Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Question of Sabotage

Damn, the Raiders sure know how to make news, even when they lose...

Indeed, the biggest Super Bowl story of this week revolved around the Silver & Black, with Tim Brown alleging that Bill Callahan may have "sabotaged" the Raiders' chances against Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl ten years ago.

Brown clarified his remarks on the Dan Patrick Show yesterday, pointing out that, as he said in his original remarks, "We called it sabotage." 

Not it was sabotage.We called it sabotage.

And you can hardly blame that sentiment after everything that went down on that ill-fated Super Bowl Sunday.

I encourage you to listen to yesterday's Dan Patrick Show podcasts, not only for the segment with Tim Brown, but also the one with Howie Long. 

As Howie points out, it almost certainly wasn't sabotage, but it was seemingly gross negligence from a coaching standpoint. 

First off, the Raiders had a game plan centered around running the ball, despite having a strong aerial attack that got them to the Super Bowl. This is because the Buccaneers defense was quick on their feet, but not big up front. A run-oriented game plan was designed to exploit Tampa Bay's weakness, and soften the core to open up opportunities. 

Then, on Friday, the coaching staff suddenly changed the game plan to focus on the pass, leaving the players scratching their heads. The original plan seemed strategically sound, so why make a switch at the 11th hour? Barrett Robbins was apparently one of the players who was particularly impacted by this sudden change in preparation and responsibility. 

Then, on Sunday, the Raiders failed to disguise the the plays and audibles that Jon Gruden knew all too well. It was a recipe for a blowout.

Bill Callahan once called the Raiders the stupidest team. He may have been right, but he certainly wasn't exempt from the moniker. 

Regarding the Friday night switch in game plans, it's speculated that Al Davis may have had something to do with it. Even Brown admitted it was possible Mr. Davis had commanded a change in plan, saying it had happened before. Is it possible that Mr. Davis had no say in the matter, and that Callahan simply made an executive, and ultimately confounding, decision to play right into the hands of Tampa Bay?

Regardless, there's no question that the Raiders' last Super Bowl appearance was a debacle, and that to this day, it remains a complete head scratcher. After the game, the stunned players were left to wonder, and they still do...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Curing the JaMarcus Hangover

I'm not saying, but just asking: Is it time to draft a quarterback (or two) in the early rounds of the draft?

Look at this list of this year's playoff teams:


Now look at this list of perennial contenders who were knocking on the door but missed this year:


Out of those 15 teams, only three don't have homegrown quarterbacks as starters. Peyton Manning is a freak, so I almost don't count him. So that leaves Matt Schaub and Drew Brees as the only regular "journeymen" free agents to helm the teams on this list.

Now, I'm not saying that Christian Ponder is better than Carson Palmer. And there are several homegrown quarterbacks who are stalling right now, such as Jake Locker. It's not a foolproof theory.

But if we're going to build a long-term winner, I think we need too groom a young quarterback and get on board with what's working in today's NFL. 

Look at some of the teams who have gone the journeyman route lately: the Chiefs with Cassel and Quinn, the Cardinals with Kolb, the Eagles with Vick, and the Raiders with Palmer. All of those teams fell into steep decline in 2012. The percentages overwhelmingly indicate that the surest route to building a long-term winner is to do it by grooming your own franchise quarterback.

Pryor? If he was the guy, don't you think he would have passed Matt Leinart on the depth chart before the very last game of his second year in the NFL? The elite quarterbacks of tomorrow aren't taking much time to show their stuff these days, as evidenced by all of the rookies and second-year quarterbacks in the playoffs this year.

I think we're still suffering from a JaMarcus Russell hangover. I truly do. The dominos are still falling. Russell flames out, we desperately grasp onto Jason Campbell to keep us competitive, but Campbell is just good but not great (did you expect anything more?). Then, because we've neglected depth at the position in large part due to the JaMarcus Russell flameout, we panic and allow Hue Jackson to pay a king's ransom to hire Carson Palmer off his couch, a move that just doesn't square with what seems to be working these days in the NFL. Next thing you know, we're hallucinating Terrelle Pryor as a potential elite quarterback. We are still hungover.

The word in 2011 was that we might make a play to move up and get Colin Kaepernick. But we were hungover.

Terrelle Pryor represented the 78th slot in the 2012 draft (the pick we gave up to get him in the supplemental). You know where Russell Wilson was picked in 2012? 75th. The Redskins' seemingly capable backup QB Kirk Cousins was picked in the fourth round in 2012. There are diamonds in the rough, and we need to get serious about finding one.

We need to start grooming the future at quarterback. We tried and failed with Russell. The idea was right even if the execution wasn't. The idea is still right. The evidence is obvious in the standings.