Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen/Terrelle Pryor/Matt McGloin;Jim Harbaugh; Candlestick Memories; Andre Iguodala
THE RAIDERS will have some interesting draft decisions to make in April, when theyíll have a position choice thatís now number four after their latest loss, to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And, yes, it will be Reggie McKenzie making those decisions. McKenzie answers only to owner Mark Davis, and Mark is getting counsel from wise old Raider hands like Ron Wolf and John Madden, not the fans nor those in the media who idolized Al Davis and dislike McKenzieís comments about the mess Davis left behind when he died.
It will also be McKenzie who decides whether Dennis Allen returns as coach. Iím reasonably certain heíll give Allen a chance to show what he can do with a representative NFL roster, which he has not had in his two years in Oakland. There were as many as 18 undrafted players on the roster this year. No coach can win under those circumstances.
But now, McKenzie has cleaned out all the bad news players and has erased both the teamís debt going forward and the salary cap problems, so heíll be able to deal in a normal fashion.
BTW, while others were praising Richard Seymour last season, I wrote that Seymour was the most overrated player in the league. Apparently, NFL general managers agreed with me because no team picked up Seymour, so his retirement is now official.
Itís been a tough two years for Allen, and his handling of the quarterback position has been especially puzzling. Clearly, he has given up on Terrelle Pryor but with each succeeding game, it becomes obvious that Matt McGloin would make an excellent backup quarterback on a good team, not a starter.
So, the Raiders will need a quarterback and there will be some highly rated quarterbacks available, but itís also very easy to make a mistake on a quarterback. And, the Raiders need help everywhere.
Last year, McKenzie traded his first pick to get an additional pick. Iíd be surprised if he doesnít do the same thing in April. He also has the money to sign a free agent quarterback, which I think is a real possibility. I expect him to be very active in the free agent market.
Pryor may be shifted to running back, usable in a Wildcat formation. Darren McFadden will be gone, too; as talented as he is, he canít stay healthy. Rashad Jennings has made a place for himself while McFadden was on the sidelines this season, and the multi-talented Marcel Reese is a real threat.
I donít blame Raiders fans for booing in the fourth quarter of Sundayís game because, since their team got to the 2003 Super Bowl, itís been constant frustration, losing seasons except for a pair of .500 seasons. But in cleaning out the roster of the Al Davis mistakes, McKenzie has made the right moves. Now, the organization is in good shape and next year should be an exciting one for Raiders fans.
ALEX SMITH deferred congratulations on his perfect quarterback rating in Sundayís game, pointing out that the long touchdowns were short screen passes that were taken on long runs after the catch by Jamaal Charles.
His game reminded me of the way Bill Walshís offense worked. Walsh emphasized receivers running after the catch. That meant receivers had to catch the ball in stride, and nobody was ever better at hitting a receiver in stride than Joe Montana. In one memorable game against the then-Los Angeles Rams, Montana hit John Taylor on short passes that became 92- and 94-yard touchdowns.
Smith is often dismissed by unknowledgeable media critics as a ďgame managerĒ but heís very efficient and, most important, seldom throws interceptions. He has only six all season Ė none against the Raiders, of course Ė which is really incredible. He had fit perfectly into Jim Harbaughís offense with the 49ers which was based on running the ball with a controlled passing game and an excellent defense. Now, heís a perfect fit for a Chiefs team which has the same ingredients.
Thatís not enough for most writers, who seem to think that throwing deep passes is a sign of a good quarterback. That Ďs just one of the mistakes they make. Another is overemphasizing yardage totals. Six of the eight NFL passing leaders last Sunday played on losing teams.
ASKED ABOUT his first visit to Candlestick, Harbaugh remembered a game after his dad became an assistant coach at Stanford and Jim was in high school. The family had moved out from Michigan but when they went to an exhibition game between the 49ers and Raiders, they bundled up but were still cold. ďWe told each other, ĎThis is colder than Michigan.íĒ
When my wife read that, she said, ďThat must have been the game I went to.Ē At the time, we were friends with Dave Newhouse and his wife, Patsy, because our son, Scott, was good friends with their oldest son, Chad. Patsy suggested that we tailgate for a 49ers-Raiders exhibition at Candlestick. I warned them that the weather would be miserable but nobody listened to me. When we got to the ĎStick, fog was rolling over the hill and the wind was blowing. We had to eat in the car. Then, I went to a comfortable press box while they had to sit out in the cold. At halftime, they pleaded with me to go home, so we did.
