I hate to sound repetitive. I hate to criticize a rare column that tries to be positive about the Oakland Raiders. But I will not relent until the media stop casually dropping lies into articles about the Raiders.
From the column in question: “The reality is the greatness of the Raiders has been missing since Al Davis fired Shell and his .586 winning percentage after the 1994 season. Try eight losing seasons since.”
Try...getting your facts straight. Question: How many NFL teams have won their division three straight years in this very decade, culminating in a Super Bowl berth? And how do you characterize the greatness of these three seasons as less than what was achieved under Art Shell’s previous tenure, which was indeed solid but did not result in a Super Bowl berth? How? I know how: Because the recent success of the Oakland Raiders does not fit into your worldview or your bias, so you compensate by making insupportable statements that don’t square with the facts.
Another question: What kind of twisted math characterizes 8-8 (.500) seasons (1995, 1998 and 1999) as losing seasons? Do facts matter anymore? I guess I now have ESPN's permission to call them winning seasons? After all, if .500 is a losing season, then it is also a winning season.
Worst of all, this column does make many good points, both favorable and unfavorable to the Raiders—it did not need to veer into this biased territory, but the author just couldn’t help himself.
And that, Raiders fans, is news you almost can't use.
The unfortunate word tonight is that Dan “Hardcore” Sachar died today in an automobile accident. I did not know Hardcore, but he was a looming presence at Raiders games, a true Raider Nation warrior and a Class of 2004 inductee to the Hall of Fans. This is yet another major blow to the Raider Nation, following the recent passing of Larry “RaiderMan” Gamez. Thanks to Roberto of Raider Raza for alerting me to this sad news. Prayers go out tonight for Hardcore and his family.
NEW UPDATE: 10:50 A.M.
A message from Bob at Raiderfans.net: "The service for Dan will be held at this Saturday (April 1st) @ 4:00pm PST at New Hope Community Church at 2190 Peralta Boulevard in Fremont. After the service, there is a warehouse where they will be having a Tailgate to honor Dan's life...All are welcome to attend! GOD Bless Dan and his family!"
A message from Raiderfans.net: “Raiderfans.net is collecting donations for Dan and his family. If you can afford to give, please do so as his family is going through a difficult time right now. You can make a donation via paypal to email@example.com. In the comments portion, please put ‘For Dan aka Hardcore.’”
A message from Veronica, Harcore’s Fiancee (please see Comments by Stick’Em below for full text): “I want to thank those of you who have expressed their condolences and prayers for us close to him . Please share any photos or stories about HardCore in honor of his memory.”
A message from Tokai Japan Outpost: “I have posted a photo page in tribute to Hardcore and Dan "Dano" Conrad. Our tailgate lost two true fans in the past few weeks, and we're all reeling. You can find the photos at http://raider-nation.net.”
I hear it frequently: Just win, baby. As if that’s all there is to it. Well, we haven’t won jack squat in three years (quite the opposite), and you haven’t gone anywhere, have you? You’re still here: loyal, hardcore and in it for life. And why is that? Must be that Autumn Wind, because there’s no fair weather in the Raider Nation.
Think about it, how many teams could win 13 games over three seasons and experience less fan attrition than the Raiders? I don’t want to hear about the lack of Coliseum sellouts. The Lions sell out, yet the Lions stink and there is no Lions Nation. I’m not talking about the art of building domes and filling luxury boxes and selling out to the corporate crowd. I’m talking about the following equation: intensity + loyalty x fans ÷ geography.
When the 49ers stink it up, the colors of red and gold virtually disappear from the streets. Honestly, how much 49ers gear do you see around the world these days? Yet I still see Raiders gear and decals everywhere.
I wonder, what if my team were the Patriots, owned by a guy who made millions in paper products, coached by a guy with no personality, led by a golden-boy GQ quarterback and a bunch of workmanlike veterans who blend together like wallpaper in their fancy contemporary uniforms...Would winning be enough for me? Would I be banging away at a fan blog in the wee hours? Would I bleed silver and blue? I doubt it. I’d still be a fan, but no longer a rabid one.
