Category Archives: NFL Draft

“The Passing of Pro Football Hall of Fame Raider Fan Ron “The General” Rickard; After attending 246 games, the Raiders & all Fans Mourn”

 

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Ron & Janet Rickard

Hero:

a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Heroes…….

My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard.  “Raider Ron” was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a fan.  His brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.

http://www.pfufa.org/

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Ron is honored by the Raiders and is asked to light the Al Davis Torch before a home game

We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver.  Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.

What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the Raiders “One Nation, Your Story” contest.

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As a Member of The Pro Football Hall of Fame Ron was given his own set of playing cards that he would give to fans

After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.

Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”

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Raider Ron Showing a Signed Helmet and the Tickets that he has accumulated from 246 straight games

After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.

http://m.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Raider-Ron-Attends-246th-Straight-Game/933b1c84-3123-454c-ac6c-108af7efc053

Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.

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Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one.  “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me.  Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold.  A long friendship ensued”.

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Fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer’s and Great Friends; Tampa Bay’s Tim “The Captain” Young and the Raiders Ron “The General” Rickard  

 

 

Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling.  Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”.  A stranger from Tennessee even paid a house payment for Ron.

Ron grew up in Kentucky.  As a kid he would watch the games and he became a huge Raiders fan.  He came to California and got into the car wash business. The first Raider game he ever went to he was offered a ticket by someone and they made him a guest of their family. He then created the persona of the General and became an iconic fan of the team he loved.

Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He helped everyone he met and had a goofy, fun side.  When he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.

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In a past interview, Ron breaks down talking about the outpouring of support for him

“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped.  He was extremely kind and humble.  He showed great sportsmanship.  Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them.  He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person.  He always was a positive influence.  He did so much for so many”.

Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion.  He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand in life, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end.  Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He created a legacy that will be cherished for a long time.

The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:

Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’
Heroes make the moon shine bright at night
Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around

Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger
If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me

I am lucky in life.  I had heroes.  My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends.  Ron was a hero too.  And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for others, with dignity and grace.

The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero.  To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires.  Live with ethics and grace and always do right.  Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air.

I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members.  We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace.  Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously.  Dare to dream and dream big with a positive way about you.  And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your teams colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.

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“Answering Critics of The Oakland Raiders Draft; Why Draft Connor Cook? Grading the Picks.”

 

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Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

For the first time in my life time, it seemed that most teams did fairly well at the 2016 NFL draft. One of those teams that did really well was the Oakland Raiders.

Many fans though have expressed their displeasure at certain picks, so let’s answer all the questions that people have in regards to these picks.

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

I got beaten up on Twitter a little bit when I was for the drafting of West Virginia Safety Karl Joseph. Like most people I had him as a top 30 player. My favorite DM on twitter was, “I thought you liked value picks; then how can you defend choosing Joseph?”

The answer to that is this. The Raiders desperately wanted Joseph in the second round. They also wanted Reggie Ragland. With the news coming that Ragland had an enlarged Aorta that would need yearly monitoring, Ragland dropped like a stone in the draft.   There were several teams that wanted Joseph in the late first round and early second round. NO WAY was Joseph falling to the Raiders in the second round.   The Raiders knew that to draft him they had to draft him earlier than expected. The hope was for Ragland to drop to them in the second round and he almost did; Buffalo nabbed him. But looking back Joseph is a really good player; probably a late first round talent that will greatly help your team. It was a risk they took and I would have too.

Emphasizing DL made me very happy. I’ve said it a million times; look at history; the DL is so important to Super Bowl winning teams.

Some say on social media, “where can you watch these players play?   I follow all the experts and I don’t see film on these guys”. The answer is, WATCH THE COLLEGE GAMES! College Football has DOZENS of stations that show games not once; but several times in reruns. Almost all college conferences have tv networks. You DVR the games and watch the players you want to see. If you watch a game and the player plays great or the announcers say he stands out you pay attention to them. If the player never gets mentioned but is drafted you say wow; I didn’t even remember this guy.

Our fathers began taping & recording famous games audio and then when VCR/VHS came out they taped the games. My dad has the Holy Roller on tape; a friend of mine’s dad has Notre Dame’s stunning upset of UCLA to snap their 88 game winning streak on a tape recording; from 1974! I have hundreds of games transferred to DVD in my large library at my home. If you are a sports & history junkie, start your own collection.

