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“The Oakland Raiders All-Time Greatest Late Round Draft Picks & Steals”

cliff branch

When you look back at the history of the Oakland Raiders, it is a work of art on how to build an NFL dynasty.  Some drafts would get several starters and some even multiple HOF players.  Ron Wolf & Al Davis made it an art form to pick up late round talent and pick players that others had no desire to choose.

http://www.raiders.com/history/draft-history.html

Yesterday we talked about some of the worst picks; today lets look at the top 15 Oakland Raider late round picks of all time; 4th round on dow.

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Honorable Mention;  Bo Jackson; 

Even though Bo Jackson was originally drafted by Tampa Bay, he was put back into the 1997 draft and the Raiders took him in the 7th round so technically he wasn’t an original pick.  Al Davis was the only owner that allowed him to play both football and baseball.  Bo never had 1000 yards and only started 23 games and ran for 2782 yards in his career, but his long touchdown runs were fun to watch and will always be remembered.

#15 Reggie Kinlaw DL (1979; 12th round 320 overall)

At the University of Oklahoma, Reggie Kinlaw was a superstar using his great speed to dominate defenders. At 6’ 2” and 245 lbs. experts said he was a huge long shot to even make the NFL let alone be a quality player. He played for the Raiders for 6 years and started on two Super Bowl teams. Many Raiders have said Reggie is one of the unsung heroes in the history of the Raider legacy.

# 14 Shane Lechler P: (2000; 5th round 142 overall)

After a record setting career at Texas A & M, Lechler was selected in the 5th round by the Raiders. He has had a stellar career and is a perennial pro bowler. He currently kicks for the Houston Texans.

#13 Pete Banaszak HB: (1966; 5th round AFL Draft)

A solid player at the University of Miami, he was chosen in the 5th round of the AFL draft.   The Raiders were the first to employ a short yardage RB full time and for 13 years Banaszak played that role to a tee. In 1975; his best year; he ran for 16 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl against the Vikings he scored 2 touchdowns. Nicknamed the Rooster by fans and teammates, he could do anything in the clutch including catch the ball. He was a key element of the Raiders domination in the 1970’s.

#12 Charlie Smith RB: (1968; 4th round 110 overall)

A standout at the University of Utah, here is another unsung hero and my mom’s favorite player.   Charlie Smith was a classic change of pace back of the time that could do anything. He was a great pass catcher with speed and he was an integral part of the Oakland Raiders offensive machine. His most famous touchdown was never seen. He scored the go ahead touchdown in the famous Heidi game.

#11 Tony Cline DE:   (1970; 4th round 102 overall)

One of the great players from the great defenses of the early Oakland Raiders, Tony Cline was as good a pass rusher as there was in football. He has the unofficial rookie sack record in the AFL at 17 ½ sacks in 1970.   Some say due to the hate the NFL had with anything AFL, the NFL does not acknowledge the sack record. Officially the NFL didn’t record sacks until 1982 even though the AFL did. Tony’s son Tony Cline Jr. also played in the NFL. Raider fans will never forget Tony Cline.

#10 Marv Hubbard RB: (1968; 11th round 277 overall)

“Take it to the Cupboard Hubbard” and “Run Like a Mother Hubbard” were favorite signs of Raider fans in the 1970’s. The NFL yawned when Marv Hubbard was taken out of Colgate. Slow and not athletic, he was not expected by most experts to make the NFL. Boy did he ever. He became a 3 time pro bowler and helped lead the Raiders to 4 Western Division titles and 3 AFC Conference Finals.

Hubbard is ranked 4th all time in NFL history in yards per carry (4.8) for fullbacks and is 13th overall. “Marv was one of the toughest players to ever play for the Raiders. I’ve never seen anyone look for contact and then actually enjoy it”. The wars between Hubbard’s Raiders and the Chiefs and their bulldozer Ed Podolak were much awaited games for NFL fans everywhere. Hubbard had a knack of hitting holes perfectly and getting every yard that he could out of runs.

Marv never left the bay area and he had a lot of interactions with fans. He loved muscle cars and could always be seen waving to appreciative fans everywhere. His death last year was a sad end to an amazing life. He also released two music singles. Smart and outgoing, he will never be forgotten.

#9 Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas DB: (1972: 7th round 176 overall)

Another fan favorite, the USC product was a key member of the famous Soul Patrol defensive backfield of the Oakland Raiders. His physical play was as intimidating as any DB before or since. Thomas could play safety or cornerback but his play in the Super Bowl shutting out Vikings WR great Sammy White in the first half will always be remembered as one of the key’s to a huge Super Bowl win. He played his entire career in Oakland and he had back to back 6 interception years. No one will ever forget Dr. Death.

