Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Victory Lane















First and foremost, I tip my hat to commend RaiderTake for his excellent post "For Sale: Optimisim With Extended Warranty" which ranks in my top 5 of his 330 takes. In particular, this post resonated with me on many levels. It has inspired me to get off my duff with my own blog to share my views of this off-season. The crux of RT's post is that the optimism going into 07 is justified. To coin a classic RaiderTake line, here are my "minty fresh" feelings of unbridled optimism.

(1) There is no question that Al Davis has given Lane Kiffin the necessary authority and platform to be successful long term. Davis seems to have changed his proverbial stripes for a combination of reasons.
(a) "Survival Mode": Davis realized that after 4 consecutive, miserable losing seasons that he needed to adapt his ways and allow his newly hired Head Coach the increased latitude to get this ship turned in the right direction.
(b) "Young Al Part Deaux": Davis sees himelf in young Kiffin. After a series of interviews, Davis was able to quickly establish a rapport with Kiffin based on trust and his own instincts. The career parallels between Davis and Kiffin are unmistakable. Davis was a young "football lifer" Asst. Coach/Recruitng Coordinator at USC prior to becoming Head Coach for the Raiders at the age of 33. Kiffin is a young "football lifer" who was an Asst Coach/Recruiting Coordinator at USC prior to becoming Head Coach for the Raiders at the age of 31.
(c) "The Hands of Time": Davis turns 78 this July 4th. This awareness of his mortality coupled with reasons (a) + (b) = a renewed sense of urgency to get his house in order.

(2) The energy, decisiveness, vigor, and cohesive plan of Kiff has led to assembling a staff of coaches who are well qualified. Here is a list of the current coaches: http://www.raiders.com/team/coaches.jsp

(3) The building of the coaching staff seems to have emphasized youth, solid teachers, and past working relationships that bodes well for good chemistry. The obvious connections and working relationships; Knapp-Cable (Atl), Knapp-Rathman (SF), Cable-Schneider (UCLA), Kiffin-Jackson(USC).

Why is this important? Just look at the offensive unit. Kiffin as Head Coach has the plan and playcalling accountability. He hired Knapp to implement this vision. Knapp worked with Cable last year and Rathman earlier this decade. The blocking schemes, running attack, and each respective unit is a piece that fits into part of the entire offensive puzzle minus the WR/TE units. I would expect Kiffin to identify and select his WR Coach, TE Coach, and QB Coach within the next 10 days.

(4) When was the last time that a newly hired Raider Head Coach was given the authority to hire someone for the front office? Kiffin's hire of Mark Jackson (former Dir. of Ops at USC) as Director of Football Development is a very significant and noteworthy hire since it clearly marks a HUGE measure of trust on Davis' part. It also shows an overall, long term plan to build a team where coaches, players, and the front office are all singing from the same sheet of music.

One of RaiderTake’s readers “R2G” brought up a profound question namely how do we measure the success of the 2007 Raiders? At the top of the list is of course the tally of wins and losses. The 2nd most obvious barometer of success (or improvement) will be the performance of the offensive unit. Are the Raiders able to protect the QB, establish a consistent rushing attack, and run a sophisticated, creative, and most importantly, productive offense? Are the players being put in the best possible position to succeed through coaching, game planning, playcalling, schemes, personnel groupings, match-ups etc.?

But beyond wins and losses, whether it is 6-10 or 10-6 (or somewhere in between) , it will also be measured by many difficult to describe & measure intangibles. For perspective on this question, refer back to Gruden's 1st season of 8-8 in 1998. Although 8-8 isn't a remarkable record, the general feeling from watching the Raiders play that season was an increased sense of direction, competitiveness, and hope under the energized leadership of young head coach Gruden.

With my glass more than half full, I realize that ultimately Kiffin's leadership will dictate the speed of the Raider turnaround. In my mind's eye, "Victory Lane" is right around the corner.

37 Comments:

Blogger Heartland Raider Fan said...

I think a barometer to measure the success of the Raiders in the upcoming season will appear in a few ways.
1.The ability of Kiffin's staff to efficiently and effectively use the players currently on the roster....the Raiders are loaded with talent.....I don't want to see wholesale changes made that will take a few seasons to secure a chemistry between the new players and the current roster. There are some bad apples in the barrell,(not many) and I hope Kiffin's staff can clean the crap out of the chicken coop quicker than the 2 seasons it took Gruden. But that could have taken longer because Al Davis had favorites.
2.Discipline....the stupid penalties have to be eliminated. Hey! nobody enjoyed seeing Long, Alzado, Matuzsak, Sistrunk, Hendricks and the likes get a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game. But those days are long gone.(no pun intended) It's obvious to see by the lopsided number of penalties called on the Raiders in comparison to who ever they play that the refs are just gunning for them, and stupid penalties only give the refs an excuse to look for more. How many close games have the Raiders lost in recent history because of stupid penalties late in the game.
3. Cohesiveness...I don't care what the record is at the end of next year, if I can see the Raiders playing every down as a team. It will be a huge accomplishment for Kiffin's staff to gain the players respect and get them to believe and succeed utilizing his system. That means getting them to practice hard (as he mentioned in his introduction press conference) and reeducating themselves to learn this new system.
This is what I need to see next year to see that the Raiders are indeed on the right course, and to believe in Kiffin.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant to say..... Hey! nobody enjoyed seeing Long, Alzado, Matuzsak, Sistrunk, Hendricks and the likes get a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game as much as I did.

