What is with all of the soft-pedaling of our recent first-round draft picks? If you listen to some folks, you'd think that JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey are fragile little eggs instead of first-round draft picks in their athletic primes.
JaMarcus Russell, he needs time, doesn't he? A: He's had two years, his time is now.
How should we use Darren McFadden in the backfield? A: Ummm...give him the freakin' ball...a lot.
Let's not expect too much from Darrius Heyward-Bey in his first year, okay? A: Why not?
Honestly, what's up with the aura of timidity and fragility that surrounds our young skill players? Listening to some fans, you'd think we had all the time in the world to coddle these guys instead of expecting big things, right now.
Sure, these guys need time to hone their games. But in the meantime, why shouldn't we expect them to set off some fireworks and show vivid signs of their potential? Why shouldn't we expect them to take firm control of their respective positions? After all, each was drafted no lower than seventh in their respective drafts, right?
Where's our Matt Ryan, Adrian Peterson or Calvin Johnson? Who coddled those guys? Who set low expectations for them? Remember how much was made of the Chargers "sitting" Philip Rivers for "years" before turning him loose? Well, they actually turned him loose in his third year, the same year that JaMarcus Russell is in right now, and he promptly racked up a 92-percent passer rating. So there you go, JaMarcus. You don't need to be Matt Ryan. But can you at least start kicking ass in your third year like 'Lil Phil? Is that too much to ask?
Whenever I give examples like this, folks remind me that I'm focusing on the success stories in the NFL, not the failures. Well, why shouldn't I focus on the success stories? Why should I expect failure over success? These guys were drafted as the studs of their draft classes, each being the first taken at their respective positions. They should be ready to rock the house. Not tomorrow. Today.
So take off the velvet gloves, Raider Nation. Let's play some football. Let's turn the young studs loose and expect big things. Heck, let's demand big things.
P.S. I don't want to hear about this not really being Russell's third year due to his holdout. Many of those who are making excuses for him now were telling me back then that the holdout wasn't a big deal, and you can't have it both ways. The fact is that he was drafted as the very first pick in the 2007 draft and it's now 2009. Time for big things.
Talk about the dog days of summer. Our biggest news right now is old news: Darrius Heyward-Bey needs a cane to walk. Michael Huff is on the hot seat. JaMarcus Russell needs to prove himself. We need to figure out how to stop the run. Blah, blah, blah...
So to help cure our collective boredom, I have devised The Great 2009 NFL Helmet-Off, a blow-by-blow divisional ranking of team helmets followed by exciting postseason action.
Below is my take on the sartorial splendor of NFL lids. What's your take? Where have I gone wrong? Remember, this is for helmets only, so you can't dock, say, the Titans for their Transformers-style jerseys or the Broncos for their pajama pants.
(If you are on Twitter, please re-tweet my tweet on this @RaiderTake with the tag #helmetoff)
Let the games begin...
AFC West Oakland Raiders - Hands down, the best. Epic. San Diego Chargers - Gotta love the return to the white helmets Kansas City Chiefs - Classic and true, no complaints. Denver Broncos - Awful and childish...like many Broncos fans
AFC North Pittsburgh Steelers - Tough and traditional, love it. Baltimore Ravens - This division sucks for helmets, grading on a curve. Cleveland Browns - No, no logo is not cool, sorry. Cincinnati Bengals - An abomination, someone should be held accountable.
AFC South Indianapolis Colts - Clean and simple, and there's nothing wrong with that. Tennesse Titans - Eccentric in a hip sort of way. Houston Texans - Close to a winner, but something's just not right. Jacksonville Jaguars - Can't name a single color on that helmet.
AFC East New York Jets - Sort of ugly, but yet...cool. Miami Dolphins - A bit wimpy, but classic and unique. New England Patriots - An update gone horribly wrong. Buffalo Bills - See Patriots.
NFC West Arizona Cardinals - Always loved it, and the recent update was sensible enough. San Francisco 49ers - Pains me to say it, but it's a strong look. St. Louis Rams - Go back to the blue and white, or even yellow, and you trump the Niners Seattle Seahawks - My eyes, my eyes!
NFC North Chicago Bears - The strongest in a strong division. Green Bay Packers - A bit gaudy, but distinctive and oddly dignified. Minnesota Vikings - The new sheen knocks them down a notch. Detroit Lions - Not bad, but last as always.
NFC South New Orleans Saints - Crisp and classic. Atlanta Falcons - Helped by a weak division, old helmets were better. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Not great, but better than the original. Carolina Panthers - Teal should be banned. The lame semi-stripe doesn't help.
NFC East Dallas Cowboys - Undeniably sweet. Washington Redskins - It's not pretty, but it delivers the goods. Philadelphia Eagles - I want to like it more, but I can't. New York Giants - That's all they can come up with?
Wild Card Weekend Chargers upset the Colts Jets beat the Titans Packers upset the Saints Bears beat the 49ers
Divisional Playoffs Raiders trounce the Jets Steelers beat the Chargers Cowboys beat the Cardinals Bears beat the Packers
Championships Raiders beat the Steelers Cowboys beat the Bears
1. Rob Ryan says that he will incorporate the 46 Defense in Cleveland, in which up to eight players may rush the quarterback. So now he's aggressive? Remember when he dropped 11 guys into coverage against his new team a few years ago and still gave up yardage?
2. What's up with Andrew Walter? Is he a total bust? I liked the guy coming out of college. To me, he looked the part, but he has since struck me as a bit sheepish and uninvolved (of course, that's just from afar, I really have no idea what he's like). Now he's clearly on the outs. What's missing? Ability? Attitude? Opportunity?
