The Reebok Raiders Coaches Jacketmakes a reprise as Gear of The Week because it’s now on sale for $39 (down from $65). This lightweight jacket gets style points for keeping it real, with the Raiders shield on the left chest, and the team name (in the actual authentic Raiders font) along the back in sparkling silver. In an era of NFL gear with screwy fonts and clownish designs, this one stands out from the crowd, and it will help you keep your Raiders allegiance loud and proud in the offseason.
Specs: 1/4-zip pullover with silver piping. Left side-seam vent with zipper. Textured micro polyester with nylon taffeta lining. Note that Reebok attire runs on the large side, so a size medium is akin to a large in many other brands. To purchase, click here.
Two weeks ago, I identified Pat Hill, head coach of the Fresno State Bulldogs, as a candidate to take the helm of the Oakland Raiders next year. A few readers promptly wrote to call me an idiot. Here’s a verbatim sampling: “Pat Hill coach of the Raiders? C’mon! Why not the local high school coach?...That’s why you’re the only person that brought up his name.”
I’d like to think that I was the first person to bring up Pat Hill’s name. Regardless, I’m not the last. In last week's edition of Sports Illustrated, Peter King ranks Pat Hill third in a list of “top 10 candidates for what should be between six and 10 vacancies” in the NFL after the 2005 season. He summarizes Hill as follows: “Former Bill Belichick assistant in Cleveland who has built an offensive powerhouse.”
Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle followed this week with an article entitled: “If Turner’s gone, who’s the next coach?” In it, she names Hill among the potential candidates: “Pat Hill, a former NFL offensive assistant in Baltimore and Cleveland who has been a huge success at Fresno State the past nine seasons, is certain to be considered. Then again, with so many potential NFL openings, Hill may be a top candidate for other franchises, ones that will offer more salary and endorsement riches.”
As before, I’m not saying that Pat Hill should be the next coach of the Raiders, just that he merits consideration.
I was going to write this yesterday, but I didn’t want to soil the Christmas spirit.
We in the Raider Nation deserve an explanation or a firing of our head coach. Not later, right now. We currently have a head coach who is unwilling or unable to execute a hurry-up offense. It is an inexcusable situation that demands immediate rectification. A message needs to be sent. I do not like to sound absolute or vengeful, especially when it comes to someone’s livelihood. But this is football, and the game needs to be played, and the Raiders aren’t playing it. Coach Turner, explain now or you’re fired.
That’s my take. Now, this blog has been blessed with very astute readers and commentators, people who bring a lot of football knowledge and insight to the table. That means you. Please, please enlighten me if I am off base about this hurry-up offense issue. This is a case in which I would love to be wrong, because if I am right, we have a situation that is nothing short of scandalous.
We saw it in the first Broncos game, the six-minute touchdown drive while three scores down in the waning minutes. We saw it in the second Chargers game, when even the ESPN announcers briefly awoke from their analytical coma to remark on the Raiders’ mystifying lack of urgency while three scores down with 10 minutes remaining. On Christmas eve, I decided I still had a life. I went out to run some errands, and while listening to KSFO, I heard Tom Flores express utter puzzlement as to why the Raiders weren’t running a two-minute offense toward the end of the fourth quarter against the Broncos.
So don’t take it from me, don’t take it from ESPN, take it from Raiders Super Bowl champion Tom Flores. What in the hell is going on? This is not football. It's a disgrace, this inability to enact urgency in the face of defeat, and thus to demonstrate any will to win. It is an affront not only to the Raider Nation, but to the game of football. Absent a decent explanation for this affront, the Raiders should have an interim head coach in charge by tomorrow morning. We need to start playing football next week, not next year. Notice needs to be served, to the players and the fans, that the Oakland Raiders organization never, ever quits. Starting next Sunday.
