Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This Just In: Raiders Play Chargers Sunday!

By Rick Richardson

Despite the headlines containing tales of catfights and even suggestions of a coup d’e'tat in Raider Nation, there is a game to be played Sunday. In fact, it could shape up to be a very entertaining contest, despite the high school drama that has unfolded in the past few days/weeks. Both teams are 1-2 and desperately need another tick in the win column.

For the Raiders to have any reasonable chance this Sunday, they have to stop the run, or more specifically LaDainian Tomlinson A.K.A the Raider killer. He has beaten the Raiders like a drum since joining the Chargers, and will look to continue his march on the record books come this weekend in Oakland. If you look at Tomlinson’s stats versus the Raiders they are jaw dropping and frankly infuriating to any self respecting Raider Nation citizen born before the lean years.
  • 2001: Tomlinson rushes for 68 and 46 yards respectively. Raiders win both games.
  • 2002: LT embarrasses the Raiders for 153 yards to win the first meeting and only 57 yards when the Raiders redeem themselves with a win in game two.
  • 2003: LT torches the Raiders for 187 yards and Chargers win, then slaps the taste from the Nation's mouth with a whopping 243 yards in the rematch, and oh yeah, the Chargers win.
  • 2004: LT with 71 yards in a dogfight but Chargers win. 164 yards in the redo, and if you guessed the Chargers won you are seeing the trend.
  • 2005: LT=140 yards=win. In game two Tomlinson romps for 86 yards and Chargers win again.
  • 2006: LT and the Chargers continue to chalk up the winning equation with 131 yards and 109 yards in what is becoming routine.
  • 2007: I am typing 197 yards…really I am…and yes,…Chargers win. Then the one hole in the hypothesis is a 56 yard game and Charger win, but in defense of the theorem, Michael Turner got to step in and play Tomlinson before the playoffs or it would have been silly stats again for LaDainian. The Raiders also turned the ball over five times lessening any need for LT to risk injury by carrying the ball in a game that was out of reach.
  • 2008???

How about a total on those gaudy statistics….drum roll please.
Ladanian Tomlinson has carried the ball 357 times for 1709 yards and 16 touchdowns in 14 games versus the Raiders. In that period, the Chargers went a whopping 11-3 at Oakland’s expense.

LT is guaranteed at least 25 touches, giving the Raiders 25 opportunities to take away the Chargers winning formula. Hopefully the Raiders play with emotion and fortitude. Maybe Rob Ryan can dial up Dad and brush up on the 46 to shake it up a bit. Do what ever it takes to stop LT's onslaught on Sunday. Stunt, fly to the ball, gang tackle and wrap up.With the unending soap opera playing out in Oakland, and injuries to the defensive line making it tough odds in Oakland on Sunday, the Raiders are going to have to fight to win. And the win starts and stops with shutting down Ladainian Tomlinson.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Raiders Celebrate Too Early

By Rick Richardson

The latest punch in the stomach to the Oakland Raider organization and fans was a fourth quarter meltdown by the Raiders to let the Buffalo Bills back into the game. After a Johnny Lee Higgins 84-yard touchdown explosion and subsequent taunting penalty, the wheels came off. This was an all too familiar ending for beleaguered Raider players and fans alike.

After Higgins’ romp, alarm bells rang in my head. Call it a case of deja vu. I shouted at the screen, "this is no time for a celebration; you have a lot of football to play". Somewhere I had witnessed the ending of this game before. Maybe it was in a past life, or maybe just last season, but this was eerily familiar. In fact, in coaching there is a term for this display of endless humility. It is called, “finding a way to lose”, and although the Raiders have discovered fresh and exciting ways to give a game away, this time around they employed a popular method practiced by all floundering teams. It is called playing not to lose. The tried and true formula calls for a team to play their backsides off for say, three and one half quarters. Sometimes all the way up to the two minute warning, and then just when the opposition least expects it, stop bringing the heat on defense and fall into a loose zone that gives up chunks of yardage. Calling it a prevent defense is a misnomer, as it should really be called the permit defense, as it allows a team that hasn’t moved the ball well to begin racing down the field like bat out of the black hole. It also turns struggling mediocre quarterbacks into the second coming of Joe Montana, and equally sends announcers into the front seat of the bandwagon for the previously mentioned and suddenly unstoppable quarterback. The Cardinals and Saints were masters at it for years and only recently have they lost their talent for finding the L column in the daily standings. The Bengals seemingly have been threatened by the Raiders recent knack for futility and have ratcheted it up a notch to show the upstart Raiders how “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” is done. Whether we are tucked out of a game in New England, or laying down for an inferior opponent, the Raiders seem to be cursed. Make no mistake; Buffalo was not inferior, as they seem to be finding football players lately, as opposed to speedsters.