(If that pisses off any Patriots fans out there, good. I hate the Patriots, and the fact that the zebras propped up your golden boy in the snow for a thieving mulligan.)
So while “Just Win, Baby” is a familiar battle cry to all of us—one coined by Mr. Davis himself—it is perhaps least suited to the Raider Nation than any other fan base in the NFL, and that includes all of these people suddenly "rediscovering" their Steelers hats here in the Golden State.
Don’t get me wrong: Winning is very important to the Raider Nation, just as it is the driving and defining force behind Mr. Davis and his legacy.
But I also submit that the destination and the journey are inseparable in the Raider Nation. In other words, while winning is the destination, how we get there is also very important. We want to get there the Raider way, don’t we? In other words: It is whether you win or lose, and how you play the game.
So what is the Raider way? I believe that it’s a spirit, an attitude and ultimately a culture that starts at the top of the organization, and that is embodied and perpetuated by the Raider Nation. It’s not the easiest thing to define. I’ve got some ideas, but I need a day or two to collect them into a coherent take.
In response to popular demand (I exaggerate, of course), Raider Take proudly launches a new line of branded apparel that serves notice to the Raiders Haters, reminding them: The Truth Hurts
These shirts act as a bit of kryptonite amid the global anti-Raiders media conspiracy. For a refresher course on this conspiracy, click here, here, here, here, here, here and here. This conspiracy has infiltrated all walks of life: old ladies, children, soccer moms, architects, police officers, you name it. No demographic is immune (although pipefitters and drywall installers seem to have heightened immunity).
After feasting on a diet of lies about the Raider Nation, these folks walk around like zombies, hating the Raiders while carefully sidestepping the truth.
Until now. Until I strut past them in my new Raider Take apparel. Until their lying pieholes go mute and the truth is acknowledged.
In a column that is as bankrupt in its analysis as it was laughable in its timing, a columnist from Sports Illustrated advised the Oakland Raiders to re-sign Kerry Collins—at the very moment that Aaron Brooks was getting handshakes from Mr. Davis and Mike Lombardi. Thanks to The Freaking Pope for pointing this piece out to us.
Okay, prepare yourself by washing your eyes out with battery acid, because here comes a direct quote from this column: “It's been nearly two weeks since the Oakland Raiders put themselves in a position where they have no viable starting quarterback, so here's my advice to them: Bring back Kerry Collins. Do it quickly, before the Baltimore Ravens start thinking that he might fit nicely as competition for Kyle Boller. Do it before there are no options left, as the most promising of those—Daunte Culpepper—now plays in Miami. Do it because it's the only logical move for a team that rarely makes sensible decisions.”
How can a team that rarely makes sensible decisions play in five Super Bowls in four separate decades, including this decade? How? Hello? I’m really getting sick of having to ask this question. Anyhow, so just when I thought we'd seen the end of articles praising Kerry Collins as the answer for the Raiders, this guy pops up to elicit one final but tired chuckle from the Raider Nation. Hurry, Mr. Davis! The Collins market is really heating up! The Baltimore Ravens might someday eventually decide that he might be as good as Kyle Boller. Then what will you do?
Answer: sign Aaron Brooks and let the next Collins buyer beware. That was easy.
So much for our columnist’s take: “The Raiders need him (Collins) more than he needs them.”
Do you notice that these folks are always so anxious to praise Kerry Collins…as long as it involves him wearing silver and black? Why aren’t (or weren’t) they out there campaigning to get Collins on the Bills, Lions, Vikings, Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals, Chargers or Bears, to name a few teams with (or which recently had) QB depth shortages?
Yes, I feel much better now. The rain clouds have parted. Optimism blooms anew. A silver and black rainbow arcs overhead.
