Tag Archives: AFC

“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.

“What the Raiders Should Do About the Good & Bad of Derek Carr”

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“What the Raiders Should Do About the Good & Bad of Derek Carr”

The Oakland Raiders have a lot of problems.  Their defense is not good and they are last in sacks and they have trouble stopping the run.  The offense is so vanilla some fans can call the plays before they happen.  The Raiders lack long ball threats and the ones they have they platoon.  You can’t blame all of their problems on one player or one key thing.  The way to turn a team around quick though is to have a quarterback that is really on his game.  The question is how can they get Carr to step up and be that player.

I just watched the end of the San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens game.  San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers had an amazing series which ended up being the game winning touchdown.

Rivers was blitzed by the Ravens on almost every play.  He barely had time to breathe let alone throw.  He handled it very well.  He threw the ball away 3 times, and then passed for quick hitters to wide receiver Keenan Allen and it was very impressive.

Right now that is the difference between a Phillip Rivers and a Derek Carr.  Carr can’t handle a pass rush.  Experience does matter of course, but ask the 49er fans how they feel about the lack of improvement with Colin Kaepernick.

Part of the blame goes to the NFL.  They have a cookie cutter for an NFL quarterback.  They want the QB to be tall and have a rocket for an arm.  If you have those qualities, you will get lots of chances to play in the NFL.

The problem is the NFL is full of tall quarterbacks who have rocket arms, but have average to bad quarterback skills.  Does anyone see RGIII, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or Jay Cutler holding up a Lombardi Trophy any time soon?  Yet some of these players are making staggering amounts of money.

I’m different in my evaluation of quarterbacks.  I think the most important qualities in a quarterback are:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Can handle a rush/pocket awareness & footwork
  3. Can read a defense
  4. Good arm

Some say give him time, but time alone doesn’t make a player better.  There comes a time when the player has to take responsibility.

In college, Carr looked great when there was no one rushing him, but he struggled mightily when he was rushed.  So often did he hurry his throws, not step to the side to avoid a rush, and/or miss a wide open player while throwing to a covered wide receiver.  So far in his first year, Carr hasn’t improved in this area.  When he’s blitzed instead of getting the ball off quickly, he often back peddles which limits his lateral agility and can cause sacks or bad throws off his back foot.  He also seems to panic and sometimes throws to the wrong outlet man because he made the wrong read.  It’s what separates the Tom Brady’s from the Jay Cutlers.

Teams now know that if they stop the Raiders running game, for the most part the Raiders are toast.  The play calling would make Woody Hayes roll over in his grave because even he would think it’s too conservative.  The Raiders have thrown less passes downfield than any other team in the NFL; and it’s not close.  This includes Mr. Safe himself, Alex Smith of Kansas City who may lead the league in 1-2 yard check down passes.

What good is it to have a strong armed quarterback if you won’t throw downfield?  The Raiders almost always run off tackle on first down and their play calling is so predictable it sometimes looks like the opponent’s defense is calling the plays.  Going into a jumbo short yardage package and then emptying the backfield and pretty much telling your opponent that you are going to pass the ball would make Rod Serling wonder what the heck was going on.

What should the Raiders direction for Derek Carr be:

  1. How long do you give him? I think the Raiders should give him 2 more years.
  2. The key to Derek Carr’s future is improvement. He must show improvement in handling a rush, choosing the right outlets to throw to, and he needs to audible more and audible correctly.
  3. Derek Carr reminds me of a Brett Favre type. If I were the Raiders or Carr, I would have some talks and meetings with Favre to go over tape and to see where he can improve.  Favre was fast enough that he could make yards with his feet, but Carr’s footwork in the pocket is so bad at times he can’t run. If Carr can start making yards by running some, he will open things up and keep the defense honest.  I would also buddy up to Aaron Rodgers and get all the information that he will give them.  They are alike in style.
  4. Get an offensive minded coach in here that will be a good play caller and who will use the middle of the field. Slants are impossible to stop with today’s ridiculous NFL rules and the Raiders rarely do so.  Greg Olsen is just awful and they need an offensive coordinator that will work with Carr on how to react properly to pass rushes.  He has to learn how to throw the ball away instead of taking bad sacks and terrible chances with throws off his back foot.  You can’t scramble if you are back peddling.  It would be nice to not run off tackle on first down 95% of the time too.
  5. It’s obvious they have told him to not audible much, but they need to let him do it more. He needs to read the defense and then audible.  If there are 8 guys in the box you don’t run up the middle on first down.  You play action pass and go deep.

There is no guarantee Derek Carr is the answer in Oakland, but he has shown a good work ethic and a humbleness that usually is a great atmosphere for learning something.

