Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remembering The Legend

Here at Raider Take, we coined the phrase "WWTD," for "What Would Tatum Do?"

It's a question that we've had to ask with regretful frequency in recent years, having been subjected to watching guys like Stuart Schweigert do their best Cirque du Soleil impersonations.

You know, clowns flying around, hitting nothing.

We know what Tatum would have done. He would have hit something. He never played the clown.

And today, alas, we must say goodbye to the man and the legend. Jack Tatum has passed away at the young age of 61.

It's odd to think of him being just 61 in 2010. Part of it is because in the 1970s, seemingly every football player, and especially the Raiders, looked hard and grizzled and manly in the "mountain man" sense of the word (at least in the eyes of us kids).

It's been 34 years since Tatum's epic helmet-separating hit in the Super Bowl in Pasadena, and 38 years since his hit that created the Immaculate Deception. He was in his 20s then, but he and his teammates looked like they'd already been pillaging the earth for decades.

At the beginning of Raiders games at the Coliseum, they always play these video vignettes of current players giving lip service to it being "our house," or something like that. Yes, it's our house, half empty, with clowns flying around, giving up 275 yards rushing.

I propose a change. No more current players in the vignettes. Only Raiders legends. All asking the same question: WWTD?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Blame Russell, not Raiders

Well, JaMarcus Russell has truly circled the drain.

After essentially thieving the Raiders of $40 million by taking the money while failing to bring commensurate effort to the field, he has ridden off into the purple sunset, where his millions will come in handy for paying the bail on his arrest for illegal possession of a prescription narcotic.

He's like the second coming of Todd Marinovich. Sigh.

Now the media are piling on, using Russell's latest stumble as an opportunity to wag their finger at the Raiders, as if the Raiders themselves had swapped the sideline Gatorade for Purple Drank.

Sorry, nice try, but this is no one's fault but Russell's.

I do believe that the Raiders are to blame for drafting a low-effort, questionable-character guy like Russell. I don't believe that he turned into a loser overnight. Look at the successful quarterbacks in the NFL, the McNabbs, Mannings, Breeses, Bradys, etc. Look at the up-and-comers like Flacco and Ryan. They are all as sharp as a tack. They ooze not only talent, but leadership smarts.

Do you really think that Russell ever came across as "sharp as a tack" during the extensive interviews and background checks that you hope the Raiders would have conducted before making a $40 million investment in him?

I doubt it. Which should have been fair warning about his future prospects as an elite NFL quarterback.

So the mistake was made, and thankfully we bit the bullet and cut him loose.

But the rest is on Russell, despite the media nagging that the Raiders are somehow to blame for his illicit preferences in cough syrup. If he'd come to work, he might have worked out in the end. But he didn't, and that's on Russell, not the Raiders.

Oh, sure, it would have been helpful if the Raiders hadn't experienced coaching turmoil and related dysfunction during Russell's first years with the team. But that's tough nuts. Adversity almost always goes with being a top pick and the millions that come with it, because the team with the high pick is typically mired in losing. That's how they got the high pick in the first place, right?

Bruce Gradkowski came to the Raiders with three years and 19 games under his belt. At that time, Russell had two years and 19 games under his belt. Virtual equals in experience.

Yet there was Gradkowski, busting his ass and making it rain. Whose fault was his success? The Raiders? The same Raiders who are to blame for Russell's failures?

The Raiders failed in picking Russell. But Russell's own failure belongs to Russell himself.