Friday, August 04, 2006

Buckle Up, Raider Nation

The knock on the Raiders has long been that they are living in the past, that they are outmoded, and that Al Davis has lost his touch. The groupthink prescription for this alleged affliction (which mysteriously abated from 2000 through 2002, a fact that has been expunged from the history books of the Raiders Haters) is that the Raiders must get with the times, that they must change how they operate, and that Al Davis should be confined to a luxury box.

So what did the Raiders do in the wake of their third straight losing season? Did they yield to public opinion? Did they eat groupthink crow? Nope. They made absolutely no concessions and even intensified the very things that earn them scorn.

Consider Art Shell’s reply when asked to sum up the Tom Walsh system: “This is the Al Davis system. You've got to understand something. I grew up in this system. This is a system that allows us to attack from any place on the football field. Again, you've got to have the players to do that, and we feel we have the players to do that. This is a system that will allow you to play, and run the football with what we call power, where we're going to come downhill at you. We're going to attack the flanks. We're just going to run the football at you, then we're going to play-action, and strike from anywhere on the field.”

If that’s not retro enough for you, then consider Walsh’s description of the 2006 Raiders offense: “Basically, we’re running the Raider offense the way it’s been run when you go back to the 60s, 70s and the 80s. Whether it was a Raymond Chester, or Dave Casper or Todd Christensen, or Ethan Horton or Mike Dyal or Bob Moore, you can go back as far as you want in the annals. That’s just the same offense, really.”

So much for getting with “the times,” changing how the team operates and confining Al Davis to a luxury box, eh?

Apparently, none of the coaches got a memo telling them to sanitize their thoughts when speaking to the media, to tone down this retro stuff or pretend that Mr. Davis’s influence doesn’t run deep. No one is hiding behind anything, public opinion be damned. They’ve laid it out: Long bombs, no apologies. How many teams, or companies, have the stones in this day and age to draw such a line in the public relations sand? Very few.

Personally, I find immense rooting interest in this development. It’s time to forget about the “what ifs” and “should haves” of the offseason. It’s officially the old school of Al Davis, Art Shell and Tom Walsh—or bust. Yes, if they fail, the recrimination will be exponential. But if they succeed…Just think about it. If they succeed, the Raiders Haters will be completely undressed. There will be no more intellectual gymnastics about how the notoriously meddlesome Al Davis somehow took a vacation during Jon Gruden’s tenure, and how Gruden somehow took the Raiders to the Super Bowl despite being on the opposite sideline during the Super Bowl. There will be no opportunities to assign the team’s success to groupthink remedies. There will be nothing but slack jaws and silence from the Raiders Haters.

How can you not root for that? This isn’t just another season, another coaching regime. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, not just for Mr. Davis and Coach Shell, but for all of us. The stakes are high, and the adrenaline will flow accordingly. There is a hell of a lot to lose—and a hell of a lot to prove. Buckle up, Raider Nation. This is going to be one fun and wild ride.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

You know what tickles me the most? These same people who report that the Raiders "need to get with the times," are the same who said of this past year's 2 SB contenders ('Hawks v Squeals), "they got here by playing old-fashioned, hard-nosed football. In the end, it's all about the basics." What a bunch of wafflers. You seriously do not hear this much waffling in politics today.
I don't buy too much into what any media says, I will let the play of the Raiders speak for itself. Right now, the players are excited about the season (with exception to the "baby" as Sapp put it so delicately). If the players are excited, it's going to be a good year!

6:09 AM  
Blogger TheFreakingPope said...

Excellent take RT. If anyone hasn't taken the time to watch the daily interviews with Coach Shell and the lengthy interview with Walsh, I highly recommend it. In keeping with RT’s post, one can’t help but be excited. These men truly believe in this system. More importantly, they believe our boys in Silver and Black can run it effectively.

Sunday’s game may not be flawless, but I’m committed to look for the subtleties. What is the old saying? Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If I may quote the greatest author of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”

7:15 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Or as Al said at his recent press conference in regards for the need to change the team's culture;

"If you win, your culture is fine. If you don't win you have a problem with your culture"

All arguments about different sytems starts and ends with your won/loss record.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous kevin said...

Regarding the outmoded, or at least negative, influence of Al Davis, "which mysteriously abated from 2000 through 2002": HELLO, you know those were the Gruden years, for christ sake. Al Davis HAS interfered with the coaching when HE SHOULD NOT HAVE. In the case of Art Shell, they're on the same page and share a vision, so it's okay that Davis get involved. But, come on, you have to at least acknowledge what Davis' critics are talking about. And don't dare call me a hater!!!!!!!

9:16 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Kevin, I would never call you a hater. I do have some questions, however:

Why are the good years called the Gruden years, but the bad years called the Al Davis years, and not the Norv Turner years or Mike White years?

Why is 2002 a Gruden year, when Gruden wasn't even coaching the team that year? On that premise, shouldn't Gruden give his Lombardi trophy to Tony Dungy?

Why does Al Davis get no credit for any of the team's recent success, yet all of the blame for the team's recent failures?

