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“Jim Jax’ Interview with Discovery Channel’s “MacGuyver” Yukon Men’s Stan Zuray”

stan zuray
Stan Zuray

Yukon Men is back!

After little to no communication from the network, the hit show on the Discovery Channel is back.  It will be shown on Fridays at 9 pm (8 pm Central) with the third episode of the season premiering this Friday.

Charlie, Stan, Courtney, Pat and all the rest will be back in the small town of Tanana, fighting the elements, outsiders, and the changing times in the small Alaskan town.

BELOW IS STAN’S NEW BOOK!

My Love for Alaska:

My uncle spent time in Alaska as a young man and the land was interesting to me.  I also remember watching the amazing special with Dick Proenneke on PBS called, “Alone in the Wilderness”.  While moving to a remote area in Alaska, Dick built a cabin, cache & other structures by hand without electric tools or chainsaws.  He lived alone at Twin Lakes from 1968 to 1999, with only a few trips outside of the area and only occasional visitors.  Dick also was a talented videographer and he filmed and made records and journals of his daily routines which are still used today by experts.  His craftsmanship was amazing on his structures.  Dick’s Documentary is one of the highest rated in the history of television.

https://www.nps.gov/lacl/learn/historyculture/proennekes-cabin.htm

Another love of mine was the show Survivorman featuring Les Stroud.  Les filmed himself in a grueling series that is still the standard for survival shows.  While the others admit some scenes are staged, other than film editing, Les showed the reality of survival and taught amazing skills in a truthful and straight forward manner.

Dick Proenneke filming
Dick Proenneke Filming in Alaska

http://www.lesstroud.ca/

les stroud
Les Stroud “The Survivorman”

Why is Yukon Men Popular?:

I have to be honest; tv is brutal these days.  I’m sorry but shows like the Bachelor and Naked & Afraid are so sophomoric and dumb and fake that I can’t stand it.  And yes, they are highly controlled by the network.  A while back I went out with a girl in LA that did the make up for a season of Survivor.  After a few drinks she admitted the show was staged at times and that they did retakes.  American television networks are mostly pretty controlling.

What I like about Yukon men though is that it’s as honest as a show can be.  Are some of the situations enhanced for tv?  Of course; I’m not naïve; but the everyday struggles, pressures, and situations they battle are very, very real.

I think people also enjoy that these are everyday people that they can relate to.  Every woman isn’t 5’ 9” with blond hair and blue eyes and every man doesn’t look like Brad Pitt.  These are good people looking to feed their families and create a life teaching the skills and cultures that they have been taught.  We see ourselves in some of them and we appreciate their honesty and their work ethic and humbleness towards their everyday life.

joey kate stan
“Joey, Kate, Stan Zuray”

Looking Ahead to This Season:

I fear that with the opening of the new road allowing easy access to the area, it will probably have a very negative impact on the Tanana residents.  People usually bring greed, garbage, and a lack of respect for hunting borders, animals, and the environment when they get into new areas.  The hope is that things like that won’t happen but I’m not really as hopeful as others.

stan and kathleen opening bell stock exchange with discovery
“Kathleen and Stan Zuray at the Opening Bell for Discovery”

Stan Zuray:

I admit I was not a big Stan fan at the beginning.  I think it was because of my relationship with my own dad.  Like most young men, Joey was headstrong and opinionated without much experience.  I related to him and felt his frustration when dealing with Stan.  Just like with Joey, when you start walking in your dad’s footsteps, you begin to appreciate and respect them more and see how wise they are.  Joey has now a great appreciation and trust towards his dad and it has allowed their relationship to grow.  It’s made me like Stan a lot.

I really appreciate Stan’s passion towards his family and the land around him.  I also love his skillset.  He is known as the “MacGuyver” of Yukon Men.  His Frankentruck is still talked about and his ingenuity and great talent is often seen.  Stan was gracious enough to allow me to interview him.  I felt bad because I know he’s so busy but I wanted to share the interview.  I was going to release this next month, but the show was renewed and I’m so glad for it.  Stan was forthcoming and open and I greatly enjoyed his responses.  (I also found out Stan has been an ordained minister for over 3 decades).

Jim Jax:  Before coming to Alaska, where were you raised and what kind of life was it compared to the life you live now?

Stan Zuray:  I was raised in a part of Boston, Mass. called Dorchester. It was a very urban environment with very tight neighborhoods with many parts ethnically divided. Much has changed there since my childhood.  While I was young, my parents would take us to beaches and drives in the country and a couple of times to my dad’s rural home area of Pennsylvania. That was the extent of my “wilderness experience” however.