He has a good arm, a good attitude, and has shown an accuracy when he throws on the run.

You will always have the lunatic fringe members who dub him a good quarterback or say he’s terrible and he needs to go now; but in reality he has potential and lots of room to grow.  Whether you want to admit it or not, the Raiders support Derek Carr and he’s going to be here for a while.  To what extent he will succeed remains to be seen.

“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.

“Oakland Raiders Final Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 12:

(7-4)  Kansas City Chiefs  20

(1-10)  Oakland Raiders  24

First of all how about an A + for the energy and support of the crowd.  It was absolutely pouring down rain at times and the fans were so into the game.  If on earth there was ever a fan base that deserved this win, it was the Oakland Raider fans.  Wow!

Quarterback:

The conditions at times were awful with the rain, especially in the first half.  Derek Carr had his ups and downs but the thing that will be remembered is the last drive.  People wondered if he could make it happen in the clutch when he had to and they found out the answer.

The Raiders threw 6 of 8 times on first down in the first half, and it opened things up for the run.  Carr was off at times and still showed impatience, especially in the first half when he gave up on plays too early.  What was very encouraging though was his patience on the last touchdown pass to James Jones to win the game.  The offensive line gave great protection and it was a great play.  The crossing pattern is so hard to beat and I love it a lot over the popular fade.  Carr showed he has what it takes and is learning.

GRADE:  B

The last drive was great to see, showing that Carr can keep his cool and be patient enough to wait for his WR to get open.  This OL protects him well and it showed.  He only threw for 5.0 yards per catch AND was 18-35 for 179 yards though but hopefully those were somewhat due to the conditions.

Running Backs: 

Central Florida’s Latavius Murray was not even invited to the NFL combines even after a great career in college.  This shows how ridiculous the NFL combines are.  A healthy Murray was given the chance to shine last night and he did come through.  His two touchdown runs were decisive and the offensive line dominated the Chiefs at times.  Murray’s 90 yard run was a direct minded runner hitting a hole and having the speed to beat the defense.  Murray had a break out game but had to leave early due to a concussion.

Grade:  B+

The Raiders fans have been crying out for Murray to get a chance and he finally did.  The elitist NFL not even letting Murray be at the NFL combines shows why there are more hits than misses sometimes in the draft.  I loved Murray in college and I think he’s ready to make his mark in Oakland.

Offensive Line: 

The offensive line has been wrongly getting the blame for the running games failures.  The Raiders in the first half threw the ball 6 times on first down which in itself was a miracle.  It opened up things for the offense.  It made KC have to respect the pass on first down and helped the Raiders in the running game greatly.  Unfortunately they went back to their old ways after half time.  The Raiders announcers rightly called out the Raiders coaching staff in the second half for their predictability.  The coaching staff went back to the run in the 3rd quarter with 6 of 8 first downs being runs up the middle.  The Raiders struggled in the third quarter offensively and the correlation is not hard to see.

Grade:  B+

Some Raider fans and people in the media have wrongly gotten on this OL.  In the first half against the Chiefs when the Raiders passed so often on first down, it opened things up for the run because they now were not predictable.  Murray also helped them by being decisive and hitting the holes when they opened.  The Raiders protected Carr as usual giving up only one sack and this makes Derek Carr the second best protected qb in the NFL.

Wide Receivers: 

For people giving Carr passes acting like the Raiders have no talent at wide receiver, you need to get real.  James Jones is a solid red zone possession receiver and he proved his worth on the final drive.  Andre Holmes was targeted 10 times by Carr who was off on some of his passes.  Holmes ended up with a 5 catch performance and was a step out of bounds away from a big touchdown grab.  He’s proving that he can play in this league.  The Raiders coaches are still clueless not playing the ultra fast Brice Butler more.  Just not getting it.

GRADE:  B

The conditions were rough all night, especially in the first half.  When the Raiders receivers were needed though they came through and they were big when they needed to be.  The Raiders still need a fast #1 wide out but these guys have grit.

Defensive Line:

FINALLY a good game from the DL.  It wasn’t epic, but for how bad they’ve played this year it was a good thing to see and it changed the game.  They still only got 2 sacks with Mack being shut out for the 10th time in 11 games.  He’s just not a great pass rusher right now in his career and that is somewhat disappointing.

Grade:  B

They kept the Chiefs from having a 100 yard game but they did give up 4 yards a carry and only had 2 sacks.  Alex Smith is definitely not Johnny Unitas but it was still a nice showing.

Justin Tucks’ heads up play saved the Raiders after one of the dumbest celebrations ever, especially from a team that has no wins.  Tuck was disruptive and determined and it showed.