As a Raiders fan, you know that this is the time to be loud and proud. This is the time to wear your Raiders gear with even more poise, when the chips are down, when the bandwagon is in the ditch and there’s nowhere to go but up. Yes, old ladies may swing their canes at you and call you a loser. Yes, children may point at you and shake their heads. Let them mock, because the Raiders, and us along with them, will soon rise up to smite them all.
So now that you’ve taken care of everyone else for Christmas, it’s time for Santa Claus to load you with Raiders gear. According to reports from the North Pole, here’s what’s hot: 1. The Raiders Tackle Twill Fleece Crew says it all, up front and in your face. It is a constructed fleece crew with color blocked inset panels and three-layer center front tackle twill shield logo with embroidery. Cost: $40.95
2. Stay warm and look cool this winter with the Raiders Coaches Heavyweight Jacket, which features front zippered pockets, an expandable utility pocket, and an embroidered shield logo at left chest. Cost: $88.00
3. Al Davis has lost his touch. He hasn’t done anything in 20 years. He’s…Wait, I just discovered this covert DVD called Silver & Black Forever: The Story of the 2002 Oakland Raiders. According to this DVD, the Raiders recently won the AFC West three straight seasons and went to the Super Bowl. This is an essential classic for your archives. Cost: 11.99
Last year, the New York Giants players were upset because new head coach Tom Coughlin was busting their chops. They cried and gnashed their teeth, but they eventually learned to deal with the hardship of getting to their team meetings on time. Now look at them. Looks like the chop busting did them some good (along with the maturation of Eli Manning, of course).
Several weeks ago, I heard Barry Sims on Sirius radio. He said that he liked Coach Turner better than Gruden and Callahan because Coach Turner is more approachable. That’s nice. Maybe Barry can approach Norv and explain exactly why he has turned into a pillar of salt this year.
My gut tells me that fear is a better motivator than approachability. Holmgren, Belichik, Coughlin, Shanahan, Parcells…These are guys you probably approach with caution. There are exceptions, like Dungy, but I’ll put my money on the rule, not the exception.
Which brings me to my take...There are rumblings that the Raiders players would like a reprise of Coach Turner. Maybe they, like Sims, appreciate his approachability. And there are those in the Raider Nation who are wavering, knowing that change is now essential, but unsure if yet another spin on the coaching carousel is necessary.
As I've said before, this is my take: 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. Does Coach Turner really give you that “great things are just around the corner” vibe?
When I scroll through my postgame takes for the year, I am reminded of instance after instance of spineless time management. When I read about the need for a “Norv Turner Translator” in a hilarious take at RaiderNews.com, I am reminded of Coach Turner saying that Kerry Collins "made good decisions" in the third quarter of the second Chargers game, after Collins didn’t complete a single pass in the third quarter. Do effective leaders talk like this?
At some point, the analysis and excuses must give way to the cold reality of performance. You either do it or you don’t, and Coach Turner hasn’t done it. Look at our record against division rivals over the past two years. Look at our record, period. Look at our offense, spinning its wheels in the proverbial ditch. I don't want to pile on for the sake of piling on, and I don't intend this to be a personal attack. But I ask: On what basis can we be optimistic about things improving next year with Coach Turner at the helm?
Several weeks ago, I wrote about Larry Gamez, a loyal Raiders fan who was killed by a stray bullet. I never met Larry, but those who knew him well, the Raider Raza, have paid eloquent tribute to him (and the Raider Nation), which I copy here to help spread the word:
“Larry was known in the Black Hole as Raider Man and many fans have shook his hand, took pictures with him and rooted for the Raiders with him. His passion was dressing up and coming to the Raider games. Unfortunately, Larry had a mental disorder that prevented him from being accepted in mainstream society, but here in the Raider Nation he felt free, adored and accepted. I think it says a lot about the Raider Nation to embrace someone unconditionally with love and camaraderie…The media like to talk s*** about the Raider fans but they don’t mention that the Raider games are full of camaraderie, passion, and friends. I challenge anyone who has heard the media B.S. to put on a black jersey and come to a game and see how many friends you make. RIP Larry you will be missed...”
