Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pride: The Autopsy of A Lost Season

Pride is woven into the fabric of the Oakland Raiders experience. It constitutes half of the team’s signature slogan: Pride and Poise. I now submit to you that pride, more than anything else, was our undoing in 2006.

This is probably the hardest take I’ve ever written. I admit that some of it is speculative. I fear that it will come across more negatively than intended. So why bother? Because I think it’s important that we sift carefully through the wreckage of 2006. In order to determine where we’re going, we should first try to understand exactly how we got here.

Here’s my condensed take on the 2006 season, from the promising start to the ugly end: Al Davis, told by so many that his methodology and philosophy were outmoded, was determined to prove otherwise. Knowing that time might be short at his age, and being a man of great pride, Mr. Davis went back to the future in pursuit of one last blaze of glory. He seized a golden opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong in the clearest way possible: he hired Raiders legend and ex-Raiders coach Art Shell to pilot the team’s firmly stated return to classic old-school Raiders football. Along the way, however, personnel shortcomings were grossly overlooked. These shortcomings were compounded by the hiring of offensive coaches with outdated resumes or marginal NFL coaching experience. The result was a combustible mix of player and coaching issues that imploded into chaos and incompetence on the offensive side of the ball.

Let’s not sugarcoat the situation. Our offense wasn’t merely bad or awful. It was biblically impotent and incoherent. One touchdown scored in the last 16 quarters of the season. No more than 22 points in a single game. The 20-point barrier broken only four times (one of which, the Steelers game, had nothing to do with the offense). Twelve total touchdowns on offense. Six games with single-digit scoring. Three shutouts. If you’re not utterly scandalized by these statistics, you’d better make sure you still have a pulse. Worst of all, our offense was so atrocious that it more than cancelled out significant strides on defense.

From the beginning, the 2006 season would live or die upon the aforementioned premise of pride. It was gutsy. It was also very risky. Live by the sword, die by the sword. But that’s what I like about Al Davis. He enjoys a swordfight. If it had worked, it would have been absolutely brilliant. Can you imagine if the Raiders had enjoyed a turnaround like the Jets and Saints? It would have been the ultimate sharp stick in the eye of the Raiders Haters. Personally, I salivated over the prospect. The problem is that it didn’t work, and now this original premise of pride, in retrospect, looks like a trap—one that blinded the team to its own intensifying shortcomings in matters of talent and chemistry and, later, coaching.

Here’s what Art Shell said in July: “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.”

Here’s what Tom Walsh said: “Basically, we’re running the Raider offense the way it’s been run when you go back to the 60s, 70s and the 80s.”

Any questions?

In other words, personnel and chemistry were not perceived as issues. All we needed were Attitude, System and Old School Raiders Football. Working off of that prideful premise, we made little effort to hire a coach from the outside. We hired an insider who hadn’t prowled a sideline in six years, and who hadn’t been a head coach since 1994. We hired an offensive coordinator who had been away from the NFL for more than a decade, and who had been away from the game of football for seven years. We hired a pair of offensive line coaches who, despite once being great players, had marginal coaching experience. We hired a quarterbacks coach with no NFL experience, and very little experience as a quarterbacks coach at any level.

Meanwhile, we made no significant personnel moves on offense. Please don’t say that this was a rebuilding year. Around whom did we allegedly rebuild on offense? Aaron Brooks? Who else? Silence.

Our offensive unit didn’t field itself. Our executives—Al Davis, Mike Lombardi and Art Shell—fielded it. Our executives passed on potential franchise quarterbacks such as Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler in the draft. Our executives passed on a running back like Maurice Jones-Drew in the second round, and did not shore up the running back position via free agency or trading (despite LaMont Jordan’s shortcomings and Justin Fargas’s proneness to injury). Our executives built a receiving corps around two players, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, with serious character flaws. Our executives put our tight ends position in the hands of two major underachievers. Our executives did not aggressively pursue a free agent lineman such as Larry Allen. They simply signed Aaron Brooks and drafted Paul McQuistan in the third round and Kevin Boothe in the sixth round, and left it at that. Thus, we now find ourselves with huge question marks at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line—a totality of uncertainty that is simply stunning.

None of this mattered last summer, however, as long as we had Attitude, System and Old School Raiders Football. Or so we thought. This was the temptation of Al Davis. This was pride blinding reality.

As for me, I was on board. Go read my posts from last summer, you’ll see no shortage of bullish optimism. I’m not going to beat myself up for not being a better talent evaluator than Al Davis, Mike Lombardi and Art Shell. But I bought this season on a conceptual and philosophical level as well. Back in March, I wrote: “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.”

I was wrong about the outcome, but right about the terms.

If all of this sounds like I’m simply bashing Al Davis after the fact, that I’m saying his pride was unfounded, that it was all one big mistake, then I haven’t made myself clear. I’m not saying those things. I am just saying that the team got ahead of itself and overlooked some crucial matters. We tried to build a beautiful new house, but we built it on sand: talent problems, chemistry issues and coaching inexperience. The house might yet be built, the architectural plans might still be solid, but only if we work a lot harder on building our foundation.

Here’s what we now know for sure: Our current cast of offensive players and coaches, at least together, cannot score touchdowns or win games. That’s an established fact. So before we get ahead of ourselves again, before we start cutting players, devising draft scenarios and deciding whether or not Coach Shell should stay or go, let’s revisit the premise that got us here in the first place. Is the premise itself totally flawed—Art Shell and company leading a return to glory through classic Raiders football—or can this premise work if, unlike last year, we make substantive improvements in our offensive player (and coaching) personnel? Personally, I haven’t decided yet. I still love the premise. The challenge is living up to it.