Even if you want to believe that Gruden somehow wrested total control of all free agent transactions and football operations from Al Davis during his tenure (highly unlikely; "Here, kid, I'm Al Davis, here are the keys to my car, I'm going to check out for four years"), then Al Davis should get credit for plucking this coach out of obscurity to forge a return to the Super Bowl.

Frankly, I was getting a little tired of Gruden's conservatism in key situations, and Callahan, despite his obvious faults, is the one who took the team to the next level by airing things out. Remember that Steelers game, when they passed on 29 out of the first 31 plays on offense? That freaked everyone out. They were aggressive that year, and they had the personnel to pull it off, and they consequently went further than they ever did under Gruden.

This team lost Gannon, Brown, Rice, Garner, Romanowski, Rod Woodson and other impact players, mainly to time and injuries. It's no surprise that the team would suffer some rebuilding pains in the wake of such veteran departures.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

I've got my belt buckled tight. Art has immpressed me. I truly think that his time in the front office has helped alot. I must say that I am VERY concerned with Walsh. It is true that recently many coaches have come back from long layoffs but those were really good coaches, Walsh scares me. I did not enjoy his offense in the early 90's and butit is the blocking schemes that concern me. Defenses have changed alot, and for the better. I am really glad that we kept Ryan who is a product of the new school defenses.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

PS Raider Take, If Al had let Gruden stay 1 more year we would have won that SB. Those picks werent worth shit anyway.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

RT-

I think the idea is that Gruden resisted Al's influence more than other coaches. My point isn't that Al is trapped in the past and has no meaningful role to play, far from it. My point is that: when there is a power struggle and the head coach's vision conflicts with that of Al davis, what can we expect? And I definitely consider the 2002 super bowl year to be a Gruden carry-over. But, yeah, I didn't mean the 2002 regular season. That's when things started getting muddled again.

To be honest, I personally think too much emphasis is placed on the "new" and "old" styles of play. I have no clue what the hell that even means. I have confidence in Art Shell, for sure. But when it comes to Al Davis... I mean, it's almost like talking about a family member. I've definitely taken issue with his meddling, but if I hear a non-member of the Nation criticize him I get pissed!

10:41 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Fair points, Kevin. And I hear you about the family context, I feel the same way.

Roy, I would say that, at some level, Walsh scares all of us. It's only natural, considering his recent pedigree as a small town mayor in Idaho. But I'll make an outrageous comparison: I bet Patriots fans were scared when Belichik was hired, considering his track record in Cleveland. My point isn't that Walsh is comparable to Belichik, but that time and circumstances can work in mysterious, and often magnificent, ways. As we turn the corner to September, my fears turn to faith.

11:00 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

Here is something to really get us all fired up!

QB rankings

11:00 AM  
Blogger Raider Raza said...

DAmn Take that post got me pumped up, cause we going back to smashmouth Raider football. STakes are high we have a lot to prove..

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

Football season dawns
A new Raider beginning
Will we rise or fail?

Coach Shell brings vision,
New toughness, and team spirit
Makes Raider Nate grin

2:03 PM  
Blogger Stick'em said...

RT: Excellent point about the puppet master hypothesis.

The criticism of Al Davis (the football man) usually is centered around how he has become a meddlesome, old, reclusive, curmudgeon who for some reason thinks it is still 1966 and believes he is still the head coach.

"Al Davis won't let a head coach COACH!" they scream...

Well, Art Shell acknowledged he's running the Al Davis system (which methinks is a modified version of the Sid Gillman offense). Art says he’s going to rely on Al and spend lots of time in his office consulting the man. Art says he doesn't mind if Al picks half his coaching staff.

Now the responsibility lies squarely on Al's 77-year-old shoulders.

No more "closet puppet master" whispers. This one is all on Al and all out in the open.

And when the Raiders stick the football down your f'ing esophagus and out your colon...it will be Al's doing.

And if by some chance the Raiders suck?

Well, I would still admire the old geezer, ‘cause he’s got more b@lls than any other 77-year-old man I know.

3:38 PM  
Blogger frkyraider said...

do you think that Vince Lombardi lost touch with whats going on in football as he grew old? Bear Bryant losing his grip on the "new" offensive formations and such? George Halas not knowing who could be a baller and who was trash? there are those that know soooo much, we just ought to listen to them. till the day they are no longer there to listen to.

i will sign off with this statement. Al Davis has forgotten more about footall than 99% of us will ever know.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Doobie said...

You know what? That 2002 season was one of the most exciting goddamn seasons I've football I've ever seen. From the opening four game win streak (especially the afforementioned Steeler game) in which they scored 162 points, to the subsequent four game losing streak, on to them readjusting and winning seven of the next eight games and then blowing away the Jets and Titans in the playoffs? My God, that was a great year!

It's a shame that Callahan was so badly outcoached in the SB because it tarnished what was otherwise a fantastic roller coaster ride of a season and ultimately began a decline from which the team has yet to recover. It also apparently triggered the "erase" button in many of the media's minds about the successful Gruden/Callahan years of the Raiders.

6:58 PM  

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