12:04 AM  
Blogger raiderdecoachella said...

S & L 4ever:

Great take if you keep writing it I will come by here more often!

Hearland raider fan:

You are dead on my brother! I do believe that in order to move forward the players need to realize that wining comes from sacrifizing the I for the team, if they can do that with your point of views I know that we will have a lot to cheer about.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I am feeling "mintier," to coin a word, after reading Victory Lane!

Excellent analysis of the connections and working relationships between the new coaches.

I am reading Al Davis's biography to keep me entertained in the offseason. You are dead-on about the "Part Deux." At USC, Al Davis was a young man with a plan, talented, confident and ambitious. Sound familiar?

I had to laugh when, upon Kiffin's hiring, a writer from the Mercury tried to make a big stink about how Kiffin wasn't loved by everybody at USC. That was Al Davis's "problem" at USC, too. Of course, Al Davis was more interested in winning football games than popularity contests. Upon joining the Raiders has head coach in 1963, he turned a 1-13 team into a 10-4 team. We'll be very fortunate indeed if Kiffin shares this same "problem" with Al Davis!

9:48 AM  
Anonymous memdf said...

Calico-

Good post. Valid points, well made.
W-L is impossible to get away from however, I was at the opening game of the Gruden era vs. chefs at kc.

Although a loss, there was a distinct "feel" of positive change by the display of energy and hard play.

Even though a down of football has yet to be played, positive activity fills this off-season.

Pass the mints!

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Santa Cruz Raider Fan said...

Excellent analysis. After the last 4 years of downward spiral, it's really hard not to bridle that optimism, man, but let's say I feel less leary of my usual "half-full" Raiders optimism this Februry than last. The direction feels better. We'll see. Thanks to the recent blogs from Calico Jack and Raiders Take, I'm definitely getting more psyched.

Our Heartland Fan gives us 3 great keys to success: efficiency, discipline and cohesiveness. I want to add another term as my top measure of success: improvement.

We obviously are looking for improvement in the offensive scheme. That's a given. Could it get any worse? But, I measure success by the improvement I see in two ways, as the game goes on and as the season progresses.

Art's team seemed to show a little improvement as the season progressed, but like his offenses scheme, it had nowhere to go but up and it didn't get very far now, did it. A good team will improve as the season progresses into November and December. Gruden's first two, 8-8 teams did that. The first, because of the injuries and personnel, didn't really look that strong at the end, but they did improve. That second season, when we had higher quality in personnel, I really saw a marked improvement as the season wore on, culminating in coming back to beat Marty, finally, at home in the final game, knocking them out of the playoffs!

Improvement was a quality that Gruden's teams showed and all good teams must have. We really learned how to win in the 2nd half that season, especially the 4th quarter. Gannon was a big help in that department. The team nearly always scored with its 1st possession of the 2nd half. Gruden and his staff were a big help there.

In fact, a real Raiders team is a a 4th Quarter Team, where, whatever happens in the 1st half, you know in your heart that there's a good chance we'll come away with a win. The 2nd halves last year were abysmal. Yelch. (Sorry, still have a bad taste in my mouth ;-) In general, the feeling with Art's teams, last century too, went more like: we dominated that first half but are only up 6 (or 13), geez, here we go again. Know what I'm sayin'?

So, my top measure of success is improvement during the game and over the season, and I can't wait to see what Victory Lane and his staff have in store for us in the coming season or two.

Go Raiders!

1:41 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Great Post, Calico! I too feel that Davis sees himself in Kiff. In fact, I believe that Davis went out of his way to look for someone who reminded him of himself. Frankly, I think he was moving in that direction when he hired Gruden. I think that if Gruden had stayed, he'd hold a lot of power in the organization right now. Except that I think there was something that Gruden lacked, and that was a business sense of the day to day opperation of the team. Perhaps Davis spotted a hidden talent in Kiff of which even Kiff was previously unaware?

I don't think that Davis has simply stood aside. I think that he has approved every hire. "Tell me what you need, and why you need it, and I'll do my best to make it so."

I know that both you and I both want JR, even though that goes against the typical Raider grain. But bringing fresh young QBs is a lot different now that it was way back when. And both Davis and Kiff seem to leaning in that direction. It will be interesting to see if that's real, or if this is an off season Raider misdirection play, with the idea of big trade in the works.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well written post with some great insights. will be looking for the next one.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

I don't get all the "hype' over Russell. I think it would be a wasted oppotunity to draft him istead of filling an immediate need, like....a good reciever to replace Moss or fortifying the offensive line. Big deal the Raiders get the first overall pick in the draft. Don't get me wrong... last year it would have been great, but this year's draft class is mediocre at best. It's like winning a free dinner for two at a five star restaurant right before the health department issues them 28 citations for unsanitary conditions.
To me the Raiders would be better served to trade down for more picks to address the offensive line in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, or take Calvin Johnson, and use Moss for trade bait to get more picks or a quality starting Offensive lineman and a pick.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Andrew Walter, and it's completely unfair to judge him from his performance this last season.
72 sacks, attrocious play calling, (which got Walter benched for openly criticizing) and an offensive blocking scheme from the Shell, Slater, and Eatman era of play, are not Walter's fault. Russell is not a known commodity in the NFL. He hasn't played a down in it yet and his success isn't guaranteed. If Walter was in this year's draft and you did a little research and looked at Walter's stats from Arizona State and compared them to Russell's at LSU who would you take? Walter broke every record in the PAC 10 (which includes Elway and Plummer's) and at Arizona State of all places. Kiffin is very aware of Walter's abilities too, having coached against Arizona State while at USC.
I can't help but think that everyone is so caught up in getting to pick first that they lose sight of the value of that pick to other teams. Teams that have been more successful in recent years and always have to settle for a pick later in the rounds.
A new QB isn't always the first answer to solving a teams problems and a great QB isn't a guaranteed ticket to the Super Bowl. Speaking of the Super Bowl....I'll bet the Bears would have loved to have had Walter.

