Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Raiders Offense Taking a Knapp?

If reports are to be believed, Greg Knapp is our new offensive coordinator. Not sure what to think about that. He got his playcalling duties stripped by Tom Cable, of all people. Then again, he was working with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback at the time.

Go to the comments section below for Knapp's bio on the Texans site, which will no doubt be removed shortly.

Allen's introductory press conference yesterday was impressive. Yes, he said all the right things, the things you would expect him to say, but he said them particularly well.

In their initial pressers, I remember Kiffin looking like a deer in the headlights, Cable sounding strong but a bit unsure, and Jackson coming off as a bit strident.

By comparison, Allen just seemed cool, collected and quite sure of himself. That bodes well, but the players still have to really buy into him if this is going to work.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Case for Optimism

The commenting system here is a bit wonky right now, suddenly limiting viewable comments to 200 total per take. The most recent take is up to 197 comments as of this writing, so while I don't really have a fresh take, I'm creating a new post to keep the conversation going.

Many of the comments lately relate to questioning my, and others', optimism regarding the state and direction of the Oakland Raiders as of January 28, 2012.

Personally, I don't get it. NY Raider summed it up pretty succinctly: "In simple terms, the Raiders are now doing what many of us very much wanted Al Davis to do while he was still alive. Now folks are upset by the fact that we're happy to have Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie provide us with the very process and structure we've been begging for. Bizarre!"

Optimism is opinion, not fact. It's choosing to believe in a good outcome out of many possible outcomes. I am optimistic and believe that we are on the right track. Why do I believe that we are on the right track? Let me reiterate:

-We had a hole at GM that we needed to fill.

-Mark Davis sought the counsel of Ron Wolf and John Madden.

-Benefiting from that counsel, he hired Reggie McKenzie; some say that Al Davis had instructed his son to pursue McKenzie if necessary.

-McKenzie's credentials are unquestioned at this point. He comes from one of the NFL's most successful organizations, and I've heard no one question his resume or abilities.

-McKenzie considered numerous head coaching candidates from far and wide, if reports are to be believed, and ultimately chose Dennis Allen.

-I know very little about Dennis Allen, but I like what I am hearing. Again, look at McKenzie's credentials, then tell me why I shouldn't be confident that he found a strong coach for us.

-Allen breaks the mold of offensive-minded head coaches for the Raiders, and since defense is our main weakness, the timing is perfect. I think that this will be a wake-up call for players who may have been slacking under Bresnehan's watch.

-Now Allen is assembling his staff, as it should be. I'm not going to spend my afternoon on the Internet researching and pretending that I have great insights into who should fill out the staff. I have no reason to believe that the process of Davis-Wolf-Madden selecting McKenzie, and McKenzie selecting Allen, is suddenly going to break down with awful decisions in filling out the coaching staff.

I think these guys know what they're doing. That makes me optimistic. I am more bullish on the Raiders than I've been in many years. Al Davis pulled us out of the abyss, and now his son and his team are going to finish the job and build a long-term winner. That's my take, and I'm sticking to it until further notice to the contrary.

P.S. OTB made a suggestion for Raider Take in the previous comments section: "I think a good ground rule might be, if I may be so bold, to encourage more news and less PowerPasting of poster quotes."

I don't know about PowerPasting. I will say that I've always viewed this place as more of a social experiment than a news site. It's my diary sharing my thoughts on the state of the Raiders, and you all get to scribble on it, and over time it has become more of a collective diary and a vivid reflection of the diversity, colorfulness, intelligence and craziness of the Raider Nation at large.

I could spend 10 minutes every morning regurgitating news that is easily found on dozens of other sites and blogs, but that seems pointless to me. I could spend 30 minutes or an hour per day analyzing the news and developing more thoughtful takes on a more regular basis, but I don't really have the time or inclination to do so.

