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“The 5 Best NFL Draft Classes in Raiders History; With Video Comments from Phil Villapiano, Madden, Atkinson, Tatum & Stabler”

 

villapiano game
Phil Villapiano

*Raider fans are the best!  Please show your Raider loyalty and sign the petition to put Cliff Branch in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/276/842/889/

 

*Please follow Phil Villapiano’s Facebook page supporting him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (#PhilVForHOF)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

 

*And Follow Phil’s page on Twitter:

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

 

*Want some Phil V “Foo” Gear for the HOF?  His College BGSU has you covered! 

Phil Villapiano Hall of Fame Rally T-Shirt

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jack Del Rio Press Conference

The NFL draft can make or break you.

The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me.  It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team.  It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s to early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts.  Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF.  As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.

To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts.  Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold.  A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years.  In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches.  Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are.  Paralysis by analysis.  If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.

For now though, let’s forget the drafts of today that might work out well, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.

henry lawrence

#5:  1974 Draft:

1st Henry Lawrence T

2nd Dave Casper TE

3rd Mark Van Eeghen

4th Morris Bradshaw

Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle.  Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history.  With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands, he, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.

mark van eeghen

Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all.  He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL.  A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s.  Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team.  The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards.  Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history.  You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.

In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years.  He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.

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Cliff Branch scoring another Post Season touchdown this time against Washington in SB XVIII

#4:  1972 Draft: 

1st Mike Siani WR

2nd John Vella OL

4th Cliff Branch WR

4th Dave Dalby OL

7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB

To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners.  What a problem to have.  Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games.  John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time.  Their size and toughness wore opponents down.  Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.

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Dr. Death Skip Thomas

Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen.  During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so good.

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Mike Davis & Lester Hayes

#3:  1977 Draft:

2nd Mike Davis

4th Mickey Marvin

5th Lester Hayes

5th Jeff Barnes

8th Terry Robiskie

12th Rod Martin

Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players.  Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years.  Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF.  Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era.  Terry Robiskie was an excellent special teams player and backup RB.

 

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Clarence Davis with the “Sea Of Hands” catch surrounded by 5 Dolphins

#2:  1971 Draft:

1st Jack Tatum DB

2nd Phil Villapiano LB

4th Clarence Davis

5th Bob Moore

12th Horace Jones

“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them.  They were so physically imposing and strong.”

Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF.  Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different.  His hits sounded like a car wreck”.  George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odom’s so hard that I thought he killed him.  It sounded like a car wreck”.  He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders.  Jack’s timing was unmatched.  If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF.  RIP to both of them.

A huge get was Phil Villapiano.  Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small.  Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round.  The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round.  They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was.  Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense.  He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender.  There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well.  His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider.  The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.

Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player.  His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized.  Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.

eerie magazine ken stabler
This is the 1979 popular Eerie Magazine cover paying homage to the Raiders and Ken Stabler

#1:  1968 Draft:

2nd Ken Stabler QB

3rd Art Shell T

4th Charlie Smith RB

7th George Atkinson DB

11th Marv Hubbard

Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft.   If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good.  Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.

In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line.  In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.

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Marv Hubbard on the cover of Sports Illustrated

This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all.  They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell.  With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball.  All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.

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Charlie Smith catching a pass and scoring the go ahead touchdown in the famous “Heidi” Game v.s. the New York Jets

Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety.  What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning.  Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years.

Jim’s Jamz:

So there you have it.  These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history.  The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players.  In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank.  History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over.  If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come.  When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports.  When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility.  Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.

 

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“Tom Hanks Immortalizes Phil Villapiano & the Oakland Raiders in a Way Only Hollywood Can”

hanx raiders

Only in Hollywood.

“Hanx” gets it. When so many athletes and celebrities get very full of themselves due to their fame, Tom Hanks knows his place in this world. He never looks down on people and treats people with respect and that is rare among the rich and famous. Tom Hanks is a true Oakland Raider fan, and a good guy.

(Below the late Michael Clarke Duncan thanks Tom Hanks for his humble support)

As I said in many writings, some Raider fans don’t fit in with the rest of the NFL fandom, and neither did Tom. In interviews he talked about growing up and how he was disliked by students and teachers alike, and that he was geeky and unpopular. Even though he was extremely shy, he was also the one that would blurt out something funny during a film or class activity. He said he was responsible, and didn’t get into much trouble though. He purposely would go to plays by himself always reading the program and then engulfing himself into the story and the moment. He worked hard at his craft.