For example 2 years ago I taped 3 games with an up and comer in the NFL draft, WR Tre McBride from William & Mary. I fast forwarded and when you get the hang of it you can watch a players plays in 10-15 minutes. There are 128 college teams in Division 1 only, and many more in D II and DIII.   NFL is a passion for people; college football is a religion. Here in silicon Valley you can live stream anything and also don’t have to worry about regional games only being seen. We’re techies and you learn things.

With that being said let’s look at the Jihad Ward and Conner Cook picks below and all of the critic questions should be answered.

1st Round: Karl Joseph S (14, West Virginia)

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/29/the-oakland-raiders-mindset-on-day-in-depth-evaluation-of-karl-joseph-lots-of-good-little-bad/

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

I’m not a fan of this pick.  I thought the Raiders drafted him too early and even then I’m not a fan.  He’s more athlete than football player. The after draft comments were interesting. When Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was asked if Ward was raw he snapped that he wasn’t. “The defensive line isn’t like playing QB”. When GM Reggie McKenzie was asked, he stated, “he’s definitely raw but we are not looking at him having a redshirt year. Hopefully if we coach him up he can be ready to contribute something this season”.

I don’t like quoting Pro Football Focus but to the few that defend this pick; PFF comments on Ward, “he had the 69th overall grade of edge defenders”. PFF then went on to say he may end up being a good run defender. Later on they say he may be a good pass rusher.   (see why PFF drives some people crazy?)

I watched Illinois several times and to be honest I barely remembered him. This was a reach at best in my mind. I think the Raiders were shocked too when Austin Johnson; stud DL out of Penn St.; and MLB Reggie Ragland was taken before their pick. With Alabama DL’s AShawn Robinson & Jarran Reed; as well as Clemson CB stud Mackenzie Alexander still on the board; this pick makes no sense in my mind but who knows. He’s a good story and I hope he does well.

GRADE: C-

3rd Round: Shalique Calhoun DL (75, Michigan St.)

Michigan St. was in so many featured games even the casual fan saw them often. Calhoun was a stud on a very physical and talented defensive line that at times carried the Spartans and kept them in games. He had 27 sacks for his career and 44 tackles for loss. He’s a playmaking pass rusher that needs to bulk up a bit and improve his run stopping skills. Some scouts say he’s too passive. I don’t think he’ll have a middle ground. Could be a diamond in the rough or struggle. I think the positive greatly outweighs any negative.  Great Pick!

GRADE: B+

4th Round: Connor Cook QB (100, Michigan St.)

The Raiders traded up to get Cook at #100. This one still has Raider nation scratching their heads. Let’s look at the facts.

History again is so important. All of those people guaranteeing the Raiders will move up in the first round every year forget that they’ve never done it in 57 drafts yet every year they predict it. Look at history. Well this pick was ALL about Ron Wolf and his history.

When Reggie was learning under Raider and Green Bay Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, the Packers drafted QB’s all the time. I’ve said it for years. Every team should draft a QB every year in the late round.

Even with Brett Favre as their starter, Ron Wolf and the Packers drafted Mark Brunell (5th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Matt Hasselbeck (6th round). These 3 became key NFL starters for other teams. (In a famous John Madden story, when Al Davis asked his staff about drafting a young Alabama QB with bad knees, Al’s staff said no. He then asked Ron Wolf who said yes; Ken Stabler was then drafted).

Wolf had an amazing eye for QB’s and ALL three of these picks were eventually traded for key draft picks and players who helped create a winning organization keeping talent flowing.

Some have now said trade Carr. Ridiculous; I personally don’t like Cook and don’t think he’s going to be a starting NFL QB; he’s not accurate in the medium and short game. Some teams like him though.  He’s also not exactly a leader type at times as was seen in some of his comments when he was injured and missed the Ohio St. game.   Some experts and teams will disagree with me but that’s my take. Some have said his personality is a turn off and he needs to greatly mature to be a leader in the Pro’s.

This was a Ron Wolf type pick that will eventually be trade bait if he pans out. If not, he can then be a backup.   Matt McGloin will be on trade watch this pre season. In today’s QB world with so little talent, teams are willing to risk money and picks on projects that they think they can make into something special and some will want Cook; maybe badly. If your starting QB goes down though, your team is in trouble.

