Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another view on Gradkowski

Six quarters into the season and the Raiders bench their prize offseason acquisition. Panic has set in. Cable is on the ropes. They are exploring new lows. This sentiment seems to prevail in the press now that Bruce Gradkowski has been named the starting QB over Jason Campbell.

But it wasn't that long ago that Bruuuuce was winning games while looking like a legitimate NFL starter. Despite an injury that ended his year, the Raiders gave him a significant raise in the offseason. Fans were ready to roll with him in 2010.

Interestingly, the same pundits who laugh at Al Davis for choosing 40 times over intangibles seem to agree with him that Gradkowski, for measurable reasons, is not an NFL starter. But the guy wins.

If you are Hue Jackson, perhaps you saw as clearly as the rest of us that since the moment Bruce arrived healthy in training camp, he's been outstanding, and measurably better than Campbell. And you asked yourself, "Why isn't this guy our starter?" To which Tom Cable answered, "I know, RIGHT?!?" Hence Johnny's good cop / bad cop scenario.

Looking at this situation from another perspective, Gradkowski earned the starting role last year, lost it due to injury, and played so well upon his return that he's quickly earned it back. The bigger concern is that replacing JaMarcus with ANYBODY didn't cause as huge an improvement as was expected.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This why suck, Part 789

Jerry Mac, writing about why the Raiders didn't draft Larry Fitzgerald:

At the time, the Raiders felt pretty good about their receiving corps of Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel. The following year, they would bring in Randy Moss.

Since that 2005 season, Fitzgerald has more receptions than any receivcer in the NFL (475) for 6,413 yards and 52 touchdowns. The Raiders recieving leaders during that span _ Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry (in 2006 and 2007), Johnnie Lee Higgins and Louis Murphy, combined for 249 receptions, 3,273 yards and 18 touchdowns.

But while Fitzgerald was available and brought in for a visit, it was purely for show. They never considered drafting him because he didn’t have a fast enough time in the 40-yard dash. Davis’ favorite receiver, I’ve been told by was Roy Williams out of Texas. (emphasis added)

Yes, this Roy Williams. I will now mix a qualuude-and-drano cocktail.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


So Bruce Almighty is the starter, and there are a couple of competing views by the ANG newsguys.

Writing of Hue Jackson's comment that it was his idea put Bruce in on Sunday, Cam Inman says Jackson is undermining Cable's authority, and it's only a matter of time before he replaces Cable as head coach.

Jerry Mac has a different take. He writes that Cable, in naming Bruce the starter, is showing being decisive, and notices his lack of lip-service to Al Davis in the decision.

Jerry writes:
Seems like a major shift that Cable isn’t giving the owner his due on an important decision, or offering up a glowing endorsement of their conversations. What makes this more interesting is that Jackson, Davis’ hand-picked offensive coordinator, said he was the one who suggested the quarterback switch in the first place.
Jackson, of course, mentioned "Coach Davis" when he discussed the decision to bench Campbell in favor of Gradkowski.

So what's going on? Is Jackson undermining Cable? Or is he providing cover for the decision? Al is on record as saying Campbell reminds him of Jim Plunkett. If Jackson is Davis' hand-picked guy, maybe it makes sense for Cable to have him take credit for the decision, since he has a latitude that Cable might not necessarily have.

It seems to me that Jackson can't really undermine Cable's authority, since everyone knows Raiders head coaches don't really have any authority to undermine. All Jackson said is that it was his idea; Cable made the ultimate decision. It seems like they're playing good cop/bad cop with Davis.

It makes sense that if the Raiders start losing, Cable gets fired. He should be. But if they start winning, who knows what will happen. Al is weird enough to do anything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

QB Controversy

Prince - Controversy
Uploaded by Master_System. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Per Jerry Mac, Tom Cable has declared Alameda a "Controversy-free zone." A lot of it is typical Raiders weirdness, but my feeling is that what is going on is Cable trying to convince Al to let him start Gradkowski.

