Sunday, November 28, 2010

Raiders Quarterback Carousel Won't End Soon

By Rick Richardson

Start Bruce! No, give Campbell a fair shot! These are the shouts of a Raider Nation that has endured more than their fair share of turmoil.

Neither is the answer.

Bruce Gradkowski is the short-term band-aid. He is a spark that has been missing but ends up being reckless with his body and the ball in a desperate attempt at one final effort of NFL relevancy. His heart is limitless even if his talent in finite.

“The Bruce” is easy to root for; he has every thing you need for stardom except one thing…big league talent. He could be good, maybe even really good in an offense that could run on anybody and allow him to play within his game. However, these Raiders are not there yet as the Steelers demonstrated. Last weeks drubbing sent a blue print to the rest of the league. If you stop the Raiders run game it gets ugly in a hurry.

Jason Campbell reminds you of the old 7-UP commercials touting their aversion to caffeine. “Never had it and never will”. Great guy, but even his latest comment leaves you questioning his passion for the game. As per Campbell is quoted as saying,

“We’re at home, and the main thing about it is we just need to bring the energy into our stadium, no matter what’s going on. I feel like, for the most part in this season, I had a pretty good year, and hey, we lost two tough games, but that happens.

After that last sentence, somewhere Rich Gannon just threw up a little.

The Raiders and their faithful have had more than their share of “oh well, stuff happens” emanating from the leader on the field. The JaMarcus Russell experiment gave the Raiders enough lethargy and apathy to fill and empty Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

So don’t blame them if it seems a little quick to pull the plug on Campbell.

Campbell brings no energy or urgency. His delivery is painfully slow and a defensive backs dream. His only redeeming feature is an athleticism that shows up only enough to tease you with potential.

The only solution for the Raiders is a Gradkowski band aide until a quarterback handpicked by Hue Jackson in next years draft can be groomed to take the reigns. A quarterback that can match Jackson’s fire and intelligence working within his system could be the quarterback whom the Raider faithful are searching.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009 Oakland Raiders: Comedy of Errors

By Rick Richardson

The more appropriate title of this article should have been “Things Go ‘Heyward’ By the Bay”.

I tease because I love...I laugh to keep from crying.

As the current edition of Raider’s football continues to carve out their own interpretation of “the mystique”, and in the meantime trash all of my childhood memories of this once proud franchise, I look for ways to cope.

They say laughter is the best medicine. Well that and penicillin, but since this is over the counter medicine, and penicillin has no effect on the current virus that has tormented the Raiders; I present to you my small dose of medicine during these tumultuous times.

Here are the top ways to tell if the Raiders are going to have another dismal season.

* After another dismal showing young JaMarcus is surrounded by teammates Gerrard Warren, Darren Mcfadden, and Javon Walker like the cool kid who was just wronged by the teacher. Even if the cool kid was in the wrong for throwing spitballs in class. He shouldn’t be in trouble. After all those spit balls sailed harmlessly over everyone’s head.

P.S. I didn’t see Richard Seymour or Greg Ellis massaging his ego and whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

* When your team's quarterbacking future utters the quote after being pulled from the game, “things were going okay”. This after posting stats that read 8 of 23 for 64 yards.

Talk about your coke bottle thick, rose colored glasses. Those stats would make a high school quarterback worry about his impending relocation to the bench.

* When your most recent multi-million dollar mistake does his best double-fisted impression of “wax on, wax off” while attempting to catch a pass during the teams final drive to glory.

I mean granted, JaMarcus viciously attacked Heyward-Bey with a surprisingly accurate pass, but hey if you are going to fight a football don’t let it get the best of you. In this display of “fight or flight”, DHB should have used his speed to run away, thus avoiding the shame of a pigskin beat down.

* Speaking of Heyward-Bey. He was observed defending himself Dwight Schrute style during a recent encounter with the jugs machine. Although a few of the hurled footballs did penetrate his defenses, striking him in the chest. This is not a problem since this is his technique of choice when dueling with ... err ...catching a football."

Side note to Al. The next time you want to draft a receiver number seven overall, at the very least have someone from the scouting department sneak up on him and toss him a football. Heck a Nerf ball or even a rolled up sock will do. And if he bats at it like a swarm of bees is assaulting him, draft a lineman.

* If there is an officiating crew that works for the NFL anywhere near the stadium.

Talk about kicking a team in the Al when they are down.

When Trevor Scott was pulling a Chief lineman along like a speedboat would a water skier, you would have thought that the line judge would have known that the number 91on Scott’s jersey was not supposed to elongate to his socks.

It was hard to tell if the Chief lineman was hanging on to keep his running back from being drilled in the backfield, or if he was just afraid to let go because he was being dragged so fast.

Then again, maybe the official was contemplating an illegal equipment violation by Scott, and became distracted. The official should have thrown it, because Head of NFL officiating Mike Pereira would backed him up. It could have been called the "un-tucked rule".

And last but not least:

* You wish JaMarcus Russell could be more like Vince Young.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Wasn't Just The Raiders Wearing Throwback Uniforms!

