Monday, April 30, 2007

Raider Take's Post Draft Hangover

1. My head still hurts, but in a good way. I'm stoked. I don't have a lot more to add to what everyone is saying about the draft. We are plowing the nasty thistles and rotting moss (pun intended) into the earth, creating fresh topsoil, from which will sprout new ideas and energy, resulting in a bountiful harvest of victory and righteousness while the Raiders Haters choke on their fields of weeds! Amen.

2. Funny how, at the very moment the mainstream media is grudgingly giving high draft marks to the Raiders (Fox Sports and Yahoo Sports gave us "A" grades, for example, and the guy at SI who last week said that the Raiders have "given up" gave us B+), one of our local scribes dipped into the wisdom well for this little pearl (thanks for the tip, BlandaRocked): "The Raiders drafted LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall, but rookie coach Lane Kiffin -- getting his first taste of true NFL gamesmanship -- did little after that to distinguish himself running a draft board against the experienced big boys."

Translation: As always, I was going to write that Al Davis ran the team's whole draft, but it was a good draft, so I couldn't give Davis any credit, so I'll pretend it was a bad draft, and lay it entirely at Kiffin's feet, while reserving the right to blame Al Davis for everything in the future. Then, when Kiffin succeeds, I'll pretend I never wrote this, and say he's just like Jon Gruden, who curiously operated totally beyond the control of the owner who controls everything.

3. I love the fact that we addressed specific needs, like QB, TE, RB and DE. I still question Higgins at WR in the third round, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong. I hear he's a great talent and a special teams threat. It's not that I dislike Higgins, it's that I'm sick of our rival running backs ripping off 25 yards on 3rd and 6 at the worst possible moments. We need to develop some run stuffers, fast. Maybe Higgins can hit the weights, the forty ouncers and the pizza parlor and eventually play DT, too?

4. According to reports: "Belichick and New England officials apparently have been candid in apprising Moss that there will be a zero-tolerance approach, and that the kind of behavior he has manifested at times in the past will not be acceptable." Wow, what a novel concept.

5. It's still hard to fathom how many fans are dancing on Randy Moss's grave, myself included. I was taking out the trash tonight while on the phone, and I heard my neighbor, a fellow Raiders fan, hollering "Randy Moss! Randy Moss!" with his thumb pointing toward the moon. What next? A parade? Question: Can you think of a major superstar who came to a team in his prime (remember, he's several years younger than T.O. and Marvin Harrison), and subsequently produced less and aggravated the fans more than Moss? By the end, Randy Moss was absolutely reviled by the Raider Nation. What a legacy. I asked this question earlier, and someone suggested Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens might share similarly dubious honors. Well, I'm not sure Keyshawn was ever so universally reviled by his fan base as Moss was in Oakland, and I'm not even convinced he was ever true superstar. And while T.O. was hated in Philly, he produced, and I think the jury's still out on his tenure in Dallas. One common thread: the wide receiver position, which is unrivaled in its proliferation of divas. Even Ashley Lelie thinks he's brilliant.

6. Post Draft Hangover Haiku:

One party's over
another's just begun, the
Haters' jaws go slack.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A New Dawn in The Nation

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted. I liked all of our picks, with the exception of our last pick of the day. We got a QB, TE, DE and T? Bingo. I dig it. But a WR?

Did we really need another wide receiver in the third round after acquiring Mike Williams from the Lions? Moss, Porter, Curry, Gabriel, Morant, Williams, Whitted, Francis, Buchanon and now Higgins...Can we stop stockpiling receivers now? If we're so content with our offensive line but want more help on offense, then how about grabbing a running back like Antonio Pittman or Michael Bush? Or on the run-stuffing side of things, how about a DT like Marcus Thomas (warts and all) or Antonio Johnson? Maybe Sunday starts with one of these guys, but I might have liked to end Saturday with one of them. No offense to Higgins, but on a day when I thought we might shed a receiver (Moss), we ended up with two more (Williams and Higgins). At this rate, WR is becoming the new DB in Oakland.

Well, I'm going to sweep up the beer cups and refill the kegs, but remember that the lights are always on in the Raider Take 2007 Draft Day Lounge. Thanks to everyone for setting a Raider Take comment record on Saturday! I was blown away by your insight and humor as events unfolded. Free virtual beer for everyone! Now spike your coffee and settle in for round four...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Rise and Shine, Raider Nation!