And if "Just Win, Baby" is anything more than an empty slogan, Gradkowski will start until he gets hurt or stops winning. Nothing against Campbell, but the turnaround was too stark on Sunday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


From Jerry McDonald's latest post:
How is it possible the Raiders could be overconfident? In a way they’re no different from much of the fan base which thought they had a winner and now are willing to sell their beloved team for a nickel after a bad opener.
Speaking for the CLOAK, I'm not sure we thought we had a "winner," so much as we were encouraged that the problems we've been experiencing over the last 7 years--Commitment to press-bashing, no pass rush, bum offensive line play, bad tackling in the run defense--were at least being dealt with in a manner befitting a professional organization. Sunday's game was a debacle, no different from any of the many debacles we've experienced over that time period.

Jerry's readers are dedicated, though, and this line is like a shout-out to the most loyal readers, the ones who police the site for "haters."

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The year is new, but the problems are the same.

Run defense - it held up for a while but then started to give up the huge chunks of yardage. Given that the Raiders have changed all the players, is this proof that the scheme is fundamentally not equipped to stop the run?

Pass rush - we thought this would be a new-found strength, but after one early sack by Wimbley, our "natural pressure" is not getting to the QB.

Passing game - nonexistent. Completely nonexistent.

Offensive line - terrible. Our Tackles do not belong in the NFL.

Penalties - definitely on pace to lead the league again.

With all the changes, year after year, there is only one common denominator for all of this. As Dave texted me, "I'm not watching anymore. I have better things to do."


Wow. This franchise is a laughingstock and we haven't even made it to half. If I were to say I'm shocked then I would be admitting my naivete.

Kristy is busy cancelling our plans to attend the away game in Denver.

Silver lining

I maintain that the Titans player was offsides on the sack that caused the Campbell fumble. He was going full speed when the ball was snapped. Nevertheless, our O-tackles do not look good at all today, meeting expectations.

But the defense looked great on this last Titans "drive." Huff even came slashing through to get Johnson in the backfield. So barring the big play (sound familiar?), perhaps this defense will keep us in this one.

Realizing our doubts

Johnny texts me to say, "Our offense is awful. Still."

Yep, it looks that way on TV, too. The one positive thing I can say is that when new center Veldheer snapped it over Campbell's head, he scooped it up and ran for 15 yards (i.e., back to the line of scrimmage) to put us in FG position. So I suppose it could have been worse?

If it weren't for the refs, we'd be in trouble. But just as I write that, Branch gets flagged for PI to erase a 3-and-out and Stanford Routt, our highly-paid-and-therefore-starting CB, gets smoked for a 60-yard TD. Stanford is right, he hasn't changed a bit. He looks awful. Still.

That's more like it!

Third and long, Wimbley gets around the corner and sacks Young, forcing a fumble that's picked up by Seymour. The drive starts on the Tennessee 34.

D'oh! Campbell sacked on a blitz. Let's cash in, Raiders.

"Shaky start"

The offense didn't look great at first glance. So let's see how the defense does.

Tyvon Branch is my pick for breakout player, good to see he made the play on special teams.

"Michael Huff was out of position." First play is an option and Vince Young almost broke it. Not a great start.

Here we go

One question was whether the return game would be any good. And we fumbled the opening kickoff (but recovered). Figurs.

DMC to carry the load?

Will DHB show up?

Veldheer at center?

Is Campbell the man?

Oops...he looked JaMarcus-esque stepping away from center assuming a penalty that wasn't there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Am I the only person who thought of Al Davis when I read this?

I've compared Al, in his later career (especially since 2002) to Simon Bolivar in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's The General in his Labyrinth. Twice, actually.

So maybe it's not a surprise that as I was reading Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with Fidel Castro that I thought about Al again.

