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.
Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with. The 4 people remain the same. Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano. “Foo” was a Raider from the start.
From Day One:
When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker. Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time. The Raiders refused to share information.
What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage. In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.
The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time. In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL. It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.
Phil’s Coming Out Party:
In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.
A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:
Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play. He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted. In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.
(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)
The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career. Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.
(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)
The Wild Days In Oakland:
Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.
(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)
He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp. And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.
From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.
Phil & the Raiders Legacy:
I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland. Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.
The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:
The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history. During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!
In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.
Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries. The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade. Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.
Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:
First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into. Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.
When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.
He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.
Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.
I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it. I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans. They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere. Except in Oakland”.
“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough. Al Davis would see their heart and take them in. Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated. The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports. No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.
From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.
(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)
They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired. Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt. Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed. Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile. Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart. He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t. People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time. I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such. (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.
So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan. The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.
How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.
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 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.
With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.
I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.
The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.
I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.
Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.
When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.
Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.
Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.
Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.
There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.
Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.
Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.
The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.
The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.
Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.
Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.
The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.
The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.
While people were trying to figure out why the Raiders were 2-4 in the early season, I and others took a simple approach and looked at the x’s and o’s. Teams had adjusted to the short passes of the Raiders passing game and we’re forcing them to throw deep and they were failing. I’ve been screaming for three weeks for the Raiders do to two things; open up the offense and throw downfield; and blitz often. They did both and pulled out a win at home against Kansas City and looked like a different team.
Even with the trying season and the need to talk fans off the ledge due to week to week reaction, in reality the Raiders have more of a chance than people think to get into the playoffs and possibly even win the division.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. No, the Raiders don’t have amazing talent on defense and no they are not going to be good on that side of the ball this year. They may have some moments but for the most part they are not able to get it done. The offense is going to have to carry them and if they don’t play well, the Raiders are toast. Next year the Raiders HAVE to fix the defensive front 7 or they are going to turn into the Miami Dolphins of the 80’s and 90’s; all offense, little defense. Ask Dan Marino how many Super Bowl trophies he has.
No, Derek Carr isn’t the greatest QB in Raiders history and yes, he struggles big time if he’s rushed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year he has had just ok protection and he’s struggled for the most part. In the KC game he was never sacked and had great protection and threw for over 400 yards. NOT a coincidence.
After admitting these facts, we can now look at the 4 teams and how they may fare for the rest of the season.
Los Angeles Chargers:
As wrestling star Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner used to say, pass rushing star Melvin Ingram is “legit”. While future star Joey Bosa gets most of the publicity, Ingram has turned into a one man wrecking crew with his fast and physical style. The Chargers DL is the real deal.
I like what is happening on the defensive side of the ball in Los Angeles for both teams. The formula in the wins for this team is simple; keep it close or get a lead, and then let the pass rush and pass defense take over. In the last 3 weeks that formula has worked.
The Chargers have been on their biggest high in a very long time. They have won their last 3 games beating the Giants and the Raiders on the road in close games, and then last week they shut out the punch-less Denver Broncos 21-0 in Los Angeles.
Their defense has been a key to their wins, especially in the red zone, not allowing a red zone touchdown in 3 weeks. They are 5th against the pass but are 31st against the run.
We will find out just how good the Chargers are this weekend when they visit New England. At 3-4 they still have a long way to go to take the division and their offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. They are still very one dimensional being 8th in the NFL in passing yardage per game, and even with Melvin Gordon they are 31st in the run game.
Can They Win The AFC West:
The Chargers have some brutal road games ahead at New England, Jacksonville, Dallas and at Kansas City. They also have home games with Washington and Oakland ahead.
