Monday, February 12, 2007

For Sale: Optimism with Extended Warranty

I’m the guy who sold you hot coffee in Death Valley in 2005 and a bridge in Brooklyn in 2006. Now I’ve got something new to sell you. Trust me. No, really. I’ll even throw in an extended warranty and free batteries.

I’ve been blogging about the Raiders for a mere 17 months, yet I’m already writing about a third coaching regime. Over this span of two seasons and more than 330 takes, I have celebrated six total victories with you. For the past two preseasons, I have barked a lot about how this year is the year, only to quickly find myself talking about next year.

Here’s what I was selling in 2005: With the additions of Moss and Jordan, with Collins getting comfortable in the system and Gallery getting comfortable in the NFL, and all under the guidance of offensive guru Norv Turner, the Oakland Raiders were poised to be an offensive juggernaut. Oops.

Here’s what I was selling in 2006: This is the year we return to classic Raiders football, to long bombs and downhill running, to pride and poise and glory, all under the steady focused hand of Raiders legend Art Shell. Ouch.

I don’t make any apologies for being wrong in my early predictions about the past two seasons. I’m a fan, which means I’m a fanatic—a fact that I must balance with my role as a commentator. Here’s an example of how I do it: When Tom Walsh is announced as the offensive coordinator, I don’t scream that the sky is falling and that he’s a failure before his plane has even landed in Oakland. Once a decision is made by my team, I am willing to be open minded—and even irrationally exuberant—until proven otherwise. That’s the fan in me. However, when Tom Walsh confirms my worst fears with incoherent playcalling, then I am obligated to comment accordingly.

In other words, I reserve the right to be optimistic in the preseason but am obligated to be realistic during the regular season.

So now I’m back, knocking on your door with a new sales pitch: We’re coming out of the woods. We’re getting back on track. This is the start of something meaningful and lasting. It’s the dawn of the Lane Kiffin era—batteries included.

I love the decisiveness of our recent hirings, such as Knapp, Cable and Perry. They have been swift and sensible. This year, it's not the Raiders who are making curious news. It’s Jerry Jones who is hemming and hawing into oblivion. It's the Chargers firing their coach in mid February after already losing both coordinators—and after going 14-2 in the regular season. This is a team that didn’t fire its second-year coach after going 1-15 in 2000. San Diego has always had the fairest weather, eh?

Anyhow, I like our hirings. We're quickly emerging from the acid trip of 2006, in which we hired a head coach away from a corporate desk job, our OC away from rural retirement, a QB coach who hadn’t coached quarterbacks for six years and a line coach with very little coaching experience. In retrospect, it's no wonder our offense looked disoriented. Our coaching staff was disoriented.

This year, our new coordinator and coaches are already deeply engaged in the game at an NFL level, and while Kiffin is new to the NFL, he has been prowling a sideline for the college program that most resembles an NFL program. Shaking off cobwebs won't be an issue.

We still have a ways to go, we still have player personnel issues in my opinion, but I think that the confusion and disorientation of 2006 are being roundly resolved, and that a true foundation is being formed. Trust me. Remember, the price of optimism is free, and this time I'll even throw in an extended warranty and some Duracells. I'm sorry about the previous products, but I still stand by this new one.


Blogger StickUm25 said...

Kiffin vs Carroll? Could be very interesting . .

10:16 PM  
Blogger Joaquin said...

stickum25 - If Pete ends up in Sanddy Eggo, which I'm sure he will, he is going to have a lot of 'firepower' right from the get go.
I would love for him to stay at USC, but after Sarkasian made a quick exit back to USC, it sure looks like this whole thing was set-up a while back.
Carroll to SD and Sark as HC at USC.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from here to kingdom come, pete carroll's name is going to be dropped into the nfl coaching hat. same with charlie weiss. i don't think either are going anywhere soon.
but it begs the question, why would the dunderdolts, after a 14-2 season, fire their hc after losing their 2 coordinators that could have done a better job? especially telling both coordinators that schittyheimer was going to stick around?
hmmmm, i think that will come back and bite them in the rear next season. what say you dunder tom?

5:26 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

RT, six victories over that time span is truly sad for all of us. At least now you have the Law of Averages on your side.

