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Archive for September, 2006

Day of the Dolphins?

Losing 37 of their last 50 games has the Raiders in danger of falling into second place on the back of their own media guide.

Proudly displayed under the slogan “The Greatness of the Raiders Will Continue in its Future” are three Super Bowl trophies, a Raiders helmet and a list of the “top professional football records (1963-2005):

Raiders .602

Miami Dolphins (since 1966) .599.

Dallas Cowboys .592

It’s a standing the Raiders have fought valiantly to maintain through creative use of history, statistics and percentages.

First, note that the Raiders’ history doesn’t begin until Al Davis arrived, vaporizing a 9-33 record from 1960 through 1962. In the silver and black universe, life began when when Davis came aboard in 1963 as coach and general manager, with the Raiders going 10-4.

Eddie Erdelatz and Red Conkwright, the pre-Davis coaches, do not count.

The Raiders also have a different way of calculating winning percentage. According to the NFL Record and Fact Book, winning percentage is calculated by assigning half a win and half a loss for each tie.

Since 1963, the Raiders opened the season with a 385-254-11 record_ which according to the NFL is a .6007 percentage, rounded up to .601. Remove the 11 ties altogether and the percentage is .6025, which in theory should be rounded up to .603. The Raiders apparently settled for the middle ground and .602.

The Miami Dolphins are 1-2, the Raiders 0-2 heading into this weekend’s games. The Dolphins play the winless Houston Texans, Oakland hosts the winless Browns.

If Miami were to beat Houston and the Raiders lose to the Browns, Miami would be 364-244-4, a .59803 percentage. Oakland would be 385-287-11, a .59800 percentage. Both would be rounded to .598, but Miami would have a microscopic lead. By the end of the year, the Dolphins could forge a more substantial margin.

This could force the Raiders to again alter the guide’s back cover.

The Raiders used to bill themselves as “Professional Sports’ Winningest Team,” putting their win percentage of .632 on the 1998 guide ahead of the Montreal Canadiens (.631), Los Angeles Lakers (.628) and Baltimore Orioles (.548).

But the 1999 guide presented problem. With the Raiders going 8-8 in 1998 and the 1997-98 “Showtime” Lakers ripping off a 61-win season, Oakland was no longer on top. The back of the 1999 guide featured only a photo of the three Super Bowl Trophies.

The standings came back in 2000, with only football teams listed. The fictional “lead” in those standings could end on Sunday.

Since “Team of the Decades” seems to have become the organization’s latest favorite _ based on being one of three teams to play in championship games in five decades _ it’s worth examining the club’s record and winning percentage in each decade, and only Al Davis Raider teams need apply:

1963-69_68-25-5-.719

1970-79_100-38-6-.715

1980-89_89-63-0.-586

1990-99_82-78-0-.513

2000-06_46-52-.469

Draw your own conclusions as to whether “The Greatness of the Raiders is in its future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted on Friday, September 29th, 2006
Under: Oakland Raiders | 2 Comments »

The T.O. of his time

It started with a comment made by Al Davis at a press conference at the Napa Marriott. While addressing the wishes of Jerry Porter to be traded last Aug. 1, Davis reached back into Raiders history in attempt to illustrate that not everyone is easy to deal with and that teams face these sort of challenges all the time. 

“I wish I could take you back to 1963. I had one of the greatest players who has ever played this game and he was tough to handle,” Davis said. “He was the T.O. of his time and he was great. His first year for us he carried us. He caught 16 touchdowns. His name was Art Powell.”

     I  immediately made a note of it. Locate Art Powell. See what he thinks about being called the “T.O. of his time” and get his thoughts.

     Maybe he’d angrily hang up on me and act like I expect Terrell Owens to act 40-something years from now. It would be an amusing little note.

      But if you’re in this business awhile, you learn that very seldom do stories go the way you expect them to go. I started to do some backround on Powell and saw some striking similarities with Owens in terms of physical skill and circumtance, but some very big differences in terms of what they faced and how they went about their business.

      An on-line encyclopedia revealed Powell was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles for refusing to stay in a segregated hotel in Norfolk, Va., where the Eagles were playiing a pre-season game. He was involved in a walkout by African-American athletes at an AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans in 1963. He was one of four African-American Raiders players in 1964  who got Davis to pull out of an exhbition game in Mobile Ala.

      As a player and as a man, Powell was ahead of his time. He scored touchdowns at a greater per-game rate than Jerry Rice, but his career ended due to injury shortly after he was traded to Buffalo along with Tom Flores, with the Raiders acquiring quarterback Daryle Lamonica.

     Powell was both an incredible talent and an agent of social change who has been long-forgotten by not only football fans but current African-American players who owe him and others of his era debt of gratitude for making their lives easier and more prosperous.

     This was a man with a story to tell. Or more accurately, many stories to tell. He wasn’t known for being particularly cooperative with reporters in his day. How about now?

     It turns out there was some help in this regard. Joe Barrington, a teammate of Powell’s at San Jose State and a close friend, was one of the people I called for backround.

     Barrington told Powell he ought to do the story. When I called Powell and asked him about being the T.O. of his time, he was ready.

     His answer took 20 minutes. It was the beginning of two lengthy phone interviews as well as a handful of follow-up calls to check facts and details. Powell, 69, answered every question with patience, candor and humor.

