Gutierrez: Can Raiders' speed translate into wins?


Gutierrez: Can Raiders' speed translate into wins?

Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comALAMEDA -- Al Saunders has been around some of the more explosive offensives in the history of professional football.He was a ball boy for the deep-throwing Al Davis-coached Raiders in 1963.RELATED: Boss, Murphy, Mitchell out for Raiders' opener
He had a front row seat for Air Coryell in San Diego in the early 1980s.He was one of the architects of the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf at the turn of the century.And yet, when it comes to this current batch of Raiders...

"We didn't have this kind of speed in St. Louis," Saunders said. "We had some great football players that played fast. But pure speed? This is a special group."The Raiders' first-year offensive coordinator is not known for hyperbole. Saunders is a respected straight shooter. So if he says the likes of Raiders speedsters Darren McFadden, Taiwan Jones, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey could outrun the Super Bowl champion Rams of Marshall Faulk, Az-Zahir Hakim, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, well then, you should listen.But really, what does it all mean? Because at the end of the day, the game is football. Not a sprint heat. It's about scoring points, not braggadocio over 40-times, right?RELATED: Jackson won't reveal Raiders' punt return
Well, the Raiders have put a premium on speed for decades. Cliff Branch, anyone? The aptly-named James Jett?Oakland has drafted the fastest player at the past three Combines in cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke (4.28 in the 40) this April, Ford (4.28) in 2010 and Heyward-Bey (4.30) in 2009.A San Francisco Chronicle survey showed the Raiders boasting eight players on their roster who have run at least a 4.36 40-time, with McFadden (4.33), cornerback Stanford Routt (4.27), running back Taiwan Jones (4.33), safety Tyvon Branch (4.31) and suspended rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor (4.36) joining Al Davis' Need-for-Speed party.Heyward-Bey said the Raiders could have two 4x100 relay teams, but insisted he run the second-leg, rather than an anchor."I think that's the fastest guy, (the one who) runs the second leg," he said. "I'm a track guy, you know."As such, Heyward-Bey was quick to say he was the fastest on the team. So, too, did McFadden. Safety Michael Huff, meanwhile, said Jones was "probably the fastest man" he'd ever seen. While Ford took the high road."I'd probably say we were all the fastest," he said. But when he heard of the smack talk being run around the locker room, Ford stood up for himself.Of course, the only way to settle it would be in a straight Donovan Bailey vs. Michael Johnson-syle sprint, right?"For giggles," Heyward-Bey said of any race, "it would have to be in the offseason. You don't want nobody to get hurt, pull a hammy or anything like that. So, we'll probably never know."(But) tell Jacoby I said I'm the fastest."Heyward-Bey was barely smiling.Maybe he knew that while speed may equal scoring, it did not necessarily translate into championships. Maybe not.But consider: not one of the teams with the current top four scoring seasons in NFL history -- the 2007 New England Patriots (589 points), the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556), the 1983 Washington Redskins (541) or the 2000 Rams (540) -- won the Super Bowl in that specific season.And yet, the Raiders were making like Maverick and Goose in one of the most seminal moments of "Top Gun" in that they feel the need, the need for speed."It's like we can have a track meet on the field with the guys we have out there," McFadden said. "(But) it's not just about having speed. Guys have to be able to go out there and make plays. One thing we have to do is focus on making plays."So then just how easy is it harness pure speed and apply it to real-world football skills?"I went to school with Tommie Smith, Lee Evans and John Carlos and Ronnie Ray Smith," Saunders said with a nostalgic grin, reminiscing on his days at San Jose State. "They came out in the spring and they just came back from the '68 Olympics and there were some gold medals in there but they didn't turn out to be football players. Speed and playing the game are two different things. People can run fast in a straight line, but when you have to change directions and there's another 200-pound defender over there trying to re-route you, you have to have the other skill of catching the ball. It is really different."I had a great privilege of coaching a guy for a lot of years, Charlie Joiner, who's in the Hall of Fame. Charlie wasn't a real fast guy, but he played the game as fast as anybody around, like Freddie Biletnikoff did here. The really great ones that can transfer that speed into playing explosion, a guy like Lynn Swann, those guys are special. It takes a while to do that."Just then, Heyward-Bey and Ford walked up behind the reporters interviewing Saunders and listened in like attentive yet playful students."You can teach guys to run faster," Saunders said. "Usain Bolt's working right now to run 100th of a second faster, so there's some techniques and things you can do to make guys play faster. But that innate speed factor, it really gives you an advantage because of the open field. When you get the ball in the open field you can run fast. And the faster you run, the better chance you have of getting into the end zone before somebody else catches you."Or making like Heyward-Bey and Ford and getting to the locker room before a coach's soliloquy on speed is finished. Talk about speed.

