The Razor's Edge : Things Are Never Dull As an Oakland Raiders Fan
After years of losing double-digit games, the Raiders finally returned to relative respectability this season by finishing at 8-8, sweeping their division and laying some impressive beatings on some respected teams.
However, true to the personality of the schizophrenic Raiders, they went 2-8 outside the division and lost horribly to some weak teams in very ugly fashion.
As a result, we are faced with an offseason in which, for once, we have a good, solid nucleus of players moving forward and real reason for true optimism going into 2011.
That is, once all the question marks get cleared up.
So as not to deviate from character, despite improvements across the board and the most successful season in nearly a decade, the Raiders served notice that Coach Tom Cable's job was immediately in jeopardy after the team decimated the previously undefeated at home Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead in one of their most impressive victories of the season.
Yes, the offseason in Oakland is always interesting, and though barely a week old, has already become so in 2011. Let's take a look at some of the things that have happened so far.
As we do, please bear in mind that my theory behind everything that happens in Raider Nation recently that doesn't seem to make sense is due to one reason alone: Al Davis, knowing his health is failing, wants one more shot at glory, and is desperate to make that happen.
As such he'll make head-scratching moves that, in his head, must serve to improve the team in the short term. In short, we as fans have the luxury of having time and patience to watch a team develop, as it should. His moves are with an eye to instant gratification, which as we all know doesn't usually work out well at all in the NFL. And hasn't, now has it?
Mr. Davis does not have much time left to see a winner, and runs the team with that desperation seeping through. As I said, just a theory, but one that seems to have evidence behind it.
Hue Jackson Given Permission to Interview With The 49ers
When he was hired as offensive coordinator last offseason, many speculated that it was only a matter of time before Hue Jackson donned the Head Coaches cap for the Silver & Black.
After the first few games, people openly questioned whether Jackson had what it takes to be a coordinator in the NFL, having failed his first go around and now struggling with a Raider team that wasn't great but had a ton of team speed on defense.
Well, Jackson kept plugging away, learned his players, learned their strengths, eliminated the zone blocking scheme monopoly and instituted some power blocking, and the Raiders were off to the races.
To the tune of improving from 31st overall in points and yardage to 8th in points and 11th in yardage. And scoring over a full touchdown more this year per game than last.
Yeah, you could say H-Jack had an effect.
The mess that is the San Francisco 49ers need a coach. Jackson is a hot commodity. The Raiders had their best season in eight years.
So they give the Niners permission to talk to Jackson about their head coaching vacancy. They could have said no, but that would've eliminated any goodwill or negotiating power they had to keep Jackson should they want to. So they let him go.
But they obviously wanted him, because the very same day they let him go........
Al Davis Declines To Pick Up Option on Coach Tom Cable's Contract
.....Al got rid of the Cable guy. Hmmmm. Coincidence?
It's funny how polarized Raider Nation can be regarding their personnel. When JaMarcus Russell was drafted, there was a distinct division between those who thought he'd be good and those who thought he was not.
Obviously, those in the latter group proved rather prescient, as we all know now Russell was NOT good.
Again, Raider Nation is divided on their opinions of one Tom Cable, former head coach.
As we all know by now, Cable is out. Some are outraged; others relieved. Me? I'm kind of on the fence here, and I understand how wishy-washy and weak that is, but it's true. I feel Cable had his pros and cons as a coach, but his pros are those things you cannot learn; and his cons are things he could improve with experience.
I say this: I always liked Cable as a guy, and the players love him. But he is not a very good game manager, play caller, clock manager, or X's and O's coach. His area of strength, the offensive line, has been one of the weakest links on the team for years.
Yet I believe in life you get what you give, and Tom Cable has coached well and done enough under very tough circumstances to get this team back to a level of pride and commitment not seen for some time. As such, I truly believe he's earned the right to coach at least one more season.
Players certainly felt that way, with Shane Lechler calling out Al Davis in the media and openly questioning whether this was a "horrible" decision. Lechler indicated that the players so respect Cable that he can foresee many of them now leaving via free agency, when they would've re-signed had Cable been retained.
Lechler preached that this team needs stability and continuity, and that he can foresee struggles again due to a blow it up and start over despite tangible results theory. Certainly Cable's departure once again creates instability on the front lines, something that has largely contributed to the team's recent futility.
Perhaps Cable would have been retained, had Hue Jackson not been being wooed for the 49ers job. I can foresee no scenario on Earth in which Al Davis sat idly by while his hated Bay-area rivals scooped up a coach that Davis himself likes quite a bit.
Who knows if Cable would have been fired anyway, had Jackson not interviewed for any other jobs? His repeating of the fact that the Raiders are not losers anymore because they finished .500, and his seeming acceptance and happiness over this fact wouldn't have sat well with the ultra-competitive Davis.
In Al Davis' world, .500, or average, isn't good enough. And Cable paid the price as a result. Did he deserve it? His body of work this season says no. Will the Raiders be better for it? Time will tell.
The only thing that will appease the team after Cable's firing (call it what you want; he was fired) would be to promote Jackson to head coach. Many expect that to happen, but in typical Raider fashion, nothing has been announced while the ship floats, rudderless and leaderless, in dangerous offseason waters.
Vince Young Is Released By The Titans
He lacks maturity, work ethic, and football acumen. Football doesn't seem to be very important to him, and he seems to be more interested in being famous and popular than actually playing well.
