Boller, Lechler headline Raiders' QB competition


Boller, Lechler headline Raiders' QB competition

Credit goes to Oakland punter Shane Lechler for not doing what every kid from time immemorial has done when having a moment of unexpected success -- going to his coach and saying, I can do more, I can I can I can gimmeachance pleasepleasepleaseplease pleeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzz.After all, his hand had barely cooled from his 35-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss -- the one that essentially won Sundays game for the Raiders, 24-17, over the Cleveland Browns. It was a play for which he had been agitating for, by his estimation, 11 years and six games, and it worked brilliantly.And now with Jason Campbell gone for what looks like the season with a bifurcated collarbone, the result of Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita landing on him at the end of a seven-yard scramble in the second quarter, and the trade deadline 39 hours from games end -- well, this was the best time ever for Lechler to make his case.He didnt. Hes a veteran. He knows what hes good at, even if it took him 182 weeks of active duty to convince anyone else that he was good to go this first time.

So basically, the Raiders will carry on with the uberveteran Kyle Boller, and the undertested Terrelle Pryor as his backup, and if youre getting your hopes up about a third party, youre probably barking up the wrong eternal flame.Oh, there may be a rogue journeyman out there -- yes, David Garrard comes to mind -- but one wonders if the Raiders had any love for him, wouldnt it have manifested it before now? And no, dont get your goolies in a knot for Carson Palmer, or even less likely, Kyle Orton.No, due to circumstances beyond anyones control, this is the worst possible time for the Raiders to be (a) on the cusp of playoff contention and (b) without a football man in charge.There have been rumors that Ron Wolf will come in on an interim basis just to make sure nobody trades Darren McFadden for a soda dispenser, but so far, they have been only that.But a trade of that breadth takes a lot more time than head coach Hue Jackson has. It requires the work of a number of people, none of whom are really in charge. And it has to happen in a day and a half, with owners who have no reason to wish well for the Raiders.And while anything is possible when there is no apparent structure, it would seem far more likely to assume that the Raiders havent the people or the time to make a high-profile change to their quarterback situation. Seem, that is. If Wolf, just to pick the best and most seasoned candidate, is going to be the guiding hand in the short term, theres no time like the real short term to make the one move that could make what seems like the teams greatest vulnerability into a potential strength.Boller, one must assume, will be on a crash course and a short leash at the same time. With Kansas City here Sunday and then a fortuitously timed bye the following week, the former Cal Bear, Baltimore Raven and St. Louis Ram will have 18 days between now and the real postseason run to find the timing he clearly lacked Sunday. He was 8 of 14 for 100 yards Sunday, and missed some receivers by remarkable lengths.And Pryor needs even more work than that. Having just served his five-week suspension for running afoul of Ohio State, the NFLs de facto 33rd franchise, he said Sunday he was confident -- Ive never been not confident in my life -- but would need to start with a shrunken play list and build his comfort level with the playbook from there.I mean, Lechler cant throw touchdown passes to wide open targets like Kevin Boss every week, and Sebastian Janikowskis expertise with the offense has been merely with running the football. There is no indication that he has either Lechlers arm or the desire to show it.Thus, on a day that the Raiders should otherwise have enjoyed, they confront the worst fear of any team, at a time when they are the least-run franchise in the NFL. The magic of making new quarterbacks appear out of nowhere takes more wherewithal than the Raiders seem to have on the surface (although they did trade for Seattle discard Aaron Curry, whose price tag of less than 400K was right up Oaklands street).In short, these next two days are going to test the New Raiders mettle for crisis management far more than PG&Es ability to keep the Al Davis flame lit in right field, or the City of Oaklands ability keep their payments to PG&E up to date. It may be too much for even a fully manned staff to handle, so if the Raiders cant get something done, it isnt necessarily an act of shame or sloth.In the meantime, Shane Lechler sits back with his perfect quarterback rating in the NFL stats, and almost certainly with ESPNs hilariously more complicated one, ready and waiting to see if Hue Jackson, in a quarterback bind, will call on him again, and a lot sooner than 2023.

