“A Horrific Tragedy Ends The Life of Another Iconic Raider Fan; Social Media Icon Tim Casto”

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I told several people last December that I had a horrible feeling about 2016.  Personally it’s been a terrible year for me and I know I’m not alone.  Several Raider fans; prominent ones; are now gone.  Add celebrities and many people’s family members and 2016 is a nightmare that can’t end soon enough.

Over the holiday weekend, in one of the saddest stories I’ve heard in a while, we lost another person that touched many lives.

(Please Donate Below)

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

Tim Casto, owner of Oakland Raiders Homeport and founder of Oakland Raiders Rumors, Rants & Reports, lost his battle for life after a horrific fire burned down his home.  He was the only one in the house.  Neighbors said they heard small explosions.  Tim had to be rescued by two firemen who were at a firehouse near by.  His family lost everything they had.  He was taken to a local hospital and was in a coma for days before passing away yesterday after life support was turned off.  Loved ones talked about how grateful they were to the two brave firemen who entered the burning home to try to save him.

http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Man-rescued-from-burning-home-in-Putnam-County-402462286.html

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tim’s family; including his wife Karen and daughter Rhianna; were at his bedside praying for a miracle while Tim lay in a West Virginia hospital on life support.  Here was a family who lost every possession they owned now having to deal with even more tragedy.  There were prayer vigils and support coming from all over.  What made it even worse was that during this time, Tim’s wife and daughter had birthdays.  Karen spoke about her husbands deep love and kindness towards her and his daughter.  His daughter posted on Facebook a few days ago asking for people to pray for her dad to wake up.  Sadly he never did.

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Tim (A.K.A. the Captain) was the owner and/or administrator of several of the larger Raider pages on Facebook.  It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have an interaction or a debate with him on one of the sites.  Tim was smart, knew football; especially the history; and was well respected.  I liked him immediately.

He was also very caring often forwarding gofundme pages for people that were going through something.  His sense of humor was seen so often, especially in his crazy avatar’s on Facebook depicting himself as different Captains.  My favorite is still Captain Crunch and he even caused a stir with a Fidel Castro avatar.

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A few years ago when I first got back into writing, I thought I would put an emphasis on the Raiders.  They hadn’t been good for years but I took a chance that things would get better.  I started out young and had written about the Raiders for years on another site and wow, was it painful.  With record setting losing streaks, fans were over the top nasty and as the years went on, less and less fans would be involved with the team.  When I started again, I would sometimes write an article that wasn’t positive towards the Raiders, and some Raider fans would go crazy.  Even though it was based on facts, they didn’t want to hear it. Times had changed and some people wanted to hear only good things about their teams and they didn’t want much truth.  Tim did.

Even though he didn’t know me, he contacted me out of the blue when fans on one of his sites started trashing me.  One mean spirited fan with too much time on their hands even started a Twitter page that was saying all sorts of nasty things about me; and eventually Twitter banned the page and any page associated with it.

Instead of scolding me about the negativity on his page, he told me he loved my writing and asked if I would send him all my articles so he could put them on his sites.  I was reluctant and told him no.  He was really trying to grow his groups and most of the popular people on their were the cheerleader types; some minor social media bullies; and I was a bit turned off by it.  He said he understood.  He still would take some of my articles and forwarded them onto his site anyway.  Tim was persistent.

Tim and I would converse a lot online and it was fun.  I got on him a few times for being a bit too controlling on his sites.  He realized what I was saying and even if someone was way out there, he would let them talk.  It helped make his pages more fun.

If Tim had something on his mind he would try to do anything to prove he was right.  I loved battling with him.  He was the type that had to have the last word so I would mess with him by adding little words to our conversations.  He would laugh knowing what I was doing.  He said, “I love debating with you; you never take it personally and I’m the same way”.  He GOT social media and all the petty and immature grudges were not what he was about.  I liked that.

When Ken Stabler died and I wrote my semi-famous article on Ken, the two people I spoke with that night before writing it were Tim and Mike Yokum.  Mike had petitioned to get Ken in the Hall of Fame for years.  I knew how much they loved Ken and I needed to talk with people who understood what a big loss he was.  I used Mike and Tim’s quotes and takes in the article.  I soon was on various ESPN radio shows and other stations talking about Ken.  Tim and Mike’s insights helped me a lot.

There were some though that liked to take pot shots at Tim but he let it roll off his back.  Social media can show how nasty and mean some people are; especially men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not take it personally.  When Tim would bring up his much beloved predictions on who would get traded or cut in the near future, many would attack him.  He was right a lot though and it was fun to see his post reactions to his detractors.

He was also a huge voice during the election sparking controversy with some of his more zealous comments.  I appreciated his passion.

Tim was a great family man from West Virginia who loved his daughter and his wife immensely.  He talked about them at times in a self deprecating manner and you knew he enjoyed his family a lot.  Even his young daughter got in the act starting her own Facebook page showing her love for the Raiders as well.

I looked in my Facebook emails and saw the last time we sent emails to each other.  It was a couple of months ago where Tim had said his family needed prayer.  I sent him a prayer and he told me how much it meant to him and that he really appreciated it.

With the loss of Tim, social media/Facebook for the Oakland Raiders has a huge hole in it.  He was a prominent voice on Facebook for the Raiders and there were few groups that he didn’t have a hand in it’s success.  Personally, he was one of the reasons I didn’t take a writing job with a major company.  He encouraged me to be honest and to keep telling the truth and that I had freedom where others didn’t.  He was also the first person on the fan sites that supported me.  I’ll never forget that.

It’s going to be hard to get up in the morning now and not see Tim’s meme’s or his posts talking about the Raiders.  He was a positive and supportive person online and would help anyone that was going through a hard time.  I’ll miss him; a lot.

I don’t ask much of anyone but his family is dealing with unbearable pain and tragedy. Think of losing a spouse or a dad, and then losing your home and everything you owned. It’s just too much to handle alone.  I know that the best tribute to him would be for Tim to know that the very fans and team that he loved and supported and put so much into, are the very ones that support his wife and daughter during such a painful time.

I’m again leaving a page of support for Tim’s family and even if its just $5 or $10, let’s show Tim that even with his tragic death, he is not forgotten.  For the price of a Starbucks coffee or a pizza, you can show the same passion that Tim showed to Raider and NFL fans all over.  Thank you so much.

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

This loss hurt’s deep and he is already missed.  Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us.  A good man to the end.

“Will The Raiders Win the AFC West? A 2nd Half Breakdown of All 4 Teams”

 

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Who will win the AFC West?  Let’s look ahead to the rest of the season and see what may be in store for all of the teams.

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Oakland Raiders:

In the history of social media, there has NEVER been a tweet or Facebook post about the Raiders being in a playoff game. Let that sink in. In their glory days, for 25 years the Raiders were the winningest team of any Pro Sports team in the U.S. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been the worst. In their glory years, the Cowboys and the Raiders for almost 3 decades were the two most popular teams on tv ratings. Love them or hate them, it’s good that they are back.

The Cowboys Dak Prescott and Oakland’s Derek Carr are having great years.   They also are behind the 2 best offensive lines in the NFL. NOT a coincidence. Carr is the best protected QB in the NFL this year and that is important to his success.

