Monthly Archives: August 2011

Final Word on 2010 Season: Raiders BEAT The Division, SCREW the haters

Oakland Raiders VS Denver Broncos

As we prepare for the 2011 NFL season to begin, we must put to rest all the discussion of 2010. It was an intense season of change for the Raiders, and after the smoke cleared, many questions were answered for this football team.
Going into 2010 we still had Jamarcus at camp. We had a head coach who hadn’t spoken with the owner/GM in months, nor would he. We had running backs who fumbled and receivers who dropped (well, we still have that…). We had a low ranking defense and a brand new free agent QB who was taking flack before he even took the field. I’ve only been a fan since 2009, so when the Raiders started the season I was just praying they wouldn’t get clobbered too bad.
When the Titans smashed Oakland in Week 1, a vast majority of fans got that all too familiar, “here we go again…” feeling. But wait! Weeks went by and passes started being caught, running backs started chewing up yards. Defenses got to shutting down the other side and started getting ahold of opposing QBs, with vicious results. The Raiders turned things around, and ended up with a 8-8 season, one to be proud of for a lesser franchise.
But for Raiders, nothing short of playoffs means a damn thing!So we must mark up the 2010 season as a failure. The team far exceeded my initial expectation of losing horribly yet again, as I’d become accustomed to under Jacarcass. So you’d think I would be happy for us. Instead, I look back and now realize that it was an opportunity lost.

It should have been a return to the playoffs for the Raiders, with a well paid and amazingly talented group. We had the best guys, the best coaching and the best plays on the field. And still ended up in third place. After seeing what Oakland is capable of on the field of battle, I will NEVER again expect anything less than FIRST place in our division. The Jamarcus era had me doubting, but now I see why Raider fans are utterly uncompromising in their commitment to winning. Al Davis pays well and has the best talent in our division. If they don’t win it, the only result is disgrace. There are no moral victories in pro football!

That said, it’s important to keep one concept clear: RAIDERS BEAT THE DIVISION IN 2010!

Oakland pulverized their AFC West opposition, and ground them into dust. The  San Diego Chargers, perennial division favorites, were shocked when Raider special teams play demolished their advantages and Oakland defense ran them into the ground.  Accustomed to easy wins in December, Raiders broke their streak and nearly broke their back. Their “MVP” quarterback was smacked right out of the running. Without the 2 wins they always used to get from Oakland, suddenly the Chargers didn’t look so scary. Now the spell is broken, the window is shut, and although they are a good team, the playing field is leveled. Raiders are no longer the underdog in this fight.

Denver Broncos with highly favored coach McDaniels and solid QB Kyle Orton were also shocked when a voracious Oakland offense simply bulldozed them into the turf, trampling them over and over to break their spirit and empty their stadium of all hope. Franchise high score for the Raiders, and a brutal end to the season for Denver.  Oakland left town and the Bronco coach was fired, QB position has been left wobbling and the entire franchise had to be rebuilt from the ground up.  Not just a defeat for Denver, but a total demolishing of everything they stand for!

Finally, the Kansas City Chiefs, cocky and loud on every message board, faced the brunt of Raider fury. At a sold out game in the Coliseum, Oakland’s finest fought to the bitter end, and standout plays by rookies and new players brought the fans to their feet.  Raider legends were set in motion and this team proved that they have the silver and black in their blood. Previous teams would have caved under the pressure, but these Raiders pulled from deep within and won that game through sheer determination.  And at the end of the season, they put a powerful hurtin’ on the Chiefs at Arrowhead, where the red filled stands were subjected to a non-stop sack-fest as the Raider D smashed Cassel in a coma.  By the time the game was over the poor Chiefs franchise, already lackluster in accomplishment, was beaten, battered and blacked out.  When the Ravens showed up, KC didn’t even put up a fight, their starters had already been trounced the week before and it showed. Raiders more than proved they were the superior team in every phase of the game.

Yes, Chiefs went to the playoffs. And for that they should be congratulated. But there can be no question whatsoever, among the four teams in the AFC West, RAIDERS were the best team in every way.  They proved it by sweeping the division and making their rivals eat dirt game in and game out.  Unfortunately that fury didn’t extend outside the division, but that’s meaningless.  Oakland Raiders were the BEST in the west in 2010, and no argument can change that fact.

I use the analogy: Mike Tyson is heavyweight champ, and I beat his ass down twice in a row.  Sure, he’s still the champ, but I’m the better fighter.  And at the end of 2010, NO ONE can dare argue that Raiders weren’t the superior team in the AFC West. Therefore, going into 2011, I expect the Raiders to not only sweep the division all over again, but to take the division crown that was rightfully theirs!

