Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Raiders' Disgrace is International: Who shot JR?

Al Davis likes to talk about the Raiders' international fan base, often with good reason.

But this can't help. The Independent covered the game against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and had this to say:
There is plenty for both sets of fans to give thanks for. For Cowboys' followers, that includes quarterback Tony Romo being back to his best following his summer break-up with reality star Jessica Simpson. The blonde bombshell was blamed for one of his worst performances two years ago, and many diehards considered her to have put a hex on the franchise's leading man. For perennial cellar-dwellers Oakland Raiders there is reason to be cheerful, because their quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the No 1 draft pick in 2007, has been benched after looking anything but. Who shot JR? Turns out his wounds were self-inflicted.
Ouch. So JaMarcus is now known on two continents as a bust, and his benching is compared to Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson. Yes, I get Jammy and Jessica are both famous for having a lot of money and struggling with their weight. But that's brutal. And I'm not sure we're exactly "cheerful" about it, either.

Then, there's this:
It's one-way traffic, and the Raiders even manage to look like the Keystone Kops when two defenders collide trying to intercept a drop by Roy Williams, who admits to me his play "is not living up to expectations".
Nice. Our "Keystone Kops" defense provides a segue to discuss the shit-ass season of Roy Williams. I can attest to this, since he's on one of my fantasy teams. Not since Chris Chambers Effed me in the A on the last game of the 2005 season has a fantasy football receiver disappointed me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Battling Organizational Culture

After an exhilarating, improbable, impressive win over a good Bengals team on Sunday, most teams would take momentum into their next start. But it's well documented that the Raiders always do a major face plant when coming off a win. Shane Lechler blames players, saying, "Guys become real cool."

It's quite remarkable to me that there are so many significant players who have absolutely no idea how to handle themselves as professionals. It is to be expected given the lack of discipline that flows from the utter lack of organizational structure the Raiders have. But for the life of me I can't figure out who those guys are.

So my hope this week is that the short week distracts the Raider players from their typical post-win routine of going out, getting drunk, showing up late for practice, skipping their studies - whatever it is they do.

Another organizational quirk that always baffles me a bit is the inability to stop the run. This year's focus on fundamentals didn't fix it, but per David White's post, John Marshall seems to know exactly what the problem is. And it sounds like guys are just missing assignments and failing to learn, which points right back at the discipline problem mentioned above.

With Seymour, Ellis, and Branch, DE and SS seem less likely culprits this year. Is it a problem with the LBs and DTs? Something to watch now that we actually get to see a game on TV, I guess.

The good news is the Raiders showed promise on Sunday and a second win in a row would be a revelation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hello From Texas

I'm in College Station, Texas for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Like Dan, I'd also become a non-practicing Raiders fan after the Gannon-is-a-terrorist debacle.

But I just heard Jim Nance say that Janikowski's field goal with 15 seconds left was good, and the Raiders won 20-17.

So Gradkowski is 1-0 as the Raiders starter, and threw 2 Touchdown passes. For the first time all season, I didn't receive a "Fuck Russell" text message from Kristi Hauenstein. Instead I got an "Asomugha and Seabass rock" text message from Kristi Hauenstein.

I like those much better.

Now I'm going to go and try to find some highlights.

Fool's Gold

Despite declaring myself a non-practicing Raiders fan some time ago, I haven't escaped the 2009 season completely. This week's JaMarcus benching has even gotten me back to reading Jerry's blog. And that little spark of hope deep down inside me is asking those tantalizing "what if" questions again.

The question that will be addressed this week: Just how bad is JaMarcus? Will life suddenly spring back into the WR corps? Will the Raiders sustain drives? Will they score touchdowns?

Both Jerry and David White noticed the increased enthusiasm level from key offensive players after practicing with Bruce Gradkowski as the starter. The contrast in energy level, engagement, and work ethic with that of JaMarcus is dramatic. According to Unk, for whom games are not blacked out, last week's TV announcers noticed what we've worried about all along: JaMarcus just doesn't seem to care.