They will go as far as their offense takes them which I don’t think is far enough. Even with all of the publicity Phillip Rivers gets, earlier this year they broke a 24 game streak of not scoring a TD in the last two minutes of the half or at the end of a game. Could you imagine Tom Brady, Joe Montana or Ken Stabler having that streak? I don’t trust Phillip Rivers who to me is more of a stat stuffer than a winning QB at the end of games. A good guy, good QB but not great. The new rules are making legends out of average to good Qb’s because their stats are extremely hyper-inflated due to the rule changes the past 6 years. Look at the ridiculous illegal use of the hands call against KC on the play when Derek Carr fumbled. He literally didn’t touch the WR after 5 yards and barely patted him within 5 yards. In the 70’s-90’s that would have been considered a hand shake. That changed the game and it was a call you don’t see in flag football. The rules have gone overboard, but that is for another day.
The Chargers lack of a running game also continues to limit their offense. I don’t see them winning the division but a possible .500 record isn’t a crazy idea.
Kansas City Chiefs:
I’ve never been a huge Andy Reid fan but I’m really not getting what is going on in KC. I just read where Justin Houston; the Chiefs all star stud pass rusher; is now being asked to fall back into pass coverage 25% of the time. That is the third highest % of any edge rusher in the NFL. Here is a guy that can take over a game by himself and he’s in coverage 1/4th of the time? Wow.
The Chiefs defense used to carry them, and now it hinders them and they continue to struggle on defense. They are 25th against the run and 28th against the pass. Their pass rush when only rushing 4 players, hasn’t been good at all. They have only 15 sacks in 7 games and that is not KC football. The offense continues to shine being a top 5 offense. They did fail on their last drive against Oakland though when they could have iced the game.
The Chiefs offense is still on a roll and they have a key game at home with Denver next. With Denver struggling so much on offense this looks like a Chiefs win right? This is the NFL folks.
Can They Win the Division?:
Right now they are in the drivers seat, and if they beat Denver they are in great shape. With the easiest schedule ahead of all of the 4 teams, it will be hard to beat the Chiefs for the division. KC is the odds on favorite right now but anything can happen.
I don’t care about all the love that Tony Romo and all of the other announcers give to Bronco QB Trevor Siemian; I think it’s become illegal for announcers to tell the truth anymore about NFL QB’S; he is a bad NFL QB.
With a lack of accuracy and vision to make the right throw, the Denver offense is hamstrung at QB. In their 3 losses this year, Denver has scored a total of 26 points. And to be shut out on the road against the Chargers 31st ranked run defense, is a bad sign. Bill Musgrave is Denver’s QB coach and he seemed a lot better coach when he had Derek Carr didn’t he? For all of you that want coaches fired after every loss, isn’t that crazy how that works out? Better players make coaches look better? Insane, I know. (highly sarcastic comment)
To be fair the Broncos left side of their offensive line has struggled all year and that hasn’t helped. Denver is 24th in scoring offense and is middle of the road in many offensive categories, but where they fail is in the red zone. They are 29th in scoring TD’s in the red zone and in their last 3 games they scored a TD in only 11% of their times in the red zone. On the road for the year their % is an abysmal 25% TD rate in the red zone. I don’t think this trend ends any time soon either. Siemian is a very limited QB and they will struggle in the red zone all year. What is scarier is how come Paxton Lynch cant’ beat him out when he was healthy?
Defensively Denver is 6th against the pass and 2nd against the run but they are 13th in sacks with 18 for the year. Their defense is still really good, but just not as dominating as in the past.
Can They Win The Division:
Denver will always be in the hunt because of their defense, but their offense is a hindrance. It’s hard seeing Denver taking this division unless Siemian improves, especially in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if you have a Brock Osweiller sighting soon. Osweiller was re-signed in the first week in September. Looking at the QB situation in Denver, it’s like I’m a sick child and the doctor asks if I want castor oil or a shot. With Paxton Lynch’s constant injury issues, the QB situation is as bad as it gets in the mile high city.
In regards to their schedule, Denver also has to play away games in Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Washington, along with home games with New England and Kansas City. With that schedule the odds of winning the division is shrinking. They are on the outside looking in if they lose to Kansas City in their next game.
After 4 straight losses with some Raider fans getting ready to throw everyone off the plank including the cheerleaders and announcers, the Raiders saved the season from going under with a big win against Kansas City at home. Even with this win there is a lot to do.
