Monday, March 26, 2007

Thoughts on Carr and Stars

Like the Texans, last year I thought David Carr might still have some gas left in his tank. Like the Texans, this year I’ve got the feeling that he’s running on empty. He just might be the second coming of Joey Harrington. If he comes to Oakland, I’ll get behind him 100 percent, but at this point I’m skeptical (perhaps partly because I watched him throw for negative yards in Oakland last year). On the other hand, I believe we need a veteran presence at quarterback. Think I’m crazy? Okay, what’s your proposal at this point, a depth chart composed of Booty, Walter and a Rookie? But if we’re going to grab veteran, the pickings are getting slim. In addition to Carr, you have Trent Green and Daunte Culpepper as possibilities. I’m not under the illusion that the Culpepper of today is the Culpepper of yesterday, but he has a proven connection (at least on the field) with Moss, and the fact that he’s not the Culpepper of yore means that his price might be right. I think he has more upside than Carr at this point. He also has more star power.

This brings up another touchy subject, and that’s this concept of likeable star power, or the lack thereof on the Oakland Raiders offense right now, and what it ultimately means. Our biggest star, Randy Moss, is almost universally reviled by the Raider Nation. I’ve never seen anything like it. Terrell Owens has more fans among his team’s supporters than Randy Moss does. It’s sort of like Colts fans hating Peyton Manning or Seahawks fans hating Shaun Alexander. Now consider the remainder of our offense. Whose jersey do you want to buy for your kid at this point in time? At the sport’s most glamorous position, we’ve had Kerry Collins and Aaron Brooks as our presumed starters for the past three years. Porter is not very likeable. LaMont Jordan generally says the right things and has shown flashes of star power, but staring at fumbles, dropping passes and getting injured have undermined his allure (as has running for an average of less than four yards per carry). Walter may still have promise, or he also might be the next Scott Dreisbach, a blip on the radar (for example: good luck finding a Walter jersey at the Raider Image). Don’t even mention our offensive line. As much as it pains me to say it, we simply have no identity on offense. How did we get to this point? Can you name one player on offense who was a sure bet not to get released, traded or demoted during this offseason? I can’t.

If you think I’m being shallow, fine. But on offense, we need some players we can get excited about and truly get behind. Guys like Fred Biletnikoff and The Snake, and Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen, and, more recently Tim Brown, Steve Wisniewski and Rich Gannon, and even Jerry Rice.

I realize that my argument here is more emotional than analytical. But I just feel like we're all hungry (maybe I should just speak for myself) for a more compelling cast, preferably one with more star power or potential. Isn’t that part of the fun of being a fan, that sense of excitement about likeable characters and/or natural superstars who galvanize and motivate not just the fans, but the team as well? We deserve that, and the legacy of the Oakland Raiders does as well. I think that JaMarcus Russell might fit the bill, and that's why he gets my emotional vote for our first pick in the upcoming draft. If David Carr or Daunte Culpepper are here to build a bridge to the future, even better in my opinion.

P.S. The deadline for Raiders season ticket holders to make partial payments on their renewals was last Friday. To be honest, it caught me by surprise. They sent a reminder on Wednesday, which I felt was a bit too late. I called the ticket office to ask for a little more time to pull things together, and they said it was no problem. I spoke with a guy—alas, I forget his name—who said I wasn’t alone, and that they are happy to be flexible on this front. So if you missed the deadline, don’t despair, just call 800-RAIDERS to hash it out. Once again, I have to commend the Raiders ticket office for their highly personalized service. The folks there aren’t mere phone jockeys for hire. They are Raiders fans who respect other Raiders fans, and who work closely with you to make sure you get the attention you deserve. If you are considering season tickets, I urge you to call them and shoot the breeze, as I think you will impressed and motivated by the experience.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Raider Take's Quick Takes

1. Kudos to and team internet director Jerry Knaak for the slick new revamp to the team’s official web site. I love the new banner photo, and the overall layout is more striking and easier to navigate. Among various new features, the site includes a blog by director of broadcasting and executive television producer Chris Gargano. I hope that this step into the future is accompanied by more access and outreach to non-traditional news and opinion media outlets (such as Raider Take, for example). Just as the traditional media outlets are getting into blogging, so should proven bloggers be given more traditional access. Other teams have already figured this out. Unlike the bloggers at the Mercury News and elsewhere, at least I declare my bias, and at least my bias is in favor of the Raiders.

2. Sports Illustrated (a.k.a. Sports Irritating) actually ranked Jordan-Rhodes as one of the NFL’s top 10 running back tandems going into the 2007 (as published on I know a lot of you weren’t too excited about the Rhodes signing, but for once I agree with SI. I think that this has the potential to be a big step forward. It’s a case of the sum being greater than the parts. Rhodes alone isn’t the story; it’s how his presence liberates LaMont Jordan from having to carry the load, and how this could raise Jordan’s game in the process. But if you still want to draft a promising RB in the second round, you won’t get an argument from me. As we’ve painfully learned over the past few seasons, the best time to plant seeds for the future is always now.