So, alas, you're sort of stuck with the quirky, intermittent and unapologetic nature of Raider Take as it is, should you decide to stick around. Personally, I enjoy everyone here, including those who argue with me all the time. It keeps me on my toes, and it's sort of a like a neighborhood tavern where we might all have one too many and start throwing chairs, but we'll be back the next day buying each other a beer.

That's not to say that things don't get out of hand sometimes, and all I can do is ask that folks refrain from profanity, personal attacks, etc. But I'm not in the censorship business, so the comments section will benefit, as always, from self-policing when things get out of hand.

So there you have it, can I buy you a pint?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Raiders Hire Dennis Allen!

UPDATE: Fox Sports is reporting that Dennis Allen is the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders: "Allen becomes the first Raiders head coach with a defensive background since the late Al Davis promoted John Madden from linebackers coach in 1969."

I don't know why, because I know very little about this guy, but I have good feeling about it. I like the fact that we are changing things up. Our defense has been way too soft for too many years. As this postseason showed us, a stout defense is still vital to building a winner. GO RAIDERS and WELCOME COACH ALLEN!

Reading The Raider Tea Leaves

Just when it sounded like Dennis Allen was going to become the Raiders' first defense-oriented head coach since John Madden, the rumor mill took a strange turn, with Pro Football Talk referencing a CSNBayArea report that there's still a "mystery candidate" in the mix.

I have to say, the suspense is killing me. But personally, I love all of the rumors, because I think there's been a grain of truth to most of them. For example, the whole Mike Tice thing started as a rumor, and he essentially confirmed there was something to it by declaring that he was going to stay put in Chicago.

There's a sense of due diligence being conducted. Of course, you could look at this cast of candidates from far and wide and say it looks more like the Raiders are flailing around, but I don't think that's the case. I've got a good feeling about this. How about you?

P.S. Was it just me, or could you suddenly not see all of the comments in the last take after the 200-comment mark?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

News You Can't Use

Well, it's time to dust off News You Can't Use, thanks to this hit piece on Mark Davis.

Titled "Raiders owner Mark Davis is in over his head," this piece is a series of mental leaps designed to arrive at a predetermined conclusion, but it ultimately fails to reach its destination due to numerous dead ends of faulty logic and assumption.

The author begins by quoting anonymous sources who tell stories of Mark Davis being openly belittled by his father Al Davis in front of Raiders staff. The author uses these stories to delve into all sorts of Freudian-style analysis, suggesting that this is the reason why Mark, not McKenzie (despite McKenzie's own words), fired Hue Jackson.

Essentially, the author declares that Mark Davis wants to rid the organization of anyone who saw him belittled by his father, which would be everyone in the organization if the anonymous sources are to be believed: "To project an image of authority, Mark Davis needs to surround himself with employees who didn’t see him routinely disparaged and condescended to by his legendary father."

If this is the case, then why is Hue Jackson the only employee of consequence who has been canned? What about Amy Trask and the rest of the management staff? Surely Ron Wolf and John Madden, Mark's advisors in the GM selection process, would have seen how Al Davis treated his son over the years, right? So why would he "surround" himself with them? Did Mark Davis look at all intimidated or paranoid at the press conference on Tuesday? Could have fooled me.

By using the words "in my opinion," the author is telegraphing that, hey, this is just an opinion piece, just a column, so I can say whatever I want. But, of course, his piece is more than that. If you want to read an example of a traditional opinion column, read Jason Whitlock's work for Fox Sports.

This piece, however, is news masquerading as opinion. The author quotes anonymous sources regarding Mark's relationship with his father, revealing insider anecdotes in the process, and thus he is breaking news. And when reporting the news, it is your obligation to seek the other side of the story. So, did the author call Mark Davis to get his side of the story? No, because nowhere does it say, "Mark Davis declined to comment on this story."

In other words, this is simply drive-by journalism, a takedown instead of a search for the truth.