1. The Raiders are giving me writer’s block. It's hard to rewrite the same old story. Here’s my first draft: Uninspired coaching…blah, blah, blah…zero magic at quarterback…blah, blah, blah…stupid penalties…blah, blah, blah…evil zebras…blah, blah, blah…other team’s kicker never misses the game winner…blah, blah, blah.
2. Remember all the hand wringing about Tui’s “awful” performance a week ago? Remember Collins getting upset about his benching, saying he still gave the Raiders the best chance to win? Remember Coach Turner flip-flopping and reinstating Collins? Here you go:
Collins against Browns at home: 14 of 32 for 132 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT
Tui against Jets on road: 14 of 26 for 124 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT
Note that the Jets’ pass rush was fiercer, and that Tui threw a surefire TD pass that bounced off the chest of an armless Alvis Whitted. If indeed it was Coach Turner’s call to start Collins, then I would have welcomed an intervention by Mr. Davis. Why let a coach who won’t be here next year possibly hinder our future by starting a QB who also won’t be here? Let’s see what we really have in the wings at QB, to help calibrate our QB needs for the offseason. Now it sounds like Collins will start against the Broncos. I guess I can’t argue with that. Now that we’ve missed this opportunity to get Tui more snaps, and into more of a comfort zone, against the Browns at home, it’s hard to say we should throw him to the wolves in Denver. Another loss, and another opportunity missed. Tui deserved a better game plan against the Jets, and he deserved a second chance against the Browns. But as Jerry Porter once said, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, then every day would be Christmas.”
3. I don’t need to praise the defense. It goes without saying. These guys are bringing it and keeping things close. Bravo! The inability of this offense to score is verging on cosmic. LaMont Jordan has a big day, you’ve got Randy Moss on one side and Jerry Porter on the other, against the Browns at home, and you get seven points. Yes, Janikowski is a disaster. But this offense wasn’t built for field goals. Turns out we really need them, but that’s not the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is this inability to score touchdowns. We know what we need to know about the offensive line, the quarterback and coaching. But is Randy Moss remotely culpable in his own invisibility? I keep hearing that he is the model citizen. Fine, but is he a model player right now? Yes, I saw the touchdown (it was his lone reception for the day). Yes, I know about the injury. Terrell Owens was injured during the Super Bowl, but he was far from invisible. Maybe it’s all on Collins and the game planning. I don’t know. All I know is that when a superstar (not a mere star, a superstar) becomes ordinary overnight, when he ranks 25th in the NFL in receiving yards, barely 20 yards more than tight end Alge Crumpler of the Falcons, when he’s not even in the top 30 for receptions, you have something truly extraordinary going on. If none of it is Randy’s fault, then we have a breakdown of scandalous proportions.
Why am I reading more “Al Davis Must Go” columns than “Dr. York Must Go” columns these days? Why is this? Yes, Dr. York has had his share of bad press, but Mr. Davis – three rings and five Super Bowl berths over five decades – is the one being asked to step aside. Click here for the latest example.
In fairness, I must note that much of the media scrutiny revolves not around Mr. Davis as a mere owner such as Dr. York, but as a true football man who exerts his presence on the team from top to bottom, right down to teaching technique on the field. But watch the 49ers and tell me this: do you not see Dr. York’s fingerprints all over that team from top to bottom as well? It looks like they could use Mr. Davis to teach them some technique.
The interesting twist is that, if you read the comments on this blog or visit the chatrooms, you will see that there are many in the increasingly restless Raider Nation who also feel that Mr. Davis should step out of the way. These are loyal and informed Raiders fans who have come to the conclusion that the best thing for the Raiders would be for Mr. Davis to hire a true general manager and to bring in a proven coach with promises of ultimate authority and independence. It is their collective voice, not the media’s, that brings credibility to the argument.