3. Interesting stats in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, by the way. Under the banner “The Bust List,” they compile a list of professional sports teams (all sports) by ranking of criminal activity so far in 2007, with points scored for convictions and criminal pleas, arrests and citations and investigations. Not surprisingly, the Bengals top the list, but it’s the AFC West that truly leads the pack, with the Chargers ranked third, immediately followed by the Chiefs. Remember, this is for all professional sports, not just the NFL. I think that the Chargers and Chiefs should merge franchises. They could be called the Kansas Diego Chumps, and their logo could incorporate a pair of handcuffs. They could play their games at Corcoran State Prison. A total of 17 teams made the list. The Raiders, of course, were not mentioned. By the way, when modern Raiders get into trouble, they do it in style, such as firing bullets into the home of Siegfried and Roy.

4. Hello, Jamarcus! Goodbye, Randy! I say send him “Packing” to Green Bay. Let’s keep this train rolling and riding rails into the future. With Charles Woodson already there, the Frozen Tundra could soon turn into a sort of witness protection program for underperforming Raiders. Just freeze, crybabies.

P.S. Click here
to see JaMarcus Russell spin out of trouble twice, then chuck the ball 53 yards off of his heels for a reception. Yeah, I agree, this dude is just too phat.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Welcome to Oakland, Dominic Rhodes!

Finally, some real movement on offense! Dominic Rhodes has signed a two-year contract with the Oakland Raiders.

I know that we're counting on the draft to help fix some things, but when your offense emits a stink of biblical proportions, as ours did in 2006, you can't count on rookies alone to save the day. The addition of Dominic Rhodes is therefore very heartening. I believe that this will liberate LaMont Jordan by lightening his load. No offense to Crockett and Fargas, but a tandem of Jordan and Rhodes is much more exciting than Jordan & Company, especially when Jordan gets hurt from being overused and we're down to just the Company. Finally, defenses might have to guess a little when it comes to our running game.

Does that mean that Rhodes alone is the answer to our running game? No, or course not. But it's solid a step in the right direction. It's the type of step that was needed last offseason. The blinders are coming off. The talent shortfall is being recognized and scrutinized. The leaky ship is being patched.

I like the addition of Newberry to our line, but he's hardly in his prime. He brings leadership and toughness, which are sorely needed. But Rhodes is our first truly big news of 2007 in terms of offensive talent. Let's keep this train moving! Randy Moss? I say pull the trigger if you can. We need more linemen. We need a tight end. Full steam ahead.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Free Agency Haiku

Jeff and Jake, couldn’t
handle the truth; hey Chucky,
the joke is on you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Garcia to Sign with Raiders?

Update 11:10 a.m. - ESPN is reporting that Jeff Garcia has signed with the Buccaneers (thanks for the tip Calico Jack). The Buccaneers also simultaneously traded for Jake Plummer (who is still measuring his desire to play the game and wondering if his Rocky Mountain beard will survive the trip to sunny Florida). As it stands, Jon Gruden has Jeff Garcia, Chris Simms and Jake Plummer. We have Andrew Walter. To say we have some holes to fill at the QB position would be an understatement.

There's a school of thought out there that we don't need a proven QB veteran, that we can simply charge ahead with Russell or Quinn, Walter and a scrub to be named later. I haven't enrolled in that school. The Raiders have never embraced youth at the quarterback position, and now suddenly we're going to be exclusively about youth at the quarterback position? How about some balance. How about identifying and selecting your quarterback of the future, and then securing a savvy veteran to help bridge the gap between experience and inexperience? We need a plan, and I think a savvy veteran is crucial to this plan. I'm not talking about the herky-jerky stuff we pulled with Collins and Tui in 2005 and Brooks and Walter in 2006, but an actual plan the unfolds over the next several seasons, in which the torch is handled with care and then, at the opportune moment, handed over.

Update 5:12 p.m. - The San Francisco Chronicle
is reporting that negotiations between the Raiders and Jeff Garcia have reached an impasse after several hours of discussion and a "series of interesting events," which include Jake Plummer's refusal to go to Tampa Bay and resulting free agency aftershocks. Stay tuned...
is reporting that Jeff Garcia is set to sign with the Oakland Raiders (thanks NY Raider and Roberto of Raider Raza for the tip). has been reliable with insider breaking news in the past, so while I have not seen this confirmed elsewhere, I consider it a strong lead.

Personally, I like Garcia's competitive drive and veteran savvy. This isn't Jake Plummer or Kerry Collins, who prefer to flirt with retirement when the chips are down. This is a hard-nosed guy with a true desire to play football. He's from down the road in Gilroy, garlic capital of the world. I wouldn't mind saying, "Welcome home, Jeff."

That said, Garcia would only complete part of our quarterback puzzle. I won't be content with him as simply the heir to our questionable tradition of relying on NFL castaways to captain our ship. It worked with Gannon, but failed miserably with George, Collins and Brooks.

Therefore, the other part of our quarterback puzzle is grooming a long-term solution to the position, so we're not always in this position of instability and uncertainty. Remember, Garcia is 37 years old. Even if he turns out to be spectacular, basic football biology suggests that he won't be spectacular for too long. We need a guy we can count on for five or more years, in the vein of Manning, McNabb, etc., a guy who will give our offense a lasting identity and a nucleus of stability.

In other words, I will welcome Garcia as a short-term bridge, yet hopefully not at the exclusion of a long-term plan via the draft or other means.