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?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally think it's good that Randy is not talking. We all know what happens when "once in a blue moon" opens his mouth. Kerry Collins is not the qb of the future. His stats aren't bad, but he's not a true leader. And he can't throw the fade pattern. Moss could have at least 4 more TDs, and we would have 2 more wins if he could throw a decent lob to the corner of the endzone. WTF? I'm not a huge fan of Turner, but I don't think changing coaches every other year is going to do anything for us. If he can get us 7-9 wins this year, I say lets stay with him for another year.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Turner and Collins must become memories to Raider Take. Turner is a proven loser which begs to ask why he got the job. Collins has that deer in the headlights look which can't spell leader in any language. Passing over Tui for Collins was bad. Tui deserved to a chance to lose the job or have a chance to run the show. if you are in a losing season as it seems to be, find out what the guy has to offer. But really we need a coach!

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Collins and Turner are definitly not the future of the RAIDERS. Big AL (genius?)not anymore,needs to wake-up if we lose to ddddenver Sunday and fire Norve now,bench Kerry boy and hire ART SHELL and Willy Shaw. He needs to put in Andrew Walter, who by the way has a better arm and can move out of the pocket and keep plays alive. Look I want to stay positive(I've a die hard RAIDER fan since 1967)but we can't make it very far into the play-offs, even if we do make with Kerry boy. I say SHELL and SHAW. They can mold the group of promising young we have into a force for next year. Please Al read this.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Wow, I ought to ask more questions around these parts...Thanks to all for the great response! Collating the comments and emails so far, here's the consensus:

1. Randy, keep tending that Zen garden.
2. Kerry, you might want to spiff up your resume.
3. Coach Turner, you are losing the majority.

These are just the polls right now, the voting period is not over, keep the takes coming!

10:11 AM  
Blogger js said...

On question 1:

I wouldn't worry about Moss's shyness with the press. He wasn't that chatty through training camp and pre-season either. His play on the field is what counts to me, and he's looked driven, even though he's injured. He makes key catches and throws downfield blocks in the running game. We have problems, but the only ones we have with Moss are his groin and his ribs. Maybe Marvin Harrison, in addition to being his fabulous self, has also possessed Mr. Moss. Let's count ourselves lucky.

Question 2:

Roethlisberger may not be the fairest point of comparison. He developed unexpectedly fast in a system built to protect him and simplify his reads. A better comparison is probably Eli Manning, the man who replaced Collins in NYC. Last year Manning looked confused and nervous, as Collins did with the Raiders. But this year, Manning has gone nuts, getting the most out of his weapons and quickly becoming a team leader.

Collins, however, just hasn't found a consistent rhythm in this offense. With the playmakers surrounding him, the Raiders should regularly score more than thirty points. But defenses seem to be on to him. They know that he can't handle the pass rush very well. They know he lacks mobility and the vision to make multiple reads, so they don't feel obliged to defend the whole field. Teams have learned to fear Eli Manning. I don't think they fear Kerry Collins, and I doubt they ever will.

As for the Tui/Walter riddle, it seems simple to me. Walter hasn't shown enough on the practice field to displace Tui on the depth chart. During training camp I recall an episode where Turner was dogging the boy because on consecutive plays Walter fumbled the snap. My guess is that Andrew Walter is like most rookies, a dish that needs time to cook. Even first rounders only start at about a 50% rate in the NFL within their first five years, indicating just how different good in college is from good in the show. (Remember that Rick Mirer, our #3 quarterback in '02-'03, was once the second overall pick in the draft and, supposedly, the second coming of Joe Montana.)

I have a little rooting interest here. Tui was awfully fun to watch when he played up here for the Huskies. If a risk-taking QB is your thing, Tui's a blast, right up until your heart attack. (He usually won.)

Question #3:

Because I went on so long about the QB position, I'll keep it short for Turner. I doubt Turner will be fired before the end of the year. The only time Davis did that was with Shanahan, and that was because the team had already turned on Shanahan and Davis felt comfortable with Art Shell as a successor. I also doubt that Davis will say to Turner "playoffs or bust" this year. If the team can make it to 8-8 or 9-7, that should be enough to buy Turner another season. Anything less is going to be trouble.

Question Four:

Profound realist. When your team has gone 12-28 in the last two-and-a-half years, deep sobriety is the proper tone to strike.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Randy Moss quit talking to the media after he and his lawyer decided that the HBO weed smoking issue had ruined Moss' faith in the media. Moss is just too honest to be media savvy and has only now realized all the mediots want to do is create controversey.

2. Collins is not the Raider QB of the future. No, Kerry hasn't thrown many picks this year, but the offense he can run efficiently is rather limited. Let's see...7 step drop and throw the sideline out. Repeat. What happened to the intermediate routes over the middle to the WR or TEs? The Raiders fail to move the chains far too often because all Kerry can seem to do well is throw long to Moss or screen to Jordan.

3. Norv is the coach unless he loses the players. He has lost far too many games, but as long as the players have heart and play with passion (which they have done other than vs. SD) Norv will probably stay a while longer.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

JS steps up as the only one to tackle Riddle #4 so far! Stick ‘Em piles on with a “no vote” for Collins (and makes a great point about Moss)!

If Collins is the QB of the future, than the riddle is already solved. Onward and upward.

If Collins isn’t the QB of the future, that’s where the riddle gets a bit complicated (JS, you say it’s simple, but I’m not clear on your conclusion, particularly as it pertains to the following questions…). If you can’t fathom building your future on the guy, and you’re on the downslope of what looks to be your third straight losing season, when do you begin the process of moving on—now or later?