I don’t want to get into all the speculation about what goes on upstairs in Alameda, and how it filters downstairs, through the coaching staff and onto the field. There is plenty of that elsewhere. It's no secret: I love Al Davis. That is my bias, and I’m not hiding from it.
The above referenced article cites Dan Snyder and Mike Brown, by comparison, as owners who have gained by letting go…My question: Who are you to compare the likes of Dan Snyder and Mike Brown to Mr. Davis? That's like comparing Bugs Bunny to Winston Churchill. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Al Davis is the only person to have served pro football in such varied capacities as (1) a player personnel assistant, (2) an assistant coach, (3) a head coach, (4) a general manager, (5) a league commissioner and (6) the principal owner and chief executive officer of an NFL team.
If that doesn’t buy a guy a break, then how about five Super Bowl berths in four separate decades, including the 2000s?
But let me pose something else, something that some may view as heresy: it’s not all about winning. Hear me out…Why are you a Raiders fan? Is it because you love the bandwagon of three Super Bowl rings? Of course not. It is the means to the end that ultimately differentiates the Oakland Raiders from other teams, and their fans from other fans. And the essence of that means is Mr. Davis, and the legacy, authenticity and uniqueness that he brings to this team. Is there anything remotely like it in the NFL? Yes, we want to win. But win or lose, we are the Raiders. When you see yet another of these billionaire wannabes sitting in their skyboxes, these new-money owners high-fiving their wives as “their” team scores a touchdown, aren’t you proud that your team has a Hall of Famer in charge, with the credentials and cojones to stand above and apart?
Before you kick Mr. Davis to the curb, consider the alternate reality of the Oakland Raiders without his dominating presence through the decades, including this one. Consider not just the past three seasons, but the past six seasons. Consider the hope that he brings to us each year by reloading, when necessary, instead of pinching pennies.
If that comes with some meddling, then so be it. If that’s Al Davis being Al Davis, that’s fine with me. I’ll take him over anyone else.
P.S. For another like-minded take on this subject, click here to view a great article by Stick 'Em on RaiderNews.com.
P.P.S. For another like-minded take on this subject, listen to the latest Raider Nation Podcast by Raider Greg.
The silver and black lining is that the future is now. Speculation blooms anew. Just when you were getting terminally bored with defenders blowing through our line and crushing our quarterback, just when you would rather wash your eyes out with battery acid than watch another Janikowski kick go wide left, just when you started having nightmares of Brooks Bollinger being elected to the Hall of Fame, a new obsession puts down roots. I’m talking, of course, about the 2006 season. Thus, I present the Next Raiders Coach sweepstakes. There’s not enough room, time or insider knowledge here for me to audition every coordinator-in-waiting. I will stick with some potentially available name brands, along with the good and the bad of conventional wisdom, and let you fill in the blanks in the comments section. Let the speculation begin:
Mike Martz – Good: brilliant tactician, keeper of the “greatest show on turf” flame. Bad: crackpot professor with a penchant for bizarre game-losing decisions.
Brian Billick - Good: proven on both offense and defense (although not simultaneously), cocky in a good way. Bad: Overrated, a failure on offense and defense, cocky in a bad way.
Steve Mariucci – Good: an upbeat motivator, a proven winner with the 49ers, it’s easier to turn water into wine than Matt Millen’s Lions into winners. Bad: A classic 49er down to the haircut, a rah-rah guy better suited for the college game, already failed to turn one team around
Jeff Fisher – Good: a fiery leader, he led the Titans to the Super Bowl. Bad: that was then, this is now.
Dom Capers – Good: he took an expansion team to unanticipated heights. Bad: he took an expansion team to unanticipated lows.
Dan Reeves – Good: old school, tried and true, respectable and respected. Bad: Broncos, Falcons, Zocor and heir apparent to Dom Capers in Texas.