With the signing of Navorro Bowman, the Raiders now have a quality LB that is better than anyone they presently have on the roster. He’s no where near the same player that was one of the best in the NFL, but he definitely can still produce. Even with Bowman the Chiefs were 8-15 on third down and had 425 totally yards of offense. I’ve talked at length about the defense in past articles, so let’s just say that Oakland’s defense is not good, and it’s not going to be good for the rest of the season. He’s not going to help much in coverage but he does make the defense a little better.
For the Raiders to win, their offense will have to carry them like they did in the previous game. I was against the signing of Marshawn Lynch from the start and I really like the Raiders stable of RB’s. It will be interesting to see how they do against the stout defense of the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders have a nice match-up against a Buffalo team that has a solid defense but not much of an offense outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor is very limited at QB and a close Raiders win is probable but nothing is for sure.
The problem is down the road. After playing in Buffalo, they play a night game against Miami which I think they can do well in. Then it gets interesting. The Raiders go to Mexico to play New England, and have home games against Denver, Dallas & the NY Giants. Add road games in Kansas City, Philadelphia and against the Chargers and the Raiders second half schedule is as tough as anyone’s. The Chiefs and Eagles (on Christmas Day) games will be at least cold if not snowy. California teams don’t exactly thrive in the snow. As a lifelong northern Californian, I personally don’t even like to open the freezer let alone be in the cold midwest or east.
Will The Raiders Win the Division?
There are two huge games that will help in determining if the Raiders can win the division. One will be the Denver game in Kansas City this weekend. If KC wins that game, they regain control. Another game is the Chiefs hosting the Raiders in December. If the Raiders lose that game it’s hard to impossible to see them winning the division. As viewers it’s always fun to look ahead but in reality every week is like the playoffs and you can’t take anyone lightly anymore in the salary cap era. Every team has issues and it all changes week to week, especially with injuries.
The Bills game should be a tough, grinding game for Oakland. With temperatures in the 40’s with a 70% chance of rain expected, the road starts out as a tough one in upstate New York for the Silver and Black. The road to the AFC West crown will be a wild one for each team.
I’ve seen some of the craziest theories for some fans and even writers trying to explain the issues with the Raiders. I’m just not that smart I guess; I break it down to what is and not to what might be so let’s look at the statistics.
If you follow the NFL you know that owners and coaches have 2 flaws. They hate change and when they do change they copy someone. Right now the Raiders need to change their philosophy on both offense and defense to combat the changes other teams have done to stop them. For 4 straight weeks they’ve refused to adjust and it’s cost them against teams with less talent.
What Needs To Change On Offense To Beat the Chiefs:
The Raiders have completed only 2 passes over 40 yards this year and 15 passes for over 20 yards. That is on the same pace for last year.
The problem with that is for the last 4 games teams have begun to play press coverage on the Raiders. Commentators have talked about how teams no longer give the Raiders the easy short throws and the Raiders have to stretch the field. So far they haven’t adjusted to the defensive changes of other teams.
Bill Musgrave is not a genius and he was not a big loss even though some are getting way too carried away with his importance. He’s now the QB coach at Denver and Trevor Siemian is borderline atrocious, and is a big reason their offense struggles. What OC Todd Downing and Derek Carr are not getting is that they need to adjust their philosophy and they aren’t. Teams are taking away the short game so now you have to throw deep.
The first thing I’d do tonight is run a play action pass on first down and throw the deep ball. Even if it isn’t caught, it will give the threat of it. Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast and so is Amari Cooper & Johnny Holton. What good is that speed if you are not going to stretch the field? The NFL is a game of adjustments and those that don’t adjust, fail to keep their jobs.
Marshawn Lynch & The Formula to Beat Kansas City:
I was in the 1% who did not like the Lynch signing. He’s not the same player and he’s lost his burst. I like youth at RB; always have. Also the Raiders changed to a zone blocking scheme to accommodate his running style. The zone blocking scheme is more for smaller and quicker OL. The Raiders have a mammoth sized OL and they should be running the power scheme and NOT zone blocking. The running game has suffered for it.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1 against the Chiefs in their last 6 games. Why? Because they stopped the nonsense of throwing 40-50 times and ran the ball down Kansas City’s throat each time. They also took away the run and the short pass to the RB’s and TE’s and tried to force Alex Smith to throw deep which is not his strength.
