Coughlin, Manning need to wait for Flores, Plunkett to get Hall call


Coughlin, Manning need to wait for Flores, Plunkett to get Hall call

So the New York Giants upend the Colossus that is the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years and Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are Canton-bound?Sure. But they better take a number and get in line behind Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett.Sad thing is, with the way members are voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the East Coasters will fly in well ahead of the Raiders icons, who might never get in. And that's not rightor fair.But because of the very nature of the election process, which elicits so many backroom deals -- you vote for my guy, I'll vote for yours -- that all but ensures it.

A few years back, while working at the Sacramento Bee, I did a story on the process, specifically, the part called "Getting into the room," when finalists are voted upon and the list is whittled down to a Hall of Fame class, which must be between four and seven members each and every year. But what if there are truly no worthy candidates in a specific year? Doesn't matter. There has to be a Hall of Famer. At least four of them. Each and every year.Selectors become candidates' sponsors, so to speak, pleading their respective cases to the room as to why their "guy" should have a bust in Canton.Or did you not hear Curtis Martin first thank the reporter that "presented" his case to the room minutes after the results were announced? That is essentially the process.
While working on that story for the Bee, a selector admitted he had voted for a player he did not deem all that Hall-worthy, just to get the backing of said candidate's sponsor for his own candidate.You vote for my guy, I'll vote for yours.Coughlin and Manning, who play across the river from the media capital of the world in Gotham? They won't need such help.Flores and Plunkett, who paired to win two of the first 18 Super Bowls and served as trailblazers as the first minority head coach and first Latino quarterback to win not only one Super Bowl but two? With every passing Hall of Fame election, they become whispers in time, in danger of being lost in the fog of memory.You cannot tell the entire, rich history of the NFL without mentioning what Flores and Plunkett meant to the NFL and its burgeoning fan base. No, they should not be in the Hall of Fame because they're Latinos. But being Latino only adds a certain spice to what should already be no-brainer candidacies.Plunkett is the only eligible multi-winning Super Bowl quarterback not enshrined (Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are still active). Flores actually has four rings, his other two coming as Len Dawson's backup in Super Bowl IV and as an assistant on John Madden's Super Bowl XI-winning staff.It's an annual rite in this corner to remind anyone interested of the duo's accomplishment, even to point out that stats-wise, Plunkett compares favorably to another New York idol in Joe Willie Namath. And yes, Plunkett, the ultimate Lazarus-in-the-NFL story, won twice as many titles as Namathand Brett Favre. After all, it's all about the rings, right?Flores, meanwhile, seemingly has it always held against him that Al Davis ran the ship, while John Madden receives no such criticism. He also runs into the same problems as George Seifert in that he was not as successful after leaving, Flores in Seattle, Seifert in Carolina.Of course, Raiders fans were up in arms for the third straight year this weekend when Tim Brown was a finalist but excluded from the after-party. Think how just-as-deserving Raiders afterthoughts like Cliff Branch, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes and Ken Stabler feel every year.This is not to demean the accomplishments of Coughlin and Manning. But if they are Hall of Famers after catching Flores and Plunkett in Super Bowl titles, then so, too, are Flores and Plunkett.Which, of course, goes against my very fiber as a journalist. After all, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, right?

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio have done three pre-draft press conferences now. They’ve got the routine down, knowing when to deflect questions, when to put people off the scent and, more importantly, how to seem unpredictable.

They were in lockstep again Friday, less than a week before the 2017 NFL Draft.

During their first, McKenzie offered one criticism of his head coach.

“Can you guys get Jack out of my office?” McKenzie said in 2015, with tongue firmly in cheek.

The rhetorical question was answered with a laugh. McKenzie was acknowledging how much Del Rio and staff wanted to support the scouting process. McKenzie ultimately pulls the trigger on draft day, but Del Rio has a loud voice in the room as he looks for players who fit his locker room and his schemes.

McKenzie has open ears, taking advice from the entire coaching staff while arranging his draft board. This time of year especially, coaches and scouts are working together.

“It’s been unified since Day 1,” Del Rio said. “Reggie and I are very unified and much on the same mission and that is to bring a world championship home to this organization. Everything we’re doing is attacking that, adding these impact players where we can.”

The pair was focused on improving a lackluster roster that featured Derek Carr and Khalil Mack but finished 3-13 the year before. Now their partnership is entering Phase II.

They must decide which players to add, and decide which previously drafted players to keep. There are some obvious extensions in the works, with Carr, Mack and Gabe Jackson. They had to let some homegrown talent go in free agency as they attempt to upgrade depth and build a championship roster that can build on last year’s success.

“There’s a whole different phase that we’re about to go through as an organization as you begin to mature, some of those players have to be re-signed or not. Those are decisions you have to make in all of this. This is year three for us working together and I feel like the relationship with the scouts and the coaches and the sharing of information is excellent. We want to continue to work that way.”

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft


Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

The Raiders have an opening in their secondary.

Finding a slot cornerback is a top priority with DJ Hayden now in Detroit. TJ Carrie is an option there, but the Raiders could add a young, versatile talent capable of taking a more prominent role down the line.

That’s true despite the fact Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal through 2019 last year and David Amerson received a contract extension through the 2020 season. Those contracts, however, become pay-as-you-go deals after this season.

The dead money goes away, freeing the Raiders to look for long-term upgrades if they see fit.

Head coach Jack Del Rio loves creating competition and depth, especially at such an important position in today’s NFL. The Raiders like larger, physical cornerbacks with ball skills, and there are plenty in this year’s draft.

Many analysts have the Raiders taking a cornerback at No. 24 overall, and that’s a realistic possibility. They could certainly look to help last year’s No. 24-ranked secondary in the early rounds.

Let’s take a look at some top options available in this week’s draft:

Good fits:There are quite a few quality cornerbacks who could be available at No. 24 overall, even if there’s an early run on the position.

Oakland native and Washington alum Kevin King visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and certainly fits what the Raiders like in a cornerback. He’s confident and aggressive, unafraid to use great physical traits to make plays on the ball. He’s tall and long and isn’t afraid to tackle.

USC’s Adoree Jackson has the quality ball skills the Raiders like, and is adept high-pointing the ball. Analysts say he can play several coverage techniques and has the agility to make up for mistakes. He can work in the slot, but at 5-foot-10 isn’t as tall as the Raiders like. They’d have to take him in the first round. He may not last beyond that.

San Jose native and Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie is another interesting local defensive back ready to turn pro. He can play outside or in the slot, and analysts say he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills but needs tackling work. He was a solid slot blitzer at Colorado, and could fill an immediate need crucial against so many three and four receiver sets.

Louisiana State’s Tre’Davious White has experience playing the slot, and could help right away there before transferring outside if asked. He can cover extremely well, though analysts say he isn’t much of a tackler. He might be a tweener as far as the Raiders are concerned, not worthy of the No. 24 pick but long gone before the Raiders pick in the second round.

Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin visited the Raiders this spring, and rightfully so. A willing run defender with good ball skills and tackling ability who could be available in the third round should intrigue them.