Tag Archives: Oakland Raiders

ESPN: Jamarcus Russell – Waking Up

 

The one-time savior of the Oakland Raiders and the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft floundered for three painful seasons, but nobody knew why he was struggling. They didn’t know because Russell didn’t tell them. For the first time, JaMarcus Russell speaks about his life as an Oakland Raider and his life away from football. Tom Rinaldi tells us about the awakening of JaMarcus Russell and his second chance to come back and play in the NFL. 

Excellent Jim Trotter article on the problems of the Oakland Raiders

Mark Davis

As found in Sports Illustrated

Reggie McKenzie knew he faced a significant challenge when he was announced as general manager of the Raiders on Jan. 6, 2012. Over the previous nine years the team had gone through six head coaches, and it had lost at least 11 games in an NFL-record seven straight seasons. Oakland’s last winning campaign, in ’02, was a millennium ago by NFL calendars.

Still, the depths of the struggle might not have truly hit McKenzie until several months after his hiring, when he changed into his workout gear and headed to the back of the team’s Alameda training facility, where his long jog around the practice fields was spoiled by wildly uneven footing and goose droppings.

If the choppy grass fields were hazardous to a 49-year-old such as himself, he thought, imagine the dangers for players. In the previous two seasons alone, running backs Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece, wideouts Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Rolando McClain had been hobbled by or missed significant time because of lower-body injuries.

When McKenzie asked who was responsible for the upkeep of the fields, which were riddled with dirt patches, the answer stunned him. The Raiders did not employ a full-time, on-site groundskeeper. Instead, the work was outsourced to a local company—astounding considering that the difference between the playoffs and a pink slip could easily come down to a turned ankle, a jammed toe, a tweaked knee or a pulled hamstring.

The field conditions were just the first of many reminders that restoring greatness to a franchise whose mottos had included “Pride and Poise” and “A Commitment to Excellence” would be about much more than just hiring a new coach and ridding the roster of its bloated contracts and underachieving players. It would be about transforming an entire culture and overhauling an organizational model that had become stale and outdated after nearly five decades under Al Davis, the iconic and imperious owner who died of heart failure at age 82 in October 2011.

It wasn’t just the grass that needed fixing

McKenzie knows he must be spot-on in this year’s draft. Oakland has the No. 3 pick and the fourth pick of the third round, but its second-round selection belongs to Cincinnati as part of a 2011 swap for Carson Palmer. He’d love to trade down for more choices, because the Raiders are far more than one player from being relevant again. But if he’s unable to find a trade partner, then he has to find impact players with his high picks. Imagine the best draft ever. If McKenzie replicates that, his team is mediocre at best.

And so, much of the G.M.’s energy the last 15 months has been spent on upgrading Oakland’s scouting and personnel departments. When he went to view the club’s draft room last year, he discovered that none existed, so he had one built from scratch. When he requested the team’s scouting questionnaires for evaluating college prospects, he learned there weren’t any, so he created them.

Such resources are givens in most NFL organizations—but not with the Raiders and Davis, who had his own way of doing business. He was the only owner who didn’t use one of the national scouting services for college prospects, and the only one who didn’t subscribe to the psychological-testing program available to each team before the draft.

Davis was so behind the times that even toward the end he didn’t allow employees to use direct deposit, and he kept the budget for coaching and support staffs in his head rather than on paper. In his video department, the software was tragically outdated.

Sadly the Oakland Raiders (as in Mark Davis) fired Oakland’s PR person, Zak Gilbert after the story came out.

We read the Trotter story this morning, and there are certainly aspects of it that would make any organization cringe. The Raiders fell behind the competition in many ways in the last 10 years of Al Davis’ life.

General manager Reggie McKenzie was portrayed as a man who inherited a pigsty, forced to tend to matters both minor (hiring a head groundskeeper, constructing a draft room, upgrading video equipment) and major (completely rebooting the team’s scouting and personnel departments, treating burns incurred in salary-cap hell).

The Raiders reportedly dumped Gilbert because the SI piece — which surely now will attract more eyeballs — delved into not just the team’s struggles in recent years but why and how the downturn occurred. The guts of the story focused on positive strides made by McKenzie over the last year, but that apparently wasn’t enough to save Gilbert.

