One Postseason Take
Being on the road, visiting family and friends for the holidays, made it particularly easy for me to play hooky. I appreciate all of you who kept the home fires burning during my irresponsible absence.
I finally emerged from my monastic zen state today to watch the Raiders lose to Norv Turner and the Chargers, and I'm not going to say much about it, at least for the time being, because I want to choose my words carefully, and I am at a loss for such careful words at the moment.
I look around the NFL and see the Falcons notch their fourth win today, putting up 44 points on the playoff-bound Seahawks. The Falcons endured the most cursed season in the history of the NFL, yet still managed to match our record. I see woeful Baltimore beat the playoff-bound Steelers. I see marginal Houston put up 42 points in routing the playoff-bound Jaguars, who routed us last week. I see awful Carolina rack up 31 points to beat the playoff-bound Buccaneers. You might say that these playoff-bound teams were taking the day off, but the other teams still had to really show up to notch those point totals.
Meanwhile, I see the Raiders fail to beat playoff-bound teams for the past four straight weeks, racking up a total of 49 points over that span (the same number Jacksonville put up on us last Sunday). Excluding the Browns, whom we beat with a last-second field goal, the three other teams we beat finished the season with a combined total of 12 victories. Thankfully, two of those teams were AFC West opponents, so at least that little monkey is off our back.
We have plenty of excuses for everything, including the last four weeks. But the fact is that only two teams won fewer games than the Raiders this year. If that's how we measure major improvement, then that only reveals how far we've fallen.
I don't mean to be a downer or drag. I just don't want this season to end amid a hail of excuses and "wait till next years!" I don't want us to get used to this. Ever.
A telling comment by Lane Kiffin was revealed by the CBS crew today. They said they asked Kiffin about what surprised him most about moving from the college ranks to the NFL, and he said that he'd assumed everyone would be a professional in the NFL, and he was surprised at how many players are, in fact, unprofessional (I'm paraphrasing here, but that's how I heard it). And we know he wasn't talking about the Patriots or the Packers.
Think about Kiffin's comment for a second. Then order up some TNT.
I believe that things are pointed in the right direction. I believe that this was a season of progress. I believe that our progress was limited, however, by questionable actions and inactions regarding our personnel, dating back to last year and through the offseason and regular season. I believe that our offense was quantum leap over last year's offense. I believe that our defense took an alarming step backward. I believe that our biggest problem is re-learning how to win. I believe that Kiffin is the man for the job, and hope that he remains on the job. I believe that he needs a few sticks of dynamite.
Best of all, one way or the other, I still believe. I don't need or want excuses. I want solutions. I can handle the truth. My loyalty and dedication will remain unshaken no matter what happens, and I think I speak for the Raider Nation on that point, so let's get down to business and build a winning team for 2008.