GRADE B+

5th Round: Deandre Washington RB (143 Texas Tech)

I’m a Big 12 guy and I’d like to thank Deandre Washington for being such a fun player to watch these last 4 years. I hope he does well. Most had Washington either a 6 or 7th rounder; few had him in the 5th round; and a handful even had him going undrafted.

This is a productive player who plays hard every play.  He can catch and run and was a work horse back for the Red Raiders. He returned kicks as a freshman. Many scouts complained that Washington may be a system guy at Texas Tech. The Big 12 is known for bad defense and wild west offenses so some question his numbers.   He’s also only 5’ 8” 205 and many scouts said he will struggle pass blocking. He is not a speed merchant but he’s fast enough and he’s tougher than he looks.

I like Washington but my pick here was Paul Perkins who I like a little more.  Many had Perkins going in the 3-5th round. Washington is a bit of a reach but time will tell if he pans out. I think he can be a situational player and a good pass catcher.  A tough guy that plays confident with football smarts. Fans will enjoy this guy this season.

GRADE B

6th Round: Cory James LB (194 Colorado St.)

At 6’ 225 lb. James has been a consistent 4 year starter for the Rams.   They moved him to MLB in his senior year but he is too small for that position in the NFL. He was also used as an edge rusher on passing downs and showed speed and athleticism. Some experts have really trashed this pick and I don’t know why. A project who should do well in special teams and will be a good backup.

GRADE B

7th Round Vadal Alexander T/G (234 LSU)

My SEC friends are asking how in the heck did this guy make it to the 7th round. Most had him going 3-4 round and this is a great pick. Alexander came to LSU around 370 and even at 6’ 5” he looked too bulky. He’s lost 30 pounds as a 4 year starter and was all SEC last year. He played guard and then later switched to tackle in college. He is a masher in the run game with crazy strength. He lacks athleticism and good foot speed which is why teams dropped him so low. He has inconsistent mechanics and needs work but this guy should be a solid backup and even get a few snaps here and there in time. Huge potential. This is the type of pick that winning teams make. Huge upside. He’ll be projected as a guard in the pro’s for his lack of foot speed but he has the potential to really help this team as a backup. I am shocked he lasted so long.

GRADE A-

There you have it; it seems that there is still a need for an MLB but remember that many things can still happen in the off season, pre season and even salary cap cuts before the season starts. Overall I really like this draft. Pick for today and for the future.

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

“What Does the Signing of Michael Crabtree Do To the Raiders Draft & What They May Not Be Telling Their Fans”

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“What Does the Signing of Michael Crabtree Do To the Oakland Raiders Draft”

Michael Crabtree was signed by the Raiders for a one year 3 million dollar deal with various incentives.  It makes for an interesting turn in the direction that the Raiders may go.

Raiders Needs:

When the Raiders started the free agency period, these were their top 4 needs:

  1. A fast #1 Wide Receiver
  2. 1-2 pass rushers to fix the 31st ranked pass rush
  3. Run Stopping DL
  4. Run Stopping MLB

So far in free agency the Raiders have solved the #3 and #4 problem by shoring up their run defense.  A fast #1 WR and the 1-2 pass rushers; which were their biggest needs; are still an issue.  That’s a lot to fix in one draft.  Let’s look at the puzzle further to look into what is happening and what may happen.

First the Pro’s; Why Crabtree Makes Sense

I have to be honest; I LOVE  this guy.  He’s a great talent who hasn’t had his best games yet.  How the Raiders picked DHB over him is still a head scratcher.  (oh those fast 40 times at the NFL combines that Al Davis loved so much).  I fought with Raider fans for 3 years who told me give DHB time.

Crabtree and the 49ers passing game were limited due to their quarterback situation and their philosophy which was a power running, grind them out offense.  He also played last year after a horrendous Achilles heel injury and many think he’s finally healthy.  I still think it’s a good signing but it is a worry.

I’m sure the Raiders see him as a starting WR at a great price.  They also see in him as a player that makes key plays when they are needed as was seen in the 49ers Super Bowl run.  He’s also tough; many felt he wasn’t healthy all year last year but he insisted on playing the entire season.  A physical WR that will make a difference.

