Monday, October 30, 2006

The Squeel

Remember this offseason?

Remember the hemmin' and hawin' when the Pittsburgh Squeelers so-called genius, young prodigy, O-Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was not signed on as the new Raider head coach?

Well, the Raiders DEFENSE just outscored the boy “genius”!

Remember this offseason when the Raiders were ridiculed for hiring B&B owner and small-town mayor, Tom Walsh as the O-coordinator?

Well, they were right. Walsh's play calling is still a joke. After all, some baboon drew up a pass to reserve OT Chad Slaughter from the one yard guess it was Walsh. Further proof is in a single bound Chris Carr returned an INT for 100 yards and outgained Walsh's entire offensive output for the game. But the playcaller does not matter when your "D" is on its game causing mayhem and mischief.

Remember this offseason when the mediots paraded around the idea that no one would work for Al Davis because he handpicks the assistant coaches? Remember Al replying that the Squeeler HC, Spittin’ Bill Cowher, had been there for fourteen years winning nothing before winning the Super Bowl? He said the Rooneys believed in continuity.

Well, there is something to be said for continuity in coaches. Caveman Rob Ryan was kept on as D-Coordinator during the changes and his defense finally seems to have matured to the point where it is a legit top-ten difference maker.

Remember the hand wringing last season when the Raider secondary set an All-Time record for fewest INTs in the history of the league with five?

Well, the Raiders nearly equaled that total in one game as Carr, Asomugha, Morrison, and Washington all made Big Ben Roethlisberger pay for his mistakes. The five Raider sacks helped scare Big Ben into spraying the ball where it just shouldn't be thrown.

Remember how they questioned the serial drafting of DBs after Derrick "Radio" Gibson and Philip "Pinetime" Buchanon flamed out?

Where are they to doubt Michael Huff, Fabian Washington, and Nnamdi Asomugha now? The Raider pass "D" is the best in the NFL at the moment.

Remember the Immaculate Deception or the Inaccurate Reception or whatever you want to call the travesty of a mockery of a sham of a play that bumped the Raiders out of the Super Bowl in '72?

Well, I remember all these things. We do not forget the slights and the insults. We use them for motivation. Go here for an outstanding batch of motivating photos of the game (click on "View Slideshow Now" in the upper right corner when you go there, and thanks to Drumsky for the tip).

This is why I say to the hated Squeelers and the doubting mediots, "Payback is Hell." And if you don't know what Hell is, it closely resembles a befuddled Terry Bradshaw trying to spell the word "C-A-T" after you spot him the "C" and the "A".

‘nuff said

Thursday, October 26, 2006

House of Cards

The female reporter asked Art Shell the question the mediots had been posing all week: "Are you going to go winless this season?"

Art's response was classic:"You know I like you. But that question is an insult." And then Coach Shell walked away. Vote here for Coach of the Week.

We see plainly the mediot frenzy to create a story led them to feed on the Raiders losing streak, though not even a third of the season had been played out yet. The premature ejaculation comparisons of, "The Raiders are just as bad as Steve Spurrier's winless Tampa Bay team of '76!!!" rained like hail... but failed to mention the Shell's Raiders won the Super Bowl following that same '76 season.

They played themselves.

The Raiders won and where are the statements from the countless mediots who predicted total futility 0-16? Where are the statements saying, "We were wrong"?

You won't find 'em.

But you will find several of us on this site predicted a Raider win vs. the Cards. This was the first time we predicted the outcome of a game here. This site does not give one of those blind blanket "We will win" statements every week...

Here are some thoughts about the House of Cards game (so named because all the mediot predictions crumbled like one):

Madden was presented his Hall of Fame ring by Jim Otto and Gene Upshaw. Congrats Coach Madden! Good to see the linemen who paved the way for a great deal of your success sharing the day with you. Al Davis' absence from the ceremony was a bit conspicuous as the induction proceedings from Canton were replayed. Here's hoping Mr. Davis' physical health improves.

Tom Walsh finally woke up and realized the short passing game works to establish a QB rhythm and save us all from witnessing the tedious treadmill of three-and-outs we have seen so often. Instead, we had an astounding 37 minutes of possession (astounding for the last three + seasons, anyway). Note to Walsh: Wait a few more weeks before we can execute basic plays on a regular basis before givin' Ronald Curry the end around hail mary toss. He's gonna get killed by the trickeration attempts if ya don't.