The Raiders shouldn’t run from the last decade. It’s a dark period that the organization can learn from. Firing the PR guy over a story anchored in facts makes it look like the team is trying to will the bad old days into the ether. That’s not happening.

Yahoo!’s Mike Silver saw this coming a year ago.

Meadowlands West

49ers Stadium 

According to Yahoo! Sports

A stadium proposal for the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California, is apparently planning a facility that could fit two home teams, according to ABC7, leading to speculation that the Niners and Oakland Raiders could move to Santa Clara together.

This could make the proposal more attractive to Santa Clara voters who would have to put less of their tax dollars into the stadium if another team were there to offset some of the supposed $937 million in costs it will take to erect the thing.

I am not sure what to think about this.

  • The New York Jets and the New York Giants have successfully shared Giants Stadium for years and will continue to share their new stadium.  Two different fan bases means that home games have a much different feel.  Let’s be honest, a Oakland Raiders home game is never going to be confused with a San Francisco 49ers home game (49ers fans can read and walk upright).  Two NFL franchises in one stadium makes a lot of financial sense.
  • Are there two worse stadiums in the NFL than Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park?  Just read the Wikipedia entries on both of them (although according to Sports Illustrated, they are not the two worse fan experiences in the game, that honor goes to the St. Louis Rams), they are two really poorly designed stadiums from a previous era.  Now common sense will dictate that the new stadium will be much improved but I think there is a reasonable chance that the new stadium could be so bad, it brings about the apocalypse.  Apparently building world class stadiums is not something Californians are comfortable with.
  • More realistically with the current economic climate in California, the stadium won’t see any public money.  No offense to the 49ers or the Raiders but right now is a hard time to ask the state for funding for a sports franchise, especially two incompetently run franchises.  I am not saying it won’t happen but its been a hard sell so far for voters to buy in.  One stadium/two teams is a lot easier sell for many than a billion dollar stadium now and a billion dollar stadium a decade from now when Al Davis’ corpse threatens to move his team again.

The Hot Dog Stand That Wendy Won’t Let Me Have

Hot Dog StandI have been trying to convince Wendy earlier this summer that I should be allowed to get a full sized hot dog stand for around the house and even at work.

I believe Wendy’s objection was, “What would you possibly do with a hot dog stand at work?”.  Well Wendy, I have an answer for you: I would been able to hang out with New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez as he scarfed down a couple while in the neighborhood.  Now the cool thing is that I wouldn’t even be out any hot dogs if he came by as he purchased 500 hot dogs and 500 hamburgers along with buns for a New York soup kitchen.

The funny thing is that he apologized because people thought he was being disrespectful to the Oakland Raiders.  First of all, the Jets were up 38-0 at the time and if anyone owes someone an apology, it is the Oakland Raiders and they need to apologize for masquerading as a NFL team.

Back to the hot dog cart.  They sell them at Home Outfitters and I am wondering how many of these they sell in Saskatoon because how big could the home hot dog cart market really be?  Well all I know is that it one less then it could have been because Wendy never caught the vision of hotdogs 24.7.365 at our house.

The best and worst NFL owners

Michael Silver has a great two part series over on Yahoo! Sports rating the NFL Owners from #32 to #1.  Here are the highlights.

Oakland Raider owner Al Davis

The Worst Owner if the NFL, no secret here.  Al Davis

Think hard: Since the Raiders were blown out in Super Bowl XXXVII by the Bucs (and then-coach Jon Gruden, whom Davis dealt to Tampa Bay after failing to offer him a market-value contract extension), has he or Matt Millen been worse at running a team? It’s a tough call, and that’s scary. Now, sources say, Davis once again has cash-flow issues. In a July interview with team play-by-play announcer Greg Papa of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Davis said he was scaling back on grandiose birthday-party plans because he didn’t want to flaunt his good fortune in a bad economy. “What a joke that was,” says another owner. “He has no money – he’s trying to sell another 10 percent of his team to raise working capital. That’s what that was about.”