4:22 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Heartland:

How does this sound to you? We dump Brooks. We pull the trigger on Russell. We trade Moss for additional 2nd and 3rd round picks. We already have an additional 5th round pick. That gives us 10 picks in the draft (or we can trade up some of our lower round picks for a higher round pick) to work with. Walter, as the senior QB (because we'll likely cut Tui loose) will start the season. If Russell can take the job away from Walter then he takes it away. If he can't, we can still trade Russell the following season for additional draft picks next year.

The point is, we have many options. I think we can have our cake and eat it too.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Thanks to everyone for their insight and feedback.

A special welcome to "Heartland Raider" and "Santa Cruz Raider Fan".

I highly recommend that you guys check out BlandaRocks blog at http://raiderhistory.blogspot.com and Stick'ems blog at http://raiderway.blogspot.com

Keep on raising the black flag in your respective cities! You both make excellent posts about measuring success. If you ever desire to start your own blog, drop me a line and I will be happy to help. (chbraidernation1@sbcglobal.net)

The more Raider blogs the better. Each fan has his own unique perspective. BR & I will be the 1st to admit that we don't see eye to eye on all of our viewpoints. However it is always interesting and thought provoking to have an honest debate about all things silver and black.

Now to the most hotly debated issue facing the Raiders organization namely what do we do with the #1 pick?

This truly deserves its own separate post but here are a few of my opinions.

BR & I see eye to eye on this issue ... I'm firmly in the camp of drafting JRuss and here are a few key reasons:

(1) I believe that JRuss is a rare QB prospect with undeniable upside, potential, and awe inspiring physical tools. Sure there are absolutely no guarantees on his success, and yes, we need to shore up our O-line BUT

(2) in my humble opinion, a franchsie type QB is the most important and impactful asset to affect positive change and improvement. The QB, HC, and owner are the Alpha Dog leaders of any successful, Super Bowl competitive franchise. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Show me a SB winning team who had a subpar member of this triangle. The closest example might be the 2000/2001 Ravens with Dilfer/Bilicik/Modell with Dilfer being an average QB. The only reason that they were able to break the mold was a once in a lifetime defense and a few lucky breaks. Let's face it, if the Goose didn't squash Gannon or Dorsett took the right angle on Sharpe, the Ravens would have a shiny Lombardi trophy in the mantle case. Other than the Ravens I think you would be hard pressed to find another example.

(3) I'm not sold on Walter as being a #1 QB due mainly to his poor pocket awareness & mobility. I think in today's hyper speed game that you need to possess either an innate awareness, mobility, or both. In my view, Walter has somewhat limited upside or potential and could be a good game manager, competent QB at best.
I see Walter as a serviceable #2 QB who could possibly hold down the fort in 07 (if necessary).

(4) As BR stated, the Raiders are in a position where due to extra compensatory picks and possible trades, we can still address some (not all) of our needs through the draft and free agency.

(5) I don't believe the WR corps is in dire need. I personally think that the corps is solid. I like Porter/Curry/Gabriel as our 1,2,3 WRs and Morant, Buchanon, and Francis for depth. Some would argue that the Porter/Curry/Gabriel set does not have a true #1 WR but collectively they are experienced, versatile, physical receivers that can run all the routes and be productive especially using USC's base offense. I would not be opposed to adding another WR but it is not a major priority.

(6) The 2007 draft might not have a lot of high profile "star" players (ie. a "QB" class) but it is very deep in terms of RB, WR, and quality O-lineman in the 1st 3 rounds which are some of our needs.

Feel free to give me a piece of your mind.
Best Regards, Calico Jack

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

CJ,
My first time posting here, and proud to do so under an excellent post, my friend.
I never bought the "hype" over the interviewing of Sarkisian, and then became excited and skeptical when I heard Kiff was being brought in to interview as well (as frequently expressed in RT).
Being a SC guy, I loved how Kiff stepped in nicely and took charge of SC when Chow left him the reigns. Everyone obviously focuses on his hand with Leinart, Bush, Jarret, and White; but forget that he was with SC with Carson Palmer (whom a lot of people give that credit to Chow), Mike Williams, and crew.
Behind the scenes, everyone felt that Kiff should have been the lone OC at SC because he was a hard worker. Sarkisian was only the protege, and understudy of Chow and Kiff.
I think we have a guy who understands football. Not just the offensive side of the ball either, but he understands all aspects of the game. It is very pointed to know that in order to run a great offense, you have to know defense, and defensive scheming. Kiffin understands defense and defensive scheming; and knows how to attack.
My concern with this next season is what we do with Moss. Porter, I think stays, but Moss needs to go. Especially after his rant with Kiffin. He's not on board the ship, and we should make him walk the plank. I've proposed a trade on RT a while back, that I think is valid and is worthy of discussion. Moss and our 2nd Round pick, to Baltimore for Mike Anderson and their 1st Round pick.
That is my only concern.
My optimism is huge. I think we see a different team that what we've seen in the past 4 years. It has already begun, with the structure that Kiffin is putting into place. Structure is everything. Structure gives visions of accomplishment. Visions of success. Visions to move forward. With structure, these visions lead to direction. Structure not only allows you to see opportunity, but points the way to accomplish, and shows you how to succeed and move forward. Structure not only gives visions and points you in the right direction; but structure allows you to have freedom to grow and mature with your success. Freedom to make adjustments as change comes; freedom that allows you to create within the realm of the structure in place. Freedom to do whatever it takes to accomplish, move forward, and SUCCEED!
This is the optimism that Kiffin has already brought with me, and the moves he has made, and continues to make.