Though he dropped at least four catchable passes, Randy Moss was responsible for moving the chains at least four times on third downs. With DBs giving Moss such a cushion, the underneath routes are almost always available for 'em. With Moss failing to give much effort on the jump ball deep throws he used to catch unconsciously, perhaps getting his hands on the ball more often this way will get his heart back in the game...

Derrick Burgess simply dominated all night from Leinart's blind side. Whereas right-handed QBs often see Burgess coming and can avoid his hit, Leinart didn't hear the footsteps till they were close, real close. Burgess was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Seeing his pass deflection land in the arms of Terdell Sands, who then proceeded to shamble for five yards like a wounded elephant, was priceless.

Robert Gallery has one super power: he is always down the field and gets to the second and third level of blocks as well as any lineman I have seen. Watch the catches made ten yards downfield by the Raider WRs and notice how often Gallery is nearby when the tackle is made... When are the Raider coaches going to learn to play to Gallery's strength? His pass protection skills - ahem, three sacks and two forced fumbles given up to former Donco Bertrand Berry - certainly don't justify his being on the field at LT these days. If this keeps up, Gallery is going to get the immobile Andrew Walter killed.

Speaking of sacks, the Raiders are about the worst in the NFL at pass rushing. While Burgess makes an impact, the Raiders collectively equal just one Julius Peppers. My stick on this is put Terdell Sands in the middle at NT. His being double teamed will allow Sapp to free up on a single blocker. Move Kelly out to the RDE spot. Tyler Brayton has brought nothing vaguely resembling QB heat and changes are called for, pronto. Seeing Sands in the lineup more consistently and having Kelly play end would shore up the Raiders non-existent run defense as well.

Does Secret Sam Williams actually play for this team or is his name just a typo whenever I read it? Morrison and Howard are evolving into LBs with heart while Sam just seems to stay M.I.A. Note to Coach Ryan: Please don't use the nickel as a base "D". You get no pass rush by having only two LBs in the game and lining them up a step or two behind where they need to line up to have decent access to the passer. This deep placement also weakens the LBs' ability to be effective in run suport.

I hereby retract last week's labelling of Justin Fargas as "a potato chip." Huggy Bear, Jr. carried 23 times this week with a separated shoulder. Watching Fargas hit his holes immediately with no wasted motion is quite the contrast to LaMont Jordan's jitterbug shuffle. Jordan, who is much stouter than Fargas, seems to think he's Barry Sanders and rarely seems to hit his holes decisively. Poor vision on the part of Jordan, methinks, or perhaps he still hasn't learned the blocking schemes.

Note to Micheal Huff: Watch the game film and keep an eye on Adrian Wilson. He plays the game like a SS should. Wilson's name belongs on the short list of the best Safeties in football: Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Brian Dawkins... and Wilson. Play like Adrian and you'll be in the Pro Bowl and make us all forget the #24 who didn't bother to watch game film.

All in all, it was a good day to be a Raider. Now is our chance to laugh at mediots like this one who obviously wrote her 0-16 piece BEFORE the Cards game was played and had to change some words around to still be able use the piece of cr@pola she had penned as something other than toilet paper.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. The rebuilding of this franchise to a place where the insults are not given so freely begins with a single win.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

See Ya!

It has been reported here and here that our favorite prima donna WR, Joey Porter, has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

You were given a head's up on what would happen here long before this story played out to the logical conclusion.

Here is proof from a recent article that sports writers still don't know your name is "Jerry" (read the caption under the photo, Joey).

We have seen Porter smiling on the sidelines as the Raiders implode for the last four games. Now we will not see him at all for the next four, unless he wins an appeal of the suspension. Before your knee-jerk reaction kicks in and you think to yourself, "Oh, Jerry will get this thrown out..." remember, Shell's last job was NFL Senior VP in charge of football operations. My guess is Art knows the rules and has already talked to his linemate, Gene Upshaw, about the details of suspending Porter long ago.

I am glad to see Art Shell and Al Davis sticking to their guns on this one. It's time to do some housekeeping. Time to say what you mean and mean what you say. Keep 'em on the field practicing for as long as it takes to get things right!