In closing, I want to address three frequent statements that have the potential to disrupt our logic as we move forward with discussions about where we go from here:

1. It’s all the players’ fault.

So you say it was the players, not the coaches or management, who failed to execute, who literally dropped the ball? Fine. But players don’t sign themselves. Players don’t draft themselves. Players don’t promote or demote themselves. Executives do (in this case, that means Davis, Lombardi and Shell). In what company or organization or sports franchise does the management bear no responsibility when the frontline employees fail to execute their basic job requirements? Who hired these employees? Who trained these employees? Who evaluated these employees and found them capable? Who put the company in the hands of these employees? Sure, Bill Belichik is just lucky and Starbucks is a fluke. To suggest that the players alone are accountable for this mess is to misunderstand the basic concepts of management, organization, training, teambuilding and coaching.

Yes, players are to blame for their own individual lack of execution. Executives, however, are to blame for putting the team in the hands of players who can’t execute.

2. Art Shell is the only one who would take the Raiders coaching job.

After firing Norv Turner, Mr. Davis did not act swiftly. Nor did he make winning pitches to (or accept pitches from) Mike Martz, Ken Whisenhunt, Al Saunders, Bobby Petrino, Cam Cameron, Pat Hill and other coaching candidates. Our search for a head coach was halfhearted at best. Coaches like Sean Payton and Eric Mangini were locked up before we even got out of the gates, and for whatever reason, guys like Whisenhunt and Martz either passed on the job because they weren’t offered enough, or they were not offered the job. Art Shell wasn’t a last resort. He was a choice.

I don’t want to hear that no one wants the Raiders job, period, as if money and assurances have nothing to do with it. Is the OC job in Detroit so much more attractive than leading the Oakland Raiders (Martz)? Is working as an OC for Daniel “Money for Nothing” Snyder the ultimate dream job (Saunders)? Of course not—unless you’re getting better money and/or better assurances. Give the coaching position the equivalent of Jerry Porter’s signing bonus and the right assurances regarding power and responsibilities, and you will have more than enough qualified applicants.

3. Every team eventually goes through this, it’s the cyclical nature of the NFL, it was just our turn.

No, every team does not go through this. Every team does not regress to two wins after consecutive seasons of four, five and four wins. Every team does not score twelve total offensive touchdowns in a season. In today’s parity-driven NFL, it is difficult to stay on top for long. The inverse, however, is also true: it is difficult to stay at the bottom for long. There is no excuse for regressing after three seasons in which you did not exceed five wins. Al Davis will tell you that. It takes a lot of bad decisions for that to happen in today’s NFL. We need to stop making bad decisions. Our margin for error is very slim at this point.

Finally, please remember this: While I say that pride was our undoing in 2006, that doesn’t mean that I think that pride is fundamentally a bad thing. I still have my pride as a Raiders fan, just as the Raiders still have their pride as an organization. With some shrewd moves on offense, we can
—no, we willturn this ship around. I’m on board. Win or die trying. Onward!


Blogger nyraider said...

Wow! Nice take, Take. I'm buying it. Hopefully, pride will not continue to be our undoing, but I'm worried that it might.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take, I agree with you. I too was very optimistic about this season. I questioned 2 things offensively prior to the season: Aaron Brooks and the running game. I thought that it would balance out though with the "pride" (as you put it) in whom we drafted to compliment Gallery on the line; McNasty and Boothe. I was for sure we'd put McNasty and Gallery on the same side, with Boothe on the outside Right next to Walker with Grove at Center; ridding ourselves of Sims.
I too think the Raiders made the right change with Shell over Turner, but took too long to get there, and I didn't like Walsh.
But now, I think the Raiders have a prime opportunity to move quickly too. Dennis Green is a friend to both Al Davis and Art Shell. I think we can "offer" him a job as OC and Assistant Coach.
I think on the "executive" front, Mike Lombardi needs to go. His philosophy and Shell's philosophy is not mixing. Make Shell GM, and HC; or just GM and promote Rob Ryan as HC.
Bottom line, we do not have the players offensively to "Run downhill with power, and then strike with passing anywhere on the field." Jordan and the RB's by committee are not power backs that run downhill. You need down-the-field vision to do that, and Jordan and Fargas do not have that. They rely too much on a "hole" to run through. This is what I love about Antonio Pittman. He is a perfect RB for this team, and the philosophy they want offensively. His name better be the first name we hear come April.
Restoring our pride offensively begins with finding that strong RB who will run downhill with power. Then there are essentially 3 voids to fill on the O-line after Walker, Sims, and (possibly) Gallery moving on. Some minor "chemistry" problems in Moss and Porter that are easily fixed with Curry at the #1 spot, drafting Limas Sweed or Steve Smith in the 2nd round for the #2 spot, putting Will Buchanon at #3, Doug Gabriel at #4, and Carlos Francis at #5.
Those are just some "executive decisions" that I would begin with if I had the executive power to restore the PRIDE OF THE RAIDERS!

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great take, well done. I'm sure that one was building up in you for a long time!

As for me, I've made up my mind. I think we need a new coach, and I think we should draft a quarterback and go forward. In recent years, we've pased up Rivers, Big Ben, Leinart, and Cutler among others. Being an optimist, I don't think we'll be picking in the top 5 forever. We won't get many chances to draft a true franchise QB. Remember in the good old days, when we used to lament that we'd never get to draft that kind of QB because we never draft that high? Those days are over, or at least on hiatus. Let's take advantage of it this year.

If Davis disagrees with me and chooses to stick with Art, nobody will be happier than me if I'm proven wrong. If we do change coaches, I hope Art stays in the front office.

Let's not forget that Art gave up a great job and moved across the country because his team needed him. And I don't question his effort. It would be lousy if we just put him on the street after one year...

6:48 AM  
Blogger TheFreakingPope said...


Your best take yet. Hazzah!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Bravo RT! This is my 2nd favorite RT Take next to "Marketing the Raiders".

3 things concern me:

1. The offensive system itself.

(a) I'm not convinced that the purest form of the old school Raiders offense will work in today's game. I think we need to use a hybrid version of the Gilliam and West Coast offense.

(b) The speed of the defense doesn't allow for an O-line to hold their blocks for 4-5+ seconds

(c) We certaintly are nowhere near having the type of dominant, athletic O-line to run this offense

(d) Even the man on man power run blocking schemes (as opposed to zone blocking) are very difficult to implement under the current conditions and personnel.

