With the announcement of Oakland Raiders star pass rusher Khalil Mack’s hold out, some began to worry if there was a possibility the Raiders may eventually lose Mack after this season. I love social media and it already has many comments on the subject. Some are tweeting Mack is done with the Raiders and others are saying he won’t be there week 1. As we always do, let’s be realistic about this situation.
I said after the Super Bowl that if I was Khalil Mack, I would not play another play without a long term deal. If Mack plays the last year of his contract and gets hurt, he will lose money, and maybe a lot of it.
Some said that they want Mack to just show up and play because he is making a good salary now but that would be ridiculous. At 27 years old, this will be Mack’s biggest contract signing of his career, so he needs to cash in on it big time.
Last year the Rams all world DT Aaron Donald held out until the day before the season started wanting a new contract. Rams fans/writers were losing their minds saying he ruined his season and he was done in Los Angeles. After a few weeks Donald was back to form terrorizing offenses while being double teamed most of the year. I do agree that it remains to be seen if the Rams burned a bridge with him but the hopes there is that they can work out a long term deal.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up for Pittsburgh until September 1st and after a sluggish start, began to dominate in week 4 becoming maybe the best all around RB in the NFL. After the season ended, ridiculous rumors started popping up that the Raiders were in the lead to get Bell. I reminded a national writer and several local writers that this was nonsense. For a year Pittsburgh said that they were going to franchise Bell and that was that. Well, that is exactly what happened.
You have to think these things through and not just throw things on the wall to get a rise out of people. Thus when you hear rumors, read the people you trust and do your own homework and see that most rumors are nothing to worry about.
The Reggie McKenzie Factor:
Just like with Derek Carr, Reggie McKenzie isn’t the type to want to wait until the last second to sign a player. They want to sign Mack quickly before his final year begins. Both sides are reasonable, want to have a relationship, and feel good about getting it done. Remember that Derek Carr signed on June 22nd of last year so there is no need to panic. I would not overreact to all of the nasty nipping and fighting that may occur during these types of negotiations. When a deal is done, most everything is forgiven no matter how nasty the negotiations.
Last year in a nice interview with NBC Bay Area, Mack stated that he knows this is a business. He also said he wanted to be a Raider for life and that it’s a no-brainer for him to stay with Oakland for the rest of his career. Mack has shown himself to be honest and level headed. Nothing has changed and I see Mack signing something long term most likely sooner than later.
Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are playing a cat and mouse game to see who signs first, so the other player can get an idea of what to ask for. As for head coach Jon Gruden, he just wants him on the field again. Even in a couple of press conferences this week, Gruden said that what the Raiders do in contracts is private, but he said they would like to have Mack back signed as quickly as possible and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement. He also commented that part of coming back as a coach was to coach for Mack.
Should Raider fans be worried right now? No. If I was Mack I’d hold out until the season started if needed, and then I’d tell the Raiders the time to talk ended and I’m opting out for free agency at the end of the season. Of course during the season I’d still be negotiating and trying to sign a deal.
I personally think Mack will sign in late June or even July. I don’t think it could play out until August but who knows. Either way I’d be shocked and stunned if he kept holding out. It’s the same thing I told fans back when Derek Carr signed and people got worried. If Khalil doesn’t have a contract after the season starts then I’d worry, but even then I wouldn’t lose my mind.
The Raiders are not going to be pushovers and just cave in to his demands but as long as he’s not hurt, Mack is holding all of the aces. With him there are still some big questions on defense for the Raiders but without him there are HUGE issues. The Raiders are not going to let him go because they need him big time. This is not Jr. High School loyalty folks, this is the NFL and it’s business. In the end I see Mack playing for the Raiders for a long, long time and I’d worry more about other things in life like what you are having for dinner and who will win the World Cup.
The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me. It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team. It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s to early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts. Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF. As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.
To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts. Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold. A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years. In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches. Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are. Paralysis by analysis. If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.
For now though, let’s forget the drafts of today that might work out well, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.
#5: 1974 Draft:
1st Henry Lawrence T
2nd Dave Casper TE
3rd Mark Van Eeghen
4th Morris Bradshaw
Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle. Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history. With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands, he, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.
Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all. He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL. A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s. Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team. The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards. Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history. You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.
In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years. He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.
#4: 1972 Draft:
1st Mike Siani WR
2nd John Vella OL
4th Cliff Branch WR
4th Dave Dalby OL
7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB
To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners. What a problem to have. Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games. John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time. Their size and toughness wore opponents down. Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.
Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen. During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”. This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so good.
