Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
If Al Davis were given to moments of calm introspection rather than rapid-fire outbursts and scathing critiques, you could almost envision him sitting with the coaching staff as Vito Corleone did with the heads of the five families, wondering how things could go so terribly wrong.
It’s not often a team makes as many solid off-season moves as the Raiders did yet still fails to improve their won-loss record. Yet there they sit, at the bottom of the AFC West, with the same 3-6 record as last season.
After finishing 5-11 in 2004, the Raiders traded for Randy Moss, who has been hobbled by injury and still hasn’t fully been integrated into the offense. He has 32 receptions for 631 yards and five touchdowns. It hasn’t been perfect, but would you rather have Napoleon Harris and the No. 7 pick in the draft? Didn’t think so.
They signed LaMont Jordan, a running back who had never been a starter, to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. The bottom line is the Raiders aren’t running that much better than last year, averaging 85.3 yards to 80.9 in 2004.
But Jordan’s 640 yards is already considerably better than Amos Zereoue’s pathetic team-leading total of 425 last season, and his 47 receptions out of the backfield is second only to Brian Westbrook of Philadelphia, who has 48. Another good move…
They signed Derrick Burgess, a talented defensive end with a history of injury. Burgess already has a career-high seven sacks, has upgraded the Raiders pass rush, and delivered what might be the hit of the season on Tatum Bell to force a fumble against Denver. Burgess is the most explosive edge player the Raiders have had since they came back to Oakland.
That makes them 3-for-3 in big ticket acquisitions. On to the draft, seldom a Raiders strength.
They have two current defensive starters who look to be of real quality in linebacker Kirk Morrison and cornerback Fabian Washington. There were other positives. Defensive back Renaldo Hill has been a solid contributor, and undrafted rookie Chris Carr is an excellent return specialist.
Even with the absence of franchise free agent Charles Woodson with a broken leg, this is a defense far superior to last season. Moving Warren Sapp inside has made him a productive player again, even if he’s not what he was five or six years ago in Tampa.
Quarterback Kerry Collins had just three interceptions before his regrettable implosion against Denver, and the offensive line has protected him reasonably well in most games. You add all this together and it’s tough to come out with 3-6.
Blaming the officials is too easy, and only perpetuates the persecution complex which only hurts the Raiders when it comes to overcoming legitimate adversity.
This isn’t to say the Raiders are this loaded team which should be running roughshod over the NFL. They’re not. It’s just that they seem to be closer to the pack in terms of quality players than they have been the past two years, yet aren’t getting the payoff.
The easy answer is to hold coach Norv Turner and Collins responsible, and rest assured both are on what amounts to double secret probation for the rest of the season. For it’s hard to look at this group and not see something closer to .500 or even a little above.
And if that doesn’t happen, to modify a line from the Don, Davis is going to hold some people responsible in that room.