Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Buck Stops Where?

So, who's to blame for this grease fire known as the 2012 Oakland Raiders?

Answer: The players, the coaches, the GM and ownership.

Let's tackle the coaching question first. Consider a parallel universe that would have allowed us to hire Bill Belichick or Joe Bugel as our head coach this season, with the roster being the same.

Do you think the results would be different with Belichick leading the Raiders or Bugel leading the Raiders? Of course they would.

If we can agree that different coaches would get different results out of these same players, no matter how much these players might stink, then we must agree that our current coach bears responsibility for our current results.

Now, our head coach was hired by the GM. And the GM was hired by the owner...So when Mark Davis says that he's mortified, and that the chain of responsibility ultimately stops with him, he's entirely correct.

Here at Raider Take, however, we've had some curious role reversals among our faithful community. Some who mainly blamed management (ie: owner, GM, coaches) for our ills over the years are now blaming the players, while some who mainly blamed the players are now blaming management.

But here's where management gets a bit of a pass. Yes, the roster is half full of "new" players, but the core of the roster was inherited. Look at Palmer and virtually all of our skill position players, not to mention starters like Seymour, Kelly, Huff, Wiz, Veldheer, Carlisle, McLain, Houston, Branch, Giordano, etc.

I mean, come on. Let's not pretend that this is Reggie McKenzie's roster. Every new regime must deal with inheriting players. Not every new regime is immediately ensnared in salary cap hell with a bare cupboard in the draft.

The 2012 Raiders should be better than they are right now. That is a failure of the current management regime. But these players were never going to become a great unit, despite the fact that we went into salary cap hell and draft purgatory to get them. That is a failure of the previous management regime. And these players have continually proven unable to play fundamental football. That is a failure of the players themselves.

So the buck stops not here, not there, but everywhere right now. 

The benefit of the doubt remains on the side of Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie (and to a lesser degree, Dennis Allen). They may not get a full pass for this year's debacle, but we owe them time, and they will get it

Many of the players will not. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bengals Gameday Thread

The regression must stop here. Time to show up and make a statement.

Halftime update: The clown car makes its earliest appearance ever...

Monday, November 19, 2012

One Postgame Take

“I’m patient, but I want to see progress. Not regression. I’m embarrassed, pissed, disappointed and I take full responsibility.”

-Mark Davis, after yesterday's blowout loss

Thank you, Mark Davis, for articulating a take that I've been repeating for the past six years. Remember all those years when I was growing increasingly impatient, wanted to see more progress, was disappointed and pissed, and held ownership accountable? Well, it's back to the future. Nice to know I'm in good company.

This is a team without a single great player. Think about that. McFadden was great for a spell, but hasn't sustained it, and I wonder if his ship has sailed. Palmer is really good, but not great. We have some good players, and plenty of not-so-good players. And as a whole, they're a disaster. Is it ability, culture, coaching, or all of the above?

What strange metaphysical brew is responsible for this team's 4-12 record over the past 16 games?

Why are we flailing around, doing an uncanny imitation of the Shell II-Kiffin era, even after yet another regime change? How can the defense get arguably worse after you fire Chuck Bresnhan and hire a defensive coordinator as your head coach? How come our "young" receivers are still so "young" when it comes to running routes and catching the ball?


In his postgame press conference, Dennis Allen sounded nothing like Mark Davis. He sounded very measured. He preached going back to work and working hard to solve the problem. He effectively praised his players, saying he knows how hard they work, and how no one is more disappointed than they are, and how for some reason they're just not getting it done. But the dude must be pissed deep down, right? Ripping the players didn't exactly help Hue Jackson.

The Clown Car remains in the garage today. The key was in the ignition, but this ultimately wasn't a clown show. It was just a simple bacon-and-eggs beatdown, an inferior team going through familiar motions, with familiar results.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saints Gameday Thread

It's now or never, and you never know....Go Raiders!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Take on Taiwan

Much angst has been expressed in these parts over the past few days about Taiwan Jones not getting serious action on Sunday, and what it says about Jones, or about the coaching staff, given that we were razor-thin at the running back position.

Here's my take: I suspect it's something as simple as Taiwan pissing off the staff or breaking a rule or not giving full effort.

If that's the case, I support keeping Taiwan on ice. We've seen where lack of discipline and accountability has led this organization in the past.

Cream rises to the top in the NFL, and Taiwan hasn't risen even close to the top under two coaches now. He's nothing more than an idea from Eastern Washington with less than 20 combined season carries under his belt. It seems to me that, as Raiders fans, we're always hoping for the next "idea" to save the day, when in reality they're just guys who are low on a mediocre depth chart.

Jeff Fisher benched two starters last Sunday for team rules violations. They were seen running the stairs before the game. The Rams proceeded to give one of the best teams in the NFL a run for their money. That's how good coaches operate. Accountability first.

Anyhow, the Taiwan Jones issue is ultimately an act of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Look at our defense. Look at the combined point totals given up over the past two weeks. No offense can overcome that.

Honestly, I think Allen and McKenzie thought it was going to be easier than this, that maybe they had some good raw material to work with. I think this has been a rude awakening for all involved. I think we're going to see a nuking after this season, and it won't be the players pressing the button.

I'm not saying what's left will be better. McKenzie and Allen still have to prove themselves. But it's going to be a lot different. Mark my words.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Five Postgame Takes

1. My only explanation for the Raiders at this point is that this roster is rotten at the core. They got Cable fired, they left Hue Jackson hanging, and now they're playing the same old joke on Dennis Allen. You've heard the phrase "blow it up?" I could forgive McKenzie for thinking in stronger terms: Nuke it.

2. That said, I still don't see why this team shouldn't be as good, or better, than last year's team. I could understand being stuck in neutral with this roster. But full-on regression? I don't get that.