#3: 1977 Draft:
2nd Mike Davis
4th Mickey Marvin
5th Lester Hayes
5th Jeff Barnes
8th Terry Robiskie
12th Rod Martin
Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players. Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years. Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF. Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era. Terry Robiskie was an excellent special teams player and backup RB.
#2: 1971 Draft:
1st Jack Tatum DB
2nd Phil Villapiano LB
4th Clarence Davis
5th Bob Moore
12th Horace Jones
“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio. “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them. They were so physically imposing and strong.”
Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF. Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different. His hits sounded like a car wreck”. George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odom’s so hard that I thought he killed him. It sounded like a car wreck”. He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders. Jack’s timing was unmatched. If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF. RIP to both of them.
A huge get was Phil Villapiano. Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small. Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round. The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round. They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was. Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense. He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender. There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well. His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider. The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.
Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player. His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized. Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.
#1: 1968 Draft:
2nd Ken Stabler QB
3rd Art Shell T
4th Charlie Smith RB
7th George Atkinson DB
11th Marv Hubbard
Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft. If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good. Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.
In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line. In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.
This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all. They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell. With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball. All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.
Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety. What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning. Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years.
So there you have it. These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history. The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players. In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank. History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over. If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come. When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports. When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility. Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.
The NFL has done a masterful job in getting people addicted to the NFL draft. Some even pay “experts” to tell them who will be drafting who. The funny thing is if an expert can get 6-8 picks in the first round right, then that is really good. About 5 years ago KNBR pointed out after the draft how Mel Kiper Jr.; the present draft guru; got ONE pick right in the first round. What this tells us is that your guess is as good as theirs.
I first got into the draft in the 1980’s. To the ire of my mom, my dad and I would watch hours of the coverage. She would vacuum under our feet and sigh every once in a while letting us know that Dr. Z’s thoughts on an offensive linemen was not vital to mankind’s existence. “How in the world can you watch hours of grown men talking about who to choose to go on a stupid football team?” Eventually my dad would say,”your mother is mad, let’s get some stuff done”.
My friends and I picked up the torch. In 2000 we started having a draft party. We would take the day off work to the chagrin of our female partners, and drink adult beverages, eat food, and draft for each of our favorite teams. We vowed to keep our draft picks and the following year (and years) we would rip on each other or brag about each of our picks. As a Raider fan, what really was sad is that a bloke like me drafted 100 times better than the Raiders did for almost 2 decades.
ESPN did a great article saying what I’ve been saying for years; NFL teams do not draft very well; especially at Quarterback. If you look at the NFL draft history, no team stands out as a great drafting team and most have had a lot more misses than they would like to admit.
Why The NFL Struggles With the NFL Draft:
It’s really not that hard. I can’t remember who said it, but during one of the drafts, he told a great story. “If you have a beautiful woman standing in front of you, you are amazed at her perfection. If you look at her day after day then all of a sudden she’s a little too fat in some areas and she’s not as pretty as you thought. If you look hard at something long enough, you will find flaws and imperfections”.
The NFL combines is that over analyzing factor. I never watch or care about it. If a team denies 3 to 4 years of game film because a guy impresses them while wearing gym shorts in an air conditioned arena, then you deserve what you get. I remember half a dozen DB’s (and even a WR) picked by the Raiders alone purely because they had the fastest 40 times at the combines but they ended up being huge busts. Darrius Heyward-Bey was never really that good at Maryland and couldn’t carry Michael Crabtree’s jock but his 40 time wowed Al Davis and the rest is history. Still remember all of the Raider fans telling me to give him time. I hope they still aren’t waiting.
The NFL has also become a cookie cutter league. They have a certain size that they love in players. For QB’s if you are 6’ 3” and over with a big arm, you are anointed a great prospect. I watched Wyoming QB Josh Allen in a lot of games and to be honest I never saw him as a great QB or even a first rounder.
Josh Allen has bust written all over him but he’s big and has a rocket arm. He’s never been in the top 50 in QB rating and against the best competition he’s faced, he had his worst games. In contrast players like Baker Mayfield and Georgia LB’s Roquan Smith’s best games were against their best competition.
In true NFL manner, someone also has brought up tweets that Allen made when he was 15 and 16 trying to stir it up. Funny how they are brought into the news right before the draft, but no one said this wasn’t a dirty business.
To me the NFL is as ridiculous as it gets with some of their research. The dumb questions teams and scouts ask at the NFL combines are of legend. This year one possible draft pick was asked if he was gay and another was asked what type of women he liked. Other dumb questions that players have admitted they were asked will astound you. Do you wear boxers or briefs; is your mom pretty; what’s the most popular drug at your school; if you had to kill someone, would you use a knife or a gun?; when did you lose your virginity; what team do you pick in Madden and why?; if I give you a paper clip, what things would you do with it? And these are the “experts” that some fans like to defend when people question teams choices?