I worked in a tire and mechanic shop all my summers and times off from school to make money.  I was into hot rod cars and all the things boys get into including, when older, all the bad things.  It was the hippie generation then and much was happening socially in the country.

Many of my friends came back from Vietnam a mess. Many friends were into hard drugs with some casualties, and Boston was becoming a very lonely place to be for me. I had a good home and good parents, but outside the home it was not good.

I went on the road to New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and the West Coast.  I’ve been all over, including into Northern British Columbia where I experienced for the first time real crude, free, back to the earth native people living off the land so to speak.  I loved it. It wasn’t real until I came to Alaska the next year and found myself without a lot of food and supplies that I fell into a similar way of being.

There are few similarities between Boston and Tanana, Alaska.  People however are much the same everywhere it’s just that in Boston they don’t have the luxury of helping people and being as friendly because many are on the verge of losing their homes if they can’t pay the bills.  One way I always think of comparing the two is I used to travel to Hampton Beach 50 miles north of Boston sometimes and I think of all the people and cars and buildings I would pass in that 50 miles.  Then I think of all the trips to my fish camp I’m at now 40 miles up the Yukon River where I see just a few plywood fish camp shacks and often no people and no boats passing.  And then you consider the Yukon is the main (and only) route of travel available.

Jim Jax:  Do you think you were born to live the lifestyle you do now or was there something that inspired you to do it? 

Stan Zuray:  I think I am one of the lucky ones.  I survived the crazy and dangerous things we did and did not die or ruin my brain or get lost in drugs and alcohol.  I had enough drive to want out and get myself out and I was lucky enough to have certain people and events help me on my way.  I don’t think I was born for it but I did find something of better value to me.  I always say “perseverance furthers”.

Jim Jax:  Where did you meet your wife and how hard was it to date with so few people to socialize with?  

Stan Zuray:  I met my wife in the village of Tanana. She liked to dance at the village get-togethers and we started hanging out and traveling by dog sled to my trap line and fish camp in the summer.  She is a proud, strong, full Athabascan woman.  When the kids started coming along we got serious and raised our family. There aren’t many places to date in Tanana in the city type of ways and there are not that many people, but lots of things to do I say.

Jim Jax:  You are very respectful of the people around you.  How accepting were the natives to you when you decided to make this your home? 

Stan Zuray:  Some were very good to me right away and some were very opposite. The Traditional Chief of Tanana, Lester Erhart, gave me my first lead dog and much welcome while some didn’t like outsiders.  Like I say I think people are very much the same everywhere (they are all different) it’s just the environment people are in often dictates their time for compassion and friendliness.

Jim Jax:  What kind of amenities are in your home?  Do you have the internet; wifi; etc….  Do you have television/cable/dish.  

Stan Zuray:  We have TV, internet, power from a local generator and a telephone line. Some areas of the main town have running water and cell service, but those things we don’t have.  Our main heat source in Tanana is 9 cords of wood I cut each year but I have a backup oil stove for when it gets 40 below or colder.  My trap line and fish camp is much cruder with none of that but we do have a satellite dish at the fish camp for communications.

Jim Jax:  I think Fairbanks is probably the largest city in your area; Do you get a chance to go there much?  Do you ever go to major stores or enjoy a dinner out some time?

Stan Zuray:  Tanana is about 150 air miles northwest of Fairbanks which has about 100,000 people and is the second largest city in Alaska. I go there about 2 times each winter and also go every other year outside Alaska to Boston or somewhere else.  When we do, we fit right in and we have brought the kids with us many times also. Definitely after a few days I’m ready for freedom, driving sled dogs and being in the back country again.

Jim Jax:  The stress of the fire was really seen in the Yukon Men episodes.  Please tell the readers just how bad it was on your end and how has it changed your life, especially with so much hunting grounds destroyed.

Stan Zuray:  We lived with the fire right at our doorstep for almost one month. It showed us it could wipe us out a couple of times and consumed our summer with stress and work.  Hopefully some of the country will recover stronger and richer than before as is often the case.  I have lost everything to a fire before in the 1970’s.  I have a respect and fear of fire for life I’d say.

Jim Jax:  When Joe was younger there was the normal friction between an eager impatient young man and his father, but as he’s matured I’ve really enjoyed your relationship growth with him.  I think the more he had to do, the more he respected what you have done and who you are.  How did you feel seeing him becoming a man before your eyes? 

