Monday, January 26, 2009

Explanations and Expectations

From today's news, regarding the current approach to assembling a coaching staff, which includes hiring assistants and interviewing coordinators without a head coach under contract: 

"We have very specific reasons for doing it this way," said senior executive John Herrera.

"When it's all done, there will be a very detailed explanation as to why we are moving the way we are. We're connecting the dots and we're doing things the right way.

"This is a very well-thought-out, reasoned game plan."

Well, I do look forward to the detailed explanation. I would consider it progress. I expect Herrera to keep his word. 

I was once told that to expect explanations from the Raiders was wrong and nasty and pointless, yet here they are, promising me an explanation. Guess it doesn't hurt to ask after all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Raider Way Gone Astray

The debate about the state of the Raiders has been boiling over here, and some think I’ve been too harsh in my assessment of the situation.

It seems to come down to what we all think it means to be a Raiders fan. For some, it seems to be matter of blind loyalty and optimism, which, from my vantage, often becomes a camouflage for excusing and enabling.

Personally, it does me no good to sit here in Football Chernobyl and pretend I’m at Disneyland. If that makes me less of a Raiders fan, so be it. I don't see it that way, but others apparently do.

Sure, my assessments have been brutal. News flash: that's what happens when your performance is brutal over a six-year span. Either get better or deal with it.

One of the reasons many of us became Raiders fans is the “Just Win, Baby” philosophy championed by Mr. Davis.

This meant win at all costs, and the Raiders did. It was beautiful and innovative and effective.

Today, it's not win at all costs, but rather win as long as it doesn't come at the cost of changing our ways by pursuing a strong general manager and giving him independent authority, interviewing elite head coaching candidates and paying more to attract such candidates, not running with scissors in free agency, etc.

The Raider Way has lost its way. At least until further notice. If serious change is afoot, I'm still waiting for evidence.

I'm in it for the long run. But lowering the bar doesn't help the fans, nor does it help Mr. Davis attain his stated goal of reaching the Super Bowl between now and blessed eternity.

If our goal is a slow climb to 8-8, then I think we're right on target. High fives for everybody. Just .500, baby.

Personally, I expect more than that, and that expectation comes from what Mr. Davis himself taught me about Raiders football.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Raiders Seat Now Available

I will not renew my Oakland Raiders season ticket package for 2009. I can no longer pay for the privilege of watching biblically awful football, in the vein of the recent games against the Falcons and Chiefs, which were akin to washing my eyes out with Clorox.

I can handle losing. What I can’t handle is season after season of reckless organizational behavior that produces a sub NFL-level product. My trust has been broken. I will consider renewing my season tickets when my trust has been earned back. Here’s what it will take for me:

-Tangible, forceful change. The kind of change you can see and taste. There will nothing vague about it. I’m not sure how or when it will happen, but it will be evident when it does. You will see it on the field and sense it in the air, in the way that you knew 8-8 under Jon Gruden was different than 8-8 under Mike White. When a culture of losing changes, you know it. I believe that the quickest route to such change will come with the following:

-The hiring of a qualified general manager with the stated authority to have a say in the draft, free agency and football operations. I’ve heard some folks make excuses recently by noting that Mr. Davis is ailing. Well, that’s what 79 year olds do, they ail. All the more reason to have a strong supporting cast. To not have a competent football executive in place and available at this time is reckless, and it’s something that needs to be remedied immediately.

-No unchecked rumblings of the head coach—whoever he is—being fired. I don’t care if we’re 2-6 by the halfway mark of the upcoming season, or 3-9 after that, I want to see a Raiders coach go a whole season without rampant unchecked speculation about his job security. If the Raiders can issue statements about Al Michaels’ comments on Monday Night Football, Rob Ryan’s job status or who they’re not interviewing for the head coaching position, they can sure enough give their head coach a public vote of confidence if rumors become rampant. Stability is vital right now. Commit to a coach and stick with that coach. Of course, it helps if you hire the right coach.

-No more overpaying overrated free agents with known character issues, such as Randy Moss, DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

-No more scholarships. Play to win using the best players. Anything less is a perpetuation of the culture of losing.

So there you have it—the things I need to see in 2009 for me to consider purchasing season tickets in 2010.

I can already hear the blood boiling among some of you. Every time I write something like this, I get a flood of comments such as: Al Davis doesn’t care what you think! He’s the owner and he can do what he wants! You have no right to make demands or have an opinion! Blah, blah, blah.

First off, if the Raiders don’t care what I think, then they should stop conducting expensive marketing surveys asking me, as a season ticket holder, what I think. Second, I have every right to decide how I spend my money, and to publish my opinion on my own blog.

Also, I am not making demands here. I am stating conditions, which is what consumers do every day. For example, I won’t buy a Blu-ray DVD player until the prices come down. I won’t purchase an iPhone until Apple demonstrates that the 3G networking bugs have been fixed. And I won’t buy Raiders season tickets again until I see the aforementioned problems addressed.

Note that I said nothing about having to win this or that amount of games, because I know that our record will improve if these conditions are met, be it this year or in the coming years. The record will take care of itself. Nor have I said that I won't be an ardent Raiders fan any longer. I will be as ardent as ever. I'm just cutting back on my investment, not my passion.

Before you get too excited about my conditions, consider what they boil down to: a smart, aggressive implementation of change to address what has become a record-setting culture of losing; the installation of general manager; a good head coach with at least one full year of organizational backing; sensible free agent signings; and a roster and depth chart chosen on the merits of performance, not scholarships.

These are not exotic or outrageous concepts. They are standard operating procedures for any successful franchise. Until then, I'm off to spend my $612 elsewhere.