Fans v.s. Teams:
Personally I’ve had some stud drafts over the years. Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson have been great picks for me but I’m honest. I also wanted Matt Leinart so I’ve had my train wrecks too. While the Raiders picked Gareon Conley last year I chose Reuben Foster. I like my chances on that one too.
This years draft will be classic because there are so many QB’s in it which means there will be busts. For me I’m not in love with any of the QB prospects. Darnold is a turnover machine who takes too many chances; Rosen has to have a lot of time because he struggles against a rush; and Lamar Jackson out of Louisville looks like an athlete playing QB a lot like Terrelle Pryor and even former Texas Longhorn QB Vince Young.
The Raiders will choose……..
Oakland will pick in the #10 spot after losing the coin flip to San Francisco. What stinks is that the 49ers have many of the needs that Oakland does. San Francisco would love to have another linebacker to go with Reuben Foster and their young and talented DL but they also have huge holes in the secondary just like the Raiders.
As I’ve said before, the rule changes have made passing the ball so much easier and it’s limited the effectiveness of defensive backs. You have to have a pass rush. The Patriots lead the NFL in post season sacks and who would think Tom Brady would be stopped on his last 2 drives in the Super Bowl? The Eagles pass rush stopped those drives. Offense puts butts in the seats but defense wins championships. The Raiders pass rush was poor again last year and that is with Khalil Mack in the fold. They desperately need a DT that can push the pocket back to opening up sack opportunities. Below are the players that they are almost certain to have on their draft board.
Roquan Smith, LB Georgia
I don’t think he will last. If he drops down to the 49ers it’s hard to think them passing up on him. Smith can play every down and can start immediately and he and Foster would be some tandem in the 49er recent tradition of linebackers. He can play every down and he’s legit.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama
I’m into pass rush and having a stud defensive front 7 but Minkah is a stud. Some teams say he doesn’t have the ideal size but I like him a lot. If the Raiders do get him then it says they aren’t exactly thrilled with #2 draft pick safety Obi Melifonwu which means another wasted pick. Obi is an amazing athlete but he has little instinct especially in the passing game. I did not like the pick last year. Karl Joseph also struggles at times in pass coverage. Fitzpatrick is instinctive and can tackle. The Raiders have missed a lot on draft picks, and you can’t keep redrafting and resigning positions due to mistakes and win.
Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
McGlinchey is the sexy pick of late for draft “guru’s”. He is a polished player who is 6’ 8” and 310 pounds. Most feel that he needs to hit the weight room a bit but overall he is a great talent who can start right away. They need defense so I’m not so sure about this pick. The Raiders defense isn’t that good and they have to upgrade the talent.
Vita Vea, DT Washington
I love this pick. He can move the pocket and he’s as strong as it gets. He’s a beast in the middle and he can push the pocket back and be a huge problem for offenses to block. Problem is, it shows again wasted picks with Jihad Ward who is a probable bust, and Eddie Vanderdoes who didn’t supply a pass rush up the middle just like he didn’t at UCLA. I personally think because of the picks the past 2 years, Vita might be passed over if he drops this far but it would be a mistake.
Derwin James, S Florida St.
He’s got classic Raider pick written all over him and I don’t like it. He’s big at 6’ 3” 215 lb., and he has good speed. He’s more of a safety than a CB. I’m not thrilled with this pick but with the Raiders revolving door of DB busts draft picks and signings they’ve had over the recent years, I still have nightmares of bad first round DB draft choices dancing in my head. Don’t be surprised if this is their guy.
Barring a trade, these are probably the draft picks the Raiders will choose from. A new rumor yesterday said the Raiders may draft up for stud DE Bradley Chubb out of N.C. State, but wake me up if that happens. (I’m still waiting for the LeVeon Bell to the Raiders and Odell Beckham Jr. to the Patriots rumors to come true). The Raiders have had many chances to sign a stud pass rusher but they didn’t spend the money and I find it hard for them to move up to do this. Getting Chubb would immediately improve their defense but me winning the lottery would improve my goals of buying cars for everyone.
So there you have it. Pour yourself an adult beverage and enjoy the draft. But remember, it’s easy to be right after the fact and complain about others on social media, than it is to be accountable for your picks. If you have the guts though, start drafting for your favorite team and see how you do versus the experts like we’ve been doing for 19 years. It’s a lot easier being a critic than a GM.
