No Leaders Means No Playoffs for Raiders
Ideally, the playing leader should be the quarterback, and when theyíve been successful, the Raiders have had leadership from the quarterback position, from Daryle Lamonica to George Blanda to Ken Stabler to Jim Plunkett to Rich Gannon.
Now, they have Kerry Collins.
When the Raiders acquired Randy Moss in the offseason, that was supposed to bring back the ďvertical offense,Ē and he has made some great highlight film catches. But because Collins doesnít look for him when he should, the Raiders have yet to score more than 20 points in their 1-3 season.
The Raiders have been strikingly ineffective in the red zone because Collins doesnít use Moss. Collins has been so conditioned to avoid interceptions that he wonít take a chance.
Of course, he knows Moss will be double covered. So what? Moss is a great weapon in the red zone because his height (6-4) and jumping ability enable him to outreach defenders. It doesnít matter if heís double-team or even triple-teamed. He can catch the ball. But instead, Collins will dump the ball off to a shorter receiver or even a running back because he has less concern about interceptions with them.
Interceptions are never a good thing, but a quarterback whose chief goal is to avoid interceptions is never going to be the leader a team needs. Collins isnít the worst quarterback that the Raiders have had in that regard Ė remember Jeff George? Ė but the contrast between Collins and his predecessor, Gannon, is striking.
Physically, Collins seems much superior. Heís got good size, at 6-5, and has a strong arm that can throw the ball easily deep downfield, as he has in the spectacular Moss catches. Gannon was shorter and his passes were never things of beauty.
But Gannon was a leader. He often reminded me of Blanda, who wasnít a great passer, either, but had great confidence in his ability to get the job done. With both Gannon and Blanda, teammates picked up on that confidence. And if they didnít get the job done, those teammates would get a tongue-lashing.
Though he was long past his prime in 1970, Blanda engineered last game comebacks in relief of Lamonica that enabled the weakest Raiders team in the 1967-1977 period to get to the AFC championship game.
And, with Gannon at quarterback, the 2002 Raiders got to the Super Bowl, despite a coach who panicked when the team lost four straight in midseason. When Gannon went down with an injury that eventually ended his career the next season, everything collapsed. And now, they have Collins.
THEY ALSO have Norv Turner on the sidelines.
Turner is one of those coaches who would probably be better as a coordinator than a head coach. In the right circumstances Ė having a strong leader like Gannon as his quarterback, for instance Ė he could succeed as a head coach. But he is never going to provide the strong leadership to overcome the leadership vacuum the Raiders currently have at quarterback.
Unfortunately, heís the kind of coach Al Davis likes, and what Davis likes, Davis gets. Strong head coaches have been rare in Davisís time, and thereís been tension whenever heís had one.
John Madden became a strong coach, but he didnít start that way. His attraction for Davis was the fact that he had had so little pro football experience when he was named head coach, only two years as a linebacker coach, that he said when he was hired that he would follow Davisís lead, especially on offense. For the first 2-3 years, thatís what he did.
But Madden is an intelligent man and he soon realized that he could not keep the playersí respect if he were regarded as Davisís puppet. He started putting in his own ideas, mostly smash-mouth football. Stabler shortened the pass routes to fit his ability when he became quarterback and changed the offense further.
Though the Madden-Stabler team was successful, winning the teamís first Super Bowl following the 1976 season, Davis didnít like losing control. He told confidants that he was going to fire Madden before the 1973 AFC championship game. He didnít, but the relationship between the two was strained until Madden quit after the 1978 season, never to coach again. And Davis eventually traded Stabler for Dan Pastorini.
The coaches following Madden were a mixed bag. Tom Flores was quite successful, winning two Super Bowls, and he agreed with Davisís offensive philosophy, so there was relatively little tension. Art Shell was like Madden, a coach the players liked and respected, but he has not had an NFL head coaching job since because he was unfairly regarded as a Davis puppet. Mike White was scared to death of Davis, Joe Bugel was an absolute joke.
The 4-12 season in 1997 forced Davis to bring in another strong coach, Jon Gruden, who got rid of the underachievers, often Davis favorites, and forged a strong team with players who took responsibility for their mistakes. But Gruden became so popular that his face started popping up on billboards around the area. When that happened, he was as good as gone. Davis has always felt he was the face of the Raiders, so there was no room for a coach who usurped him in the publicís eyes. When he got a good offer from Tampa Bay, Davis let Gruden out of his contract.
His successor was Bill Callahan, another weak coach who wound up with a player mutiny in his second season. Now, we have Turner, an improvement, certainly, over Callahan, but not enough. Under Turner, the Raiders have fallen back into their old pattern of stupid penalties at critical times.
DAVIS STARTED as a coach but he got out of that quickly, after three seasons, because the coach is too easy a target for criticism.
So, now his team has no leadership, either in his quarterback or his coach, so the considerable talent on the Raiders roster will be wasted. The criticism for the lack of results will focus on the coach, who will probably be fired at the end of the season, but the real responsibility is higher.
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