To make a small point, keeping it real, I’m not sure Kiff was actually ”prowling a sideline” at USC. Wasn’t he in a booth providing his (cerebral) half to the OC tandem? Personally, I don’t think that matters. Kiffin seems to possess a combination of cerebral awareness and emotion that should provide a presence which has been missing on our sidelines for many years (since Gruden).

If our upcoming personnel decisions are as swift and well-thought as our coaching hires, this thing could get very interesting! For myself, I’m trading in my coffee-maker for a cool-aid mixer.

Oh yeah! Bye Bye Marty! We'll miss you in the AFC West, NOT!

5:40 AM  
Blogger StickUm25 said...

One other point - with this happening so late, there almost no chance he coaches this year. If the Chargers wanted to stick it to him they couldn't have done a much better job of it. And looking at 2008, with the trend towards younger coaching candidates, you have to wonder whether he will get another opportunity, at least with a franchise were it will matter.

6:38 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Thanks, guys. It's hard for me to swallow Pete Carroll going to San Diego after hearing him gush about his current gig on ESPN radio a few days ago, about the joys of recruiting, responsibility to his players, etc. On the other hand: Nick Saban.

NYRaider, good point, I use the term "prowling a sideline" pretty liberally. What I mean is he wasn't prowling a desk or a guest ranch in Idaho. I mean being on the turf, coaching football in practice and on gameday, even if the latter happens in a sky box.

In retrospect, I think that was a huge part of our problem last year, our team and our offense were being led by guys who just weren't up to speed because they hadn't been doing it for so long. All of our new hires, with the exception of Rathman who took last year off (but has been an RB coach at the NFL for many years), should be up to speed because they never slowed down.

7:15 AM  
Blogger sandblack said...

me too, we seem focussed and enrgised. may it continue throught the draft. as a remote but die hard raider fan (london) i love these blogs.


7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if Mike Martz, who has a home in Sanddy Eggo, were to take the job? I personally don't think that "King Carroll" is leaving his "throne" anytime soon and would be an idiot if he did, but what does Martz have to loose? All he would be missing is a Bolt (Holt) or two. The mere thought of a Martz interview has my stomach turning!

8:45 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

Stickum25: Yeah Marty got screwed bad by the untimeliness of his demise, but won't he still collect $3 million? If so, that doesn’t suck.

Golic on ESPN radio made a good point... it was SD's coordinators who really got screwed, because they already left for other posts in Miami and Dallas, respectively. If Marty's departure had been more timely, one of those guys could have taken over a 14-2 club with all-world scoring wizard LT leading the helm.

Let's hope whomever they hire accidentally tinkers them back to mediocrity. Maybe Norval Turner is the man for that job.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who should I make my check out to?

Raider Coachella: Not sure who you've been listening to, but all I have heard is criticism of the way Spanos handled this decision.


11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you RT. I hated the Walsh hire but was willing to give it a shot. At least until the fourth quarter of the first Monday night game after a loooong flight from NJ!

I have a very good feel about the hire of Kiffin and his hires too. Slight buzzkill about some of these guys reversing field on us, but better now than later.

By the way, I'm guessing it's because I'm in NJ and a lot of you are on the west coast, but the radio talkies out here are speculating that Parcells would be the perfect guy for the SD job. And he would be. Man I hope they're wrong!

There's also been a lot of talk about Norv, which I would be okay with. I really don't hate him, but I also can't imagine him handling all those convicts down there. Funny sentiment from a Raider fan, eh? Irony can be very...ironic.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete Carroll will stay at USC if he's smart.

Why take a job where you're expected to win the SB, and even if you do, the previous coach will get all the credit ???

Plus, what if the charmers flop. Everyone will blame Carroll.

It's a lose, lose situation.

Oh well, it's time to check the scoreboard.

Al Davis, 3 Super Bowl championships,
Rottenheimer, 0

Don't let the door hit you in the a$$ on your way out Marty boy.

1:51 PM  
Blogger StickUm25 said...

Looking at the candidates, the worst thing that could happen - Rex gets the job, and Rob leaves to join him. Start breaking out the voodoo dolls . . .

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pins and needles armed and ready!

