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“Pimps, Drugs & Busts; The Oakland Raiders Top 10 Worst Draft Picks of All Time”

 

nfl draft

Insiders have said that Al Davis was always looking for 4 players; the new Cliff Branch, Ken Stabler, Willie Brown & Jack Tatum.  Here are the Raiders attempts that failed.

#10:  Darrius Heyward-Bey: #1, 7 overall (2009 draft)

Before the 2009 draft, most experts had Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin as the top 2 WR in the NFL draft.  Then along came the NFL combines.  DHB ran a 4.3 40 at the combines and Al Davis was smiling like the Grinch on Christmas morning.  Even though he only had 138 catches for 1958 yards in 3 years at Maryland, DHB shockingly was chosen.

I remember destroying this pick in an article the next day and getting destroyed back by Raider fans saying I needed to give him time.  Was 4 years enough?

In an amazing 300 targets in 4 years, DHB only caught 140 passes for 11 TD’s.  In that same time Michael Crabtree caught 260 catches on 429 targets and 21 td’s.  Local station KNBR radio joked that for Raider fans sake 40 times at the NFL combines should be kept away from Al Davis.

#9 Jessie Hester WR: #1, #23 overall (1985 draft)

This pick is usually forgotten by most.  During the glory days of Florida St. football, Jessie Hester was a star.  He was quick and loved to go deep.  At 5’ 11” and 175 lbs. He looked like Cliff Branch and the Raiders drafted him in the first round.

In 3 years Hester caught 56 passes for 10 touchdowns and the Raiders cut him before year 4.  He found a short term home for 4 years at Indianapolis as the #3 and #4 WR but he mostly was a second tier player.  He ended up being a huge bust for the Raiders that few talk about.

#8 Derrick Gibson CB: #1, #28 overall (2001 draft)

At the NFL combines Derrick Gibson was a star.  He bench pressed 400 lbs. and ran a 4.40-4.45 forty.  At 6’ 2” and 210 lbs., you could see teams swooning.  Marquez Pope blew a coverage and was beaten by Baltimore’s tight end Shannon Sharpe for a 96 yard TD in the playoffs that sealed the Raiders fate.  A safety was needed.

Gibson struggled a lot in tackling and he had terrible instincts against the pass.  Many college safeties are free lancers with little responsibility and that’s what Gibson was.  After 5 years the Raiders cut Gibson and no other NFL team ever picked him up.  Another in the long line of NFL combine and work out warriors Al Davis fell in love with who was a huge bust.

#7 John Clay OL: #1, #15 overall (1987 draft)

When Missouri stand out John Clay was drafted by the Raiders #15 overall, the Raiders thought they had a tackle for the next 10 years.  At 6’ 5” and an athletic 300 lbs., he fit the mold as a huge Raiders OL.  After 1 year though the Raiders realized they had made a mistake.  They traded him to the Chargers along with two draft choices for all world OL Jim Lachey.  Problem was they traded Lachey; who starred for Washington; for Jay Schroeder who never panned out at QB.  Clay only started in 10 games and played 2 seasons in the NFL until he was out of the league.

#6 Ted Watts S: #1, #21 overall (1981 draft)

What made this pick so painful is that the Raiders also had the #23 pick in the first round and they selected OL Curt Marsh who rarely played due to injuries.  In 5 years Marsh was out of the NFL with only 22 starts.  If it wasn’t for 2nd round pick Howie Long this draft would have been disastrous.

Al Davis told the media, Hanford Dixon, and anyone else that would listen that he was taking the Southern Mississippi CB if he was there at the #21 pick.  Dixon was there but Al Davis took Ted Watts out of Texas Tech instead.  Why?  Because he had better 40 times than Dixon and because Dixon refused to run more than once.  Dixon went on to a storied 9 year career at Cleveland being one of the best CB’s in the NFL.  The 3 time pro bowler is revered in Cleveland and in all those years he missed 5 starts.

Ted Watts only started 22 games in 4 years with the Raiders and he just never caught on as a starter.  He was not a good tackler and seemed over-matched in coverage.  He bounced around to the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers and was out of the league in 6 years only starting in 25 of the 74 games he played.