The Cons: Why Crabtree Doesn’t Make Sense

With Today’s medical advances, coming back from a severe knee injury is doable. Coming back from a severe achilles heel injury as a wide receiver is rough.  Some have said few regain their speed and agility so Crabtree’s true health remains to be seen until he gets on the field.

Detractors will also point out to his terrible year last year with 10 drops; some pretty bad ones.  It was obvious his head wasn’t in the game at times.  He also was the rumored leak to Deion Sanders talking about the dissension with Jim Harbaugh as coach, which he vehemently denied.  The local media often complained it’s obvious he’s checked out.

Bad Attitude?:

Others will talk about his bad attitude, but I laugh at that.  Jerry Rice was a diva personified at San Francisco.  Rice told the press Steve Young’s passes were hard to catch and he would never be Joe Montana.  He also went off in the press because he needed more passes thrown to him; even though he led the league in catches.

Terrell Owens played brilliantly while injured in the Super Bowl on the way to throwing his quarterback under the bus.  Dez Bryant’s temper tantrums on the sidelines and off the field dramas are all but forgotten now that he’s one of the best in the NFL.  NFL Wide Receivers are the blond headed cheerleaders that you saw in the movie Bring It On.

What Does This Do To The Draft:

First of all, no, the Raiders are not going to trade down.  Name all the time’s that they have done that. (crickets)  Every year we go through this.

Also, if the Raiders brass said that they hate ice cream, I’d bet a million dollars that they’d be having hot fudge sundaes at Hooters that night.  DON’T BELIEVE WHAT TEAMS SAY!  Name all of the football teams that are going to run to the press and announce their plans and tell people all that they are thinking.  The only ones that lie more than NFL teams are politicians!

If USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is there, I think the Raiders pick him because their pass rush was atrocious last year but the Raiders have made some crazy choices in the past so nothing is for sure.  Amari Cooper is the best WR in the draft IMHO; his amazing numbers at Bama were impressive.

Devin Smith the WR out of Ohio St. will be there in the second round (The Patriots are supposedly into him so he may go late first round) and he’s a stud.  A bigger clone of ex Panther great Steve Smith, this guy had his biggest games against the best competition.  Tough as nails, brash and he has track speed.  He has that rare talent of not losing speed when he cuts.  If you look at old clips, Cliff Branch had that rare talent too.  Even if you get Crabtree and he pans out, you still need a speedy WR to stretch the field.

What the Raiders May Not Be Telling the Fans:

I said it in a previous article; I think the Raiders may have a two year plan but there was NO WAY that they were going to make that public because of all the years of losing.

If they choose a wide receiver #1 this year in the draft, I get it.  Next years draft has at least 6 really good pass rushers, and possibly up to 9.  They are young and are on the verge of really getting good.  I can see the Raiders filling in holes this year, and going for broke in the draft and free agency next year to finalize their pass rush.

Can you imagine the outrage on social media if the Reggie McKenzie came out and said we are looking for a 2 year plan to get good?  If you thought people were wild now. In reality though I think they realize they need another good draft and signings to get the team that they envisioned.

Guarded Optimism:

For fans that pick playoffs and Super Bowl for the Raiders every year, they may FINALLY be right, but it may take a year.  I think a .500 season is realistic but thinking you can fix a terrible pass rush with a second or third round draft pick is naive at best.  I think the Raiders had many holes to fill and they’ve done a good job at filling most of them.  I think they are a year away from really filling them in the way that they want to and being a playoff contender.  Until you do it on the field and win, talk is cheap.

People also need to keep in mind that rookie wide receivers usually struggle some in their first year.  It takes time for them to evolve, even in today’s pass happy world where defenses can’t touch them.

In today’s NFL especially, if you don’t have a pass rush, you can’t win.  No way will you get to the next level if you can’t rush the quarterback and stop the run.  The run defense looks fixed but the pass rush still needs to be addressed.  Fans may need to have a little more patience for the Raiders to become a playoff team again though.  We’ll know for sure after the post draft signings what the team looks like.  It should be fun to watch.

Even with many fans worrying about him,  I think Crabtree will be a valuable piece that could have long term success, but the pass rush still needs to be fixed.

     

“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

The Oakland Raiders yesterday added ex Jack Del Rio hire and Jacksonville Jaguar Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave as their new Offensive Coordinator.  It was a surprise hire to many people.