#8 Dave Dalby C:   (1972; 4th round 100 overall)

Another beloved Raider who left us too soon, he is on UCLA’s all century team. He played 14 seasons and NEVER missed a game. He replaced hall of famer Jim Otto and many feel Dave Dalby deserves that same honor. He made one pro bowl and he started on 3 Super Bowl winning teams.   I still see his friends talking about him at times online. A kind person who is really missed.

#7 Clarence Davis RB: (1971; 4th round 97 overall)

A 1969 All-American, Clarence Davis slipped through the cracks in the 1971 NFL draft. People forget that Davis was a part of the famous “All Black Backfield” at USC. With Sam Cunningham and QB Jimmy Jones, it was the first time in college history that a backfield purely made up of African Americans was created.

When USC went to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, they steam rolled the Tide beating them 42-21. This convinced Bama coach Bear Bryant to allow non-whites to play on the team. It also made the Alabama fan base insist on integration to keep up with the west coast schools.

Scouts didn’t think Davis was good enough to be an NFL starter and he was smaller than advertised (5’ 10”, 190 lbs.). Davis was the classic Raider RB of the day. He could block, catch in the clutch (didn’t have great hands though), and play special teams. He ran back kicks his rookie year.

Davis will forever be remembered for his catch in the “Sea of Hands” game and his clutch post season performances. His amazing record setting game in the Super Bowl win against the Vikings put an exclamation point on a great Raider career.

#6 Greg Townsend DE: (1983; 4th round 110 overall)

Greg Townsend was a standout player at TCU who was considered more of an NFL project than super star. He ended up being the all time sack leader for the Raiders with 107.5 sacks and is 16th all time on the NFL list at 109.5. He was a 2 time pro-bowler and a 4 time all pro. He also recovered 8 touchdowns in his career with 3 of them going for touchdowns. A great career for another later round pick.

#5 Rod Martin LB:   (1977; 12th round 317 overall)

The ultimate underdog.  After being drafted out of USC by the Raiders, he was cut. He then signed with the 49ers and was cut again. The Raiders then resigned him and the rest is history.   No one really gave Rod Martin much of a chance to make the NFL. With his weight fluctuating between 200 and 210 lbs., he was the classic tweener.   He was a linebacker trapped in the body of a safety. The Raiders had him gain 20-25 pounds and eventually he took over the starting OLB job.   He then became one of the best LB’s in the NFL.

He was on several all pro teams and made 2 pro bowls. His 3 interception game in the Super Bowl win against the Eagles is still considered by many as the greatest defensive game of all time in the Super Bowl. A clutch player, people forget he also had an interception and fumble recovery in another Super Bowl win against Washington. He also stopped John Riggins on a fourth and 1 in the third quarter when Washington was trying to get back in the game & he had a sack.

Rod Martin now works at USC and remains a beloved member of the great Raider teams of the past.

#4 George Atkinson DB: (1968; 7th round 190 overall)

Not much was known about Morris Brown standout George Atkinson at the 1968 draft. He was a good player at Morris Brown but he was not considered a top prospect by NFL scouts. Boy were they wrong.

In 10 years with the Raiders he played in 16 playoff games and won a Super Bowl ring. He still holds the punt return record in a game for the Raiders with 205 yards against Buffalo in 1968. He ended up with 30 interceptions and 13 fumbles. He was a key element of the famous Soul Patrol and many feel he and Jack Tatum were the greatest safety tandem of all time and that the Soul Patrol was the greatest defensive backfield of all time. The trash talker of the group, George was a mixture of great speed and toughness and will always be a big part of Raider lore.   He still works for the Raiders doing the pre and post game show for their home radio station.

#3 Lester Hayes DB:   (1977; 5th round 126 overall)

When the Raiders picked Texas A & M safety Lester Hayes in the 5th round, the NFL kind of shook their head. Many felt he wasn’t fast enough to play DB in the NFL and in pre-draft interviews many teams said that Hayes was not a very bright person. Most had little confidence in him due to his lack of social skills.

What teams didn’t know is that Lester Hayes had a massive stuttering issue. He also had severe nasal problems including chronic sinusitis.   As a child he had severe head and jaw pain and would wake up with apnea. After using nasal medications for years, he finally got surgeries to correct it after he retired; it took 3 of them. In an interview Hayes said, “As a young player I sounded like Cousin It in the Adam’s family. No one could understand me”.

When he was drafted he literally cried in front of Al Davis begging him not to move him to cornerback. He felt if he went there he’d be cut but Al Davis asked him to trust him and the rest was history. Hayes explained, “It was so much pressure playing CB in our glory years of the 70’s and 80’s. We had to be right in the face of the WR because we were obsessed with rushing the QB. Our defense would blitz constantly and you could see the fear in the QB. They had to get rid of the ball quickly and if we weren’t all over the WR we were going to get burned. The pass rush and our coverage though helped us win and play at a high level.”