In the end though, year in and year out, there is only one score.  CHAMPIONSHIP.  And that score will always determine who is the best franchise in the division, no matter when or where you want to ask that question. Until further notice, the score remains thus:

Raiders – 3

Broncos – 2

Chiefs – 1

Chargers – ZERO

Raiders are the greatest CHAMPION in the AFC West. So on we go into the 2011 season, where anything can happen.  But I have my money on the Raiders….

Book Review: Football’s Blackest Hole

An enjoyable read from Raider fanatic Craig Parker, Football’s Blackest Hole takes you through the entire 2002 campaign from preseason to victory in the AFC Championship game. Full of history, highlights and rants against Raider foes, Parker has a flair for funny comparisons that make it an enjoyable read.

He really helps illustrate what an extraordinary team the Raiders put together that season, and how the veteran players made them an unstoppable juggernaut, demolishing all in their path. He puts a shine on the Raider’s mystique, and gives insights into greats like Jerry Rice, Bill Romanowski, John Parella, Charlie Garner, Tim Brown, Rich Gannon, and so many other awesome Raiders.

I also like his non-stop ripping of Raiders rivals, giving historical and factual breakdowns as to why Oakland will forever soar above other mediocre franchises like the Jets, Titans, Chiefs, and Chargers. So many classic games in a regular season that starts with smashing the Seahawks and ends with shutting out the Kansas City in a stunning, devastating deathblow at the Coliseum.

The greatest AFC West team in recent memory, the 2002 Raiders shall never be forgotten, and serve as inspiration for today’s team. We can only hope that Hue Jackson can inspire this team in the same way Gruden built the old one.

The Raider’s Quarterback: Rich Gannon

Oakland Raiders Quarterback Rich Gannon #12

In my quest to learn more about the storied legacy of the Oakland Raiders, I’ve read some books, articles and old news stories, as well as viewed all the old games I can find on the net.  The most recent great team fielded by the AFC West was the 2002 Raiders under the leadership of quarterback Rich Gannon.  This unique team had many great players, but as MVP of the NFL that year, and winner of the coveted AFC Championship,  Rich Gannon stands out as a fascinating figure.

One thing that is clear from the reading I’ve done was his intelligence and voracious hunger for research and planning. A perfectionist, Gannon was described as constantly studying the Raiders gigantic playbook at any given time, scheming and planning a multitude of strategies and plans of attack. On the field itself he was known for carefully placed, accurate throws. It helped to have some of the best receivers of all times on the field as well, but clearly Gannon’s commitment to study and preparation had a large effect. Perhaps his veteran status, as a 37 year old at the time, contributed as well. After all those years in the game he’d seen everything before and was able to maintain amazing poise and calm in the storm around him.

Which brings me to the quarterback of today, Jason Campbell.  In order to win the AFC Championship and become the best team in our conference, there’s no question that you need a terrific quarterback on the level of Gannon. Obviously you need exceptional play on every other level as well, but my question is, can Jason Campbell reach this level of play? The 2011 Raiders have many talented players, and as good of coaching as you could ask for.  But without great quarterback play, our team won’t be able to rise above the rest.

The 2010 Raiders went through a season of quarterback controversy. Jason had some terrible games along the way. However, by the end he had found his groove and was making some quality plays in leading the offense. Not stellar, but he was making good decisions, keeping his cool and making the best of the weapons he had.  I also thought he showed a lot of smarts in his play action fakes, his accuracy with long throws (often dropped by young receivers) and in setting up our run game.  He’s a good quarterback.

The question is, can he be great? Does he have the kind of focus, determination, brainpower and calculating efficiency that Gannon used to lead the Raiders to the end of the road?  When every move you make is measured in hundredths of a second, there is no time for second guessing, regrets or worries about the future.  Your preparation for the game must be airtight, and the margin for error is miniscule.

I began watching the Raiders during the Jamarcus era.  The only bright side is that I saw how terrible a quarterback can be. I felt the frustration of fumbles, miscues, drops, sacks, stumbles, kneeldowns, confusion and abject surrender. Watching Jason Campbell take the field was an incredible breath of fresh air, and seeing a decent quarterback at work was sheer joy.  However, the lessons of the 2002 Raiders show that championship requires a level of play beyond decent. When the 2011 Raiders take the field, it will be Jason Campbell’s level of ability that determines just how far they can go.