Linebackers:

If Khalil Mack burps, the media and some Raider fans say how awesome he does it.  He is totally over hyped.  I don’t deal with hype; I deal with facts.  Mack is not good at rushing the passer.  What he is good at is disrupting the run and making plays against the run.

While Khalil Mack was getting all of the publicity and credit even though for the 10th time he had no sacks and only 3 tackles; Sio Moore and Miles Burris were combining for 21 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack and one pass deflection.

The best linebacker on the Raiders by far is Sio Moore, not Khalil Mack.  When he is healthy, Moore is a game changer which was shown by his 9 first half tackles.  When he blitzed he put pressure on Smith and on the last drive had that key sack.

Grade A-

This unit is the strength of the defense and is carrying them.  Sio Moore is a stud, Mack is great against the run, and even with a missed tackle here and there, Burris has proven to be very valuable and makes plays.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs played well against the run.  They did struggle in the second half but when it counted they came through.  It wasn’t a world beating performance but it was a good showing on a rainy northern California night.  Charles Woodsen and Larry Asante played like this was the last game they’d ever play and were inspiring combining for 17 tackles.  Woodsen alone had 3 tackles for losses.

Grade B 

The Raiders safeties were all over the field at times.  Other than the really bad touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles, the Raiders DB’s played a good game for the most part even with struggling in the second half.

Coaching:

This should be a two part answer.  For the first half the Raiders coaching staff had their second best game of the season.  Six times they passed on first down and it opened up the offense and allowed them to not be predictable.  Kansas City didn’t know what was coming and the first half was dominated by the Raiders.  In the second half, Oakland ran 6 of 8 times up the middle and they struggled.  I also don’t understand why they empty the backfield on short yardage situations which tells the defense they are going to pass.  It makes no sense at all.

Grade B-

The coaches had a good first half but went back into a shell in the third quarter that helped Denver get back into the game.  I have no idea why they are so conservative when the Raiders have nothing to lose.  They finally started Murray and the results speak for themselves.

Special Teams:

Denarius Moore’s punt return fumble could have been much more costly than the 3 points it gave up.  It could have changed the momentum and the direction of the game.  Janikowski hit one field goal.  Marquette King had a good night but when it counted, he hit a low line drive that helped the Chiefs with a nice return.

Grade C+

The conditions played a role but it wasn’t a great day for the special teams.

Next Opponent:  @ St. Louis Rams (4-6; last game, win @ home against the Denver Broncos 22-7)

Outlook:

Next weeks game is usually not a good one for west coast teams traveling east.  The Raiders struggle mightily when they travel back east and with the Rams defense coming into their own, this will be a hard fought game.  Latavius Murray’s health will be in question and it will remain to be seen which team shows up in regards to the Raiders play calling; especially on first down.  This should be a low scoring close game.

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1: Sept. 7th, 2014

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ NY Jets; Week 1:

NY Jets  19 (1-0)

Oakland Raiders  14 (0-1)

 

Offense:

Rex Ryan did exactly what most teams did last year against the Raiders.  They put 7-8 men in the block, took away the run, and dared them to throw downfield.  The Raiders game plan was almost exactly what Rex Ryan would have wanted.

Derek Carr had a predictable first week.  He struggled against the rush and has a lot to learn but he kept his poise and made some nice throws.  Apologists will put all the blame on OC Greg Olsen; which some is warranted; but Carr is in a learning process and it will take time.

The Raiders game plan was awful though.  Bubble screens and quick flare passes are exactly what the Jets were hoping to see.  Many times in the first half, the Jets put a defensive back on the line and had 7-8 guys in the box.  With so many people near the line of scrimmage, there is no way that you can be expected to run so those saying the run game wasn’t there don’t get that it was taken away.

During a rare time when the Jets didn’t blitz, Carr hit WR James Jones on a great catch from 30 yards out.  The Raiders could have used a lot more of those downfield passes mixed with some slants and TE passes over the middle.  The running game had no chance against this defense but the lack of being able to pass did nothing to open things up.

 

GRADE:  D+

The Raiders had 84 total yards of offense going into the 4th quarter.  Against a Jets defense that might have near the least feared corners in the NFL, is just terrible.  The Raiders game plan was awful.  The Jets copied the same game plan that everyone else did last year; make the Raiders throw down field.  The Raiders have to open things up and use the tight end to keep the safeties and linebackers honest.

 

Defense: 

On the good side Sio Moore played a good game.  He was active and ended up with 13 tackles.  Another player who quietly did well too was another linebacker Miles Burris who added 13 of his own.  Khalil Mack still has a ways to go but he played fairly well.  He did get lost on a couple of runs and missed twice on Geno Smith runs.