Jim Fassel – Good: the perfect guy to lead the Kerry Collins revival; Bad: Kerry Collins won’t be here to revive.
Mike Ditka – Just kidding…
And the winner is…Pat Hill, head coach of the Fresno State Bulldogs? The dude has a compelling track record in Fresno, which includes nearly toppling the USC Trojans this year. Hill’s coaching career spans 30 years. He has NFL coaching experience. Here’s how Fresno State’s athletic director describes Hill: "He's not a UCLA kind of guy. He's a good fit here. He's a blue-collar guy. He can be gruff and he speaks his mind.'' In other words, he’s a Raider, not a 49er. If it’s true that the Raiders head coaching job is considered radioactive by proven NFL coaches with multiple suitors (which is still hard for me to believe...but Denny Green did choose Arizona over Oakland), then Pat Hill might be a worthy unproven commodity. Of course, there may be better jewels to be mined in the ranks of NFL coordinators, and Pat Hill does have his detractors, but I believe that this Bulldog from the Central Valley merits consideration.
1. The stabbing pain between my spleen and kidney has returned, courtesy of a drubbing by the Jets, who came into the game as the lowest scoring offense in the NFL, with a .200 winning percentage, and without their star running back, who could be considered their only true threat. This effort, or lack thereof, does not merit my usual five postgame takes. I’m not even going to try to be clever. Why are we playing 10 yards off the Jets receivers in the first quarter? Suddenly, Brooks Bollinger is a threat? If not, let’s make him one, I guess. He sets a Jets record for rushing by a QB. He steadily moves the chains. He’s Fran Tarkenton for a day. LaMont Jordan is pissed that he didn’t get more carries, and he’s got a very good point. However, while I don’t question LaMont’s heart, I do question his execution over the past several games. Don’t tell me, show me. Lechler suddenly has Janikowski disease. The offensive line should be embarrassed. So you think Tui had a horrible game? Fine. I’m just glad he’s alive to tell about it. Consider this: Tui put as much points on the board as Collins did last week against the Chargers, against an even fiercer pass rush, so I’m totally content with the decision to start him. The one thing the Jets have done well this year is defend the pass, so I’m not surprised that Tui had a rough day, considering his inexperience. Why is Alvis Whitted playing without arms? The Coach Turner era ended yesterday. You can’t reload in the offseason, then regress during the season. This isn’t Arizona. I have said over and over again that this coaching staff is guilty of poor time management and wimpy playcalling. More evidence: the extra point instead of the two-point conversion in the 4th quarter, which defied all mathematical, logistical and spiritual reasoning. Coach Turner was supposed to be an offensive virtuoso, and he is now presiding over a train wreck. He has done the impossible, which is to make Randy Moss invisible. I know that we have injuries on both sides of the ball, but the sloppiness, penalties and questionable overall effort speak to a much larger problem, one that is dangerously close to becoming systemic. For that reason alone, change is in order. Return to Glory: derailed.
Here amid the twilight of a third straight losing campaign, I am getting a bit sentimental. So I consulted my Raiders library and pulled an old one from the shelf: Oakland’s Raiders: Fireworks and Fury published in 1973.
Inside, I was delighted to rediscover the most magnificent photo of Ben Davidson beheading Joe Namath. If this photo doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will.
I don’t want to fan any flames of hostility toward Coach Turner or Kerry Collins, but I cannot resist posting the following observation…
In the aftermath of the Chargers game, while tipping his hand toward Tui yet still defending Kerry Collins, Coach Turner said the following about Collins: "In the third quarter, he was making good decisions. He gets a ball batted down, he gets hit as he's getting ready to throw a ball that would have been a 20-yard completion.''
Again, this isn’t to mock Coach Turner. Whether it’s uttered by Coach Turner or Prince Charles, it is simply an astonishing quote, considering the evidence:
Raiders’ total time of possession in the third quarter: one minute and 29 seconds.