2. The HC/Coaching Staff

(a) If we are going to make some significant coaching changes (to include HC), we need to get busy. Taking our sweet time will cost us dearly because it will limit the number of viable and qualified candidates available. For example, the Cardinals are on record as already having identified 6 HC candidates that they are considering and are already in the process of scheduling interviews.

(b) If Shell returns, I firmly believe that the OC will be by far the most important decision that managment makes. The OC will need to be truly innovative, dynamic, and have the ability to groom young QBs.

3. The QB situation

(a) Excluding Gannon, the Raiders have not had a top echelon QB since 1983. Whether it has been bad choices in the draft, free agency, or the inability to groom young QBs, this position needs to be a top priority.

Finally, I strongly believe that management, coaching, players, and the systems itself all need to fit together in a coherent, comprehensive way.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Joaquin said...

Ok, but someone needs to tell me what was gleaned from this season. What was learned?
Was anything learned by week 7 that could have been changed? We talk about half-time adjustments. What about mid-season adjustments? Where there any? And please don't tell me that Walsh to Shoop was a great seismic gamble!
I would hope that this organization has already decided on the changes that need to be made next year. Of course I also hoped that they could adjust at halftime and in mid-season.
Yes, I'm very confident that they'll be able to adjust annually.

8:59 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


I'm posting this in answer to your comments to me from the Haiku take.

I find it amazing that everyone seems to know exactly what goes on in every team meeting, every practice, and every staff meeting. I'm missing this information somewhere.

Glen Dickey always seems to know too. I guess that makes sense since he's such a great friend of Al Davis, and Davis is constantly updating the press with transcripts from meetings and practices.

Not one Raider coach has ever said that Davis has all the ideas of who to draft and which free agents to sign. Turner has specifically said that he asked for KFC and got him. Just as Gruden asked for Gannon and got him. Calico, you don't know who's idea it was to bring in very many. And neither do I. But I do know what I've heard Madden say, what I've heard Flores say, and what I've heard Gruden say, and none of them seem to agree with you. But I guess folks like Glen Dickey know best.

As for Moss, the players pick the team Captain, not Shell or Davis. The HC is not permitted to veto their choice. This is true on every team, and the Raiders are no different. What is going to happen to the team moral if Shell benches the person the team has selected as Captain? Shell was between a rock and a hard place with Moss, and Moss knew it and took advantage of it. If you think that Moss sat out the last four weeks because of a sprained ankle, you're smoking something.

Shell had every bit as much involvement in this defense as he did during his last time through. No, he didn't call the plays for the offense or the defense. But do you really think that's all that goes into Defensive planning? You may not have noticed, but this Defense was far more agressive than in Ryan's previous two years. That's Shell's influence, and there are no if, ands, or buts about it.

I'd suggest you read the books by people who have played and/or coached the Raiders. You might formulate some different opinions.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

There is a Greek word, Hamartia, and many of their dramas revolved around this. Hamartia is a Tragic Flaw and almost always means Pride. Does that mean pride is bad, certainly not. However, pride has been the downfall of many of us. The "old school" Raider offense displayed this year was greatly incompotent. We could not pick up any blitz packages. Coincidentally the blitzes we could not pick up were much newer than our offensive system. I could not agree with you more when you say it is hard to lose this bad for four straight years. It is now obvious that the executives have made many poor decisions.

Al needs to recognize that pride comes from winning, no matter the system. It was not the offensive system that instilled pride in the Raider franchise, it was the fact that we dominated the AFC throughout the 70's and early 80's.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we want to continue running the Gilman/Davis vertical offense, it will take finding many STAR players in key positions to make it work.

I agree with Calico. A hybrid of the vertical, & west coast seems smart.

Look at Philly this year. Mcnabe goes down, in steps Garcia, and they don't miss a beat in the WC offense.

It's the system that makes it possible. You just can't do this with the vertical. It needs the star players making the big plays all the time.

Also agree with Dan. We need a solid, long range plan that makes sense.

My biggest fear: Shell returns but can't get the job done, and we start all over again in 2008.

9:12 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


Excellent job here. I think Davis made his decision early on in last years coaching search. He knew what he wanted to do, and made the decision that it was either going to be Patrino or Shell. He explored the other candidates just in case somebody was able to surprise him, but no one did. His first choice was to move ahead with Patrino (maybe, as I've heard, it was Lombardi who extended the offer to Patrino and not Davis). When Patrino declined, he reached back for Shell. I think that Davis realized he was taking a risk, and that it would take some time for Shell to get his NFL legs back underneath him. Regardless, it doesn't matter now. But I do believe that Shell will stay.

While I've defended Walsh (simply because I never believed he was the one and only problem) I think Shell made his first big mistake by hiring him. The hire was destined to cause controversy, and I think Shell underestimated the fact that Walsh came in, already discredited to the players. Otherwise, Shell came in awfully late, needed input for the draft, and had to make quick hires which turned out to be weak. The blame for that late hire has to go to Davis, who should have known better.

At the first sign of trouble with Porter, Shell should have investigated the possibilities of signing a replacement. And that blame goes to Shell. I think the selections of McQuistan and Boothe were good ones, and I think they will become ancors on the line. I think that Shell hoped that by moving Gallery back to his original position, he'd be better, but he didn't factor in the fact that Gallery would be learning, also, a new blocking technique.

I have a lot more, but it can wait.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's strange the Raiders haven't announced any offensive coaching changes yet...even if Art's staying, you now somebody's gotta go...

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You make a good point on the old school system. This worked before the salary cap and parity, when teams literally had flat out bigger, stronger, faster and more talented players at every position than other teams.

That's no longer the case in today's NFL. We had some decent talent on offense this year but zero chemistry, execution or leadership. One of the reasons the west coast offense is so common these days is it doesn't require the biggest, strongest players hence less reliance on a specific position or individual and more of an ability to plug and play if one guy goes down or you lose someone to free agency.

I see trying to do it the old way of the Mad Bomber as an uphill battle. Getting thet type of players and more importantly keeping them is too difficult these days.