UPDATE 7:31 AM: Done deal? For what it's worth, ESPN has posted the following under a massive "Breaking News" banner on its home page: "It appears the Oakland Raiders have made their choice, and it's JaMarcus Russell. According to two sources, one with the Raiders and one close to Russell, the team called the LSU quarterback Friday to inform him he would be the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL draft.:

Rise and shine, Raider Nation! Spike your coffee and start your takes...The Raider Take 2007 Draft Day Lounge is open for business.

Today is the day we select JaMarcus Russell with the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Today is the day we surprise everyone by picking Brady Quinn instead. Today is the day we freak everyone out by making Joe Thomas number one. Today is the day we trade Randy Moss for a second round pick, opening the door to draft Calvin Johnson at the top. Today is the day we pack a shopping cart full of picks from the Buccaneers by trading down a few slots. Today is the day anything can and might happen. The Raiders Haters are helpless and in awe.

The countdown is upon us. Here we go...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Raider Take's Draft Day Lounge

The Raider Take 2007 Draft Day Lounge is now open for business. Let’s drink some beer and throw some chairs. Mel Kiper is keeping the bathrooms clean and the Raiderettes are pulling taps. Order up and speak your mind. Here are the details:

Friday: Warm up and happy hour

Saturday: Celebratory "first pick" buffet with virtual free beer and open chatroom

Sunday: Hangover cures and late-round subterfuge

This is an experiment. I’ve had some requests for a draft day chatroom, and while I can’t offer a traditional chatroom format, I will temporarily suspend “word verification” in the comments section on Saturday and Sunday for the sake of rapid-fire commentary and real-time dialogue. Just let your comments rip and refresh your browser frequently. I expect to hear from all of our regular barflies, and hope to hear from newcomers, too. Don't be shy. Step right in.

Today, we can get warmed up, oil the smack machine and test drive various scenarios. Early Saturday, I’ll publish a new take to reset a new round of comments pertaining to our first day on the clock, followed by the same thing on Sunday. Again, word verification will be suspended on Saturday and Sunday to make it as easy as possible to post quick comments. I eagerly await your takes on events as they unfold in real time.

I’ve made my case for JaMarcus Russell, and I invite you to try to change my mind. In my opinion, the central mystery to this draft—and thus a source of great speculation and entertainment—is the Raiders’ penchant for draft day surprises. As a proponent of Russell, it makes me nervous to see so many media outlets saying that he’ll be the Raiders’ first pick in the draft. In other words, I won’t be surprised if I’m surprised.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Raider Take's War Room

1. Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat makes an interesting observation in his Raiders blog today, suggesting that there's a three-way split in Alameda regarding the draft, with separate camps favoring Calvin Johnson, Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell, with Al Davis in the latter camp. Barber wisely notes that it's largely hearsay, but unlike irresponsible Raiders rumors generated by the San Diego Union Tribune and other faraway sources, this one comes from a guy who has a close ear to the Alameda walls.

So let's run with it, let's assume it's true for the sake of discussion. Well, then I would reside with Mr. Davis in the Russell camp, as you already know. Brady Quinn just doesn't strike me as a future NFL quarterback of elite proportions. While any promising player can flop in the NFL, I look at it this way: Would I be more surpised if JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn emerged as an elite quarterback in the NFL? My answer is Brady Quinn. Thus, I don't trade down, and I go with Russell.

As far as Calvin Johnson, he may be a "can't-miss" receiver. He may be the best athlete in the draft. But do we need a receiver? We have Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and, for now, Randy Moss. With the exception of the Colts, which of the eight teams in last year's divisional playoffs had a more talented receiving corps than Moss, Porter and Curry? Answer: None. Would it be smart for the Patriots to pick a quarterback in the first round this year? Would it be smart for the Chargers to pick a running back in the first round this year? So why should the Raiders pick a wide receiver in the first round?

2. Some have suggested that we should go heavy on offensive line picks after the first round. I disagree. Did we not select Paul McQuistan and Kevin Boothe in the third and sixth rounds last year? Are we not hanging in there with Robert Gallery, for better or worse? All of these guys were horrendously coached last year, so I'm not ready to totally write them off (as much as I'm tempted). I would like us to select a running back or run stuffer in the second round. When is the last time the Raiders selected a running back in the second round or higher? Answer: 12 years ago. When is the last time we had an elite running back? Do you see a connection? Conversely, I'm sick of seeing Larry Johnson, LaDanian Tomlinson and everyone else running roughshod over our defensive line at the worst possible moments. Look at our drafts over the past three years. We've selected a total of two defensive lineman, none higher than the sixth round. Do you see a connection?