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Tom Hanks Senior Photo; Skyline High School in Oakland

He went to Skyline High in Oakland during the early to mid 70’s when there was a lot of turmoil in society. He then went to Chabot College in Hayward before going to Sacramento State.   He loved the Raiders his entire life.

The NFL and Hollywood:

I did a lot of research on the NFL and Hollywood and it’s pretty amazing how many players have been in the movies and on the television screen. In the 1970’s Merlin Olsen was epic as Jonathon Garvey on the Little House on the Prairie Series with Michael Landon. He was so naturally talented as an actor they gave him his own short lived series in Father Murphy. A member of the fearsome foursome in family television.

Then you have the great Alex Karras who also was a gifted actor. He played the father on Webster and was in Blazing Saddles and Victor Victoria. A little known fact is that he was the one of the final cuts to play Carlo Rizzi in the Godfather.

(below is Ben Davidson as Rexor v.s. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian.  Ben and Rexor have become cult icons with a huge following)

The Iconic Jim Brown was in the Dirty Dozen and many other films, and Vikings running back Ed Marinaro was amazing in one of the greatest shows of all time, Hill Street Blues. There are a lot more that in the future I will write about. No team in history though has more people in the big or small screen than the Raiders.

ken phil
Ken Stabler & Phil Villapiano

Raiders Invade Hollywood:

Fred Williamson is the Raiders and NFL icon all-time when it comes to Hollywood. The “Hammer” and ex-Raider has been in over 115 movies and tv shows and is still working at 80 years old. Carl Weathers, the former Raiders linebacker became famous playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky classics. Ben Davidson was in the M.A.S.H. movie as well as Conan The Barbarian.   He also made waves when he did a porn movie (he was fully clothed and did no sex) which got him hate mail from across the country. Many other Raiders have been in films and television and they were hugely popular on talk shows and commercials. Even with the Raiders glory years decades past, Tom Hanks put the icing on the cake in honoring his team in the 1996 film, “That Thing You Do”.

villapianos

Villapiano’s:

In the late 80’s and early 90’s Tom Hanks was at a crossroads. After his meteoric rise, he had 4 straight flops and was looking to get back on top. In 1992, he asked talented director Penny Marshall for a chance to play Jimmy Dugan in the movie “A League of Their Own”. Dugan was a washed up ex-baseball star whose career was cut short by his drinking. Marshall; who is as soft and sweet as a cactus at times; gave him the part and made him earn his way through the movie. Tom Hanks hit a home run in this classic, and from there went on to do some of his timeless films.

In 1996, Tom took to writing and directing his first film in “That Thing You Do”. A sweet movie about a musical group going from garage band to stars. He needed to choose a place for the musical numbers that had history and that could show how the 1960’s music scene really was during those times.

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Palomino’s back in it’s heyday

Hanx chose the famous Palomino Club in North Hollywood. In keeping with the history of the club, he honored ex Oakland Raiders LB Phil Villapiano by naming it after him. Villapiano’s became a key place in the film. Here is the famous fight scene from the movie at Villapiano’s.

Here is Tom Hanks mentioning Villapiano’s on the Red Carpet with his lovely wife Rita Wilson.

Why is This So Important and Where is Villapiano’s?:

What’s funny is that online movie fans have argued, what venue was used as Villapiano’s and where is it? I’ve searched various sites and did some digging and the site for Villapiano’s eventually was found out to be the iconic Palomino’s, and he couldn’t have picked a better place to name Villapiano’s.   This place was once called The Grand Ol’ Opry West. Just like the Whiskey a Go Go and many other LA hotspots back in the day, this launched many a musical career and was the place to be.

They actually sell the t-shirt at cafe press.  Here is the link:  https://www.cafepress.com/mf/32417705/villapiano_tshirt?productId=209598228

villapiano_tshirt

Le Monge
The Palomino closed 20 years ago and is now a banquet hall called Le Monge

The history of this place is historic. In true Raider form, the Palomino was originally called the MuleKick.   Before the Palomino opened in 1949, the MuleKick was a blue collar neighborhood bar that was frequented often by the ex-country and western film actors and stuntmen of the 1930’s and 1940’s that mostly lived there. The clientele was friendly but gruff, hard working and hard drinking. Country Music Star Hank Penny bought the place and changed the name to the Palomino.