Which is why if there isn't significant change in at a minimum the offensive coaching staff I have little hope for improvement.

And as for the pride in Al doing it his way, that's fine. But I would prefer to win anyway than lose his way.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

BR - Our debate centers on the following;

- What impact or involvement has Shell had on the 2006 Raiders' Defense?

I have never claimed to know what goes on behind closed doors.

My speculation and opinion about Shell's lack of involvement/influence on the Raiders D is based on whatever info. I can gather (interviews, various media sources, press conferences, etc), past history, and reasonable assumptions.

When Shell was hired, he largely concentrated on the offensive side of the ball. Why? Because the defensive unit and coaching staff were largely intact. Also this made sense since Shell's background is on the offensive side of the ball. Further, Shell bought on board a new OC and O-line coach.

My point about Davis acquiring the current defensive talent is factual. The only 2 players up for debate that are relevant to this discussion would be Huff and Howard. Who do you honestly think picked these 2 guys? Davis. I would be VERY surprised if Shell had any input on these 2 selections. The rest of the team was obviously drafted (or signed in the case of Sapp & Burgess) prior to Shell.

I don't know what basis you want to give credit to Shell for the D but that is your entitled opinion. If you ever come across any credible source to substantiate your claim, I'm all ears. My opinion is based on the following:

Shell didn't acquire the defensive players. Shell didn't hire the defensive coaching staff. Shell doesn't coach the defensive players. Shell is not involved in the defensive schemes or playcalling.

What specifically has he done to impact the D besides citing such nebulous ideas as "Shell had made the defense more aggressive". Really? How?

As far as Moss being the Captain, I stand by my previous takes 100%. As HC, Shell had every right, authority, and duty to strip Moss of his honor of Captain. Is that going to hurt poor Randy's feelings? Who cares? He doesn't deserve that honor. Is that going to lower the morale of the players? Quite the contrary. I think the players would have welcomed this decision. Real leadership means making tough choices...being firm, fair, and consistent to get your message across.

Whether you want to admit to it or not, I think that you want to give Shell credit for the D as a way to justify bringing him back.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Shell stays in. Mike Lombardi is on his way out. He has consistently overstepped his authority with the Raiders, because he envisions owning the team one day.
Moss is "Captain" by name only, and won't be with the team next season. Whether we trade him, or cut him after June 1.
As far as the "offensive style" we run, the Gillman, today, is a mix of WC and old school Gillman. An example of this is with the Dallas Cowboys since Tony Romo has come in. Another one is Baltimore since McNair has stepped in at QB, and the Saints under Sean Payton. Both are playoff teams.
But keep in mind, there are also successful teams that run the old school Gillman philosophy alone. The Bears, the Giants, the Bills, the Titans, the Packers, the Jets (this season), and the one team that is using it and has improved with it, the 49ers. The Doncos implement the Gillman under Shannarat, but haven't had a QB since Horseface Elway.
If you look at the old school Gillman, and the current teams that are implementing them (even in the variation of Gillman/WC), they have a STRONG and POWERFUL running game. The Raiders do not. That is in part because Lombardi came in under Callahan who was wanting to run a pure WC offense. Hence why we have Tuiasosopo, Fargas, Whitted, Jordan, and Porter just to name a few.
I think if Shell stepped in as coach earlier, we would have signed Ron Dayne. I was surprised that we didn't. Davis may have "known" who he wanted to hire, but Lombardi did not. If it is true that he was the one who offered a job to Patrino, he overstepped his authority under Al Davis; and should have lost his job at that point.
My opinion, I don't think Al had a true idea of who he wanted. He was hoping that Wisenhunt and Patrino would come in and help run the team the "old school Raider way;" but none of them wanted too; so in stepped Shell.
We don't need another coach at this point. We need our coach to step in and help coach the voids in the Offensive line, or hire someone (like Dennis Green) who would help him out tremendously. We do not want to jump on the "coaching carousel" like Detroit, Arizona, Houston, St Louis, KC, Atlanta, and Miami.

11:06 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

I’m against the status quo, but further hesitation to plan and implement coaching changes will only lead us there, and to a repeat of last year.

Personally, I don't believe it's good enough (right now) to have a motivational (figurehead) coach. We need an X's and O's guy who won't let painfully obvious shortcomings by his coaching staff fester into another season of oblivion. We need a Petrino-like coach who, if his OC fails to get the job done, can just push him aside and say, “I’m calling the F’in plays now.”

Shell may very well be a great coach, but he needs all the stars to line up (astrologically speaking of course). What we need is a repairman, a troubleshooter who can get his hands dirty, call plays and/or coach positions when others fail.

Many resist change for the sake of maintaining a constant from which players and coaches will gain familiarity with a system. Guess what, THERE IS NO SYSTEM in place. Even if these coaches come back, the offense will have to learn a completely new playbook. So what better time to move Art upstairs and start with a new HC and OC. It’s going to happen sooner or later, so why wait?

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a follow up on my last post. If you look at the list of teams who I listed running a pure old school Gillman offense, their Head Coaches are defensive guys. We all know that "defense wins championships." So why do these coaches run the old school Gillman? Because they know the way to beat a great defense is to pound them with strong running, and take their breath away with the passing game. This beats them at their own game/philosophy of "I'm punching you in the mouth with blitzes and power rushes."

11:15 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


If you want to claim that Davis drafts every player, you're going to have to show me some evidence of that (other than media, because they are just guessing like everybody else). If you want to see some evidence for my position, read John Madden's book - Hey, Waid a Minute, I Wrote a Book, Gruden's book (can't remember the name of it), and listen to Flores sometimes when he expounds.

No HC chooses the team Captain. That is, and has always been the provence of the players. They chose him to be the go between between staff and players. Shell is not going to say, "Sorry, pick another one." If he does that, he might as well pick the Captain himself. (Hell, there might even be a union rule against it.) I can't remember which team, but it seems to me that this became an issue once, where the HC nixed the Captain the players had selected. It was an issue all season long.