The consensus in New Orleans was that Aaron Brooks, despite having all the measurables (speed, mobility, size, arm strength), is an inconsistent underachiever with poor decision-making skills. Such an assessment, I must admit, puts the fear of Jeff George and Kerry Collins in me.
However, it is also quite possible that Aaron Brooks underachieved because…he was with the New Orleans Saints, the NFL’s definition of underachievement.
Regardless, I can live with the following depth chart:
Walter/Brooks Walter/Brooks Tui/Someone Else
If Walter is starter material, he will beat Brooks for the job. If Brooks is better than we’ve been told, then he can fend off Walter. Either way, the Raiders fan wins.
As I watched the Raiders hang out while QB after QB was snatched up by other teams over the past several weeks, I had to wonder if the plan was to pick a QB in the first round of the draft. And if Brooks had flown out of Oakland without signing on the dotted line, I would have been convinced of it.
I see no need now to pick a QB in the draft (except maybe in late rounds, if we smell a steal). We need to build depth on both sides of the ball. We have two good-to-excellent QBs in Walter and Brooks. Let’s save our picks to bolster the lines and add a punishing linebacker as well.
Brooks brings mobility and juice to a position that had the life sucked out of it last year. Walter adds an unknown “X” factor with a ton of upside.
The Kerry Collins era is OFFICIALLY OVER. Rejoice, reload and repeat!
What if Aaron Brooks walks away from Oakland without a deal? Can you believe that this question has become remotely vital to the Raider Nation?
Anytime I start talking about filling a hole at QB, people start screaming at me: Start Walter! Hey, if Walter steps up into the starting role, that's fine by me. But Walter is not a depth chart. It’s just not that simple. We cut Collins. That opens up a spot on the chart. That spot needs to be filled, presumably by someone with NFL experience, right?
Perhaps things are truly pointing to a first-round QB draft pick, such as Leinart or Young. In which case, it’s probably still advisable to sign someone with some NFL experience to bolster the depth chart, unless you propose a depth chart that looks like this: Rookie, Walter and Tui. Anyone out there who wants to sign off on that one? Not me.
In review: We can’t start Walter without adding at least one QB to the depth chart. If that QB comes via free agency, then we are facing some mighty slim pickings. On the other hand, if that QB comes from the first round of the draft, then Walter instantly becomes an afterthought (you don't pick, and pay, a Leinart or Young without him being your presumed long-term starter).
So Walter is either the starter or an afterthought, depending on how you read the tea leaves. That’s quite a contrast.
Into this strange picture walks Aaron Brooks. He could provide some veteran insurance no matter what we do in the draft. If Aaron Brooks walks away without a deal, we'll know that our QB sweepstakes boils down to the draft plus some truly scary names like Maddox, Griese and YOU KNOW WHO (hint: KFC).
And this is why I suddenly, somehow find myself hoping for the Raiders to sign a QB castoff from the New Orleans Saints.
Where are all the folks in the media and elsewhere who heaped praise upon Kerry Collins throughout and even after the 2005 season? Hey, people, he needs you now, so please stand up. He is on the market and…we haven’t heard a peep about any team in the QB-starved NFL pursuing him with any vigor. There are rumors that the Ravens might be interested, but they're not exactly in a hurry to lock him up, are they? Look at the buzz generated by Brees and Culpepper (both coming off devastating injuries) and compare that to the silence surrounding a perfectly healthy Kerry Collins. What does that tell us? It tells us Raiders fans were right all along.
Following is a brief Raiders Relevancy Lesson for consistency-challenged columnists:
Irrelevant to the new millennium: Mike Rae as a Raiders QB draft pick in 1973.
Relevant to the new millennium: The Raiders going to the Super Bowl after winning the AFC West three straight seasons in this decade, which still has four years left in it.
In this same column, our columnist states: “(Raiders fans) didn't warm up to the concept of Gannon either until they discovered that he could win games, and they loved him until his neck accordioned and he couldn't win for them any more. Raider fans are fair-minded that way. They'll do anything for you if you win, and they'll do anything to you if you don't.”
