Raiders give fans a reality check


Raiders give fans a reality check

The Raiders blew up Sunday, did so spectacularly, and didnt have the strength of will to joust with the assumptions that come from such an explosion.All they did, then, after saving so many teams but not themselves, was restate the obvious, or resort to deadened platitudes.We had plays we needed to make, and we didnt make them in crucial spots, defensive tackle Richard Seymour said after Oakland blew a 13-point lead with 7:47 to play and stunningly lost to the Detroit Lions, 28-27 . They went 98 yards to score a touchdown, and thats really tough.We had our chances and we just didnt convert on them, said head coach Hue Jackson. Right now, Im 7-7, and Im not a .500 coach, and I dont like it. We have to get better, and we will. People thought we wouldnt come back after Miami and Green Bay, but we did.But no they didnt. They didnt come back at all; they actually lost more revoltingly, and in doing so helped not only Detroit, but Denver, San Diego, the New York Jets, Tennessee and Cincinnati as well.

Comrade Gutierrez outlines the plays that killed them in the end Sunday, but the loss was comprehensively far worse than the sum of its shards. They all add up in the end, from the incompletion from Carson Palmer to Denarius Moore on fourth-and-one from the Detroit 24 on Oaklands first possession, to the Tampa 2 coverage that left middle linebacker Rolando McClain and safety Jerome Boyd on Calvin Johnsons 48-yard catch with 1:33 to go.Calvin Johnson, of course, being the best receiver in football as well as Detroits only truly reliable weapon, Boyd being a rookie, and McClain being a linebacker.But mostly, this was the revelation that the more lopsided losses in Miami and Green Bay didnt provide. This was the one that shows that the Raiders arent yet ready for the next step, the one that mediocre teams need to take to become good ones.I feel like were better, Seymour said, staring into space with an odd sense of detachment, but we have to prove it, and were not. No excuses about it. We have lapses in crucial situations, and we cant have it.That is the dagger, right there. A 7-4 team now 7-7 and on the verge of extinction because it cannot hold serve at home against a reeling one-dimensional team. It is telling alone that the Raiders put its last egg in Sebastian Janikowskis left foot from 65 yards away with four seconds left, an act of desperation even for the strongest kicker in the game.Janikowski told a Polish reporter afterward that the snap and placement on the kick were perfect, and that he hit the ball as well as he could have hoped. But Detroits Ndamukong Suh deflected it into a harmless low-spinning spiral that fell well short of the target.And now, all there is left is Kansas City next week, and San Diego to close the season. The Raiders are not eliminated from the postseason yet, but they have to win twice and hope that Denver loses twice. Their wild card hopes are even less inspiring, as they currently stand as the ninth of six in the AFC, exactly that 7-7 team Hue Jackson says they arent, and him exactly that 7-7 coach he says he hates.One can make the case that the Raiders would have been a different team without the injuries to Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford and Michael Huff and on and on and on, but the parallel universe game is a loser. You are, as Bill Parcells famously said, what your record says you are, and what could have been means nothing.The plain stabbing fact is that the Raiders positioned themselves to win this game with all those injuries, and keep themselves in a discussion they were dominating three weeks ago. Instead, they failed, swallowing soot and bile all the way down the stretch. They are now the longest of shots, and as famous for blowing big leads (Buffalo, Denver and now Detroit) and fourth quarter leads (Buffalo and now Detroit).They are, to sum up, not ready for the bright lights yet. Even if they do the highly improbable and reach a 17th game, it will be because the rest of the AFC imploded around them. They are moving backwards in December, the worst time of all to be doing so, and it will take some months to convince the customers that 2012 will be different.Oh, the fans come around eventually, full of hope again and dreaming the dream, but they did that this year and are now ruing that decision. Sunday surely convinced them that their future is still in the future, because the right now feels lousy.

Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal


Internet immediately goes to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal

In what can be considered your standard bolt out of the blue, California head football coach Sonny Dykes has reportedly been fired.

In what can be considered your standard spur-of-the-Internet-moment-connect-the-dots inspiration, the Internet went immediately to DefCon1 on Chip Kelly-to-Cal rumors.

The logic, of course, is impeccable. Dykes never really snapped the Cal program around, taking a bad program and making it, well, mediocre, and he has spent much of the past two years aggressively seeking out other jobs, so one can assume there was at least some trouble in paradise, even if you want to make the case that Cal football and paradise are somehow connected.

And Kelly just got canned by the 49ers as part of Jed York’s latest I-will-not-be-made-to-look-ridiculous twitch, so he could sign a properly modest contract at Berkeley and still get his full $6 million with the offset from the three years left on his Jed deal.

So it makes perfect sense . . . which is why it should be judged with considerable skepticism.

For one, Kelly can almost surely do better in the college job diaspora. Cal is a big name with modest ambitions due in part to constant budget constraints, and there are better jobs out there even if he sits for a year.

For two, Cal and Kelly are an odd fit, given the persistent tensions between academia and athletica at Berkeley.

For three, the job comes with massive roadblocks, including Stanford, USC, Washington and (potentially) a resuscitation of the Oregon he left behind. Success will not come easy, if it does at all.

For four, Cal just finished four years of gimmick offense and overburdened defense, and Kelly would provide a more successful version of the same.

And for five, this is too easy, too simple, too convenient. Something about this scenario must be wrong somewhere. When people hit the Internet with photoshopped Kelly-in-Cal-costumes within minutes of the Dykes announcement, you know this is too obvious to actually come to fruition.