If I was Michael Silver, I would just retired #32 for Al Davis.  After he gives up ownership of the Raiders, you don’t become the worst owner in the league, you are just labeled Al Davis.  As a Denver Broncos fan, I hope he keeps control of this team until he’s 140 and then pulls a Walt Disney and leaves instruction on who to draft from the grave.

This one hurts if you are Cincinnati Bengals fan where Mike Brown is rated the second worst owner in the game.

It’s hard to put Brown’s philosophy in its proper context, but here’s a loaded attempt: He’s the 21st century’s answer to a Communist Party bigwig in the Soviet Union’s heyday – gaming a system steeped in shared revenues for his own benefit while setting new standards among his peers for brazen laziness. Says one owner: “Anything that’s going to force him to do any extra work, he speaks out against it.” In recent months, Brown voiced opposition to the league’s moves to allow teams to cut sponsorship deals with state lotteries and hard-liquor providers and to sell advertising decals on practice jerseys. When Saints owner Tom Benson asked for a waiver on club-seat revenues to help fund improvements at the Superdome – part of an admirable transformation that has pushed him away from his usual spot at or near the bottom of these rankings – Brown was the lone Grinch in the meeting room. “It’s a great American story, Tom Benson defying the skeptics and keeping the Saints in New Orleans, and [expletive] Mike Brown speaks out against it,” the same owner says. “Meanwhile, the guy has the best stadium deal ever. It was completely built for him and he has no operating expenses. He probably makes more money than any of us.” Nonetheless, Brown repeatedly advocates for additional handouts from his larger-market peers via revenue-sharing and spends as little of it as he can get away with on employees.

He does get some credit for not changing the Bengals helmets.  I still think they are one of the greatest in pro sports.  Other than that, I’m not so sure.  The stories of the Brown family’s thriftiness is legendary (like being the only team in the league that doesn’t serve breakfast for players).

There is some good news.  Tom Benson has risen up a couple of spots to No. 22 for his efforts to keep the Saint’s in New Orleans.

Benson, who clearly had a wandering eye even before Hurricane Katrina hit, responded to the disaster by recasting his legacy. “It’s hard for me to say this, because I’ve seen him say and do so many stupid things, but Tom Benson has been terrific,” says one longtime critic among his peers. “When everyone assumed he’d use Katrina as an excuse to line his pockets, maybe he viewed it as an opportunity to prove people wrong.” Last week Louisiana lawmakers approved a deal with Benson that will keep the team in New Orleans through at least 2025 and initiate improvements to the Superdome which, blessedly, should put New Orleans back in the Super Bowl rotation.

Okay, Benson’s ranking is the only one I can’t agree with.  He is doing what the Bush administration could not do and this is make a tangible effort at rebuilding New Orleans.

This one hurts Denver Broncos fans everywhere.  Pat Bowlen has a really bad off-season and slips to #17.

After years of relative stability and smart, league-friendly stewardship, Bowlen had what seemed to be the owner’s equivalent of a midlife crisis this past winter after the Broncos blew a playoff berth with a late-season collapse. First Bowlen fired longtime coach Mike Shanahan and replaced him with then-32-year-old Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Bowlen then allowed McDaniels to hire another neophyte, Brian Xanders, as his handpicked general manager. To say the newbies had a rough start was an understatement. In April McDaniels tried to trade 26-year-old franchise quarterback Jay Cutler, lost the player’s trust and acted as though damage control was beneath him, creating an untenable situation that finally prompted Bowlen to deal Cutler to the Bears. After Cutler successfully pushed his way out of town by alienating the owner, star wideout Brandon Marshall attempted to do the same and was miffed when the strategy didn’t work. He’s currently under suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. Talk about a Rocky Mountain Low. Through it all Bowlen has been wishy-washy and weak, admitting during the Cutler saga that he’s been having short-term memory lapses. (That might also explain why Marshall’s agent, in June, said Bowlen had told the receiver in a one-on-one meeting he’d deal him while McDaniels insisted the Broncos had no such plans.) Bottom line: I’m worried about Bowlen. He’s only 65, but he appears awfully confused about the direction of his team. Oh, and here’s the capper to a horrid offseason: When Bowlen fired Shanahan, his coach and de facto GM, he wasn’t aware that a league rule required him to post a deposit for the balance of the outgoing employee’s contract. “So he had to give the league $21 million in cash,” one owner says. “Surprise.” Ouch, babe.