Let’s analyze this. His implication is that it is somehow bizarre to embrace players who win. Isn't that usually how it works? Then, he slanders the Raider Nation by saying that we stopped loving Rich Gannon when he suffered a career-ending neck injury. What a vile thing to say. Moving on, he states in this same column: “(The Raiders) have had a hard time growing their own quarterbacks over the years. Rich Gannon was a Viking, Jeff George was a Colt, Jay Schroeder was a Redskin, Jim Plunkett was a Patriot, Daryle Lamonica was a Bill, and Cotton Davidson was a Dallas Texan.”
Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls. Rich Gannon led the Raiders to a Super Bowl. Daryle Lamonica led the Raiders to a Super Bowl. Homegrown Ken Stabler won a Super Bowl. The Raiders’ methodology really backfired, didn’t it?
Brett Favre: Falcon! Steve Young: Buccaneer! Oh, the horror!
Our guy doesn't stop there (he must be making up for lost time). He also states: “If they trade up in the draft from their current position of seventh to second, they want Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt. If they trade from 7 to 5, they want USC's Matt Leinart. If they stay where they are, they want Vince Young of Texas.”
Since when has Leinart fallen behind Cutler? Where have I been? More important, where has our columnist been?
This is all verging on crazy people behavior. Somebody grab his pen before he hurts himself.
Is no news still good news on the QB front? Even by my rather flexible standards, this is getting weird. Over the past few months, I posed two frontrunners to compete for the Raiders’ QB job: Kitna and McCown. I also posed Mike Martz as a possible kick in the pants for the coaching position. And now they’re all in Detroit? The Lions!? My analytical skills must be warped. Maybe my world is being secretly manipulated by space aliens. Or maybe Mat Millen and the Ford family subscribe to Raider Take. Maybe Matt Millen is a space alien. But I digress...
I like Andrew Walter. I like the way he casually swatted defenders away during his exhibition snaps against the 49ers last year. However, I’m getting a little tired of the “Start Walter!” battle cries, as if it were that simple. You’re going to hand over the 2006 Raiders offense (including an impatient Randy Moss) to a third-round draft pick who has never taken a snap in a regular season game, and who has been injured for two straight years, and in the wake of three brutal losing seasons? Fine, so what’s your plan B if Walter doesn’t rise to the occasion or goes down again? Shouldn't we have someone whom Walter has to beat for the job, just in case he doesn't beat that person for the job, in which case we would really need that person?
Frerotte? Harrington? Griese? Collins redux? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my signature on those plan Bs.
Are we really getting down to Aaron Brooks or Patrick Ramsey? I’m still hearing the desperate screams of Schaub! Favre! I have no evidence that these guys are available, do you? I can scream too: Manning! Brady! Roethlisberger!
As for Tui, I’m sorry, he’s a class act, but if the Raiders had confidence in him, why did they get Collins in the first place instead of installing him as the starter in 2004? Why did they yank him after one start in 2005? And why haven’t they just named him their starter for 2006?
At this rate, it’s looking more and more like Vince Young, Matt Leinart or bust. Which, in fact, might be just another brilliant Mr. Davis move in the making.
Culpepper dealt to Miami. Brees signs with New Orleans. Kitna signs with Detroit. The QB market is getting leaner by the minute. I'm not going to bring up Josh McCown again. Oops, I just did. The rumors about Mr. Davis being fascinated with Vince Young will gain increasing traction, if only by default. Are the Raiders, with their famously impatient "win now" mentality challenged by three straight losing seasons, ready to hand their 2006 QB reins to a rookie (or virtual rookie, such as Andrew Walter)?
Have you brushed up on Newton’s laws of motion lately? If not, here’s a book that can help. Football Physics: The Science of The Game is an engaging read that actually makes physics fun and relevant to the average dope like me.
