Gutierrez: Raiders' First-Half Recap


Gutierrez: Raiders' First-Half Recap

Nov. 12, 2010

Paul Gutierrez
CSN California

Its been a rough ride, I know. But guess what? Its over. Raiders coach Tom Cable, to fans at the preseason Raider NationCelebration in downtown Oakland on Aug. 27.

Label him a soothsayer. A prophet. A visionary. A fool? Because really,who, besides the Raiders coach, honestly thought this team, after anightmarish past seven seasons, would find itself and put thingstogether so succinctly? Improvement was expected, sure. But in thisdominant a fashion, as the Raiders enter their bye weekend?

Indeed, in going 5-4 and holding a winning record this late in a seasonfor the first time since 2002, the Raiders resemble a totally differentoutfit than the one that started the season 1-3.

As such, beware falling streaksand a few team records:

-Riding its current three-game winning streak, Oakland has won three straight for the first time since 2002.

-The Raiders are 3-0 in the AFC West for the first time since 1990.

-In dropping 59 points on the Denver Broncos, the Raiders set a franchise record for most points scored in a game.

-In following the 59-14 blowout of the Broncos with a 33-3 beatdown ofSeattle, the Raiders won consecutive games by a combined 75 points forthe first time since 1967.

-The Raiders beat San Diego for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003,ending the Chargers 13-game winning streak in the rivalry.

-The Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland for the first time since 2002

Following, then, the positive call it the Silver and Black Division and the negative the Silver and Blechhh Division in recounting theRaiders first nine games.

Silver and Black Division
MVP (Offense): So this is the player the Raiders thoughtthey were getting when they drafted Darren McFadden fourth overall inthe 2008 draft. Yes, the running back has missed two-plus games with astrained right hamstring but he is healthier than hes ever been as apro. As a result, he is running harder than ever before and the resultsare impressive. His 108.1-rushing yards per game leads the NFL and his757 total rushing yards are second in the AFC. Plus, hes caught 24passes for 242 yards. He has six touchdowns. We also saw himeffectively running the Wildcat offense last week.

MVP (Defense): Defensive tackle Richard Seymour already has 39tackles (he had 31 all of last season) and 4.5 sacks (he had 4 in2009). But beyond his improved stat line, the five-time Pro Bowler andthree-time All-Pro may be more valuable for the unity-building sense ofindividual responsibility hes fostered on the defensive line.

Biggest Surprise (Offense): He had the look and feel of aproject when he was taken in the third round out of Division IIHillsdale College. But there was Jared Veldheer, starting at center asa rookie in the opener in a hostile environment in Tennessee. And therehe is now, claiming the left tackle position from Mario Henderson.Veldheer still gets called for too many false start penalties, but hehas shown flashes of dominance protecting the QBs blind side.

Biggest Surprise (Defense): Tommy Kelly dropped 50 pounds andthe heftier tag of underachiever this offseason and has taken to theteachings of fellow defensive tackle Seymour. Kellys five sacks aretied for the team lead and are already a single-season high for theseventh-year pro. He has also become adept as a run-stopper, asevidenced by 22 of his 33 tackles being of the solo variety.
The folk hero returns: He would never admit it publically, butBruce Gradkowski was miffed he was never allowed to compete for thestarting QB position. Plus, offseason injuries made it a non-issue.Until Jason Campbell struggled early and Gradkowski came off the benchto chants of BRUUUUUUUUUUCE! to lead the Raiders to a comebackvictory over St. Louis in the home opener.

Campbell wins the crowd: He may never win a popularity contestwith Gradkowski, but Jason Campbell won fans respect by pulling aGradkowski. That is, he came off the bench to relieve an injuredGradkowski and lead the comeback victory over San Diego. Campbell hassince won Cables trust and three games in a row. Since hitting bottomat San Francisco, Campbell has a passer rating of 104.3 in completing57.5 of his passes for 743 yards, five touchdowns and oneinterception. Its led to Cable reversing field on earlierproclamations that Gradkowski would resume the starting gig whenhealthy. A gentle nudge from upstairs, perhaps?

Asomughas Arizona clinic: Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomughasshut-down of Arizona All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald was one for thebooks. Fitzgerald, who was targeted seven times, caught just one passthrown his way while Asomugha was on him; the eight-yard TD receptioncame in zone coverage.

Millers big day: Not much went right for the Raiders in their31-24 loss to Houston, a game they trailed 31-14 in the fourth quarter.But tight end Zach Miller served notice to the Texans and the rest ofthe NFL with a career-high 11 catches for 122 yards.

Best special teams play I: The Raiders got the jump on San Diegoby blocking the Chargers first two punts. Rock Cartwrights blockknocked the ball through the back of the end zone for a safety andBrandon Myers block was picked up by Hiram Eugene and returned fiveyards for a touchdown.