Many famous stars like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson performed to packed crowds. Below is a rare shot of Willie Nelson performing at the Palomino in 1970.

willie nelson 1970 palomino
A young Willie Nelson plays at the Palomino in 1970

Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and even Elvis Pressley would play unannounced sets to the crowds whenever they would drop in. In the 70’s and 80’s it became a haven for the Hair Band and rock band era with many of the hottest bands in the country playing there. Bands like Quiet Riot and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would hone their craft and create a groundswell of support, launching their careers.

(Below is a great performance from the Palomino Club by Jerry Lee Lewis with a very candid interview of the “Killer” afterward.)

Tom Hanks knew the history of the Palomino, and it was a match made in heaven to choose this venue to call Villapiano’s. Hanx grew up in the east bay during the Santa Rosa Oakland Raiders training camp days and no team was as hard drinking and hard living as the Oakland Raiders and their ring leader Phil Villapiano. Ben Davidson, Phil and Ken Stabler would have fit in this bar like a fish to water.

phil fans

Jim’s Jamz:

For anyone that grew up in the 1970’s, they remember how the Raiders were everywhere. Their winning was done in such a charismatic way that it attracted fans, the NFL, and Hollywood. For Tom to use Phil’s name in the movie just shows how much he loves the team of his youth.

So grab a glass of your favorite adult beverage, put on your favorite Raider jersey and check out “That Thing You Do” if you haven’t already. And most of all give a toast to Tom Hanks and Phil Villapiano and all of the Raiders of the past. And enjoy the fact that Tom Hanks immortalized the Raiders and Phil Villapiano, in a way only Hollywood can.

 

“Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano; A Hall of Fame Man, Living a Hall of Fame Life”

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Phil & his daughter Andrea

(I humbly thank Andrea Villapiano Kelly for allowing me to use some of her private photos that I’m able to share with you)

Please follow Phil’s Facebook Page; get him into the NFL Hall of Fame!  Show that Raider loyalty!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/ 

Follow them on Twitter:     https://twitter.com/VillapianOK

 

A Hall of Famer in my world.

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.

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Phil during his days at Bowling Green; team MVP and defensive player of the year

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.

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Phil with his sons Phil & Michael

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.

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Dave Rowe, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler

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.

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Phil Speaking after he was elected to the College Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

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.

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Phil Loves his golf especially charity events

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:

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Phil is all smiles giving the #1 sign late in the game of the Raiders 1st Super Bowl win against the Vikings

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.

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Raiders Greats; Phil Villapiano and Jim Otto

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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

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.

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Phil making sure Steelers great Franco Harris goes nowhere.

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.

http://shoresportsnetwork.com/phil-villapiano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

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.

http://www.niashf.org/inductees/phil-villapiano/

The story of Phil giving his Super Bowl ring to inspire a man in a wheel chair is amazing and continues to spread online.

http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/02/one_raiders_star_walked_the_walk_with_the_gift_of.html

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.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/04/21/raiders-great-phil-villapiano-pledges-brain-to-research/

Phil recently has joined his voice with other former NFL players to support flag football instead of tackle football for kids under the age of 14.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/health/nfl-no-tackle-football-kids/index.html

Jim’s Jamz:

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.

“Raiders Matt Millen relives The Day That Eagles Fans Threw Snowballs @ Santa; Is Santa Safe When The Raiders Visit Philadelphia on Christmas”

SantaEagle
Santa’s in Trouble

You Have to be a Philly fan to get it.

On December 15th, 1968; the craziest Christmas story ever told occurred. And to think, this story almost was never known. In fact until Howard Cosell released the news and showed some footage on his weekly show, hardly anyone outside of Philadelphia even knew it happened.   After Cosell reported it, it had a mind of it’s own and it became a part of football lore.