And if your QB of the future is on your team, and not the upcoming free agent market, who is it—Tui or Walter? If it’s Tui, then that part of the riddle is solved, and he's your post-Collins starter.
But if it’s Walter, then why intervene with Tui for spell? Why not just get on with it?

5:03 PM  
Blogger js said...

I'm sorry. All I was trying to do was explain why it was Tui was higher on the depth chart than Walter at the moment. The question of the future at the QB position rests on many more ifs, some of which we can only speculate about.

When do you decide that the season is over and its time to bag Collins? A part of that question for Turner is just how much job security does he have? If the axe is poised above Turner neck, and Davis is demanding at least eight wins to keep it from falling, it would be hard for Turner to start either Tui or Walter because neither QB appears likely to provide an instant lift. (Remember, as limited as we find Collins to be, neither Tui nor Walter could dislodge him in camp or in preseason.) Starting either of them would be a gesture toward the future, and Turner would have to be reasonably sure he had a future before he made any moves.

As to choosing between Tui and Walter, our trouble is that we don't get to see them in practice and have, at best, a limited sense of their capabilities. Whether Turner has a better sense of them or not is hard to say. All we can gather from the evidence is that Tui has been more impressive in practice than Walter has, hence his chart position. That's the part that's simple to work out.

Whether Tui or Walter is the future is another matter altogether. Neither of them can claim the title of presumptive starter. Neither one was first round pick, and neither has had a chance yet to put up head-turning numbers in the pro game. Their college numbers tell us that they were both able to shred Pac-10 defenses. So what? Ryan Leaf could shred Pac-10 defenses. I think he was mowing the lawn at my apartment complex today.

We might find our future Stabler in Tui or Walter, or their fight for the top spot could wind up being like the epic 1989 battle that pitted Steve Buerelein against Jay "Kerry Collins Looks A Lot Like Me" Schroeder. If it's the latter case, neither of them is the future, and we have to look elsewhere. We won't know which until we see them on the field against actual defenses over the course of a few games. That's why, if we drop to 3-7 over the next two weeks, we would be well advised to use the last six games of the season to evaluate one or both of these guys.

My guess is that Tui, who is second in the depth chart and who's been studying behind both Gannon and Collins for four years, will get first crack. Being the fifth overall pick in the thrid round doesn't earn Walter anything more than he has right now--a shot at developing. If Walter can't outperform Tui in practice, then he shouldn't start ahead of him.

If Tui can give the offense a spark, the job could be his. If Tui's unimpressive, Walter may get a shot next year, or the Raiders could make a play to pry Philip Rivers or Drew Brees out of San Diego. We can only hope that we won't be in a position to grab Matt Leinart in the draft. (I say hope because I'd rather not live in a cloud of despair for the next eight weeks. If it came to that, all I can say is I think the kid would look good in silver and black. Though it should be said that it would really suck if we drafted Leinart and he turned out to be a bust.)

So, quaketown, I'd love to give you a conclusion, but how things would shake out if Collins were benched is beyond my power to predict. What we know is that we have a starter who is underperforming, and two backups with the potential to succeed in his place. If Collins goes down, I'll be just as curious as you to see how the story ends.

Right now, I hope Collins pulls it together and upsets the Broncos. What I'd love most of all right now is for Collins to prove me and all his other skeptics wrong, go 8-0 to put us in the playoffs, and grab himself a nice MVP award in the process. I don't think that'll happen, but it is what I'd like.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

JS delivers! Your articulation of the Collins riddle, and how it's intertwined with the Turner riddle, is very intriguing.

As you say, as you are not privvy to the practice field, you can only guess at certain things, in terms of how Tui or Walter might be progressing. The team itself, however, should have a better idea, and you have to wonder it's causing them to burn a little extra midnight oil upstairs in Alameda.

(They brought in Collins before Gannon was down, so we can presume that, as late as early last year, they weren't counting on Tui as their QB of the future).

8:27 AM  
Blogger Doobie said...

Have the Raiders really ever *had* a legitimate "QB of the future" since Kenny Stabler? I mean, you had your experiment with Marinovich and that horrible period with Marc Wilson, but like most other positions, the Raiders lean on veterans. Especially the QB position, where the most notable QBs since Stabler have been Plunkett, Hostetler, George and Gannon...all people in their 30s when they played for the Raiders.

I think the key here is not to look to Walter or Tui, but to look at other strong armed QBs around the league who are falling out of favor with their current teams. *Those* QBs will be the future of the Raiders.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What riddle?

Collins can't play - FACT.

Tui is five years in and shown next to nothing to coaches on or off the field.

Walter has a lot more potential than Tui, and a much better 'skill set' than either KFC or MT.

The only riddle is do we get some of rookie errors out of the way now, or wait till next season?

If NT had actually had the brain to commit to the run and simplify the offense (if that's not a misnomer) then how are we going to lose more games, or any games that matter with AW than with 'Collins overthrows?'

If he's nowhere near ready, then let Tui have some fun and get himself a backup contract for next season if that's what he wants.

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One Raiderholic's answer to riddle number four:

Some people see the glass as half empty...

To others, same glass says "half full."

I say, "Get outta da way."

"Just give me the d@mn glass, you fool!"

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck Kerry Kollins he is making too many mistakes the raiders will never make it to the play offs ever again if hes the qb if Brett Favre was the RAIDERS qb they would be undefeated I think the raiders should draft Marquse Vick next year and then they could probably make it to the super bowl and win another championship

9:12 PM  

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