#5 Patrick Bates S: #1, #12 overall (1993 draft)

Some thought the Raiders might go with Alabama safety George Teague who thrived on making big plays but the Raiders stood pat and chose Texas A & M star Patrick Bates.  He was a part of the Aggies famous “Wrecking Crew” defense.

His first year was at UCLA and within a month of each other his mother and grandmother; who he was very close to; both died.  After transferring to Texas A & M for a new start, he was arrested for assault.

He was eventually arrested for holding a woman at gun point.  On the field he wasn’t much better.  He seemed more athlete than football player and wasn’t that big of a hitter either.  He was out of the league in 3 years ending his career with 1 interception.  Teague had a 9 year career and even though it wasn’t great, he had some great moments and some good seasons.  He still holds the record for a post season interception returned for a touchdown with his 101 yard interception return against Detroit in the first round of the 1993 playoffs.

#4 Bob Buczcowski DE: #1, #24 overall (1986 draft)

This guy really was a pimp.  This is a name that the Raiders; and especially the NFL want you to forget.  Bob had a good career at Pitt and the Raiders seemed to like him more than some other teams which had him going in the second round.  The Raiders chose him and the rest is infamous history.

He played for the Raiders one year and was let go.  He then played a year each at Arizona and Cleveland before he was out of the league.

In 2005 he was arrested for being a co-conspirator in a drug and prostitution ring in Pennsylvania.  His live in girlfriend was Amy Schifano who was known as the Monroeville Madam.  It was said that they had up to 300 calls a day and they rented hotel rooms for clients.  There also was cocaine distribution involved.  Facing 87 years in prison, Buzcowski turned states evidence and became a witness for the prosecution for a much reduced sentence.  His final sentence was 90 days house arrest.  A bust that got busted.  Don’t blame me; it writes itself!

#3 Marc Wilson QB: #1, #15 overall (1980 draft)

First off you will not find a nicer guy than Marc Wilson.  He ended up being a successful businessman.  In a couple of interviews in the last 10 years he summed up his career.  “It may not have seemed it at times but I really put my all in my career.  Football is my least favorite sport and when I played in the NFL I never felt I was good enough to have control over the game.  It was always a struggle.  In basketball and baseball I felt in control.  I just wish it would have went better.  I don’t even watch football anymore and have no desire to go to games.”

With a rocket arm but little accuracy, Marc Wilson was drafted by the Raiders out of BYU.  He was one of the originators of the QBU era of the Cougars.  In a QB poor draft the Raiders knew that Jim Plunkett was still kind of a crap shoot.  From 1980-1986, the Raiders had a revolving door at QB.  Plunkett would start and then struggle and then Marc Wilson would take over.  Wilson would struggle or get hurt and then Plunkett started.  Add an injury here and there and it was a mess at times.  In that time Plunkett had one really good year in 1983 (Raiders won the Super Bowl), and Wilson had one good year in 1985 (Raiders were considered favorites to go to the Super Bowl).

In 1985 Wilson was atrocious in the first round of the playoffs and the heavily favored Raiders lost to the Patriots 27-20 at home.  Wilson was 11 for 27 with 3 INT’s and 1 TD and was booed off the field.  The upstart Patriots shocked the NFL by going to the Super Bowl and being destroyed by the 1985 Bears.

In his 8 years as a Raider QB he only started 50 games.  He was 31-19 and he gave Raider fans nightmares.  Many feel if it wasn’t for injuries in the 1970’s the Raiders would have had 1 more Super Bowl win, and if it had better QB play in the 80’s they would have had 1 more Super Bowl win in that decade as well.  The Raiders had a lot of talent but the Plunkett/Wilson roller coaster was a hit or miss saga with more misses than hits as time went on.  To old school Raider fans, just the mention of Marcs name brings tingles down the spine.  What could have been.

#2 Todd Marinovich QB: #1, #24 overall (1991 Draft)

In the late 1980’s ESPN started picking up a loyal viewership and Todd Marinovich was one of their first media darlings.

Lost in Robo QB history, was that his father Marv was the first ever strength and conditioning coach in the NFL.  He was hired by?  Al Davis.  He studied Eastern Bloc training methods and many of his methods were used in the origination of core training and are still used today.

Todd as an infant teethed on frozen liver and kidneys.  He could not eat white sugar or processed food and only drank raw milk.  Up until his adulthood he was not allowed to eat fast food or sweets.  He rarely ate red meat.