6:35 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Calico:

Thanks for the plug. The greatest think about the Raider Nation is the comraderie in dissent.

The thing that most impresses me about Russell (outside of a cannon arm with accuracy) is the thing that I feel Walter completely lacks. That is a sense for the pocket. It is not enough for OLinemen to simply set up a pocket and hold it. The QB must be an active participant. The QB must know, without really looking (just by feel), which linemen are holding their blocks, and which blocks are beginning to collapse. The QB must always be able to move sufficiently to conciously keep his blocker between the QB and the rusher. Often the QB can do this simply by reaching out and touching the shoulder of his blocker. When you watch film of JRuss, he does this effortlessly, like it's simply second nature. I feel that Russell, with the same OL that Walter had, could have reduced the sacks by 10 to 20 percent.

I saw one quarter of one game where Walter was able to do this (it was either against the Cards or the Steelers, can't remember which). But I never saw that from Walter before that game, nor did I see it afterward. I've seen film of Russell as a senior in High School where he was doing that.

Raider Nate:

The Sarkisian script is kind of strange. Davis, apparently, interviewed him longer than anybody else, which is why everyone thought that it was Sark's job to lose. But I'm getting the feeling that Davis was going back to SC from day one. While I think that Sarkisian was deffinately under consideration, I also think it possible that Davis always had Kiff in the back of his mind, but was thinking that Kiff might lack the necessary NFL experience. Ultimately, when Davis and Kiff met, I think Kiff convinced Davis that his NFL pedigree was sufficient.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

BR,
Sark lacked the same necessary NFL experience, that you claim may have been a concern for Kiffin. Neither one has had a "Coordinator" job in the NFL. I think once Davis had a few interviews with Sarkisian, he wasn't really sold on him. I think he wanted him as a Coordinator, possibly a "Co-Coordinator" position with Trestman even; but I really never thought he was interviewing for the HC spot. They have both publicly agreed that it was for a coaching position, but have both denied it being for the Head Coach position.
There will always be "mystery" surrounding this, but that is what Al Davis wants; and rightfully so. Maybe Davis wanted to throw a curveball with Sarkisian? Here's what I mean, maybe Sarkisian was a go between to set up a meeting with Kiffin, since Davis didn't know Kiffin or never met with him, like he did Sarkisian? You never know what Al Davis is thinking until he makes a move. That is what made him a brilliant coach on both the collegiate and NFL levels, and that is what makes him a brilliant owner.
I personally think that Al Davis does this kind of stuff for his own personal humor, to point his finger at certain mediots, and say, "You've written how I've lost it, and look how you are rambling in circles trying to remotely guess what I'm doing!" It's crazy to think about, but it fits with everything we know about the persona of Al Davis.
That's just my theory. I don't consider myself an "Al Davis expert," but I do see humorous patterns in games he plays with the media, and decisions he makes. He runs the team as an owner, like he did as a coach. He runs it with the attitude of "Keep-them-guessing."
I believe Al Davis knew who he wanted from the beginning, and it wasn't Sarkisian.

10:14 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

You make a good point, Raider Nate. One has to believe that Davis still has sufficient ties with SC to know who's there, who's hot and who's not.

The inside rumor (supposedly) had it that Davis knew who he wanted two weeks befor he fired Shell, that it was a young up and comer off of everybody's radar. It began to look like if the rumor was true, it had to be Sarkisian. But it is also true that Davis has no specific ties to Carroll, but Sarkisian once worked for him. It is possible that Davis knew he was after Kiffin, but didn't let on to Sarkisian. But to calm any ill will that might have developed with Sark, Davis may have said, "we'll both say that you withdrew from consideration, not that you were passed over."

10:44 AM  
Anonymous raider00 said...

Heartland,

I don't know if I can get on board with your statement, "The Raiders are loaded with talent".

Certainly, the Raiders have some excellent talent on defense, but, Curry, and a few unproven young guys aside, the offense looks pretty barren.

I agree with you about eliminating dumb penalties.
The offsides, the false starts, the ticky tac fouls have to go.
It just looks like you don't know how to play football when these things are done over, & over.

But I would welcome a return to the Long, Alzado, and co. days of really punishing the other team.

Jack Tatum used to say the WR might catch the ball, but he was going to pay a price for it.
It's that mean, nasty attitude that has been missing from the Raiders for a long time.
Even the 2002 SB team lacked the "being feared" quality that other great Raider defenses have had in the past.

Calico,

I think 7, or 8 wins would indicate that Kiffin is off to a wonderful start, and heading in the right direction.

Also, at least 2 road wins, and 2 division victories would hit the spot.
I'm confident he will make it happen.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

I too would welcome tough hits, but not too many that would draw a flag. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see it too, and it makes me feel "minty fresh;" but if it happens too often then the Raiders will be have a virus I like to call, "The Reagan Upshaw Syndrome."
I loved Reagan Upshaw! I loved his toughness, and his all out hits on the QB's, but he led every single one of them with his helmet, and even when he didn't, he was targeted by the refs for penalties. It followed him to Washington, and ruined his career.

