Will the Raiders Move?
Al Davis can’t seem to keep from shooting himself in the foot. Even as the agreement between the Raiders and Oakland and Alameda County was announced, Davis made a veiled threat that the team might be moved again if this new program doesn’t work out.
Forget it. The Raiders aren’t going anywhere. Davis might want to give Los Angeles another try, but it takes two to make a deal, and the politicians that run the L. A. Coliseum don’t want any part of him, after he chose to bring the Raiders back to Oakland.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue yesterday announced an agreement with Los Angeles officials to put an NFL team in the region. That team will not be the Raiders. Tagliabue isn’t going to say this now, in the wake of the devastation in New Orleans, but he and other NFL executives have thought for some time that it would be best to relocate the Saints in Los Angeles.
Tagliabue also hinted yesterday that the league might get involved in the construction of a new stadium. The latest site mentioned is the parking lot at Anaheim Stadium, but there have been other sites mentioned within the L. A. basin. Again, there is zero chance the league would get involved in building a new stadium if it were for the Raiders.
There would be cities that would like to lure the Raiders, but they are all relative backwaters, like San Antonio. Why would Davis move the Raiders out of a metropolitan area like this one to go there? Davis has a home in Piedmont and friends here. When the Raiders played in Los Angeles, he had an apartment there and his wife came down on weekends for the home games. Davis also had some friends there, because he had been an assistant coach at USC at the start of his career. He has absolutely no ties to San Antonio, or any other smaller city that would want the Raiders. You can forget that option, too.
It’s much better for everyone that Davis and the Raiders stay put and work on expanding their audience. The fact that they’ve sold out for Sunday’s game against the Broncos is encouraging. This will be their third home game sellout this season. Sellout crowds add to the excitement for the spectators, and they enable the game to be televised, so the Raiders can market themselves.
There is a serious question whether the Raiders will be successful selling their own tickets, now that they’ll have that authority, starting with next season. Their experience in Los Angeles, where they had a terrible snafu in their first season, is not encouraging.
What they really need is a good marketing man, and there’s one interested, Matt Levine, who would be perfect for them. Levine has been working with Bay Area teams since the mid’-70s, when he started doing marketing studies for the Warriors. He was instrumental in the startup of the Sharks, who have been a great financial success in San Jose, which has no history of the sport. I know he’s applied to the Raiders, and I hope they have the sense to hire him.
THE BIGGEST boon to marketing, of course, is a winning team, which the Raiders have not been for the last 2 ˝ seasons. Their Super Bowl season of 2002 was followed by the disastrous 4-12 season of 2003 and an only marginally better season of 5-11 last year. Currently, they’re at 3-5 for the first half of that season.
This is a puzzling team, not as good as the sum of its individual parts. The free agent acquisitions in the offseason were good ones. Running back Lamont Jordan has played well and given the Raiders a running threat they lacked last season. Wide receiver Randy Moss has been hobbled with injuries lately, but he’s made some highlight reel catches. Defensive linemen Derrick Burgess and Ed Jasper have improved the defense. Meanwhile, quarterback Kerry Collins has cut down on interceptions and is having the best statistical year of his career.
Yet, the Raiders have only a marginally better record than last season. What gives?
Penalties are still a major problem and, as I wrote earlier in the season, the failure to take responsibility for them, either by the players or coach Norv Turner, prevents them from solving their problem. The Raiders constantly talk of a “conspiracy” in the NFL when they’re penalized. Players claim the league often apologizes to the team for officials’ errors, which is not true. Until they are willing to admit their own mistakes, they will continue to make costly penalties.
Despite their increased fire power, the Raiders are averaging only about a field goal better than last season, when they averaged 20 points a game. Their losses are closer because their defense has kept them from being out of games, as they often were last year, but they’re still losses.
Their biggest problem has been in scoring within the red zone. In his successful effort to cut down on his interceptions – only three in the first half of the season – Collins has become too cautious, afraid to take a chance. So, excursions into the red zone often culminate in just a field goal.
With their offensive weapons, the Raiders should be able to attack teams and score those touchdowns.
TO GET INTO the playoffs, the Raiders have to start putting all the pieces together immediately, and a win in Sunday’s game is imperative.
They have no serious chance of winning the division, with three teams ahead of them. They’ve already lost twice to the Chiefs and once to the Chargers.
Their only chance is to win a wild card, which would probably mean 10 wins. So, the Raiders have to go 7-1 in the second half. It’s a long shot, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
And, more important, Davis has to stop making these veiled threats to move the team again. Staying in Oakland gives the Raiders the best chance to succeed, on the field and off. If Davis and the Raiders top management concentrate on that, it will be better for everybody.
LETTERS: If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out the reader e-mails in “Letters.” I try to include a representative sample, and I upgrade it 3-4 times a week. I also urge you to include your home city in your e-mails.
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