By your logic, then, Madden had no input in the Raiders' offense during his tenure, because he was a linebackers coach. Flores had no input in the Raiders' defense because he had been the QB coach.

I think the claim that HCs have no input other than in the limited realm of their playing or coaching experience is absurd. Sometimes I think people feel the need to make an idiot out of Shell, so they will only accept that he stands like a statue in the corner during practices.

Just because he doesn't make entertaining faces on the sidelines like Gruden, does not mean that he's not involved. The HC has a hand in everthing, if not in design, than at least in style. Your claim is well short of common sense. If you're going to tell me that Shell has no input in defense (as every HC throughout the league does) you're going to have to prove that to me. Simple logic says he does. In order to understand offenses you HAVE TO know defenses, and visa versa.

12:05 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

An adjusted point. It is true that Davis SIGNS every player. That's his job. He's the owner. He pays the contract. But to say the coaches don't say, "get me this guy" is rediculous.

Gruden's claim wasn't that Davis scouts and picks every player, it was that he felt he always had to give Davis a detailed explanation for why he wanted particular players.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make no mistake that Davis has "his guys" too; like every owner does. Davis is more open to coaches detailing why they want a particular guy over Davis', which was Gruden's beef.
Shell has a hand on both sides of the ball. He gave Ryan a basic idea of what he wants to see the defense accomplish, but left the play design/calling to Ryan. The same with Walsh. This is how Shell operates. He wants his coordinator's to make the decisions to accomplish his vision and direction for the team.
He won't be involved in the play calling or coaching style of any of his coaches because he trusts their decisions to get the job done, which is why they are in the positions they are in.
So in sense, you are both right, and wrong. Here is an example of what I think happened between Shell and Ryan, purely speculation no proof, BR; but I think the evidence of game day proves this:
Shell says, "I want a defense that is going to over power the opponent in the trenches, and punch the receivers, TE's, and RB's in the mouth. I want our base defense to be a 4-3 set, instead of a 3-4 set because I am more familiar with that style. What do you need to accomplish this?" Ryan says, "Ok, we can do that. I'm going to need help at Safety and Linebacker to implement more blitzing packages to stuff the run, and make the 4-3 effective. I am on board with the 4-3 style, and we can accomplish your vision for the team with it."
So is Art involved with the defense/offense in decision making? Yes. Is he involved in play calling, and how to execute a game plan during game day? No. But I'm sure he has opinions during the development of the game plans during film watching, and strategizing for the next opponent on a weekly basis.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Tim Mo said...

Best take of all time? It could be. You're right, it did hurt to read, especially after dealing with it on a week-to-week basis, and it's true that just like no teams can stay on the top (or can they? - Colts, Eagles, Pats) no team should be able to stay on the bottom (or can they? - Lions, Cardinals, Browns) so perhaps the Raiders will wake up, smell the salt, and get back to playing some football.

1:25 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


I agree.

The first things that will happen in the off season is that Davis will determine the status of Shell and Lombardi.

What I expect will be the first priority is for Shell (assuming he still has his job) and Davis to sit down together and discuss which way they want to move, and to determine which coaches are being offered jobs elsewhere, and which coaches should be released.

Then they will look for potential candidates for OC, because no new offensive assistants should be hired without the input of the new OC. Don't expect anything to be decided, or many interviews to occur, prior to the completion of the post season. It is very possible that an OC will be selected from one of the staffs involved in the post season.

Once the OC is selected, Shell will have discussions with the new OC about what Shell wants, and what personnel the OC needs to implement it, in both coaches and players.

At this point I'd like to speak up for Beletnicoff. I'm not sure why he's taken so much flack lately. I've never heard anything but positives about Freddie as a WR coach from staff or players. Rice used to praise him constantly. He taught skills to Tim Brown, and currently Curry, Porter, and Gabriel.

The only person I've heard say would remove him was Denny Green at the time Davis wanted to interview Denny. Green's position was that he doesn't want any coach without the ambition to be a head coach some day. Personally, I have no problem that Freddie is happy doing what he does best.

But the most interesting thing coming up to me is the status of Lombardi. I have no idea what will occur. According to what I've heard, Shell doesn't confide in Lombardi often, and prefers to deal with Sean Jones.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

BR - Please refrain from putting words in my mouth or assuming things that clearly I didn't say, imply, or reference. I don't appreciate it.

Bottom Line: I have never once claimed that Raider HCs (past or present) don't provide input for draft selections or input for offensive/defensive units.

Also, there is a BIG difference between providing input and making a final decision as it relates to the draft. As the final decision maker, Davis has to agree or sign off on any and all draft day selections.

With you jumping around on all the wild, non-pertinent tangents that have nothing to do with the original point, let me be crystal clear. Our debate and discussion (between you and me) was focused on Shell's impact on the Raiders D in 2006. Let's stay on point. Your references to Gruden, Madden, Flores are irrelevant.

You seem to believe that Shell was a major contributor to the D's success. I believe that Shell's contribution to the D was limited.