11:21 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Calico:

I re-read your post (and it's well worth multiple reads). There is one passage that jumps off the page, and you should be commended for spotting it because nobody else that I'm aware of has.

"(3) The building of the coaching staff seems to have emphasized youth, solid teachers, and past working relationships that bodes well for good chemistry. The obvious connections and working relationships; Knapp-Cable (Atl), Knapp-Rathman (SF), Cable-Schneider (UCLA), Kiffin-Jackson(USC)."

One must conclude that part of the current interview process includes such questions as, "whom have you worked with who you think has brought out the best in you, and you, them?" All of these parts seem to interconnect like the pieces of a puzzle.

It's notable that it seems to have started with Davis. I say that because of Davis' supposed question of Sarkisian, "Who would you want as OC?" I have not seen the Raiders take this kind of approach before. Kiffin's interview process seems to have taken it to even the next level. It appears (and this Davis tradition that I haven't seen him use in awhile) that every interview process is also a learning process. "What do you know" about this person or that person? "Who does" a particular type of thing very well - better than others?

The old dog has learned new tricks (or relearned some of his old ones), and the pup has hit the ground running, matching stride for stride. "Minty fresh" is right (thanks, RT). I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm until the team itself starts to take some shape. But the emerging feeling feels like a rebirth.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

Calico Jack :
I think there are a couple of things that everybody who is touting J. Russell as the 1st overall pick are not considering.

The Salary Cap and Agents.

Can the Raiders afford to make Russell the number one pick overall? We all know he would be an investment in the future. He's not ready to be a starting QB in the NFL. But the fact that he'll be carrying a chart for the next year or maybe two doesn't mean squat to his "Agent". If the Raiders draft him, he will be the number one overall pick and his agent will demand he be paid as one.
Do the Raiders have enough room under the "Salary Cap" to draft, sign, and pay Russell, and still address the immediate needs the team has, to get out of the AFC West cellar? I don’t think so…..and I would rather see the Raiders dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball (where, with field position most games are won) than have the #1 overall pick and be salary capped out.
Yes acquiring Russell could be great, (maybe, but he reminds me of a tall Vince Evans)…. but how many teams with a great quarterback haven't won, or even made it to a Superbowl.
Where is the wisdom in drafting a potentially great QB and not having the money to give him an offensive line? Do you remember the beginning of Jim Plunkett‘s career ?

I want a TEAM not a great QB on the IR list.

Some one keeps criticizing Walter for his pocket awareness, well his pocket awareness was perfect.…..Walter would be the first to ask you………what pocket????? 72 sacks, an almost nonexistent running game, and running for your life every pass play …..are all factors that point to the “Pocket” as being a myth last season. Someone needs to help me out and tell me of at least one, past Raider great QB, that could have been productive in last season’s offense. So would that mean when they failed, as Walter did, they are over rated as a Raider legend?

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

raider00 said...
Heartland,
I don't know if I can get on board with your statement, "The Raiders are loaded with talent".


Last year's roter was loaded with talent and it's all still there..It was Shell and his staff the failed to utilize that talent.
Shell's gone.
You don't throw out the "baby" with the bath water.
One could have almost argued for Shell as MVP last year...he held Moss to the lowest numbers of his career.
Art Shell and Gene upshaw were the greatest lineman the Raiders ever had on the left side that doesn't guarantee them sussess at coaching or front office jobs.

Moss and Porter need to go though...Moss for his locker room cancerous attitude, and Porter for being overrated, and injury prone...not even one full season of production out of Porter.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Heartland Raider -

I think it is somewhat universally agreed upon that it is very difficult to evaluate Walter considering the difficult circumstances he faced last season. However, in his 8 game "tryout" as a starter, I think it is fair game to point out his strengths and weaknesses that he demonstrated: (these strengths and weaknesses include both good and bad circumstances)

Stengths: Arm strength, toughness, team-first attitude

Weaknesses: Touch passes, inaccurate passer, lack of mobility/quickness/footspeed/elusiveness, lack of playmaking ability; holds on to the ball too long; poor reads and decision making

I have a difference of opinion on a few of your points and some related questions:

- Russell's skill set is more equipped today (not 2 years down the road) to deal with a subpar O-line than Walter. He is faster, stronger and more athletic.

- Assuming that we improve our O-line with the draft, free agency, and above all coaching, is there any reason that we should settle on Walter who in my opinion is Kerry Collins Lite?

- If we don't draft JRuss, how would you suggest we build our QB depth chart? Would you be comfortable with a 2nd tier FA (Huard)? Would we be better off taking a 2nd tier QB draftee in the 2nd round (Stanton) or 3rd round (Kolb). How would we be better off with a QB depth chart that would be Huard/Walter/Kolb (or some combination)? Who would be our starter? Huard? Walter?

- Some of the sacks were O-line protection problems BUT some were also Walter's fault too. Here are a few examples of how Walter needs to shoulder some of the blame; holding on to the ball too long, lack of quickness, nimbleness, and ridiculously slow foot speed; lack of rush awareness; inability to throw the ball away; inability to slide to the side or up in the pocket.