Time to audition some new receivers with playing time, namely one Johnny Morant.

Which begs the question, "What in the blasted blue Beelzebub is Alvis Whitted doing starting for this team?"

Which also begs the question, "If Randy Moss is going to continue to give a half-hearted effort at best and whine about the coaching staff, why not give his starting spot to Ronald Curry?"

The Raiders are dead last in the NFL in passing. It's broke, so fix it. Heck, just try something different, even if it doesn't work.

This team is in full on rebuilding mode. Let's just go all in and find out what cards are in our hand for the future.

If I were coach for a day (and we're all glad I'm not), I'd tell 'em auditions are open for every single spot in the starting line up.

Then I'd start the young guns over the old geezers like the two aforementioned WRs, Terdell Sands over Warren Sapp at NT, Justin Fargas over LaMont Jordan at RB, etc. Whomever plays with the most heart and effort gets the playing time. Send a message that effort is not an optional part of the job description.

It is time to find out who wants to play... and who is just collecting a paycheck.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Running Man

The Fullback has always been an integral part of the old-school Raider offense. From Marv Hubbard smashing through plate glass windows after games...

to Pete Banaszak plowing for 16 TDs in '75 despite habitually believing he was expendable and would be cut during training camp...

to Mark VanEeghen repeatedly pounding the "D" like it was a tube of Colgate toothpaste someone forgot to put the cap back on...

to Marcus Allen lead blocking for Bo Jackson on one play and diving over the goaline the next...

to Zack Crockett running all knees and elbows like the Tasmanian Devil as the best short yardage back in the NFL. Crockett was once a guaranteed fourth and short conversion waiting to happen. But he is no lead blocker and never will be.

Now the Raiders have no blocking Fullback to speak of. John Paul Foschi is gone. Yet the front page story on the official website is The Running Game Breaks Out.

What have they broken out into? Hives? Hysterics? Hope?

We have seen Gallery and Sims lead a couple of great power sweeps. LaMont Jordan was sprung for a 60-yard, take-it-to-the-house run on such a play vs. the Cleveland Clowns. This is progress.

Yes, the O-line did show improvement vs. the Clowns in opening holes for big gains. Can it be consistent? The line failed miserably on a fourth down run after the refs mis-spotted Curry and his obvious first down grab...

However, Jordan confessed this offseason that he hadn't studied the blocking schemes AT ALL last season after coming to Oakland. Jordan didn't put in the time to learn the schemes, and he's supposed to be the leader of the offense? Don't think so, ya big dummy!

My guess is this is one reason LaMont looks hesitant in hitting the holes is he doesn't understand the scheme. Another reason is the holes just aren't there because the blockers don't make 'em appear regularly.

Still, methinks something is missing in Oakland, namely backs who can block. Where is our Lorenzo Neal, Mack Strong, or Tony Richardson as a lead blocker to get this running game on the ground? The fierce lead blocker to stack the LB sure works for LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, and Shawn Alexander. Not coincidentally, these RB typically lead the league in rushing.

Where is our Edgerrin James to pass protect on all the seven-step drops? Peyton Manning's success hinged upon James' skill to pick up the rushers. Get pressure on Manning and the results are much different for the Colts. So the Colts drafted Joseph Addai, who's best attribute may be picking up the pass rusher.

And the Raiders? Crockett and Jordan simply do not pass protect well at all.

Where is the lead blocker to pave the way? Where is the RB to pick up the blitzers the unorganized Oakland Offensive Line lets in to the backfield like illegal immigrants jumping across the California border?

Tom Walsh was once touted for his ability to have backs and TEs pass protect during his first run with Shell a decade ago. Pass protection was supposed to be one of his specialties in the '90s. Where is it now?

The '69ers know: Missing In Action. They are going to send rookie LB Manny Lawson to look for the FB. When they find the blocking back is M.I.A., they are going to find Walter... unless something changes. Look for my fellow NC State alumnus, Lawson, to have a big game. I saw him play many times in college and he is the real deal.

At 1-3, San Francisco doesn't bring much to the table. But they can do one thing right. The '69ers are tied for fifth most sacks in the NFL with twelve.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Whither the Offense

I must make a confession. This is the first season in which I have only watched the games once - live action. In previous seasons, after the live action I replayed the game film looking at specific players and plays to gain insight into what is going on with this team.