In 1980 Hayes won defensive player of the year after his NFL record tying 13 interceptions. He is a 5 time pro bowler, 2 time Super Bowl champion and a member of the 1980’s all decade team. He shares the all time Raider record for interceptions with Willie Brown at 39. How The Judge is not in the Hall of Fame is a miscarriage of NFL and sports justice.   Ridiculous.

#2 Cliff Branch WR: (1972; 4th round 98 overall)

At 5’ 10” and 170 lb. Cliff Branch was a standout track star at the University of Colorado. He was also a 5 year standout in football running back an amazing record 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.   Many felt he didn’t have the size or the hands for the NFL and early on he struggled with drops. After a lot of practice and mentoring through the likes of Fred Biletnikof, Branch solved that problem and for 14 years was a top WR in the NFL.   He holds the record for the longest pass play in Raider history at 99.

When Branch retired he led the NFL in post season receptions (73) and yards (1289) for an average of 17.7 yards per catch, while scoring 5 TD’s. And remember this was in the time where DB’s could do anything they wanted to WR and get away with it. He remains the only Raider WR with 3 Super Bowl rings. He was a 4 time pro bowler and a 4 time all pro. He ended up with 501 receptions, 8685 yards and 67 touchdowns.   He was a semi finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame and him being omitted from the HOF is another ridiculous miscarriage of NFL & sports justice.

#1 Jim Otto C: (1960; 24th round AFL Draft)

If you look up Oakland Raider in the dictionary, a picture of Jim Otto will appear.  The epitome of what it is to be a Raider, he was undersized, undervalued and a pure winner.  A 9 time all star, 3 time pro bowler, 3 time all pro and a Hall of Famer.  He also was selected to the all AFL team.  In 15 years he never missed a game because of injury.  In his life he’s had 28 knee surgeries and 74 total surgeries.  In 2007 due to infection he had to have a leg amputated.

When he was eligible for the draft, no NFL team wanted him.  He finally was drafted by the Raiders in the 24th round.  At 6′ 2″ and 240-245, it was thought he was no way big enough.  Otto later stated it was a great chore to keep his weight at 250-255 lbs.  The NFL Network voted Jim as the 63rd greatest football player of all time.

Final Thoughts……….

It’s amazing to see how great the Raiders were at drafting good players late in the draft in the 1960’s and 1970’s. NO ONE was as good as Ron Wolf and Al Davis at evaluating College football talent. They remain the gold standard of the NFL draft and how to build a winner.

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“After a Blockbuster Trade, Who Will The Raiders, AFC West & Others Pick in The NFL Draft?”

nfl draft rg

In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick.  In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1st pick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th).  The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft.  The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks.  The Rams get Tennessee’s 4th and 6th round picks next year.

This is why I don’t like trading up.

Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:

If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.

As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience.  When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan.  Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent.  McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.

The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do.  It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson.  The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good.  They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR.  Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.

I think this is a bad move by the Rams.  Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars.  Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think.  But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there.  If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more.  It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.

Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:

What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time.  Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams.  It’s like they are enamored with athleticism.  It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school.  You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring.  You eventually move on.  That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected.  Athleticism is great but football talent is greater.  Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star. 

Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.

Tennessee Titans;

Wow; what a great trade for them.  They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts.  It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.

San Francisco 49ers:

This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco.  With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts.  The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps.  Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.

This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round.  The Ravens will take Ohio St. DL Joey Bosa or Oregon DL DeForest Buckner with the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.

Denver Broncos:

This move is good and bad for Denver.  Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco.  But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15.  I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him.  There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.

Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver.  If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure.  The QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.

San Diego Chargers:

The Chargers catch a huge break.  Or did they?  Most see monster LT Laremy Tunsil out of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line.  In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them.  The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle.   To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.

The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap.  They also signed Chris Hairston for depth.  Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick.  I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner.  While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.

Kansas City Chiefs:

This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much.  There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need.  Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry.  I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble.  Kevin Dodd?

NFL-Draft-compensatory-11-19-15

Oakland Raiders:

Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.

I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft.  No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.

As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will take Reggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick.  He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers.  Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there.  It’s a safe pick.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/who-will-now-be-the-oakland-raiders-1-draft-pick-after-their-latest-signing/

Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DL Shaq Lawson, Michigan St. OL Jack Conklin, and OLB Leonard Floyd @ Georgia.

I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time.  I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds.  Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that.  Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson.  I take Lawson all day.  There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.

Jack Conklin is a mean physical lineman.  Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking.  He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time.  Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.

Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.

The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd.  He’s a machine out there who makes plays.  The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next.  He needs maturity and focus.

I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow.  If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset.  You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page.  You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack?  Worse things could happen.