Stan Zuray:  Joe was always strong willed. I always said the best way to get him to do something was to suggest the opposite. That will hopefully help him out in life at times and it is good to see him want to be independent.  It is of course often fun working with him when he was younger.  Now that we are older I see many things in him like myself and the way my father and I were.  We have a close relationship but as with all my kids they will always be something I am proud about and worry about. That always is and never ends.

Thank you so much Stan.  I look forward to this season of Yukon men.  May the fishing and hunting always be plentiful.  Please get Stan’s book with the link above.  A great read!!!  Jim Jax

Please Follow Stan:

https://www.facebook.com/stanzuray/

https://twitter.com/stanzuray?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

Follow Me on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/jimjaxmedia?lang=en

“Must See Animated & Non-Animated Christmas Classics That Defy the Test of Time”

 

scrooge-1951

Here is my list of must see and not so must see movies for the holiday season.

Let’s first look at some popular Christmas movies that didn’t make my list.

-Elf: I really don’t like this movie. Not funny.

-Home Alone Movies: Number 1 is ok. I’m still a little creeped out by McCauley Caulkin.

-Bad Santa: Little too mean spirited for me.

-Christmas With the Kranks: I think it’s a bad movie.

-Scrooged: I like Bill Murray but I just thought he was a little too dark in this one and it didn’t work.

-The Nightmare Before Christmas:  Still not getting it.  I don’t like this movie and in reality Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are pretty much dead to me for what they did to Willie Wonka. Bizarre.

Amazing Animated Films to Watch:

These are all well known greats that are staples during the holidays. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas are all must see classics with amazing music and stories. You might want to throw in the cartoon Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol too, that has fun songs and is underrated.

Classic Must See Christmas Movies:

Boy do I still miss John Candy. Plains, Trains and Automobiles still makes me laugh to no end. Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd in all their glory in Trading Places is a must see.

Bing Crosby is not a favorite of mine but White Christmas is a good movie.   It’s a Wonderful Life is also a classic but I’m not a huge fan of it.

Another one I really enjoy even though I don’t like the sequels is The Santa Clause. I’m not a fan of Tim Allen but he’s amazing in this great holiday classic.

The original Miracle on 34th Street is still an all time classic.

Now Some of my other favorite selections.

Polar Express:

Ok Ok; I know the animation is a little creepy but this is an amazing story with great music and a spirited performance by Tom Hanks. As time goes on this movie gets more and more respect and I’m glad.

The story of a little boy who is discouraged and who eventually has the meaning and spirit of Christmas restored when on Christmas eve he takes a ride on the magical Polar Express train that goes to the North Pole. And as his heart is restored, he learns that if you truly believe, you will always hear the sound of Santa’s bell no matter what age you are. Cuz that’s the way things happen on the Polar Express!

Nestor the Long Eared Donkey:

One of my favorite Christmas Cartoons that some have never seen.   Nestor is bullied and treated poorly for having huge, long ears and for being ugly. He’s so ridiculed that on a winter night he is thrown out by the owner of a stable. In a blizzard his mom saves him from the cold by covering him but sadly she is gone.   Nestor is helped by a cherub named Tilly who leads him to a magical moment.

It’s an amazing story of love, acceptance, and courage.

The Little Drummer Boy:

Can’t watch this without shedding a tear or two. Another Romeo Muller, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. classic which is almost 5 decades old. One of the most emotional and epic stories of all time. With an amazing voice cast of Greer Garson, Jose Ferrer and the epic music of the Vienna Boys Choir.

With the anger and pain only an orphan can feel, the little drummer boy Aaron gives the only gift he has to offer to baby Jesus when his animal friend is hurt; his passionate playing on his drum. The true spirit of Christmas is seen in the miraculous recovery of his animal friend, thus restoring Aaron’s heart. Child star Teddy Eccles is very special as Aaron. An amazing film.

Meet John Doe:

This movie was so well received that it’s made several categories in the top 100 all time lists of the American Film Institute. The Library of Congress requested a copy of it to be archived and it was so popular it became a radio program. Meet John Doe has it all.

The iconic Frank Capra was known as a very sentimental director. This movie was said to be for the gentle every day person. With a young Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan and Edward Arnold leading the cast, this is one of my all time classic movies at any time of year.