3. Look at the stats for both teams. Then look at the score. The stats lie, lie, lie. What the stats don't tell you is the Raiders got absolutely punked. There's no stat for that.

4. Seven games left. We need to win five of them to match last year's record. Unlikely. Yet another year without a winning record. I used to joke about the 10-year plan and about it taking a decade to achieve a winning record. Now we've passed that mark. Incredible.

5. The players apparently didn't get the memo that the scholarship era is over. They see a guy like Stanfort Routt still making out like a bandit after being cut by the Raiders and the Chiefs, and they probably haven't figured it out yet. They are in for a rude awakening. McKenzie isn't going to inflate anyone's stock. The perpetual Christmas is over in Alameda. Don't buy a Raiders jersey right now, because you're going to see a lot of names on the discount rack next summer. There's no other path to take at this point.

Ravens Gameday Thread

Well, a 3-6 record would not be good. So let's avoid that by shooting down the blackbirds today.

Friday, November 09, 2012

A Clown Show Autopsy

I went to Oakland on Sunday, and there I saw the ghost of Stuart Schweigert. 

There, I saw Doug Martin rack up 251 yards, like a glorious baby lamb galloping across green fields of open daylight, not a predator to be found, except for a distant wolf tripping over itself. 

During the game, tapping away on my mobile, I wrote: "Halfway thru the third, it's amateur hour in our secondary."

After the game, I wrote: "What was amazing to me is how uncoordinated our pursuits looked after Martin and their receivers reached the open field. Our secondary once again reminded me of Cirque du Soleil: a bunch of clowns flying around, hitting nothing."

Did I mention that I had just watched a rookie rack up 251 yards on the ground, right before my very eyes?

Later, Gary watched the coaches' film and commented on the biggest runs: "The second one was a whiff by Lee at the LOS... then a complete circus act in the secondary...The third one was a whiff by Burris at the LOS and then more circus act."

Calico Jack chimed in: "Unable to shed blockers, weak arm tackles, poor angles, poor tackling technique, out of position, lack of penetration or disruption in the backfield, lack of awareness, lack of aggression at the point of attack ... everything and anything that had to do with piss poor rush D was on full display."

It's hard to really see fully what's going on while at the game, and to follow the action while at the same time surveying the field. That's what replays are for. But I saw enough to make me want to wash my eyes out with Comet.

On one pursuit, Matt Giordano got so twisted up that he hurt himself and crumpled to the ground as the Buc blew by. It reminded me of the good old days, of Schweigert and crew flying around, missing and bouncing off the other team.

I don't mean to pick on Schweigert. It's nothing personal. But he sort of epitomizes the bad angle bug that seems to bite the Raiders every year.

(Schweigert started 39 games in three years for the Raiders...and did not start in a single NFL game thereafter. He seems like a cool guy. He went on to play in the UFL, runs a charitable foundation serving his hometown of Saginaw, and purchased a stake in an indoor football league team.)

Anyhow, for all of us scratching our heads about what exactly happened, SI.com has given us this gift: a visual breakdown of Sunday's defensive clown show.

The writer doesn't have an axe to grind with the Raiders, as far as I can tell. He's just trying to make sense of a historic day of rushing in the NFL. To do so, he performs an autopsy on each of the big plays. It's a fascinating must-read for Raiders fans. A quote: But again, this is a play that should have resulted in a decent game … and nothing more. Even once Martin cleared the line, there are three Raiders defenders that appear to be in position to clamp down on him. Wrong.

So my question to all of you is: How does it happen, these epic lapses resulting in astonishing rushing yards, seemingly year after year? How can the fundamentals remain so poor? What do you think Dennis Allen says when he plays this game back to his team?

We're three DCs removed from Rob Ryan. We're on our third coach in four years, and our new one is a defensive specialist.

So, again: How and why does something like this still happen? Looking forward to your takes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Five Postgame Takes

1. That was a gutsy comeback staged and directed by Carson Palmer...But you can't throw that last pick.

2. Surely the Raiders must own some sort of record for allowing 150+ yards to a running back over the past five years. How many backs have had ridiculously epic games against the Raiders? Seems like it happens way too often. What was amazing to me is how uncoordinated our pursuits looked after Martin and their receivers reached the open field. Our secondary once again reminded me of Cirque du Soleil: a bunch of clowns flying around, hitting nothing.

3. The Coliseum was off the hook when the Raiders stopped the Buccaneers to get the ball back with three minutes to go, down by three. There's nothing like the Coliseum when it's off the hook. The individual cells of the Raider Nation body merge into one awesome connected black-clad organism of noise. Epic.

4. Then Palmer throws that pick...

5. I could be way off base here, but I can't help but think back to Gruden and Gannon, and their leadership presence. It's a similar time for the Raiders to when Gruden arrived (and Gannon after that), with the team trying to dig out of a longtime hole with a young unproven coach and a veteran quarterback. If I recall correctly, Gruden and Gannon were up in people's grills a lot. Do Allen and Palmer have that same fire? Can't say I'm seeing it. Dennis Allen looks remarkably calm in the face of some humiliating play on defense and bad officiating calls. Palmer looks calm and precise and like he knows what he's doing, but but there's a cool aloofness to his body language on the field and sideline, like he's seen it all before and nothing's going to bother him. I'm not saying they should start throwing chairs for the sake of theater, but I'd like to see a more vivid sense of command and control. Again, I could be way off the mark, playing armchair psychologist through my binoculars.

All that said, I think we have major personnel problems, and that it's going to take time for McKenzie and Allen to work some magic on that front. It's just that I see no particular reason why this team shouldn't be at least a little better than it is.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Bucs Gameday Thread

Greets from Oakland. Time for another win! RAIDERRRS!