've got an idea!”

We’ve already seen this same piece, in various guises, about 50 times this year…You know, the “Kerry’s got great stats, and he’s not throwing as many interceptions as he used to, so don’t worry, be happy” story. This latest version is careful to acknowledge the “demoralizing” losses and “bittersweet” season to date. But once that’s out of the way, it’s back to the same old story. This story is technically factual but intellectually bankrupt. Kerry Collins, Mr. Reliable? Come on...

These articles are like Kerry Collins: they look good on paper yet fail the scrutiny test. They were more forgivable earlier in the season, when you could still make a case for optimism. But now? Right after Collins’ worst performance? Right after dropping to 0 and 4 against divisional opponents? What’s it going to take for them to stop writing these pieces?

I’ve had my say, as have others, and there’s no need to pile on Kerry Collins at this point. But can we please at least stop pumping him up in the Associated Press and elsewhere until he helps the Raiders win, say, half of their games? Can we stop declaring this a “comeback season” for Kerry Collins until he actually leads a few comebacks?

I'm curious about what’s motivating these sportswriters, because the repetition is starting to get weird. Since when are expectations so low for Kerry Collins that leading a "high-powered" offense to a .333 winning percentage is cool as long as he improves his stats and reduces his interceptions? Or is this some sort of bizarre reverse psychology, some sort of mind trick, this continued writing of glowing articles about a quarterback who has failed in the most significant statistical categories (important touchdowns and victories)?

Either way, Raiders fans, it’s news you can’t use.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Diamonds in The Rubble

Down but not out in the wake of the Broncos game, Raider Take soldiered on, navigating the smoking rubble in search of amusements, diversions, storylines and general signs of life. Here’s what I found:

Man vs. Zebra

Talk about fantasy football. It was revealed this week that Mike Lombardi, senior personnel executive of the Oakland Raiders, apparently tried to kick some zebra ass (“The exchange got so heated that NFL security had to intervene”) in the Arrowhead parking lot after the 11/6 game against the Chiefs. In doing so, he lived out the dreams of many across the Raider Nation.

Here at Raider Take, I was mocked by a few folks for suggesting (via haiku) that the tripping call against Ed Jasper was (1) bogus and (2) a true factor in the outcome of that second game against the Chiefs. Sure enough, the Raiders later received an official (no pun intended) apology from NFL headquarters for the Jasper call. You can say all you want about blown coverages and stupid penalties by the Raiders, but that does not absolve the zebras of their responsibility to not affect the outcome of games with incorrect calls at crucial moments. The first game against the Chiefs was an officiating disaster, and thus the zebras should have been extra attentive and careful during this second matchup. Kudos to Mike Lombardi for trying to stick the inevitable apology where the sun don’t shine before it was even postmarked.

Randy (pause) endorses (umm) Norv…sort of

Coach Turner’s week is going from bad to worse. First, he and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye surrendered early with a mindless five-minute touchdown drive while three scores down with seven minutes left against the Broncos—in cosmic counterpoint to Jon Gruden, who at that time was just moments away from making his gutsy call to go for two points and the win in Tampa Bay. Next, Raider Nation Podcast lit up computers and MP3 players across the world with an epic “Norv Must Go!” take. Finally, Randy Moss spoke publicly for the first time since September 8. Asked for his thoughts on Coach Turner, Moss paused for a full 15 seconds before offering this nugget of ironclad support: "I think his approach, being an offensive-minded coach, is something that I can accept, I like. He's the man. I leave that at that." In terms of endorsements, that’s right up there with “Well…(15 second pause)….He doesn’t beat his wife. I’ll leave it at that.”

ESPN scoops ESPN

ESPN sent a reporter to experience the Raiders game last Sunday. The findings were astonishing: (1) Raiders games are safe; (2) Raiders games are fun; (3) costumed Raiders fans are not satan-worshipping bullies. Geez, we haven’t seen an article like this since…well, since ESPN sent a reporter to experience a Raiders game.

Maybe it’s becoming an annual thing with them, like the swallows in San Juan Capistrano. I can’t complain. Compared to the amateurish slander published recently by Sports Illustrated, it’s all good. Congrats to Spike, Howie and Violator for showing ESPN a good time and doing the Nation proud.