Now I am not a football professional, nor did I turn into one by staying at a Holiday Inn Express, but I can usually break down film well enough to see the big picture.

This season, I haven't watched the games a second or third time because it simply has been too painful to repeat after three consecutive seasons of Moe, Larry, and Curly n'yuck it up in Raider helmets. The big picture is clear as an unmuddied lake without having to wash my eyes out with Comet after maiming the DVD-R remote.

That said, there are plenty of places you can look these days to find the usual, tired "Tom Wash doesn't know offense and belongs back at the B&B" columns. This is not that place.

I will not be an apologist for Wash. After all this offense looks on the field as if Kerri Walsh might be its coach.

This offense is not the "Walsh" offense. The only coach named "Walsh" we remember for creating an offense is Bill Walsh, and his so-called "West Coast" offense. Make no mistake, this is the Sid Gillman offense we are supposed to be running.

Sid Gillman is a HOF coach and is credited with developing the vertical passing game. Gillman innovated this style on the West Coast in the '60s AFL days with the San Diego Chargers. It worked, as Gillman's teams won Division Titles five of the first six years of the AFL's existence.

What does this have to do with the Raiders in 2006, you ask? At Gillman's side in 1960 was a young Al Davis, one of the Chargers' offensive coaches. Davis learned his offense here. So when Art Shell says he will run the "Al Davis" offense in Oakland, what he means is he will run the Sid Gillman offense.

Will what worked in '60 work in '06? We don't know for certain if it will work with this Raider team in this age for one simple reason: We haven't seen it yet.

The fuddled mumble of an offense the Raiders have brought out in the first two games resembles nothing so much as a sad joke that no one finds funny. The players simply have not executed anything resembling an offense. Look at the bottom. Here you will find the Raiders. Last in yards gained by almost 100/game behind everyone else. Notice Chuck in Tampa is the next worst.

So what is this offense supposed to look like? When Al Davis says, "We take what we want, not what the defense gives us," he means we are going to run the ball to get the defense close to the line of scrimmage then throw it over their heads. No matter what. Gillman himself said, "The big play comes with the pass. God bless those runners because they get you the first down, give you ball control and keep your defense off the field. But if you want to ring the cash register, you have to pass."

Al Davis believes this and will till the day he unfortunately passes on. The problem is, in order to be able to dictate to the defense like Joseph Stalin on a Great Purge, you have to have one thing in place: an offensive line.

Without an O-line, there is no power running game. Verily, Lamont Jordan is last in the NFL in rushing yards per carry with less than two. Here it is. With out a running game, guess what? The defense doesn't watch passes go whizzing over its head like a Gillman blitzkrieg. Instead, it rushes the passer. This is the Achilles heel of the structure. No time to throw = no long bombs. No protection = game over. This season the Raiders are worst in the league in giving up sacks. See the sad truth here. Fifteen sacks is not going to keep this (or any) offense on the field.

The Gillman offense is predicated on finding receivers downfield. It eschews throwing to receivers - be they RBs, TEs, or WRs - at the line of scrimmage. The result? Jordan has ZERO receptions this season to date and the TE, Anderson, has but three. The TEs have dropped a few and we haven't seen anything vaguely resembling a screen pass yet.

The problem is this. The offensive line isn't opening holes or sustaining blocks. Until they do, nothing else matters. The young line is confused as to protection schemes and assignments. Walter is calling time out at the line of scrimmage because the clock is running out before they can get the plays and assignments together. The Gillman offense worked when HOFers like Shell, Upshaw, Otto, Wiz, and Brown were the linemen. It has not worked with Gallery, Sims, Grove, McQuistan, and Walker.

Verily, the O-line playing as one massive unit of road grading power and castle moat protection is the key to "Taking what we want." Without it, we can only give the defense what it wants.

Now is the time to execute. If the Al Davis/ Sid Gillman/ Tom Walsh offense shows up today against the Cleveland Clowns, we shall see whether it still works forty years after its inception.

My guess is that it does, when executed by competent professional football players. This remains a guess until it is actually run again by Oakland.

Until then, here is believing Oakland will clown Cleveland. Time for "Homey don't play that!" and hit 'em upside the head with a dirty sock.