Here’s how the author describes the Immaculate Reception: “Tatum’s hit on Fuqua demonstrated the concept of inelastic collisions and conservation of momentum. And Harris’s lucky reception and his open-field run to the goal line was a textbook example of the physics concepts of acceleration, velocity and two-dimensional motion.”
Forget “The Assassin.” How about: Jack “Inelastic Collider” Tatum? All I know is that anyone who calls Franco Harris lucky is a friend of mine.
The author does a good job of applying and explaining physics across the entire football experience, from crowd noise to playing surfaces, kicking to hitting. Those already inclined toward physics will gobble it up. Personally, it took some effort, but it was time well spent, and the author keeps it relatively basic (as basic as physics can be, anyway).
As we wait for the draft and some free agent action, what better time to investigate the rotational properties of the “prolate spheroid,” also known as the football?
I remember the day I officially gave up on Kerry Collins, because I wrote about it. It was right after the Broncos home game, after I’d had time to process the nightmare. I wrote: “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.”
This odd and ongoing media praise for Collins was one of the great mysteries of the 2005 season. I still think it was some sort of mind-trick conspiracy. But I digress…
Until the Denver game, I’d tried to rationalize Collins’ shortcomings. We’d fallen just short against the Patriots and Eagles, the most recent Super Bowl contestants, on the road. The zebras had screwed us against the Chiefs—twice. We’d had a gutsy win against Dallas, and had crushed the Bills and Titans.
I sure wasn’t in any mood to write glowing articles about Collins, but at the same time I wondered if he might soon gel with Moss and gang, and finally turn a corner. No dice, and the Broncos home game was my epiphany. Two weeks later, my disappointment turned to rage as I watched Collins "lead" one lackluster series after another against the Dolphins, impervious to any sense of urgency as the Raider Nation clenched its fists. Right after time expired, the lights literally and inexplicably went out in the Coliseum as a massive armada of garbage-feeding seagulls swirled overhead. How’s that for symbolism?
I can forgive poor play. Really, I can. That doesn’t mean poor play shouldn’t have consequences (ideally sooner rather than later, I might add). I’m just saying if you can’t do it, you can’t do it. An article in today’s Press Democrat sums up my sentiments: “He (Collins) was always was a microsecond too late. He never will be a winning quarterback in Oakland or anywhere else. It is a sad fact but it is true, and we wish him well in his life, wherever it takes him.”
My biggest problem with Collins was his utter lack of urgency in the face of defeat. The seven-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter while 21 points down against the Broncos was a classic example. Hey, man, nice stats! There were many other examples, including the second Broncos game. Now, Norv Turner and company share some of that blame. They couldn’t manage the clock and they didn’t play to win, and they’d apparently never heard of concepts like “no huddle” and “two-minute drill.”
Nevertheless, I ask you to envision, say, Rich Gannon in those situations, with those coaches. Do you think he would have found a way to get the team moving, literally and figuratively? You bet. He would have led. He would have barked. He would have gotten the team to the line, fast, and fought.
Collins didn’t, and that’s why he was the reincarnation of Jeff George, whose pretty stats also looked best in a suitcase accompanied with a one-way ticket out of Oakland.
These are my final words on Kerry Collins. It’s over. Pour me another glass. It’s snowing along the California coast today. But things are heating up in Oakland.
Rub your eyes, pinch yourself, it's official: Collins has been cut. Our remaining QBs have started two NFL games in their collective careers. I expect the Raiders to really work the free agent market now. This will be one interesting weekend, indeed.
A wildfire of healthy debate blazed across the comments section last week, and much of it revolved around not how a Raiders fan should act when we’re winning (that’s easy enough), but how we should comport ourselves when we're losing and, for some, unconvinced that solutions are forthcoming. It was a great discussion, because it showcased the delicate balance of unity and diversity for which the Raider Nation is known.