2:43 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Best case scenario: The Chargers hire Norv Turner, who then lures Tom Walsh to become his OC. Kerry Collins is brought in as Rivers' backup, and Al Davis trades Randy Moss for Michael Turner and a second round draft pick.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Heartland Raider Fan said...

dhejvhbI really like this Blog. I stumbled on to it by googling for information on the Raider coaching changes since kiffin's hiring.
I am a Raider fan from Kansas....Smack dab in the middle of Chief , Bronco country and I love it. They all hate me.
I too have become a salesman. Every year I openly profess my optimism for the upcoming season. It seems I've developed a pretty thick skin from all my predictions and optimism coming back to haunt me by the end of recent football seasons. I don't care I'm a Raider fan and I suppose I bleed Silver and Black. I too long for the glory days when everyone hated me even more and couldn't shut me up.
I'm already working on next year's optimism....I love the Kiffin hiring. It almost appears as if Al Davis is loosening the reign's a little. There is a slight hint in the air that Mr.Davis has given Kiffen a free hand at choosing his own staff (at least on the offensive side of the ball). I would speculate that he learned alot from the Gruden thru Shell era.
If I were ever able to suggest one thing to Mr. Davis it would be that there is enough pride and admiration in the hearts of the Raider Nation to share between him and all the people in Raider organization that are try to bring the Raiders back to their Glory days. Nothing will ever diminish Al Davis' place as the heart and soul of the Raiders.....Mr. Davis there is tremendous pride to be had by choosing the right people to join your Raider Family. Pride to be had knowing you chose the right people to make the everyday decisions and plans that will make the Raiders and Victory synonomous to and foe alike.I long for the day when once again I can see you glowingly tell those around you to..."JUST WIN BABY"!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Ahoy, Heartland Raider Fan! Great take, please keep 'em coming. I'm glad you're out there standing our ground in enemy territory.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Rex gets the job, Al may not let Rob leave to take the same job in SD. Al might let him go so he could move up to a HC job, but not for a lateral move to another DC job. Al could even prevent Rob from interviewing. We should be safe with Rob Ryan for at least another year.

After 3 years of Raider bashing, it's nice to see SD screw up and maybe screw the 49ers at the same time. It's a two-for!

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and the rest of the faida fanatics are loyal hardcore gluttons for punishment, you will be writing thae same type of critique next January "08' trying to figure how "the genius" big al (MR.) davis let youall down again when "miss kiffy" crashes and burns BIG TIME. There is nothing wrong with being loyal dedicated hopeful fans, but you must factor in that "miss kiffy" is VERY IFFY! You can say that all the "new direction" moves in the coaching area are positives, but you still have a bunch of losers on offense, unproven coaching questions, new playbooks and schemes, and alas you will still have the "puppet master" pulling the srings of your "head coach" You all know who is the HC in chokeland....and he'll be making ALL the calls til he stops mouth breathing. Just hope against hope babies. Keep defending the "nation" I for one can't wait for my favorite "team" to start anew in July! GO faidas.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey 'faida man' ... it's been a while. it's nice to hear from you. i was thinking maybe you had stopped caring. "miss kiffy' is pretty funny. (s)he'd be a good coach for #18, kate moss.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny that this "faida fan" Charger guy finally comes back to run smack. Hey DunderDolt fan, how 'bout that choke job against New England? Then how 'bout the DunderDolts telling everyone that Schotty's their guy, only to have Cameron and Phillips jump ship to HC somewhere else, AND THEN the DunderDolts decide to blow up Schotty?
Yet, you come in here running your mouth that we are self destructing, and will be writing the same ol' spew next January? And how Davis is so controlling that he's single-handedly destroying his "empire." Yet your GM Smith, and owner Spanos appears to be working from (in your opinion) Davis' and Jerry Jones' book, not only by firing Schotty, but letting Brees go. How did that taste to see Brees take the Saints farther than your DunderDolts? Good luck with Norv Turner as your next HC.
I'm crow hunting now, and once I find that crow, I'm going to cook it nice and slow in a rotisserie, so it will be nice and chewie when you eat it. Raiders will do better than the DunderDolts this year, guaranteed!

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you guys gotta' check out this new thing I bought. It comes with an extended waranty and batteries.
Once again RT has managed to put on paper exactly how I've been feeling about the current situation.
If only the players buy into this thing by some time before the middle of pre-season we have a chance to quickly turn this thing around and shock people. If we can manage to field just a #20 ranked offense we can win 8 games fairly easilly and actually have something to build on for a change. I get burned every year after buying into whatever direction Al goes in and I'm trying hard not to 'fall for it' this time. But it looks so damn good thus far.