RaiderNate75: I agree that Shell is involved in the "Big Picture" of each unit. My point was that in my opinion only, Shell's role, impact, influence on this year's Defense was limited at best for all the reasons I stated the previous few comments.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RT- I'm not just giving you lip service here, brother, that was a well-written piece. It helped me sort the mess out (again) in my own mind. Al, flushed the only successful coach he had in the last twenty years and then when his preferred system was clearly failing and others were shying away from the HC job, Al, backed into a corner, rolled the dice on the "old way" and the gamble was a complete and utter CRAP OUT at the table. A loser at Vegas. I think most of us would have wagered it'd fail yet we all still hoped to lose that bet. We're good fans. But it did fail, miserably. Failed as RT said, "biblically".
Shell and Walsh came into implement what he (Al) wanted. They must have believed in it (nuff said?)
Now all that is left is the debris.
What now? Here we all sit wondering who pulls the strings and who calls the shots. I say look at Callahan at Nebraska... he's doing a pretty good job up there. They looked solid against Auburn (albeit in a loss). Look at John Fox at Carolina... he's done pretty well. Bresnehan at the Bengals looks okay.
Al's way has been repudiated worse than the GOP at the polls back in November. Will he now change? Will he now become less over-bearing and uninvolved?
I hate to get rid of a coach after only one year, and God knows Al's way is what has doomed White, Bugel, Shell, Callahan, etc etc... but Art simply brings nothing to the table:
1. Unequal team discipline... Moss/Porter... breeds unhappy campers
2. Non existent clock management
3. Inability to adjust to ANYTHING during the course of the game.
4. In ability to overule or "persuade" the old man into changes in personell or strategy
5. No undertsanding of a modern offense
6. With 1 thru 5 above, at the very least Art could show everyone something if he'd just surround himself with good coaches yet he fails miserably at even that (WALSH!!!!!!!!!!)
No, Art is no long-term answer. Even if we get a great OC to save Art's ass that guy would be THE hottest HC prospect in the NFL and gone in a flash. So Art is simply a waste of time. Do it and move on. There are no bright spots with Art.
And I like the feeling of our defense but remember... no one ever felt threatened by us, so we never got anyone's full offensive game. When we had to stop Denver or San Diego to win those games, the defense failed. I'm not totally sold. not yet.
Or how about Porter and #2 for Schaub.
And again, Mike Price would be a great coach.

4:58 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


I fail to see how I haven't answered your comment. Basically you strip Shell of every involvement that an HC has and leave him as spectator. No say on the players, no say on the style, no say on the direction. What makes you say he had no involvement in the selection of defensive players? Show me why you think Shell had nothing to do with it.

For the previous two years Ryan ran a read and react defense. This year the defense was agressive and attacked. Shell specifically said when he was hired that he planned to do that. While you don't specifically say that Ryan just decided to do that on his own, what is there left?

An HC doesn't have to install his own coaches to say we're going to change our style. Shell wasn't just an offensive lineman. He's been a coach and head coach for many years before becoming the VP of operations for the NFL. He had considerable input in the defense his first time around as Raiders head coach. Why do I know this? Because when Shanahan was the Raiders coach he ran a read and react. Shell changed it because it wasn't, he felt, the Raiders' style.

Yes, it's true, Davis has the final say on players brought in. Of course. Where, in what universe, is it different? And Davis expects an explanation as to why he's spending his money. But that doesn't mean that the coaches don't tell him who they want. I suspect both Ryan and Shell had input into what players were drafted. I suspect that Walsh had a good deal of input in bringing in Brooks. Why was Brooks brought in? Because Walsh and Shell discussed it while looking at their offensive line and said, "we've got to get rid of the statue and bring in somebody who can move."

5:16 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

BR - First and foremost you need to understand a few things.

#1 I was very hopeful when Shell was rehired as HC. I fully supported the decision and sincerely believed that Shell could get the job done. Just go to my post in Feb of 2006 to get my viewpoint on the Shell hire;

#2 If Shell is brought back in 07 as HC I will continue to be a loyal supporter of Shell and the Raiders success. As a long time diehard, the teams success is always paramount.

Where we obviously differ is how we view Shell's performance this year. I patiently waited until the end of the season to form my opinion about Shell. In my opinion he has failed miserably in all the major aspects of being the HC. I wish it wasn't true but that is how I genuinely feel about his performance.

Another major difference we have is the weight that we assign to Shell's impact on the D.

To this day, I have yet to hear any concrete, specific things that
Shell brings to the table. The only reason I hear for bringing him back are either
(a) he deserves another year
(b) for the sake of "stability"

Sorry but those reasons aren't good enough in a performance based industry.

BTW, the 3 coaches that Shell hand picked were absolute flops.
- Ted Daisher (ST Coach);
KR Coverage (32)
PR Coverage (30)
Punt Returns (31)

- Tom Walsh (OC) and Jackie Slater (O-line);
The Raiders were dead last in scoring, sacks allowed, yards per game, turnovers (enough said)

I could spew a long laundry list of all of Shell's shortcomings, deficiencies, and errors but I think you already knows these areas of disappointment since I have spelled these out in other past comments.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Well, I just saw Jamarcus Russell chuck the ball 50-yards in the air off of his back heels for a touchdown. Nice.

Not convinced by Brady Quinn's throwing motion. Looks a bit clipped.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, been checking out the Sugar Bowl, and the same old Brady Quinn, doing nothing in a big game against quality opponent.

Russell, big arm, nice touch, seems like he can move a little, but who really knows.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

JeMarcus Russell looks like the type of franchise QB that we can hitch our trailer of hope to.

Terry Bradshaw made the comment that Russell can throw the ball 85 yards standing, 60 yards from his knees, and 40 yards sitting on the ground. WOW!

What has really impressed me about Russell tonight is his mobility, quick release, poise, and total command. He has totally outclassed Quinn in every aspect.

Can we pass on a 6'6", 260 lbs QB with mobility who can make all of the throws, wins in the toughest conference, against the toughest competition? I say we pull the trigger on Russell even if it means using the #1 pick.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even I will commend you for an honest and extremely well composed and written piece. You didn't miss a thing. I know you will delete this post because I call your beloved "team" the faidas, but at least I am giving you props for telling it like it was! I will point out that I was posting before the start of the season that the faida propaganda machine was what had so many of the faida fanatics beleiving that the "team" was going to bring back "the return to faida football greatness". I expained that all the pre-season wins were "empty" wins that were never won against the number one team by the faida number one "team" you all saw it, but wouldn't accept that the wins were NOT legit! From the start it was plain to anyone who would "see" the "A squad team" didnt show didly and it was proven again and again throughout the long sad season. If "big al the genius" continues to run the "team" be prepared to watch much more of what you watched in "06". I speak the truth, and you all know it.

9:43 PM  
Blogger x said...

Wow! I don't know what was more entertaining - the latest Raider Take (excellent) or the throw-down between Calico Jack and BlandaRocked.