Third stringer to start for Raiders…Oops, I mean Eagles

Various Raider Take commentators (special thanks to JS, Doobie, Mad Stork, Raider Greg and NFL Adam) poured philosophical kerosene on the QB fire over the past week, enflaming the debate about the relative abilities of Collins, Tui and Walter to turn the tide and lead a turnaround through the end of 2005 and into 2006. In the event of a Collins benching or injury, it is assumed that Tui would be the automatic choice per the depth chart. So it was particularly intriguing when Donovan McNabb went down on Monday night and Andy Reid passed over immediate backup Koy Detmer in favor of Mike McMahon—and then installed McMahon as the starter for the next game. There was some revisionism about Detmer being the backup only because he was the holder for field goals and extra points (I wonder if Koy knew that?), but it was an interesting precedent nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Five Postgame Takes

1. I’ve been on the fence. I’ve been mincing words. I’ve been waiting and seeing. No more: it is time to bench Kerry Collins. Nothing personal, but it’s just not working. No mobility, marginal accuracy, zero magic. You don’t bring in a 10-year veteran QB with 117 career starts under his belt, hand him Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan, and then twiddle your thumbs throughout his second campaign, trying not to believe your eyes. I don’t want to hear about stats. I don’t want to hear about the offensive line. At some point, sometimes, a quarterback just has to find a way to win. It is time to stop waiting for the magical transformation, because it’s not coming. What you see is now officially what you get, and what we’ve got is apparently not enough to win (in contradiction to the team motto: Just Win, Baby). Therefore, it’s now someone else’s turn.

2. If you think I’m overreacting, look at it this way…I’ll bet you wouldn’t be in favor of hiring Jeff Garcia or Trent Dilfer to lead the 2006 Oakland Raiders, right? But do you think that either Garcia or Dilfer, if you put them at the helm of the 2005 Raiders offense, would have led the team to less than the three wins that Collins has managed? Honestly, I think Vinnie Testaverde or Doug Flutie could have put three wins on the board by now. We are on the downslope to 2006. The future is now.

3. Coach Turner and staff’s anemic running plan (17 rushes total) was inconvenienced briefly in the second quarter, when the Raiders ran the ball five straight times for two first downs and 32 yards, followed by a pass to Porter for eight yards and another first down at the Broncos’ 24 yard line. A perfect time for a quick air strike? Nope, just another run on first and 10 (for a loss of two yards), followed by a complete abandonment of the running game. Here is a summation of this coaching strategy: “Let’s use the run to set up the run, then totally abandon the run when that doesn’t work.”

4. You are down by 21 points, or three scores, with seven minutes left. Perfect time for a two-minute drill, right? Go for broke, a quick score or die, because you might as well die trying, right? Nope. Instead, the Raiders execute a five-minute, 15-play drive for a touchdown. Hey, man, nice stats!

5. Norv’s epitaph: “Wait ‘till next week!”

Bonus take: I hate to end on a negative. The defense continues to improve and is outperforming expectations. Bravo! Who would have thought that, at this point in the season, the defense would be outshining the offense? Kudos to Rob Ryan and the Raiders defense, keeping things close, and raising their game.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Haiku: Raiders 17 / Broncos 31

Air attack shot down;
time to hit eject? Awful

will not fly no more.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Rocky Mountain High

Here’s one guy who puts the “high” in Rocky Mountain. In a piece riddled with cheap shots (brace yourselves, Raider Nation, for a steady stream of “Al Davis using a walker is cosmically symbolic” tripe from similarly lazy sportswriters, because there is surely more on the way…), Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post writes: “The Raiders seem to have taken out a long-term lease on last place in the AFC West, a far cry from the days when the franchise was committed to excellence.”

Oh, those old bygone days, when the team "was" committed to excellence, so long ago I can hardly remember...Anthony, the Raider Nation has a pop quiz for you:

1. Name the only AFC West team to appear in a Super Bowl in the 2000s to date.

2. Name the last team in the AFC West to win the division three straight seasons.

3. How many times have the Raiders won the AFC West since the Broncos last won the division (hint: 3)?

4. Name the only AFC West team to win more than two Super Bowls.

For extra credit, Anthony, you can read my Listen Up, Raiders Haters and turn in your granola.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Four Midseason Riddles

Everyone is handing out their midseason “grades” right now. One sportswriter gives the Raiders “Bs” (ie: above average) in all offensive categories. I must have missed the memo declaring that NFL teams can now be graded on a curve, and that stats are more important than touchdowns and victories. But I digress…