Al Davis has been called many things. Innovator, rebel, leader, dictator; and many other things that are not for print. One thing many will remember him for though is as a civil rights leader. Al Davis had one goal in sports; winning. And because of that spirit, he didn’t care what color or sex you were. Just win baby.
Davis Stand against Racism in the 1960’s; The AFL makes history in a boycott:
The 1960’s was a heck of a time. It had a lot of turmoil due to military conflicts and racial injustice. From the college game to the NFL game, there were still many fans, coaches and administrators that didn’t like having blacks on their teams. We applaud the storied Alabama football program for it’s winning today but we forget it didn’t integrate black players until 1971 when John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson first played for the Crimson Tide. Even though the civil rights bill threatening to take away federal funding to schools that discriminated against African Americans was enacted in 1964, it took years for some schools to comply. In fact, even though they have tried to hide it, look at the Mormon Church and BYU’s history in the 1970’s in regards to race. Quite a read.
The same was seen at a smaller level in pro football. Even though there were many African American players, they were not welcomed by everyone with open arms. Al Davis really helped in opening doors for many people.
The AFL and Al Davis especially were different. In a 1963 exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama, Al Davis demanded the contest be moved to Oakland because he was not going to separate his players in segregated hotels. He also tried to do this in many other games through the 1960’s. When Raiders outspoken star Clem Daniels complained about the way black players were treated at the 1965 AFL All-Star game in New Orleans, Al Davis supported them when they voted to boycott the game unless it was moved. Other owners and commissioner Joe Foss joined the outcry. Even many white players including Ron Mix stated that they would no longer play in the game if it stayed in New Orleans. The organizer of the All-Star game went so far as to tell the minority players that they and their families were welcome in New Orleans but that was far from the case. African American players were left stranded at the airport with some not being able to get taxi’s while others were not allowed to go into restaurants and bars in the french quarter due to the color of their skin. Eventually the game was moved to Houston and even though it was a spur of the moment thing, Houston did a good job of hosting. AFL Commissioner Joe Foss wrote a letter to the people of Houston thanking them for the classy way they supported the AFL’s players. The actual letter is below. Pretty cool letterhead.
African American Colleges Play a Big Role in Player Drafts:
When he took over for the Raiders, Davis was one of the first to specifically target black/small colleges. Some of the greatest Raiders were from small or black colleges including Hall of Famer’s Gene Upshaw ( Texas A & I) and Art Shell (Maryland St.). Both Hall of Fame players were thought of as somewhat risky picks because they were from schools that were too small or too abstract.
When Raiders all world WR Warren Wells was in Texas state prison serving time, the Raiders had an important team celebration. Mr. Davis contacted the state of Texas stating that he would pay for security for Warren to attend, but the state denied the request. It didn’t matter that Warren was an African American to Al Davis. What was important was that he was a Raider.
The Good Old Boys Network Get’s a Shakeup:
When Davis hired Art Shell to be the first African American head coach, it had broken down decades of prejudice. It was groundbreaking and even today name all of the GM’s in the NFL that are African American or Hispanic? There aren’t very many, but of course the Raiders have one of them in Reggie McKenzie. Al Davis also hired the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores, and the first female executive in Amy Trask. If he thought you could do the job, he didn’t care if you were a blue smurf, he would hire you.
In an episode of HBO’s amazing series “Real Sports”, they talked about the lack of support and care for retired NFL players. One owner had an idea of building a hospital in Utah or another inexpensive state for the retired players that would be funded by the NFL retirement plan through the profits of the league. Who was the owner that created the plan and was the only one that voted yes for it? Al Davis.
There have been many white owners, coaches and players in pro footballs history who have done their part in helping to cross the barriers of prejudice and hate. None of them though did it with the confidence, fire and flare that Al Davis did. On the field Mr. Davis didn’t want to lose and he didn’t want to tie. He wanted one thing and that was to win. And if you could help the Raiders get to that goal, he wanted you and you were a Raider brother for life no matter what your religion or race was. Especially in today’s America, wouldn’t it be nice if that was the way things were?
Sadly we still have a long way to go in eliminating hate and prejudice, but it’s people like Martin Luther King Jr.; and to an extent Al Davis; that gets us closer to that goal. I know today is MLK day but on this day I always think of Mr. Davis. From Terry Bradshaw to Derrick Thomas to the countless number of players from other teams that he supported during bad times, Mr. Davis really cared about them. The football world is not as fun without Mr. Davis but few see his other side because like most men his age, they didn’t want the attention it gave. The thing that everyone in football knows about Al Davis is that even though he loved the Raiders tough, renegade image, he had an awful soft heart under that ugly white jumpsuit.