I'm in the Shell-must-go camp. Even if he did have a major hand in the defense (sorry, but that's doubtful), just re-read the last several Raider Takes and explain how you keep a guy that has led such a woeful team. One with an offense so "biblically impotent and incoherent". Worst Raider team ever.

Remember, all he had to do is improve on four wins. Instead, the team seems markedly worse and they've become the laughing stock of the league. Something I thought I'd never see. Even Browns fans are laughing at us. Talk about a serious hit to the pride.

Now, it's so bad that even the "faida" guy is agreeing with us.

I don't care who originally picked Moss to be a team captain, but I don't think players would have complained if Shell yanked the honor from him after he started spouting off to national media. After all, who else could change a captain? The players don't have re-votes, do they? That's one of the many jobs a HC has - team and personnel management - one of many things that Shell failed miserably at.

Darth Raider has an interesting post here that gives some insight into what at least one player thinks of Jerry Porter. This tells me something. This same player has said that Porter should have been on the field anyway, so it makes one wonder about the season-long benching. Sure, he's a jerk and said some stupid things, but shouldn't his HC have used some interpersonal skills and settled the issue man-to-man? Oh wait, if you've seen any of Art's interviews or press conferences, communication isn't his forte. And he seems stubborn as an ox.

A HC should be a communicator. Remember his statement about his players...that they "read the papers"? That he shouldn't have to tell them? Is that communication?

I'll support Shell if he stays, but he must have absolutely brilliant people around him to succeed. Coaches and players. Even if that happens, and I hate to say this, but Art's poor in-game management skills will still cost the Raiders some games. This was a weakness in his previous stint as coach and may have cost the Raiders a game or two back then. And that was before the additional stress of having to decide on red flag challenges and two point conversions (actually adopted in 1994 - his final 9-7 season before being fired).

I don't want to hear any more Robert Gallery excuses, like "...he didn't factor in the fact that Gallery would be learning, also, a new blocking technique". What? Gallery played LT throughout college. He was a #2 OVERALL draft pick. Switching from RT to LT shouldn't be a problem for a can't-miss prospect like Gallery. New technique? You hit/block the dude in front of you. Period. Lame excuses. All of them. (could he still make a decent guard, maybe?)

The reason we have had a coaching carousel is not because we haven't been patient enough with the coaches. It's because we've been hiring bad coaches. If we know that the current coach is bad, evidenced by leading the most horrible team in Raider history and a top-5-worst offense in NFL history, do we keep him solely for wishful thinking?

Art's one of the best ever. He's Raider family. But please Al, move him upstairs.

10:27 PM  
Blogger nyraider said...

Franchise QB’s, like Drew Brees, are too few and far between in free agency, so we need to take a hard look at the top college QB prospects while we hold the #1 draft pick.

Brady Quinn might end up being a solid NFL QB, but I’m against drafting him. He was badly outplayed by JaMarcus Russell last night, and he has yet to show he can win “the big game.” Conversely, I could see Al taking Russell if he declares. Al had a thing for Vince Young, and Russell has many similar attributes, e.g., freakish size, strong arm, quickness and poise. We all know Troy Smith will be a draft option because Al loves Heisman winners, and Smith knows how to win.

Alternately, Adrian Peterson would be an awesome addition, but I’m not sure picking him (or another RB) outweighs trading for additional draft picks. Therefore, short of drafting a franchise QB, we should trade the top pick for additional picks and stock up.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Psycho said...

So far I'm disappointed with the draft class. I like Russell and Peterson as top 10 players but if we pick either of them #1 I think I'd find myself in the future thinking about how we were one year away from V.Young and R.Bush. Quinn should not be our guy IMO. Troy Smith is possible but I can already see Al taking Calvin Johnson just based on freakish ability at WR. As long as his attitude is OK that might be the way to go assuming we have (hopefully) one or two WR spots open {wink-wink}, and assuming we can get a QB like Schaub. I think if it were me I'd do everything possible to get Schaub and trade down for more picks....To start.

Great post RT, nailed it.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice piece,as usual.With a level of incitefull,honest and worthy grit that makes me proud(not that despite recent times i'm not always proud)to be a member of the Raider Nation.I too believe that pride has more positives than negatives in this fight to return to where we SHOULD be.i also believe that ,if given the chance,Art will instill the poise and the self belief into his players which will make us all proud.

8:43 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


We're getting off to a good start in 2007, you and I. You keep my debating skills sharp.

I've been an Art Shell fan nearly his entire career. I admit that he's made a lot of mistakes this season, which I attribute to being out of coaching for several years. It's not the system, the players are different, and he needs to adjust to that. I certainly hoped for better. But there is no question in my mind that Shell influenced the defense. I think the people who feel otherwise are conveniently forgetting Ryan's first two years.

But even if it was all Ryan, it took until Ryan's third year for the animal to get it together. The Raider D was pure crap his first year. When he started to convert all of his defensive linemen to LBs I thought, "well, he's going to attack the QB on every down." Instead, he put people like Brayton into pass coverage.

Now that Shell has been slapped in the face with a certain degree of NFL reality, he will adjust. He always has found a way to do so, and he always will. That is his style, that is his will to win. What some identify as "stubbornness" is tenacity. He's been knocked on his butt before. But he gets up and says, "okay, now it's my turn."

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen much of Russel this year but he looked nice. Brady looked the same. I hope we stay far away from him. I am already waiting impatiently for the draft.

RT: When will this turn into draft central?


9:16 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

BR: I'm not sure I understand the importance or relevance of crediting Shell with the defense. Fact is, it's the offense that fell flat on its face this year, and that's where we needed him most. His shortfalls in coaching the offense seem to far outweigh any contribution he might have made to the defense. Personally, I believe any time Shell spent on defense was time misspent due to the horrific play on offense.

And, why should we, as fans, have to wait until each off-season to make adjustments. Shouldn't the adjustments at least begin during the season? If we had a true X’s and O’s HC, we wouldn’t be facing another complete revamp. That coach would have already made strides during the season, constantly adjusting schemes and improving the system. Then, replacing an O.C. or getting some quality players wouldn’t be such a quantum leap. Conversely, looks like we’re starting from scratch, AGAIN! How is this pattern helping us gain stability?