Rather than handing out midseason grades, Raider Take would like to embark on a more esoteric journey, beyond the borders of pontification and certainty, and into the realm of riddles, of which there are plenty facing the Raider Nation right now. For example:

1. Is it a good or bad sign that Randy Moss has not spoken publicly since September 8?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have T.O. flapping his gums and leaving nothing but scorched earth in his wake. In that context of megastar wide receiver behavior, Randy is a saint. But this is not an “either/or” equation, is it? There is a lot of ground between absolute silence and nonstop babbling. So why did Randy Moss go mute after the Patriots game? Why has this guy, who flamboyantly mooned the Cheeseheads less than a year ago, retreated into a quiet shell in Oakland? What is on his mind that he is not saying? Or is he just in a rush to get home to tend his Zen garden?

2. Is Kerry Collins the quarterback of the Raiders’ future?

On the one hand, Collins hasn’t even been the Raiders’ starter for a full calendar season, and he may still be adjusting to his new team, new teammates, new schemes, etc. On the other hand, how long did it take Ben Roethlisberger, for example, to adjust to leading his team? Some say that Collins is improving, and that we owe him more time to prove himself. Others, like Raider Nation Podcast, make a compelling case that Kerry’s upside in Oakland has already expired. If you feel that Collins remains the QB of the Raiders’ future, give us your take (click “comments” below and let it rip). If Collins is not the QB of the future, when should the team make that call and move on, and with whom? (Cue the “If Walter is the QB of the Raiders’ future, why is he behind Tui on the depth chart?” riddle)

3. Is Norv Turner the coach of the Raiders’ future?

When a new coach is tasked with turning a team around, you can usually ascertain his impact (or lack thereof) by the second year. You look for wins, certainly, but you also look for traction, for momentum. The playoffs might still be out of reach, but you at least want a sense that the coach has delivered a proverbial smack upside the head of collective team culture and performance. Consider Parcells with the Jets and Dallas, Reid in Philadelphia, or Mora in Atlanta. Or, for that matter, Gruden in Oakland. Does Norv Turner give you that “great things are just around the corner” vibe?

4. If your answers are to the above are “Bad sign, no and no,” does that make you a profound realist or a pessimistic traitor?


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pregame Haiku: Chuck Manson's Twin

When the Raiders beat
Mike, he freaks; you think, “Hey, that
dude looks familiar.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Deadspin Props

Raider Take is honored to have been chosen by Deadspin on November 8 as one of three blogs designated as "Blogdom's Best" for the Oakland Raiders. Deadspin is loaded with some of the best (and funniest) sports takes on the Web. Check it out at www.deadspin.com.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marketing The Raiders

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is dead wrong in his recent column about Oakland Raiders game attendance and related team marketing. He suggests that performance on the field is paramount and correlative to stadium sellouts, and that marketing is essentially meaningless in comparison. So how do you explain 62,000 in paid attendance at Ford Field to watch the Lions lose again on October 31? How do you explain 70,000 in paid attendance at M&T Bank Stadium to watch the Ravens lose again on November 6? In the parity-ridden NFL, in which today’s victor is tomorrow’s loser, no team can count on winning as its foundation for economic viability.

I’m not saying that winning doesn’t help, but it’s far from the whole enchilada. In fact, rooting for the underdog is a quintessentially American pastime—as is marketing. Thus, the potential of marketing should not be underestimated when it comes to the Oakland Raiders. The fact is that the average consumer appreciates and responds to good marketing. We expect a hard sell. We welcome a strong pitch. We love a great idea.

The great idea for the Raiders resides in growing the team's fan base, specifically in terms of game attendance. It resides in countering misperceptions about Raiders fans and the Coliseum experience while remaining true to the authenticity and intensity that define the Raider Nation. This is a fine line that will require some smart marketing.

Let me say this: Pretending that a Raiders game is all sugar and lollipops, as earlier advertising campaigns have implied, would be a mistake. However, the same old thing won’t work, either, as evidenced in the lack of sellouts, as well as in the ample anecdotal feedback from folks who confess to being scared to attend a Raiders game, or who are otherwise misinformed about what it means to be a Raiders fan. In this context, it is the marketing message, more than the marketing methods, that will pave the road to success.

At this point, you may be asking: Why should I care about all this? Here's why: In the wake of the recent decision to eliminate the Oakland Football Marketing Association and to turn ticketing and marketing matters over to the team, the marketing of the Oakland Raiders enters a new and crucial era—one that will likely determine whether or not you and your kids will be able to attend a Raiders game in Oakland six years from now.