And here is a season where Bowlen is reportedly taking a more hands on approach with his team.  Personally I think he fired Shanahan because he just couldn’t fix the defense and there were a lot of questionable coaching calls made over the last couple of years that cost not only games but playoff berths.  The other thing is that Shanahan spent Bowlen’s money like it was going out of style.  It’s fine if you are Jerry Jones and it is your own money but when it is the boss’s money, they tend to get a little tense and uptight at you blowing their millions on players who don’t work out year after year after year.

We all know the Kraft family is going to be number 1 but number 2 is Jerry Jones

But if I were a Cowboys fan, I’d get down on my knees and thank the football gods for sending Jerry and his family to North Texas, and none of you will ever convince me otherwise. Among his many recent accomplishments: Jones, as chairman of the NFL Network, joined forces with Goodell to settle a long-running dispute with Comcast after successfully demonstrating that customers would cancel their cable service if denied access to the channel. Said one rival owner: “You’ve got to give it up for Jerry. The stadium’s spectacular. Four words: Big vision, big testicles.”

Can’t wait until next year and if Silver is correct, Bowlen won’t remember that this list was even published in a week and Mike Brown may be too lazy to read it.

Comments?  Anything he missed?

The Dysfunction that is Raider Nation

This is a stunning article by Michael Silver, even if you are not a football fan, about how dysfunctional an organization can become.

The Oakland Raiders: A Commitment to Chaos Violent confrontations between employees is nothing new for a franchise that has compiled the NFL’s worst overall record (24-72) during the past six seasons. Interviews with numerous current and former players, coaches and front-office employees reveal a consistent pattern of physically charged clashes, most of which went unreported. In addition, the principals rarely incurred overt discipline, creating the impression that lawlessness is a way of life in Raiderland.

“It’s never a dull moment,” says USC receivers coach John Morton, who worked for the Raiders in various capacities from 1997-2004. “It’s hard to be a Raider – it’s not for everybody. If you’re a player or coach, you’ve got to have thick skin. And every time you hear something about the Raiders, it’s something that’s kind of crazy.”

Added another former Raiders assistant who recently worked for the team: “The environment sucks there. Everybody just wants their side to do well so Al doesn’t call them out. Trust me, after what just happened with Cable, this staff already knows they’re fired.”

Given that Davis, among NFL owners, has unrivaled involvement in the day-to-day operation of his franchise, there’s no question that he bears a great deal of responsibility for the contentious environment.

“I just think that’s Al’s way,” says Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who spent his first eight NFL seasons (1998-2005) in Oakland. “There are forces pulling you every which way, and it just seems like people are never on the same page.”

Or, as one Raiders veteran said earlier this week in response to the Cable incident, “Just another day at the office around here. You know how that goes. It’s always something.”

A Commitment to Excellence indeed.

Week One

While my fantasy team is disarray, at least the Denver Broncos won big.

Jay Cutler shredding the Oakland Raiders Cutler threw for 299 yards with long touchdown passes to rookie Eddie Royal and Darrell Jackson that helped the Broncos beat up on their AFC West rivals in a 41-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.

“There were a lot of questions about us, but we felt good about what we have,” Cutler said. “You have that little bit of doubt about what’s going to happen with the young guys when the lights come on, but they came through time and time again.”

Cutler showed why the Broncos made him a first-round draft pick in 2006, completing 16 of 24 passes and confidently picking apart Oakland’s rebuilt defense despite missing its best offensive playmaker to a one-game suspension.

How did the Raiders new acquisitions do?

The Raiders went on an offseason spending spree to try to reverse five straight seasons of double-digit losses. The early payoff was not good.

Receiver Javon Walker, who got $16 million in guaranteed money, missed the game with an injured hamstring. Hall, who got $24 million guaranteed, was frequently beat by Royal in coverage and committed the two personal fouls. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who got $18 million in guarantees, was part of a line that failed to get pressure on Cutler all night.