Collins’ stats for the third quarter: five passes, zero completions for zero yards.
It’s one thing to be polite and not call Kerry Collins awful. But what is it with this continued irrational praise? Kerry Collins himself won’t tell you he’s played great, but everyone else will. Just this week, one local sportswriter claimed that Collins “regained his early season form Sunday night.” It was meant as a compliment, but if one touchdown qualifies as regaining your form, then you are in deep trouble. Indeed, regaining his form lost Collins his job.
Apparently, Kerry Collins is the best quarterback ever…to be benched.
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle is apparently making a cottage industry out of personally attacking the Oakland Raiders. In two columns on successive days (click here and here to read them), Mr. Ratto has teed off on the Oakland Raiders organization and the Raider Nation with considerable glee.
Now, before I am miscast as a "thin-skinned Raiders fan,” let me clarify something: this take is about journalism, not about circling the wagons as a Raiders fan (although being a Raiders loyalist does shade my perspective). Additionally, I concede that a columnist necessarily has the liberty and license to venture beyond the boundaries of mere reporting. Within that context, however, it is still bush league for a columnist to become a cheap-shot artist and a one-trick pony.
But Ratto's worst offense of all is so many words wasted with so little substance, like snowflakes that melt upon contact. If you are reading his columns and scratching your head, you are not alone. Thus, I have developed the following “Guide to Navigating Ray Ratto’s Columns.” Yes, I did say that News You Can’t Use is not intended for personal attacks on sportswriters, but the Raider Nation didn’t pick this fight. So here goes:
“The Raiders should be many things, but tedious isn't one of them. They came to San Diego without much chance to win, but they failed even to entertain, which is not at all the point.”
Keep an eye out for unintentional haiku. Intentional haiku is good. Unintentional haiku is unintelligible and should be disregarded.
ABSTRACT MEANINGLESS REFERENCES
“What we have here, you see, is another classic Raider example of what Strother Martin used to call "a fail-yer to co-MYOO-nicate." They're answering questions you didn't ask, and not answering questions you did. It's sort of like letting the weekend manager at Arby's edit an episode of Jeopardy.”
Does anyone know what this means? When you see the words “Strother Martin” and “weekend manager at Arby’s” in a column about the Oakland Raiders, you know that the author is just conjuring smoke and mirrors in order to meet a word count quota. Disregard all abstract meaningless references. If you are going to learn a second language, learn something productive like Spanish or Russian, not Ratto.
"Of course, this doesn't concern you, the average Raider fan. You have always held fast to the notion that you can swear at the players, but nobody else can, and you should stay with that. It provides comfort and safety at times like these, when the baying wolves are giving it to you at the corner tavern, on the loading dock or wherever you happen to be."
“Well, so far, the loyal Raider Nation (at least those folks who have not emigrated to USC Nation, or Warrior Nation, or Law & Order Nation) have located their principal scapegoats, and they are Collins and Turner.”
Literary Pyrotechnics are a close cousin to Abstract Meaningless References. They cloak gross generalizations and illegitimate reasoning within a tone of authority and certainty. Baying wolves and Law & Order…Wow, he must be right! Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little literary flair. But when style becomes the entrée instead of the seasoning, you have a problem. Flair is okay, but pyrotechnics should be disregarded.
Now that we have carefully edited Mr. Ratto’s columns, let’s look at what we have left: “The…and…to...Raiders...at…they...be.”
1. It’s official: the 2005 Oakland Raiders are not better than their record indicates.
2. I was coming unglued when the Raiders offense was huddling up, strolling to the line of scrimmage, and letting the play clock run down to five seconds while three scores down with 10 minutes remaining. Finally, one of the ESPN announcers pointed out the lack of urgency, only to have his partner say: “This is a 4 and 7 football team, and what Norv Turner is trying to do is just get some completions.” Oddly, this comment was meant as praise. I didn’t know that ESPN broadcasted team practices on Sunday nights. If that’s all Coach Turner was trying to do in that situation, then we have a problem. If that’s not what he was trying to do, then we also have a problem, because the lack of urgency would thus be unacceptable. Conclusion: we have a problem.