So are we in a situation where anything will appear to be a drastic improvement over JaMarcus, or might Gradkowski impress us with his actual play? I am rooting for Gradkowski, but the unfortunate fact is that he hasn't done much in his career and putting it all together in a hurry to face a tough Bengals defense is a tall order. I fear that the Goldmember lamentations may not yet go away.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Early last season I considered starting a game of "Horse" with JaMarcus, whereby his miserable play and work ethic would letter-by-letter lead up to official designation as a b-u-s-t bust. For some reason I didn't do this, maybe laziness, perhaps because I didn't want to detract from the resale value of Johnny's jersey.

Once we got about three weeks into this season I was prepared to suffer. It just makes business sense to let JaMarcus struggle his way through this season, then write him off if he doesn't develop. But it seems he's surprised all of us - Al Davis included - with his ability to regress throughout this year.

So is Cable's benching with Al's blessing acknowledgement that he is a bust? Or is it a last-ditch attempt to deliver a message that JaMarcus needs to get serious or lose his career? From Cable's point of view this move makes sense: he gets to show that he's a good coach with an awful QB. But from Al's point of view? The Raiders have no real chance of making the playoffs. Perhaps he is thinking about saving all of his other investments by writing off the biggest one.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Written Off

I wrote off the Art Shell debacle as a miserable experience that might have redeeming value in proving to Al that an exclusively seven-step-drop, hurl the ball deep offense just wouldn't work.

How do we write off this one? Proof that, despite his postseason "I told you so" rants over JaMarcus Russell and Johnnie Lee Higgins, measurables like arm strength and 40 times don't win ballgames?

Nope. The only remedy is to overhaul the organization, put smart football people in positions of power, give a talented coaching staff the freedom to coach, and hold the players accountable. Are JaMarcus and DHB completely delusional and incapable of understanding the difference between good play and poor play? Maybe. But they are a product of an environment where the coach has limited power, players are not held accountable, and Al Davis will continue to find positive signs to encourage the players upon whom he has placed outrageous bets.

Can the Raiders find success organized in this way? Yes, but only under truly extraordinary circumstances. I fear that when we apply Gannon-Gruden to the law of averages, this team will be awful for 40 years.

The Raiders organization is simply built to lose.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Unmitigated disaster"

Lowell Cohn's JaMarcus Russell column. It's worth reading in full, but here's a taste:
Russell’s passer rating was 45.8. That is a remedial number. You score a number like that and you go live in a hole like Saddam Hussein at the end or you live under a rock or you disguise yourself as a wandering minstrel and play the guitar and sing Beatles’ songs at Times Square for spare change.
So there. JaMarcus was Saddam Hussein-in-a-hole bad. I still think that by "look at the tape," Tom Cable means, "Get torn a new asshole by Al Davis and name JaMarcus the starter for the rest of the season and never try this shit again." But anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming, "Looking for the Nadir."

Another day, another debacle

So the Raiders lost to the Chiefs, 16-10, and nobody noticed because it wasn't televised.

But JaMarcus got benched, and Gradkowski came in and sucked pretty bad. What's interesting is that there are two views on the benching, almost diametrically opposed.

First, Lowell Cohn says JaMarcus is done. He sucks, and should be jettisoned as soon as possible, that the Raiders need to find a way to cut their losses. He blames JaMarcus for not taking any responsibility.

Bill Williamson kills the Raiders for yanking JaMarcus with the game on the line. He says Russell seemed to be making strides, and was victimized by DHB's hands and Robert Gallery's tripping penalty (I happened to see this play on the RedZone Channel).

Anyway, this has to be the nadir. Losing to the shit-ass Kansas City Chiefs, in Oakland. In front of maybe, what 30,000 people?