Why? Because we don’t live that well, that’s why.

The beauty of a triumphant Kelly at Cal glowering down at the charred ruin in Santa Clara seems more appealing than it actually is, because try as they might, Cal fans will never be backing the more popular horse here, and Kelly won’t win that battle unless he takes Cal to the Rose Bowl while the 49ers are still grappling over draft positions.

In that way, reality sucks. The idea that Jed York could be mocked in collegial absentia by his two biggest coaching hires is delicious but almost surely illusory.

But until we get more on why Dykes got canned 43 days after the team’s last game – recruiting, academic issues, legal issues, photocopier problems from him sending his resume out so often – all we have is the Chip Kelly rumor-ette to keep us intrigued.

Okay, to keep us amused.

Okay, to keep us from falling over in a coma. Cal should matter more than it does, but it’s been 13 years since the Holiday Bowl zenith of the Jeff Tedford Era, and 25 since Bruce Snyder took the Ursines to the Citrus Bowl. The evidence since 1990 is of a team with bigger dreams than means that is slightly below .500 (160-164). Sonny Dykes leaving means one more coach who didn’t make an impact unless his departure leads to either reassessment of the program’s standards, internal or external sanctions . . .

. . . or what the hell, Chip Kelly. Let’s face it – in these dismal days for wacked-out rumormongering, this is pretty intoxicating stuff.

Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports


Warriors are most geographically vague team in history of American sports

The Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors have always had a casual attitude about their home court, even by the once-flexible standards of the National Basketball Association.

Thus, it should be only slightly amusing but not actually surprising that Warriors chief arenologist Rick Welts is now waffling a bit (courtesy Comrade Poole) on whether the team will change its name to San Francisco Warriors when it moves across the pond in 2019-20, or retain its current geographic association with Narnia.

I mean Golden State. I often confuse utterly fictional locales – when I can be bothered to give a toss either way.

But the Warriors, whether they play in Oakland, San Francisco, Pier 30, Pier 32, Westeros, Hobbiton, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Curryvania, the Klingon Empire, the Death Star or Planet Nine, are relocating, and once they break the seal on the earth in 12 days, Welts and his fellow elves will almost surely play the team’s future name as a mildly tedious cliffhanger.

Hey, fun is where you find it.

The matter of the team’s relocation will be a sore subject among lifelong East Bay residents, who have put up with the Warriors for 45 years in various stages of development, including the current “We Almost Never Lose” stage. They regard the Warriors’ transplantation to San Francisco to be an unspeakable crime given the high level of fan allegiance afforded them in Oakland.

And yes, they regard Oakland and San Francisco as very real places, as opposed to Golden State, Freedonia, Vulgaria or the Nexus of All Realities.

It is not yet fully known what San Franciscans think of this development, but that’s the nature of the gamble here. They may embrace the Warriors as the new toy in town and then lose interest, and frankly, neither Welts nor anyone else knows the answer to that.

Either way, their die is cast, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are now future former Oakland fixtures. Yes, they are quite fond of the exciting new real estate values and their exciting new unobstructed view of the bay, but it has long been assumed that the move would also entail changing the name back to “San Francisco” for the snob appeal.

Now Welts, who has overseen both arena projects (including the one at Piers 30 and 32 which ended up with the piers beating the Warriors in a rout), tells Comrade Poole that the San Francisco Warriors might not end up as the San Francisco Warriors after all.

“Four years ago, I think the conventional wisdom in our building here in Oakland was that yes, we should attach a city name to the team, then it becomes a more global franchise,” Welts marketing-gobbledy-gooked. “There was a lot of head-scratching four years ago about where the Golden State Warriors even played, in other parts of the world. What’s happened with the team over the course of the ensuing years, until today, has made the Warriors if not the preeminent, at least among the three best-known NBA franchises around the world. And everybody who didn’t know where the Golden State Warriors were four years ago, if you’re a fan today, anywhere in the world, you know where the Golden State Warriors are.”

In Oakland.

Now, the mic drop.

“The team’s success has caused us to really rethink whether or not that’s something we should or want to do,” he added. “I guess it’s fair to say there’s been no final decision made. But if you were a betting man, I think you would probably want to wager that the name might remain the same.”

Of course. Why not stay fictional when specificity might move fewer hoodies?

Then again, this is a team that in its 70 years has played home games in Philadelphia (the Arena, the Civic Center, Lincoln High School and Convention Hall), Hershey and Bethlehem PA, Atlantic City, Trenton, Collingswood and Camden NJ, and Saratoga Springs NY . . .

(a moment’s rest here to catch our breaths)

. . . and then after moving west in 1962, the Cow Palace, San Francisco Civic Auditorium and USF’s Memorial Gym, the Oakland Auditorium, San Jose Civic Auditorium, San Jose Arena, Richmond Auditorium, then Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Diego, Eugene, Seattle, Phoenix and Salt Lake City.

In fact, and you can swindle the gullible at your neighborhood tavern with this one, the Warriors’ first game in San Francisco occurred almost three years before the team left Philadelphia. The Warriors played the visitors to the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles a year later and had already played a regular season game at the Cow Palace earlier in the year, so this game, January 31, 1960, could have been considered a civic scouting trip for both teams as they sought new homes.

In other words, the Warriors are almost surely the most geographically vague team in the history of North American sports. Moreover, they are about to become the first team in sports history to go home for the third time under three different city names – Philadelphia, San Francisco and Krypton, or whatever the hell they want to call themselves this time.