Mainly it was this passage:
A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.
Lowell Cohn, who wrote over the weekend about Al lashing out at Adam Schefter for connecting the Raiders with Matt Leinert--and who writes better about Al Davis than anyone--wrote this after the infamous overhead projector press conference:
And when the whole shebang was over and the reporters left, Davis sat at the table on the stage and didn’t leave, didn’t leave until every reporter had departed. I know why. I think I do. He has trouble walking, says it’s nothing serious, just a bum quad. Maybe. I believe he wanted everyone out so we would not see him depart — either struggle to his feet or be wheeled out.
The parallels between the two men are fascinating--and yes, obviously one is a dictator and one owns a football team, so let's not insult each other's intelligence and get that out of the way up front. But these men are or were giants in their fields, now aging, struggling to hold onto their power, and, I don't know, make one last splash before they check out. They came to power at roughly the same time; they both were thorns in the sides of their bigger, more powerful neighbors who never gave up, always stayed defiant, and now seem to be caring about their legacies and not quite knowing how to manage it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


With preseason finally over and unofficial cuts being listed by both Jerry and Vito, just want to jot down some observations. Actually, has the official cuts here.

One guy I was sorry not to see on the cut list is Jeremy Ware, a 7th round CB out of Michigan State. Like JLH his rookie season, this is the guy I'm picking on this year. Maybe they had to keep him with Walter McFadden - who looked rather good, by the way - injured. But he looked lost out there every play I saw.

On the plus side in the defensive backfield, I may be ordering a Tyvon Branch jersey by the end of the year. He looks outstanding. And the Al Davis "Pay him and the plays will come" approach may have worked with Stanford Routt, who looks a lot better and makes me less cynical about his grabbing the starting job from CJ based on pay level.

O Line - I'm worried about our tackles, who were destroyed vs. San Francisco. Only good thing I can say about that is that SF is my fantasy defense. It looks like Veldheer is officially a center, with Chris Morris being cut today and Khalif Barnes moving to LT in the Seattle game.

Run D - not quite as worried - yet - as the preseason might indicate. Seemed to me that most big runs were headed straight at Desmond Bryant while Seymour rested. Tommy Kelly remains wildly inconsistent, sometimes dominant, sometimes dominated. Will be interesting to see what they are doing with Trevor Scott, having played him at DE during the Seattle game. Maybe Groves or Howard gets more playing time at LB? With one transaction yet to be announced, maybe Howard is on the block.

WRs - the Raiders seem to have kept a lot of them, including Figurs, JLH, and Nick Miller. But with Schilens always hurt, this seems to be a quantity-not-quality situation to fill in for him. TJ Houshmandzadeh was released in Seattle, which would be a nice fit. It was good to hear DHB made a great catch in the final preseason game, so hopefully this carries over to the regular season.

And here's hoping McFadden breaks out this year. One comment by Jason Campbell convinced me to draft him in fantasy football. Paraphrasing, but Campbell said he was truly amazed at what a natural receiver he is. With so few options at WR, I can see DMC being used in a lot of ways in the passing game.

Raiders in New Haven

My daughter started school last week, and there was a note on vaccinations and other health stuff, signed by the president of the Board of Education and the Acting Director of Public Health, Dr. Chisara N. Asomugha.

The form's a little dated, because she is now the Community Services Administrator for the City of New Haven.

She's also permanent CLOAK OF IMMORTALITY Man Crush Nnamdi Asomugha's big sister.

I confirmed this when I read this SI profile from last year on Nnamdi, "A Name Worth Knowing."

"Nnamdi struggled at times to fit in among a household of academic achievers. Chisara, the oldest of the children, is a pediatrician with an M.D. from Duke and a master's in public health from North Carolina; she's a finalist for a White House fellowship, to be announced later this month. His younger sister, Udodirim, has a master's in public health from Michigan, and Chijioke received his M.B.A. from Columbia this spring."

That's a serious family right there.