Randy Isn't the Answer
You know your defense sucks, at almost every position. You know you don’t have a running game. You know you’ve got some potential trouble-makers. On the other hand, you do have some excellent young wide receivers.
So, what’s your first big move? Trading for a wide receiver, Randy Moss, who was virtually given away by the Minnesota Vikings because he was so damaging to the team chemistry.
Way to go, Al.
In Davis’s early days with the Raiders, they were known as a rollicking bunch of characters, hard-drinkers, hard-livers. I covered the team in those days, and I felt much of that was overdone.
They always had solid players like Willie Brown, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Bob Brown and Jim Otto, all of them now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who were leaders for the team, along with players like Ben Davidson and Tom Keating, who never gave less than their best. Even the real playboys – Ken Stabler, Ted Hendricks and Marv Hubbard, among others – gave their best on Sundays.
Now, the Raiders have players like Charles Woodson, who wants to be paid like the best corner in the league, though he is far from it; eight of the 24 pass interfence calls against the Raiders last season were committed by Woodson, who also missed four games because of injuries.
Another cornerback, Philip Buchanon, calls himself “Showtime,” though his play has deteriorated steadily since he was a rookie in 2002. Though his play was embarrassingly bad last season, Warren Sapp grabbed the microphone at every opportunity to tell people how wonderful he is.
Adding Moss to that mix isn’t going to help.
Moss is a wonderfully talented receiver. With his speed and leaping ability, he is literally unstoppable when he chooses to be. The problem is, he hasn’t always chosen to be. He’s notorious for taking games off – and the coach and his teammates never know when that will be
AT A TIME when the New England Patriots have shown that the team concept wins Super Bowls, the Raiders have gone the other way. They’re picking up veterans with big reputations with no idea how they’ll fit into the system.
Last year, for instance, Raider fans got very excited when the team signed Sapp and Ted Washington to plug the holes in a defense which had been very weak against the run.
Nothing wrong with those acquisitions, but the Raiders weren’t able to use their talents properly because of some serious misjudgments.
Mistake No. 1 was putting in a 3-4 defense and sitting Sapp out on the end. Sapp had made his reputation as a “quarterback killa” as a tackle in the 4-3, coming up the middle. In the 3-4 defense, it’s the linebackers who are expected to make the big plays, including rushing the passer – but the Raiders don’t have good linebackers.
At his new position, Sapp struggled all year, getting only half a sack in his first 13 games, before adding two in the last three games.
Mistake No. 2 was even worse: not acquiring the heavy duty running back that had always been a staple of new coach Norv Turner’s offense.
Oops. Turner had to designate 32-year-old Tyrone Wheatley as the No. 1 back. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Wheatley broke down early. The Raiders never had an effective running attack, and that one flaw doomed them
WITH CHAMPIONSHIP teams, the defense complements the offense, and vice versa. Not with the Raiders.
When quarterback Rich Gannon went out with a career-ending neck injury, Kerry Collins took over. After a shaky beginning, Collins played well, but it did no good because the offense and defense didn’t complement each other.
When you’re playing older defensive lineman, you want to keep them off the field as much as possible, but the Raiders style of play made that impossible.
Collins’ forte is the deep pass, not the high percentage shorter passes which keep “moving the chains.” With Collins at quarterback, two things generally happened for the Raiders: (1) They scored quickly, which used up little time on the clock; or, more frequently, (2) They went three-and-out, bringing the defense back on the field.
The statistics are startling: In the 11 games the Raiders lost, their opponents averaged almost 10 minutes more in time of possession.
And, the Raiders went 5-11, following the 4-12 train wreck of the previous season, the worst back-to-back years since Davis came to the Raiders in 1963.
ADDING MOSS will make the Raiders deep passing game even more dangerous, and Davis has always loved the “bombs away” approach to offense that the early Raider champions featured. But he’s also a man who’s unofficial slogan is “Just Win, Baby,” and this is not a winning style of football.
The Raiders won’t be champions again until they start putting together a real team, not just a collection of exciting offensive players.
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