A Miserable Day:

It was a miserable cold December day in Philadelphia, and the fans were not in a good mood. To be honest fans in Philadelphia are rarely in a good mood but they had reason this time.   Their fans are unlike any other fan base in sports. They might be the smartest in the U.S., but they also will go off in a heartbeat if they feel things aren’t going well. Fans that day had arrived to over a ½ foot to a foot of snow on their seats in old Franklin Field. In true Philly fashion, 54,000 die hard Eagles fans came to see one of the worst teams in the NFL on a terrible winter day.

A few weeks earlier there was joy with many fans thinking the Eagles would have the worst record in the NFL. This would mean they could draft a cant miss super star in USC tailback OJ Simpson.   Sadly, they won 2 meaningless games so they now had the #3 pick in the draft. Buffalo chose Simpson #1 and the Eagles chose Leroy Keyes, a RB out of Purdue.   He showed so little promise at RB that they moved him to Safety after 1 year. Keyes was out of the league in 4 years and OJ became one of the greatest RB’s in history. Their fans knew.

frank olivo with his loving family
Frank Olivo (In Santa’s hat) with his loving family

Philadelphia fans are as passionate as any fan base in history.   They treat their teams like family members. Tough, rough and hardcore, if their teams do well they will be favorite sons. If they fail, they will rip them to shreds like newspaper. Not every athlete can play in Philadelphia.   Thin skinned, sensitive athletes need not apply.

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Schleprock from the Pebbles & Bamm Bamm Cartoon

Philly fans are the “schleprocks” of the sports world. They feel there is a black cloud over them at all times, just waiting to drop down a curse that will eventually ruin even the best of seasons.   I remember a tweet by a Philly fan a week ago. He said, “I’m so freaking scared; things are going too good. I know something is going to happen”. The next game star QB Carson Wentz tore up his knee and is now out for the season.

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On this cold day in 1968, there was nothing to play for. The Eagles lost to the Vikings but that was not the story. Already in a bad mood, the Eagles fans wanted nothing to do with cheer or with crappy halftime entertainment.   The temperature had now dropped to the low 20’s with wind gusts to 20-30 mph. At half time the Eagles had promised a small parade. The Philly cheerleaders would be in cute elves costumes followed by a large band. They also had a Santa float. The Santa float started to go across the field but fans booed because it got stuck due to the bad conditions. The worst part is that the Santa that they had hired, didn’t even show up and wasn’t in the float as expected. There are still stories that he may have possibly had too many adult beverages after seeing how cold it was outside, but that isn’t confirmed.

Eagles Entertainment Director Bill Mullen had an idea. He saw a 20 y/o fan by the name of Frank Olivo in the stands who was dressed as Santa Claus. At 5’ 7” and about 170 lbs., he was a poor imitation at best. Nicknamed “beefy”, Frank was a small, portly Italian man who had lots of personality and he loved to ham it up. Never shying away from attention, Frank agreed.

Olivo found out quick that Eagles fans were in no mood for second class entertainment. Seeing a wannabe Santa was too much for them to take and they started to boo. After someone in the upper deck chucked a snowball at Frank, it created a domino effect. First a few and then dozens of snowballs from all over the stadium started to rain down.

Matt Millen Remembers:

At 11 years old, a young Matt Millen knew what being an Eagles fan was all about. The future Penn State and Raiders star was all Pennsylvanian.  He knew that he was a part of a generation of Philadelphia fans and there was a passionate responsibility to it. As your fathers and grandfathers go, so go the children.

 “I was 10 or 11 at the time and it was a miserable day and they were a miserable team”, said Millen to reporters. “To be honest the snowball throws were the only fun thing about the game.   Dads, kids, grandfathers, and even old ladies started throwing them. I mean he had it coming. When the band played Here comes Santa Claus, that was it. It was no big deal. It was just what we did”.

Matt Millen said it was a much different era obviously. “Fans of today don’t realize how serious Philly fans take their football. Franklin Field was a crazy place to play. More than a few times people would leave the stands and go onto the field to physically confront players and coaches alike if things weren’t going well”.

The Aftermath:

Frank Olivo from the start was a good sport about it. “I’m one of them”, he said often. “I understand them so I didn’t take it personally. They didn’t like anyone at that moment. I do admit though when the Eagles asked if I would do it again next year I said no”.