I love Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander too.  I think he’s the best DB in this draft.  Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him.  He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns.  He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson.  He’s very strong and physical.  Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot.  If he’s chosen I think it’s great.

If you have Alexander now you have David Amerson, Sean Smith and Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, and Reggie Nelson, Nate Allen and TJ Carrie as your safeties.  Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.

Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:

The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OL Ronnie Stanley and Alabama DL AShawn Robinson.  There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic.  He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts.  AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing.  Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.

Ohio St. OL Taylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.

Ohio St. CB Eli Apple is raw and is also dropping on some boards.  I am not a huge fan of his.  I like Alexander a lot better.  Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.

Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLB Darron Lee but I think that is a bad #1 pick.  If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee.  Lee’s an athlete playing football.  He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn.  He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.

I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche about 5-10 times a day.  In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game.  You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.

I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore.  ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round.  (Finally!)  Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen?  Listen to Brother Jim.

I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.

There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft.  We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.

 

 

“Who Will Now Be The Oakland Raiders #1 Draft Pick After Their Latest Signing”

mckenzie mack

With the signing of ex Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson, the Raiders filled another hole in their defense that needed to be addressed.  In another cap friendly contract the Raiders get a solid run defender who is also fairly good against the pass.  His high amount of interceptions is a good and bad thing; proves he can get interceptions but it also proves teams are not afraid to throw at him.  He’s going to be 33 in September and that is probably the reason he didn’t get the money he wanted in free agency.

Trading Up:

Someone asks me every week on Twitter why the Raiders don’t ever trade up.  For the most part it’s because it’s not smart all the time.

Unless you need that one player to put you over the top, it’s not a good idea.  Most teams that trade up get burned.  Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been fleecing teams for years.  I still remember the 2013 trade when the Vikings thought they were a WR away from being good.  They traded a #2, #3, #4, & a #7 for New England’s #1 pick.  At the 29th spot they chose Cordarrelle Patterson.  While he’s been a fine return guy, he is now 5th on the WR depth chart and caught 2 passes all of last year.  Four picks for a 5th string WR.

The Bills; overestimating their talent; sent their #9 overall pick in the first round along with a #1 and a #4 in 2015 to Cleveland to pick #4 overall in the 2014 draft to get talented WR Sammy Watkins.  Watkins is good but I didn’t get that trade because the Bills had holes in their offensive line, QB and a few more on the defensive end.

Ron Wolf was never a huge fan of trading the first round pick either at Oakland or Green Bay, so I find it hard to think McKenzie will do it.  Many fans like to talk trade scenarios but NFL teams are huge creatures of habit and unless the Raiders have fallen in love with a player, I don’t see them trading up.

What Are Their Needs Now?

The main needs are at middle linebacker, a defensive back, and another DL.  They probably will also look into a RB and WR in the later rounds.

Ezekiel Elliott will probably go to Philadelphia or the Giants.  A Running Back would be helpful to the Raiders as well but it’s not as big a need as people think.  As I said before, I’m not a fan of Raiders OC Bill Musgrave.  Not giving Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale more carries is just ridiculous.  The lack of imagination in using Roy Helu Jr. last year also hurt the Raiders.  And to the writer that said Elliott was as good as Adrian Peterson in college?  Elliot isn’t even close.  Stop it.

Paralysis by Analysis:

I’ve been monitoring my draft picks for 16 years now.  I want to be right so I take evaluating players seriously.  Most just give brash comments and then move on to the next year but I want my followers to know they can trust my opinion.  We all will be wrong at times but I want to have a history of quality picks and predictions mixed in with my Matt Leinart’s.

People wonder why so many teams make mistakes in the NFL draft.  I think it’s because they over think it.  Paralysis by Analysis; over analyzing.  The more you look into something the more chance you will find fault in it.  Now NFL teams are using an arrest formula to predict how many arrests a player will have.  You can’t make this stuff up.

I think also NFL teams and experts are obsessed with athleticism over football talent.  Darrius Heyward-Bey had no business being the Raiders top pick; in fact he was on my no draft list and to the dismay of Raider fans who applauded the pick, I destroyed the choice on draft day.  DHB was picked purely because of his fast 40 time @ the NFL combines.  He really wasn’t even that good at Maryland.

Look at the old videos on Youtube.  I was watching the draft day video on Aaron Rodgers.  Experts were justifying why he was falling in the draft.  “He has bad hand placement; he has bad mechanics.  Look how high he keeps his hands.  He still has a chance to be a pretty good QB but Alex Smith by far is the best QB in the draft”.

From teams overreacting to Thurman Thomas’ knee, to Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen not being fast enough, the nitpicking gets to be a bit rough.  I’m not saying the other stuff isn’t valuable but as John Madden said, watch the games, not drills with players in gym shorts.  This is still football.  Now let’s look at each position and the possible first round pick for the 2016 NFL draft.

