Opinions? Yeah, the first quarterback in franchise history and the only coach to win two Super Bowls for the Raiders has some.But as a team radio broadcaster and long-time confidante of the late Al Davis, Tom Flores has mostly kept his thoughts to himself. But in a wide-ranging interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio's "The End Zone" show this weekend, Flores did broach several topics.He said, "Time will tell whether that was a good trade or not," in regards to the deal brokered by Hue Jackson and OK'd by Mark Davis that landed the Raiders Carson Palmer in exchange for a first-round draft pick as well as a conditional second-rounder.Flores was also asked how his Raiders teams were able to overcome penalties to win games while the more recent vintage teams could not, especially last year's team that set league records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards."We were always good enough to win," Flores said. "We had good enough players to win, overcome the penalties, overcome the turnovers, but they're not good enough to do that right now and they've got to have a little bit more discipline and I think, in my opinion, they've got to have better linebacker play."Which, of course, led to some pointed criticism of middle linebacker Rolando McClain."I think he was a disappointment last year," Flores said of McClain. "One play he'll look like an All-Pro and then the other play he'll look just like an average guy. And then the fiasco when he went home for an occasion, that didn't go over too well. But he's got to prove himself still, in my opinion. He hasn't lived up to expectations so I think there's still some speculation there."In this corner, Flores deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for the trails he blazed in the NFL as a player, coach and general manager. Following then, some Canton-worthy thoughts of Flores on several other Raiders-related topicsOn the upcoming division race: "I think it's exciting, I think it's a good time to be in the AFC West because I think the whole thing is up for grabs. I don't think there's any team that you're going to say right now is going to dominate the division."On Oakland's chances in the AFC West: "The Raiders have a very young team. Very fast but very young, and they need to grow uplast year, there were about two or three games they dominated for three quarters and then lose it in the fourth and that kept them out of the playoffs."On a certain high-priced defensive back the Raiders cut this offseason: "They got rid of Stanford Routt. Whether that's a good thing or not? He made plays, and then he made plays for the other team with all the pass interference calls that he had. He led the league in pass interference."On the recent reunionlife celebration held in Las Vegas for Al Davis that was attended by 300 people: "A great final standoff to somebody that I was with for many, many yearssome warm and fuzzy (stories), some not so warm and fuzzy. But you know the old saying Whatever happens in Vegas stays there? Some of the stories we better leave them there."On the Raiders' biggest weakness on defense: "I think most of it came from the linebacker position. I think the defensive line is pretty solid(Aaron) Curry, I think, came on well last year. That was a good acquisition when they got him from Seattle. He's the only one right now I'm feeling pretty good about. The rest of them all have to rise, or somebody has to rise to the occasion on the other two positions. And then a lot of it depends on what they're going to try to play. Their outside linebackers last year, most of them with the exception of Curry, were pass rushers, instead of linebackers."On the ongoing regime change in Oakland with new general manager Reggie McKenzie, who played linebacker for Flores: "I like it right now, I sure do. He's had to come in and change (things). The team was not caught in time, but as long as Al Davis was alive and running the show it could be run the way it was run. But now with him gone, they've got to go to the next level or the next generation, the next era, I should say, and Reggie will bring some experience that he gained under Ron Wolff in Green Bay and on his own in Green Bay, pretty good solid organization. So it's going to be a different style."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”