Frank did admit he never booed a player ever again. “When they boo, you feel like they’re all against you individually,” he said. “And that’s why, when I heard it, I said to myself, ‘My God, what do these players think or feel when they’re getting booed?’ It’s like you’re being told you’re not good enough to be here.”

Frank and his family members were eventually priced out of Eagles games not being able to afford the PSL’s with the new stadium.   Much like in other areas, the most diehard of fans were eaten up by the greed machine that is the NFL.

Years later though, Frank was asked to be Santa at a 76ers game reliving that day and he accepted. At first they cheered him on, and then in true Philly fashion, they realized that for old times sake they had to boo Olivo. He loved it. Frank passed away in 2015 but he treasured his memories of his beloved Eagles until the day he died.

Bracelet Snow:

The latest situation where Philly fans took some heat was last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals and before game 3, they were honoring owner Ed Snider who had recently passed away. Every seat had a white bracelet on it that lighted up.   The light show before the game in honor of Snider was a sight to see and everyone was in great spirits before the first puck dropped.  That feeling eroded though.

As the Capitals pulled away late, fans began to pelt the ice with the bracelets. The game was halted for a time. Not even the Flyers ice girls; who pretty much wear strip club school girl outfits; could stop the madness. The white bracelets were literally impossible to clean up because they matched the color of the ice.  This incident also included a few obscenities yelled out by some fans during the moment of silence.

What Will Happen on Christmas v.s. The Raiders?

Things are going pretty good where the Eagles fly, but you never know.   What if the Raiders somehow beat them?   What if Nick Foles implodes.   What if somehow something bad happens?   If these things occur, I think that whoever is playing Santa better have a thick suit and a thick skin. And if he is anywhere near the good sport and the great Eagle fan that Frank Olivo was, if snowballs come his way then so be it.   He would understand. You have to be a Philly fan to get it.

 

 

“Derek Carr Struggles With Loss; Why He’s Still The Answer In Oakland; All The Video Highlights of Raiders v.s. Cowboys”

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Derek Carr struggles to come to grips that he fumbled out of the end zone

“No Excuses; I should have went out of bounds”.

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr

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.

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Derek Carr Fumbles out of the end zone in the final seconds of the loss to Dallas

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.

(below are the game stats)

http://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=400951814

The Raiders Identity:

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.

Jims Jamz:

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.

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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.

“Evaluating the Oakland Raiders from GM & Coaches to DB & QB: Who Stays in 2018 & Who Doesn’t; Plus Possible Draft Picks”

jack del rio ref

You are what your record says you are.

The Raiders laid another egg yesterday in a 26-15 loss to Kansas City.  Thanks to Alex Smith’s horrible day, he kept it close in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Some say how can they be this bad after a 12-4 season.  Part of the reason was that they played one of the easiest schedules in the NFL last year and barely won several games.  They weren’t as good as their 12-4 record said.  Also on offense where teams now no longer give them the easy, short passes, the Raiders have done little to adjust.  After this disappointing loss in Kansas City, even though it’s way too early, let’s take a quick look at each position and coach to see who may or may not be back next year.

 General Manager:

Mark Davis likes Reggie McKenzie and it’s hard to see him not back for at least one more year. I think the Raiders are frustrated though at another lost draft pick to injury just like DJ Hayden, and Karl Joseph who all missed significant time their rookie seasons just like CB Gareon Conley did this year.

From Derrick Gibson and Philip Buchanon, to DJ Hayden, the Raiders have been missing on DB’s for a long time. They also have had several signed busts as well. The Raiders front 7 has never been the focus; the DB’s are always the focus and it’s a terrible plan. Shore up the defensive front 7 and your defense will improve immediately.   The best defenses in the NFL have stud front 7’s. With the new rules, the days of shut down corners and DB’s like the soul patrol are over. This is a huge off season for McKenzie.

Jack Del Rio:

When Jack Del Rio was hired, I wrote 2 articles saying this wasn’t a great hire. The Raider nation called me a fool. Huh? Oh how the mighty have fallen. All off season and last year you heard in Jack we trust and all of the other corny sayings. Those same people now want Jack’s head. Many fans online are calling for his firing.