The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in passing yards.   Even though their skilled position players get most of the credit, their OL has been as dominating as any in the game this year and it’s the heart and soul of this team.

On defense it’s another matter. They struggle against good teams and occasionally look good against bad ones. The Raiders are 28th in sacks, 30th against the pass and 27th against the run.   And that is after a good performance against a bad Denver offense.

The Raiders have only played 3 teams with winning records; all at home; and are 1-2. They have not played a team who presently has a winning record on the road.

The Raiders schedule is interesting. They struggle against teams that can score points and they really don’t play a lot of good offenses the rest of the way. They still have a game in Denver, in KC and @ San Diego.   Outside of that they have Houston, Carolina and Buffalo. These are all good match-ups for them because those teams don’t have great offenses.   Even with their bad OL, the Colts will be a tough game because they can score.

Right now the Raiders have the upper hand in the AFC West and barring injuries to their OL; and even with a limited defense; they still should be considered favorites to win the division. This is not a Super Bowl defense in any way and offense may make headlines and put butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Remember this is the salary cap era so every team has some sort of issue or weakness, but for now, the West comes through Oakland.

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Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are fading fast due to injuries and a poor offensive scheme.

On offense I really like their 2 young running backs. Rookie Devontae Booker hasn’t had much of a chance to run the ball but he has a lot of potential. Kapri Bibbs showed his playmaking ability on a 68 yard pass and catch late against the Raiders. On defense they still have an excellent pass rush but now they can’t stop the run. The  other problem on offense is head coach and play caller Gary Kubiak.

The Denver media; which is fairly soft; has been griping about him for 2 weeks.   They have brought up great points.  In the first 15 plays against the Raiders, Denver threw 13 times. In the last 5 games Denver has thrown almost 70% of the time in their first 15 plays.   Denver is 2-3 in those games.   With Siemian as a starter, Denver throws 72% of the time. That’s not Denver football.

Siemian is limited; he throws a nice deep ball but he needs protection; and lot’s of it. The offensive line at Denver has been inconsistent protecting the QB. He does not feel a rush at all and struggles under pressure as was seen with a loss at San Diego and again in Oakland.

Denver needs to go back to the ground and pound with young RB’s that are hungry. Both have mildly complained about their lack of touches in the running game. Kubiak is a borderline arrogant guy though when it comes to coaching and he can be stubborn. Analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up what I said last year. Why don’t they double team Kahlil Mack more? Last year in Mack’s epic game in Denver, they would not help out their tackles and Mack went off. Their tackles are not that great and it took until late in the game last Sunday for them to finally start helping out on him.

When asked about Siemian after the Raiders game, Kubiak said he was still making plays so there is no problem with the QB position. Now Paxton Lynch might not be the answer but if Denver throws 70% of the time for the rest of the year, they are toast.   Kubiak acted this way in Houston when Matt Schaub started to tank. Instead of using Arian Foster & Ben Tate with his run game to help him, he threw even more.

The Denver defense is now 30th against the run and can’t stop anybody.  The offensive line has also struggled. There may be changes there soon. Even so the Broncos have to go back to being a running team and take their chances. Their LB’s are no longer a strength of the team with changes there this year. Injuries have just killed the Broncos. Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are still hurting and Brandon Marshall is hobbling badly.   DL Derek Wolfe’s injury is not as bad as first thought but he is another one on the mend. And those are just the bigger names on the list.

The rest of their schedule is rough. Their last 3 games are at home against New England, on the road to KC and back home to play the Raiders.  Before that they also have to play the Chiefs in Denver. Denver has a great home field advantage so they will need to use that to keep in the playoff hunt. Get healthy and run the ball should be their mantra.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs are a classic Andy Reid team. They are tough, disciplined and they find ways to win. If you watch their games and look at the stat sheet, you wonder how they can be 6-2. They are 22nd in rushing and 25th in passing offense. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone. On defense they are ranked 13th against the pass and 25th against the run. Their once feared pass rush with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is now 21st in sacks. Houston is set to return this week or next and 33 year old Hali’s days are numbered as he has no cartilage in one knee and tries to play in a specialist pass rushing position. Pass rushing project Dee Ford has shown glimpses of great play and has come on of late, as has DB Steven Nelson who made the game winning defensive play against Jacksonville last week.

KC has had so many injuries; Charles, Maclin, Ware, Houston, Hali; a who’s who if you are a Chiefs fan.

The AFC West has pretty easy schedules this year and KC has played only 2 teams with winning records and are 1-1, and that obviously has helped them.

ESPN seemed to fall in love with the Chiefs last week but slow your roll.   The Chiefs have a brutal second half schedule that includes 2 games with Denver, a rematch with Oakland, and road games with San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta. They STILL might make the playoffs though because most of the AFC outside of the West is awful. Their second half schedule will greatly test them and may expose them.

I’ve never been an Alex Smith guy. He’s the Ichabod Crane of the NFL. He and Andy Reid play not to lose with their extremely conservative passing game and you can’t win big with 1-3 yard check down passes. They may make the playoffs but they are not going far.   What they will be though is hard playing and competitive. They have owned the Raiders this decade, and play Denver well so you can’t sleep on KC.   Their home field on a cold winter day is not the place to be if you are an opposing team.

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San Diego Chargers:

You have to give it up for the Chargers. With all of the turmoil surrounding their possible move, the terrible season ending injury to star WR Keenan Allen, and the drama with first round draft choice Joey Bosa, the worst was expected in San Diego. A funny thing happened. Bosa has been a breath of fresh air and has greatly helped the defensive line and pass rush and RB Melvin Gordon has had a great year behind an improved offensive line. If they don’t implode late against KC and go into a coma in the 4th in Oakland, their season could be much different. Their win in Atlanta was impressive and was not a fluke. They earned it.

Their schedule has been the hardest in the AFC West by far. They are 2-3 against teams with winning records. They split with Denver so they just have the Raiders and KC at home along with Houston on the road as their toughest remaining games. The AFC only has 5 teams with winning records and 3 are in the AFC West.   Watch out for the Chargers.   Stranger things have happened and a playoff push may not seem eminent but they could make some noise.  Their slow start really hurt them.

Philip Rivers is a good QB but just like Alex Smith I just don’t think either will win anything significant in their NFL careers. In Rivers San Diego career, the Chargers so often fall short in the second half of games, especially in the fourth quarter. They always seem to do just enough to lose.   Sometimes it’s not all Rivers fault but he’s the captain of the ship. A very good QB with great stats who never will win anything who I personally think gets a little too much love. Gordon and Bosa though could be great building blocks for the near future.  Add a healthy Keenan Allen and next year looks much brighter in San Diego.

If you sleep on these guys, they can beat you. I don’t think they make the playoffs but they could hurt someone else’s chances if they are taken lightly. They are intriguing.

Jims Jamz:

The NFL has what they want.  No more great teams; lots of average to good teams who all have a weakness.  Odds now show Seattle to be the #2 choice to win the Super Bowl and they have a bad offensive line that struggles in protection and at times running the ball.  Parity and average teams to keep all fans interested is what they want and they got it.  Everyone has issues, and what that means is that it is a toss up on who will get to the post season and who will win it all.  Most everyone has a shot if they get hot.