A struggling newspaper makes up a story of a homeless man who wants to commit suicide on Christmas due to the state of the country. People have become jaded and divided, but thousands are so moved by John’s threat that John Doe clubs all over the country are created to promote good will and kindness towards your neighbor. When John Doe finds out that big business corporations want to use the John Doe clubs for political support to get their man into the white house and make more money, he tries to tell the truth but people turn on him and he’s considered a fake. In a state of depression on Christmas eve, he finds out the true meaning of Christmas through the love of his friends and the knowledge that the spirit of every day people will never allow the John Doe’s of the world to be forgotten.

Twas the Night Before Christmas:

This is another animated cartoon that many have not seen. When a know it all young mouse writes Santa a nasty letter saying he doesn’t exist, Santa no longer wants to come to their city. The father then thinks a gift to Santa will help restore their relationship. His son again messes things up but he realizes the importance of Christmas and grows up. He helps save the day and Santa is touched by their gift and all is forgiven.

The songs are fun and upbeat and it’s a fun short film to watch. George Gobel narrates and Joel Gray recites the famous poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The Year Without A Santa Clause:

Heat Miser and Cold Miser; Santa; a feisty Mrs. Clause. This is a cult classic for any animated fan of Christmas. The songs alone are worth the watch. Kids of all ages will love this timeless classic!

A Christmas Story:

It’s hard to find a movie that touches the heart of the kid in all of us like a Christmas Story.   For the 19th year, TBS/TNT will play this movie for 24 hours on Christmas eve through Christmas. There were 2 years that they played this for 2 days straight! This is one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time that teaches the kid in us how to survive in the adult world during Christmas. Someone bought the house and made it into a museum. And it is beside Meet John Doe in the National Library of Congress.

http://www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/

Tongues stuck on light polls, bullies, a little brother who wont eat and Darren McGavin as a father that is hard on the outside but as soft as a marshmallow inside. And never forget to remember to be careful; or you will SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!

Scrooge:

Most movie historians, movie buffs and fans almost all agree that the 1951 version of a Christmas Carol called the Scrooge is the greatest of them all.  (In the UK it was called Scrooge; in the U.S. it was called A Christmas Carol).

Scrooge was one of the most popular and best pictures in the UK in 1951. Due to the more darker nature compared to other Christmas Carol movies, the U.S. studio’s did not feel that Scrooge was positive enough for the American audience and it got mixed reviews. In time though it has become a fan favorite of many a household around the world.

Alastair Sim is purely magical in his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the most memorable Christmas movies ever. He can make you hate him or cry for him. His emotional scene going to dinner at Fred’s is below.

There you have it.   My list of must see Christmas movies.   If you haven’t seen some of these movies, make sure you give them a try. They may become Christmas classics in your household too. Merry Christmas and God Bless us; everyone.

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

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

 

shilique calhoun
Michigan St. DE Shilique Calhoun against Ohio St.

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

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

Value Pick v.s. Karl Joseph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve already written about Joseph here.

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

Grade A-

2nd Round Jihad Ward DL (44; Illinois)

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

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

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

GRADE: C-

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

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

GRADE: B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRADE B+

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

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

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

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

GRADE B

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

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

GRADE B

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

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

GRADE A-

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

OVERALL GRADE:   B+

“Last Minute Rumors & Draft Scenarios For The Oakland Raiders 2016 NFL Draft”

 

oakland raiders war room

Day 1 of the NFL Draft is Here! Or as we call it guys day in.

Go ahead and have some fun with it because this draft is going to be very interesting. Let’s be real; experts, insiders, fans, ex players and even the teams themselves don’t know what players are going to be chosen.   It’s guesswork for everyone so I’m not curing cancer here. Let’s just use common sense and historic facts and look into the 2016 NFL Draft day 1.

The Trade Impact In the First Round:

First off I’m a huge talent over need guy.  Let’s say for instance you need a safety but the only ones that are there are 2nd or third round talents; I pass.  If you look at the Raiders history they’ve ruined drafts picking for needs.

Even with the rules allowing WR to roam free and the QB to barely be touched, the QB position in the NFL is at it’s worst in NFL history. Passing and Receiving records are falling to average players at best who are benefiting from the new rules. I can see the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice saying, “give me a bucket!”

Here is a good article by quality ESPN Writer Bill Barnwell on Drafting Qb’s:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15391775/taking-quarterback-early-round-2-makes-lot-sense-some-teams-nfl

I’m not a big fan of these 2 trades but I understand them.

Let’s look outside the box and stop just regurgitating what the “experts” are saying. Let’s think for ourselves and see what might be the mindset of teams in this years draft.