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

Does St. Louis' suit against NFL mean hope for the City of Oakland?

You thought you were done worrying about the Raiders. You thought the votes were in, the moving vans booked for three years down the road, and all gnashing and sharpening of teeth was over. You thought you were free.

Then those buttinsky-come-latelies from St. Louis decided to rear their litigious heads, and now you find yourselves slipping back into that desperate-hope world from which no one escapes.

It seems the city and its regional sports authority has decided to sue the National Football League and its 32 semi-independent duchies over the relocation of the Rams 15 months ago because, and you’ll like this one, the league allegedly did not follow its own relocation rules when it moved the team.

As you know, there is no such thing as a rule if everyone governed by the rule decided unanimously to ignore the rule. This doctrine falls under the general heading of, “We’re billionaires, try and stop us.”

But all lawsuits have a common denominator, and that is that there is money at the end of the rainbow. St. Louis is claiming it is going to miss out on approximately $100 million in net proceeds (read: cash) and has decided that the NFL and especially their good pal Stan Kroenke is going to have to pay for permission to do what they have already done -- specifically, leave.

Because the suit was filed in St. Louis, the benefits of home field advantage apply, and the league is likely to have to reinflate their lawyers for some exciting new billable hours.

As to whether it turns into a windfall for the jilted Missourians, well, as someone who has known lawyers, I would list them as prohibitive underdogs. But there is nuisance value here, which brings us to Oakland.

The city and county, as we know, did not put its best shoe forward in trying to lure the Raiders into staying or the other 31 owners into rejecting the team’s pleas for geographical relief. By that, we mean that the city and county did not fall all over itself to meet the league’s typically extortionate demands.

But they did play angry enough to start snipping about the 2019 part of the Raiders’ 3-More-Coliseum-Years plan, and they are threatening to sue over about $80K in unpaid parking fees, so filing their own breach-of-rules lawsuit might be a possibility.

Because, hey, what’s the point of sounding like a nuisance if you can’t actually become one?

By now, it is clear that everyone in SuitWorld got what it needed out of the Raiders’ move. The city and county could concentrate on guiding the A’s into activity on their own new stadium. The team could go where Mark Davis has been agitating for it to go for at least three years – somewhere else. The state of Nevada could find a place for that $750 million that was burning a hole in its casino vault. And the league went to a market that it, at first reluctantly and then enthusiastically, decided should be its own.

The fans? Oh, please. Who cares about them? To the NFL, and to all corporations in all walks of business, folks are just walking wallets.

But for some cash? Well, climb on board, suckers. The gravy train is pulling out on Track 3.

Nobody is fool enough to think the Raiders would be forced to return. Hell, even St. Louis isn’t asking for the Rams back. They just want to get paid for the money they probably banked on in the good old days before Stan Kroenke decided to head west.

And that would doubtless be Oakland’s stance as well if. Now the circumstances are slightly different, in that St. Louis worked harder to keep the Rams than Oakland did to keep the Raiders. St. Louis scared up $350 million toward new digs for the Rams, well short of what Kroenke would have accepted, while Oakland said it could get its hands on some infrastructure money and no more.

But Mayor Libby Schaaf complained in her relocation post mortem that the league didn’t follow its own guidelines (yay correlation as causation!), maybe with an eye toward throwing a few lawyers into the fire to see how long it would burn.

There is not yet any indication that the city and county are going that route (and the silence may simply mean that they are sick of the Raiders’ saga as everyone else seems to be), but if they do, well, don’t freak out that the team might be forced to return.

Except, of course, in that place where migraines start. Dragging this back up is a bit like the phantom pain amputees feel -- but hey, people will do a lot for a bit of court-ordered cash. Anyone who has ever watched Judge Judy will understand.

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.