NFL agreement; Raiders; Cal Football; Jim Harbaugh; Tiger Woods
by Glenn Dickey
Dec 03, 2009

MY APOLOGIES for being late with this column. My computer crashed this week and then PG&E shut down the power in our area for most of one day. Hopefully, this set of circumstances won’t happen again

THERE’S MORE and more talk that the NFL owners and Players Association won’t be able to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement when the current one elapses after this season, so 2010 will be an uncapped year.

This means two things:

--Teams will be able to cut players who have remained because they got large signing bonuses. Though the full amount of the bonuses is paid immediately, for cap purposes, these bonuses are pro-rated over the length of the contract. But if a player is cut, all of the remaining bonus is figured into the cap for the next year. If anybody has been wondering why Javon Walker is still with the Raiders, though he isn’t playing, that’s the answer.

Walker is an example of the kind of veteran who could be cut immediately, because there would be no cap consequences. That’s also the way the Raiders could get rid of JaMarcus Russell.

--When a new CBA is put into effect, it will certainly have a rookie salary cap, much like the NBA has. Owners are tired of overpaying for rookies who haven’t done anything and sometimes, as in Russell’s case, never will. Veteran players are upset because, with only so much room under the cap, they feel the rookies are taking some of the money they’d otherwise get.

LEW WOLFF: I can’t figure whether Wolff really feels he can gull people indefinitely or if he’s just so frustrated he can’t stand it.

It’s clear that Wolff bought the A’s thinking that he could move them to San Jose because of his friendship with baseball commissioner Bud Selig, but he’s been blocked by the clause in the Giants contract which gives them exclusivity in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Wolff once again stated his case in an interview for San Francisco magazine, saying he’d rather have crowds of 25,000 than 4000. And, once again, he refused to acknowledge his culpability for the small crowds in Oakland.

In fact, he has done everything he could to drive down crowds, to the point where it seems to be orchestrated. He closed off the popular upper deck, he’s put out press releases saying he didn’t want to stay in Oakland and he’s put a bad product on the field.

And, attendance has gone down each year he’s owned the team. Surprise.

As a 40-year resident of Oakland, I resent the bad rap it gets. In recent years, the city has restored the Paramount and Fox theatres and promoted building in Jack London Square. The city has a number of excellent new restaurants with top chefs. When a good mayor, probably Don Perata, replaces the current absentee mayor, Oakland could put together a plan for a new park, but Wolff doesn’t even want to try.

Wolff made an announcement that he wanted to build another park on the other side of 66th from the current Coliseum but he never produced any concrete plans before saying he wasn’t getting any cooperation from Oakland officials. It wasn’t much longer before he came out with his ill-fated plan to build in Fremont, which he had to drop because the residents and businesses didn’t want it.

Now, he’s back with more talk of San Jose. He just doesn’t get it but, unfortunately, it’s the A’s fans who are suffering because of him.

DUH RAIDUHS: Fed-up fans, more than 25,000 of them, paid for a billboard this week with a message for Al Davis: Get a GM.

Good advice. Will Davis take it? No.

Star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha told The Chronicle’s David White this week that the problem with the defense is that it’s too predictable with the four down linemen formation and pressing corner backs – as Davis demands.

Asomugha pointed out that, for that defense to work, the defensive players have to be better than the offensive players they’re lined up against. “We’re not proving that right now,” he said. “It’s not like we proved it last year or the year before.”

He added, “The game changes. The game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that. You have to be able to adapt.”

Will Davis listen? No. He’s hearing this now from fans, players and the media but he knows he’s right and the rest of us are wrong.

CAL BEARS: Quarterback Kevin Riley was asked at the weekly Cal football luncheon about playing in the rain, which is expected for Saturday’s game in Seattle, as it usually is

“I always felt in played better in the rain,” said Riley, who played high school ball in Oregon. “Maybe the receivers might have trouble catching the ball but I never had trouble throwing it. I played in all kinds of weather in high school, cold and dry, cold and wet.” You’ll notice the common denominator there. Riley remembered one game with a temperature of 25 Fahrenheit at the start of the game – and snow. It’s expected to be in the mid- to high 30s in Seattle, probably 20-25 degrees colder than the Bay Area.

Many years ago, when Len Casanova coached Oregon, he ran a pass-oriented offense. His theory was that rain helped the passing game because receivers knew where they were going and the defensive backs didn’t, which made it likely they’d slip. It worked for Casanova, who had a successful career at Oregon.

There was a monentary disgression at the luncheon when Jeff Tedford had complimentary words about Bobby Bowden, retiring at 80. Tedford was then asked how long he intended to coach. He laughed. “Certainly not to 80,” he said.