The DB’s are going to struggle at times but they held their own against the pass today.  Geno Smith isn’t Johnny Unitas but it still was a nice effort. Timeless safety Charles Woodsen made a great interception early in the game.

The defensive line was awful at times.  Other than Justin Tuck, no one was consistent.  Lamarr Woodley and Pat Sims were invisible at times and Anthony Smith was up and down.  The Raiders had little to no pass rush unless they blitzed which was hard to watch.  The Jets don’t have a good offense so the Raiders need to play much better.

The Raiders run defense was absolutely awful.  They gave up 202 yards including a long 71 yard run to seal the win for the Jets.

The Raiders in the past could not rush the passer with only 4 rushing, and they could not stop the run.  So far it’s the same pattern as in the past and that leads to losses.

 

Grade C-

The Raiders were on the field for so long because of the anemic offense but you still don’t give up 200 yards against the run in the NFL.  The defensive line looked terrible at times.

 

Coaching: 

When you start a rookie quarterback you keep things vanilla; I get that; but you could not have called worse plays if Rex Ryan was calling them for the Raiders.

It was a terrible game plan against the Jets who took away the run having so many defenders at the line of scrimmage.  You have to adjust at half time and throw long on the outside or throw slants.  You can even try to get the tight end over the middle more.  You just don’t try to run and throw quick outs and bubble screens.

On defense the problems were more physical than mental.  The 4 man pass rush of the Raiders could not get to the quarterback or stop the run.

No one on the Jets is scary on offense and the Raiders didn’t do as well as they had hoped.  The DL and LB’s did not keep their lanes allowing Geno Smith to run more than they should including 2 long runs for first downs.

I wasn’t a Dennis Allen or Greg Olson fan last year and I feel the same way this year.

Grade D+

The penalties were limited so that was a positive but the game plans and the in game adjustments just aren’t there.

 

Special Teams: 

Sebastian Janikowski didn’t get a field goal attempt.  Marquette King had a good day punting including a 61 yarder and Latavius Murray did an adequate job returning kicks.  The Raiders coverage teams didn’t play overly well with Saalim Hakeem taking 2 kickoffs for 65 yards, and Jalen Saunders taking 2 punts for 15 yards.  Special teams didn’t have a huge role in this game.

 

GRADE:  C+

Nothing really epic to report here other than there were no attempts for Janikowski.

 

Overall:

The Raider fans had high hopes on opening day and this one hurt.  With all of the money spent on signings you’d thought the defense would play better.  The lack of a pass rush especially in the first half was glaring.  The defense was on the field a lot but there is still no excuse for giving up over 400 yards total offense and 202 yards on the ground to the NY Jets.  What will happen when the Raiders play a really good offense like Denver, San Diego, the 49ers or Seattle?

Derek Carr did as well as I thought he would do being a rookie quarterback.  I don’t know if starting a rookie QB against a Rex Ryan defense was overly wise, but Carr has the mentality and the talent to excel.  He had some good moments and some bad ones and you just have to be patient.  The Raiders have to throw deep & use slants and the tight end more to keep defenses honest.

Maybe I’m missing something but I was shocked at the poor offensive game plan and the lack of adjustments.  That’s not acceptable at the NFL level.  Teams now know if you fill the box with defenders and don’t allow the Raiders to run, they can’t and/or won’t throw downfield.  They have to open things up.

The Raiders played hard and they limited the penalties which is a good thing to see.  I like the Raiders linebackers a lot and I think they need to be a part of the pass rush more often.  Burris, Moore and Mack are doing well.

I predicted a 20-17 win by the Jets and they won 19-14.  The spread was 5 ½ when I saw it and like some on ESPN said, the odds makers loved the last touchdown by the Raiders.

 

Grade:  C-

     If this were the Broncos or Seattle it would be a better grade.  To give up 202 yards to the Jets on the ground and only have 84 total offensive yards to the Jets defense going into the 4th quarter is just not good.  The Raiders had some bright spots but these are the types of games that they have to win if they want to get to .500 again.  Right now their Linebackers and safeties have to carry their defense, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson has to open up the play book and throw downfield.  Their schedule is brutal so these winnable games are very important.

 

Next Opponent:  v.s. Houston Texans (1-0; last game, win @ home against the Washington Redskins 17-6)

 

Outlook:

Next weeks game with the Texans in Oakland is a flat out must win.  The Raiders are in the easy (if you can call it that) part of their schedule.   I think the Raiders have to go 4-3 in their first 7 games if they are going to get to .500.

In their last 9 they play at Seattle, San Francisco, Denver twice, and tough conference games with San Diego and Kansas City.  They also play at Cleveland in late October.  Every week is going to be a challenge and hopefully they will open things up next week.