Local fans may remember Bill Musgrave as a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and a few other teams.  After his playing days, the Raiders hired him in 1997 as a quarterbacks coach.  He had 4 really good years as a quarterback at the University of Oregon.

Musgrave is a journeyman coach who has never stayed at one place very long.  He has been the OC of 5 teams in 17 years and in between that he’s been quarterbacks coach or an assistant.

As offensive coordinator with those 5 teams, he has had very mild success.  His best year was in 2013 when the Vikings offense was 13th in total yards and 14th in scoring.  As an OC, his offenses have never been in the top 12, and most have struggled.  Before his job at Minnesota, he had never had a top 21 offense.  He has had some good moments though and he’s a well respected and hard working guy.  He’s also very well liked which definitely doesn’t hurt.

To his credit; even though it’s hard to give QB coaches all the credit; he did also have some nice years as quarterbacks coach.  He was QB coach when Matt Ryan first started out and did well.  Byron Leftwich was never great but his best year was when Musgrave was at Jacksonville.

Some like to give him a moderate amount of credit for Mark Sanchez having his best QB rating in his career in 2014 when Musgrave was QB coach of the Eagles.  If you do that though, then you also have to give him the blame for Nick Foles who played half of the year before he got hurt.  Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and had only 2 INTs in 2013 before Musgrave arrived.  Last year in half a season with Musgrave as QB coach, Foles threw 13 TD’s with 10 interceptions and looked lost at times.  Foles now is a question mark for the Eagles and they are debating whether to give him a big money long term contract.

As offensive coordinator it’s a much clearer picture with shaky results.  He was no longer allowed to call the plays after only 4 games when he was the OC at Carolina in 2000.  He was also let go by Jack Del Rio at Jacksonville after only 2 years of being an OC with near the worst offense in the NFL.  In his defense he has never had great quarterbacks as a coordinator, but his style is pretty clear.  He’s always had a conservative style of running the ball and running it often with a WR heavy passing game.

He did have some west coast influence with Mike Shanahan but he’s never truly instilled it into his offenses.

When he was first hired at Minnesota, the Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper did two articles on him asking him about his philosophy.  Most of it was just vague answers saying that he liked to mix up things and do a little bit of everything. He liked to talk about making communication between QB and play callers more simplified.

At Minnesota the offense was very straight forward.  Run Adrian Peterson on first and second down, and then pass on third down if needed.  The offense was a little more conservative than the approach at Kansas City with Alex Smith.  With Adrian Peterson as your running back, there are worse options.  Chris Ponder was the quarterback for most of the time, and he never grew into a good player.

Is he the right fit for Oakland?:

I think if the Raiders hired him as a quarterbacks coach, that this would have been a good hire.  I think he’s solid and even with some fails he’s had some success too, and he’s a hard worker.  The hopes are that he can help David Carr grow into a pocket quarterback that can command an offense.  If he can do that alone, this will be a good hire.  For those that cringed every time they saw Greg Olsen call a play, this is an upgrade by subtraction.

As an offensive coordinator this seems to obviously be a Jacksonville reunion with Mike Tice and Bill Musgrave working with head coach Jack Del Rio in the past.  It’s hard to think Del Rio wasn’t the reason for the Musgrave hire.  Musgrave struggled a lot though so it’s a surprise.

As an offensive coordinator, he was a nightmare in his first 4 jobs and his teams have mildly improved as he has gotten more experience.  He’s never had a top 12 offense and to think that all of a sudden the Raiders are going to turn into juggernauts is hopeful at best.  Let’s face it; it’s a league of talent though and if you have the talent, success will follow.

I think the love for some fans with Mark Trestman was strange.  Trestman never called the plays or made the game plans when Jon Gruden was here; Gruden admitted he did.  Trestman was supposed to fix the Bears and his lack of leadership and passive demeanor was ripped apart by both fans and the press alike in Chicago.  Epic fail.  Trestman wanted the Raider OC job; he said so in the press; but the Raiders obviously didn’t want him and it was a good move not to hire him.

This is another head scratcher in a long decade of head scratching hires by the Raiders.  I like Mike Tice but this one is puzzling. Del Rio obviously feels comfortable with him and hopes that he can help David Carr grow.