3. The Raiders left two timeouts untaken before halftime on Sunday night. Let’s have a look at that…With 1:58 left in the second quarter at the Raiders’ 16-yard line, the Chargers ran the ball. The Chargers executed two more plays, taking the clock steadily down to 22 seconds before calling their first timeout (meantime, the Raiders still had all three timeouts available at this point) to set up a final play for a touchdown. Now, why do you think that the Chargers weren’t using their timeouts before scoring? Because they didn’t want the Raiders to get the ball back with time to score. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the counter strategy should be, right? Yet the Raiders didn’t take a timeout until after the ensuing kickoff, with just four seconds left, to set up a hopeless try for a 61-yard field goal. Poor time management and wimpy playcalling has become epidemic under Coach Turner.
4. In defending the decision to stick with Kerry Collins this week, Coach Turner stated the following: “We're going to do everything we can to give ourselves the best chance to win that football game.” I submit that Marques Tuiasosopo would have given the Raiders the best chance to win the game, if not as the starter, then certainly later in the game. Now, before we get sidetracked into the whole offensive line debate, let me say this: the porous offensive line is simply a fact at this moment, one with no remedy in sight. In that context, Kerry Collins is becoming less and less effective, regressing into downright dismal over the last few games. Could the Raiders do any worse, or possibly much better, with a fresh and mobile Tui taking some snaps? If it’s about winning the game, why is this option still unexplored?
5. Sorry to be so negative (another crushing defeat to a division rival tends to do that…). Let’s look around for some upside. Call me nuts, but I was happy to see the Raiders contain LaDainian Tomlinson, even in defeat. If he had just run rampant over us yet again, this loss would have been all the more demoralizing. Let’s see…Zack Crockett. I still love Zack. I’m glad to know that he hasn’t been abducted by aliens, as I was beginning to wonder. With LaMont Jordan hesitating in the backfield and dropping some easy passes lately, I think it’s time to get serious about getting Zack more touches. The defense gave up 27 points and made some mistakes. But on that side of the ball, the game looks worse on paper than it really was (the offense sure didn’t help them out). I think that the defense continues to show poise and purpose and potential, which could mean great things in 2006.
If you are like me, you are going to get physically ill if you see LaDainian Tomlinson run over the Raiders tonight.
Much is being made about Tomlinson salivating over the matchup, because his numbers in nine career games against the Raiders are indeed extraordinary. However, I don’t really care at this point what Tomlinson did against Gruden’s or Callahan’s teams. I care about what he’s done to this team.
During last year’s first divisional matchup, Tomlinson was slowed by a groin injury. Over the last two matchups against the Raiders, however, he has rushed for 304 yards and scored four touchdowns. He got wide open in the first quarter this year for a 35-yard touchdown reception. He even threw the ball for a score. Do you see a pattern emerging?
Job number one tonight is to win. But I submit that there is a second job tonight: don’t let L.T. beat us. I don’t mean that as the typical cliché. I mean it as a crusade, as a non-negotiable requirement. Let Brees, Gates or McCardell try to beat us. But pour any and all available resources into tracking and stuffing L.T. No more losing track of him. No more half-assed tackling. We need this moral victory in addition to true victory. We need to give this division rival something to think about for next year. We need to sow some seeds of doubt by downshifting their favorite weapon from automatic to neutral. We need to set the table for 2006, to show we can adjust, perform and at least execute a game plan that, win or lose, will spare us the embarrassment of another LaDainian Tomlinson spectacle.