After his parents divorced he really was out of control.  His pot use was so bad in high school opponents fans chanted Marijuanavich & he was busted for cocaine.  President Reagan honored Todd at his home after a big win & he was the Johnny Manziel of his time with celebs always wanting to party with him.

In the pro’s his drug use was worse.  He passed NFL drug tests by using friends urine, until once he used a friend that had partied all night and he tested positive for alcohol.  He then turned to LSD which wasn’t tested for.  He was out of the league in 2 years starting only 9 games including 1 playoff game where he threw 4 INT’s in a 10-6 loss to Kansas City.  Pittsburgh attempted to sign him but he told them he no longer wanted to play in the NFL.  He played in Canada for a short time.  A real troubled person who seems to be doing better in life.

#1 Jamarcus WR: #1, #1 overall (2007 draft)

It’s funny how many Raider fans defended these picks at the time  (Come on; you know who you are).  My fights online with them are of legend.  This was another one of those picks I hated and maybe received the most hate of all time.  Here were iconic college players Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson who were men among boys in college being thrown away for Jamarcus Russell.  A guy that got famous in a bowl game against a Notre Dame defense that was one of the worst in the country and the NFL combines where he threw 65 yards on one knee.

Russell in college was an amazing athlete.  He was huge; 6’ 6” and 270.  Problem was against teams like Auburn and others who ran a pro style type defense he struggled.  He was not an accurate QB but he could throw it a mile.  At the NFL combines he wowed teams with his size and big arm.  John Clayton said, “how could anyone not pick him #1.”

He played 3 years for the Raiders and in 25 starts he was 7-18.  With his poor conditioning and his struggles with drugs, he was let go.  He tried some come backs but was never really taken seriously.

Well there you have it.  The importance of quality drafts can’t be explained any more clearer than with these busts.  The draft is the key to creating and sustaining a winner in the salary cap era.

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“Oakland Raiders First 2 Signings Bigger Than People Think; Meet the Players”

 

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As fans, it’s hard to not get excited every year about your team.  Every fan base is the same.  Baseball has made it an art form.

For anyone that has followed and read me on my return the last year and a half, they know I’m obsessed with facts and being honest.  Facts are always greater than opinions.  I have the following I have because people trust me and I work hard for them; I want people to know the inside stuff, not the fluff.  I don’t have an editor or corporation telling me what I can and can’t say so I’m unique; I’m straight up.  So If I think a team did something good, I really believe it.  The Raiders did something good; twice.

For Raider fans the last 13 years have been very difficult.  Even with bad teams, the fan base has been very excited every year; but in reality they should be excited by all that is happening before this upcoming season.

With the start of free agency, the Raiders have signed their first two players.  Let’s look at why these signings were extra special.

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Kelechi Osemele (OL from Baltimore):

This signing solidifies the Raiders offensive line.  The OL was good last year but it should really shine this year with the signing of Kelechi Osemele.

Osemele is an old school Raider type and he’s only 26.  He’s huge at 6’ 5” 330 lbs. and he’s extremely physical.  In the back end of the zone blocking era, he’s an old school power run blocker, and a very physical pass blocker.  He also brings a great amount of versatility which will help.  He’s played both tackle and guard equally well which helps with depth and flexibility which is important during the salary cap era.  He earned a Super Bowl ring being a starter on a very good Baltimore Ravens offensive line his rookie year.

Derek Carr is a good quarterback but he is no where near the same quarterback when he’s under a pass rush.  The better the protection, the more successful he is.  It wasn’t a coincidence that he struggled at times during the second half of the season while the Raiders sacks against totals increased.

He was 31st in 4th quarter passer rating and last in interceptions in the 4th quarter.  These stats can be helped with this signing.  People liked to blame the OL totally but some of this wasn’t on them though; the Raiders didn’t adjust to teams playing two deep zone and taking away the long pass; but in reality the better you protect Derek Carr, the more offensive success the Raiders will have.  This signing is a very big one and I’m sure Carr and the Raiders are very excited.