KNBR’s Gary Radnich is not one to spread rumors. He said he’s close to some of the people on the Raiders present staff and they are saying Del Rio isn’t exactly the most loyal guy to his staff and he’s a huge micro manager. There are also grumblings that he’s not exactly getting along with Mark Davis and/or Reggie McKenzie. His firing which was once thought to be crazy may happen. Problem is he’s owed a ton of money after signing a 4 year extension in February. Look for Jack to be back for at least one more year.  And remember in his tenure at Jacksonville he went through 19 coaches.

Todd Downing:

He hasn’t’ done a good job but he’s the fans and amateur writers scapegoat. The truth is Derek Carr holds some of the blame too.   Carr is the coach on the field and he has the last say on plays that are called. If you are going to trash Downing then you need to trash Derek Carr who seems to only occasionally audible. Carr for this year is the highest paid NFL player.  Rodgers, Brady & Roethlesberger to name a few, audible for most of the game.

Downing was in over his head and it’s hard to see him back next year but Carr loved this guy and this was a hire to please him.

John Pagano:

Pagano is a solid defensive coordinator and he should be retained.   He still has a lot of work to do though. Kansas City’s offensive line and QB Alex Smith were horrible yesterday but they still got a 26-0 lead at one point. Smith in particular was bad with his decision making and accuracy being a mess when the Chiefs should have had 40 points easy.

irvin

Defensive Line:

The Raiders for years have tried to fix the defense by signing and drafting defensive backs; it doesn’t work. If you look at most of the teams that are thriving, the key to their defenses are the front 7. They may have quality DB’s but you have to have a pass rush to win in the NFL. The Raiders don’t.

Fans will lose their mind when a player has a big game but there is no consistency. Khalil Mack had a 6 game stretch this year where he had only 1 ½ sacks and only 27 tackles. The Raiders were 2-4 in that stretch. He once was benched for poor play. In the first 10 games of the year, Bruce Irvin had 2 ½ sacks and only 34 tackles. That doesn’t scare any opponent.

Mario Edwards had a few moments but he also has not proven he’s the answer to the DL issues. Jihad Ward was not a good pick last year and even though he played most of 2016, he had very little success. Even though he’s been healthy, the Raiders have not even had him suit up for some games so already his days may be numbered.

Eddie Vanderdoes is this years Ward and he has not had much of an impact as well with has only 13 tackles all year even though he’s started often. The Raiders have to sign or draft a dominating DT who can put pressure on the QB or they will struggle; AGAIN.

Linebackers:

Navorro Bowman loves the bay area and Reggie McKenzie loves him; he did a good job in signing him. Look for Bowman to be back next year. He’s not the player he once was but he definitely is an upgrade to what the Raiders had and he’s a hard worker with good leadership skills. I love him on the team.

To be honest other than Irvin, the rest of the LB core are borderline NFL starters. The Raiders LB’s still struggle a lot in pass coverage. The Raiders need another starter and if I’m drafting next year my first 2 picks are a DT and an LB. The Raiders have to improve their front 7 or not much will change. And to watch the 49ers Reuben Foster have 45 tackles in the last 5 games and 3 for loss, is a little rough when the Raiders could have drafted him.

Defensive Backs:

If there was ever any ammo against Reggie McKenzie, it’s his signings and drafting of DB’s. DJ Hayden was a huge bust and now he finally is starting on a bad Detroit pass defense after being a nickel back for most of the year.

David Amerson did well his first year but teams found out that he struggles covering the deep ball. If the Raiders keep him it will definitely be at a lesser salary. Sean Smith has been a bust and his big salary will be taken off the books in the off season. Reggie Nelson has never been a great factor and his 4 million will also be taken off the books. Whether Gareon Conley is ready or not, he’s going to start next year. He was never good against the run at Ohio St. but his claim to fame was as a coverage man. He will get his chance quickly next year after being another injured Reggie draft pick that didn’t do much his first year.

Karl Joseph is what he is. A hard hitter who is good against the run but will struggle at times in coverage.   Covering the tight end is still an issue in Oakland. Joseph had a bad game in KC with some awful missed tackles.