3. The Raider Raza is hosting the draft day festivities at Ricky's in San Leandro. Alas, I can't make it, but it sounds like a good time. Check out the Raider Raza blog for details.

4. I'm not usually prone to commercialized plugs, but Steve from GCI Sports just wrote on behalf of Nike, and I'll give him credit for paying attention to what you all have to say here at Raider Take.

Here's what he wrote via email: "Considering your recent post regarding the trio of candidates being debated within Raider management, we thought some of the content from the site below might be of interest to your readers. JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Calvin Johnson are among the recent Nike signees featured at Raider Nation can check out background on Russell, Quinn and Johnson, as well as other top prospects including exclusive interview clips with the players, behind-the-scenes videos from a recent Nike photo shoot, a draft countdown widget and a number of action photos. Some interesting material that can start to give Raider Nation a slight feel for the type of player they could be getting. You can also access and download the press kit containing the official press release on the Nike signings and high-resolution imagery of all of the players. The draft countdown widget is a quick tool for interviews with all of the players. Please let us know if you have any questions…and best of luck to the silver-and-black in Kiffin’s debut season."

Monday, April 16, 2007

News You Can't Use

Here's what one Sports Irritating, I mean Illustrated, columnist had to say about the Raiders last week: "I don't dislike the Raiders. It's just that ... how can I put this? It's like having a son you were once very proud of. A little rough at times, but he struggled and achieved and overcame a lot. Many people were against him. And then he just gave up. You look at him and you see a slouching person, nearing middle age, hair thinning, cigarette smoke staining his fingers, talking out of the side of his mouth, continually lying. Is this really your son? Well, yeah, and you still love him underneath it all. You just don't enjoy being around him.''

As if that wasn't enough foam out of the mouth, now one of his esteemed colleagues reprints it as one of his "quotes of the day." They've certainly mastered the art of self-congratulatory navel gazing over there at SI. So the Raiders have given up? Four losing seasons following a Super Bowl berth means we've given up? Those are fightin' words, friends.

This arrives in the wake of the following recent quote from yet another SI columnist: "The two words used most frequently on draft weekend by Raiders coach Lane Kiffin will be 'Yes, boss' -- followed closely by 'Great call!' and 'Cream? Sugar?'"

One of these guys is in bed with the Patriots, and another is sleeping with the 49ers, so you'll have to excuse them for the hatred oozing out of their pores.

Anyhow, that's three SI columnists in two weeks publishing juvenile riffs on the Raiders. This is the point where people write and say, "What do you care? Who cares what they write? What do you expect, we're 2-14!"

Here's what I say to that: Way to back up your team. Way to fight back. Way to be a Raider. Yes, let's all go mute while influential sportswriters hate on our team like no other 2-14 team before it, like no other team that has won its division three times, advanced to the AFC Championships twice and even appeared in the Super Bowl in this yet-unfinished decade. Let's say nothing and allow these clowns to keep hating without any response or reaction. Let's allow them to keep misinforming potential fans who could fill seats and help make sure our team remains viable in Oakland. Yes, that's the spirit.

And that, Raiders fans, is news you can't use.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Campaigning for JaMarcus

No offense to Michael Huff, but if I could turn back the clock, I might want to re-think our 2006 draft. Imagine Lane Kiffin working with Matt Leinart during these recent minicamps, trading down a few spots for extra draft picks, then unloading Randy Moss and replacing him with Calvin Johnson. I can think of worse scenarios than Leinart to Johnson, especially in an offense designed by Kiffin and Knapp.

But since my time machine is broken, I cannot agitate for Calvin Johnson as our first draft pick, whether we trade down or not. Rather, I vote for JaMarcus Russell with the first pick in the 2007 NFL draft. We desperately need a franchise quarterback, and he’s my favorite of the bunch.

I don’t want to hear that Russell might not pan out, that he might actually suck, etc. without some reasonable analysis to back it up. Every prospect might suck in the NFL. There’s no such thing as a sure thing. Otherwise Robert Gallery would be going to the Pro Bowl, David Carr wouldn’t be backing up Jake Delhomme and the Detroit Lions would have the nastiest receiving corps in NFL history. Just saying a prospect might not be what he’s cracked up to be is simply stating the obvious. If there wasn’t guesswork involved, we wouldn’t be talking about the draft in the first place.