At what point does legitimate criticism give way to shrill pessimism? Conversely, at what point does cautious optimism yield to blind cheerleading?
There is no easy answer. I’ve been accused of having my lips glued to Mr. Davis’s backside while hallucinating sunshine during thunderstorms. Yet if you scroll through my posts during the 2005 season, you will find ample criticism of the team and its play. Others have been accused of being entirely negative, to the point of wishing ill on the Raiders because they enjoy wagging their fingers so much. I hope that these folks simply sound harsher than they really are.
There are always extremes, but I would say that 99 percent of Raiders fans are neither blind optimists nor profound pessimists. Within that 99 percent, however, there many shades of silver, as it should be. Personally, I will always err on the side of optimism. However, I don’t think that makes me any more noble than someone who takes a more critical stance. It’s just different viewpoints. As long as we can back up our takes, there’s room for all of us.
I will say that being a fan should be fun. If you’re not having fun, it’s time for a reality check. That doesn’t mean you can’t get pissed off at Kerry Collins as he throws another ball into the first row, that you can’t gnash your teeth when Norv Turner plays to lose. But in the balance, at the end of the day, it should be fun. The term fan implies fanatic. At some level, it’s a fundamentally irrational concept. You love your team from the heart, not your head.
I think that’s why I err on the side of optimism, especially when there is no evidence to the contrary. For example, I don’t know all the circumstances that led to the hirings of Art Shell and Tom Walsh. Perhaps the coaching search was totally bungled. But I don’t have any evidence of that (despite what the media and their unnamed sources say). Therefore, as a fan(atic), I’m going to stand behind Mr. Davis and the Raiders and trust that they did it their way. Nor do I have any evidence that Mr. Davis, Coach Shell and Tom Walsh are going to fail in 2006 (and what they did, good or bad, 12 years ago is irrelevant to today's game plan). Therefore, on that front, I see a clean slate with a glass half full.
Then again, if I wake up on Thursday morning to learn that Kerry Collins will return for another season, then my optimism will be challenged, as I have ample evidence that Collins can’t win games.
The bottom line is that between black and white there are many shades of silver.
While we’re all gathering like anxious children on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa Claus to deliver us from Kerry Collins, we might as well think optimistically. Which means that the KFC era is over, right? So now what?
There are many in the Raider Nation who say that Andrew Walter should be given the reins. I say that he should be given the opportunity to take the reins, but that we also need some form of proven commodity as insurance. Walter hasn’t taken a snap in a regular season game, and has been prone to injuries over the past two years. It’s unlikely, and probably unwise, for the 2006 Oakland Raiders to put all of their eggs in the Walter basket.
The Norv Turner era put us in a bind. Things got so bad that patience, never a Raiders virtue (which is a virtue unto itself, in my opinion), is out of the question. We desperately need to win games, especially against division rivals. I doubt that Al Davis and Art Shell are going to build this team around a QB whose NFL experience is limited to a few exhibition snaps.
So here are the options as I see them:
1. Get a proven (and expensive) veteran, hand him the reins and build your team around him, thinking in terms of three or more years.
2. Bet that Walter can rise to the occasion, but get an older and relatively inexpensive veteran as a backup plan.
3. Get a younger and relatively inexpensive veteran to duke it out with Walter, and may the best man win and the other hold the clipboard.
4. Work some draft magic and get Young, Leinart or Cutler.
Personally, I like options #2 and #3. As far as option #1 is concerned, the pickings are slim this year. Culpepper and Brees are coming off of big injuries. As far as #4 is concerned, like I said: I doubt that Al Davis and Art Shell are going to build this team around an NFL-untested QB, because Norv Turner exterminated whatever patience that Raiders might have had for such a plan. Jon Kitna still comes to mind as a possibility for option #2 (please, not Gus Frerotte!). Josh McCown might be a great choice for option #3 (others have suggested Patrick Ramsey). I still like McCown. He posted a nearly .500 record with the Arizona Cardinals. Without him, their record was something like .100. He’s big, and he’s proven to be durable.