Along the way, the author compares Mark Davis to Tommy Boy, the bumbling business heir portrayed in the eponymous movie by Chris Farley. It's no coincidence that, in the movie, Farley's haircut resembles Mark Davis's haircut, which has been widely ridiculed across the Internet since Tuesday's press conference.

The author probably thought he struck analogous gold when he came up with his Tommy Boy comparison, but in truth, he sunk to the lowest form of criticism: mocking someone's appearance.

The author also rips Mark Davis for only interviewing one GM candidate. That's one stance that I sort of understand. But at the same time, this wasn't your typical personnel search. It was one guided by two legendary advisors, who helped identify a uniquely qualified candidate employed by one of the NFL's finest organizations. If you're going to only do one interview, this is how you would do it.

Look, I don't know how Mark Davis is going to govern this organization. I'm not thrilled about his non-stance about keeping the Raiders in Oakland. But what I saw on Tuesday was an owner who was confident, competent and humble all at once, one who "knows what he doesn't know." Based on that press conference, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, at least for a few weeks.

Toward the end of his piece, the author also quotes Mark Davis from the press conference, when Mark noted that he “used to talk to my dad on the phone every night...and talk about football and the organization and things of that nature.”

So he was belittled by his father, but also very close to his father. In other words, father-son relationships can be complicated. Hey, who knew? Apparently not the author of this piece.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boom Go The Raiders!

Hue Jackson was fired today, and I am neither surprised nor upset by the news, as promised.

Here's what Jackson said about McKenzie: “He’s going to gut this place. He wants to bring in his own guys. No job is safe right now.”

No job is safe? With those four words, our defense just got a lot better, and the standards of professionalism in Alameda just got raised.

Simply put, McKenzie has decided to pave a new Raider Way, and that's fine by me. When you don't post a winning record in nine seasons, a major shakeup is in order, not to mention long overdue.

We've already been down the road of half measures, and that hasn't worked. The tree is being uprooted, and I expect it to produce much tastier fruits in the near future.

This new Raider Way is simply about returning to the original Raider Way, which was all about winning.

And I think we can expect to see a lot more of that over the next few years.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Paving A New Raider Way

Well, if reports are to be believed, we have a general manager, one who comes from a first-class organization, and who was endorsed by Ron Wolf and John Madden, and who actually played for the Raiders back in the day.

I don't know a lot about Reggie McKenzie as an executive, but his endorsements and pedigree sound promising.

I honestly don't care what happens with Hue Jackson. For some strange reason, I'm completely ambivalent about him. I thought that he started his tenure strong, but I was pretty unimpressed by the end of the season. I suppose that he could still have some upside, that he could still be the guy, but I think that is open for legitimate debate, and I wouldn't be surprised if McKenzie decided he wasn't the guy.

The Raiders defense was a grease fire in 2011. Apparently, Jackson had the power to hand out draft picks like Christmas candy in his pursuit of Carson Palmer, but no authority to demote a woefully ineffective defensive coordinator?

Worse yet, the Raiders set the NFL record for penalties and penalty yardage, which I believe reflects directly on the coach. In the end, Jackson sounded overly exasperated and a bit in over his head, which is no way to hit the ground running in 2012.

The injuries at key positions like quarterback and running back are no excuse for finishing in third place in a weak division. If we were going to accept mediocrity as a result of injury, then there was no reason to mortgage our future drafts for the sake of fielding Carson Palmer. If Michael Bush was such a drop off the cliff, how did he run for nearly 1,000 yards and earn consideration for a franchise tag?

The Palmer deal could really blow up in our face in the long run. Big Ben, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and even Tim Tebow...Do you see a trend with the teams who are in the playoffs this year? Hint: each of their quarterbacks was drafted by their own team (okay, Manning was traded on draft day) and groomed from the ground up.

Drew Brees is the exception. There's also the Texans, who ostensibly should be fielding Matt Schaub, and Alex Smith and Tim Tebow are flukey, but there's a clear pattern with the teams that seem to be there time and time again.