But then, we thought Art Shell/Tom Walsh was the nadir.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Raiders get weird again, the sequel

Late yesterday and this morning brought some columnists out regarding the latest Raider drama. That's about all the Raiders are good for, it seems--drama--because they certainly aren't a football team in the sense that their an organization that cares about winning games or developing a program. In fact, on Monday Night Countdown's weekly, "C'mon, Man!" segment, Tom Jackson was able to quip, "We should rename this segment 'The Raiders' because they show up every week," and then played the clip of Louis Murphy and Johnnie Lee Higgins running into each other, Keystone Cops-style.

So first up, Cam Inman talks to Lance Kiffin, who gives Tom Cable a nice character reference:

"Any head coach deserves a certain amount of time to get things going and install what he wants to install. Tom has not had enough time," Kiffin said by phone Monday from his office as the University of Tennessee's coach. "I would think he definitely should have another season after this, at least."

Really? Even after more assault allegations surfaced against Cable on Sunday, via ESPN's report pertaining to claims of two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend?

"If any of that was accurate, that would surprise me," Kiffin added. "In my year-and-a-half with Tom, I never saw anything like that. I thought he was a first-class coach and a great person."

I'm sure Al will take this under advisement.

Next up is Tim Kawakami, who writes,

Now the team is 2-6 and there are the new serious charges. Al is known to be very protective of women. He wants his franchise to be first-class. He must be horrified by the association to violence against women.

I give him major credit for that.

So Al has a problem. He wants “cause” to fire Cable, so he has to wait, but he also is embarrassed that Cable’s behavior continues to shed bad light on a franchise that is not exactly permanently bathed in light, anyway.

Al has a lot of problems. A shitty football team is the biggest problem.

Scott Ostler gets in on the act, calling the Raiders a "Creepshow" that is hitting its all-time low, although every time I think that, they hit a new low. Anyway,

What's really bizarre in Monday's two news releases is the juxtaposition of warnings.

In one statement, the Raiders say they're evaluating the matter, and alert us that they have fired employees in the past for inappropriate conduct. In the other statement, they call into question the validity of ESPN's report.

So the Raiders might wind up firing their coach over charges they suggest might be nothing but phony-baloney smears in ESPN's attacks on the Raiders.


Finally, in this perusal of local columnist reactions, we get Lowell Cohn. His piece really should be read in its entirety, but here's a taste:

Several benefits would accrue from firing Cable ASAP. We wouldn’t have to see his sad face anymore or hear him swear the Raiders will be a great team in a week or so: “I have great faith in where we’re going and what we can do as a football team.”

That storyline is so over with. And we wouldn’t have to ask whom Cable slapped, or if he actually did slap anyone, or if he really punches people, or if he has a problem controlling his rage or if he has rage to begin with.

Anyway, have a nice day. Any minute now, Al may show up with his overhead projector and announce that Randy Hanson is the interim head coach. That would be awesome.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Meanwhile, in Bizaro Raiders Universe

Raiders name Sean Payton head coach.

Somehow, this got debacled, and we ended up with two years of Norv, followed by Art, Lance, and now OJ Cable.

I will now punch myself in the face.

Raiders get weird again

Not they ever STOPPED being weird, of course. But here's the statement they've released regarding the allegations that Tom Cable is a wife-beater:

Over the last few days, we learned of the allegations made against Coach Cable and we are, of course, aware of of his response thereto. In conjunction with the League office, we will undertake a serious evaluation of this matter.

We wish to be clear that we do not in any way condone or accept actions such as those alleged.

There have been occasions on which we have dismissed Raider employees for having engaged in inappropriate conduct. For reasons of privacy, we kept the basis for those dismissals confidential. We endured public opprobrium for the dismissals, all the while knowing our basis for them was appropriate.

See, weird. And paranoid. "Public opprobrium" for dismissing people for "inappropriate conduct." That could be anyone. The threat to undertake a serious evaluation can't be good news for Tom Cable, not with a 2-6 record. But hey, it is the Raiders. Who knows what will happen.