The Raiders need to run and run often. Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington have to run the ball more. He’s quick to the hole where Lynch isn’t. If it were me Lynch would not even start, Richard would. I would employ Lynch as a short yardage or goal line back.
What Needs To Change On Defense:
The Raiders are 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 11. Sound Familiar? If you can’t rush the passer your defense will not be good; end of story. Especially in todays game with the rules protecting WR.
The Raiders also lack talent and you can’t fix that mid-season. Navorro Bowman was a great signing for the LB’s but he’s nowhere near what he was in the past. He’s had two terrible leg injuries and his speed has suffered a lot. If he can get there he can make a tackle that is for sure. On the Raiders though he immediately becomes their best LB. Bowman is not a blitzer; he’s a straight up LB and in his prime was as good as anyone in the game. All these ridiculous predictions of multiple sacks and 12-15 tackles and multiple fumble recoveries are fun stuff on Facebook groups I guess but it’s far from the real world. Hopefully Bowman can get into a regular rotation and get his sea legs in the Raiders defense for his first game.
The philosophy for years for Oakland was to sign and draft great db’s to fix the defense. That plan has failed miserably. With the rules today making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB and WR stats are like pinball scores. You have to have a pass rush or your DB’s are toast. The Raiders have failed to emphasize the DL and the LB and focus on DB’s and it doesn’t work. Right now they can’t cut Sean Smith who has around 9 million in cap room. They have to wait until next year. David Amerson who struggles with the deep ball, has 8.5 million on the books. That’s a huge amount of wasted money on limited return.
The Raiders DL still can’t rush the passer and for another painstaking year it’s killing the team on defense. Add that the last 2 weeks Mack has been quiet as well and wasn’t double teamed very much, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
It will take a miracle for the Raiders to win big with this defense but you have to make do. If I’m Jack Del Rio I go crazy with my play calls. The Raiders do not have the talent on defense to stop a lot of teams so I make sure on any third down with more than 5 yards to go I blitz someone. In fact I would blitz a lot but I’d change it up. If the Raiders do not get to the QB their DB’s and LB’s can’t cover. Karl Joseph struggles a lot covering TE and the LB’s coverage skills are so bad, ex-Raider Rich Gannon said he’d throw to the RB’s almost every time. The thought of Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce running wild after catching passes tonight is a definite worry.
The Player The Raiders Need To Change Their Defense Immediately:
Rams DT Aaron Donald is extremely unhappy where he is. This guy at times is unblockable. He’s double teamed often but he still gets big numbers. He is probably the best DT in the game. He’s 26 and in the prime of his career and he want’s big money. Well I make it work. The Raiders overpaid for some free agents and their money is coming off of the books. Sign him and Mack and now you have a special tandem.
I’d play Donald on the same side as Mack. I’d then start moving Mack around when teams figured that out. This would give the Raiders a pretty much unblockable DL especially on obvious passing downs. Now THIS tranforms your defense immediately. Not a DB that you hope works out when you don’t have a pass rush. Will the Raiders give that type of money to the DL along with Mack? Probably not. A man can dream can’t he?
What is Going To Happen Tonight?
If the Raiders do nothing to their schemes and keep throwing short and keep trying to play their defense straight up, then a close loss at home is probable and a 2-5 start will destroy their season.
If the Raiders wake up and start throwing deep and setting that up with a physical running game, then they can score some points. Their defense also needs to become much more aggressive on blitzes to hide their deficiencies in coverage. If they do these adjustments I think the Raiders win. If not, a 2-5 start is assured and this is with the hardest part of their schedule waiting ahead. And if I’m the GM and they don’t make these adjustments for the entire year, both coordinators will be looking for jobs elsewhere. I’d also tell Jack Del Rio he will be next if they don’t adjust. When teams adjust NFL coaches, change is good. I guarantee it.