- In regards to your question about pocket awareness, I define it as an understanding of where the rush pressure is coming from and adjusting your position in the pocket accordingly to account for this pressure. There were countless times where 1 single defender cut loose and Walter stood like a frozen deer staring directly at the headlights. I understand that he faced a very adverse situation but what disappointed me the most was the numerous snaps where the O-line gave him good protection and he was either inaccurate with his passes, indecisive with his reads or didn't have a time clock in his head that he needed to get rid of the ball.

- My ideal QB depth chart would be Russell/Walter/Vet QB who is strictly a sounding board for Russell & Walter. My feeling is that if Russell and Walter battle it out in training camp & pre-season that Russell will utlimately win the #1 role primarily because of his superior athletic abilities. Sure he will go through growing pains and make his fair share of mistakes but he will give the Raiders a much better chance to succeed short and long term. I think there is a ceiling on how far Walter can take us due largely to his lack of mobility.

- Regarding the draft; since you think we should trade down to acquire more picks, I assume that you would want to use those picks to take a RB, OT, and WR/TE which makes sense. Players like Joe Thomas (OT), Adrian Peterson (RB), Calvin Johnson (WR) are all top 5 picks...so how far do we need to slide down (5)? further down to mid level 1st round to aquire Marshawn Lynch (RB), Levi Brown (OT), or Justin Blalock(OG)? We would net perhaps an extra 2nd round, 3rd round, and a pick for next year. Maybe we take our own 2nd and the extra 2nd to move down to another 1st round pick. Best case scenario is taking 1 top 5 and 1 mid round pick ... or 2 of the 6 draftees mentioned above. Judging by a top 100 prospects list, if we drafted in our natural order we could easily net JRuss (QB), Michael Bush (RB)/Zach Miller (TE), and Ryan Kalil (C)/Steve Smith (WR).

- When the pass protection broke down last season for Walter, how many times was he able to become a "playmaker" and create a positive play by his elusiveness, wits, or mobility? I keep hearing from varous fans saying that Walter deserves a 2nd chance under better circumstances. What I don't hear is any convincing arguments to suggest why Walter is a #1 type QB. What is it that you saw in 06 that makes you confident in his abilities? What is it about his physical tools, attributes, or anything in general that you are excited about? In my view Walter deserves the chance to compete for his place on the depth chart but going into 2007 I would be extremely leery of him being our #1 guy since we all full well know that our O-line is a work in progress.

Frankly we know no more about Walter than Russell. What we do know without any doubts are the differences in both "prospects" overall physical tool set. I sincerely believe that Russell is a unique prospect who is more suited for the pro game than Walter will ever be. Or put another way, some of Walter's major weaknesses (lack of mobility; elusiveness; footspeed; athleticism) can not be corrected only managed. I would rather shoot for the stars (Russell) than settle on mediocity (Walter). I realize that with better coaching, a better 0-line, better skill players that Walter would make progress and be more competent but wouldn't that be true and then some with Russell? I see no reason why we can't address most of our needs through the draft, trades, free agency, and coaching AND still take Russell as our #1 pick.

Best Regards,
Calico Jack

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

How do you squeeze all the "IMMEDIATE" needs to make the Raiders competitive , draft Russell too, and stay under the cap???
I guess Al Davis screwed up again....he already had the #1 overall pick, he didn't need to fire Shell, he could just draft Russell and our problems are solved.
Rusell is an underclassman, (immature, inexperienced… even at the college level) coming out early...but hey, he can walk right in and play....He's already an expert at reading defenses....there'll be no adjustment for him to the speed and size of the NFL as opposed to college. He's the second coming (but better) of Culpepper and McNabb...(how many rings are those two wearing?) But you would draft Russell and do the same to him, as what happened to McNabb and Culpepper…deprive them of a good supporting cast and limit their success.
I want the Raiders to win the Superbowl again, not lead the league in passing.

Anyone old enough to remember Stabler's first year starting games? He pretty much sucked ....Stabler was part of the Blanda legacy. Blanda coming off the bench to bail Stabler’s ass out late in the game. Good thing Stabler (in his second year) didn't play last season.

I also see it's now Walters fault that the receivers....were covered... gave up on their routes....or didn't adjust their routes when the pocket broke down. Walter got benched for complaining about the play calling...being too predictable....he was upset that the other team knew exactly what the Raiders were going to do. But I guess that's Walter's fault too.

What do I see in Walter??? Walter’s accomplishments in the Pac 10. He lit it up. He shattered every passing record…. Elways’ and Plummer’s and at Arizona State of all places. If he can have that kind of success in the Pac 10, then with a decent offensive line, he can be very productive, winning, NFL quarterback.

11:55 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Heartland:

First, if you can't trust one college player's stats, you can't trust the other's. It's not like LSU is a city college program. They competed for the national title, remember?

Second, you're remembering Stable/Blanda a little out of context. Stabler, when he started, was a scrambling QB. That's why they called him Snake. Blanda didn't come in to bail out Stabler, he came in to replace him when somebody clobbered Stabler's knees (which happened frequently). Blanda did, however, replace Lamonica several times because of Lamonica's ineffectiveness, and Lamonica was a seasoned veteran. Stabler replaced Lamonica because Lamonica became ineffective.

As for salary cap, I don't know where people are getting the idea that we have cap trouble. Anything but! Without making a single move we're right around the middle of the pack, but we have so many moves we can make. Getting rid of Moss, alone, will put us in the upper tier. And in view of the performance of other offensive players last year, we certainly have the leverage to restructure contracts.