Right place, right time: With the Chargers in field-goal rangefor a potential game-winning field goal, a blitzing Michael Huff sackedPhilip Rivers and knocked the ball loose to an alert Tyvon Branch. Hescooped the ball up and returned the fumble 64 yards for thegame-clinching touchdown. Branch was sprung free by a crushing block byChris Johnson on Randy McMichael.
Mitchell making his mark:Rumored to be on the chopping block on the eve of the 53-man rosterbeing announced, second-year safety Mike Mitchell has played like asecond-round draft pick. A knee injury to Thomas Howard opened the doorfor Mitchell to play a hybrid linebacker and Mitchells coverage of SanDiegos Antonio Gates and the 49ers Vernon Davis was lauded.

Defending the run: The Raiders front seven are playing with apurpose against the run of late, giving up an average of just 95 yardsper game on the ground. They limited the Chiefs, the No. 1-rankedrushing team in the league, to 104 yards.

Quick start: Thanks to a mind-numbing opening drive deftly ledby Jason Campbell, a pick-six interception by Chris Johnson and afumble recovered by Lamarr Houston at the Denver 21-yard line, theRaiders led 21-0 before the Broncos had run three offensive plays. TheRaiders eventually ran out to a 38-0 lead before calling off the dogs.They entered the fourth quarter leading, 59-14, the eventual finalscore.

DHB has breakthrough: The much-maligned Darrius Heyward-Bey maynever live up to his billing as a No. 7 overall draft pick but he hasalready had a more productive sophomore season than he did as a rookie.In the Raiders 33-3 blowout of Seattle, the receiver caught fivepasses for 105 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, and added a30-yard run on a reverse. Still, he has been shut out in three games.

Reece emerges: Fullback Marcel Reece, who has spent most of hisfirst two seasons on practice squads, has emerged as a hybrid threatwith punishing blocks and soft hands. Perhaps no play illustrated thisbetter than his 30-yard TD reception against the Seahawks as he split apair of defenders on a slant pass on 4th and 1.

Best special teams play II: Shut out by Kansas City at halftime,10-0, rookie Jacoby Ford jumpstarted the Raiders and electrified thesold-out Coliseum by returning the opening kickoff of the second half94 yards for a touchdown.

The big man gets his: Khalif Barnes fashions himself more thanan offensive tackle but no mere novelty. No wonder he playfully rippedCampbell for the wobbly pass he picked out of the air for a two-yardtouchdown reception on a tackle-eligible play against the Chiefs.

Ford drives it home: Not only did Ford spark the Raiderssecond-half renaissance against the Chiefs, he led the comeback withsix receptions for 148 yards, all after halftime. The big catches the29-yard pick-up that set up Sebastian Janikowskis OT-forcing fieldgoal as Ford ripped the ball away from Brandon Flowers on what seemed asure interception; a 47-yard bomb on the Raiders first play of OT inwhich Ford showed his world-class speed to set up Janikowskisgame-winner.

Silver and Blechhh Division

Biggest Disappointment (Offense): Can you be a disappointment ifyou havent even stepped foot on a field yet? When youre as highlyregarded as wide receiver Chaz Schilens, whose talents and injurieshave teased the Raiders and their fans for the past two yearsyes. Lastyear it was a foot injury that limited him to eight games. This season,a knee injury has kept him inactive through nine.

Biggest Disappointment (Defense): Disappointment is probablytoo harsh a term to describe Rolando McClain, what with his stepping inat middle linebacker from Day 1 and wracking up 42 tackles. But he hasonly a sack to his name and the rookie is still over-pursuing the runtoo often, has trouble shedding blocks and is not blowing up plays likeyoud expect a No. 8 overall pick to do. Still, he is an important cogto the revitalized defense.

A bad omen?: Return man Yamon Figurs fumbled the seasonsopening kickoff at Tennessee after bringing it out from five yards deepin the end zone. And while the Raiders did not lose possession it wasrecovered by Ricky Brown the gaffe cost Figurs. He was waived threedays later.

Rough start: Acquired in a draft weekend trade with Washingtonand anointed the next Jim Plunkett by Al Davis himself, quarterbackJason Campbell looked skittish and unsure of himself behind anespecially porous offensive line early on. So much so that he wasbenched after just six quarters. With Campbell at the helm, the Raidershad been outscored by a combined 45-16 by Tennessee and St. Louis.Shades of JaMarcus Russell? Not really. But the cascading boos suresounded JaMarcus-esque.

SeaBass shanks it: It was a historically bad day in the desertfor Sebastian Janikowski, who missed as many field goals in one game ashe did all of last season. The third miss against Arizona, though, wasthe most painful. Having already pulled two misses wide right from 58yards and 41 yards the left-footed Janikowski overcompensated andshanked the potential game-winning 32-yarder wide left as time expired.The Raiders fell to the Cardinals, 24-23.

