This Sunday: The Biggest Game in Four Years
Sunday’s game against the Chargers is the biggest game for the Oakland Raiders in four years. I’m not joking.
There is so much on the line on Sunday, not the least of which is first place in the AFC West. Will we have a winning record come Monday—or a losing one? Will we finally beat a division rival and get that monkey off our back, or will that little chimp still be chattering in our ears? Will we expose Norv Turner for what we know him to be, or will we give Chargers fans another week of false hope on their path to inevitable ruin? Will we turn the corner on the second quarter of the 2007 season on a high note, or with the clang of loss and doubt?
Not since our Super Bowl matchup with the Buccaneers have we faced such a crucial contest. That Super Bowl was the end of an era as the team began to show its age before backsliding into outright dissonance with head coach Bill Callahan. Rich Gannon started just seven games in 2003, a portent of changes to come. Those who had set the veteran tone were on their way out, and the fields of youth were not yet sown. The result was a lost season.
Three more lost seasons followed under Norv Turner and Art Shell. None of the games under their watch could be considered significant in retrospect. There was never anything on the line except last place.
Now, for the first time in a regular season since 2002, we are drinking from the fountain of momentum. Will our cup runneth over on Sunday—or will it go dry?
I have nothing against Norv Turner. It’s not his fault that people keep hiring him as a head coach, and I have to admire the fact that he keeps walking away from cushy offensive coordinator assignments and into the buzzsaw of the head coaching position. I don’t think it’s wise, but I can understand the impulse. Who among us wants to acknowledge our limitations and close the door on our dreams?
That said, the guy has no business being a head coach, and he wouldn’t be, if not for the astonishing arrogance of A.J. Smith and Alex Spanos. They thought that they were better than 14-2. They axed Marty Schottenheimer for losing to the three-time world champion New England Patriots in the playoffs with a first-year starting quarterback throwing to mediocre wide receivers. To prove that they mattered more than the coach, they hired a two-time failure who was last seen racking up a 4-12 record in their own division.
I had to laugh when, two weeks ago, Chargers fans were gnashing their teeth about unused timeouts, about poor clock management and misuse of the talent at hand. Where were they during those two years that Norv Turner was coaching a team right in their own division? Oh, that’s right, they weren’t watching, because their bandwagon hadn't yet left the station.
The Chargers organization could have avoided this fate by simply subscribing to Raider Take and reading my takes from the 2005 season. The seven-minute touchdown drives in the fourth quarter while down by three scores! The four straight unsuccessful running plays up the middle at the goal line! The inability to mount a two-minute offense! The mystifying clock mismanagement! The misuse of available talent! The unused timeouts! The clear lack of vision and leadership!
What, did they think I was making this stuff up? Did they think I was crazy? I wasn’t.
Anyhow, I’m not going to analyze the Xs and Os of this upcoming game. There’s plenty of good analysis from Raider Take regulars in the comments section of the preceding take. For me, it all boils down to three words: Stop L.T.
If we stop L.T., we win. Period. No more L.T. throwing touchdown passes. No more L.T. wandering around unattended by our defense. No more L.T. busting through lazy arm tackles. Okay? I'm sick to death of it. SICK! I've had enough of this guy slicing us up like raw fish in the hands of a Benihana chef.
Shut this guy down and we shut the Chargers down, and suddenly Norv Turner is throwing the ball into the middle of the field at the 50-yard line with no timeouts and 10 seconds left on the clock.
Our biggest game in four years is on the line. It’s time to win. It’s time to turn the tide. It’s time to truly launch the return to glory.