Raider fans get your throwback jerseys quick, and don't forget to grab those classy fruit striped gum zebra rags while your at it. Could you think of a more fitting outfit for this crew?

Hurry fans while supplies last. Big red shoes and rubber noses each sold separately.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Raider's Draft Went Heyward or Haywire?

By Rick Richardson

I have to admit, by the time the Raiders had made their second round pick, I was shaking my head in disbelief. The salt the pundits were rubbing in my black and silver bleeding wounds didn’t make it any easier.

I could not for the life of me understand why they would choose Darrius Heyward-Bey so early in the 2009 NFL draft just to be different or rebellious.

In fact, I couldn’t see why Al fell in love with DHB even though he possessed the speed Al Davis has always maniacally pursued.

And then it hit me.

I don’t know if it was the Kool-Aid that everyone will swear I am drinking, but I finally got it.

Al Davis could care less what spot he got his man. He didn’t care if he could pick up extra value by trading down. He probably despises the glitzy spectacle it has become, right down to the mouthpieces that clairvoyantly declare winners and losers of the draft.

After all, we all know how many of these "extra" picks actually make the final roster.

Al Davis wanted a vertical threat to go with his cannon armed quarterback, and he wasn’t about to risk it by trying to get cute and slide down.

This is the guy he coveted all along, so what sense would it make to trade down and risk losing the player he desired for two players he didn’t want?

I then reexamined Heyward-Beys football resume.

There it was staring back at me.

DHB ran a scorching 4.23 forty at 6-2 and 212 pounds in 2006. To put it in perspective—Deon Sanders ran a mythical 4.19 back in the day.

Get a stop watch out and time yourself clapping your hands together if you want to know the difference between 4.19 and 4.23.

It is mind numbingly negligible. In a race it is Deon by a nose.

This isn’t a comparison of athleticism, but just pure straight line speed.

The Raiders didn’t draft DHB to be the go to guy; they drafted him to be Cliff Branch. Branch never caught more than 60 balls, but averaged 17.3 yds per reception. The Raiders of old would pound the ball with the running game and line up Branch on the outside as if to say, “I dare you to put eight men in the box."

Some might say that is living in the past, but the same wouldn’t say boo about the 49ers trying to recreate Jerry Rice, especially if they were trying to fit a player in the West Coast offense.

The knock on DHB is his inconsistent hands, but ball catching skills can be improved. Route running can be tightened up, but straight line speed can’t be coached.

Therein lies the rub. Al does have a philosophy.

The Raiders have a scheme, and that scheme requires speed and explosion. It isn’t as simple as coach Cable describes in his “pound the ball and then throw it over their heads” explanation, but that is the gist.

Like any scheme, it does still work as long as you have the right personnel.

And on draft day 2009, the Raiders did what most of us have loved about them for years—they went their own way by thumbing their noses at the Mel Kipers and Mike Mayocks of the world, and picked who they wanted.

Someone who fit the scheme.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Crystal Ball Sees Raiders Picking…?

By Rick Richardson

It is always anyone’s guess who the Raiders will pick in the annual NFL draft, including Mr. Davis.

He covets a player occasionally and puts the “I’d rather be right than consistent” theory to test. Nevertheless, mostly he is like the rest of us and waits until draft day to see how the cards fall.

That includes a couple of years ago, when the Raiders owned what I like to call the No. 1 overall curse, due to the fact that accompanying the player is a huge cap-killing nightmare of a contract that by nature is doomed to haunt the “chosen one” for their entire career.

I’ve been right only four times that I can remember, with Napoleon Kaufman in 1995 and last year's pick, Darren McFadden, my only correct calls that weren’t no-brainers.

Sadly, Al wouldn’t listen to my telepathic pleas to take Ben Roethlisberger, Shaun Alexander, Luis Castillo, or Nick Mangold. In their stead, the Raiders received Robert Gallery, Sebastian Janikowski, Fabian Washington, and Michael Huff.

This year looks to be different; lucky at No. 7 instead of cursed at No. 1. There are a lot of good players and scenarios that could take place. While there is no one deserving of the No. 1 slot, there are a bounty of picks in the first that could be instant contributors.

The Raiders find themselves in a sweet spot. With no players on Oakland's radar worth the price of a trade up, and many teams wanting to get into the top 10 as soon as a player they covet slides, the Raiders are well positioned for a draft day haul.

So, which player am I mentally searing into Al’s brain this year? No one. No, not one. The vein on my forehead will be popping out because I will be mentally screaming for Mr. Davis to pick “the best player available.” In addition, if that best player available can be had a few spots down, by all means trade down.

Those squiggly waves that will be emanating from my house this weekend will be carrying this message to Al:

"If any team offers the house and the outhouse, take it, pick the best available player later in round one, and enjoy building with the extra picks."

This player most likely will be a shock slider. However, the fallback safe pick could be Rey Maualuga from USC. After watching game tape on him, he looks like a steal middle to late in the first round.