I think Jack Del Rio is an upgrade at head coach.  Even though they are a train wreck right now and 3-4 years away from being good, it’s hard to watch the Chicago Bears hire John Fox and DC Vic Fangio; two coaches with Super Bowl experience and who have had a ton of success; and then watch the Raiders hire Bill Musgrave; well, as they say, it is what it is.  The hope is that somehow with the Raiders rebuilding their talent pool on offense, this will work out in Oakland and Carr and the offense will grow with Musgrave at the helm.  I think he may do well for a while and be a stepping stone, but it’s hard to think of Bill Musgrave taking them to the highest level and raising Super Bowl trophies any time soon.

“Raiders Win The Battle of the Bay Again; Jack Del Rio is a Solid, but Not Great Hire as Oakland Raiders Coach”

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I know that not one Super Bowl was ever won in an opening press conference of a newly hired coach. Even taking that into account it was uncomfortable to watch the 49ers brass hire Jim Tomsula. The 49ers presser was like seeing two elitist, arrogant rich guys hovering over a good solid lifer coach who was scared to death to say anything wrong. The Raiders showed them up big time.

Owner Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie were professional and seemed on the same page. It was good to see the media also focused on the Raiders coaches over their obsession with Davis love of Hooters and PF Changs. Lot’s of men are breast and lettuce wrap guys but it’s time to get down to business. Davis and McKenzie were relaxed and didn’t go crazy with wild predictions of Super Bowls, the greatness of the Raiders, and future glory like the 49ers stumbled through. There was definitely a unified feel in the room. Jack Del Rio is good on the microphone and most knew he’d be very well received and he did a good job as was expected.

With the hiring of Jack Del Rio as Oakland Raiders coach, the Raiders picked a solid football man who has integrity but he has very limited success. As every fan and media person loves to bring up, Jack grew up in the bay area and he and his family have long been Raider fans. As head coach, that means nothing, but it’s kind of the full circle story that makes good headlines and you also feel good for him because he obviously loves the Raiders. Personally I thought there were better candidates but he’s a solid, safe choice but one that I question.

Positives:

I like Del Rio’s defensive philosophy. He mixes things up with different coverage’s and formations. He likes to move players around; especially pass rushers; and at times takes chances. He also loves physical play and brings toughness to a team that desperately needs it. He has the philosophy to win in the NFL; stop the run, and rush the passer with 4 players. Last year the Raiders could not stop opponents running game and they were a dismal 31st in sacks. If the Raiders can shore up the DL, I see better things ahead for the Raiders defense.

Jacksonville linebackers raved about Del Rio’s support of them, and his hands on philosophy. They were a key focus at Jacksonville. The Raiders for too long have lost site of what makes a good defense; stopping the run and rushing the passer. It needs to be a mantra. You do that by having a stud front 7 on defense and not drafting defensive backs with good 40 times. You can have the best defensive backs in the league, but if you can’t rush the passer they are toast.

Jack Del Rio is also a players coach. He’s a fair person and is direct. As a coach at Jacksonville for 9 years, his defenses were good, not being lower than 12th in total yards allowed. Of course he had a good defensive coordinator as well in Mike Smith which helped.

Del Rio is well respected around the league and defensive free agents will be willing to come to Oakland more freely now that he is a coach. Denver is loaded with talent so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few players come over from the Broncos to play for the Raiders, but don’t expect a mass exodus. The Broncos still have a ton of talent and that is hard to leave.  The fans will enjoy Del Rio’s interactions with the media as well. He knows how to get people excited and is very likeable.

Negatives:

Del Rio has a bad history with coaches.  During his time as the Jaguars coach, he went through 19 of them during his tenure.  That’s a lot of them.  Some of the hires in the first place were questionable.  Some complained he was too controlling and others hinted Jack wasn’t exactly first in line when it was time to take responsibility for failures.

The lack of success bothers me too.  I personally want a coach that has a track record of success, even as an assistant. Del Rio has never been a consistent winner as a head coach. In 9 years at Jacksonville, he never won a division title. He also had only 3 winning seasons and only 2 playoff years. Del Rio is 1-2 as a playoff coach. He built up the team after Tom Coughlin left and then it crashed again while he was coach.