Safety Obi Melifonwu is an amazing athlete and good tackler but he has a lot to learn. His struggles in college were due to a lack of instinct and he also will probably be thrown into the fire next year. That could get ugly. TJ Carrie is an OK DB but he’s never going to be the shut down corner or key safety.   He can provide depth though. Due to the wasted money and mistakes, the Raiders will need help in free agency. PLEASE; No more high DB picks. I beg of you.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr is now the highest paid player in the NFL and he’s feeling the pressure. He is a good, solid NFL QB, but he will never be a great QB. His reluctance to run and his uncomfortable movements when he’s rushed are obvious even to the average fan. Last year teams gave the Raiders the short ball and this year they took it away and Carr and Todd Downing never adjusted. EJ Manuel signed a 1 year 800k contract so it’s not known if he will resign. To be honest if the Raiders are relying on their backup to win, they are in huge trouble just like everyone else in the NFL.

Running Backs:

Marshawn Lynch is signed for one more year and the Raiders are solid with DeAndre Washington Jalen Richard. Jamize Olawale is also a good player. I like these guys. Lynch is not a consistently good pass catcher though so when the Raiders are behind, his presence will diminish.  The Raiders are not a zone blocking team and many have said so.

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Wide Receiver:

Cooper and Crabtree are solid but both have struggled with drops. Cooper needs to get more physical and with DB’s now playing on the line, he’s had issues getting into his routes. He’s a hard worker and has too much talent not to come back next year. Cordarrelle Patterson runs the worst routes in the NFL but he can run fast downfield and also is great on reverses. He makes plays and is a great return guy. Johnnie Holton is a wild card who can make plays but he doesn’t show consistency.  He’s also a fumble machine if he’s hit after the catch. Seth Roberts is liked by the Raiders but his days may be numbered as the #3 WR. With issues in other areas, WR can be fixed easier than the defense.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders OL is set for at least another year. They’ve played better in the second half of the season and they are a huge key to the success of the team. Using a zone scheme on running plays has hurt this team. They need to go back to the power scheme and Marshawn Lynch needs to accept it.

Draft Choices:

First off the draft positions change like the wind. These are players that I like early on. Oakland almost always picks a DB in the first 2 rounds so this may be wishful thinking. I haven’t agreed with a lot of their draft picks especially the DB’s, but it is what it is. Here are a handful of names that may help the Raiders.

Roquan Smith LB, Georgia:

The Raiders defense would immediately improve with this guy. He’s probably the best LB in the draft and he’s been a huge key to making Georgia a top defense. Many feel he should have gotten more Heisman hype than he got. A big playmaker that can start immediately.   He would be great beside Navorro Bowman and can play all downs.

DaRon Payne DT, Alabama:

Payne has really come on this year after working hard in the off season to shed a little weight which has improved his speed. At 6’ 2” and 310 pounds he runs a 4.93 40 and is a freakish athlete. He can play in passing and running downs and can create pressure on the quarterback.

Maurice Hurst DT, Michigan:

Hurst has had a good season and is solid as a run stopper and a pass rusher.   He’s very athletic and is projected as a first rounder by some, a second rounder by a few.

Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson:

The Raiders really need a DT that can push the OL back and put pressure on the QB, but Ferrell is an excellent pass rusher that they might not be able to pass on.

Like I said, social media has a lot of people that love a player and coach one day and then wants them fired the next. In reality this is business. You evaluate long and short term to see if the person or player in the position will eventually be the answer to the problem.

Also the salary cap plays a role. You can’t fix everything so you need to fix the biggest issues and do your best at other positions.

This has been a disappointing year for Oakland but they played a much tougher schedule than last year. Last year the Raiders beat a lot of bad teams and often in the last minutes of games.   I think the Raiders were not as good as their record was last year and they’ve now come back down to earth.

The defense has huge issues though and that has to be fixed. The Raiders also need to get an OC that will challenge Carr to be more of a game general out there. He will never be a running QB but a scramble now and then would help as well.

This off season will see changes and lots of decisions. Time will tell if the Raiders have the people to make the right ones, and the players to carry them out.

 

“Are the Raiders in Better Shape Than People Think? Key Stats on The Teams of the AFC West”

navorro bowman chiefs
Navorro Bowman makes a tackle against the Chiefs

 

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.

In Reality:

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.

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L.A. Chargers Melvin Ingram

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.

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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.

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Broncos CJ Anderson scores a TD in the snow in Denver.

Denver Broncos:

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.

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Raiders DeAndre Washington scores a TD against KC on a tough run

Oakland Raiders:

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.