Monday, December 15, 2008

The Talent Leakage Fallacy

Borrowing a mechanism from Lowell Cohn...

The problem with the Raiders is illustrated by the players who leave. Just not the way most people think.

With Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan scoring touchdowns in the latest Oakland Raiders Debacle (do we need to go to ORDeal in place of BARFF given the Niners' recent respectability?), it has been all too easy to suggest that the Raiders are so inept that they let talent walk out the door. A much bigger problem is the opposite one: holding onto marginal players for far too long. And that so few ex-Raiders go on to enjoy success - and those that do, do so not as leaders - seems an indictment of the talent acquisition process.

The case of Moss is unique. A quintessential Raiders-of-late team captain, loaded with talent and completely lacking discipline and heart and any other leadership quality. Trading him was the right move. Had he been retained, why would the latter years have been any more productive than the first? His stench would have rotted away any promise of rebuilding with Kiffin before it ever began. Nnamdi summed it up while recapping the game with Raj Mathai: "He never played like that for us when he was here."

LaMont as an ex-Raider has done nothing beyond the one revenge run in garbage time on Sunday. How often do you see Jerry Porter on NFL Total Access? Barry Sims I did see, although he was getting blown away by Joey Porter en route to a sack of Shawn Hill. Fabian Washington? Not terrible, I guess. Kevin Boothe? Plays some, but never fit Cable's system. Tyler Brayton? Watching Trevor Scott this year just reinforces the disappointment Brayton was year after year with the Raiders.

Sure, Charles Woodson has been fine. But the Raiders kept even him far too long given their circumstances. Two years of Franchise money at approximately six-games-per-year. The Packers took a huge gamble (or knew something about his motivation level) signing him at such a cost when he hadn't played a full season in years.

Who am I forgetting? Kerry Collins? Right, he's a guy you can plug into a very good team and be successful. Dominic Rhodes? Ditto.

The fact is, the Raiders don't let very much real talent get away. Even this year may not be the exodus one might expect, although only so many franchise tags are available.

Unfortunately, the Raiders' problem is systemic and organizational and not fixed through talent alone. Talent that plugs in or shines in a good system simply is not good enough. Yes, they need to go find more talent - OT and WR in particular - but absent a talent that is also a world class leader the likes of Rich Gannon, talent is not going to make things any better.

As I write this, an NFL Network ad just came on featuring Eric Mangini saying, "The most important thing you can do is to build your team based on players that are intrinsically motivated." That's building a culture, and the Raiders have a destructive one that is destroying any talent they do have.

1 comment:

Sllaacs said...

I guess you need to acquire talent in the first place in order to lose talent in the end.