Red-zone issues: Janikowskis issues revealed an epicover-reliance on the highest-paid placekicker in the game (a guaranteed9 million over four years). In their first three games, the Raiderswere a woeful three for 13 in red-zone efficiency. The most gallingexample? Oakland having a first-and-goal at the one at Arizona andsettling for a field goal.
Stop, stop, BOOM!: Thats how defensive tackle Tommy Kellydescribed the defenses propensity for stopping the run before givingup a long run. Tennessees Chris Johnson (76-yard TD, 142 yards total),Houstons Arian Foster (74-yard TD, 131 yards total) and the 49ersFrank Gore (64 yard-sprint, 149 yards total) proved Kellys point well.

Penaltiesagain: They wouldnt be the Raiders if they werentpenalized with aplomb. Oaklands 718 penalty yards are the most in theNFL and its 70 penalties are second-most, behind the 72 of St. Louisand Baltimore. The Raiders season highs came against Kansas City lastweek, when they were flagged 15 times for 140 yards.

Worst special teams play: Arizonas LaRod Stephens-Howlingreturned the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, setting thestage for Janikowskis game-ending meltdown.
Bottoming out at Candlestick: A week after the feel-good defeatof San Diego, the Raiders reverted to their early-season ways acrossthe Bay. They should have blown the 49ers out of the water but couldmuster only a pair of Janikowski field goals despite getting insidetheir 10-yard line in each of their first two possessions. Instead, theRaiders fell, 17-9, and Campbell had a sickly passer rating of 10.7.

Dolphins owner explains why he voted against Raiders' move to Vegas

Dolphins owner explains why he voted against Raiders' move to Vegas

PHOENIX – An overwhelming majority approved the Raiders’ relocation application Monday morning. They were given permission to move from Oakland to Las Vegas by a 31-1 vote at the league owners meetings, a massive show of support for the Silver and Black.

While the stadium and finance committees recommended Raiders relocation and the final meeting went smooth leading up to a vote, there was one voice of dissent.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross didn’t let his vote do the talking. He explained his rationale to reporters on Monday afternoon.

“I just don’t think everything was done to try and stay in Oakland,” Ross told reporters, via a video posted on San Diego-based 1090-AM’s website. “I was more or less interested in the thought that Oakland deserved…that a deal could’ve been done there.”

Ross said Raiders owner Mark Davis should’ve engaged with Oakland more in trying to find a long-term stadium solution in the East Bay.

“You can only make a deal when the owner wants to make a deal,” Ross said. “Who are you going to negotiate with? How’s it going to happen? The owner has to be a driving force.”

After some difficult negotiations with Oakland, Davis focused his efforts on Las Vegas, where he received $750 million in public funds for stadium construction, with an additional chunk earmarked for infrastructure improvements around a stadium site just off the Las Vegas Strip.

While Ross spent roughly $500 million in private funds to renovate Hard Rock Stadium, his dissent was rooted in part on ideological grounds. He believes stadiums should be largely financed privately.

“I think so,” Ross said. “You get a look around, and there’s very little public money available for teams today. I think owners have to have, when you own a team, you should have the deep pockets to deliver. Now, you need some public money for infrastructure and things like that but, with the cost of stadiums today, our country can’t afford to put all that money in that kind of place.”

Ross said he didn’t vote no to grandstand.

“That doesn’t do me any good. I didn’t do it for that,” Ross said. “I voted how I voted and I voted what I believed. You talk about the fans, and that’s what the National Football League is all about.”


Raiders to Vegas: So much disingenuous, silly or just plain idiotic rhetoric

Raiders to Vegas: So much disingenuous, silly or just plain idiotic rhetoric

The torrential nonsense that was emitted with the announcement of the NFL owners’ vote on the fate of the Mark Davis Raiders was as embarrassing as it was predictable. It’s as though everyone involved and watching had forgotten what this was about from the start, and became a chase for rabbits that didn’t exist.

But that’s what you get when the National Football League and politics commingle – a cavalcade of lies, half-truths, shaded half-facts and nitwit hysteria that . . . well, that explains everything we need to know about what passes for entertainment in America in 2017.

So let’s do a random tour on everything that was said Monday, so that we can see that nobody cornered the market in disingenuous, silly or just plain idiotic.

[RATTO: Raiders fans got remarkably little bang for their bucks, or for their hearts]

- Mark Davis, thanking Sheldon Adelson for his “vision.” What he meant to do was thank Adelson for shaking down three quarters of a billion dollars from the State of Nevada. Adelson didn’t thank him back for finding out that his power play to get a potentially controlling chunk of the franchise was dead on arrival in the league offices after he’d gotten the money committed, and that he’d been used, no doubt the way he’s used plenty of others.