Can the Raiders offensive line stay healthy and will their defense hold up?   Can the Broncos stop supplying bodies for their medical staff? Will Head Coach Gary Kubiak forget about Siemian’s stats in the Cincinnati game and actually start running the ball again? Can the Chargers play 4 quarters of good football and come through in the second half of games? Can the KC Chiefs get healthy and their pass rush be restored with the return of Justin Houston? And will Alex Smith ever get over his deepballaphobia and throw the ball downfield in big games?

These are all questions that will be answered in the second half of the season. Right now the Raiders look like the odds on favorite but this is the NFL and things could change quickly.  Its’ not the good ol’ days when the AFC West dominated in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but for now it will definitely do.

“GRADES: The Raiders Make it Official by Beating Denver; They Are Back”

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Oakland Raiders’ Latavius Murray (28) leaps to score a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Denver Broncos; Week 9:

Denver Broncos  20 (6-3)

Oakland Raiders  30 (7-2)

The Raiders came through in a near must win situation, beating the Denver Broncos at home. It was a physical pounding of the Super Bowl champs that was loved by all in attendance.   Oakland had only played 2 teams with winning records all year and both ended up in losses at home. To go 0-3 against teams with winning records; all at home; would have been a hard pill to swallow.

Overview:

The offensive line flat out dominated this game.

Quarterback:

Statistically this was one of Carr’s worst games of the season but this is against the Broncos and it was no where near as bad as the numbers suggest. The success of the running game also limited him.  Carr was steady and accurate and didn’t make the mistakes that have plagued him against the Broncos in the past. Against good offensive teams though, the Raiders can’t settle for field goals in the red zone.

GRADE: B

Carr was 20 for 31 for 184 yards with no TD’s or interceptions. He missed on some passes but there were only a few issues that he had. Raider fans cringed when they shockingly called a pass with less than 8 minutes to go in the game and Carr made a horrible throw that was intercepted. The referees looked at it and reversed their decision because it hit the ground. Carr has to throw that away or throw to a place where only his guy can catch it. Better yet just run the ball.

Running Backs:

SO SICK of NFL ex jocks who are now sportscasters saying the Raiders can’t run the ball. The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in rushing touchdowns. The Raiders running game is just fine thanks.

Latavius Murray had his best game of the year and everyone contributed. Jalen Richards looked like a rocket when hitting the hole. The Raiders offensive line is an excellent one playing at a high level and the running game is doing well.

Grade A

A thing people don’t talk about is the excellent pass blocking by the running backs when picking up the blitz. Good all around game by everyone.

Offensive Line:

Derek Carr is going to have to come up with more than big screen tv’s for presents for his OL this Christmas. The Raiders have only allowed 11 sacks all year and he’s the best protected QB in the NFL.

Round 1 against Denver goes to the Raiders OL. Dallas and Oakland have the best OL’s in the game right now and both of their QB’s are playing great. Not a coincidence. The Raiders are #3 in passing and #4 in rushing offense. A dominating performance with over 200 yards on the ground. Denver got 2 sacks but they didn’t affect the game much.

Grade A+

The OL is the key to the Raiders. Carr and the other offensive weapons get all the credit but this is the engine of the team. This OL is the “HEMI” of the NFL.

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Wide Receivers:

Nothing really special from this group but a solid game. Andre Holmes made an amazing one handed catch of a ball thrown behind him.   Even with Denver’s injuries at DB, the Raiders were held under 200 yards passing. They did their job and it helped win the game.

GRADE: B

A solid game.

Defensive Line:

Kahlil Mack had a great game and his slow start is a thing of the past. The pass rush overall was good all game as the DL put pressure on Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian struggles a ton when he’s rushed and it showed all game. Denver showed the same arrogance as last year, for the most part not trying to double team Mack and they paid for it.

The Broncos only ran 12 times and the Raiders did well to stop the run. They miss CJ Anderson. Siemian at times is a train wreck and no one has stepped up at RB.   Denver’s offensive line is very inconsistent and the Raiders took advantage of it.

Grade: A

Is the Raiders DL great; not a chance. But for this game they played great and was a breath of fresh air for a group that has struggled this year.

Linebackers:

The LB’s were very active.   Other than the long catch and run by RB Kapri Bibbs (wow was that an ugly play for the Raiders), this group played well.

Grade B+

Overall solid game.

Defensive Backs:

The pass rush definitely helped this group and they had a solid game.   Karl Joseph was fooled on 2 play action passes; one he was beaten for a TD; which shows he’s still learning the game.   Overall a solid game though. Siemian’s pathetic accuracy didn’t hurt either.

Grade B+  

This was one of their better games.

Coaching:

The Broncos had a bizarre game plan, concentrating on the passing game when it’s obvious QB Siemian is limited. Another coaching staff outthinking themselves. The Raiders took advantage of this by really going after the QB.

It was a bad decision to allow Carr to throw the ball late in the game which almost lead to an interception when it was obvious Denver could not stop the run. The Raiders need to be smarter. Just run the clock out.

They greatly improved their sloppy play from the previous 8 weeks where they lead the NFL in penalties and set a record against Tampa Bay. On a side note the game has definitely changed and there are so many pass interference penalties in the NFL that it can be hard to watch sometimes.   There is a reason passing records are falling like stars in the sky in the NFL and college game.  With the NFL rules, Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be DB’s.

Grade B+

Solid game plan against a bad run defense and limited offense.

Special Teams:

Janikowski is showing that it’s a lot different hitting 50 yard field goals in the first half of games on a losing team, than it is on a winning team trying to make the playoffs. He missed again this week. King had a solid game; could do without the Cam Newton dance party after his punts, but overall a solid game by King. Field position played a key role in the first half. The coverage team did a good job and the return game was nothing special.

Grade B+

A solid game other than the blip from Janikowski.

Conclusion:

I’ve been saying it all week. This is not a great team in Denver. They have an inconsistent OL, a QB that can throw long but not much else; and a defense that was 25th against the run coming into the game and is now 30th in the NFL after the Raiders game. Denver has had a lot of injuries and other than Marshall, their LB play isn’t the same.   The injury to CJ Anderson really hurt this team. The Raiders match up great against them. Last year the Raiders didn’t allow a bad Denver offense a TD in both games.

The game plan was good and the Raiders showed they can beat a good team. They are now on a bye week. They haven’t won anything yet though and the season is a long one so there is still work to do. They are now 1-2 against teams that presently have winning records, and those two teams had something Denver hasn’t got; good offenses. The Raiders still have holes on defense.

This was a game I thought they had to get and they did. The OL completely dominated and showed why the Raiders are doing so well this year. It was a fun night for all.

Outlook:

Tomorrow I will break down the AFC West and look at each team. The Raiders are in great shape but they still have to play each AFC west team on the road. They will next go to Mexico against Houston and even though Carolina isn’t that good this year, it will still be a tough game. Kansas City has dominated Oakland and San Diego with a pass rush is now much improved.  No one is talking about the Chiefs but they aren’t going away.   Denver is still Denver especially at home.  It should be a fun second half of the season, but for now, take 2 weeks off Raider fans to celebrate; you’ve earned it.