Raiders Trading Up:

The pre NFL draft is fun. Many sites try to stir the pot with mock drafts and scenarios and NFL combine #’s to keep people interested all year round. It is fun to do but let’s be real; 90% of this stuff never happens.

One of those scenarios is the annual can the Raiders trade up or down in the draft game. In 56 years please give me the list of all of the trades the Raiders have done to move up or down in the draft. Ron Wolf was the architect of many of the Raiders great drafts and he taught Reggie McKenzie all he knew at Green Bay.

Will the Raiders trade up?  No one knows.  But if you look at history it says the Raiders will do nothing and draft #14. When you trade up you are also in the mindset that you are 1 player away from being a top team.  They Raiders still have holes to fill.

The Raiders RB Reality of 2015:

The average fan almost always looks at offense but in reality you can’t win without a good to great defense.   Should the Raiders get a RB?   Yes. In the later rounds. But tell me last year how important the RB’s were in the championship game and in the Super Bowl? The Patriots were literally getting RB’s off the street; and the other 3 teams mostly used backups who didn’t exactly play like Walter Payton. What all 4 teams DID have were the 4 best DL’s in the NFL. New England had more sacks without blitzing than any other team in the NFL. Look at the history of the NFL; for the most part Defensive lines and defenses win championships; not RB’s.

The Raiders struggles last year began when Minnesota played a cover 2 defense and took away the long ball.   The Raiders medium passing game is bad and they never adjusted to other teams that did it as well. That’s not on the RB’s.

San Diego Chargers Pick Will Control the Draft:

Everyone has Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil as the Chargers pick but let’s hold on.   The Chargers need to win now, and QB Philip Rivers is not getting any younger. The Chargers also paid a lot of money; some guaranteed; for tackles Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap. They also arent’ getting off cheap on their guards either. They could move one of their tackles to guard but now you are spending a ton of money on an OL when the defense is one of the worst in the NFL.

While the Raiders have a history of not trading up or down in the NFL draft, the Chargers have a lot of history. In recent year’s and in the past. (Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson to name two). Chargers GM Tom Telesco is a wheeler and dealer for sure; for better or worse.

The Miami Dolphins are in big need of a franchise RB and rumors are swirling out of Miami that a trade with the Chargers isn’t out of the question. The Chargers have a kin to Notre Dame picks and they like OL Ronnie Stanley. They could trade down, get an extra pick or two and still get Stanley who other teams aren’t as high on.

If they do pick there, a defensive player like CB Jalen Ramsey or DL’s Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner going to the Chargers would not shock me.

Ezekiell Elliott  RB Ohio St.:

Jerry Jones loves his badboys. I warned everyone that Randy Gregory DL out of Nebraska was an athlete playing football and of course Dallas took him in the 2nd round last year. In 12 games last year Gregory had 11 tackles and 0 sacks. He also tested positive for a drug of some kind (he was positive for pot in college) and he’s now suspended for the first four games. DeMarcus Lawrence had 8 sacks last year and he came into his own; he also has been suspended for 4 games for substance abuse. Add Greg Hardy’s departure and the DL for Dallas is just ugly. So they’ll go DL right?

Jerry Jones has always been an offensive guy and I see them taking Ezekiel Elliott, RB out of Ohio St. Jones likes offense and he loves running backs so I see this going down.

Interesting Oakland Raiders Scenarios:

Reggie Ragland MLB Alabama:

Reports are leaking that he has an elarged aorta that needs yearly monitoring.  They hypersensitive NFL; some teams reportedly have him off their board now. The only MLB that can start right away in this draft in my opinion is Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland.   As I’ve said before with the likes of Rolando McClain and others, these aren’t Bear Bryants free wheeling LB’s. Nick Saban runs a controlled and sophisticated zone and Bama LB’s do not have to cover much man to man so you really don’t know how good they are against the pass.

In reality though this would be the safe pick and the one I think the Raiders are leaning to right now.  Will his heart condition change this.

Myles Jack LB UCLA:

Myles Jack value is dropping quickly. Mike Mayock; who isn’t much for personality but who I like; has an interesting scenario where Myles Jack falls all the way to 14 and the Raiders take him. Even though I like Mike let’s be real; 3 days ago he said I can’t believe anyone in the top 10 won’t pick Jack but now in his Mock yesterday he has him falling to 14.

Why? Jack lost himself a lot of money in an “I’m an open book” millennial moment, when a few days ago he told reporters that his knee’s condition is degenerative and that in the future he may or may not need micro-fracture surgery. His exact quote was that no one knows the future but to play 3 years in this league would be above average. I could see his agent slapping his forehead when he heard that saying, “DOH!”. When the player is saying stuff like that then you move on……..Quickly.