Someone like McCown wouldn’t break the bank. He could possibly turn into long-term starting QB. At the very least, he would be competent insurance should Walter not quite rise to the occasion for 2006. Ideally, he would hold the clipboard as Walter turns into the next Ben Roethlisberger.
Every time I bring up "the next Raiders QB" subject, I get a lot of hate mail about how stupid my suggestions are. That's fine. But don't just drop bombs and run . Step up with your own suggestions and post them in the comments for all to see (I'm referring to the minority here, as most of you are already very good about having a take and backing it up). Ground rule: proposing QBs who are not free agents nor being shopped by their teams is a delusion, not a suggestion.
If we put our heads together, I'm sure we can figure out plan. Coach Shell is counting on us, right?
P.S. I haven’t forgotten about Tui. I just don’t think he’s going to factor into the plan. I don’t think his style is going to fit the 2006 offense. He probably deserves a shot elsewhere. He’s a class act.
Talk about guts. The Oakland Raiders, implored by so many to subscribe to NFL groupthink and to “get with the times,” have instead blazed a spectacular trail back to the future. They may fail. I hope and expect that they will succeed. Either way, they’ll do it on their own terms.
Let’s put this into perspective. For the past few months, dozens of NFL talking heads have been ripping the Oakland Raiders, calling them a lost cause, bemoaning the early re-hiring of Rob Ryan, mocking the team for not accelerating its head coaching search, spreading unsubstantiated rumors about how and why Art Shell was hired, and basically declaring the 2006 Oakland Raiders dead on arrival. The Raiders’ last hope, we were told, was to somehow find a hotshot offensive coordinator at the eleventh hour.
So what do the Raiders do? Instead of trying to play nice and hire someone who “makes sense” to the NFL groupthinkers, they pull offensive coordinator Tom Walsh out of the ice chest and thaw him out for an Art Shell reunion. Wow. It’s a choice that “boggles the mind” of many.
Tom Walsh is coming to Oakland from essentially another solar system: Swan Valley, Idaho—population 226—where Walsh was mayor and owner of a vacation guest ranch. He hasn’t prowled a sideline for seven years. So imagine, the phone suddenly rings at Walsh’s Hansen Guest Ranch and the caller ID reveals a 510 area code: “Tom, it’s Art, you have five days to help us with a make-or-break decision on our quarterback situation. We’ll have Gorilla Rilla pick you up at Oakland International tomorrow morning.”
Now, there are reasons to be afraid. Check out the latest Raider Nation Podcast for a good sampling. We’d all better hope that Coach Shell and Tom Walsh can quickly shake off any rust, hit the ground running, and improve on past performance. It’s a tall order.
And yet…and yet that makes this all the more exciting, doesn’t it? If groupthink is so great, then why do so many teams still stink? Norv Turner was a safe choice, an NFL groupthink kind of choice, and look where that got us. There are cracks in the hard shell of the AFC West. The Chargers are dealing with executive infighting and quarterback quandries. The Chiefs are adapting to a new coach who is quite likely overrated. The Broncos were tough in 2005, but I'm not convinced that Jake Plummer can become an "era." Who says that the Raiders can't pop these teams in the mouth in 2006?
No other team in the NFL generates as much negative and jealous scrutiny as the Raiders. Countless are those who want the Raiders to fail. Now, they are licking their chops, because the Raiders have completely rebelled against NFL groupthink. Rather than cover their butts to please others, the Raiders have gone out on a limb, at a tremendous risk of both greatness and failure.
You may have misgivings, but come September one thing is for sure: you’ll be rooting for the Silver & Black. You will be sailing on a proverbial pirate ship in shark-infested groupthink waters. Everyone is waiting and wanting the ship to sink. We’ll do our best to help make sure it sails.
In other words, the Raiders are living on the edge, and we in the Raider Nation are right there with them. This is going to be fun.