Two fans yesterday were posting wherever they could that Del Rio’s first 9 years were as good as Jon Gruden’s first 9 years. They were extremely popular posts among the Raider nation. Those stupid facts get in the way though. In his first 9 years Gruden was 10 games over .500 at 77-67; had 4 division titles; played in one AFC championship game and had a Super Bowl title. Del Rio has no division titles and one playoff win in 9 years and was 68-71. It’s not even close who had more success. Even with talent at Jacksonville, the defense held it’s own but offensively the Jag’s seemed to struggle for consistency under Del Rio.

What Del Rio Will Need to Succeed:

Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis will have to hire good assistants as does any NFL team. Mike Smith’s name has been thrown about and he would work well with Del Rio due to their long history together. If the Raiders hire Mark Trestman I guarantee issues. Trestman never had any pull or control when Jon Gruden coached the team but he got a lot of credit. Gruden was in control of the game plans and called the plays. Trestman used Gruden’s success to land the Bears job and his goal was to fix Jay Cutler and the Bears offense. The Chicago press grinded him to dust for his apathetic demeanor and poor leadership skills. Twice there was physical fighting in the post game locker room and they were out of control. Trestman isn’t the answer and they need a coordinator that will bring a toughness on offense and create an identity.

Speaking of Identity; the Raiders need one and they need one badly. The coaches at times seemed to have no clue on what direction the team should go. Don’t expect Sporano to get any head coaching job offers any time soon. If you are a power running team then you need to run the ball.

The play calling though still needs to have imagination. Derek Carr has to learn to call audibles’ as well. If there are 9 defenders in the box and a running play is called and the quarterback doesn’t audible to a passing play, don’t blame the offensive line for the lack of a running game or the coaches play calling. The Raiders were predictable and helpless to run the ball at times especially on the road. In the last 4 road games the Raiders averaged 8 points a game. It remains to be seen what role Del Rio will play to fix that.

My Take on the Hiring of Del Rio:

I don’t mind the hiring of Del Rio but I think there were better coaches out there and I would not have picked him.  Maybe they’ll win a Super Bowl in 3 years and I could be wrong, but I just didn’t like his tenure at Jacksonville.

The Raiders need to stop all this talk of winning Super Bowls and build a foundation. I think Del Rio can do that. He will bring toughness and a sense of discipline which is really lacking in Oakland.  As for long term I have my doubts and though unpopular, I don’t think he’s the long term answer.  To think that a coach of a good team who never won a division title in 9 years and only made the playoffs twice, is all of a sudden going to start hoisting up Super Bowl trophies, is wishful thinking.  I do think though he will get them to a level that hasn’t been seen here in 12 years and that is definitely a great start that would please Oakland fans craving success.

“The Truth About Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49er Fan Violence”

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“The Truth About Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49er Fan Violence”

In 2011 the Raiders played the 49ers in an exhibition game at Candlestick Park.  It was one of the most violent football games in a long time.  Not from player violence, but from fan violence.  There were shootings, stabbings and several arrests.  The violence was so shocking that the NFL talked about ending the Raiders/49ers pre season games.

Let me see if I can put this delicately.  First off, ANY fan that goes to any sporting event and fights is a TOTAL loser.  You should be jailed, and your kids, parents and grand parents should have to see video of what a drunken idiot you are.  You should have to work at a homeless shelter for 1000 hours and that is after your jail time.  You should have to wear a sign that says, “I’m a violent tool that can’t control themselves”.  Was that nice enough?

Second of all I’m sick of the San Francisco media including the SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle, and KNBR acting like the 49er fans are these artsy laid back pot smoking hippies that wouldn’t hurt a fly.  You get more real news from Youtube than you get from the San Francisco media who have made hiding Giants and 49ers violence an art form.  If I hear Gary Radnich of KNBR call the San Francisco fans sophisticated one more time I’ll throw up.  Some of the most violent and slimy people that have ever fought at a football game are 49er fans.  Youtube should have their own channel for them.

Local NBC bay area did a great story on the truth about fan violence in the bay area.  Even with a higher socioeconomic type of fan base at Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara police department reported that there were 25 arrests per game at Levi’s stadium in the first part of the season.  In contrast, the Oakland Raiders were reported to have only 12 arrests per game.