Defensive Line:

This is going to be interesting.  Many think that DL’s will fall in the draft because there are so many potential good ones.  It wouldn’t be a surprise but my feeling is that only QB is more important than a DL so if there is one you like then you pick him.  It will be fun to see.

Kevin Dodd:

I’m not a fan of this pick because in reality he had only 1 good year in college and his teammate; Shaq Lawson; was the one being double teamed most of the year which allowed him to be freed up.  I like Lawson better.  It wouldn’t be a tragedy to pick him but I think he’s overrated.  I think Dodd is a borderline 1stround pick.  Not a fan.

Robert Nkemdiche:  

When I wrote on how Vernon Gholston would be a huge bust in the 2008 draft, Jets fans destroyed me.  Some Raider fans wanted to draft him.  In 3 years he ended up with ZERO sacks & never played again.  I also was ripped apart on ESPN when someone shared the preview article I wrote with me saying how Jadeveon Clowney would also be a bust; 1500 thumbs down.  This year I’m picking Nkemdiche as the poster child to avoid.  His stats were like theirs.

In 3 years Nkemdiche only had 7 sacks.  In his last 7 games last year he averaged 2 tackles a game.  His best college year he had 3 sacks.  For his career he averaged a little under 3 tackles a game.  If that excites you then then that is cool but I pass on him big time.  His football numbers don’t equal his athleticism.

AShawn Robinson:

His talent and work ethic are not questioned but his interviews are.  He’s a good guy but some think he’s really not that passionate about football and with players retiring early, that is a big issue.  This guy is a super hard worker.  He’s big and has a great motor as they say.  Nick Saban said he’s just learning how to pass rush and I think his push up the middle would be a great plus.  He was double teamed a lot and was told to play a lot of 2 gap so in reality he was a key to clogging up the middle.  As one scout said, he knows how to play and these guys are valuable.

Sheldon Rankins:

I like Rankins as well.  Like Robinson he’s raw as a pass rusher but scouts like him.  He is physical and is a good tackler and he would help the Raiders.

Shaq Lawson:

Even with being double teamed often throughout the year, Lawson thrived.  There were more than a few games where it was obvious he was the best player on the field.  I think he’s a special talent that can’t be passed up.  If Lawson and Rankins is there, I pick Lawson.

Defensive Back:

Mackenzie Alexander:

I think he’s the best cornerback in the draft.  Great instinct, cover skills and recovery speed.  He’s a film room junkie who works as hard as anyone in college football.  Confident, physical and tough and he plays with a swagger.  I love this guy.  Teams just stopped throwing his way.  He gave up 11 passes all last year and no touchdowns.  NFL scouts hate that he’s only 5 10” but I don’t care.  This guy is really good.  If you pick him, now you have a great nickel back who has time to learn the position.  TJ Carrie and Nelson and Nate Allen can play safety with Smith, Amerson & Alexander playing CB.  A good mix of youth and experience.

Vernon Hargreaves:

Oh the fickle NFL draft.  Remember when Hargreaves was in the top 5 of most everyone’s mock draft?  Not anymore.  In fact I just saw him falling as low as 16 now in an experts draft.  Another great athlete but he gave up 16.5 yards per pass play and struggled in Florida’s two toughest games; Michigan and Alabama.  Two months ago I said I liked Alexander over him and again got the idiot tag.  I’ll stick by what I said.

Linebacker:

There are slim pickings for MLB so it’s going to be tricky here.  There really is only 1 first rounder with Kentrell Brothers being the next best MLB after Reggie Ragland but most think he’s a mid to late 2nd rounder.

Reggie Ragland:

Ragland is a classic Alabama linebacker who is a thumper.  He is a good tackler and very physical.  As I’ve said before, Alabama linebackers are a risk.  Nick Saban plays almost all zone and LB’s at Bama don’t have to cover RB’s man to man.  You literally don’t know if they can cover.  The Raiders found that out with Rolando McClain.  He wasn’t a good cover guy and the pick didn’t pan out.  I’m not a fan of this pick because of the risk but again; but their are slim pickings at MLB this year.

Darron Lee: 

Lee is the favorite for some but he is an OLB so I don’t get the love.  It’s also a huge risk.  Lee is a great athlete but he’s pretty lean for a LB position in the NFL and at times struggled against power blockers.  He also has been playing LB for only 2 years; that’s in his life.  He was a QB in high school and he played safety early on at OSU.  A great athlete and again, that’s what the NFL likes but he has a lot to learn.

Leonard Floyd:

Wow; this guy has talent.  I love his potential and I like him over Lee.  He needs to be consistent and with the right coaching he can be something special.  I would not be hurt by drafting Floyd and then getting a MLB in the later rounds.  If he’ll play hard every play, he can be special.  If the Raiders are looking at just talent, this guy is hard to pass up even though it doesn’t fix the MLB problem, but they could address it later.