In his prime with the Raiders, Rich Gannon was a franchise quarterback. Same with Jim Plunkett and Ken Stabler. It’s not a coincidence that our best years have coincided with our greatest quarterbacks. That tends to happen in the NFL.

It’s funny the lengths some folks will go to discount the importance of a franchise quarterback. Until early February, you’d always hear about how Peyton Manning sucks. Donovan McNabb, he sucks, too. Didn’t Trent Dilfer win a Super Bowl? And look how far Rex Grossman went last year! I’d trade McNabb for Dilfer in a heartbeat!

Just because you run with scissors and make it to end of the hallway without hurting yourself doesn’t mean it was a smart thing to do. The same goes with ignoring the law of the franchise quarterback. This is my main argument for drafting JaMarcus Russell.

I already hear the cries: We got Plunkett and Gannon off the scrap heap, didn’t we? Yes, and Aaron Brooks, Kerry Collins and Jeff George, too. Do you see any budding Rich Gannons out there on the market, guys with enough skills, moxie and leadership to be the centerpiece of a Raiders resurgence over the next three to five years? Waiting for the next Plunkett or Gannon—free agents who outperform your wildest fantasies—is not a plan, it’s a perpetual gamble with long odds.

Look at all of the franchise quarterbacks who were playing well into last January: Manning, Brees, Brady, Hasselbeck and McNair. Coincidence? Conversely, all of the loudmouth superstar wide receivers were cooked by the end of the wild card games (if not much earlier), leaving Marvin Harrison as the lone longtime standout at the receiver position among the eight teams to advance to the divisional playoffs. Again, it’s not a coincidence. Receivers can’t throw themselves the ball.

This is where some of you might interject that Andrew Walter could be the next Drew Brees. Fair enough. I’d like to see Walter pan out. But would I bet the Lane Kiffin era on it? No. I don’t have anything against Walter. I know his hands were largely tied last year by awful coaching and playcalling. But when, in all of those games, did you see Walter rise above the circumstances and show flashes of serious potential? Leinart was stuck in a similarly awful offense (ie: no running game, no offensive line, fired offensive coordinator, soon-to-be-fired head coach, talented receiving corps), but I saw plenty of flashes from that guy.

When the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers to back up Drew Brees, everybody won, did they not? By the end of last year, both Rivers and Brees were taking their teams to the playoffs. So why is it always Walter or Russell, instead of Walter and Russell? “Walter, Booty, Otis or Bust” is not my idea of the ideal offensive start to the Lane Kiffin era. Do you think Kiffin disagrees?

I know that the Raider Nation is divided regarding the upcoming draft, so I look forward to your comments. You now know my vote—what’s yours?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

2007 Schedule and Mini Takes

-The 2007 regular season schedule has been announced, and we won't see a division rival in Oakland until the Chiefs come to town on October 21, preceded only by the Lions to start the season on September 9, followed by the Browns a few weeks later. Kind of a strange schedule, but I'll take it. It sure beats March Madness and hockey season.

-The Raider Image is billing its authentic Barry Sims jerseys as "new." Guess Barry Sims still figures prominently into our plans. Still no Andrew Walter jerseys, though. Why?

-Speaking of Walter, he's the only quarterback on our depth chart at the moment to have taken a regular season snap in the NFL. Think we have some personnel work to do on that front?

-Check out It's a new web site based on the Wikipedia concept, dedicated to NFL draft prospects. It's a great place to research players and bolster your draft analysis.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

News You Can't Use

From the Sports Illustrated writer who last year tried to sell us a bogus report about Eddie Debartolo and Carmen Policy potentially taking over the Raiders (and who subsequently whined when the Raider Nation called him on it), we now have this: JaMarcus Russell is the next Jim Druckenmiller.

This is my second post in as many days regarding a Sports Illustrated writer offering dubious advice to the Oakland Raiders. Our guy even claims to have picked up the scent of the team's intentions: "Maybe so, but something tells me Russell to the Raiders isn't as certain as most people are portraying it to be. Sure, the franchise needs a quarterback the way some folks in the Oakland Hills neighborhood in which I used to live need Xanax, but I'm hearing from people in the know that Davis is locking in on Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson. The thinking is that Davis, who is 77 and said to be in poor health, is desperate to win now, and he understands how hard it is to do so with even the most talented of rookie quarterbacks. Davis also is well aware of the glaringly low success rate of quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past 15 years. Remarkably, he still has faith in incumbent quarterback Andrew Walter, and Johnson is the closest thing to a sure bet -- and, potentially, an instant impact player -- that the draft has to offer. Inside at least one rival team's pre-draft meeting on Wednesday, the talk was that Johnson to the Raiders is a done deal. If these plugged-in personnel people are right about that, it would certainly shake up the top of the draft."

