Sunday, February 19, 2006

Reshuffle The Deck

With the hiring of new Head Coach Art Shell and the upcoming 2006 draft looming, it is time to start the planning phase of maximizing, tweaking and re-shaping our personnel. Below are some ideas on how the Raiders can upgrade the performance on both sides of the ball. The key areas of consideration are QB, O-line, LB, and SS.

#1 – Release Kerry “Tin Man” Collins
It makes no sense to keep Collins, the man with no heart, on the team. In March Collins is due a $2.5M roster bonus and is slated for an additional $10M in salary.
Collins litany of deficiencies is quite extensive;

- Limited mobility, poor pocket awareness, inability to audible out of a bad play or read coverages, no improvisational skills, unable to consistently go to his 2nd or 3rd WR progression, poor game/clock manager, lacks passion to lead. Record as starting QB: 7-21 (.250 winning percentage). The most sure-fire, quickest way to eliminate the losing culture that has permeated the team the last 3 years is to release Collins.

There are a number of ways to upgrade the starting QB slot.

a. Trading Places: Move up in the draft to select QB Matt Leinart by exchanging picks with New Orleans plus throw in WR Doug Gabriel and a late round pick.

b. All-in: Aggressively pursue all trade avenues or the free agent market for an established veteran QB; Dante Culpepper (Minnesota), Steve McNair (Tennessee), Drew Brees (San Diego), Aaron Brooks (New Orleans)

c. Young Guns: Sign a young QB (3-6 years in the league) who is on the rise, been stuck in a back-up role or is on a team that can’t afford to keep him; Billy Volek (Tennessee), Chris Simms (Tampa Bay), Brian Griese (Tampa Bay), Matt Schaub (Atlanta), Jon Kittna (Cincinnati), Patrick Ramsey (Washington), Josh McCown (Arizona), JP Losman (Buffalo)

d. Begin the Walter Era Sooner Rather Than Later: Hand the keys over to 2nd year Raider Andrew Walter and be willing to suffer the consequences and initial growing pains of Walter maturing OJT in order to see if he is indeed our future.

e. QB Game Managers: Sign a veteran with the ability to manage the game like Trent Dilfer (Cleveland), Gus Frerotte (Miami), or Koy Detmer (Philadelphia) and let this newly signed QB compete in training camp with Andrew Walter for the starting QB position. This also provides a 1-2 year bridge for Walter to be further groomed for the starting role.

f. Long Shot Special: Brett Favre (Green Bay); Green Bay management would love to force Brett’s hand into retirement but I think Brett still has plenty of bullets left in the chamber and just wants an opportunity to win.

#2 – Shore up and improve the offensive line

With the hiring of Head Coach Art Shell and the expected hiring of Jackie Slater as the new offensive line coach, this is one area of the Raiders team that should see immediate improvement. Shell and Slater both had long, sterling Hall of Fame careers as offensive tackles in the NFL.

a. Move Robert Gallery to LT and slide Barry Sims to LG

b. In the 2nd round draft either Max Jean Gilles (OG-Georgia); read the scouting report or Deuce Lutui (OG-USC) read the scouting report or Charles Spencer (OG-Pittsburgh) read the scouting report.

c. Have Chad Slaughter and Langston Walker compete for the RT position. Early in the last game of the season vs. the NY Giants, Slaughter replaced injured starter Gallery. In this game, Slaughter manhandled, dominated and mauled perennial All-Pro DE Michael Stratham. When Shell sees the tape of this game and witnesses Slaughter in training camp, I get the feeling that he will see himself in his new starting RT. A big (6’8”-340) OT wearing #78, from a small college (Alcorn St.). Sound familiar?

Projected starting offensive Line;
LT – Robert Gallery
LG – Barry Sims
C - Jake Grove
RG – Max Jean Gilles/Deuce Lutui/Charles Spencer
RT – Chad Slaughter

#3 – Draft A.J. Hawk (OLB- Ohio St) in the 1st round. A.J. is the type of LB who would provide speed and playmaking skills. He should provide an immediate impact in run defense. Read the scouting report from NFL Draft Countdown.

#4 - Draft a SS in the 3rd round. Here are a few candidates that might be available Donte Withner (Ohio St) read the scouting report or Daniel Bullocks (Nebraska) read the scouting report or Greg Blue (Georgia) read the scouting report . Another option would be to target SS Adam Archuleta (St. Louis Rams) in free agency.

#5 – Release SS Derrick Gibson ($10M cap relief)

#6 - Let CB Charles Woodson test the free agent market

#7 – Sign free agent DE Darren Howard (New Orleans). This provides a book end for DE Derrick Burgess. The 2006 Raiders defense must be more opportunistic and create more turnovers.

With an upgrade at QB, improved line play, a commitment to the power running game coupled with big play potential, the offense should rebound from a disappointing 2005 campaign. The draft should be able to provide a few more key building blocks and playmakers to an improving defense. Art Shell’s leadership will set the tone and bring back the swagger and toughness that has sorely been missing.