When Ken Norton was released from being the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, it started the ball rolling. According to some reporters, the ball is still rolling.
With Offensive coordinator Todd Downing being the scapegoat to all of the Raiders offensive problems, he is probably gone. He definitely didn’t do a good job, but there was a lot of blame to go around. People forget the main reason to hiring him was to make Derek Carr happy before negotiations to his huge contract. Carr loved the hire. Todd Downing was not ready for the job but it is what it is.
The blame is also being given to OL coach Mike Tice now which is puzzling. He’s a good coach and I feel something is fishy here and we will talk about this in a bit.
Going back to Downing, Some complained about the play calling but Derek Carr has the final say on what plays are called. He can audible any time he wishes but usually doesn’t. You can’t blame Downing without giving blame to Carr. And that’s the tip of the iceberg on offense and defense.
Is Del Rio Still The Answer?:
When JDR was hired, only a few would say that the hiring of Jack Del Rio was not as great as many thought. Most Raider fans loved Jack Del Rio; “in Reggie we trust; in Jack we trust!” was all you heard all off season on social media. Now the same loyal soldiers are carrying pitchforks and torches.
As is the norm, I took ton of heat for my article on Jack Del Rio when he was hired but many of the things I warned fans about are now coming to fruition. It was a safe hire but there were many others I liked more.
To refresh our memories, Jack Del Rio went through 19 coaches during his 9 years at Jacksonville. Usually when coaches are fired and the head coach isn’t, that means the blame is being put on the coaches instead of the head coach. (Insert Mike Tice’s name here). In 2016 when Mike McCoy kept his job for the Chargers, most of his staff was fired. John Pagano the defensive coordinator of the Raiders was one of them. Frank Reich the Offensive coordinator of the Eagles was also fired by the Chargers, who before their Qb’s injury was the #1 offense in the NFL. His staff was sliced and diced but Mike McCoy Survived another year before he was fired.
Gary Radnich of KNBR 680 and KRONTV fame, is a media icon in the bay area and he never says insider information unless he has facts to back them. When Norton was fired Gary said he knew people in the Raiders front office and there were grumblings about Del Rio. The complaints were mostly about the same issues he had at Jacksonville. Jack was a control freak and didn’t let the coordinators or other coaches do what they wanted. Jack also manipulated people so that he deferred blame to some players and coaches when things didn’t go well. The magical kingdom was crumbling.
The question is will the Raiders give Jack Del Rio three years of free money to go away and get nothing in return? It’s hard to think they will do this but crazier things have happened.
Every teams fan base is pretty much the same. The New York Giants fans last year raved about their front office and coaching staff when they made the playoffs. Now after a terrible season, the fans want their entire front office fired; which most will; even though this was the same coaching staff that lead them to the playoffs last year. I guess they all have Alzheimer’s now and forgot how to coach. The fact that they had more injuries than any other team in the NFL might be more of the reason but that would be too easy. Many fans give all the credit to the players when they win, and all the blame to the coaches when they lose. And if the player is on the field but not playing well, then he has to be hurt. Personally I don’t get it.
And the fact that the Raiders played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL last year and had to struggle to barely beat some of these teams with 7 last minute wins means nothing I’m sure. This year they had the 2nd toughest schedule. There are many other reasons but I’ve talked about it at nausea in previous articles. Firing Downing is not going to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland.
Will Jack Del Rio Survive:
As I said previously, it’s hard to think that the Raiders will pay Jack Del Rio 3 years of salary to go away. I think he gets one more year. They have other problems too. The Raiders are near the poorest team in the NFL. The Las Vegas stadium is a mess. If the new GOP tax plan passes, it eliminates any public funds to be used for NFL stadiums. This means the Raiders would have to somehow be grandfathered in, but that will take time and may never happen. That means they may now have to come up with 750 million more dollars. It could get ugly real quick.
At the end of last year there was so much hope, and now there is lots of turmoil. This is the era of the salary cap and this is how things can change so quickly. With the Raiders making changes and getting an easier schedule next year, I see them coming back and having a good season. In reality I hope this makes more fans appreciate the 3 Super Bowl Titles the Raider greats of the past won. Daryle Lamonica was 40-4-1 in his first 45 starts as the Raiders QB. Ken Stabler was 56-13 in his first 69 starts. Oakland was 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night games. That’s why the Raiders of the past are so revered. It’s not that easy folks.