7:16 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Shocker! Davis' real power in the NFL beginning to materialize. Davis actually controls three teams. The Raiders, the Cowboys (who didn't hire Turner because he wanted to hire his own assistants), and the Chargers (who fired Marty because he wanted to hire his own assistants). Since it is well known that Al Davis is the only owner who asks HCs to use assistants the owner hires, Al Davis, therefore, must own the Cowboys and the Chargers.

I think that the reason Davis hired Kiffin, and was interested in Sarkisian, is because of a realization on the part of Davis that the game, like never before, eminates from the college game up. College teams are starting to be run, more and more, like pro teams. And the newest coaching philosophies are being tried on the college level first, and then brought up to the NFL.

The reason for this is the more modern emphasis on the Head Coach. Players have less control of the game than ever before, and are expected to do exactly what they are asked to do by the coaches. QBs and MLBs don't call their own plays, and QBs are frequently not even allowed to audiblize. WRs are asked to always follow cookie cutter routs, and are not allowed to adjust on the fly. Typically now days, the Center is the player on the field with the most authority to make on field decisions (audiblizing blocking schemes). Colleges have historically been this way, but the pros are continually morphing in this direction.

Kiffin knows the players, and he knows the coaches, if not in college then the NFL coaches which the college teams emulate. I think that Kiffin has been brought in primarily as a "personnel man." We've had three coaches who could not win with the core players of this current offense.

I'd expect to see the real changes for the Raiders take place not among the coaches, but among the players. I think Moss will be gone because he's insured that he's gone by refusing to work with Kiffin. Porter will remain for cap considerations. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jordan gone, or his playing time reduced, Brooks gone, several OLinemen... My guess is that we will see no more than three of the starters at the end of the season as starters at the beginning of the 2007 season.

9:55 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


Glenn Dickey writes article about the Raiders without snide comment directed at Al Davis!!!

Perhaps the worm HAS turned. Can Ray Ratto be next?

11:59 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

And here's something that suggests that Art Shell might not have been so bad at critical decisions. In fact, by this calculation, he was in the top 7 in the league.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

glenn dickey and ira miller are two of the most respected columnists in the country. if these two gentlemen write about something, it's true and they know what they are talking about.

bay area writers for the most part are FAIR, with the exception of tim kawakami - but he's critical to every bay area sports team he writes about. ratto is the same way. al davis ripped phil barber a new one last season, but phil recently wrote a very positive article about the team.

if a writer writes and pokes fun at someone or an organization, then they probably deserve it. with the secret way the raiders conduct business, and the losing record of the past several years can you blame them? if we SUCK, we deserve to get negative press. NO let me take that back - AL DAVIS deserves negative press.

granted - there are some writers and talking heads out there who absolutely hate the raiders. the mercury news is a pro niner and giants biased paper. KNBR (the commercial leader) is the same way. big time homers. damon bruce in last week's tuesday night trifecta, stated that he didn't want any raider calls. these people are fair game to criticize because the press is supposed to be fair.

if/when the winning comes i'm sure the writers and talking heads will be just as praising in their comments as they are in the losing.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I have no problem with fair criticism of the Raiders. There's plenty of it to go around.

I do have a problem when a writer doesn't do his or her homework, and resorts to inaccuracy, illogic, inconsistency or immaturity to make their case against the Raiders, as evidenced repeatedly in my News You Can't Use entries.

For a variety of reasons, including some already cited (the team's secrecy, etc.), the Raiders seem to bring out the worst in certain journalists, as if they've been given carte blanche to be lazy and biased. I don't think we should stand for it.

Phil Barber and Jerry McDonald are often critical of the team, but they do it while maintaining professional journalistic standards, in contrast to the immature rants of Kawakami, Ratto, Killion and others. Why should we accept the latter group when the former group proves it can be done with class and professionalism?

2:31 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Stickem, I'd agree with you except for a couple of points. "If these two write about it, it must be true..." This has never been true about any journalism, and especially not about sports journalism.

As for Dickey, I once had major e-mail argument with him about something he wrote which I knew to be untrue. I asked why he was so diabolically negative in regards to Al Davis. He confessed that he had a personal hatred for Davis because he felt that Davis screwed a friend of his when Davis took over the Raiders.

Ratto, it can be argued, is just negative about everything as a matter of style. As for Kawakami, he just seems to feel that negativity is his means for appearing like he knows something.

