Saturday, November 22, 2008

Was Shanahan Right?

I have long maintained that Mike Shanahan, with his beady eyes and small mouth that rarely moves, is closely related to Satan. He is well known for having taken over a talent laden (LA) Raiders club from legendary coach Tom Flores in 1988 and running it into the ground while trying to change a "Just Win Baby" culture that gave players the benefit of every doubt and bred a locker room completely lacking in self discipline. The culture clash was summed up by Howie Long's complaint that Shanny did not allow players to sit on their helmets on the sideline. When combined with a mediocre record this gave Al plenty of cause with which to fire him.

On Wednesday, Mike Shanahan showed a previously undisplayed ability to speak the truth when he said of CLOAK man-crush Nnamdi Asomugha, "He is the most underrated football player, to me, that I have ever been around. For people not to talk about him as the top corner in the NFL...to me, is a crime."

Cynicism set temporarily aside, Shanahan's ability to tell the truth opens a large can of worms and reminds me of a comment that a despondent Unk made when I visited him in Kingsburg in October:

"Maybe Shanahan was right."

Originally dismissed as the bitter ramblings of my Raider mentor still waiting for this team to show him some signs of competitiveness, perhaps it deserves consideration today. If in the face of the current housing meltdown we can question the validity of claiming a fundamental right for every American to own a home, surely we can question the Raider approach to player discipline in year six of an arguably worse meltdown of Raider football.

Fittingly, as I sat down to write this entry, my lovely wife was reminiscing over one of her favorite teams of all time, the notoriously undisciplined 1990's Dallas Cowboys. As the NFL Network show told stories of Michael Irvin missing the team flight to away games, I wondered how they managed to become so successful. Three reasons immediately leapt to mind:
  1. Talent (i.e., good personnel decisions)
  2. On-field leadership
  3. Coaching continuity

That we are only in year six rather than year twenty of a Raider meltdown is owed to a short, simultaneous visit by the above three points to Alameda in the late 1990's / early 2000's.

So was Shanahan right? I'm going to go out on a limb and say yes and no. Discipline certainly helps when every team is closely matched and looking for every edge to win each week. But discipline will never be a part of the Raider culture as long as Al Davis is alive. Therefore, we'll continue to pine for that uncommon combination of talent, on-field leadership, and coaching continuity that has eluded us these past six years. Two good offseason hires could go a long way towards making that a reality. (Read: Hope; also, Delusion).

As for this week's comments, do we believe that Shanny will avoid 21 tomorrow or do we worry that he's prepping to make a free agent run at Nnamdi? In a double entendre that only with him might I believe was intentional, Nnamdi said, "He’s lying. He’s coming for me."

1 comment:

John Sousa said...

Is that the first time Mark Morford has been referenced in this blog? Nice work, Dan.

That's exactly why we didn't buy a place in 2004, by the way. Anyone who would have given ME a loan back then was patently insane.