I Bleed Silver and Black,

Calico Jack

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Come Back Home Art

I think it is very unfortunate that if the Raiders end up hiring Art Shell as the new Head Coach that it will be considered by the media and even some short-sighted Raider fans as a desperation move. It will be considered a desperation move for all the wrong reasons in my book.

First and foremost, Al took a calculated risk by waiting until after the Super Bowl in order to interview Whiz. As Whiz points out in today’s CBS Sportsline article, his heart was in Pittsburgh. Second, the Raiders are the only team without a Head Coach signed yet. Third, Shell will be viewed as a “fall-back” candidate.

However, if you look at the big picture, doesn’t this all boil down to a few simple things?

Number one: Who is the best overall fit for the Raiders organization? I, for one, believe that Shell’s background as a Hall of Fame player and successful Head Coach for the Raiders makes him uniquely well qualified for this job.

Number two: Who in the open market has the best chance to succeed? Whiz might very well turn out to be a top notch head coach someday but is still unproven. Did the fact that Norv Turner won 2 Super Bowls with the Cowboys as the Offensive Coordinator translate into success as a Head Coach? Watch this video interview of Whiz on the evening prior to his interview with Al and tell me that this guy is the dynamic, passionate leader that the Raiders need.

Most of us got so caught up in the success of the Steelers, the hype about Whiz, and the wait for him to be interviewed without questioning whether Whiz is the right guy on the Raiders sideline. There is a big difference in being up in the press box and being the man in charge on the sidelines.

Finally, the media seems hung up on some artificial timeline for when a Head Coach should be hired. What difference does it really make if the new Head Coach joins the Raiders in the 2nd week of February as opposed to the middle of January? None.

In my judgment, Shell is an excellent overall match to lead the Raiders out of the quagmire. Let me give you my top ten reasons that the Raider Nation will be proud to have Big Art roaming the sidelines;

1. Shell will be able to shore up one of our biggest deficiencies; the O-Line.
2. Shell’s Hall of Fame playing career with the Raiders carries weight (no pun intended) and respect with the players.
3. Intimate knowledge of the Raiders’ organization
4. Strong, long-term relationship with Al built on respect and trust
5. Record of success as previous Head Coach of the Raiders from 1989-1994. Shell led the Raiders to 3 playoff appearances and a 56-41 record. Shell was voted Head Coach of the year in 1990 leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record, divisional title, and AFC Championship berth.
6. Shell’s commanding presence on the sideline, strong leadership abilities, and no-nonsense personality is what this team needs more than anything else.
7. Shell will be given more rope and authority by Al since Al openly admits to making a mistake in firing him in 1994.
8. Shell’s unquestioned loyalty and dedication to the Silver and Black
9. A proven winner on the field and on the sidelines; see points 2 and 5
10. "Unfinished business"; Shell thirsts for a second crack at leading the Raiders back to glory.

This long and frustrating recruitment process will be coming to a close soon. If the Raiders ultimately end up hiring Shell as our new Head Coach, I am very confident that the proud tradition of winning football will be quickly restored. I love a guy like Art who has an unconditional loyalty to bringing the Silver and Black back to their rightful place. The quest to hoist another Lombardi Trophy will once again burn brightly.

Raise the Black Flag,

Calico Jack

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Big John Madden - Hello Canton

John Madden, who will be the analyst for ABC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XL, deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is truly a mystery to me how a Head Coach who compiled a record of 112-39-7 isn’t already enshrined in Canton Ohio. His big jolly mug should have a prominent spot in the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame. The statistics below should scream out to all of the voters casting their ballot that Big John is without question a Big “YES”

Oakland Raiders Head Coach (1969-1978 - 10 seasons)
- 2nd highest winning percentage (.739) of all time next to Vince Lombardi

- 8 out of 10 seasons the Raiders reached the playoffs. This is remarkable especially when you factor in that during this era only 4 teams received playoff berths from each conference (3 divisional winners + 1 wild card)

- Reached the AFC Championship game 6 of 10 seasons

- Winning Head Coach of Super Bowl XI

- Record vs. Hall of Fame coaches: 36-16-2 (.685 percentage): vs. Hank Stram 7-4-2, vs. Chuck Noll 6-5, vs. Paul Brown 5-3, vs. Sid Gillman 4-0, vs. Don Shula 4-3, vs. Weeb Ewbank 3-0, vs. Bud Grant 3-1, vs. Marv Levy 2-0, vs. George Allen 1-0, vs. Tom Landry 1-0.

Madden had a winning record against every Hall of Fame coach! John Madden’s enduring love for professional football and sterling record of accomplishments should be recognized and rewarded with his enshrinement into the Hall of Fame. Let’s hope that when the final votes are tabulated this weekend that Madden announces SBXL as a Hall of Fame elected inductee.