So, what do I see in the tea leaves come draft day? Don't believe the smokescreen by Tom Cable. He is an offensive line coach and talks wistfully of bringing home one of the Cadillac linemen, but there is no way he would talk that openly if that was what Al truly intended to do.

So Al, if you insist on staying at seven and taking a wideout, please take Mr. Instant Offense in Jeremy Maclin, and avoid the next incarnation of Phillip Buchanon AKA Michael Crabtree.

And remember, Phil Loadholt or Max Unger will be there waiting on you in the second.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lane Kiffin Proving Al Davis Right

By Rick Richardson

Al Davis must feel somewhat vindicated, as the true nature of Lane Kiffin is slowly mutating before a national audience.

Lane’s second foray onto the national scene as University of Tennessee head football coach has him looking as arrogant and immature as his first. Kiffin earned a maelstrom of reprimands from the University of Florida and SEC commissioner Mike Slive for his erroneous and serious accusation of recruiting violations at a breakfast celebrating the 2009 Tennessee recruiting class.

Kiffin claimed that one of his prospective recruits was called by Florida head coach Urban Myer during a visit to the Tennessee campus. Kiffin mistakenly thought that Myer was cheating and had committed a recruiting violation.

While Kiffin was trying to swallow his entire foot, someone in the Tennessee athletic department had to be letting out a gasp. The media storm that followed led Kiffin to release the following:

“I’ve been made aware by the Southeastern Conference that my comments this morning at a breakfast with our donors violated a conference policy,” he said. “In my enthusiasm for our recruiting class, I made some statements that were meant solely to excite those at the breakfast.

“I apologize to Commissioner Mike Slive and the SEC, including Florida AD Jeremy Foley and coach Urban Meyer. My comments were not intended to offend anyone at the University of Florida.”

Lane Kiffin’s apology, or more aptly described justification of his comments seemed to state “I‘m sorry for not really being sorry.”

Lane Kiffin looked promising in the early going of his Raider stint, but quickly appeared immature and green. During the Oakland Raider news conference announcing his hiring, he displayed a lack of communication skills with his robotic, rehearsed coaching cliché’s. He came off as not only green, but Kermit the Frog green.

Kiffin did have some minor successes, but it is hard to define in retrospect whether that was a product of his assistants, and player leadership rather than his own prowess.

Regardless, Kiffin won the lottery when he made that fateful trip to Oakland to interview along with then lead candidate USC assistant Steve Sarkisian. Kiffin was interviewing for offensive coordinator while Sarkisian was interviewing for the vacant head coaching position. Sarkisian headed back to USC without the job, but Kiffin remained and became Oakland’s 16th Head coach in franchise history.

That lottery ticket just kept on paying when his feud and subsequent termination by the Raider’s owner Al Davis led him to a $2 million contract to become head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

It hasn’t taken long for Lane to make Al Davis’s scorching critique of Kiffin’s character look a little more plausible. Davis called Kiffin a “professional liar” in the infamous over head projector point list of reasons for letting Kiffin go for “cause.” By terminating the contract for “cause”, Al has refused to pay Kiffin the remaining balance of his salary.

It was widely reported that Kiffin stormed through Raider headquarters cursing and slamming doors when he received word that the Arkansas football vacancy had been filled in 2007. His refusal to wear anything emblazoned with the Raiders logo during the Senior Bowl made many question whether the wonder boy realized how amazing the opportunity given by the Raiders truly was.

With Kiffin’s latest shenanigans that humming sound you hear just might be Tennessee athletic director, Mike Hamilton’s, overhead projector warming up.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nnamdi Asomugha Likely to Remain an Oakland Raider

By Rick Richardson

Make no mistake about it. Nnamdi Asomugha is a top tier corner. He possesses superior coverage skills, above average intelligence, and comes with great character to boot.

What more could you ask for in a player.

So let us put this rumor to bed once and for all. There is no way Al Davis lets Nnamdi wear anything other than silver and black next year. Mark it down. Put it out of your head, and begin to think of more sane topics like a possible relocation of the Raiders to Gnome, Alaska.

Many draft speculators have formed a consensus that the Raiders will select CB Malcolm Jenkins with the 7th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, because of the presumed certainty that Nnamdi is fed up and will walk.

First, I don’t think Asomugha is as fed up with the Raiders as he is fed up with losing. Just the quality you are looking for when you are trying to turn around a floundering franchise.

Second, Asomugha will be franchise tagged if he doesn't sign a long term contract.

The only way Nnamdi Asomugha wears another jersey is if he is traded, and the asking price will be steep. Much too salty for another franchise to bite. By trading the all-pro cornerback, the Raiders would open a huge hole in their roster.

The last time I checked Al’s prized slogan was “just win baby”. If there is any way that Mr. Davis can stomp Asomugha's contract under the salary cap he will do it. Al may have his detractors, but they can‘t say he doesn‘t try to sign the best players.

Nnamdi Asomugha certainly fits that description.

So buy your Asomugha jersey with confidence Raider fans. The chance of being stuck with the equivalent of a Moss jersey is between slim and none.