10:01 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


I don't believe we're starting over if Shell is retained. I think our problems are clearly defined (which they weren't prior to Shell's arrival). That is, unless you believe that the major problem is Shell, and I don't.

While the D improved by the end of 2005, you couldn't call it a "good" defense. Improvement on nothing but defense is improvement. I'm not saying it was by Shell's design, but the problems on offense bubbled to the surface and became very identifiable. Nobody will be guessing going into 2007.

As for Daisher, the STs played well early in the season, and we all remarked that this was true. The play of the ST fell off after it was clear we were in the midst of a losing season. I think that if Daisher comes back, the defense maintains, and the offense improves we'll have a winning season.

I think that in this off season we can focus purely on offense.

What we need to become a winning team:

A proven OL coach.

A young up and comer to be the new OC, who will balance Shell.

A new director of player personnel.

One outstanding T with leadership skills.

One good C and/or G.

An RB to challenge Jordan.

A free agent WR and/or TE, but I think Madsen will continue to develope.

We also need a QB, but not at the expense of the above. If we use the #1 pick on QB, we limit our ability to get the rest, unless we can trade Moss and/or Porter for more high picks.

More than one WR would be good, and we should be able to get that by trading Moss, Porter, or both.

10:55 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

BR: I certainly hope it's that simple. As much as I prefer replacing Shell with a competent X's and O's coach, I agree with those (CJ) that say they will support Shell if he is to be retained.

However, NOW (NOT LATER) is the time to take decisive action, which is exactly opposite to, and what hurt us most last off-season. If we’re to get a top flight O.C., then we need to draw from the available pool of talent, not from the leftovers. And, if Shell pulls another fossil back from retirement, we can all kiss next season goodbye.

12:20 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Updating to current topics, I'd just like to add that having viewed the Sugar Bowl last night, Jamarcus Russell may be worth a #1 overall pick. And this is one of the rare times I can see Al pulling this trigger. He's everything that Al likes, reminiscent of Al's very first pick of Roman Gabriel, who opted for the NFL rather than coming to the AFL Raiders.

At the very least I would suspect that there will be an interview with Russell prior to any final decision.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


PFT [www.profootballtalk.com] is reporting Art is getting the heave-ho today. Tough draw for a true Raider...

12:27 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


I agree. The Raiders need to have an OC by the week after the Super Bowl (as he may come from one of the Super Bowl teams, and they can't interview those coaches until their season is finsished). Interviews for those not currently involved in the playoffs (or perhaps from the college ranks) need to begin immediately.

12:31 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Parcells to the Raiders? Not likely, but just a thought.

12:36 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Re previous. Here's a plan I could go for. Parcells (who is great friends with Davis) has said that the only way he'd coach the Raiders is if Al relinguished some control.

Fire Shell upstairs to GM. Bring in Parcells.

As PantyRaider would say, justdreaminbaby.

12:50 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Once the dreaming starts, I can't stop myself.

Bump Shell upstairs. Davis has been offering a noncontrolling interest in the Raiders. Offer it to Parcells as part of performance/salary package. Moss would likely settle down if Parcells were coming in. Keep Moss. Draft J. Russell. Trade Porter and the second round pick for a 1st round pick. Spend that pick on a RB. Use the rest of the draft and free agency to shore up the o-line.

No telling what Davis will do. But that's what I'd do.

1:06 PM  
Blogger nyraider said...

Blandarocked, have we successfully converted you to the "oust Art Shell" team? I'm liking your current thinking, even if it is far fetched. However, even if Parcels was an option for HC, he would want total control over all player and coaching personnel. That's just too much to ask of Big Al, unless his health is more of an issue than any of us know.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's his son

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BR: Ryan's defense was a read and react defense the last two years, and this year it became an attacking defense?

I totally disagree with that logic.

The difference between this year's defense and last years' defense (and the year before that when Ryan ran the 3-4) was three things:

1) Tacklking: Huge improvement, with much more speed at LB than previous years

2) Coverage: (a)Fewer breakdowns and blown assignments, (b) we now have two corners who play above average in man-up (look at passes defensed, not only picks)

3) Line of Scrimmage: For the most part the front 4 / front 7 did a nice job (vs. previous years when they looked like they had roller skates on), but tailed off a little towards the end of the year.

When I think of attacking defenses, I think of Philadelphia types who blitz and slant / shoot gaps constantly.

My opinion of the Raiders defense was a pretty much basic 4-3 with MUCH, MUCH improved fundamentals (points above).

Sure Ryan called the occasional corner or safety blitz on 2nd/3rd and long, but blitzing and/or shooting gaps was not a regular staple of this defense.

I don't think the scheme changed, I think it was maturing into a more disciplined, fundamentally sound unit....with more speed of course.

The other point that's important is there were nowhere near as many injuries this year, vs. previous years, on the defensive side of the ball...not to name any names (C-Wood).


1:44 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


Not converted. Just dealing with reality if the rumor is true.

Davis has already begun preparing for his own exit, and who better to bring in than Parcels who Davis thinks is a great coach. I still think that Shell will be retained in some capacity, even if he's no longer the HC. In fact, Parcels availability could be the thing that causes Davis to pull the trigger on Shell.

1:46 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


If LB speed was important to Ryan, why was his first act as the DC to convert a bunch of lumbering linemen to LB?

An agressive defense isn't necesarrily a blitzing defense. The Raiders have never been fond of the blitz. Ryan this year implemented a defense that was exactly the Raiders' prefered style. They believe in a front four that can attack the quarterback without additional help, safeties that can guard against the run, and CBs who can play tight man coverage, and linebackers that can play both the pass and the run. That is not a description of Ryan's defense in his first two years. It is a description of the historically prefered Raider defense, and the defense he ran this year.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Raider Frank said...

All I can say is thank you for your words. WOW!

7:32 AM  
Blogger Raider Frank said...

All I can say is thanks for your words. Wow, great article!

7:34 AM  

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