Now I’m not a mindless homer, and I’m not naive.  Some Raider fans are far from angels.  The Raider fans violence really took off in the days in Los Angeles.  The fights among L.A. Raider fans and opponents were of legend.  So many pathetic idiots committed violent assaults because someone didn’t like their team.  There were stabbings in the Los Angeles Coliseum and @ San Diego games as well as occasional shootings outside the stadium.  In Oakland before the move, the Raider fans could be nasty but they weren’t this violent.  You didn’t see fights every game or craziness.  The fans were loud, abrasive, and vulgar, but they weren’t Mike Tyson on roid rage.

What bothers me even more is what cowards these fighters are.  ALL of the videos that I saw online; and I watched about 30 of them; had one side outnumber or outsize the other one.  Most punches were thrown by losers hitting people from behind or the side or in situations where they outnumber the people they were fighting.  Wow, that kind of “courage” is pathetic.  And these people have or will have kids?  This type of parental guidance we don’t need.  No wonder America is so screwed up.

Our society is a mess right now.  Violence and vulgarity is the norm and many think it’s cool.  I just watched a 10 minute video of about 10 female 49er fans fighting 2 female Raider fans.  Stay classy.

Whenever I think of sporting fan violence I think of Bryan Stow who had his life ruined because of 2 thugs looking for trouble at Dodger stadium.  Or what about the 49er fan who was beaten by two pathetic losers in a bathroom because of a nudge?  His injuries are permanent.  His life is changed forever because of two nobody thugs.  There are dozens more experiences out there that are forgotten about quickly.

We are violent and out of control and right and wrong has little meaning anymore to many.  Social media has exposed our society as shallow, insecure, hyper sensitive and ready to rip on someone or attack someone in a second.  People don’t care about truth anymore, they care about their biased opinion and perspective.

The same people that are committing violence are also the same ones that I’m sure rip on Ray Rice and are outraged by Ferguson.  Their standards for the players and others are much higher than themselves.

This IS A GAME PEOPLE.  People are dying of deadly diseases.  Children are suffering from terrible cancers.  Big business corruption is running rampant.  Colleges are getting rich off of raising tuitions to ridiculous levels while lining their pockets.  There are school and mass shootings, sexual assaults and rapes, and so many other tragic things to be outraged about.  Yet some fans feel passionate enough about their team to get sloppy drunk and fight? Lol wow.  Use that passion and buy some toys for a children’s hospital or donate to a homeless shelter instead.

I’m so sick of fans bragging about how awesome of fans they are.  Insulting people or fighting isn’t what being a good fan is.  This isn’t high school.  There are lots of good fans but please stop being so naive.  If you were broke and needed your bills paid, none of the players or owners would help you.  They wouldn’t cross the street to shake your hand and if you were sick they wouldn’t be making you soup and getting you medicine while you are whining about how you don’t feel good.  This is a game.  Be passionate about your team and have fun with it but stop acting like your life depends on it.

To all fans that can’t hold your liquor and get into fights and bully people, I wish terrible evil karma on you.  To any fan that witnesses these types of situations; call security and make sure these scumbags go to jail.  It’s time to make a change.

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

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There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, Doomsday, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton about the Soul Patrol in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum, Brown, Thomas and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open before I got killed”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

Oakland the King of Professional Sports:

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title after writers practically laughed at their chances.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of US sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role in a defense that still today is revered.

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George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet 1 inch tall, many say it was more like 5’ 11” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

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Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

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Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, “the Raiders have 3 safeties when Dr. Death was playing cornerback”.

Sadly and ironically he passed away too soon in 2011 also at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

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Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

If Atkinson was the voice of the Soul Patrol, Tatum was the heart.  Ronnie Lott called him his inspiration and the standard bearer for all NFL safeties.  John Clayton said there was never a harder hitting safety in the NFL.  Once during the Super Bowl break, the NFL Show with Cris Collinsworth and Chris Berman were discussing players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and to a man they all said the same name; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. John Madden said many times he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed Stingley for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61 due to complications from diabetes.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.  Even his counterpart George Atkinson said once, “he hit a tough Denver TE Riley Odoms so hard it sounded like a gun shot.  Odoms was in agony and his eyes rolled back.  I thought he had killed him”.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing and playing cards.  Tatum walked into the room and into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block him.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.  I would like to do an in depth article just on Jack alone in the future.

Jim’s Jamz:

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.