Stabler, Part II. Stabler, at the beginning of his second year went into Madden's office and demanded that he start. Madden told him that nobody was going to give him that job, that he'd have to earn it, and then earn it again every day.

We can afford JRuss, and by all outward signs he's a franchise QB. I don't advocate giving the job to JRuss, I advocate bringing him in and asking him to "earn it." If Walter wants it, he can earn it - against all comers. Let the competition begin!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Heartland Raider -

I see that you have the same, dry, sarcastic sense of humor that I do! Are you must be British-American, by chance? Cheers.

Let me try to clarify a few points because it seems that we both might be taking each other's opinions out of context.

The Raiders Immediate Needs:

In order I would list these overall needs as follows; QB, OT/OG, RB, TE, DT, DE, WR

In my opinion our biggest IMMEDIATE needs are a QB and improved O-line.

Cap Space & Draft Picks:

We are in good cap shape. Lombardi/Davis will work their magic as they always do by having existing players restructure their contracts. Unlike past seasons, this year the Raiders have more than usual cap space due to the CBA. This year we are drafting at the top of each round and have 3 extra picks (10 total). If we trade Moss, our cap position will improve by $7.8M and we would more than likely have an extra 2nd round pick. With 11 picks and good cap space, we can address the majority of our needs. I don't pretend to think that we can fill all of our needs. It is a matter of priorities. As I said above, my priorities are the QB & O-line.

Russell "The Underclassman":

Russell is 21 years old. Is this too young? (Ask Vince Young). Too inexperienced? (each QB has a learning curve. The question is when does this curve start? Year 1, Year 2) Not able to handle the speed? (His athleticism is more equipped to handle the speed of the NFL than Walter ever will be) Not able to read NFL defenses? (Why not? He has been groomed the last 2 years in the best conference defensively in the country. Now is the time to take the next step). Finally, I wouldn't get too hung up on age (21) or coming out early ... I'm sure they said the same things about Vince Young that they are now saying about JRuss. Frankly a lot of the knocks I hear about JRuss this year and VY last year are code words for racism. "Not smart enough", "Doesn't have a good work ethic", "Can't read defenses". Were any of these unfounded comments made about Quinn, Leinart, Cutler?

Culpepper & McNabb: Those were bad examples for you to name. Culpepper led his team to the NFC Championship in his 1st year as a starter (2nd year in NFL) and McNabb has led his team to the SB and NFC Championship twice. Being compared to these guys is not the worst thing in the world.

T-E-A-M: I'm totally on board with you about building a team and how important it is to have a solid supporting cast. I just feel that this is one of those rare instances where we have the #1 pick, a top prospect staring us in the face, and a need for a franchise QB. I am on board with taking a calculated risk that JRuss will be our franchise QB. I'm tired of retread FA QB's like Brooks & Collins.

Walter Evaluation: We can go around and around on this ... I don't blame Walter for
(1) a bad supporting cast, bad coaching, bad protection, etc...

My point about his deficiencies was in the context of taking 500+ snaps behind center. There were moments in each game, each quarter, each series where the protection was good, the playcall was fine...what did he do with these opportunities? There were plenty of snaps where if was a little more mobile and aware he might have been able to find a secondary WR. My point was that with all the shitty circumstances he faced, I was waiting for a spark, a creative play, something where you say to yourself "How did he do that?"

Other Side to a Coin:

In your mind it almost seems like Walter is virtually blameless for anything that took place on the field last season (since there was bad coaching, playcalling, etc). He is accountable for everything he does just like each and every player. I have all the Raider games on VHS and have watch each game numerous times. I haven't given up on Walter but at the same time I am not confident about him leading our team.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

hohohvI'm only half english.
I live in Kansas smack dab in the middle of Chief and Bronco territory. It's my charming sarcasm that endears me so much to all these Chief and Bronco fans.
(and to those I disagree with too I suppose)

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

I just read on ProSport Daily's website the Raiders are rumored to have contacted The Texans about David Carr.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Franco said...

It's all on the rumor mill, but the Texans would seem to be willing to ship Carr for as little as a 3rd round pick. I say, ship him to Oakland, get JRuss...and let's have a fight to the top QB spot!

man, that would be fun...

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Franco said...

also, we should sign Luke Petitgout who was recently released by the Giants

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

Heartland,
I don't have a problem with Walter either. After last season it is hard to evaluate his capabilities. He did do some things that concerned me, because Moss wasn't the only receiver out there.
Negatives. The second half of every game he played, he consistently started under throwing receivers, short hopping his passes, threw behind, etc. He showed that his arm would tire out; further telling me that he isn't 100% from his injury. That is a concern.
He also had the habit of not moving his feet, but planting them. If you watch QB's like Manning, Young, Leinart, McNabb, Rothlesburger, Palmer, etc; they continually move their feet in the pocket, and set them to unload.
Now, you make the good point of a lack of protection, a receiver giving up or not trying, dropping passes, being covered, etc. That is all part of the game, and is going to happen. It happened too often last season because of the incompetence of the coaching staff we had. The bottom line is, we can blame th ose things on anyone but Walter. My point being, in these situations how do you plant your feet, and not move? How are you not aware that this is going to happen, and not create plays?
A true leader at QB creates plays, Walter and Brooks, for that matter, did not create plays for themselves. They didn't take off to keep the bullrush at bay, they didn't move with the pocket lanes, they planted their feet and waited for something to open up, and was sacked for it.
Despite all of the crap that happened last season, Walter showed me that he still has a lot of work to do, and it started with preseason; when he didn't play because his arm grew tired. That is my problem with him. That is not a QB that I want to lead this team, if he cannot shake these things. I'm willing though to give him that chance to prove, but JRuss is a great backup plan.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

The DunderDolts just hired Norv Turner as their next HC. Good luck with that.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

Raider Nate;

I like Walter ,and I see the potential for him to be another Raider great. So....at the risk of appearing to be making excuses for him, I offer my spin on the points you bring to the table.