Who will the Raiders pick?

If it was me I would take Lawson, Alexander and Floyd in that order.  Floyd is moving up the charts I think and if he is a top 10 pick I would not be surprised.  I would then pick a MLB in the 2nd or 3rd round.

No one really knows; not even the Raiders at this point; but I think the Raiders are going to go for the safest pick.  The draft has very slim pickings at MLB and they really need one.  As of now I see them drafting Reggie Ragland MLB out of Alabama.  He can definitely start right away and if you draft an MLB in the lower rounds, they may not be ready to start.  Ben Heeney is a nice backup but he’s not a full time starter IMHO.

Whoever they pick it will be another piece to help the Raiders attempt to be a playoff team.  It’s hard to realize that there has never been a Tweet or a Facebook post that has ever talked about a Raiders playoff game.  Facebook started in 2004 and Twitter in 2006.  Hopefully for the Raiders that will end this year.      

“Over 5.2 Million NFL Fans Vote The 1976 Oakland Raiders the Best Team Of All Time”

davis madden

In 2012 over 5.2 million NFL fans voted in the NFL.com tournament picking the greatest NFL team in history.  The winner was the 1976 Oakland Raiders.  Little was made of the vote in the media, so I will expand on it.

In my mind it’s hard to pick just one.  The Bill Walsh 49ers, the Tom Landry Cowboys, Vince Lombardi’s machines in Green Bay, the great dynasty in Pittsburgh & Miami and so many others.  It did make me happy though that fans from all over the country showed respect to a team that is often overlooked for its’ greatness, ESPECIALLY on the east coast.  Some east coast media people know little of what happens west of the Mississippi.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d827fc2d9/article/1976-raiders-edge-2000-ravens-for-title-of-greatest-team-ever

Most young fans today seem to only really know things that happen in their own era but usually the smartest people are those that know a lot about history.  It’s important for us all to appreciate history, especially in sports.  The funniest post I saw lately was a young guy that said he knew a lot about the Raiders and that he had been a long suffering Oakland fan since 2007.  Why can’t life have a “slap someone in the back of the head” button?

The 2000 Baltimore Ravens?:

I got into a battle with a Baltimore Raven fan last year who argued that the 2000 Ravens were the greatest team in history.  They aren’t even in my top ten.  Here is a team that didn’t even win their division and they lost 3 games in a row during the middle of the year.  During those three losses, they only scored 15 points in 12 quarters.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/13842/best-raiders-team-ever-1976

The 1970’s teams were so much better than today because of several reasons.  They didn’t have to deal with high salaries, guaranteed money or the salary cap.  That’s why they were loaded with talent.  Many backups could start on other teams.

Many teams had backup quarterbacks that were as good as many of the starters on bad teams.  Ken Stabler was a backup until Daryle Lamonica got hurt.  Earl Morrall was a backup until HOF QB Bob Greise broke his ankle in week 5, and all Morrall did was lead the Dolphins to the only unbeaten season in NFL history.  I don’t see ANY NFL backup today; or most of the starters to be honest; doing anywhere near that any time soon.

Why the 1976 Raiders?:

The 1976 Raiders had 11; YES ELEVEN; future hall of fame players and front office people on it.  Add Cliff Branch and Jack Tatum who should both be in it and that’s 13.  Name a team in todays’ NFL that has 11 Hall of Famers.  In the 1970’s there were many teams with 7-10 future HOF players.

With the passing of Kenny Stabler, many fans, media and ex players began to finally really appreciate just how great this Raiders team was.  I’ve been lucky on the last few radio interviews that I’ve done to have followed nationally syndicated sports people who knew their stuff and who ended up saying the same things I was saying in regards to this amazing era of the 1970’s and it’s greatness.

Almost all NFL historians agree that the 1970’s was the greatest era of modern professional football.  In that decade the Raiders won more games than any other team.  They had the best quarterback, the best offensive line, and the best defensive backfield.  Add amazing hall of famers and a defense that could get to the quarterback, and you had an all-time great team.

Offensive Line:

The 1976 Oakland Raiders are considered to have the greatest offensive line of all time.  The line of Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Dalby, George Buehler, and John Vella, was probably the most physical of all time as well.  At 6’ 5”, Gene Upshaw talked trash and intimidated from the minute he walked on the field until the game was over.  Gene Upshaw is still the only player in NFL history to play in 3 Super Bowls in 3 different decades with the same team.  Sporting News ranked Gene Upshaw as the 62nd greatest NFL player of all time.

Art Shell was a quiet giant but a physical specimen at 6’ 5” who decimated defenders.  Sporting News voted Shell the 55th greatest football player of all time.  Yes they were that good.