PAC-10 FOOTBALL: This may be the best year ever for West Coast football because there is so much balance in the Pac-10. There’s only one really bad team, Washington State – Tedford charitably said they were “rebuilding”, but there’s no talent there to build on. Otherwise, it’s literally been true that any team has a chance to beat any other.

It seems that the obvious explanation is that USC is down, but the Trojans beat Big-10 power Ohio State and steamrollered Notre Dame in intersectional games. In the conference, they’ve lost three games and two of them, by Oregon and Stanford, were lopsided, but I didn’t see any falloff when the Trojans manhandled Cal.

The conference has five teams in the top 25 in the BCS standings but nationwide, the perception is that the conference isn’t the equal of the SEC and Big 12.

There are reasons for this. In no particular order:

--The Pac-10 is the only major conference with a complete round-robin. In a year like this one, this means that teams take turns knocking each other off. This year, for instance, it’s entirely possible that USC, Cal and Stanford will wind up tied for third, and good luck in sorting that out because USC beat Cal, which beat Stanford, which beat USC.

In the SEC, the top teams often give themselves what is essentially a bye week before a big game by scheduling a much inferior team. Florida International comes to mind.

--Pre-season rankings often have a big influence on the final rankings. Since there’s a built-in bias for the SEC and Big 12, those teams are ranked high at the start and can afford a stumble along the way.

--Though California is the largest state in population, the bulk of the country’s population is east of the Mississippi, and so is the bulk of the media. They not only naturally favor the teams closest to them, they’re more likely to see them because of the time difference/

The East Coast bias has been there for much longer than I’ve been covering sports. It isn’t going to change and I’ve stopped fighting it. We know what we have with Pac-10 football and basketball, so just enjoy it.My personal bias is that I believe northern California is the best place to live, and that’s much more important to me than what Easterners or Southerners think about the relative merits of football teams.

TRAVELING MAN? For a coach who continually professes his love for Stanford, Jim Harbaugh certainly gets mentioned often in connection with other schools, the latest being Notre Dame, now that Charlie Weis has been fired.

My belief, stated before, is that Harbaugh is not a Stanford lifer, but he’s also smart enough that he won’t leave until he gets a better job. That won’t be at Notre Dame. Once the dream job for coaches, it’s a nightmare now, which is why so many coaches have already said they’re not interested.

Once, Notre Dame could get pretty much any athlete it wanted, especially if the player were Catholic, and not worry about getting them into school. In Bill Walsh’s second coaching stint at Stanford, before the Cardinal played Notre Dame, Walsh went down the Notre Dame roster and pointed out all the players that he didn’t even try to recruit because he knew they couldn’t get into Stanford.

Since then, Notre Dame ;has raised its admissions standards, not to the level of Stanford’s, which are probably the highest of any Division 1-A school, but high enough that the school is academically respectable. That means that many top preps can’t get in. Urban Meyer once called Notre Dame the “dream job” but he’s not about to leave Florida, where he can get any athlete he wants into school.

Yet, Notre Dame officials still think they should have the success they had with Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian. It’s going to be hard to find any coach who agrees.

STATISTICS: It’s possible to use statistics to help measure an athlete’s skill, but that’s not the only way. For years in baseball, fans and the media talked only of batting averages, but managers and executives were looking more closely at on-base percentage. I remember the first time I was really aware of that. In the mid-‘80s, I was sitting one day with Sandy Alderson, then the A’s general manager, in the upper deck at the Coliseum. Sandy had a copy of the major league statistics, which are distributed daily in the press box, and he took the runs total for all teams and compared them to batting averages. There was little correlation between high team batting averages and runs scored. Then, he took the runs total and compared it to on-base percentage. There was an almost perfect correlation between high OBP and runs scored.

Yet, about a quarter-century later, newspapers still feature batting averages first and fans talk about good hitters being those with high batting averages. Case in point: Freddy Sanchez, whose career average is just below .300. But, Sanchez is a hacker who seldom walks – fits perfectly into the Giants batting order – and he no longer has much power. He’s not really a strong offensive player.

Baseball has always had a lead in statistics – somebody once said that baseball is an island of activity surrounded by an ocean of statistics – but the NFL is trying to catch up. But because football is the ultimate team sport, the statistics are often skewed.

I was thinking of that at last Sunday’s 49ers game. After three quarters, because he was completing a high percentage of his passes, Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard had a quarterback rating of more than 100, which is very good – but his team hadn’t been able to get into the end zone and, in fact, never did. It certainly wasn’t all his fault, but I’m sure he would say that he did not have a good game.

TIGER WOODS: I thought it was big of Tiger to take the blame for his accident, not blaming either the fire hydrant or the tree. I’m also amused by those who want an explanation of what happened. Clearly, he had an argument with his wife, probably over the reported affair he’d had, and stormed out of the house. Tiger has a lot of explaining to do, all right, but it’s to his wife, not the rest of us.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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