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tom Brady redemption tour is headed to the Super Bowl.

After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, the New England quarterback relentlessly carried the Patriots to an unprecedented ninth appearance in the title game, and his seventh. Brady threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 rout of the helpless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in New England's seventh consecutive AFC championship game.

The Patriots are early 3-point favorites heading to face Atlanta in two weeks in Houston, seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Belichick's seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.

Brady was banned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.

Since his return in Week 5, the only defeat came at home to Seattle, and Brady, 39, had one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He punctuated that in dreary weather similar to the 2014 conference title game that precipitated the deflated footballs investigation by flattening Pittsburgh's secondary.

Chris Hogan was his main weapon. The previously unheralded receiver found open spaces everywhere on the field against a leaky secondary. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores.

Top wideout Julian Edelman added eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown as Brady tied Joe Montana's playoff record with nine three-TD passing performances. Brady also had his 11th 300-yard postseason game, extending his NFL record, completing 32 of 42 throws.

Pittsburgh (13-6) lost star running back Le'Veon Bell late in the first quarter to a groin injury. It didn't seem to matter much in a record 16th conference title match for the Steelers, who made mistakes in every facet of the game. The franchise that has won the most Super Bowls, six, and the most postseason games, 36, never seemed likely to challenge in the misty rain.

Hogan's second touchdown came on a flea-flicker and he easily beat safety Mike Mitchell to the corner of the end zone. At that point, Hogan had seven catches for 117 yards and the first multi-touchdown game of his four-year career.

His first score made it 10-0 and came after Brady could have taken a nap before throwing, a common occurrence against a nonexistent pass rush. Hogan was all alone in the back of the end zone for the 16-yard score.

Pittsburgh had drawn to 10-6 on DeAngelo Williams' 5-yard run to cap an 84-yard drive. Veteran Williams is a nice security blanket in the backfield, though he's no Bell these days.

Still, he contributed on a 70-yard drive toward the end of the second quarter that appeared to be capped by Jesse James' TD reception. But video review showed James down at the 1, and the Steelers couldn't get into the end zone, Chris Boswell connecting for a 23-yard field goal.

The Steelers never threatened to get back into it.LeGarrette Blount punctuated the romp with a bruising 18-yard run on which he carried nearly the entire Pittsburgh defense with him. He then scored from the 1.

By the end, the crowd was chanting "Where is Roger?" and celebrating yet another Super Bowl trip for the Patriots.


Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal to open the scoring set a franchise record with 27, surpassing Adam Vinatieri's 26. Gostkowski is fourth all-time. He made a 47-yarder in the third quarter, a 26-yarder in the fourth, but he missed an extra point.

Boswell, who set an NFL mark with six field goals in the Steelers' 18-16 win at Kansas City last week, missed an extra point wide left and made a 23-yard kick.


Steelers: Bell's early departure left him with 20 yards on six carries and no receptions.

Patriots: DB Nate Ebner left with a head injury.


After winning the AFC East with the conference's top record, New England defeated the Texans 34-16 and the Steelers to reach the Super Bowl. They will take on Atlanta, which beat Green Bay 44-21 for the NFC crown. Super Bowl 51 will be in Houston on Feb. 5; New England won the 2002 and 2005 Super Bowls after beating Pittsburgh for the AFC championship.

Reports: Former Raiders QB expected to join Cal's coaching staff


Reports: Former Raiders QB expected to join Cal's coaching staff

It looks as though Marques Tuiasosopo is heading back to the Pac-12, again. The former Rose Bowl MVP and Washington quarterback has reportedly been added to the coaching staff at Cal under new head coach Justin Wilcox.

The news was first reported by Bruin Sports Online and later followed up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, via Twitter.

Tuiasosopo is no stranger to coaching in the Pac-12. After spending 12 seasons in the NFL, Tuiasosopo returned to his alma mater to take on a role as assistant strength coach for the Washington Huskies in 2009.

After two years in that role, he joined the UCLA coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and took on a role as tight ends coach in 2012 under Jim Mora. The following year, in 2013, Tuiasosopo returned to Washington to be the quarterback coach to work for Steve Sarkisian.