3. It's no secret that I have opted not to renew my Raiders season tickets this year. My take is that Lane Kiffin was retained heading into the 2008 season partly for money reasons and partly for stubborness reasons, and certainly not for long-term reasons related to building a winner. At the same time, the team had no problem taking my money after sending me glossy renewal literature talking about the "commitment to excellence," which in retrospect was a sham. I personally witnessed some of the most inept, eyeball-burning "football" in my life last year as a result of the inexcusable upheaval early in the season.
I'm no less of a Raiders fan this year, but I'll be damned if I'm going to write them a check for $1,200 for me and Cousin of Raider Take. My trust needs to be earned back before I write them a big check again.
Anyhow, I thought it was interesting that a sales representative from the Oakland A's called me a month ago, trying to talk me into attending a game. I haven't been to an A's game in a few years, and here was this guy working hard to get me to spend $40 for a ticket. Meanwhile, the Raiders have only sent me two form letters regarding my lapsing season tickets. No phone calls, no one asking me why I'm not renewing or trying to convince me to reconsider. Just two letters telling me that "as a result of high demand for quality seats like yours, we can no longer continue to hold your seats without payment." Okey-dokey.
I guess with all that high demand, they don't really need to work hard at retaining customers and selling packages. Could season ticket sales be on the rise this summer?
Just a note to let everyone know that Raider Take is now on Twitter. Check it out at www.twitter.com/raidertake and please spread the word.
I may be lagging on takes these days, but mini takes come easier, hence my new passion for Tweeting. Sometimes I'm not up for cooking an entree, but I'm always game for an appetizer.
For those who haven't experienced Twitter, here's the scoop: Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that limits your entries (takes in my world, also known as Tweets) to 140 characters. You can view the entries on the Twitter page of each participant. If you join Twitter (it's easy, non invasive and free), you can then choose to "follow" others, with their updates sent directly to your Twitter page or mobile device. The brilliance of Twitter is its simplicity. Best of all, it's haiku-friendly.
Here's a sampling of recent Raider Take Tweets:
Welcome Greg Ellis...As long as you don't turn Burgess into trade bait!
Keith Davis: "I think Garcia is better prepared to get us that win right now. Now, that’s no knock against JaMarcus at all." Uhh...Yes it is
Lamenting the fate of Andrew Walter. He looks the part, he arrived with promise, but just doesn't seem to have "it." Is he a total bust?
Old: Commitment to Excellence. New: Time to Stop Playing Like There's a Lion on Our Helmet.
Can we start being aggressive on defense again? I sure hope that Marshall is installing some blitz packages. Prevent the prevent!
By the way, what's with Keith Davis saying Garcia gives us a better chance to win right now? Does he know something we don't? If so, what does that say about Russell? If Russell is even remotely living up to his promise, he should trump the aging castoff Garcia now that he's in his third year in the NFL, right?
My takes are so few and far between these days that they all have to begin with an apology. At this point, of course, I understand if my apologies fall on deaf ears.
All I can say is that life has lately taken me on some detours from the well travelled roads of Raider Land.
Still, I really doubt that I’ve missed much. After all, Barrett Robbins is today's headline. Heck, maybe I can say that I’ve just been waiting for Darrius Heyward-Bey to return to practice. If he gets to take an extended break, why can’t Raider Take? I sprained by typing finger. Yeah, that’s it…
Anyhow, this is the time of year when I buy all the NFL season preview guides and get my skivvies in a twist because they’re all predicting the Raiders to finish last in the AFC West. I scream about the injustice of it all, and I declare that I will be having the last laugh come December.
Well, this year is different—and not because anyone is predicting the Raiders to do well. Rather, it’s different because I’m resigned to the fact that we suck until we prove that we don’t.
The Raider Haters have been right for five straight years now. For five straight years, I’ve fired back at their unjust predictions of yet another lost season ahead. And now I’m all out of bullets. It’s hard for me to talk tough when we’ve been playing like there’s a lion on our helmet for the past five years.
Of course, this actually bodes well for the Raiders. Now that I’m not sticking my neck out for them, they’ll surely turn things around. It’s called Murphy’s Law, and it’s now in their favor.
On a side note, we know that some in the sports media wield an unprofessional agenda against the Raiders, as proven in my pioneering (and now much-imitated) “News You Can’t Use” series.
I do not paint the sports media with a broad brush. Most do their job well. However, it’s a demonstrated fact there are several prominent voices at both the national and local level who play loose with the facts and even lie to advance their agenda against the Raiders. Sports Irritating and ESPN have proven to be two safe havens for the Raider Haters.
So it was refreshing to read the following assessment of the Raiders by Sports Irritating’s Don Banks in a recent piece ranking the NFL teams of this decade:
What are the sad-sack Raiders and their sub-.400 winning percentage doing above four other clubs at .406 or better? None of those teams went to a Super Bowl earlier this decade. None of those teams were seeded second, third and first respectively in the AFC playoffs of 2000-02. So while I know the memory of the Raiders going 33-15 to start this decade is distant and ever-fading, it did happen. And let's be honest: Oakland got jobbed in the Snow Bowl. You know it, and I know it. It was a fumble.
Wow, he actually acknowledges the Super Bowl appearance and the fact that we got screwed in the snow. Usually, we get a bunch of Jedi mind tricks: The Raiders were never good. The Super Bowl never happened. It wasn't a fumble. Tom Brady cures cancer...
So kudos to Don Banks for sticking to the facts and, to borrow his own word, being honest. The fact that he has to state "let's be honest" tells you all you need to know about some of his peers.