Sheldon Rankins DL Louisville:

I like Rankins a lot and he’s going in the top 15 in the draft. I see him going to the Dolphins or the Saints who need help big time at DL. If not he’d be a great get for the Raiders to give them a much needed QB push from the DT position and could immediately upgrade their defense to possibly being a top 5-10 unit.

Shaq Lawson DL Clemson:

At the beginning I just couldn’t believe people downplaying him.  He’s slowly climbed up the ladder and he may be a top 10 pick.  In some mock drafts they have him going to Buffalo after the Raiders so it’s a crap shoot.  If he’s here, how can you pass up on a play maker like Lawson?  If he and Ragland are here wow; what a fun waiting time that will be.  I like Lawson and think you just can’t pass him up.  Talent over need.

Robert Nkemdiche DE Mississippi:

There is always a draft lovechild that fans glop on to and this year it is Nkemdiche. Gholston, Clowney, Gregory; the list is a long one.  He had a great game against Alabama and that’s his calling card; plus a lot of hype. They forget that in 3 years he only had 7 sacks and that in his last 7 games at Ole Miss he averaged 2 tackles a game. He was extremely inconsistent. I may be wrong but I warned people about all galaxy Jadeveon Clowney and how he’d tank and I’m warning others about Robert. To think he’s now going to be a 8-12 sack per year guy in the NFL? I say no way.

William Jackson III CB, Houston:

The University of Houston had a great resurgence last year; just not in the passing defense scene.  They were ranked the 122th rated pass defense in college football.

If you were listening to ESPN radio’s mock drafts yesterday, one of the people choosing picked CB William Jackson III out of Houston for the Raiders pick. I swallowed my gum too.  Don’t laugh; this is the hot name being thrown around by ESPN and their followers and if they blow off Ragland due to health issues, this may be the pick.  It would also be a little attempt at vindication for Reggie.

He had a monster bowl game against Florida St. and looked good in pre draft/NFL combine workouts. Many of the experts really don’t watch all the games so these big televised bowls and senior bowls are big deals to them. In reality he’s another free lancer who is a work out warrior and looks physically impressive. In tackling he’s somewhat soft and not one to like contact. I think this would be a bad pick and he’s a 2nd round project in my book.  I warned you on draft day about DJ Hayden and I’m warning you again.

Chris Jones DL Mississippi St.:

Another pick on the ESPN show was Chris Jones. If Shaq Lawson is there and the Raiders take Chris Jones then it’s a huge mistake.   Jones is a solid player but he’s had issues with conditioning in the past and he’s not a great pass rusher; he’s more of a run stopper. The Raiders have a ton of run stoppers; they need pass rushers. I think Jones is a good player but the Raiders need Shaq Lawson, not Chris Jones.

Karl Joseph S West Virgina:

He is still not recovered from his ACL tear and he won’t be 100% probably for a part of the season.  He is a thumper with a lot of explosiveness.  He was projected as a 1st or 2nd rounder but he’s been climbing.  He’s the best safety in a draft without super star safeties.  This isn’t a value pick; I like Joseph but I think you can get a good safety in the second or 3rd round at better value.

Leonard Floyd LB Georgia:

When you watched a Georgia game last year Floyd flies off the page. He has a lot of football talent and just isn’t an athlete. I wrote about him a few months ago and I like him. The problem is, Florida papers are talking about how Tampa Bay is gushing about him and how much they love him.   Many other teams also quietly like him.   It’s hard to think he’ll be there at #14, but if he is, they will take him.

Final Notes:

Remember that the draft isn’t a gift bag; 31 other teams are in this so you have to adapt to their choices. Keep in mind also that some teams are smart and some aren’t. Not every pick is a good one.

One tidbit that is going around the Bay Area though is that the 49ers LOVE Mackenzie Alexander the CB out of Clemson. The 49ers trading down isn’t out of the question now that they are in full rebuilding mode. Getting a DL and Alexander would be pretty amazing for them. I too love Alexander as a player.

Who ever the Raiders pick the hopes are that it’s a smart pick and not a crazy reach that filled the ghosts of drafts past. Some Raider fans will like any pick; some will hate any pick; but the even keel fans will look at the player and break down the need of the team and the skill set that they bring. As Reggie McKenzie said a few weeks ago, “we’ve done nothing yet. We haven’t won a thing and have work to do”. That is a good attitude to have entering this years draft.