After the latest calamity to befall the Raiders, I sat there telling myself that I would not lament until Wednesday what went wrong. Therefore, I decided to try to put my finger on the problem to find a solution, and what I ended up with was the realization that I needed at least ten fingers to address this franchise’s problems. Yet here I am ready for the next dose of demystified Raider football. The “Mystique of the Raiders” has been gone so long it is mummified. Nevertheless, Monday morning will come and I will find myself chasing the ghost of season’s past. Hoping in the return of the “commitment to excellence”.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Al Leave Kiffin "IN"

by Rick Richardson

Let me preface this story with acknowledgement that I haven’t always agreed with Lane Kiffin. For that matter, I don’t always agree with Al Davis. It is very apparent in recent weeks that Davis and Kiffin are not on the same page either. The soap opera that is unfolding before our eyes has brought me to the realization that Al Davis, Lane Kiffin, and the Raiders need each other.

For Al, it is becoming too late for the annual retread search. I’ve looked, and there is no one out there that wants to deal with the daily paranoia, whether real or perceived, that comes along with the Raider's gig. Let’s face it, with each hiring and subsequent firing, the Raiders are starting to look more and more like North Korea, with Al being the “Dear Leader”. Please Al, make no mistake about it, you are the face of the Raiders. Anyone who denies that has either became a fan just recently, or is in the shallow end of the pool when it comes to their depth of Raider knowledge. Al has brought in players like no other owner. His desire to “just win baby”, has created the Raider mystique. The fact that he is in the Hall of Fame despite media resentment is a testament to what he has meant to the Raiders and pro football.

As for Kiffin, it seems the past few weeks have been about burning down the bridge that he is standing on. While there are plenty of Raider hater sympathizers out there ready to bring him in and wipe away his tears, there are just as many that think he is repaying the Raiders willingness to give him an opportunity by bemoaning his poor fate like someone who has severed all ties with reality. Think about it. Lane Kiffin was tagging along the day he won the lottery and became the coach of the Raiders.

The bottom line though is under Kiffin there seems to be a real grooming of Jamarcus Russell. Can you imagine him being thrown to the wolves in the bed and breakfast offense of only a couple years back? Monday night’s debacle was just that, one of those games that sneaks in and punches a very young struggling team in the tooth. I remember Dallas taking a few lumps before some big years. The one constant was Coach Johnson through the building process. The Raiders can ill afford a regime change this quickly. For the first time in a long time there seems to be some progress on the field. A win at Arrowhead alone should be proof.

The best thing for every one involved would be for Al to bite his bottom lip and realize the reason he chose “Lance” Lane Kiffin in the first place. It is because he thought he carried with him a little moxie. The same moxie that got him hired is going to send him to the bread line. Kiffin on the other hand can realize that he was hired by the Raiders, and didn’t actually purchase the Raiders, giving Al a little wiggle room in some of the personnel decisions. Kiffin’s open and refreshingly honest remarks have included a few jabs, but also real personal growth. He is young, bright and sometimes brash to a fault. He has a lot of room to grow, but seems to realize this with every passing game. So please Al, argue with Kiffin, teach Kiffin, but don’t send him packing because he doesn’t always play the “yes man” role. For the sake of the Raiders, leave Kiffin “in”.