“GRADES: Raiders Brought Back Down to Earth v.s. Chiefs. Looking Ahead To Jacksonville”

 

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 6:

Kansas City Chiefs  26 (3-2)

Oakland Raiders  10 (4-2)

In a game where the Raiders could have taken sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Raiders were brought back down to earth by the Kansas City Chiefs. For old school Raider fans the Chiefs are the big rival and this one hurts. The Raiders are now the only AFC West team that has scored less points than they’ve given up. Andy Reid is now 16-2 after a bye and Alex Smith is now 8-1 in his games with the Raiders. The Raiders had 286 total offensive yards. Ugly numbers for sure.

Overview:

There are some in the local media that said the Raiders were beginning to read their own press clippings and they may have been right. After the Denver loss to San Diego, social media was filled with Raider fans saying their time was now. Then the Chiefs happened.

Quarterback:

After the first drive, the Raiders could do nothing on offense. They had all the momentum and Carr tried to throw a deep pass off his back foot for an easy interception which changed the game early. Coach Jack Del Rio said it was an ill-advised throw. Carr got away with two other very poor throws that should have been easy interceptions but were dropped by Kansas City. In the fourth quarter Carr’s fumble sealed the game. He fumbled earlier but recovered it. He was off all game and it was a really bad day.

GRADE: D-

I do look for him next week to bounce back and there should be no worries but wow did Carr stink.  The Chiefs had the 31st ranked pass rush and blitzed to get to Carr but even then only put occasional pressure on him. When he is struggling he has to look to tight ends but he seems to rely very heavily on WR.

Running Backs:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the Raiders running game and they did for the most part.   The Raiders ran the ball 14 times all game for 57 yards. DeAndre Washington had some nice runs but overall it was nothing special.

Grade D

The Chiefs LB’s did a nice job in coverage and it’s obvious they did a lot over the bye week to help their run defense. The Raiders RB were not much of a factor but they also didn’t get much of a chance with so few runs.  And please stop with the Latavius Murray would have made a huge difference stuff.

Offensive Line:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the run and they blitzed a lot as well. The OL didn’t have a bad game but it wasn’t their normal dominating game. Carr was rushed on occasion and it definitely bothered him. Kansas City filled the box to stop the run and the Raiders never seemed to get going. The Raiders will not go as far as Carr takes them; they will go as far as the OL takes them.  Last year in the 4th quarter, KC blitzed on EVERY play and they blitzed often in this game as well.

Grade D+

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than they’d like and the run game never got going.  The OL has been stellar this year so they should bounce back.

Wide Receivers:

Kansas City had a game plan to stop the run and take away the medium passes to Crabtree. No problem; the Raiders then wen’t to Cooper and he was on fire. His first half was a top 10 performance so far for the NFL year. In the second half, the adjustments included safety help against Cooper and playing more physical press coverage. The Raiders in the second half were awful and the wide receivers struggled. Cooper caught one pass after half time.  In game adjustments continue to be an issue for the Raiders offense at times.

GRADE: D+

Cooper had an epic half and Andre Holmes great catch in the red zone in the pouring rain lit up the crowd early. With the adjustments at half and Carr struggling the Raiders did little after half time.  Lack of in game adjustments are not a new thing to this offense.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders are now ranked 32nd against the pass and 30th against the run (yds/game) and as I said after week one, this is NOT a good defense. The Raiders are 28th in the NFL with only 8 sacks in 6 games. This pass rush and defense scares no one.

Other than a few occasions, the Raiders could not get to Alex Smith. The Raiders also struggled against the run. The DL just isn’t cutting it right now which was a huge fear of mine at the start of the year. Kahlil Mack did get a sack.

Grade: D-

The Raiders DL just isn’t getting it done.

Linebackers:

Another long day for this group. They struggled against the run and were atrocious covering the pass when they had to. Mack was in pass coverage for a few passes and he was beaten twice. The Chiefs ran for 5 yards a carry for 184 yards if you take out Alex Smith’s numbers. Ouch.  Bruce Irvin’s tackling was awful today as he whiffed on two long runs including the 30 yard run by Ware.

Grade D-

The Raiders need a physical middle LB thumper that can play on 1st and 2nd downs and stop the run.   They don’t have one. Ben Heeney isn’t playing so he can’t get any of the blame from fans so I’m sure Norton will get it all.  While he may not be a great DC, this defense stinks.  It’s not like the Raiders are playing the Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys either.

They have a group of finesse speed players and they can’t stop the run. Cory James was a late round draft choice and isn’t the answer right now.

Defensive Backs:

Alex Smith would rather eat dirty glass than throw to a WR so there really wasn’t much long passing.  Amerson did get burned again for a long pass.  Teams seem to realize on outs and medium patterns, Amerson is pretty good.  But on the deep ball he struggles.

Smith was an amazing 19 for 22 in the passing game and the defense couldn’t keep them off the field. Safety Karl Joseph is more a run stopper right now than a coverage guy but I like him a lot and his coverage will hopefully improve with experience.  Reggie Nelson seems to take some awful strange angles when he helps CB’s on long pass plays.

Grade C  

The Chiefs don’t throw much to WR so it wasn’t a busy day for this group.

Coaching:

KNBR Radio host and Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald went on a 5 minute rant about how ridiculous it is for fans to blame coaches when their teams lose.  With so many ex jocks now announcing, it’s near impossible for analysts to be critical about players; especially popular stars. The players on the defense aren’t getting the job done and they aren’t good enough.   You can only blame the coaches so much.

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t all of a sudden stink when they were shut out at home by Buffalo.  Playing a 3rd string QB instead of Tom Brady was the cause of that.  Carolina coaches weren’t geniuses last year and now are they the 3 stooges?  No; they’ve had departures and injuries in the secondary and their DL is playing terribly.

I’m sorry but I get bored sometimes with the Raiders offense. They should be putting up 30 and 40 points a game. The TE should get 5-10 throws a game.  The Raiders TE had 4 targets with 3 being caught for 41 yards.

Grade D

The defense isn’t good.   As a coach what can you do. The Raiders blitzed more, and put Joseph up in the box to help with the run; and it didn’t help.  The DL and the LB’s have been awful.  As I’ve said a million times if I’m starting a team I get a QB first, and then a DL, OL and LB’s in that order.

Even with Andy Reid’s ridiculous red zone play calling, Kansas City beat Oakland in every facet of the game.

Special Teams:

Janikowski missed another FG but again, how do you get mad at a long FG miss. Marquette King was ok but didn’t have one of his better games.   He had a bad punt that rolled about 20 yards that helped. Jalen Richard has shored up the return game and looks great and TJ Carrie hasn’t been bad in the punt return game. The coverage team gave up two long returns; one for 50 yards on a punt and one for 30 yards on a kick off.

Grade C

The special teams have been good this year but today wasn’t one of those games.

Conclusion:

The Raiders laid a big fat egg. This was by far the worst game of the year for Oakland. There are few really good teams in the NFL this year so redemption can be a week away.   This was a great disappointment to fans and the team and to do it at home was humbling.