Dave Dalby was one of the more beloved Raiders of all time, as well as one of the more unsung ones.  He was a rock at Center following the great career of Jim Otto.  At 6’ 3”, he was considered the smallest Raider offensive linemen.  He never missed a game in 14 years and was voted on the UCLA all century team.  He tragically died @ the age of 51 after struggling to adjust to life after football.  There are still Christian websites that have stories about how kind and supportive he was to so many people.

George Buehler was a rock at guard for the Raiders.  He was another unsung player who shined in the post season.  His domination of Vikings defensive tackle Doug Southerland in the Super Bowl is a part of NFL lore.

John Vella was quiet and easy going but had a volatile temper when angered which fit right into the Raiders physical play.

The Soul Patrol:

There is no cooler group of NFL players than the Soul Patrol.  I’ve written about them often and I’ve included one of my articles on them below which now is one of the most popular articles on the internet about them.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

“Dr. Death” Skip Thomas; The Assassin Jack Tatum; George “Butch” Atkinson and Willie Brown were the greatest of all time.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was actually created because of them”, said Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton.  “It was almost unfair to try and get off the line with these guys”.  In the 1970’s DB’s could pretty much do what they wanted to a wide receiver as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.  That’s why people need to give WR of the 1970’s much more credit.  The pinball numbers of today doesn’t mean that these WR are great.  If you were good against the Soul Patrol then you were great.

The Greatest 2 Minute QB of All Time:

John Madden said that if he had to pick one QB to do one last minute drive he’d pick Ken Stabler.  Joe Montana said he emulated his game after him.  The Holy Roller, the Sea of Hands, the Ghost to the Post; the game was never over if Ken Stabler was on the field.

I still propose that ALL Hall of Fame voters votes be made public.  It’s really a shame to not have Ken enjoy his special day due to petty biases.  It’s time to start calling out writers because of their ridiculous biases; but that’s for another day.

Stabler was one of a kind.  He wouldn’t see the trainers as long as players were in the locker room; he constantly took blame when his team failed, and spread the credit when they won.  He was a great leader, friend and man.  He partied like a rock star, but always showed up on game day.  He was pure Raider.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

Ground and Pound:

When you think of the 1976 Oakland Raiders, you think of Stabler throwing to Casper or Fred Biletnikoff or Cliff Branch.  You see Stabler tossing passes to his running backs or hitting Mike Siani in the end zone.  But in reality the Raiders were also a power running, physical team.  They were consistently a top 10 rushing team in the 1970’s and occasionally was the best running team.  In the Playoffs they decimated the Steal Curtain for 157 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game and had an amazing 237 yards against the Purple People Eaters of the Vikings in the Super Bowl.

Mark Van Eeghen was a do it all Fullback.  He was the replacement for Marv Hubbard.  Mark could block, run, and catch the ball.  He rushed for 1012 yards in a 14 game season.

Clarence Davis was the speed half back of the group.  Even though he didn’t have great hands, he managed to catch 27 passes and dominated in the post season, especially the Super Bowl.  His miracle catch in the Sea Of Hands game is eternally etched in the minds of all football fans.

The Raiders were one of the first teams to use situational players.  Running Back Pete Banaszak was their short yardage back and he usually was a leader for the Raiders in rushing touchdowns.

With solid RB’s and a great OL with tight ends that could block, the Raiders ground game was second to none.

Speed & Precision:

Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff may be the greatest WR tandom of all time.  In each end zone a “speed kills” sign was always seen in Oakland.  As Ken Stabler once said, “Cliff could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  He was track star fast up until the day he retired.  In many of the biggest games, Branch caught key passes.  He was an amazing part of the “throw deep” mentality of the Raiders.  They could score from any where at any time.

Fred Biletnikoff had the greatest hands of all time.  If it was near him, he’d catch it.  He was a ballerina on the football field with perfect route running skills.  He could position his body perfectly to make sure he had the best chance to catch a ball.  He was a true artist on the football field.  Add quality backup Mike Siani who could start for many teams; and you had one heck of a WR core.

Then there was HOF Tight End Dave Casper and short yardage & goal line TE Warren Bankston in the mix.  They also had the greatest punter of all time in HOF Ray Guy.

The Defense:

Along with the Soul Patrol, you had some of the toughest and craziest players of all time.  Some called Oakland the Island of Misfit Toys.  Wildman John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk from the University of Mars.  Prankster and stud LB Phil Villapiano.  The Mad Stork Ted Hendricks who was as crazy as all of them.  The Raiders defense straight up dominated in the post season wreaking havoc whenever a quarterback went back to pass.

Coaching & Front Office:

Al Davis was one of the greatest owners of all time.  He was a rebel that hated anything that wasn’t silver & black.  He took a chance on a linebacker coach named John Madden.  A HOF coach who had 3 simple rules; be on time, pay attention, and play like hell when I tell you.  Helping call the shots for Al Davis was Hall of Fame player personnel director Ron Wolf; maybe the greatest player evaluator in the modern era.