- Roger Goodell: “We’re all disappointed for Oakland and their fans.” No he isn’t. He’s mad that they elected someone who wouldn’t cave in to the league the way those good citizens in other cities and states do. 

- City councilman Larry Reid, in full snittery, said he not only would never wear any form of Raider gear again (and who cares?) but would talk to the Oakland city attorney about forcing the Raiders out of their two years of lease options and make them play in Santa Clara. Fine, except that any lawyer will tell him that would probably die in court for 2017 and 2018, and would be at best a coin flip to 2019, and not only that, the 49ers don’t want the Raiders any more than the Raiders have wanted them. Dead issue, Lar’. Political posturing. Don’t bring it up again.

- Davis, saying his father would be proud of him for taking the team to “the entertainment capital of the world.” He would have been much prouder of the fact that his son showed a single-minded devotion to getting out of Oakland to the point of being embarrassed several times before he got what he wanted. The old man almost surely didn’t think the boy had it in him.  

- Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross, the only dissenting vote, saying “My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us until all options have been exhausted. I want to wish Mark Davis and the Raiders organization the best in Las Vegas.” Ross voted for the Rams’ move to Los Angeles a year earlier, and he couldn’t be less interested in “the best” for Davis or the Raiders.

- Everyone who mentioned how Oakland would never help Davis build a stadium. Oakland didn’t have a spare $750M, then or now, and neither did Davis, which is why other people scared up almost all the money for the Vegas project for him. Plus, it isn’t a city’s job to help a private company scare up financing, it’s the guy who runs the private company. Davis’ problem was that getting money costs money, and the only thing he had was the team, with which he didn’t want to part. 

[RELATED: Schaaf proud Oakland did not capitulate to Raiders' unreasonable demand]

- Schaaf: “I am glad we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unwarranted demand that we choose between our baseball and football franchises.” The first part is what she can proud of. The second is a red herring, a merely ancillary part of what the league actually wanted – control of the stadium and land surrounding it. Schaaf decided not to do business with people she didn’t trust and came to loathe, and the league decided not to do business with a city that didn’t have money and wouldn’t knuckle under to any and all extortionate demands. 

- Schaaf continually describing the Oakland plan as “viable,” when viability depends in considerable part on another party being interested in what your definition of “viable” is. Neither the team nor the league wanted any part of the “viable” plan because they defined “viable” as “give us everything you have, and we’ll work out the rest of your stuff later.” The plan was affordable, but it was never actually viable. 

- Schaaf saying (“Our fans) deserved better.” In the world of cutthroat money-hunting, nobody “deserves” anything. It’s what you can carve from the flesh of your opponent. Oakland didn’t own the Raiders and neither did their fans. When you call a team “we,” you really mean “they,” and let this be the reminder your parents should have provided for you 35 years ago. 

- A’s president Dave Kaval saying how disappointed the baseball team was to learn that the Raiders were leaving. A baldfaced lie, this. The A’s are absolutely giddy about the prospect, and have been waiting for it to happen for nearly a decade. If they could get the permits, they’d have a parade down Broadway tomorrow.

- The NFL moving three franchises in 15 months as some sort of horrifying development that will destroy the traditions that made the league powerful. Please. These guys had no problem with moving the Rams or the Raiders, and only objected to the Chargers leaving for L.A. because they’d done their good pal Dean Spanos a favor by giving him an option to move and were floored when he took them up on it. No good deed goes without a knife in the ribs, and all that -- especially after the Rams killed L.A.’s buzz for football in less than a year. The league goes where they think money is, and woe betide the team that is looking to relocate if the league every finds out there is money on the sun.

- Vegas as the massive vice farm that will lead players down a path of perdition, but nobody mentions that a player can get into trouble in new York or Chicago or Los Angeles or San Francisco or Boston or Indianapolis. Ian Rapoport of tweeted, “Coaches are already discussing how they'll handle their travel when they're on the road in Las Vegas. Likely staying away from The Strip.” How far away? Laughlin? Henderson? Bisbee? El Paso? By that logic, coaches facing a road game in Miami ought to house their teams in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

- 49ers’ general manager John Lynch getting his swing at the piñata by saying Monday, “Raider fans, we're open for business. “Come and jump on our train.” Whispering in a graveyard is always a bad look, especially so soon after reminding us all that the Raider fan base is “too special” to ever feel comfortable tailgating at The Louvre . . . err, Levi’s Stadium. The 49ers no more want the Raiders than the Raiders want them, which is part of how this escalated even before Al Davis died.

- And finally, anyone who used the word “bittersweet” about any step in the process of taking a rich legacy’s property and taking it somewhere else. If you’re a player, you know the business requires accepting movement. If you’re a fan, you know the business requires understanding that your team is never actually yours. And if you are a media member, you got to spend a whole day passing on myths and nonsense and calling it wisdom . . . and that’s nice work if you stomach it.