On to Jacksonville:

Jacksonville comes off a 17-16 loss against a bad Chicago team in the windy city. They fall to 2-3. The Jaguars aren’t a bad team on defense but their offense is rough.   They are 14th against the run and 8th against the pass. On offense they are one dimensional and are 15th in passing but have no running game and are ranked 31st. They are 21st in points per game on offense.  QB Blake Bortles already has 7 interceptions on the year and has struggled off and on after playing fairly well against Green Bay in the opener.  With the Raiders probably being able to stop the run and the Jags usually being behind in game, look for a better pass rush in this game.

Outlook:

The Raiders travel is tough but the teams they are playing aren’t the elite by any means. Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered and it’s hard seeing the Raiders lose to the Jags but this is the NFL; nothing is for sure. The Raiders offense is going to have to carry this team so there will be lots of ups and downs all season. Some fans overreact to every game; bad or good; but seasoned fans and the Raiders know this is a marathon and they can’t get caught up in hype or expectations or the extreme negativity social media brings when they lose.  Even with their limitations, with this schedule I think the Raiders can go 10-6, but as we all know nothing can be taken for granted in the salary cap era of the NFL.

 

“GRADES; Raiders Magic v.s. Chargers Curse; Looking ahead to rival Kansas City”

raiders-chargers

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

San Diego Chargers  31 (1-4)

Oakland Raiders  34 (4-1)

In a crazy game in Oakland, the Raiders outlasted the San Diego Chargers 34-31.

Overview:

There are some years where everything seems to go right and so far all the bad years in Oakland are forgotten for the moment.  The San Diego media; usually very soft on their teams; sliced and diced the Chargers like a Ginsu knife commercial while the Raiders and their fans basked in the California sunshine.  The Chargers have been train wrecks late in games.  Add a punter who has now played key roles in losing 2 games, and the fervor for the city of San Diego to want to have the Chargers stay has waned a bit. With another fourth quarter fail which has been the downfall of QB Phillip Rivers career, the Raiders again did just enough to chalk up their 4th victory of the season.  Rivers is a good QB but I don’t like when they say all time great because he isn’t.

Don’t look now but the Raiders are now tied for first place with the Broncos who found out quick Rookie QB Paxton Lynch holds onto the ball longer than a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  As for the Raiders, the magic goes on.

Quarterback:

Carr had a pretty good day.  In the first 4 games of the season, Carr had been TOUCHED only 7 times.  (Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and touched 39 times).  The offensive line has been amazing.  In the Chargers game they blitzed Carr often and he struggled at times.  Carr made a poor throw on the interception during the screen, and also avoided another interception when San Diego backup CB Steve Williams flat out dropped an easy pass.  On the good side Carr calmed down and clicked with Amari Cooper much of the day, and his long throws were great.

The Chargers brought up a safety much of the game to help with the run defense and that freed up Cooper in a lot of easy matches against backups due to injuries.  Easy pickings for a quality WR like Cooper.  If they play 2 deep, throw to Crabtree; if they try to stop the run, go to Cooper.

GRADE: B –

Carr’s connections to Cooper were nice to see.  He was sacked 3 times and his throws were rushed in the first half.  I like Carr and his poise.  The key though isn’t Carr, the key is keeping people off of him.

Running Backs:

Most fans don’t notice it but wow, do the Raiders miss TE Lee Smith who is maybe the best run blocking TE in the NFL.  The Chargers game plan was to rush Carr and stop the run.  They now have the 13th best run defense in the NFL.  The Raiders rushed for 89 yards but their RB’s also caught 12 passes for 97 yards.  Their pass blocking wasn’t bad as well having to deal with the blitzes of the Chargers.  They looked fast out of the backfield and were a key part to the win.

Grade B

In the 3 key facets of the game, they played well.  They didn’t have a lot of breakdowns in pass blocking.  The Chargers wanted to stop the run so they improvised.  I liked the effort, speed and the results of everyone.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders are now #1 in sacks allowed in the NFL.  The Raiders OL continues to be the glue that holds this team together.  The Chargers really came after Carr and disrupted his rhythm at times.  The OL also had several penalties that still are a problem.  Not the best day of the season for this group but they got the job done.

Grade B-

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than any other game and the Chargers weren’t bad stopping the run.  The penalties eventually will catch up to the Raiders if they don’t fix them.

Wide Receivers:

Overall this was another quality game from this group.  As long as Crabtree and Cooper don’t start worrying about their TD’s and catches, this is a solid tandem that is as good as any in the game right now.  Crabtree had a drop but in the end came through with the key TD grab.  Cooper was given one on one coverage more than at any time this year and he made the Chargers pay.  Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts contribute as well.

GRADE: A

The Chargers defensive backfield is a mess with so many injuries but this was still a quality performance and break out game for Cooper.

Defensive Line:

I’ve been saying for a while that Dan Williams needs to be playing more and rookie Jihad Ward a lot less.  The Raiders listened and their run defense improved.  Williams played 28 plays; by far the most he’s played all year; and Ward’s playing time was cut in half.  Williams even had half a sack.  San Diego only had 72 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The pass rush was a little better getting to Rivers twice, but overall he had time to throw for most of the day.  The Raiders are now 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 7 in 5 games.

Grade: B-

The Raiders were good against the run and not so good against the pass.  This pass rush isn’t scaring anyone right now but with Williams playing more their run defense is much better.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s played well against the run.  In the blitzes they did though, there was only occasional push.  Cory James struggled all day covering the pass.  Newly signed Perry Riley Jr. lead the team in tackles.  He was beaten on a couple of pass plays but his forced fumble on Antonio Gates was a huge play early.  The Raiders overall struggled with the tight ends again giving over 100 yards passing and 2 TD’s to Hunter Henry and Gates.

Grade C+

I said it at the start of the season; there are going to be plenty of highs and lows with this group.  Riley Jr. played instead of Malcolm Smith and he was a burst of energy to the team but at times its a struggle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs are going to also have ups and downs all year.  They struggle against fast WR and they did again Sunday.  They gave up 3 plays over 50 yards and Rivers threw for 359 yards total and an amazing 17.1 yards a reception.  Amerson was beat deep twice and Travis Benjamin juked him for a long pass and run.  Sean Smith had an INT but he also was torched often.  The last 2 weeks Oakland played 2 teams with little team speed at WR and they looked good.  Against New Orleans, Atlanta, & San Diego who have fast WR, they struggled.  Not a coincidence.  The 2 starting WR for the Chargers caught 12 passes for 234 yards and a TD.  Smith and Amerson really struggled all day.

Karl Joseph several times played 5-8 yards near the line of scrimmage for much of the game to stop the run and the short TE pass.  It also freed up their WR’s though for the long ball with one less safety.  I’m not a Reggie Nelson fan; he takes a lot of bad angles when he helps.  Joseph got his first INT when Rivers just heaved one.

Grade D  

They will struggle against speed, and thrive against teams that lack it.  Giving up 17.1 yards a catch in today’s game is bad.  Really bad.

