Back to the drawing board


Progress only exists if you buy into the notion of a qualifying standard.

With the Raiders already having won as many games as they did all last season, the outside world has noticed that they hit the quarter turn of the 2007 season tied for first place in the suddenly vulnerable AFC West.

But rather than get an early start on putting together a plan to deliver another body blow to the San Diego Chargers, Lane Kiffin said he will spend the time trying to repair what went wrong in the two games the Raiders didn’t win.

“I’m not pleased with where we’re at,” Kiffin said Monday at his weekly press briefing. “If we would play the way we know how to play and we would understand what I think we’re starting to learn about how to finish games, we’d be 4-0 right now.

“We’ve taken a lead in every single game with less than nine minutes to go in the game. If you take a lead with nine minutes to go, you whould be winning the game. That falls on all of us.”

Later, Kiffin said of the .500 record, “We have to figure out what went wrong in these four weeks, why we’re 2-2.”

Kiffin is either posturing to convey a message, or he’s a hard guy to please.

More news, notes and observations as the Raiders begin their bye week:

— The Daily Daunte finds Culpepper getting plenty of praise from the coach, but no public assurances he’ll start against the Chargers.

“I don’t know that,” Kiffin said when asked if he was prepared to name Culpepper the No. 1 quarterback. “If we played tomorrow, he’d start.”

Based on his performance against Miami, why not name him the starter going into the San Diego game right now?

“Because I’m not going into the San Diego game yet, that’s the only reason,” Kiffin said. “If it was then I’d mke that decision. But I don’t need to make it.”

So there.

— Josh McCown remains in a protective boot.

“If we were going to practice today, he wouldn’t be able to practice,” Kiffin said.

— Kiffin said x-rays on LaMont Jordan’s back were negative, but that he is undergoing more tests. Jordan looked to be in considerable pain following the game. Dominic Rhodes can practice this week, but he is exempt from taking up a spot on the 53-man roster until next week, giving the Raiders time to evaluate the seriousness of Jordan’s condition before deciding who is to be trimmed from the roster.

— Following the conclusion of the sixth regular season weekend through the conclusion of the ninth weekend, the Raiders have a window which they must decide whether to activate running back Michael Bush from the Physically Unable to Perform list or put him on injured reserve.

When asked if he expects to see Bush active, Kiffin said, “He could be. He looks great out there. He’s the lowest he’s been at his weight for over a year. He looks great and he’s been buying into our program. He’s been great in the weight room with our staff. He looks really good.”

It should be noted that Bush has not participated in individual or team drills with his teammmates at any time since he was drafted, so rust will be a factor.

— Tight end Zach Miller was no factor in Oakland’s limited passing game, but Kiffin sounded more than pleased with his blocking.

“Zach had a great day,” Kiffin said. “We were joking that Zach was in college seven months ago and how he’s blocking (Joey) Porter and (Jason) Taylor, two Pro Bowl players. I thought Zach did a great job of stepping up and he’s exactly what we hoped we were getting when we got him.”

— Sitting Derrick Burgess for the Miami game was the common-sense move.

“I suppose if maybe it was the Super Bowl or something he could have played,” Kiffin said. “But in the long run of the season it wasn’t worth it.”

— Safeties Michael Huff and Stuart Schweigert do not have an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery between them. Kiffin sounded as if he is more worried about the latter than the former.

“In the pass game there hasn’t been a lot of opportunities,” Kiffin said. “You’re not seeing dropped pass interceptions where you say, `oh, they’re not productive’ because of that. We don’t have a fumble recovery yet on defense. We’re not getting it out enough, getting after it enough.”

Both B.J. Ward and Hiram Eugene have gotten the occasional snap in place of Schweigert but neither has stepped forward in the limited time. Ward was run over at the goal line by Miami’s Ronnie Brown Sunday.

Kiffin sounds as if he’ll continue to work Eugene and Ward in.

“If they sit on the bench, you’ll never know what we’ve got,” Kiffin said.

Regarding Ward’s training camp and preseason ability to hit, Kiffin said, `He did it a little bit in preseason, now it’s regular season.”

— Kiffin acknowledged getting steamed at wide receiver Michael Williams for his premature celebration when he thought Justin Fargas was on his way to a touchdown on a 48-yard run.

“I think Mike’s used to playing with Reggie (Bush). He can celebrate on those with Reggie,” Kiffin said. “Mike thought Justin had an angle and Justin was going to score . . . that’s an effort thing. I guess you caught me being upset at that piont. There’s not many things that get me really upset during a game, but that’s the No. 1 thing — effort.”

— If you think you’re a victim, you become a victim. That’s essentially the way Kiffin is looking at adversity, as evidenced by a questionable offensive pass interference call against Williams in the end zone, negating the touchdown.

Maybe it was the Dolphins overall poor defense, or maybe that outlook is paying off. The Raiders recovered from the bad call and scored anyway.

“You want to sit and complain because it wasn’t pass interference on Mike and get on the refs, or do you want to think about what we can do next?,” Kiffin said.

It’s the common sense approach for dealing with a bad call. Be good enough to overcome it.

Either that or do what the Raiders have done in recent years, complain about it in the loser’s locker room.

— The Raiders lead the NFL in rushing with 194.3 yards per game. Of their 49 carries against Miami, there was a 1-yard loss by Justin Fargas, a no gain by Jordan and 47 rushes that gained positive yards.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Raiders have had more than 299 yards just three times _ 307 yards against Buffalo in 1977, 348 yards against Green Bay in 1978 and a team-record 356 yards against Seattle in 1987.

— If he had his druthers, Kiffin would like a bye a little later in the season. But he sees where the timing this week could be of some benefit.

Besides Jordan’s injury, the Raiders can get Burgess, fullback Oren O’Neal and linebackers Isaiah Ekejiuba and Robert Thomas healthy, not to mention getting Rhodes up to speed and continuing to work with JaMarcus Russell.

“There’s a bunch of things to take advantage of at this time,” Kiffin said.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer