Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Raider Hater Journalism 101

I find articles like this (see link) very annoying for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is difficult to respect a writer (Teddy Covers) who is too lazy to check the facts that are the basis of the story. I call writers like this “Raider Hater Journalists” or “Mickey-Mouse Scribes”. They show their disdain for the Raiders by making sloppy, bias, broad brush-stroke statements to make their points of view more dramatic.

In the above article I counted at least 4 clear cut factual errors and 4 very questionable statements.

Factually Incorrect:
(in reference to Art Shell) “But we’re talking about a guy that hasn’t been a coach in this league for more than a decade”
- Art Shell continued to coach after leaving the Raiders in 1994. He was an offensive line coach for Kansas City from 1995-1996 and Atlanta from 1997-2000. This writer seems to think that Shell stopped coaching after 1994.

(in reference to Aaron Brooks) “Brooks wasn’t a winner at Virginia in college”
- Brooks was the starting QB for Virginia in his junior year (1997) and his senior year (1998). Virginia was 7-4 in 1997 and 9-3 in 1998. 1998 was one of the best years in the history of Virginia football. The team was ranked #18 in the country and lost a close game to Georgia (35-33) in the Peach Bowl. If you are 16-7 as a starter, does that qualify as being a winner?

“(Brooks) was never a winner for the Saints”
- Brooks had a winning season in 2000 and led the Saints to the playoffs and a playoff win. Brooks had a winning record in 2002 (9-7). Overall in Brooks 1st 5 seasons as a starter the Saints were 35-34. Granted, this isn’t a very impressive win total but to say he was never a winner for the Saints is hardly a fair and accurate statement.

“The Raiders haven’t had a winning season since Gruden left town”
- The year after Gruden left town the Raiders were 11-5 under Head Coach Callahan and went to the Super Bowl. Oops. I guess you forgot this fact.

Questionable Statements:
“The OL was not improved this off-season”
- The Raiders drafted Paul McQuistan (OG/OT), Kevin Boothe (OT), and Chris Morris (Center). The Raiders signed veterans Kelvin Garmon (OG) and Cameron Spikes (OG) as free agents. These 5 acquisitions provide depth to the offensive line. The Raiders hired Hall of Fame Offensive Tackle Art Shell as the Head Coach and Hall of Fame Offensive Tackle Jackie Slater as the Offensive Line Coach. Langston Walker returns to the team at 100% health and will be playing his natural position of RT. Robert Gallery has been moved to his natural position of LT. Barry Sims strengthens the interior line by moving to LG. With quality depth, better offensive line coaching, injured players returning to the line-up, and starters playing their natural positions, it is safe to say that the OL has improved this off-season.

“Just about every key player they have has some character issues”
- This is the most outlandish, unfounded blanket statement in this article. The only player that comes to mind with any “character” issues is Randy Moss. However Randy Moss was a model citizen, the Raiders ultimate team player last year, and is very busy in the off-season with a number of charitable foundations. So, who are these so called key players with character issues? What are the character issues?

“The players know that the power here resides with the owner, not with the head coach”
- Art Shell is a firm, stern leader. The Raider players know who is in charge. His name is Art Shell. (see link)

Here are some quotes from the players during mini-camp:

- Center Jake Grove: "He's done this. He knows what he's talking about. He's got that credibility. He's a presence out there on the field, and he's someone you're going to listen to and respect."

- Center Adam Treu has been an active Raider longer than any other, 10 years, and he sees a difference. "There's an emphasis on individual accountability," he said. "If something is done wrong on the field, we repeat and correct it."

- Guard Barry Sims: “It feels good, like we're on the right path," he said. "Everybody's doing the right thing. Everybody's held accountable for our actions and what we do. That's the only way you'll be successful is to be held accountable, and this coaching staff is different than the last couple. The last few years it seemed a little too loose, like we didn't really have the leadership we have now."

- Tackle Robert Gallery said: "I think the attitude is changing because he's demanding it. We'll see when we put the pads on, but I think it's moving in the right direction, that's for sure."

- Defensive Tackle Warren Sapp also likes what he sees. "It (the response) has been real good. The thing about it is, everybody is closing ranks and getting in line and following one leader in one direction.

“Denver, San Diego, and Kansas City all have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. That should leave Oakland as the prime contender for last place in this division”
- This writer reasons that since the Raiders divisional rivals all are Super Bowl contenders that means the Raiders will come in last place. I would agree that Denver has legitimate Super Bowl aspirations considering that the team lost in the AFC Championship last year. However San Diego and Kansas City both didn't qualify for the playoffs last year and have some serious flaws to lump them into “legitimate Super Bowl” contenders. San Diego has an unproven, new starting QB in Philip Rivers. Kansas City has one of the worst defenses in the entire league (30th ranked pass defense last year).

I get it. The Mickey Mouse Scribes don't like the Raiders and don't think the team is very good. I can live with this viewpoint. However if you are going to express this viewpoint don't try to get tricky and disguise it with misguided and factually incorrect statements to back it up. That is very "M-I-C", "K-E-Y", "M-O-U-S-E".

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Employee of the Month: Amy Trask

Sports Illustrated is running an article this week by writer Michael Silver (see link) that speculates about the possibility of Eddie DeBartolo (former 49er Owner) and Carmen Policy (former 49er President) buying the Raiders and moving the team to Los Angeles.

Silver writes "DeBartolo and Policy have heard the rumors that the Raiders boss Al Davis is in declining health. That, plus attendance problems in Oakland, are why they have Silver and Black on the brain."
"Carmen and I have discussed different things, and that's one of the teams that intrigues us." DeBartolo told SI. This ridiculous rumor was put 6 feet under by Raiders CEO Amy Trask.
"This is not a story about the Oakland Raiders being sold. This is not a story about the team relocating" Trask said. "This is a story about two gentlemen, Eddie DeBartolo and Carmen Policy, who clearly are drinking too much of Carmen's recently bottled wine. The only look those two are going to get at this team is if they want to watch it on television."
Silver's personal relationship with DeBartolo clearly has affected his journalistic credibility. Let's take a look at the facts:

1. DeBartolo has no shot of re-entering the NFL as an owner. Zero. The guy is a convicted felon for bribing the Louisiana Govenor 8 years ago to get a casino license.

2. Al Davis is not selling the team. Al Davis currently owns a 70% share of the franchise. He answers to none of the minority partners. He is the only managing general partner of the organization since buying out the shares of the Ed McGrah family. There are already plans for his son Mark to be his successor and the majority owner once Al dies.
"Al Davis currently has, and will continue to have, total control of the Raiders." Trask said.
3. Al Davis' health isn't deteriorating. Besides being 76 years old and having problems with his legs which causes him to use a walker, Davis is as healthy as ever.
As reported by Glenn Dickey "There is no evidence that his health is otherwise deteriorating, and he recently has gone back to working out in the weight room, after most Raider employees have gone home." Further, Amy Trask adds, "The rumors about his health are false. Al is as healthy and vital as ever."
4. The Raiders lease in Oakland runs through 2010. A decision on the team that will be playing in Southern California is expected by the end of this year.

Finally, anyone who thinks Al Davis will sell the Raiders franchise to an outside group clearly doesn't know what makes Al tick. When Al Davis' health does eventually deteriorate and he passes into the Autumn Wind, the Raiders organization will always be owned, operated, and controlled by family. When I say 'family', I mean 'Raider family' meaning his son being the majority owner, Trask continuing to be CEO, and Mike Lombardi running football operations. Pigs will fly before you see DeBartolo/Policy get their filthy mitts on the Raiders organization.

Think about it. Does Silver (and DeBartolo/Policy for that matter) honestly believe that Davis has shed his Silver and Black blood, sweat, and tears the last 43 years to suddenly cash out his chips for a healthy profit?

Unlike other NFL owners who are businessmen first, Davis is and always will be primarily a football man. His sole motivations are to win more Lombardi Trophies and keep the Raiders organization as his unique vision NOT to become a corporate entity.

For another interesting viewpoint on the shoddy journalism of Michael Silver, go to Raider Take's Blog "Vultures Shot Down Over Oakland".

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Red Son Rising

Here is a classic photo of "Braveheart McNasty". The Raider Nation looks forward to watching our red son rise.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Braveheart McNasty Phenomenon

One of the more enjoyable aspects of being a sports fan is having a player on your team that is unique and captures your imagination. For various and somewhat difficult to pinpoint reasons, Paul McQuistan has sparked the interest and fascination of the Raider Nation. I realize McQ hasn’t played a single down of professional football and hasn’t earned a starter’s role on our O-Line. Yet, there seems to be a sense of hopefulness and promise attached to his future. McQ seems to embody the characteristics of Art Shell’s ideal football player: A big, tough, physical offensive lineman from a small college who plays with a nasty streak and LOVES football. Paul McQuistan (aka "Braveheart McNasty") was an unknown 3rd round draft selection of the Raiders from Weber State University. In the past 2 weeks the Raider Nation has adopted Paul McQuistan as one of their new favorite sons.

Here are my 10 reasons for the interesting and curious Paul McQuistan phenomenon:

1. Appearance: 6’6”, 313 lbs, flaming red mullet, pasty white skin. One look at McNasty and you know he is unique, different, and a bit of a misfit. I would equate the fan’s curiosity of McQ with Clipper fan favorite Chris Kaman (see photo). Fans see these guys as an everyday person and as the underdog.

2. The hiring of Art Shell as Head Coach: Shell wants to re-make the Raiders into a physically and mentally tough football team with an intimidating presence.
"I expect to be a tough football team," Shell said. "When you walk out there, when you walk into that stadium, you walk out there with a presence. Mr. Davis (Al, managing general partner) called it a swagger. Yeah, a swagger."

"If there is one thing the Raiders learned during their mini-camp over the weekend it is that their new coach seeks toughness. He values it, admires it and believes it lights the path to building a more competitive team."

"With the points that Art Shell and (offensive line coaches) Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman are getting across," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said after the last practice on Sunday, "I can tell you our offensive line will be a lot meaner about what they're doing." "If we're going to make a run, it's gotta be an O-line and D-line dominated team." Sapp said. "We're only going to go as far as those two lines can take us. And that's where the toughness starts."

"Shell spoke highly of McQuistan's tenacity and suggested the club will look at him at guard, as well as tackle."

3. Scouting Report and video:
"Paul McQuistan has a great deal of experience, having started the past four seasons at left tackle for Weber State. He is a good leader and a hard worker who always strives for continuous improvement. He has the "mean streak" you like to see in an offensive lineman. He has good size with long arms that allow him to keep defenders away from his body. He is a strong, physical player who can be a dominating run blocker at times." (Watch the play at the :29 mark on the video as McNasty cleans off the pile)

4. Twins: Paul McQuistan has a twin brother (Pat) who played side-by-side with him at Weber State. Pat was drafted in the 7th round by the Dallas Cowboys. This picture (click here) is a classic!

5. Mini-Camp: Earning the Raider veterans respect and attention, here are a few quotes derived from mini-camp:
"Two days ago, third-round draft pick Paul McQuistan was known as "the goofy looking big dude with the red-headed mullet," according to one teammate. Now, he is the offensive lineman defenders are most wary of after two days of watching McQuistan throw around defensive linemen as if they were blocking dummies.

"Obviously, he has a long ways to go, but he and all the rookies on the line have done a good job," veteran offensive lineman Barry Sims said Saturday. "They seem to be further ahead of the game than the other groups we've had."

"He gets better every time you take a snap," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "He has a chance to be a pretty good football player. That's why we took him in the third round.

6. Nicknames: The numerous nicknames assigned to Paul McQuistan is staggering but here is a short list so far;

McNasty: This nickname is based on Paul’s nasty streak and physical style of play

McQ: (reference to the John Wayne movie character McQ; click here for image)

Malachai: (courtesy of Stickem; reference to the character from the movie Children of the Corn; view image here)

Quiz: (courtesy of Stickem; reference to Steve Wisniewski aka “Wiz”; image here)

Shrek: (reference to movie character; image here)

Braveheart: (reference to Sir William Wallace; image here)

The image at the top of this page is also of William Wallace (1270-1305), one of Scotland's greatest national heroes. William Wallace was the undisputed leader of the Scottish resistance forces during the struggle to free Scotland from English rule. William Wallace represented the spirit of the common man striving for freedom against oppression.

Here is a short passage describing William Wallace: “His stature was lofty and majestic, rising head and shoulders above the tallest of men in the country. Yet his form, though gigantic, possessed the most perfect symmetry, and with a degree of strength almost incredible, there was combined such an agility of body and fleetness in running that no-one, except when mounted on horseback, could outstrip or escape from him when he happened to persue.”

7. The New Wiz: Here is a an excerpt from Stickem’s article:
"Legend has it, the name "McQuistan" comes from “Mac Uist” meaning "Sons of the Isle of Uist" an island to the northwest of Scotland. The legend goes "Nothing good comes from Uist, just a pack of wild men." Picture the Highland Games with helmets and pads.

For everyone who thought Art Shell was having an On Golden Pond moment going on and on about the way the Raiders USED to be nasty and tough...Art ain't just talkin'. He's DOING something about it.

When Shell talks about linin' up, smiling, punchin' 'em in the mouth, askin' 'em how their wife is doing...then linin' up, smiling, and smackin' 'em in the kisser again...

This is how he played. We saw it, over and over again. This is how the Raider O-linemen will play or they will be replaced by someone who will. McQuistan is just the first example of this philosophy under the ‘new’ Shell Raiders."

8. Autumn Wind is a Pirate: Here is an excerpt from a recent Football365 article
"The Autumn Wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea. With a rollicking song he sweeps along, swaggering boisterously. His face is weather beaten. He wears a hooded sash. With his silver hat about his head...

And a bristly mullet of fiery red.

He growls as he storms the country, a villain big and bold. And the trees all shake and quiver and quake...

As Paul McQuistan tallies another pancake.

When Paul McQuistan was selected in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, he was one of those "I'll have to look him up players." Then, a couple days later, when he entered the Oakland Raiders ' minicamp, he was "the goofy-looking big dude with the red-headed mullet.

But after a few days down in the trenches, he is a Raider."

9. 1st Annual Paul McQuistan Haiku Fest was launched by Raider Take. I bet most of you didn't realize just how many soulful poets existed in the Raider Nation!

10. The Paul McQuistan Fan Club (click here): You know that you are in the midst of something special when a 3rd round draft choice from a small college has a fan club in less than 1 week after being drafted.

Yes Raider fans. It is a dawning of a new era. I raise my pint of McEwan Ale to our new rising red son, Paul McQuistan. Cheers!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Rookie Defenders - Photo of the Week

It might be Day 1 of mini-camp but there is a surging post-draft, positive buzz stirring in the Raider Nation. The photo above (Left to right, Thomas Howard, Darnell Bing, Michael Huff) gave me goose bumps. To see more photos (click here). Also, be sure to view Raider Take's 5/5 blog entry (click here) that documents the new cult following of one of our new favorite Raiders, Paul McQuistan. It has only been 6 short days since McQ was drafted and he has been tagged with numerous nicknames. The instant fascination with McQ is interesting by itself since no one knew this guy before the draft. However as the Raider Nation dug deep and researched McQ, he is beginning to cause quite a commotion. Is it the early stages of the legend of Braveheart McNasty? Only time will tell but it looks to be a fun ride.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Raiders Draft Analysis

Going into the 2006 NFL Draft, there was a well defined shopping list of positional need areas to be addressed by the Oakland Raiders. These need areas consisted of OLB, SS, OG, DT, and RB. It looks by all indications we fulfilled 3 of the 5 need areas.

After reading the scouting reports and various news articles on each player, I noticed a few recurring themes or qualities that seemed to be prevalent with this group. These qualities are Tough (T), Physical (P), High Character (HC), Exceptional Speed (ES), Motivated (M), Need (N).

Round 1/7 - Michael Huff (S, 6-0, 204, Texas) - (T, P, HC, ES, M, N)
Round 2/38 - Thomas Howard (OLB, 6-3, 240, UTEP) - (T, P, ES, M, N)
Round 3/69 - Paul McQuistan (OG/OT, 6-6, 313, Weber St.) - (T, P, HC, M, N)
Round 4/101 - Darnell Bing (SS/LB, 6-2, 228, USC) - (T, P, M, N)
Round 6/176 - Kevin Boothe (OG, 6-5, 312, Cornell) - (T, P, HC, M, N)
Round 7/214 - Chris Morris (C, 6-3, 299, Michigan St.) - (T, P, HC, M)
Round 7/255 - Kevin McMahan (WR, 6-2, 196, Maine) - Forever known as "Mr. Irrelevant" as the last pick in the draft

Here is a breakdown, analysis, and scouting report for each new Raider:
(Grading scale/Key for scouting reports)
Michael Huff (Scouting Report)
Huff Daddy is the crown jewel of the Raiders draft. He will be able to make an immediate impact in improving the Raiders defense. Huff is fundamentally sound, versatile, exceptionally fast (4.35 40 time), an excellent open field tackler, and a prime-time playmaker. His versatility is his calling card. Huff is equally adept at lining up in press coverage, in the slot, or as a deep safety. Take a look at this video. Huff has amazing closing speed and a nose for the football.

Here is's analysis on Michael Huff: "This is a big of a surprise, but you always have to expect the unexpected with the Raiders. Matt Leinart seemed like the right pick here, but the Raiders apparently feel comfortable with Aaron Books and their other quarterbacks. Instead, they have gone with one of the better and more versatile defensive players in the draft. Huff can play cornerback, as well as safety. He is excellent in coverage and he is an extremely tough, hard-hitting player who could greatly help in run support."

Outlook: Michael Huff is a special player. He is the new breed safety who can play anywhere on the field. Huff is the "Where is Waldo?" defensive player who the offense needs to locate and identify. Is he blitzing, in the slot, on the line, in deep coverage? This versatility will allow Defensive Coordinator Ryan the flexibility to mix and match his coverage schemes and blitz packages. For example, I would anticipate Huff playing the Rover or "Wolverine" position in the Big Nickel package. This nickel package will help neutralize the offense's effectiveness in 3 WR sets.