Coaching:

I didn’t get why the Raiders were so worried about the running game of San Diego when it’s ranked 20th in the NFL and really isn’t that great.  I also don’t get if you have a good offense why they just lay back.  Playing bad teams you can get away with that but they need a killer instinct.  With 4 turnovers and 4 drives starting in San Diego territory, this is a game you need to hang a 40 on them and send a message.  It’s just too conservative on offense for my taste.  Some fans want Rocky Road and the Raiders are serving Vanilla.  It’s not a huge issue but I dont like playing good enough to win because eventually you won’t.

Grade B

With the rules of today, there is no reason why the Raiders should not be hanging 40’s on these bad defenses.  What good is having a Hemi if you are driving the speed limit all the time; take it to the track and let it go!

Special Teams:

Marquette King is a force.  Janikowski was awful on one FG try; not close; but redeemed himself.  The return game wasn’t a big factor and the coverage teams were fine.

Grade A-

Solid day all around other than the missed field goal.

Conclusion:

Already in 4 losses this season Rivers had chances to seal the games or win them with 4th quarter drives and his offenses failed several times; the story of his career.  The Raiders played well enough to win but there still is work to do especially on defense.

Explaining the Raiders/Chiefs Rivalry:

Kansas City Chiefs:

When everyone was screaming the KC Chiefs will win the West, I said no way.  There are 3 reasons why; no pass rush, Alex Smith and Andy Reid.  I told 49er fans at the time after the 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs that you are not going to hoist any trophies in the NFL throwing 1-3 yard passes with Alex Smith.  Reid and Smith are just too conservative.  Their unwillingness to take chances throwing to WR is of legend.  The Chiefs running game also has suffered and with an aging Tamba Hali and an ailing Justin Houston who will probably miss most of the season, this team has no pass rush and are now 31st in sacks.

Outlook:

Raider fans hold on to your seats because this is going to be a wild one.  Nothing is going to be easy but the Raiders should be favored for almost every game looking ahead.  Look for another close game with the Chiefs.  The Raiders defense has holes but this offense is good.  With Kansas City and Carolina struggling, the Raiders schedule is a lot easier than first thought.  Other than Denver the Raiders don’t play any elite team.  No Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.  All of a sudden this really is turning into a magical year.  Fans can afford to go overboard but teams can’t.  Look for the Raiders to take every week the same and not overlook anyone.  For older Raiders fans the Chiefs are the big rival game that they look forward to every year.

“Grades in Raiders Big win v.s. Ravens; How Do the Raiders Match-Up With the Chargers”

crabtree2

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

Baltimore Ravens  27 (3-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (3-1)

On Sunday the Raiders came back and beat the Baltimore Ravens 28-27 in an exciting game.  The Raiders are now 3-1 heading home for a game with the Chargers.

Reggie McKenzie:

I’ve been very honest about Reggie McKenzie.  Here’s my article on his tenure with the Raiders.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Some bash him when the Raiders lose but in reality SIX of the 7 2016 NFL draft picks played a significant role in the Ravens game, and in the entire year.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr saved his best for last. The Ravens have a solid defense and they held the Raiders to only 13 first downs, 3 for 12 on third down, and 0 net yards in the 3rd quarter. Not his best performance; only threw for 199 yards; but a gritty win on the road with clutch throws in the end.

GRADE: B

Carr came through in the 4th quarter but he did have his struggles. He had a costly delay of the game penalty and was a little rattled at times early with the pass rush. Those should be fixed and look for a big game next week against the Chargers.  Carr looks forward to a juicy match-up against the weak Charger pass defense.

Running Backs:

The Raiders RB by committee has worked wonders this year but it just wasn’t their day. Latavius Murray was ineffective and DeAndre Washington had a big fumble. Carr’s passes to him didn’t have much touch on them but Jalen Richard dropped a couple of passes that I’m sure he regrets. Washington had a really nice run of 28 yards but if you take that away, the RB’s had only 18 carries for 34 yards. Sometimes it’s just not your day.

Grade C

The Ravens made a point of stopping the run and they did loading the box at times. Better days ahead for this group after 3 excellent weeks.   RB’s pass blocking was pretty good.

Offensive Line:

After the first couple of drives Carr again had lots of time to throw. Rarely did the Ravens get to him. Baltimore had a good game plan to shut down the running game but the Raiders OL and RB’s picked up the blitz well. Due to injuries, Vadal Alexander was thrown to the wolves at tackle and the media were on him. He had 3 holding calls and 1 false start but Baltimore was putting Terrell Suggs on his side much of the time. Suggs is not the monster he used to be but he’s still solid. Alexander was tough and at times got no help against Suggs but he helped in the final TD drives protecting Carr.

Grade B-

The Raiders running offense struggled but the passing game and protection excelled. Alexander is a project but he was made to start and he gave a gutsy performance that will be a learning experience.

Wide Receivers:

NOW people know why I was touting Michael Crabtree when he came out for the NFL draft. At Texas Tech and San Francisco he was a huge talent when healthy. He’s the best possession WR in the NFL right now and a top 6 WR. The Carr to Crabtree connection is on top of their game.   Crabtree’s route running is fun to watch. Seth Roberts with a nice TD catch was also a plus. Teams continue to keep Amari Cooper from going deep and that is opening up the middle of the field. Still would like more TE throws; the Raiders had injuries at TE which may have helped limit that.

GRADE: B

It was quality over quantity. The Raiders offense struggled but when they needed to pass, they did a good job. The stupid call by John Harbaugh to take the penalty allowing a 3rd and long changed the game and allowed the Raiders to take a 2 score lead.

Defensive Line:

The Ravens averaged only 19 points a game in the first 3 games versus 1-8 teams. As I said, Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense is not that good and the Ravens were very overrated. I had the Raiders winning this game and some that I was a little crazy. Khalil Mack’s annual slow start is hopefully over. He terrorized Joe Flacco all day.  Mack has been solid against the run, but not much of a factor in their pass rush. The entire line had good push and Flacco was under pressure much of the time.

Against the run it wasn’t a good story again. The Raiders gave up 130 rushing yards at 5.0 yards a rush with 2 TD’s. Ward and Autry are playing more to get a push on the QB but it’s hurt the run defense. I’m not sold on either playing so much. Williams and Ellis are only playing around 15-20 plays a game. but they are limited in the pass rush.

Grade: B-

The Raiders against the pass were great, but another fail against the run. It’s not like the Ravens have Adrian Peterson either.   They gave a healthy scratch to their starting RB Justin Forsett but still rushed for 130 yards.

Linebackers:

Pretty much you can see the DL. The Ravens like the Titans don’t have much team speed on offense. The Raiders handled them fairly well in the passing game but struggled again in the running game. Cory James was beaten more than the Raiders would like against the run but he was excellent in pursuit and covering the pass. Bruce Irvin also had a nice game with his coverage and his pass rushing.  James is definitely an upgrade at LB but the Raiders still don’t have that stud run stopper.

Grade B

Again, the mantra for the Raiders all year is can they stop the run. The answer so far is not really. That has to change if the Raiders are going to get to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

All week the Baltimore media had brought up Joe Flacco being an elite player (announcer Steve Tasker did too) including Pro Football Focus’ rating of him the first 3 weeks. We must have been watching different players. Flacco has looked horrible at times this year and has the 2nd worst 4th quarter quarterback rating in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, his 2 key interceptions almost blew the game. Four TD’s and 4 INT’s is NOT elite.  That’s why I said the Raiders should handle them and they did.