No doubt about it …he became a little gun shy, but after averaging over 4 sacks a game over the season and all times he was clobbered while, or after throwing the ball…who wouldn’t be? Hell …with all the trips he took to the turf during last season he should be the travel agent for Scott’s Lawn Care products. Isn’t it a natural reaction to plant your feet and tense up to absorb the shock of an upcoming blow while waiting for a receiver to get open?
I guess we differ in opinion on QB leadership too. To me a true leader doesn’t turn the ball over trying to do more than he’s capable of in the current situation he’s in ( read; Jeff George, Jay Schroeder, Jeff Hoestetter) trying to force the ball in. There’s usually another down to get it back or field position to consider.
I don’t know where the tired arm came from other than in the preseason when Shell held him out for a tired arm from throwing too many drills in camp. At Arizona St. he averaged over 30 throws a game and arm fatigue never appeared to be a problem. How much of the short throw problem was trying to throw the ball so the receiver could be the only one in position to catch the ball. Especially with the effort the receivers were putting forth, and the small leads the Raiders were clinging to in the second halves of the games they weren’t already being blown out of. What about a lack of confidence in the play that’s been called and the coverage it’s being thrown into.
What can I say I really like the guy and I don’t believe he’s been given the play calls and blocking schemes to show his potential.

I would love to see the Raider pull the trigger on a trade with Houston for Carr, draft Peterson, and use the remaining picks for the offensive line.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Tooz 72 said...

Norv was mediocre in his roles at Washington and Miami, a blithering idiot in Oakland, and mildly redemptive in SF.

My guess is that SD ownership wanted a patsy to push around. I dislike Schottenheimer more than most, but you can't argue with his record at SD or most places. In SD, he wouldn't bow down to an arrogant owner. Norvy-poo doesn't seem to have a problem with that (see Wash/Mia/Oak/SF comments above).

Via con dios, San Diego! Hope you enjoyed your day in the sun.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

"I don’t know where the tired arm came from other than in the preseason when Shell held him out for a tired arm from throwing too many drills in camp."
That was also the reason Shell gave for starting Brooks after he return from injury.
"At Arizona St. he averaged over 30 throws a game and arm fatigue never appeared to be a problem."
That was before he injured his shoulder too.
"How much of the short throw problem was trying to throw the ball so the receiver could be the only one in position to catch the ball?"
I'm just saying on slant routes, you don't want to throw behind or at the receiver's feet. I understand about putting the ball where only the receiver has the best chance of making a play on it. I QB'd in HS. What I saw in Walter was the ability to do that, but he would tire out as the game progressed. Was that a result of botched calling, or his talent? I don't know, I question both aspects.
"I guess we differ in opinion on QB leadership too. To me a true leader doesn’t turn the ball over trying to do more than he’s capable of in the current situation he’s in ( read; Jeff George, Jay Schroeder, Jeff Hoestetter) trying to force the ball in. There’s usually another down to get it back or field position to consider."
No we don't differ on opinions here. There's a difference in making a play, and forcing a play that's not there. It involves how you move in the pocket, keeping the defense off balance with the ability to create. Gannon created plays, Brady, Rothlesburger, Manning, Vince Young all creates plays within the play calling structure they have. Yes, part of that is the play calling ability on the coach, which was non-existent last season. Part of that lies on the QB too.
Forcing a play, to me, is making a pass that isn't there. Whether out of desparation, or trying to make the "big play". There's a difference. Sometimes it's a fine line, but there is a difference. I would agree that 9 times out of 10 last season, some of Walter's passes were forced out of desparation. Desparate to make a play, and to get something started. Again, I think that lies on both the coaching and the player. No matter how bad your coaching is, you have to play with your head. I didn't see anyone on the Raiders' offense do that last season.

6:19 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

I, for one, will miss Marty Schottenheimer. My dream is to beat Marty, not to see him disappear before we get the chance. But then, I'm the type of guy who wanted the Raiders to face the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in 1976. I don't want to be in the positon to beat the worst teams, I want to be in the position to beat the best teams. That's where your ultimate credibility as a team comes from.

With luck, Marty will get another job soon, and we'll see him again in the post season sometime.

9:00 AM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

New post at BlandaRocked.

http://raiderhistory.blogspot.com/

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Tooz 72 said...

Bye bye, Brooksie! I hope this means we're opening a spot for someone good. Maybe Walter starts, and if he's good, good. If not, we bring in plan B. I would like the team to make good use of its No. 1 pick. QB all the way.

10:50 AM  
Blogger RAMSFAN said...

Very good article. I feel the key to your season is the O-Line and you truly have the right coach in Tom Cable. I can't beleive he is not a head coach at the college level or an OC in the NFL considering how bad some of them are. The Al Davis comparisons are good but a different place and a different time and I feel maybe Al is trying trying to adapt to the new age. Gone are the days of Tatum and Alzado, the NFL is corporate and will never tolerate that, especially the Raiders and their hatred of AL. Keep writing and I will come back Jack, because football is about passion and you are writing with it.

12:03 PM  

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