JaMarcus Russell? Sure, but not in this description. Nope. Vince Young. In a sentence I parsed together from recent comments from Jeff Fisher, Bud Adams, and some of Vince Young's crew and members of the Titans organization.
I knew this was going to happen, despite all the logical reasons why it shouldn't. I knew some in Raider Nation would jump on the bandwagon to bring Vince Young to Oakland. But it's a bad idea for so many reasons.
The first being that we have a quarterback already, one who works hard, plays hard, and showed me this season he deserves next season all to himself, without looking over his shoulder or fear of being yanked at any moment.
Perhaps if Cable had showed the same faith in Jason Campbell that he showed in Bruce Gradkowski earlier this season, the Raiders would be in the playoffs and Cable would still have a job.
But why would he? Very few in Raider Nation do either. The drumbeat to bring Young or Fisher in began as soon as it was clear that it was either Fisher or Young who would be out in Tennessee. It was, and always should have been, Young that was out. And the vultures pounced.
Campbell sucks; he's not aggressive enough; he doesn't throw the ball downfield; he's not smart enough to read defenses; he doesn't scramble enough; he makes poor coffee, etc, etc. It all came out of the woodwork with rapid speed.
Except, let's look at this here. I understand Campbell isn't flashy, and for some reason athletes get a label and are stuck that way pretty much forever. Campbell was labelled a talented but conservative quarterback who doesn't take shots downfield and checks the ball down too often. So despite his stats saying otherwise this season, that perception remains because that's the way it is.
It's like being labelled a "bad kid" in grade one. You NEVER live that down, despite your best efforts, if you stay in the same county. Nope, once a bad kid, always a bad kid.
People say "Vince Young Wins Games." I can't argue there. His record bears that out, though it makes little sense. Young's career QB rating is 75.7 and he averages 6.8 yards per attempt. You could even argue that the Titans won a lot of games early on in spite of Young's ineptitude.
Campbell's career rating, despite playing on much worse Washington teams than Young's Titan squads and having a different coordinator every season is 82.6. His career YPA is 6.7; but the last two seasons he's thrown the ball more and more aggressively. So he's been more consistent than Young, and his career stats show he throws the ball downfield just as often.
The bottom line is this: we just got rid of Vince Young, albeit the much heavier and less successful JaMarcus Russell model. But the same red flags that made Russell a failure apply to Vince Young, as well documented by many sources.
Why ditch a guy who cares about the team and the game for a guy who wants to look good on TV and loses his mind when things don't go his way? Un....mitigated......disaster.
Shane Lechler Sounds Off
Oakland Raider punter Shane Lechler is not your average punter. He is a team captain, a leader, and a well respected veteran who is only one of two players around during the Raiders' last taste of success.
The other is his "battery mate" and brother-in-legs Sebastian Janikowski.
Lechler is an anomaly as a punter. He's more popular and rock-star than most punters. Raider Nation loves the guy. He's smart, thoughtful, funny, reflective, and brutally honest about the Oakland Raiders. This garners him much love most of the time, and certainly everyone listens when he speaks. There's none of "well, he's just a punter."
Yes, not your average punter. Oh, did I mention he's also the best in his craft, perhaps in NFL history? Yeah, there's that too. So you know, that gives him some added juice.
What Lechler is known for is brutal honesty twinged with a hint of optimism and potential for the future. While never shrinking from the fact that the team was struggling, Lechler over the years also maintained that Al Davis was brilliant and the Raiders would be back.
His response to Coach Tom Cable's firing had none of this veiled optimism. It was simple brutal honesty.
Lechler went off, making points that only someone who had gone from division champion to doormat in his career can validly make. He knows better than anyone that the revolving door of coaches after Gruden departed coupled with a lack of faith in the plan in place were the major factors dooming often talented teams to the basement of the NFL.
So he said as much. I won't give you the direct quote, because you can find it at Jerry McDonald's blog at www.ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders or various other places on the net.
But I will give you the gist, and my overall interpretation. He basically said that the players were pissed at the decision, which he feels is a horrible one that will set the team back years after showing growth. He feels that Al Davis has overstepped here, that he's made a snap decision with little logic behind it, and that as a result, he may lose players faithful and loyal to Cable like Robert Gallery and Michael Bush.
In fact, Lechler basically guaranteed that Bush and Gallery would walk due to this. Now, neither player has confirmed this, but Gallery didn't sound overly inclined to re-sign now that the man who pulled him off the slag heap is unemployed.
In true Al Davis fashion, punter Glen Pakulak was signed yesterday after Lechler made his feelings known. Read into it what you will, but personally, at this point in his life and such, if it was done for any other reason than to add another camp leg down the road, if there was any "point" to be made to Lechler or anything like that, then that's incredibly petty and sad.
Davis has pulled some petty moves in the past, but Lechler is a guy who has absolutely earned the right to say what he feels. He's paid his dues more than anyone other than Seabass, and as such he can say what he likes. Even IF it's questioning a decision he feels was wrong.
Remains To Be Seen
As of writing this, Hue Jackson has not been offered the head coaching job in Oakland. Many still expect that to happen, and with Jim Harbaugh NOT signing with Miami, the chances are better.
Regardless, thus far it's been interesting, and should only get more so. One thing is for certain; as a Raider fan, expect the unexpected, even when your team has improved.
That's part of the glory, and maddening annoyance, of being a part of the Raider Nation.