On December 15th, 1968; the craziest Christmas story ever told occurred. And to think, this story almost was never known. In fact until Howard Cosell released the news and showed some footage on his weekly show, hardly anyone outside of Philadelphia even knew it happened. After Cosell reported it, it had a mind of it’s own and it became a part of football lore.
A Miserable Day:
It was a miserable cold December day in Philadelphia, and the fans were not in a good mood. To be honest fans in Philadelphia are rarely in a good mood but they had reason this time. Their fans are unlike any other fan base in sports. They might be the smartest in the U.S., but they also will go off in a heartbeat if they feel things aren’t going well. Fans that day had arrived to over a ½ foot to a foot of snow on their seats in old Franklin Field. In true Philly fashion, 54,000 die hard Eagles fans came to see one of the worst teams in the NFL on a terrible winter day.
A few weeks earlier there was joy with many fans thinking the Eagles would have the worst record in the NFL. This would mean they could draft a cant miss super star in USC tailback OJ Simpson. Sadly, they won 2 meaningless games so they now had the #3 pick in the draft. Buffalo chose Simpson #1 and the Eagles chose Leroy Keyes, a RB out of Purdue. He showed so little promise at RB that they moved him to Safety after 1 year. Keyes was out of the league in 4 years and OJ became one of the greatest RB’s in history. Their fans knew.
Philadelphia fans are as passionate as any fan base in history. They treat their teams like family members. Tough, rough and hardcore, if their teams do well they will be favorite sons. If they fail, they will rip them to shreds like newspaper. Not every athlete can play in Philadelphia. Thin skinned, sensitive athletes need not apply.
Philly fans are the “schleprocks” of the sports world. They feel there is a black cloud over them at all times, just waiting to drop down a curse that will eventually ruin even the best of seasons. I remember a tweet by a Philly fan a week ago. He said, “I’m so freaking scared; things are going too good. I know something is going to happen”. The next game star QB Carson Wentz tore up his knee and is now out for the season.
On this cold day in 1968, there was nothing to play for. The Eagles lost to the Vikings but that was not the story. Already in a bad mood, the Eagles fans wanted nothing to do with cheer or with crappy halftime entertainment. The temperature had now dropped to the low 20’s with wind gusts to 20-30 mph. At half time the Eagles had promised a small parade. The Philly cheerleaders would be in cute elves costumes followed by a large band. They also had a Santa float. The Santa float started to go across the field but fans booed because it got stuck due to the bad conditions. The worst part is that the Santa that they had hired, didn’t even show up and wasn’t in the float as expected. There are still stories that he may have possibly had too many adult beverages after seeing how cold it was outside, but that isn’t confirmed.
Eagles Entertainment Director Bill Mullen had an idea. He saw a 20 y/o fan by the name of Frank Olivo in the stands who was dressed as Santa Claus. At 5’ 7” and about 170 lbs., he was a poor imitation at best. Nicknamed “beefy”, Frank was a small, portly Italian man who had lots of personality and he loved to ham it up. Never shying away from attention, Frank agreed.
Olivo found out quick that Eagles fans were in no mood for second class entertainment. Seeing a wannabe Santa was too much for them to take and they started to boo. After someone in the upper deck chucked a snowball at Frank, it created a domino effect. First a few and then dozens of snowballs from all over the stadium started to rain down.
Matt Millen Remembers:
At 11 years old, a young Matt Millen knew what being an Eagles fan was all about. The future Penn State and Raiders star was all Pennsylvanian. He knew that he was a part of a generation of Philadelphia fans and there was a passionate responsibility to it. As your fathers and grandfathers go, so go the children.
“I was 10 or 11 at the time and it was a miserable day and they were a miserable team”, said Millen to reporters. “To be honest the snowball throws were the only fun thing about the game. Dads, kids, grandfathers, and even old ladies started throwing them. I mean he had it coming. When the band played Here comes Santa Claus, that was it. It was no big deal. It was just what we did”.
Matt Millen said it was a much different era obviously. “Fans of today don’t realize how serious Philly fans take their football. Franklin Field was a crazy place to play. More than a few times people would leave the stands and go onto the field to physically confront players and coaches alike if things weren’t going well”.
Frank Olivo from the start was a good sport about it. “I’m one of them”, he said often. “I understand them so I didn’t take it personally. They didn’t like anyone at that moment. I do admit though when the Eagles asked if I would do it again next year I said no”.
Frank did admit he never booed a player ever again. “When they boo, you feel like they’re all against you individually,” he said. “And that’s why, when I heard it, I said to myself, ‘My God, what do these players think or feel when they’re getting booed?’ It’s like you’re being told you’re not good enough to be here.”