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Linebacker Bruce Irvin with Orlando Super Fan Camden Ayres

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/25143820/look-bruce-irvin-meets-seahawks-fans-in-florida-makes-one-kids-day

Bruce Irvin (LB from Seattle):

Bruce Irvin is one of those players whose importance is not seen in the stat sheets, but in the way he plays.  This is an underrated signing but for much different reasons than people think.  He’s played a key role in Seattle’s defense and they will have problems replacing him.

If you feel the Raiders are now going to rival the best pass rushes in the NFL then you really don’t get this signing.  In Irvin’s rookie year, he got 8 sacks with 16 tackles and many thought he’d be a huge pass rusher.  He has leveled out his pass rush stats the last 3 years getting 14 of them.  Last year he had 5.5 sacks and 38 tackles.  Not eye popping numbers but solid.

What Irvin DOES bring to the table for the Raiders is something that has been lacking in their defense for a long time.  As I stated in my preview of last year, the Raiders signings were good but the problem was that many of the defensive players were one dimensional.

Curtis Lofton at LB was a good tackler and good against the run, but he struggles covering the pass.  If teams passed on first down, Lofton was exposed.   Malcolm Smith is a good cover guy at LB but not that great against the run.  Dan Williams shored up the run defense but he’s not a pass rusher in any way.

What Irvin gives the Raiders is versatility and an ability to play all 4 downs.  He can rush the passer or play the run at DE, and he can stop the run and cover at LB.  He gives them a flexibility to move him around like he did at Seattle which helped their defense a lot.  His ability to play all downs was very important to their success.  The Seattle DL was very good and it helped to have a versatile player like Irvin that teams could not scheme against because they moved him around so much.  I hope the Raiders do the same with Irvin because he is a good talent in the prime of his career at 28.

Final Thoughts:

Free agency is always a crazy time.  Fans forget that there are 31 other teams that want these players, and many times it’s the signing of lesser known players that makes the team much better.  You can’t pick and choose who you want, and 90% of the rumors being thrown about are mostly wrong.  It’s fun to talk about though but in reality many of the things bantered about don’t come true.

The game has changed; DB’s just can’t cover players for long periods of time with the new rules protecting WR so a stud DL and pass rush isn’t a need anymore, it’s a must have.  In the early parts of free agency though, already the Raiders went far into shoring up their team for next year.  There is still a lot of work to do, but this is a great start.

“Why Jim Harbaugh Said no to the NFL & the Raiders, & the Good & Bad Choices for Oaklands Next Head Coach”

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Now with reports pretty much stating that Jim Harbaugh is moving to Ann Arbor Michigan to coach the Wolverines, who are some of the good and bad choices for the Oakland Raiders head coaching position.  Before we get into that, what the heck happened to Jim Harbaugh?

Why did Harbaugh Not pick the Raiders?

Contrary to what Michigan fans will say, Harbaugh is pretty much taking a step backwards for more money. Why would he do that when a Superbowl is so important to him?

Take it for what you will, but rumors are leaking in the local media that the main issue with Harbaugh is that he was sick of the behavior of the NFL players. He wanted full control over discipline and the 49ers told him no.   Last year in an interview Harbaugh ripped into Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks because they had so many issues with PED suspensions and off the field matters. Unfortunately during this year, the 49ers had several arrests and problems that occurred and Harbaugh was confronted with his statements.   He was embarrassed by the arrests and off the field issues the 49er players were having and when the 49ers didnt’ comment at times or just let things go, Harbaugh was the one that had to answer for the behavior and lack of discipline and it made him look like a hypocrite. It made him look very bad and he didn’t like it.   In a local interview he once said that he would never allow anyone that committed domestic violence to be on his team.

In the psycho world of college football; at Michigan; he will be worshipped and paid and given anything that he wants and he will get to work less hours. To think though that he wont be back into the NFL in 3-4 years would be naive.  For the control freak Harbaugh, he will have all the control he wants.  And to be honest, it’s hard to blame him.

Retreads v.s. Young hungry Coordinators:

Years ago before he took the New Orleans Saints job, I wanted Dallas assistant head coach Sean Payton to be the Oakland coach. The Raiders interviewed him and Bill Parcells raved about him but they didn’t hire him. Many Raider fans and media didn’t want him because they said he had no experience.   Unfortunately hiring coaches with experience losing usually leads to one thing; losing. Sean Payton now has a Superbowl ring and the Raiders in 12 years are 57-135 which is the worst losing stretch in 124 years.