“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.

“How Reggie McKenzie Turned Around the Oakland Raiders & What Lies Ahead”

reggie mckenzie

Patience: 

The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

 

The last 2 weeks I read 14 articles from 2015 on Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.  They were from professional writers to homer Raider bloggers to ESPN and NFL.com.  Only ONE said keep Reggie McKenzie as a GM.  Oh how the seasons have changed.

The Ron Wolf Effect:

When most fans and many writers wanted Reggie McKenzie fired, I said to give him time.  I ripped on his poor moves as well but I also trust success.  The reason I said don’t fire Reggie was NOT because of Reggie McKenzie.  It was because of Ron Wolf.  Ron Wolf taught and mentored Reggie when he was at Green Bay.

When I wrote an article on the greatest Raider of all time, ¾ of the fans that read it didn’t even know who Ron Wolf was.  I remember my dad raving about him when I was a kid and beyond.  Wolf was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Tim Brown.  Wolf continues to be excited about McKenzie as a GM.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/ron-wolf-enters-the-hall-of-fame-with-tim-brown-the-greatest-raider-of-them-all/

You’ll Be Sitting With Them:

On a frigid day right before Christmas in 1967, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Joe Kuharich was asked about the angry boo’s in the stands after a tough loss.  “I pay little attention to the 60,000 assistants in the stands each Sunday.  If you listen to the fans, eventually you’ll be sitting with them”.

Reggie didn’t listen to fans and the media when they ripped him and he’s not listening to them now when they are praising him.  If you read your own press clippings you’ll start to believe them.  He smartly always limited his interaction with everyone just like Ron Wolf did.  Something most coaches and athletes should do more.

The Changing Atmosphere Surrounding Him:

We all do it; we are emotional about something and then we write or post something on social media that we later regret.  Either it was too harsh or nasty.  We didn’t really feel that way but it was just a knee jerk reaction out of disappointment or anger.

It’s funny to see many of the “strongest” we’ll say detractors of Reggie McKenzie now turning the other way.  People wonder why most “experts”, “insiders”, mock draft gurus, NFL draft gurus, (and many fans and social media masters for that matter); rarely talk about their past predictions unless it’s the ones they got right.  It’s because they don’t want the accountability and they are often wrong.  You hear them on radio talk shows, online, and social media.  They are often wrong but never in doubt.  Again, it’s ok to be wrong sometimes but if you are wrong most of the time; then use your inside voice.

I say this because many of his early detractors forgot that Reggie McKenzie had to fix a train wreck and he’s done pretty well so far.  I said it years ago when McKenzie was hired and fans were telling me how good the Raiders were.  No they were wrong; this wasn’t a good team for a long time.  No,they didn’t have a lot of talent.  No, giving these draft picks time was not going to make them good. The Raiders were a mess and I said this would be a 4-5 year process; that’s how bad this organization was and I think the Raiders are right on schedule.

The Al Davis Effect; Reggie Fixes the Mess: 

The teams of the 1970’s especially were loaded.  In the greatest era of the NFL, the players didn’t make much money.  Many had outside ventures.  The teams could spend as much money as they wanted and many teams had backups that could start for other teams.  Running a team was easier.

With a financial mess, Reggie McKenzie had a very difficult job.  In the new era of the NFL, there is the salary cap, partially guaranteed contracts and some players are making a lot of money.  Reggie McKenzie had to fix the bad situation the Raiders were in and rebuild.  You then have to fight the media and the fans that have no patience.  In today’s internet age, patience is waiting for lunch time when it’s 10 a.m. in the morning.

Mr. Davis was overpaying underachieving players, and he drafted very poorly.  Al Davis became obsessed with NFL combine numbers and size; especially 40 times; and it destroyed the Raiders.  Their list of bad draft picks; ESPECIALLY most of their Defensive Back Picks with the fast 40 times; are of legend.  When you don’t watch game films and pass up on the Calvin Johnsons’, Adrian Peterson’s and Aaron Rodgers, you are failing.

McKenzie was not in denial though.  He didn’t have Al Davis’ new mentality.  Mr. Davis was in denial like some of the fans were every year; “we are really good and we just need 1-2 key players.”  In reality for a long time the Raiders were NOT really good and they needed to rebuild.  It was like building a house but denying you have a bad foundation.  You were constantly adding floors or making over a room to make it look better when in reality it didn’t change a thing.  Reggie McKenzie got that you have to destroy the foundation and build a new one.  Let’s look at how he has done that in Oakland.

