Raiders ride playmakers to relevance


Raiders ride playmakers to relevance

Hue Jackson has come to realize over the fullness of time that Darren McFaddens only real opponent is injury. If hes playin, hes doin the sayin, and what he says he says loud and clear.In fact, McFadden shouted so loudly Sunday that Rex Ryan is probably deaf in one year, and he did it so resonantly that Bill Belichick has been scheming for McFadden since the moment he stopped screaming at his New England Patriots for losing to Buffalo.Between the 70-yard burst that helped define Oaklands 34-24 victory over the New York Jets, the option pass that had him and the Jet defenders thinking he might flash back to his high school quarterback days, and the 18 other carries (at 5.6 yards per clip), McFadden became the new face of the Raiders.

Although, it must be said, he would do well to leave room for wide receiver Denarius Moore, who is now the teams second bonafide playmaker on an offense that for so many years has tried to get by with none.Therein lies the major difference at this moment between Oakland and San Francisco and the 2-1 record they share. The 49ers grate on your eyes, win or lose. The Raiders are a pyrospectacular.Put another way, consider how hard it is for a team to score 34 points and beat the two-time AFC finalist while converting zero third downs. Thats what comes when, as Jackson likes to say, You let playmakers make plays. You become an all-or-nothing team.And when you throw in kicker Sebastian Janikowski, now you have a certifiable freak of nature in addition to the more traditional offensive incandescents.In short, what you have is the offense Al Davis has wanted to recreate since Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson. And in a league where six of the top nine scoring teams are Buffalo, New England, Houston, Baltimore and the Raiders, this seems more and more like the American Football League every week.The only real issue Davis might have with Jackson after these three weeks is that the head coach does tend at times to exhort the crowd to make more noise -- a detail Al surely regards as extraneous to the job at hand.Particularly right now, after having polished off the Jets -- the Raiders of the new millennium -- and prepping now for the Patriots -- the Steelers of the new millennium.Having a full house is one thing. Having home TV is yet another. But treating both audiences to the likes of McFadden and Moore and Janikowski, plus a defense that makes and allows big plays with equal facility, and the Raiders may be quietly but surely become the next cool thing for football fans.They have not been that for quite some time, as most of you know. Being dull and dysfunctional and dry and destitute is a bad marketing hook. And the Raiders have tried to be intimidators and rule-breakers and conspiracy freaks and a lot of other things, but the one thing they were in their greatest days was a room full of playmakers.They are not yet ready for the big room, to be sure. They havent been at this long enough to walk into a stadium, even their own, and act like they own the joint. Jackson likes to talk about the Raiders being bullies, but theyre not that yet. There is still growth to be done and smarts to exhibit and a consistency to establish and cling to in good times and bad.And lets be honest here -- beating the Jets isnt the same as beating the Patriots. Not yet. New England may still have some weaknesses, as the suddenly bad-assed Bills are showing a very surprised nation, but they are the Patriots until further notice.But as Jackson said, were getting there. Were not there yet, but were on our way.Now he just has to break himself of the habit of urging on the crowd. If the crowd doesnt get it after Sunday, and if it cant replicate its enthusiasm Sunday against the Belichicks, then no amount of urging from the sidelines will work.Besides, one of the side perks of being a playmaker like McFadden, Moore and Janikowski is that you also get to be a crowd shaker. They all seem to have that down, and it's only been three weeks.

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

Very bad 49ers stay tumbling in truly lost 2016 season

You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:

“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”

You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.

But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.

[MAIOCCO: Kelly: No changes to 49ers defensive staff after loss]

Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.

And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.

And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.

In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.

That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.

They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.

And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”

That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.

They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.

It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.

And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.

Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.

NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale


NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale

The National Football League has been reminded yet again that it neither understands nor cares to understand about domestic violence.

But it will do better, you may rest assured. They’ll have a week where all the on-field personnel wear purple to commemorate the bruises.

That’s what the NFL does when it can no longer ignore its own tone-deafness – they turn their stupidity into a marketing opportunity. After all, every social problem can be solved in the league’s eyes by figuring out a way for the league to monetize it.

The latest example of the NFL’s slack-jawed world view comes from New York, where the Giants could not and still cannot figure out what to do about kicker/serial domestic abuser Josh Brown except not let him go to London for the weekend.

This means the league has learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident, even as Rice of all people is showing on a regular basis how to learn from it. More than that, it means it has no interest in learning anything about it, and will never prioritize it beyond crisis-management level – “Uh-oh, something bad just happened. Quick, put it behind us.”

Then again, the league has been so relentlessly ham-handed on so many things that, as convenient as this may be for it, we should stop expecting it to do so, to the point that when someone from the league wants to explain some social issue to us we should simply say with one voice, “Oh, shut up, you yammering frauds.”

It is difficult to prioritize the number of ways the Giants failed to comprehend the problem currently smacking them between the numbers, although owner John Mara’s “He admitted to us he'd abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that” may summarize it nicely.

Put another way, one could make a case that the Giants extended the universal talent-tolerance scale (if you have the talent, anything can be tolerated until it can’t) to include placekickers.

That seems less likely, though, than the more obvious point that the league doesn’t regard domestic violence as something worth concerning itself with, while bloviating all the time about all the things with which it is concerned. The league is the beat cop who never gets out of his car to see what is happening on his beat, and is shocked when something does.

And while it will be handy to pile this atop the list of reasons why Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t get it, the truth is he is merely the painful rash that reveals the league’s case of shingles. The league’s 32 constituent elements are culpable here because ignorance in the face of so much evidence becomes willful, and Goodell’s skill is not in guiding the league but in figuring out where his 32 bosses want him to go, and avoiding all the places they don’t.

Hence, domestic violence. This is not an easy problem to solve, as any expert will say, but Mara trying to decide how many punches are enough isn’t it. The league’s six-game suspension guideline that is now four years old has never been imposed on any player. It wants the power to use the talent-tolerance scale at whim to do what it wishes when it wishes to do it.

Or in this case, not do anything at all until it has to, and then in as minimal a fashion as it can manage.

So, Josh Brown loses a week in a foreign country on the company dime as a trade-off for continually terrorizing his wife. The league says it punished him for a game but was powerless to do anything else while knowing all along how severe the problem had become.

In short, it did the minimum. Now that everyone knows the fullest extent of Brown’s abuse, and how much the league knew without doing anything, it will now extend the minimum out to what it thinks is a new minimum.

So we now know that the NFL is looking for some metric that will determine the transactional “extent of that,” as John Mara so eloquently put it for us. When it comes up with that formula, it will surely ignore that standard, because the real standard is still “talent-tolerance,” and the world is made up of concentric circles surrounding the people who make the league and its members a dollar more tomorrow than it made today.

And spouses are a long way from the center.