     Powell’s story, which runs Sunday in ANG Newspapers, gives a historical look at what black athletes faced n the late 1950s and early 1960s. A second story, concerning the Raiders role in aggressively seeking African-American talent, is scheduled to run Monday.

     While it’s fair and necessary to question the manor in which the Raiders have been run since they returned to Oakland in 1995, it’s also true Davis remains revered by black athletes of Powell’s era for seeking talent from small black colleges and being the symbol for an organization which saw no color.

    It should be a key component of the Davis legacy, more important than the dated slogans, the three Super Bowl titles and even his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

   

 

    

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Posted on Saturday, September 23rd, 2006
Under: Oakland Raiders | 8 Comments »

Time to lighten up

By Jerry McDonald

Yes, the 27-0 loss by the Raiders to the San Diego Chargers was atrocious, horrendous, embarrassing and just about any other adjective you want to use, but facts are facts.

It’s one game. One of 16.

Let’s be serious here. You really thought the Raiders were going to the playoffs?

It’s time to let it go.

After being labeled a “hater” by more than a handful of e-mailers and message board posters across Raider Nation over the past three years, I find it amusing to point out that maybe _ just maybe _ it’s not all that bad.

A few reasons why Week 1 was not necessarily the end of the world as we know it:

– The San Diego Chargers are good. Real good. Maybe the best team in the AFC. They’ve got three outright superstars in LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman and Antonio Gates.

They’ve got established systems of offense and defense. A coach that historically beats up on the Raiders. A new quarterback in Philip Rivers who _ mark my words _ will be better than the old one in Drew Brees.

Of course, Schottenheimer, as good as he is in the regular season, will probably screw it up in the playoffs, but that’s beside the point.

The Raiders got the hell kicked out of them by a better team.

– It’s the NFL. You think it’s impossible Oakland could beat Baltimore Sunday. Nothing is impossible. If the Raiders defy all logic, the Ravens stink on ice, turn the ball over on the 1 a time or two and someone important gets hurt, who knows?

Then all the people spewing hate and hopelessness for the past few days will be jump back on board. Either that, or hide out for a week or two while those who consider themselves among the faithful shout “I told you so” and make fun of all the Chicken Littles.

A football season is 16 games. A baseball season is 162. One loss in football is like a 10-game losing streak in baseball when it comes to panic level. Throw in the emotion of a sold-out home opener and anxiety over a 13-35 record over the last three years and all sense of proportion is distorted.

– Games can turn on one play. The Raiders kept the Chargers pinned deep in their own territory for much of the third quarter. Say what you want about Schottenheimer _ he played it perfectly by sitting on the ball, knowing his defense was in control.

If the Raiders had scored a defensive touchdown, the entire momentum of the game could have swung the other way. Schotteheimer did everything but kneel on the ball himself to make sure that didn’t happen.

– Robert Gallery’s a flop, a bum, Tony Mandarich, (fill in your insult here). He was beaten by a player I firmly believe is the best NFL defender since Lawrence Taylor. Would anyone be truly surprised if Merriman is not only the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, but the MVP?

That doesn’t mean Gallery will become Jonathan Ogden or Tony Boselli, but to throw him in the trash because he had a rough time against the NFL’s premiere defender is excessive.

Assuming his calf injury is not serious, he’ll get plenty of chances to become a solid pro, if not a Pro Bowler or Hall of Famer.

– The Shell Raiders give an awful first impression. Their opening days of training camp were unwatchable. Their first pre-season game against Philadelphia _ even though they won _ was terrible. They got better in training camp, and improved in the pre-season.

It’s not a stretch to think it might happen again.

Can you really just chuck an entire season on four quarters of play?

It’s not that there aren’t some valid criticisms worth making.

How can you make a 270-pound fullback, a former tight end no less, inactive when facing pass rushers the caliber of Merriman? John Paul Foschi is no doubt wondering the same thing.

How can Corey Hulsey go from starting center to inactive so quickly? He can’t be good enough to start at center one day, then not be good enough to back up at guard the next. It makes no sense.

In what universe does Michael Huff come out of the game in goal line situations? Rob Ryan used to do the same thing when Charles Woodson was healthy, and I never understood it. He takes his best tackler, the guy most likely to make a stop, strip the ball, maybe return it 100 yards the other way, and puts him on the bench.

Even worse against San Diego, Huff shadows Antonio Gates and holds him to one reception for 22 yards. He comes out on goal line, and Derrick Gibson takes over. Gates catches a 4-yard touchdown pass.

You put Gibson on Gates near the goal line, and you might as well add the six points to the scoreboard while you’re at it.

What was up with that game plan? Al Davis while extolling the virtues of Shell, also told us Tom Walsh is a bright guy. He also said there would be some rust, considering Shell hadn’t been a head coach since 1994 and Walsh hadn’t coached in the NFL since them.

Anyone got a case of WD-40? Or at least a few pages from an old playbook which detail some decent short pass patterns, swing passes and screen passes?

There’s a lot to work on, for players and coaches alike.

And 15 more weeks to spew the appropriate venom if history repeats itself over and over again to 2-14 or something along those lines.

Shell will say over and over there are no moral victories, but don’t believe that for a second. A close game in Baltimore would be one. Getting to seven wins would be cause for a parade.

I’ve got some doubts about not only the new coaching staff, but the organization as a whole. I’m just willing to let it play out a little longer and allow them to prove me wrong.

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Posted on Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
Under: Oakland Raiders | 38 Comments »