The Raiders speed was evident against the slow offense of the Ravens.   The game plan was perfect; put David Amerson on Steve Smith and not worry about the others and it worked to perfection. Every DB played well.   Karl Joseph is getting more comfortable and he hopefully can help with the run defense.

Grade A-  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical again.   Other than a blip here and there and the long pass and run to iconic WR Steve Smith Sr., there were few worries.

Coaching:

Overall a well coached game. Raiders offense didn’t have a great game but enough to win.  No yards in the 3rd quarter and another slow start is a worry.  I think the Raiders should go more no huddle and put pressure on the offense.

On defense the game plan of putting Amerson on Smith Sr. was a great move that helped limit him.  Funny how Ken Norton’s name is never spoken when the Raiders defense plays better.  Some casual fans give all the credit to players when they win, and all the blame to coaches when they lose.  Crazy.

Grade B

The Raiders have to start the games better. Another 2 drives with little to nothing to show for it. They also had 0 yards in the third quarter. I wish their offense was more aggressive.

Special Teams:

Marquette King is really becoming a force. He helped the Raiders with great field position earlier in the game when the offense was struggling. Richard is a good return man.

Grade A-

Solid day all around.

Conclusion:

As I said going into this game, it’s a very winnable game. Joe Flacco is not a great QB and their offense only averaged 19 points a game. The Raiders run defense is still an issue and they did give up 27 points to an average at best offense. That has to change.  Offense came through in the 4th quarter and King is a weapon as a punter.

San Diego Chargers:

Philip Rivers had another last second drive fail against the Saints; something he’s done a lot of in the past; and the Chargers dropped to 1-3 losing to the Saints late. Rivers to me is this era’s Steve Deberg. A good QB who gets great stats in the first 3 quarters but doesn’t win anything. Nothing wrong with that but the networks push to make QB’s great is annoying at times. His epic fails late are more than people think.

The Chargers defense is 27th against the pass and 8th against the run. Look for a big game from Carr and the WR’s may have a field day. The Chargers lack talent and on paper this looks like a great match-up for Oakland. Rivers will always have his stats but they greatly miss WR Keenan Allen who is out for the year.

Joey Bosa may make his debut against the Raiders but the Charger fans are ready to blow him off for the year. The late signee has been hurt and hasn’t been ready to play.  He has not endeared himself to the fans that’s for sure.

Outlook:

Oakland is winning the close games and that is a big maturing process in a losing franchise learning how to win. There is a lot of excitement but there still is much work to do.  The Raiders are playing with fire playing close games. A good team like Atlanta made them pay for it. The Raiders run defense is probably going to be an issue all year. They have a very favorable schedule especially with Kansas City, the Colts and Carolina struggling so much.  Seems like all the stars are aligning as long as they beat the teams they should beat.

They can’t take anyone for granted. On paper the Chargers look like a team they can handle, but the Raiders have to start putting teams away and play a good consistent game for 4 quarters. Something they are looking to do against San Diego.

Defensively, the Raiders will be tested by the passing game of the Chargers but they always seem to fall short.  The Chargers are 1-3 and the big loss was the opening game loss to Kansas City in OT when they were up big early.

Look for a fun game with the Raiders flexing their muscle on offense again.  The Chargers running game has improved but is still only 19th in the NFL.  Look for San Diego to try and establish a running game and when it struggles, they will be throwing often from behind.  Should be a high scoring affair with the Raiders looking to continue their road to success.

 

 

“Why Alabama is the Best & Oklahoma is Just OK; 2 Programs That Went In Opposite Directions”

 

nick_saban_09182012

What a difference 10 years makes.

As I looked over the Oklahoma media offerings this last week, I read 19 articles on the reason the media said Oklahoma lost to Ohio St.   Only 2 writers got it right.   Let’s go on a 10 year journey for answers to why Oklahoma is just OK, and Alabama is the best program in the country.

The Reality in Norman:

Dozens of Sooner fans either blocked or unfollowed me on Twitter at the start of the season when I said this was a 3 to 4 loss Oklahoma team.   In my mind it was a mistake that people had them as the #3 team in the nation. In fact at the start of the season I had Houston and Alabama playing for the National Championship. I’m a closet Sooner fan; I still have my throwback Billy Sims Jersey in my closet; but we need to look at the facts.

Bob Stoops
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comments on his team during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)

When Bob Stoops Arrived at Oklahoma:

When Bob Stoops and his defensive coordinator/brother Mike Stoops first came to Norman, it was a breath of fresh air. With one of the richest football traditions in the country, Bob took over after the John Blake era which was a train wreck. Bob Stoops won a national championship beating four top 5 teams along the way, including #1 Nebraska.

The Stoops brothers were aggressive and they had dominating defenses.  The Sooners dismantled Florida St in the National Championship game 13-2 with one of the great defensive performances in college football history.  It was a magical year in the OK state.

Stoops also embraced the tradition. Here is a school that still holds the record for most wins in a row in College Football history at 47. And he showed great respect for their head coach Bud Wilkinson. Many remember the hitch and trailer play against #1 Nebraska in the National Championship year to honor the team of the 1970’s who used that play to help beat Nebraska in Lincoln. Many also remember on their own 29 yard line in Tuscaloosa, using a fake punt in the third quarter and then throwing a bomb on the next play for a touchdown to help beat Alabama on the road. I remember a lot of great risks and fun payoffs. Those days are long gone.

I also remember Sooner fans booing for 3 hours a couple of years ago watching OU’s CB’s playing 10-15 yards off of the line of scrimmage against Baylor like it was pitch and catch in the backyard. The aggressive magic turned into old man conservatism.

Nick Saban Comes To Alabama:

People forget what a train wreck the Alabama Football program was before Nick Saban. There were several scandals, two probations, wins that were forfeited, and the firing of newly hired head coach Mike Price who was a little too wild at a strip club in Florida.   Add the over-matched Mike Shula’s coaching tenure and this once proud program had become a dysfunctional mess.   All that’s forgotten now.   Saban’s first press conference was filled with excitement.

 

Saban was the conquering hero at LSU in college but in the pro’s the media ate him up; especially during his second year which ended 6-10. Like most college coaches he was used to the college media bubble that can be mostly controlled by the coaches. In the pro’s a coach was like a raw steak in a lake full of piranha. His players didn’t like him, and neither did the media. After he left Miami, for months ESPN and NFL reporters all over the country destroyed Saban. They called him Nicktator and Nick Satan. I’ve never in my lifetime seen a coach so hated in one place and loved in another.   And to be honest he probably deserved a little of both. In 2010 he somewhat apologized for his “lack of professionalism” in Miami but it didn’t help.