Notice the use of the first person. This guy never fails to insert himself into the story. You see, we're supposed to care where he used to live, and who he thinks should take Xanax. Also notice the liberal references to the 49ers, which are nearly as frequent as references to himself and his nightclubbing with 24-year-old football players.

Even if the Raiders are interested in Calvin Johnson, comparing JaMarcus Russell to Jim Druckenmiller simply on the basis of arm strength and physical size is asinine (cue up highlights of Russell and Druckenmiller in college if you don't believe me). Of course, our intrepid reporter then gives himself an out, saying that he consulted with experts who confirmed that Russell is the "real deal." So you see, he's probably not the next Jim Druckenmiller, but then again he might be the next Jim Druckenmiller, just as Eddie Debartolo might take over the Oakland Raiders, and just as space aliens might be controlling the White House. With the power of might, every absurd "possibility" becomes a legitimate story.

Think I'm being too hard on our guy? Consider the following tidbit, which he tagged on to the end of this Russell-Druckenmiller piece: "The two words used most frequently on draft weekend by Raiders coach
Lane Kiffin will be 'Yes, boss' -- followed closely by 'Great call!' and 'Cream? Sugar?'"

Somewhere, a 10th grader working on the school newspaper is bummed that Sports Illustrated stole his joke.

And that, Raiders Fans, is news you can't use.

Monday, April 02, 2007

No Thanks, Raiders Haters

Let me begin by saying that I've been (relatively) impressed by the media's treatment of Lane Kiffin. I've found the coverage of our new coach, at least recently, to be generally fair and respectful.

Nevertheless, you can always count on Sports Irritating, I mean, Illustrated, to offend the Raider Nation with some genuinely (and suspiciously) bad advice, such as their columnist last year telling us to re-sign Kerry Collins "before it's too late," or their roving crackpot suggesting that Eddie Debartolo and Carmen Policy could take over the Raiders. This week, we get the following draft advice from their star NFL columnist: "1. Raiders - Trade down to No. 6 for the Redskins' first- and second-round picks in 2008 plus WR Antwaan Randle El, and choose QB Brady Quinn. (Washington takes WR Calvin Johnson.)"

Randle El started 16 games last year and racked up a grand total of 351 yards. Our third receiver, Ronald Curry, started four games and racked up 727 yards on the league's worst offense. Yet we're supposed to covet Randle El? Where do these guys get this stuff? The Raiders should choose Brady Quinn over JaMarcus Russell, and the Redskins should essentially hand over their 2008 draft for the privilege of drafting a wide receiver? I'm sure Mr. Davis and Daniel Snyder are working out the details as I write.

They need to stop dispensing crack from the vending machines at the Sports Illustrated cafeteria.

Gear of The Week: Raiders 2007 Draft Shirt

It's a whole new season, indeed, and now the NFL Shop is issuing commemorative 2007 NFL Draft t-shirts to help us wash away the bitter memories of 2006, such as LaMont Jordan staring slack-jawed at a grounded backward pass, and our offensive line getting diced up like a meal at Benihana, and Randy Moss impersonating a large swamp-dwelling Florida reptile, and Tom Walsh going pass happy in rainy Seattle, and Art Shell looking dazed instead of pissed no matter what transpired. Those days are over, a nightmare from which we've all woken. I was in Starbucks yesterday, decked out in my Raiders jacket, and the coffee server (okay, barista) commented that I must be a diehard fan to be wearing the Silver & Black after all these losing seasons. She wasn't being a smart ass, she was making a genuine observation. She simply needed to be enlightened, and I kindly informed her that there is no other kind of Raiders fan, which is why I still see Raiders gear everywhere around here while Steelers gear, which was rampant just a year ago, has literally vanished from the streets, and 49ers gear is only now starting to return from the closet, tentatively, as the team's "fans" rediscover their "faith" in the wake of an okay season. Our faith, however, is never shaken, and our gear never gathers dust. The new Raiders 2007 NFL Draft T-Shirt is a nice addition to anyone's collection, and goes well with the words, "With the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select JaMarcus Russell...."