Frank and his family members were eventually priced out of Eagles games not being able to afford the PSL’s with the new stadium. Much like in other areas, the most diehard of fans were eaten up by the greed machine that is the NFL.
Years later though, Frank was asked to be Santa at a 76ers game reliving that day and he accepted. At first they cheered him on, and then in true Philly fashion, they realized that for old times sake they had to boo Olivo. He loved it. Frank passed away in 2015 but he treasured his memories of his beloved Eagles until the day he died.
The latest situation where Philly fans took some heat was last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals and before game 3, they were honoring owner Ed Snider who had recently passed away. Every seat had a white bracelet on it that lighted up. The light show before the game in honor of Snider was a sight to see and everyone was in great spirits before the first puck dropped. That feeling eroded though.
As the Capitals pulled away late, fans began to pelt the ice with the bracelets. The game was halted for a time. Not even the Flyers ice girls; who pretty much wear strip club school girl outfits; could stop the madness. The white bracelets were literally impossible to clean up because they matched the color of the ice. This incident also included a few obscenities yelled out by some fans during the moment of silence.
What Will Happen on Christmas v.s. The Raiders?
Things are going pretty good where the Eagles fly, but you never know. What if the Raiders somehow beat them? What if Nick Foles implodes. What if somehow something bad happens? If these things occur, I think that whoever is playing Santa better have a thick suit and a thick skin. And if he is anywhere near the good sport and the great Eagle fan that Frank Olivo was, if snowballs come his way then so be it. He would understand. You have to be a Philly fan to get it.
On a cool winter bay area night after a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Derek Carr grasps hands with players from both teams on the field. He leads them in prayer thanking God for all that they have been given in life and for their continued safety. His disappointment though is obvious. Carr had fumbled out of bounds in the end zone on the Raiders last play of the game for a touchback. With that, a bad season officially got worse. Less things have to happen to make Justin Bieber win an Oscar than for the Raiders to make the playoffs. And in reality they don’t deserve it.
As he walks off the field Carr hears the manic responses that are so prevalent after an NFL game, win or lose. Some fans are cussing, and there is the occasional you suck, mixed in with a supportive word. As he leaves the field, two young fans ask for his autograph and he obliges instantly with a grin. Just like the times when he visits children in hospitals or does some of his charity work, he always does it with a smile. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.
History of Domination:
It was a history lesson for some and a reminder for others. Two of the most storied franchises in history were meeting in Oakland. It wasn’t Stabler v.s. Staubach but it still meant something extra.
The network showed that for 2 ½ decades, the Raiders and the Cowboys were NFL royalty. They always topped the NFL in tv ratings and they were must see TV. The goody America’s team with the cheerleaders and the too much makeup Texas look, against the bad boy Raiders and the cheerleaders who looked like the girls your mom warned you about. The NFL world stopped when the Raiders or the Cowboys played. When it looked like the Raiders and Cowboys were destined to play in the Super Bowl in 1978, the Raiders were derailed by several key injuries and a little event called the Rob Lytle fumble in Denver in the AFC Championship game. When the Broncos won, the network and the nation groaned. They wanted to see Oakland v.s. Dallas. The Cowboys dominated Denver 27-10 in a boring Super Bowl. What might have been.
(below are the condensed highlights. Click on the YouTube Icon on the bottom or double click on the video. The NFL will only allow viewers to watch it on YouTube)
What Do the Raiders Have in Derek Carr:
Four years ago some of us said the truth about Derek Carr. He’s got a good arm, is accurate when not rushed, and is a good leader. He also has limitations that may not improve with time. Even the melodramatic Chris Collinsworth said the same thing. He showed a shocking statistic that Carr’s QB rating was a whopping 60% less when he was rushed. He’s been that way since his Fresno St. days. I remember him literally imploding against USC. His psyche is a little fragile at times and he has to become more Brett Favre and Ken Stabler and less Bert Jones and Alex Smith. He needs to be a little more confident and borderline cocky but that isn’t in his makeup.
Even with the rules making breathing around a WR a penalty, the QB situation in the NFL is at an all time low. With this in mind, the Raiders are lucky to have Carr but they also have to realize he has limitations. Just look at the over-hyped Dak Prescott. He was the media darling last year but rarely did the game fall upon his shoulders. When they won though, he got the credit often. Cowboy fans fought with me online when I said how overrated he was. Well, with Ezekiel Elliott out for 6 weeks, the games were put on his shoulders and he failed. Even when they won, he struggled. People don’t think he’s elite anymore. It shows the Carr’s of the NFL world are very valuable. When you ask people who want to get rid of Carr what their choice is to replace him, many shrug and say I don’t know. One guy said just keep looking. This is why “geniuses” in the social media world will never run an NFL team.