CANDLESTICK MEMORIES: Iíve written a story on Candlestick history which will run in Sundayís Examiner. I am also part of a KQED Newsroom program at 8 p.m. Friday, also repeated at other times. They filmed my segment at my house yesterday afternoon.
STATS AD NAUSEUM: More and more statistics are creeping into game stories for both baseball and football, at the expense of quality analysis.
Baseball has always when overrun by statistics, of course, but there have been even more since the advent of Bill James and his followers. Writers routinely use the new terms without explanation. Iím not even sure of some of them though I know WHIP (Walks and hits per inning). Writers should always remember that the intent is to inform readers, not confuse them.
Lately, football writers have succumbed to this mania, especially with the quarterback rating. It seems impossible for writers to evaluate a quarterback without this but itís not a particularly meaningful guide. It is based on four criteria: percentage of completions; average gain; touchdowns; interceptions (a minus, obviously). This can be skewed when a quarterback throws a short pass that a receiver turns into a big gain (see Alex Smith above). It cannot measure how good the receivers are; Anquan Boldin has turned bad throws into long gains. Yet, the quarterbacksí ratings are monitored game long for writers and they use that instead of making their own evaluations on a quarterback. Ridiculous.
WHEN I WAS writing a column for The Chronicle, I had a simple rule: I didnít write about the Warriors until the 49ers season was over, because there was much more interest in the 49ers. Of course, most years, when the 49ers season was over, the Warriors season virtually was, too.
Thatís not true now, and this yearís team has been expected to be in the playoffs, perhaps a high seed in the Western Conference Ė but it hasnít worked out well so far.
Part of their problem has been the sidelining of versatile swing man Andre Iguodala with a hamstring injury. When Iguodala returned last night, the Warriors played much better in defeating New Orleans at Oracle Arena.
But, the Warriors problem is more than the absence of Iguodala, as the players have acknowledged. The real problem is that they donít play with intensity throughout the game.
They had no explanation for that, and neither have I because, frankly, Iím no longer close to the team or the game. I donít go to night games and when I went to their one day game on Martin Luther Day in 2012, it drove me crazy because of the unrelenting noise. Not just me, either: An usher admitted to me that he had to wear ear plugs. It didnít bother the fans because, with rare exceptions, they are at least a quarter-century younger than me, members of a generation that equates noise with excitement. It isnít just games. Most popular restaurants have a high noise level which is why I treasure Acquerello, which combines great food with a quiet atmosphere which permits normal table conversation.
With its fast pace, I think basketball has always been a young manís game. Iíve long remembered Russ Hodges complaint to me that Bill King talked faster than he could listen. That wasnít true for me at the time Ė I loved Kingís broadcasts and think itís an absolute shame that he isnít in the basketball Hall of Fame Ė but Iím much more sympathetic to Hodgesí problem now.
MANY YEARS AGO, when free agency came in, baseball writers bemoaned the fact that the winter meetings in December, much loved because they gave writers from the north a chance to thaw out for a week, had been made meaningless.
Well, maybe not. There has been a flurry of activity this month, but itís mostly been about free agents, not trades. And donít you love Robinson Canoís complaint that the Yankees didnít show him enough love by ďonlyĒ offering seven years and $175 million. Good grief. The Mariners signed him for 10 years at $240 million, so Cano can count his money as he watches the Mariners losing and losing and losing.
Fans care only about the players their teams are getting, whether in trades or through free agency, and I think both local teams have done well.
The Giants signing of Michael Morse could be a big boost because, when heís been healthy, Morse has hit for significant power. He could do what Pat Burrell did for the Giants in 2010, supply power early in a game, then be replaced defensively later.
The most interesting move, though, was the way the Aís and Baltimore Orioles exchanged closers. The Orioles traded Jim Johnson to the Aís, then signed free agent Grant Balfour.
Balfour may regret that change. He had an excellent season with the Aís but if you think about it, how many times did Aís outfielders leap high to catch balls that could have been home runs? And, Balfour was pitching in a pitcher-friendly park. Now, his home park is one hitters love. Good luck with that.
MY GOOD friend Andy Mousalimas reminds me that the Cal baseball team won the 1947 College World Series, beating Yale, with George Herbert Bush at first base. Iím going to get this right yet. Jackie Jensen was the big star for Cal as he was for the football Bears, too. I regret that I never saw Jensen play but my family was living in a small town in the foothills above Fresno at the time, much too far away to drive to the games. And, of course, there was no television in those days.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS: Iíll be taking the week off as Nancy and I go on our annual cruise with our son, Scott, and daughter-in-law, Sarah. I wish you all well and will see you back here on the first day of the New Year.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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