Of course, this being the Raiders, they took a shot at ESPN, in a separate statement:
ESPN’s role in this matter must be carefully examined. ESPN routinely disseminates falsehoods about the Raiders. During the last year, ESPN (working with someone who was in this organization) engaged in a calculated effort to distort the truth about the Raiders, utilizing lies and innuendo.
Obviously they mean Lance. And, again pretty fucking obviously, Tom Cable is not engaged in a calculated effort--with ESPN--to tarnish the Raiders. Unless he's going out and beating on women just to make the Raiders look even worse than they do already, and not because he may or may not have a serious anger management problem. Anyway, stay tuned.

And so it begins

Monte Poole and Lowell Cohn call for Al Davis to fire Tom Cable, as in immediately. Because it's the bye week, that makes sense to me.

He's become an embarrassment. Money quote from Poole:
This isn't about expecting perfection from an authority figure. One of the greatest baseball managers of all time, Billy Martin, was ill-tempered and would swing on someone for breathing wrong. We know of Bob Knight's temper and that Bobby Cox once spent a night in jail after hitting his wife, though the charges were later dropped.

But as a coach, Cable does not belong in that discussion. Not that coaching well justifies violence. This is about wins and losses and image — about how a multimillion-dollar business would like to manage its brand. Cable is going where no Raiders coach has gone before. He is bringing shame upon the shield.

Shame upon the shield.

Allegedly, this is the number one offense in Raider land.

I don't have any illusions that this will improve anything. But a stand has to be taken. Sure, as this PFT post points out, there's plenty of "reasonable doubt." That works great as a constitutional guarantee. But it doesn't guarantee somebody a job, especially if these kinds of allegations and distractions keep coming up. What will we hear next? That he spent the night before the game stealing children's Halloween candy?

Cable's got to go. Al needs to go.

UPDATE: Missed this one by Kawakami. He brings up Al's intolerance for violence again women, and then writes of Cable:

OK, maybe he’s just an innocent bystander, assailed by an active conspiracy to bring him down. Maybe he’s truly the gentlest man in the world, and can’t understand where all these charges are coming from.

UNLIKELY. He has a history. The history is coming up.

Al has a history, too, and it’s firing coaches who displease him and running off those who embarrass him. Right now, Cable is doing both. Allegedly in one aspect and not-at-all allegedly in the other.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seriously? I mean, really? Oh, COME ON!

This is great. I mean, really. Stay classy, Raiders. What happened to Dollar up for Tracey?

Right as Jerry Mac speculates that despite the decrepitude on the field, Cable probably won't get fired.

This is Al Davis' fault.


Light blogging this week because of the general atrociousness of the Raiders, but there was an interesting item in Jerry Mac's blog on Thursday.

It's worth a read. I've gone from being the world's biggest JaMarcus Russell apologist not named Al Davis to absolutely refusing to defend him any longer, as he's been so awful.

And now, in the middle of another season filled with debacles, Charlie Frye shows up at the office on Wednesday morning at 6:30 and was surprised to see JaMarcus there. It's the earliest he's ever seen him, and as Jerry points out, the logical inference is that it's because only now is JaMarcus taking his role as franchise quarterback seriously. Okay, fine. Says Frye:

“I just think it clicks differently for different guys,” Frye said. “Some guys it happens really fast for them and some guys it takes a little bit longer. I think it took me to be able to go out there in Seattle and just sit back away from it and see how this thing really works.

“Some guys learn better through playing, through experience, other guys through film work. I know one thing, when the light switch does come on, you notice it really quickly. It’s just different for everybody.”

And I can understand this. JaMarcus seems like one of those guys for whom things have always been easy on the football field. He was bigger, stronger, and more talented than just about everyone he's ever played with or against. Then you're drafted #1, given a ton of money, and he thinks to himself, "This is easy, just like everything else in my football life so far." Only it's not easy, so he freaks out a little bit, and doesn't know what to do.

So he gets pulled. And then for the next three days he gets absolutely killed, and he deserves it. Anyway, maybe it's too little, too late. But I'm rooting for him, and the Raiders, to turn things around.

Even if I'm not optimistic that they'll do it.