The NFL Network has trashed him on several worst of lists including the below video (pretty harsh) naming him the 7th worst college coach to ever coach in the NFL. Many remember him scolding the Miami media for weeks saying he wasn’t leaving when in reality he had been talking to the late Alabama AD Mal Moore for weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LNA4eiqw4s

Here is the explanation in the book “Saban; The Making of a Coach”.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sports/football/new-book-nick-sabans-wife-wanted-out-of-miami-push/nm2Ty/

Oklahoma Going Down, Alabama and the SEC Going Up in Recruiting:

When Saban arrived from Miami, he immediately went on a recruiting blitz. He didn’t have the time the other schools did to recruit his first year; he arrived late; but he immediately improved his first class in 2007 and didn’t just blow the year off. That helped set a tone.  The biggest reason Alabama is the best is because they recruit the best and have the best talent.  CBS reported that 80% of Bama’s players are 4 or 5 star recruits.  That’s unreal.

The SEC has 3 of the best recruiters in college football. Mario Cristobal at Alabama, Tommy Thigpen at Tennessee, and Corey Raymond at LSU.   These are the guys doing the dirty work of visiting high schools, kissing babies, eating mom’s apple pie and talking to dad’s about the good ol’ days. Imagine Mario Cristobal wooing you and then Nick Saban closing the deal.   That’s tough to beat.

Urban Meyer got all the credit at Florida but who was one of his key recruiters?   Charlie Strong the new Head Coach at Texas. Strong went on to great success at Louisville and just had a top ten recruiting class for Texas in 2016.

Another thing Alabama has done in the recruiting wars is dominate the offensive and defensive line position. In the last 3 years Alabama had the #1 ranked offensive line class in the nation.   Their defensive line doesn’t miss out either. They are either #1 or #2 for the last 6 years. The NFL draft shows the fruits of their success.

While most teams are going to finesse offenses using the spread, Alabama for the most part has kept their roots. Saban has allowed OC Lane Kiffin to open up things in the past but when the chips are down, the power running game is what they are all about.

Alabama’s first recruiting class with Saban in 2007 was #17 in the Nation. Then the magic started to begin. It’s amazing what happened.

Recruiting Rankings:

2007:

Oklahoma #5

Alabama #17

 

2008

Oklahoma #8

Alabama #3

 

2009

Oklahoma #11

Alabama #2

 

2010

Oklahoma #20

Alabama #3

 

Now let’s fast forward to the last 4 years.

(www.rivals.com)

2013

Oklahoma #15 (0 five star, 7 four star)

Alabama #1 (4 five star, 13 four star)

 

2014

Oklahoma #15 (1 five star, 8 four star)

Alabama #1 (6 five star, 13 four star)

 

2015

Oklahoma #14 (0 five star, 14 four star)

Alabama #2 (4 five star, 14 four star)

 

2016

Oklahoma #16 (1 five star, 10 four star)

Alabama #1 (5 five star, 10 four star)

 

2017

Oklahoma #4

Alabama #2

In some publications, Alabama just had their sixth straight #1 college football recruiting class. Oklahoma’s highest recruiting class in that time was #14.

In the last four years these are the 4 & 5 star players:

Oklahoma: (2 five star, 39 four star)

Alabama: (19 five star, 50 four star)

There is good news for the Sooners though; Bob Stoops has rebounded in 2017 and OU is now ranked the #4 recruiting class so far. That team from Tuscaloosa? #2 so far. Now many things can happen; some players change teams like the wind so there is still a lot of work to do. Remember you are dealing with teenagers; but hopefully OU is back on track.

Alabama a Step Above:

The #1 thing is obviously they have the best players.  No one recruits like they do.

Innovation isn’t Saban’s thing.  What makes him great is preparation, readiness, teaching quality fundamentals and technique and demanding perfection.  It’s one thing to have the best players but you have to teach and coach them properly.

My dad was a great coach and he taught me so much.  Proper footwork, tackle readiness/positioning, balance; football is more in depth than fans think.  I love watching well coached teams.  From Alabama to Jim Harbaughs teams, to the great dynasty at North Dakota St. in the FCS, I really enjoy watching the teams play. I especially love defense.  The rules in college and the pro’s have made it a federal crime to breath near a WR or QB so passing is much easier in today’s game. That means a great pass rush is VITAL.  While other teams are still only rushing 3 men, Saban and other SEC schools get that a pass rush is important.  Some teams still don’t.

The average fan says it’s a passing game now and defense doesn’t matter as much. Problem is they are wrong.  The Big 12 seems to feel this way.  In reality though good defenses will beat good offenses most of the time.  Ask the Carolina Panthers and the Clemson Tigers from last year.  Ask Tom Brady how he feels about the NY Giants DL in the Super Bowl.

The SEC Formula; Nick Saban’s Way:

The SEC formula that Nick Saban uses is based on the 1970’s NFL; the greatest era of NFL football. It includes 5 things.

-have great team speed

-stop the run to make offenses predictable

-put great pressure on the QB and control the tempo

-have a great offensive and defensive line

-have a good power running game to run the ball when you need and want to.

Now some will say well of course you will win if you do all those things.  Then why doesn’t everyone do it?

Think about it.  The Big 12 struggles defensively and isn’t physical.  The Pac 12 isn’t physical other than Stanford and they lack team speed.  Michigan & Ohio St. are changing this but for the most part Big 10 teams lack team speed and the ACC; who has the worst winning % in the bowl series of any Big 5 Conference; also struggle defensively and lack physicality.  There are exception but this is the reality of each conference.

While many teams have fallen in love with the spread offense and throwing 50 times a game, Nick Saban goes with what brung him; defense & a physical running game makes him tick.

This is the way the Big 8 used to be when Oklahoma and Nebraska were winning National Championships. Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant did it; it’s old school football that Alabama plays with a little more modern passing offense. None of Sabans QB’s will tear up the NFL, but his defensive and offensive lines will.

Saban’s Way Saved the Mississippi Game:

I tweeted at halftime of the Mississippi Alabama game, “RUN THE BALL, RUN RUN RUN”. Alabama threw 23 times in the first half for 2.8 yards a reception. Bama was behind 24-17 and were lucky to be so close. They put the game’s hands in the arm of Jalen Hurt; a freshman QB; on the road. Hurt isn’t a particularly accurate thrower and he missed on some key passes, but wow can he run.

Alabama passed only 8 times in the second half and ran for over 334 yards and won 48-43. They ended the game with 7 yards per rush, and only 5.1 yards per reception. Don’t think for a second that Nick Saban didn’t tell OC Lane Kiffin at halftime, “we aren’t throwing 23 times this half”.

Bob Stoops To LSU?:

Many in Oklahoma are not real happy with Bob Stoops. There are rumors that he is being eyed for the head coaching spot in LSU. Because of the failures of late, Stoops has taken a beating in the media. I saw one article calling him Big Shame Bob instead of Big Game Bob. OU is now 8-9 in bowl games with Stoops as coach.

It’s hard to see him leaving OU but if he is going to stay he has to hit the recruiting trail. (LSU Job? Tom Herman of Houston is the sexy pick and I’d think he’d come but if he doesn’t, with Chip Kelly in a mess at San Francisco with their lack of talent; Kelly @ LSU?)

Some say Stoops got complacent in recruiting and the numbers back that. So if I were talking to Bob I’d tell him, “It’s ok Bob; you can keep the spread but you have to go back to what made your teams great from the beginning. A great OL & DL & a great defense. I have my 5 part formula above that you can use when recruiting. And if you don’t want to listen to me, get a hold of Nick Saban.  He’s got a copy”.

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