2:56 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Sorry, Stickem, I meant Scorpio.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Heartland Raider Fan said...

I guess I see things different than most others.I truly believe Al Davis has learned a few things from his recent faiures and I also believe that the the betrayal of his physical health (due to age) has lead him to accept some things he's been unwilling to in the past. Time isn't on his side any more. More than ever the success of the Raiders is the driving force in his life.
I am willing to speculate that after last season Mr. Davis had to step back and reevaluate his past ways of doing business and realizes he can't do it all on his own any more. But being who he is, and having done what he has in the past, he's turned to those vast experiences and is seeking those he recognizes that have the same drive and natural abilities that he also had in his youth. It would also be foolish of me to believe he's given up the desire to have an active role in the daily operation of his passion in life, I just think he's more willing to be a guiding hand rather than a dictator.
It's almost obvious he's giving Kiffen a lot of freedom to choose his own staff. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during Kiffen's interviews. What do you want to bet Al Davis sees alot of himself (in his 30's) in Kiffin.
Maybe God is a Raider fan and thinks the Raider faithful have suffered enough or just maybe God wants Al Davis to experience that true joy of being king of the hill one more time before he calls him home.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with the majority that the Kiffin era is off to a good start, my optimism is tempered by the weight of expectations of the Raider Nation. What interests me is to know what would be the appropriate barometer to measure Kiffin's success in his first year. Considering that Kiff's program will need time and the right players to be truly effective, would Raider Nation truly be content with a 6-10 record?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had trouble logging in. This is the Heartland Raider Fan and I would say to r2g.... that an 8-8 record (or better) would not be too much of a stretch. Last season the Raiders managed to win 2 games .... then they were outscored by a total of 48 points in 7 of the 14 losses. Thats an average of less than a touchdown per loss. Last years offense was nonexistant (pathetic ay best). If Kiffin's new staff can add just one touchdown per game this next season (over last years' production) and the defense plays as well, that could put the Raiders at 9-7.
You might also want to consider both losses to San Diego. They are in the same boat as the Raiders last year... heading into late February without a coaching staff. Granted they were a 14-2 team this last season but how much of that team will remain intact by next season and how well they adapt to the new coaching staff could possibly put the Raiders in position to win at least one of those games next year too.
I'm an eternal (and annual) optimist when it comes to the Raiders....But hey everybody ....Keep the Faith!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

RT - Your latest post inspired me. It gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling aka feeling "minty fresh".

The comments of your readers has been very thoughtful and insightful which is directly correlated to your intelligent, football roundtable type discussions. I applaude your writing skills, humor, justified optimism, and Raider savvy.

One of the more significant developments that has received very little attention from bloggers or mainstream media this off-season is Kiffin's hiring of Mark Jackson. Jackson was the Dir. of Football Operations at USC last year. Kiffin hired him in a similar, "front office" type role for the Raiders. This marks a change in Al's typical ways of running things and shows another deeper layer or level of authority granted to Kiff. For all you Raider trivia buffs, can you name the last newly hired Raiders HC who hired someone for the front office? I don't have the answer because frankly, I don't recall it happening in our history...ever.

For more of my views on this matter, feel free to stop by SBF and share your opinions at:
Cheers! Calico Jack

10:14 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Thanks, Calico Jack, I really appreciate your kind words. That's great insight on Jackson. Folks, check out Calico Jack's latest post, Victory Lane, at Silver and Black Forever, he takes this take to the next level!

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jack....... gruden/allen.

8:38 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Actually, I think the one that Gruden brought in was Lombardi.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

anon 8:38AM - Bruce Allen was hired by Al Davis in 1995 (95-03) while Gruden joined the Raiders in 1998.

BlandaRocked - Gruden joined the Raiders in Jan 1998 while Lombardi joined the Raiders in Mar 1999. After digging around a little, there is no question that it was Al's selection. As a matter of fact, Lombarid was considered for the Raiders in March of 1996. This is the time frame that the Cleveland Browns were defunct (96,97,98 out of the NFL)

Below is a cut & paste quote from Al;

Beacon Journal - NewsBank - Mar 13, 1996 "Mike Lombardi will be given every consideration" for the job, Raiders owner Al Davis said yesterday. "We think he's excellent." Davis added that Lombardi's ...

So as it stands, that is strike 1 and strike batter up.

1:23 PM  

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