Thomas Howard (Scouting Report)
The LB corps was probably the weakest link for the Raiders going into the 2006 draft. We desperately needed an OLB who has the ability to cover both tight ends and running backs and make plays from sideline to sideline. Howard was probably the fastest LB in the draft (4.45 40). He is very effective at applying pressure on the QB off the edge. Watch this video. It is amazing how Howard uses his speed to blitz off the edge.

Here is's synopsis on Thomas Howard: "He might be the fastest linebacker in the draft. Originally, he was at UTEP as a safety. He can run and cover receivers, and has a strong defensive mentality."

Outlook: Thomas Howard should improve our overall pass coverage and adds athleticism and playmaking skills that were sorely missing in 2005. Look for Howard to be rotated into the base 4-3 defense with Sam Williams. Once again, a player like Howard affords Defensive Coordinator Ryan the flexibility to mix and match his personnel groupings based on down and distance. Because of Howard's speed and coverage abilities, the Raiders should have the entire LB corps on the field more often instead of relying on the nickel package. In my judgment, Howard is the "X" factor in the draft. If he fully utilizes his exceptional athletic ability and hones his football instincts, this draft will be looked upon very favorably.

Paul McQuistan (Scouting Report)
Our new red-headed, Braveheart. I love this pick! The red mullet is just a bonus. McQ plays with a determined nasty streak. McQ is an extremely physical, hard-nosed, coachable football player who played OT in college but more than likely will be moved to OG. Art Shell & Jackie Slater should be able to mold McQ into a highly productive member of the O-Line. Here's a short video clip of our beloved Braveheart McNasty.

Here is's analysis on Mr.McQ: "He has a twin brother who played with him at Weber State. He is a long-armed mauler type of offensive lineman who grew up on a ranch in Oregon. Typical Raiders offensive lineman."

Outlook: McQ will provide immediate depth on the O-line. It would not surprise me if McQ takes over for Brad Badder by mid-season. For the Raiders to return to glory, the O-line will need to gel, set the tone, and establish an effective power rushing attack. Braveheart McNasty is starting to developing quite a cult following amongst the Raider Nation.

Darnell Bing (Scouting Report)
This was a high value pick for the Raiders. Bing was originally projected to be a late 1st round, early 2nd round pick by most experts. The reason being given for his drop to the 4th round is that he is a "tweener". Not fast enough as a safety, not big enough to play line-backer. The Raider organization has announced that Bing will be converted to LB. Bing is known for being a ferocious hitter with an imtimidating presence.

Here is's synopsis on Darnell Bing: "He doesn't have good coverage skills for a safety, but they announced they're going to play him at linebacker. He's a good player who has a good opportunity to convert to LB."

Outlook: Bing-A-Ling will make a solid contribution as a special teams player, blitzer, run stuffer, occasional SS in the Big Nickel package, and as a WLB down the road.

Kevin Boothe (Scouting Report)
Boothe is a physically imposing lineman who needs to work on his technique especially his footwork. He might be more suited to transition into an OG as opposed to his college position of OT.

Here is's analysis on Kevin Boothe: "He is their kind of guy ... IF he can pass a physical. He played Ivy League football, which is a disadvantage, because they don't play as many games, and they don't practice as long as most schools. He plays better in pads than shorts. Every year, someone takes a chance on an Ivy League lineman."

Outlook: Boothe has all of the physical tools to one day become a solid contributor. He is a smart, coachable pupil for both Shell and Slater to work with for the long term.

Chris Morris (Scouting Report)
Morris was an Academic All-American at Michigan State who gained valuable experience playing against top competition in the Big-10.

Here is's synopsis on Chris Morris: "He's a center from Michigan State. He is a big offensive lineman that has been a trademark of the Raiders. He's the kind of player they like; he's big and strong and runs well."

Outlook: Morris will be the emergency back-up to starting C Jake Grove in case Grove is injured or gets moved to OG. He also will be used as a long snapper on special teams. With the drafting of Morris I would anticipate C Adam Treau being cut come June 1st.

Kevin McMahan (Scouting Report)

Summary: Huff, Howard, and Bing are physical, athletic players who should improve our overall defense in terms of playmaking skills, QB pressure abilities, and flexibility in our defensive packages. McQ, Boothe, and Morris strengthen our O-line and provide immediate depth. Overall I would characterize this draft as solid and productive. We were able to fill 3 need areas and give our coaching staff players to build for the future.