I also love when people say, “the Raiders need someone with post season success and experience”.  Well then bring up some names.  Gruden, Cowher, and other analysts are not leaving million dollar jobs where they barely have to work so they can work 20 hour days and never see their loved ones.  Mike Holmgren is talking about the great times with his grand children so thinking a soon to be 67 year old who hasn’t coached since 2008 and had a disastrous front office stint in 2010-12 with the Browns is going to hop up out of bed and be the head coach or full time GM for an NFL team is naive.  Holmgren does like attention and seems to always like to put his name in the NFL rumor mill like Gruden, but it’s nothing more than that.  I see him possibly being a consultant for some time but even then I don’t see him doing anything full time.  It’s easy to want something but you need to be realistic.

 With Harbaugh gone; these are my 4 best candidates to be the Raiders next head coach.

  1. Todd Bowles Defensive Coordinator, Arizona Cardinals; Bowles is an organized no nonsense guy, who is a great teacher and developer of the defensive front 7. He has the formula to win in the NFL; stop the run and rush the passer. Even with so many injuries this year, Arizona lead the very tough NFC west for most of the year, and their defense again lead the way. The 49ers are already trying to interview him. Maybe he will convince the Raiders to stop drafting so many busts at DB in the first and second round over the last 12 years and concentrate on the front 7.
  1. Dan Quinn Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks.   Reports are that he”s leaning towards the Jets because he’s from there. He’s another tough minded no nonsense guy who isn’t the flashy Rex Ryan type and doesnt’ like the limelight, but man can he coach. Even with many players leaving Seattle, they now are healthy and dominating on defense like they were last year. He’s an ultra aggressive coach who likes when the quarterback is on the ground. Seattle always is hard to run on as well and he’s very well respected by everyone.   They play an intimidating style that makes the defensive fans from the 70’s drool with excitement.
  1. Ray Horton (My sleeper pick); Defensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns.   How that defense survives with that terrible offense is beyond me. The Cleveland 3 and outs. Horton has an uncanny knack for evaluating talent and is a great builder of defenses.   Another tough minded guy who is ultra aggressive. He was a finalist last year for the Arizona job which shows how much people think of him.   He’s a diamond in the rough but with Cleveland’s pathetic offense and ownership, he’s not getting the credit he deserves.
  1. Darrell Bevell: Offensive Coordinator, Seattle. Bevell is more laid back than the other 3 but he was the one that talked Pete Carroll into drafting Russell Wilson. When ESPN ripped on Seattle for picking Wilson, Carroll joked and said, “don’t look at me, he’s the Bevell project”.   Bevell changed the offense twice for Wilson the last two years after Golden Tate and others left the team.   He loves the power running game with a mix in of passing variations. He’s a good play caller and Wilson gives Bevell a lot of credit in regards to his development. Derek Carr could do a lot worse than have him as his head coach.

My worries are that the Raiders will do what they do many times in this situation. They will take forever to make a decision. Paralysis by analysis. The 49ers are already setting up interviews as we speak (or as we read). .

Coaches NOT to consider.

I still dont understand why fans would want a coach that is losing in one place and then think all of a sudden they are going to do great things at another place.  I mean if you have Tom Brady I can understand it, but that is rare.  Losing coaches usually do one thing again.  They lose.  This is a list of those coaches that the Raiders need to avoid.

  1. Rex Ryan, former NY Jets coach: A legend in his own mind that would love to do a movie on himself. He loves the sound of his own voice and at times is more of a snake oil salesman than a head coach. Fans love him because he tells them what they want to hear but they just aren’t listening anymore.  The once darling of the New York media, he is now getting hung by the same people.  As a coordinator out of the limelight he’s very good. As a head coach in 6 years he has only 2 winning seasons and in the last 4 years he’s only 28-38. He’s not a head coach, plus he’s a pain.  His offenses rarely impress and even in his first 2 years they weren’t juggernauts. The Jets get worse the longer he coaches.  Bad sign.
  1. Tony Sporano; present Oakland Raiders coach; I’m not going to get mad. Let’s just say he’s not a good head coach. The Raiders were outscored in their last 3 road games 130-27 and in their last 4 road games they averaged 8 points a game. He was fired at Miami for a reason and his ultra conservative nature is downright annoying. Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler would tell him to open things up he’s so conservative.   And if I have to see him and Greg Olsen on the sidelines any more it may be too much to take. He’s a good football guy; seems like a good person, but he is not a good head coach.  No coach is getting fired from a job to be an offensive line coach so he isn’t staying.
  1. Mike Smith, former Atlanta Hawks coach:

He didn’t seem to be that into the offensive side of the ball. The Atlanta Falcons clock management was awful during his tenure and his record the last two years was 10-22. Not all of it is his fault. I think Matt Ryan is overrated; but Atlanta has become a train wreck with a lack of discipline and mental errors and that has to be put partly on Mike Smith. Some of his clock managements screw ups are of legend in Atlanta.  No

  1. Doug Marrone, present Buffalo Bills head coach:

This would be a waste of time.  He’s a good option but not great so I’d pass.  ESPN put up a story that Bills coach Doug Marrone has a 3 day window where he can go to another NFL team so now some Raider fans have wondered about him coming to Oakland. Marrone has done a solid job at Buffalo and if you take away the defensive injuries the last 2 weeks, they arguably are a good quarterback away from being a top NFL team. Reports back east though say Marrone is not interested in leaving. I find it hard to see him leave a team with a lot of talent; especially with wide receiver Sammy Watkins and that great defense; and go to a team that has the worst DL in the NFL and can’t score. I think he stays in Buffalo so it is kind of a waste of time..

  1. Adam Gase, Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos:

The name Adam Gase is beginning to be thrown around the ESPN rumor mill as a possible new head coach in the NFL. Remember whatever some of the experts say to do; just do the opposite.

In 2000 Adam Gase was a graduate assistant at LSU. That means he was pretty much a volunteer coach, which wasn’t that long ago. In his entire life he’s been an offensive coordinator for a year and a half.   He’s an OC on an offense that has a control freak quarterback in Peyton Manning who pretty much runs the offense.   He is throwing behind a really good offensive line and maybe throws to the best group of receivers in the NFL where Wes Welker finds it hard to get playing time. If anyone thinks Adam Gase is the architect for the Denver offense and would be a good head coach then I’ve got a big Orange bridge in San Francisco I want to sell you; real cheap.

  1. Jack Del Rio, Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos:

He’s a local boy from the bay area. He is beginning to be a popular choice for the Raiders job recently.   I’m not a huge Jack Del Rio Fan.   I think he did an alright job at Jacksonville but he had issues too. I like him as a defensive coordinator but as a head coach, there are much better options. His career record as a head coach is 68-71 and in 9 years the Jags only had 3 winning seasons. On the positive, for the most part most of the years he coached the Jacksonville defenses were fairly good but his teams always seemed to struggle offensively over the course of a season. He went to the playoffs twice in 9 years and was 1-2.  I think he’s another one of the well liked ex-players who always seems to be talked about as a head coach because of his popularity..

History of Bad Coaching Decisions by Oakland: Looking back, part of the Raiders issues when hiring a coach was control. Al Davis wanted nothing to do with a coach that wasn’t a yes man. That’s why he and Gruden eventually parted ways. Another problem is the Raiders wait too long to find a coach.   Again; Paralysis by analysis.

What has happened in the past with the Raiders is that they take their time; sometimes a very long time; to pick a coach and in today’s NFL that is a huge mistake.   Usually all of the good coaching prospects are hired fairly quickly, and they are left with retreads or young assistants with no clue to what is going on. Many also have not paid their dues through the assistant ranks and they really are in over their heads when they get hired as head coaches.

If Oakland takes too long, they will end up with another Norv Turner or Dennis Allen type and this time next year they will again be looking for a coaching option. Time is of the essence if the Oakland Raiders are going to rebuild this franchise and they need to take a chance on an up and coming assistant who have paid their dues in the NFL.  The NFL is a better place when the Raiders are doing well.  And to be honest I am tired of writing about all of the losing the Raiders have been doing over the last 12  years.  Happy Raider fans are more fun than angry and depressed ones.