To top it off you have the Oakland Coliseum; “The House Of Thrills” that was as loud as any stadium in history with some of the most loyal and rowdy fans which created pure magic.  And the icing on the cake was Bill King; NFL Films Steve Sabol’s favorite announcer; the greatest radio sports broadcaster of all time, waxing poetically.  How he isn’t in at least 2 HOF’s is a miscarriage of sports justice.

So there you have it.  A trip down memory lane.  What a fun and amazing history. One of the greatest teams of all time……I’m sorry; THE greatest team of all time. Pillaging just for fun.

“The Game 99.1 Ryan Fowler’s Interview w/Jim Jax On Why Ken Stabler Was not Voted Into The HOF Sooner”

SUPER BOWL XI
Jan 9, 1977; Pasadena, CA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Oakland Raiders quarterback (12) Ken Stabler and actor James Garner celebrates as Oakland defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl. The Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 to win their first Super Bowl title. Mandatory Credit: Photo By Malcolm Emmons- US PRESSWIRE © Copyright Malcolm Emmons

I love the people of Alabama, Oakland, Southern California and all over the world that support me so kindly!  People from over 40 nations have read my articles. Their positive encouragement and support is beyond measure and I’m eternally loyal to you all. You are an inspiration and I am very appreciative and grateful!

Jim Jax

 

I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Fowler and Drew DeArmond.  Please support them and listen to them live online.

Here is my interview with the amazing Host Ryan Fowler on 99.1 The Game on why Ken Stabler did NOT get into the NFL Hall of Fame until now.

 

Listen to Ryan Fowler 99.1 The Game From 2 pm to 6 pm CST; The Home of Alabama and National Sports

http://tide991.com/listen-live/popup/

 

Listen to Drew DeArmond @ ESPN 97.7 The Zone Talkin’ Ball from 9 am to 12 pm CST

http://www.mainstreamnetwork.com/listen/player.asp?station=wzzn-fm

 

Here is my article link on Why Ken Stabler did NOT get into the NFL Hall of Fame Sooner.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/part-csi-part-breaking-bad-the-real-reasons-why-ken-stabler-is-not-in-the-hall-of-fame/

 

Here is My article on the Passing of Ken Stabler.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

 

 

 

“Ken Stabler Leading Teammates in CTE Fight Even After His Passing; Should Kids Play Football?”

 

stabler
Ken Stabler Being Helped off the Field During Game

Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death.  They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush.  They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players.  Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.

The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:

Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time.  His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.

You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.

http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/14703416/outside-lines-nfl-great-ken-stabler-diagnosed-cte-death

Eliminate Tackling in Practice:

In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices.  Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots.  Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football.  What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.

http://www.ncaa.com/news/football/article/2016-03-04/college-football-ivy-league-limits-tackling-football-practices

My Experience With CTE:

I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep.  I immediately remembered the name.  I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.

When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be.  She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it.  Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good.  When I left his wife walked me out.  At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears.  “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much.  Please come visit again soon”.  I told her I would be by next week.

A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off.  He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes.  He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed.  I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t.  He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time.  It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth.  CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.

His wife explained this was their life.  A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times.  I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.

Owners Still Don’t Get It:

Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions.  I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem.  Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool.  Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy.  Money doesn’t make you smart.  It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.

In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it.  The NFL said to trust their math.  Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.

What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:

Many say I’m too hard on the NFL.  They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay.  It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover?  CTE.

The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players.  In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues.  Soccer players are now having issues with CTE.  Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.

The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more.  It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.

The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures.  Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field.  After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it.  Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake.  Damage done though.

I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review.  In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago.  The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold.  Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field.  Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory.  You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.

Breakthrough in CTE Testing?

The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive.  When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings.  The problem with anything in medicine is greed.  If this is true, they stand to make millions.  Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.

Should Kid’s Play Football:

One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits.  Usually the longer you play, the worse it is.  Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid.  You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage.  Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not.  When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar.  Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.

I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old.  I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.

The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players.  In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week.  Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.

Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died.  Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football.  What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time.  Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids.  That HAS to change.  They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers.  Epic fail.  This has to change.

I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games.  It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game.  He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him.  I hope they still have that same support there now.

Final Thoughts:

The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them.  Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.

What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football.  University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS.  He played 8 years in the NFL.

CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear.  Fans and the media need to get involved.  Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage.  Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees.  The NFL said both were too expensive.  Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well.  In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.

All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act.  Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks.  We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable.  The 88 plan needs to include CTE.  Support research and retired players rights.  Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”.  The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.

The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to.  It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless.  Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support.  No more Dave Duerson stories.  A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest.  He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did.  No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them.  We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t.  The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.

“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.