Raiders fans are the finest and most dedicated fans in the NFL. We in the Raider Nation don’t need to worry about losing fans. But we do need to worry about adding fans and filling seats. The Coliseum lease is up in five years. The Raiders rank near the bottom in revenue in the NFL. The Raiders are a business. If you connect the dots, you will quickly see that if the team doesn’t become more economically viable by 2010, Oakland could find itself in the Raiders’ rear-view mirror.

We can’t count on a fancy new stadium to save the day (what's wrong with the Coliseum, anyway?). We probably can’t count on cheaper tickets, either. Winning is never assured in today’s NFL. So what’s left? Smart marketing, the kind of marketing that will open people’s eyes, that will tap into the greatness of the Raiders gameday experience and bring newcomers into the fold.

The best kept entertainment secret in the Bay Area is a day at the Coliseum, in the company of good people, in appreciation of a great team. It's time to let the secret out.

New Raiders DVD Released Today

The new two-disc Oakland Raiders Super Bowl DVDwas released today. Official description: "Relive the most celebrated moments from the Silver and Black's three Super Bowl conquests - From their thunderous trouncing of the NFC Champion Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI to their rowdy underdog triumph over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. This supercharged DVD features hours of exclusive game footage along with candid interviews and expert commentary from the most unforgettable figures inside the Raider huddle."

To purchase this DVD, click here

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Haiku: Raiders 23 / Chiefs 27

Karma on hold; is
Johnson invisible? Why?
You zebras still stink!!!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Kansas City or Bust

Before the Kansas City Chiefs came to town and rode blind zebras to victory, Raider Take dodged several arrows for calling their defense overrated. They’d beaten up the Jets during week one, and suddenly the media were flush with hype about the “new” Chiefs defense. Today, the Chiefs total defense ranks 29th in the NFL. Their pass defense ranks 31st.

I have a suggestion for a Chiefs team slogan: New but not improved!

Sunday's primary challenge for the Raiders, then, will not be scoring points, but rather stopping them. Moss is listed as "questionable" as of this writing, but Jordan, Porter and Gabriel should provide ample voltage for lighting up this “new” Chiefs defense.

On the other side of the ball, however, questions remain. Stopping the run was an issue against the Titans, as was stopping the tight ends. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Chiefs, specifically the tandem of Holmes and Gonzales. After Ms. Pac Man tore the Raiders up on kick returns last week, the idea of Dante Hall isn’t terribly appetizing, either.

There is probably no need to remind you that there is a lot on the line this Sunday...A step backward at this point could be lethal in terms of playoff hopes. That means no more complacent playcalling when possessing a lead. That means no more sure tackles missed. That means no more special teams breakdowns. The Raiders secondary may be relatively inexperienced, but the NFL doesn’t grade on a curve.

I predict that the Raiders will rise to the occasion. The offense will stay the course. The defense will tighten up. And they will smite and silence 79,000 cocky midwesterners to the tune of 31 to 20.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

News You Can't Use

Well, Raiders fans, it's time for more News You Can't Use...Don't blame me, I don't write this stuff.

In this edition, we have the following snippet from
this article in the Sacramento Bee: “I've never thought of Woodson as a tackler even in a theoretical sense, but he was a playmaker, the kind of guy who could make things happen. Have you ever known Al Davis to love anyone on the field more than a playmaker?”

Huh? Charles Woodson is not even a tackler in a “theoretical sense”? You might want to call up Tom Brady and Terrell Owens, among others, to test your theory. I think one can legitimately question Charles’ effort in certain instances, but how can you suggest that he's never tackled well? That’s exactly what sets Charles apart in a position populated by dainty prima donnas: his physical tackling. And what’s with the past tense: “was a playmaker”? He’s injured, not dead.

And that, Raiders fans, is news you can’t use.

P.S. That silly Al Davis, eh? He just loves “playmakers.” Other owners, they don’t like playmakers. They like guys who can theoretically tackle, like Phillip Buchanon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rest in Peace, Larry

The Raider Nation lost one of its own to a stray bullet on Sunday. I did not know Larry Gamez, but by all accounts he personified the typical Oakland Raiders fan: loyal, passionate and dedicated to his family. Kudos to John Vella of Vella’s Locker Room for honoring Larry and his family. May they all be comforted in the Lord.