“In 3 Minutes the Two Most Famous Goals in World Cup History Shocked the Soccer World”

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While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi rule the soccer world today, if you were to ask historians who the greatest soccer player of all time is, you would probably get two answers.  For many, the majestic and magical Pele’ may be their answer. To others though it would be the great Diego Maradona.  While in today’s soccer world athleticism and speed is a huge tool for players like Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Pele’ and Maradona used their ball handling skills and imagination to delight the world of soccer. They were more than soccer greats, they were artists.

The 1986 World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico between Argentina and England had a deep rooted meaning of anger and bitterness. In 1982 the Falkland War between Argentina and the UK had begun.   It was a 3 month war that created extreme friction between the two countries. This game meant so much to both teams.

Maradona had electrified crowds with his vision, cunning, and amazing ball handling and playmaking skills.   Listed at 5′ 7″ tall, in reality he was only 5′ 5″ tall but he had a strong, stocky build with muscular legs. He led Argentina into the quarterfinals with dominating expertise on the pitch.

The talented England squad had a lot of expectations. They had their only World Cup win in 1966 when they were the host country. England and Argentina were both soccer crazy countries and if you add the Falkland War into the mix, this game meant much more than a World Cup semi final birth.

On June 22, 1986, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City was magical. The place was rocking with an amazing 105,000 people jammed into the stadium. Chants, songs, and every noise device known on earth were in full effect from the fans. On a warm, sunny day the electricity in the crowd along with all the beautiful colors would create a once in a lifetime experience.   Half Wizard of Oz, half religious experience, this game would be one for the ages.

The first half was a feeling out period for the most part. Both sides being wary of the scoring talents of the other. England’s star Gary Lineker was watched closely by Argentina. Lineker would later win the Golden Shoe award for the highest scorer in the World Cup.

In the second half Argentina came out more aggressive. In the 51st minute, Maradona went on one of his patented drives.   As he entered the goal box, he attempted a give and go move to his teammate. The English defender intercepted the pass but kicked the ball toward the English goalie. Maradona; who had kept going in the hopes of getting a return pass; jumped up in front of the goalie and hit the ball. GOAL!   But was it? The England team protested wildly saying that he had hit the ball with his hand. The referee said he did not see that and allowed the goal.

Later when he was interviewed and asked about the goal, the Argentine star said that the goal was scored, “A bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God”. From then on in sports lore, this goal was known as the “Hand of God” goal.

Diego Maradona had just started. Three minutes later he took a simple pass on Argentina’s side of the field. Maradona then took off like a jet and dribbled through 5 English defenders and went the length of the field. English goal keeper Peter Shilton could do nothing as a rocket shot went past him. The Argentina crowd went crazy and the stadium was electrified. Famous Spanish Speaking announcer from Argentina, Victor Hugo Morales, was going nuts actually thanking God for seeing such a goal. Immediately people knew they had seen something special. In 2002 FIFA and the soccer world voted this goal as the goal of the century and the greatest goal ever scored.

Argentina was up 2-0 now but England was not going to go away quietly. At the 70th minute England substituted in John Barnes.   Immediately his energy and passing skills changed everything. Barnes began to pound the goal area with crosses. England looked like a different team and in the 81st minute a cross was put in the goal by Lineker. It wasn’t over yet. At the 87th minute with the crowd on their feet, another great Barnes cross was sent over the middle to an open Lineker but it was inches out of his reach. A few minutes later the crowd roared when the three whistles of the referee marked the end of the game. The game meant so much that many in Argentina felt this was partial revenge for the bitter military conflict between the two countries.

After the game the media and the soccer world was buzzing. People knew they had seen something special, and the charismatic Maradona fueled that fire on and off the field.

To this day Maradona is celebrated by most fans, especially in Argentina where he has icon status. For Americans to understand what a star Maradona is; especially during his heyday; think Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth; COMBINED. And that isn’t an overstatement.

Some fans though are also disappointed and embarrassed by his lifestyle and mistakes.   He was suspended for 15 months in the Italian league in 1991 when he tested positive for cocaine and he was also sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. for testing positive for stimulants. He owes millions in back taxes in Italy and has had more than a few run ins with the law, the press, and even soccer officials in his own country.

For all the turmoil Maradona has created in his life, the 1986 World Cup will always be his shining moment.  To this day just the sound of his name brings back great memories to Argentina and the soccer world. And in a 3 minute span, he created sports history that will be talked about forever.