Reggie McKenzie’s Draft History:

Just like his signings, overall his drafts have improved with time.  The DJ Hayden pick made no sense especially when DT Star Lotulelei had fallen in their lap.  Hayden was another athlete playing football.  Some of the “experts” had Hayden as the best CB in the draft.  I watched Houston play a few times and was shocked.  What were they watching?  To see Lotulelei starting for the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl was painful.  McKenzie improved with time though and he’s picked up their QB and other key members along the way.

The 2014 draft was the start of the rejuvenating of the Raiders.  Five of the draft choices ended up being starters who mostly excelled.  Last year’s draft shows a lot of promise as well.  It’s a far cry from where the Raiders were in his first 2 years and it’s the core of their success.

Reggie’s Signings:

Some fans are now going the other way making McKenzie out to be a genius but as I always say, let’s deal with the facts.  The bad signings McKenzie has made are in abundance.  Matt Schaub, Matt Flynn, LaMarr Woodley, Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Shawntae Spencer, Andre Hardy, Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew, Roy Helu Jr., Carlos Rogers, Pat Lee, Mike Brisiel, Kevin Boothe, Ron Bartell, Colin Miller, and Dave Tollefson were just some of the epic fails the Raiders had in free agency.

Even with a couple of good pick-ups, his first 2 years of free agency was a nightmare for Reggie McKenzie.  Fast forwarding to 2014 the Raiders had an ok free agent class with more misses than hits.  The big miss was Lamar Woodley who much was expected of.  Donald Penn though was a key contributor with this class.

In 2015 the Raiders overall did a good job in free agency.  Dan Williams and Rodney Hudson were great additions and Lee Smith was a bulldozer as a run blocking tight end that also caught some passes.  Malcolm Smith had his first year as a starter go fairly well.  He tailed off late in the year especially against the run.

On the bad side, Roy Helu Jr. was never used properly and was a waste of a signing.  Curtis Lofton struggled mightily against the pass and Trent Richardson didn’t last long.  A lot was given to Nate Allen but he struggled tackling all year; and that was when he wasn’t injured.

The 2016 free agent class is already a very good one and there still are signings that are ahead.  This has already been the Raiders best free agent signing period; at least on paper; that they have had since Reggie was hired.  The longer Reggie has the job, the better he gets.

How Reggie McKenzie Grew Into a Good GM:

McKenzie is humble; and as a good leader you take the blame and admit your mistakes.  Many in sports; and life for that matter; don’t do that.  When you admit a mistake you can fix it.  His signing of players which are salary cap friendly and dropping them if they don’t work out is often greatly overlooked.

A huge mistake Reggie fixed was that in the early part of his career he would wait way too long to sign players.  He would say they weren’t going to be hasty in their signings but sometimes the Raiders got stuck with slim pickings in free agency because they were just too slow to sign players.

He also improved his draft.  After talking to Ron Wolf, he went back to getting football players.  The defensive line has always been the second most important part of your team behind a QB and they’ve spent lots of money and energy into the DL.  The Quarterback must go down, and go down hard was Ron Wolf & Al Davis’ motto.

What’s Next For Reggie and the Raiders:

As Reggie said last month, there is still much work for the Raiders to do and they haven’t won anything yet.  The Raiders don’t have the DL or the pass rush to win at a high level in the NFL yet, but the off season is still young.  Bruce Irvin has 14 sacks in the last 3 years and Mario Edwards is not a great pass rusher; and that’s if he comes back at all.  Aldon Smith is out for most of the year too.  It doesn’t matter who your DB’s are if you don’t have a pass rush.  I now have trust that McKenzie will not be in denial and the draft will yield another quality DL.  I would love to see either AShawn Robinson or Shaq Lawson drafted in the first round.  Mock drafts are all over the place so as always, they don’t know what players the teams are going to draft and neither do we.  If you get either one of these players, now you have something special.  Both have great work ethics and are hard workers.

The Raiders also need a safety and other bits and pieces.  They are not done in free agency yet and the NFL draft is also ahead.  The salary cap limits how good you can be; that’s the design; to create parity.  So the drafts are a key to success.

Overall though as time passes, Reggie McKenzie has improved every year he has been a GM.  Reggie McKenzie is definitely old school and as long as he doesn’t change and he keeps being humble and open minded, he will be fine.  Not everything works out so admitting mistakes and learning from them are huge keys to his success.  The nightmare of 13 straight non-winning seasons may finally be over and success seems to now be a probability and not just a hope.