If I were the head coach or GM, I would go back to the Daryl Lamonica tapes and show Carr and the Raiders who they should be. The more things change the more they stay the same. This zone blocking scheme was created for a quick, fast OL and needs to be trashed yesterday. The Raiders ran for 122 yards last night with 47 of them coming from Carr’s scrambles. The Raiders are not a zone blocking team.
What they are is a huge, physical, bruising OL and they need to go back to being that. Collinsworth pointed out something I’ve been writing about all year. They have no offensive identity.
They need to go back to being a physical power rushing team that throws deep. During their glory days, often the Raiders would throw deep on their first offensive play of the game just to let teams know that Warren Wells, or a Cliff Branch or a Tim Brown was going to beat them some time that day and they better not forget it. You send a message that you will throw deep at any time and from anywhere. In one year the Raiders were in the top 5 for rushing and passing. That’s balance.
Oakland needs that identity. With a solid running game they now can use the play action pass and look downfield. Carr can excel in that type of offense. Carr is a solid B to B+ quarterback and in today’s game, those are getting harder to find.
I’d also tell Carr I could care less if you throw 4 interceptions. Stop worrying about reactions on social media, in the media itself, as well as perceptions and stupid stats. I want that ball going deep. Use those speedy WR talents to the limits. No one respects the Raiders deep throws anymore and it’s obvious Carr is playing not to make a mistake. Carr has been lucky the last 3 weeks. He’s thrown 6 passes literally right in the hands of defenders who just dropped the balls. He did it again last night with 2 more passes that defenders dropped which were thrown right at them.
It’s comical to have 3 super fast WR and not throw deep. And stop blaming everything on OC Todd Downing. I agree he’s not the answer but Carr wanted this guy as OC and the Raiders did it for Carr.
In regards to play calling, Carr can change the play any time he wants. Even an average fan can see when the two safeties are crowding the line that you don’t go with a run play; you throw the ball. Unfortunately on a few occasions last night, again no audible was called. The QB is the coach on the field and Carr needs to be that. Right now sometimes he’s not. Carr is the highest paid player in the NFL and the excuses have to stop and he needs to get to the next level.
Do you think John Elway, Brett Favre, or Ken Stabler ever worried about an interception or would ever let a play happen if they didn’t like it? Gunslingers in the NFL have one thing; a short memory; and a whole lot of wins. They are control freaks who play the game like they are playing chess. Carr needs to have that mentality. When he gets flustered he looks like Alex Smith at times, hoping something bad doesn’t happen. Carr works hard and he’s a good NFL QB but if he wants to be very good he has to improve his control of games.
Were the Raiders a One Hit Wonder?:
No, but they also weren’t as good as their record last year. At 12-4 the Raiders played the second easiest schedule in the NFL; and 7 of those wins were last minute or even last second games. They beat a lot of bad teams, with a lot of effort. This year they have the 2nd or third hardest schedule and it shows. You can’t just get by against good teams. You have to beat them. The Raiders had improved last year but no where near as much as their record said they did.
Teams have adjusted to the Raiders and now they have to adjust. OC Todd Downing will almost certainly be gone but Carr still has to evolve and improve. As Marshall Faulk said, you want the big boy money then you have to play like a big boy. Next year Carr will be 27 and in the prime of his career. Many teams would love Carr but due to his huge salary and guaranteed money, he’s their quarterback for the present no matter what. John Elway often had little talent around him and even without a consistent run game, he was one of the all time greats. Derek Carr is not going to be at that level. What he is though is a solid QB who struggles against a rush. Not an uncommon problem but it means that a good running game is imperative to his success.
In reality the Raiders have a long way to go. They still need a lot of help on defense and their drafts outside of the 2014 draft have been borderline train wrecks. Until they have a consistent pass rush and can stop the run on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter who plays in the defensive backfield. And on offense the Raiders have to be tougher. Carr has to have more of a killer instinct and just let the ball go. It’s hard to see that happen though with his personality. He needs to know you can be a good guy off the field but a different one on it.
As Carr answers the last of the mundane and never ending questions of the media last night, he leaves with an obvious disappointment on his face. He looks forward to seeing his wife and kids I’m sure. And when they are fast asleep he will still be awake and fumble over and over all night long in his head with the outcome always being the same. And with the next game being against a tough Philadelphia team in cold weather and a slight chance of snow on Christmas day, he’s gone to bed with better thoughts. The life of Derek Carr has it’s up’s and downs.