I'm not writing off Carson Palmer, he could still become our Drew Brees or Kurt Warner, but it's time for the Raiders to take a holistic, ground-up, visionary approach to building the team, and it starts at quarterback.

In that context, they should be drafting their QB of the future sooner rather than later. This is a QB-driven league. Carson Palmer should not only be our starting quarterback for the next few years, but he should also be a mentor to our next quarterback for the subsequent 10 years.

But here's the rub: we have several other holes to fill, but also a dearth of draft picks.

Statistically, Jason Campbell and Carson Palmer were in a virtual dead heat in 2011. In 2012, Palmer needs to prove that he's a few high draft picks better than the guy we already had. And if McFadden remains injury prone, then we can expect an encore starting performance from Michael Bush. It should be good enough to win a weak division.

But it won't be if the defense doesn't get squared away. Hiring a capable defensive coordinator is the first step, but not the only one. Our defense is loaded with high-priced veterans and lofty draft picks who have no business getting embarrassed like that, even if Mickey Mouse were on the sidelines calling the schemes.

Again: it's time for the Raiders to take a holistic, ground-up, visionary approach to building the team. It's time to pave a new Raider Way.

That's why Reggie McKenzie is here. And that's why Hue Jackson may be gone, and that's why I wouldn't be terribly surprised or disappointed.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

One Postgame Take (R.I.P. 2011 Edition)

Somewhere, Al Davis is shaking his fist at Hue Jackson, Chuck Bresnehan and the Oakland Raiders. Somewhere, Tom Cable is saying, "Eight and eight? Hey, I got fired for that." Somewhere, Norv Turner and Tim Tebow are smiling.

And that, my friends, is your fitting epitaph to the 2011 season of your Oakland Raiders.

How can I put this nicely? Our defense sucks. It's one of the worst in the NFL. Look at the points scored against the Raiders this season. It will make your jaw drop.

Fire Chuck Bresnehan? Duh. What on Chuck Bresnehan's recent resume made anyone (and the Raiders organization in particular) think that we were going to have a well coached unit during his tenure?

Bresnahan aside, this is on the players. Our defense is loaded with enough high-priced veterans to be able to pull themselves together and avoid the perpetual embarrassment that we saw this season. Something is wrong, something stinks, and it goes beyond Bresnehan.

This was ultimately the season of the OAKLAN Raiders, because there was no D in Oakland (compliments to whoever coined that phrase earlier here, I forgot).

We are now nine seasons deep without a winning record.

Last year, the Raiders won three of their last five games, and two of their last three, including the finale.

This year, the Raiders lost four of their last five. Faced with an opportunity to control their playoff destiny, they instead got manhandled by a teetering Chargers team at home. Along the way, they set the all-time NFL record for penalties and penalty yards, demonstrating an astonishing lack of discipline.

I guess I can find reasons to be optimistic about the 2012 season if I look hard enough. But this maddeningly slow and incremental climb up the apparent Mt. Everest of a winning record is becoming tedious.

In a "show me" season, the Raiders failed to show up in the end, and it cost us a spot in the playoffs. Tim Tebow, not Carson Palmer, is the quarterback from the AFC West who will lead his team into the postseason, and if that doesn't make your blood boil, nothing will.

Chargers Gameday Thread

Well, here we are, with our first meaningful game in January in nine years. How we got here no longer matters. What matters is where we're going, and we'll know that before the sun goes down this evening.

In 1980, Dan Pastorini went down after five games with a broken leg. Jim Plunkett came off the bench and promptly threw five interceptions. However, he led the Raiders to victories in his next six starts, setting the stage for a wild-card berth and an eventual Super Bowl victory.

Simply put, it's not over until it's over. How you start is not nearly as important as you finish. Today is the day to finish strong and set the stage for another improbable postseason for the Silver and Black. Today is the day to improve upon the record that got Tom Cable fired. Today is a lot of things...