I consider it a privilege to belong to a Raider Nation that extends across the country, and around the world. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to attend a home game in Oakland, I present the following picture in words, a narrative of gameday at the Oakland Coliseum through the lens of last Sunday:
You are northbound on Interstate 880, past box stores and warehouses and intermittent suburbia. The morning air is cold and crisp. Just recently, the California coast was enjoying record high temperatures. But last night, the chill ran deep, and it lingers still. The sky is riddled with metallic clouds that shatter the sunlight into a brooding haze. It’s time for Raiders football.
The Coliseum looms as you approach the Hegenberger Road exit. You take the next exit at 66th Avenue (for which the famed mob is named). You continue north along the frontage road, squeezed between 880 and chicken wire fencing until you hit 66th. You turn right, then take an immediate right into the parking lot, which is filling up fast. The smoke of barbecues merges with the autumn haze.
You are in the north lot. Your neighbor to the left is a father playing catch with his son. To your right is a guy grabbing bootleg Raiders tee shirts out of his van. He will soon make the rounds, selling them for ten bucks a pop. The shirts say: Raider Nation - Get a Win or Die Tryin'. You are his first customer. It’s not too cold, nor too early, for a beer. Down comes your tailgate. By 11 a.m., the sky has brightened a bit, the temperature has risen slightly. You take a walk. The air is a cacophony of random noise—laughter, music, NFL television and radio broadcasts, and a motorcycle cop hamming it up over his loudspeaker. You hear salsa, rap, heavy metal and The Autumn Wind. Every color is representing in silver and black. Here, diversity isn’t a concept, an agenda or a piece of legislation. It is simply a way of life.
You pass an SUV with a DirectTV dish mounted to a tripod on its roof. The dish is wired into a large flat screen television that is propped in the back of the vehicle. A group of diehards huddles around the picture, rooting for the Titans to crush the 49ers. You pass between the Coliseum and the Arena (home to the NBA's Warriors) toward the south lot. You see a couple and their young child, who is dressed in pajamas and a Darth Vader helmet with a Raiders shield sticker on the side. In the south lot, you run into Greg and Randy of Raider Nation Podcast. In the nearby RV lot, you navigate dozens of rigs decorated to the hilt in Raiders logos, colors and slogans. Here, you find the legendary Raider RV, where AllyOop of RaiderNews.com and her family enjoy a serious tailgate.
Kickoff is approaching. On your way back to the north entrance, along a median that divides the east and west portions of the north lot, you pass an asphalt dance floor, where Gorilla Rilla is grooving with the ladies. Then, as you enter the stadium, you hear it: Raaaai-Derrrs! Raaaai-Derrrs! It is the impromptu fight song of the Raider Nation, as reliable as sunrise, echoing through the halls of the Coliseum. Everyone in unison: Raaaai-Derrrs! Now you know you are alive.
The halls are jammed but people are cool. You find your section, and enter the stadium. The field unfolds before your eyes, a beautiful velvet of green and black. For some reason, despite its size, the Coliseum feels intimate as you descend toward your seat. You stand where some of the greatest games in history have unfolded, home to some of the greatest players ever. For better or for worse, this game will also go down in history as one of only eight home games during the 2005 regular season. Soon, the Raiderettes sparkle in two parallel lines from the Black Hole toward midfield. The opening gong of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” rattles the house. The place goes literally off the hook. You can’t even hear yourself screaming as the Raiders’ starters are introduced. Even if you are not here, you are here—watching on television from Seattle to New Jersey, or keeping score via the Internet from Italy. This is why you come, win or lose. This is why you belong. This is why you believe. This is the Raider Nation.
After a game like this recent one, you can be forgiven for seeking solace in memories of past glories. Thus, I am selecting Stadium Stories: Oakland Raidersas my Gear of The Week.
This small 200-page book artfully recaps the legendary games and players that comprise the lore of the Oakland Raiders. It is written by Tom LaMarre, who was a Raiders beat writer for the Oakland Tribune during the 1970s. The general lack of historic Raiders literature makes this book all the more essential. It costs just $9.95—a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite Raiders fan (including yourself).