A Return to Greatness
The (12-3) Broncos administered a dominating 22-3 beat-down of the (4-11) Raiders on Christmas Eve. This humiliating loss at the hands of the hated rival Donkeys was further exasperated by Shannahan attempting to ice K Janikowski with a time out in the fourth quarter to preserve a 22-0 shutout. Was this gamesmanship necessary? No. Was it payback for Al Davis giving Shannahan the pink slip many years ago? Absolutely.
With this season coming to a bitter close on New Year's Eve vs. the NY "Football" Giants, it is time to put the 2005 season in the rear view mirror and to start looking towards the 2006 season. What changes can be made to reverse the team's fortune? How can the Silver and Black rebound from the worst 3 year stretch in the organization's history? Oakland is 13-34 since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to Tampa Bay in 2003. Who should replace Norv Turner and Kerry Collins? What trades or free agent signings can make an immediate impact? What positions need to be targeted in the 2006 draft? Needless to say, Mr. Davis has a full plate of meaty questions to be answered and addressed between January 1st and the April Draft.
Please indulge me as I play the role of Al Jr. and tackle (no pun intended) these issues.
Numero Uno on my "To do list": Call a press conference on 1/1/06. At this press conference, in the company of Norv Turner, I relieve Norv of his duties as head coach in a dignified manner. I thank him for his efforts and wish him well, blah, blah, blah. Why server ties on 1/1? Because the clock is ticking on the recruiting process. By officially severing ties sooner rather than later you can actively begin the courting rituals in good faith.
Who are the potential candidates? The head coaching candidates will more than likely fall into 1 of 5 categories.
A. Current college head coach with NFL coaching experience: Pat Hill (Fresno State)
B. Current NFL offensive coaches/coordinators seeking 1st head coaching position: Russ Grimm (Pittsburgh); Al Saunders (K.C.); Maurice Carthon (Cleveland); Sean Payton (Dallas)
C. Current NFL coaches seeking a 2nd shot as a head coach ("Retreads"): Jim Fassel (Baltimore); Jim Haslett (New Orleans)
D. Current Raider coach promoted or former Raider head coach: Rob Ryan; Art Shell
E. Wildcard: A young, up and coming coach who normally wouldn't be listed as a viable candidate similar to the John Gruden hiring. Rick Nieuheisal? Is there another diamond in the rough?
My top choices would be Pat Hill, Maurice Carthon, and Art Shell. Each is uniquely qualified to steer the Raider ship in the right direction. All three are no-nonsense type men. Pat Hill has turned Fresno State into an offensive powerhouse. Maurice Carthon has an impeccable coaching pedigree. He has coached on Bill Parcells' staff that included Bill Belichick. Maurice is young (44), ambitious, won 2 superbowls as a player (NY Giants), and offensive minded to appease Al. Art Shell understands the Raider organization better than any other candidate, commands respect, and was successful as a head coach for the Raiders. Immediately following the press conference, I would start the courting and interviewing process with these 3 guys. If you forced my hand, my top choice is Maurice Carthon.
2nd order of business: Release Kerry "Statue of Liberty" Collins. (No more servings of KFC)
3rd order of business: With the newly installed Head Coach's input, sign a new starting QB through a trade or in the free agent market. Some of the candidates to consider will probably fall into 1 of 2 categories;
A. Former starting QBs who are currently #2 QBs: Jon Kittna (Cincinnati); Josh McNown (Arizona); Patrick Ramsey (Washington); Brian Griese (Tampa Bay)
B. Starting QBs who might need a change of scenery and/or burned a bridge; Aaron Brooks (New Orleans); Steve McNair (Tennesse), Dante Culpepper (Minnesota); Joey Harrington (Detroit); Philip Rivers (San Diego)
I would see most of the above listed QB's as a major upgrade in comparison with our current signal-caller. I don't profess to know the contract status or the likelihood of the Raiders prying any of these guys away from their current franchise. Are there better choices in the thin QB market? Who do I like from this speculative list?
Jon Kittna: Played well (8-8) for Cincinnati in 2003 when the team was still in a rebuilding stage and Carson Palmer was being groomed.
Patick Ramsey: Talented & tough young gun who played well last week in a pressure filled game in relief of Mark Brunnel.
Aaron Brooks: Mobile, athletic. Questionable leadership skills but could be rejuvenated away from New Orleans.
Steve McNair: Tough as nails, mobile, veteran leadership. Downside; injury prone. McNair could provide a nice 2 year bridge for heir apparent Andrew Walters to be properly groomed.
Dante Culpepper: Would the new Viking owner trade Culpepper due to the embarrassment caused by the "love boat" incident? Will the Vikes stick with proven winner Brad Johnson? Culpepper to Moss, part II?
2006 Draft: The positions that I target are OG, OT, DE, DT, LB, SS in no particular order. The Raiders 1st round draft pick will be anywhere from #4 to #8 depending on the results of this weekend. Do you hold on to this pick or trade down for additional picks? Some of the players to consider if the Raiders hold on to this pick are A.J. Hawk (LB, OSU), D'Brickshaw Ferguson (OT, Virginia); DeMeco Ryans (OLB, Alabama); Tamba Hali (DE, PSU); Mario Williams (jr DE, NC St).
The success (or failure) of any NFL team can be attributed to the leadership abilities of the Head Coach and the performance of the starting QB. I feel strongly that with the right head coach and QB, the Raiders will be right back on the path to greatness. The quest to hoist another Lombardi Trophy will be reborn.
Your comments and feedback is welcomed.
Keep the Faith,