Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Raiders 2010 Preseason schedule revealed

The NFL announced the Raiders preseason schedule and it includes three familiar faces. The Raiders will open at Dallas in Week 1 (August 12-16) action and travel to face the Chicago Bears (August 19-23) in Week 2. The Raiders begin the 2010 home schedule against the San Francisco 49ers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Week 3 (August 26-29) before wrapping up the preseason slate against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 (September 2-3), reports.

In recent years Oakland has faced Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle often. Chicago and Oakland have only played in preseason nine times, most recently in 1993.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can Tom Cable Keep Them Working Hard?

Second in a series evaluating the Raiders prior to the draft and 2010 season.
Position: Head Coach – Tom Cable

It may not mean much but Tom Cable has one distinction that offers hope for the Raiders future. He is the winningest coach in the Raiders post-Gannon era. Sure, being 9-19 (.321) is nothing to crow about but when one considers the circumstances he’s been presented with you have to wonder what he can accomplish if given a reasonable shot. Cleaning up after the Lane Kiffin mess, dealing with Randy Hanson and coaching JaMarcus Russell doesn’t make for an ideal circumstance. There are two very important reasons Cable may not be the perfect coach but the perfect coach for the Raiders.

Works well with Al Davis
Not since Art Shell Part I have the Raiders had a coach that worked as well with owner Al Davis. The team has alternated between incompetent yes men that did what they thought Davis wanted (see Joe Bugel, Norv Turner) and strong-willed rebels bent on trashing Raider tradition in the name of progress (see Mike Shannahan, Lane Kiffin). (Gruden had Bruce Allen as a buffer) Cable has managed to bring his own ideas to the table but in a way that shows respect to tradition and Davis.

A yes man would’ve rode QB JaMarcus Russell to a 2-14 season. Kiffin would’ve cut Russell in a media circus. Cable had every reason to bench Russell but showed his respect for Davis by talking it over with him first. The Raiders will only be successful as long as they have a coach that can work side-by-side with Davis. Davis has said he doesn’t want yes men but he does expect his coach to provide a level of respect. Cable has found that balance. Now he just needs the wins Davis also expects.

Works well with the players
After the Lane Kiffin debacle put the 2008 season in the scrapheap a strange thing happened. The team that has phoned it in after every Thanksgiving since 2003 kept playing hard. They ended 2008 by knocking Tampa Bay out of the playoffs and secured Cable’s hiring. The Russell-oriented meltdown to open 2009 could’ve been the end for Cable but his 2-7 team kept playing hard and finished a tough run 3-4.

Cable has kept his players motivated and that is huge in a franchise grown accustom to losing. If the Raiders are going to turn things around they’re sure to encounter setbacks. The man who handled the Randy Hanson incident as if it was another day at the office is equipped to handle any of the traditional growing pains coaches face.

Cable in 2010
Cable is a manager. In today’s NFL the Head Coach is less and less likely to act as play-caller, offensive coordinator and line coach. In 2010 Cable should be better able to manage the team as new Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson takes those duties off Cable’s plate. Expect to see Cable more hands-on with his offensive line after they took a step backward in 2009.

The Raiders need to get off to a fast start in 2010. Whatever locker room pearls he’s used to get his guys fired up in December will start to lose their luster if the team is just playing for pride, again.

Are the McNabb rumors full of something chunky?

The talking bobble-heads are certain the Raiders are going to trade Nnamdi Asomugha or a draft pick for QB Donovan McNabb. The biggest problem with the Asomugha trade is that the Raiders traded Asomugha to the Jets last month. Wait, they didn’t? Didn’t ESPN say it was going to happen? It didn’t happen right after Tom Cable got fired? hmmm

We all love a good rumor but at some point a little common sense should prevail. Look at the rumors and ask what makes sense.

- The Eagles want to trade McNabb. Makes sense. The Eagles have a young Kevin Kolb they want to get on the field without McNabb’s presence dividing the locker room.

- The Eagles aren’t shopping McNabb. Please. If the Eagles can’t trade McNabb they don’t want him having a Jay Cutler meltdown. So they float the idea teams are asking about McNabb so they can say, “It wasn’t us. We love this guy.”

- The Rams want McNabb. Exhibit A your honor. The Eagles put a price tag on McNabb of the Rams 33 overall pick via the rumor mill. Before anybody could take the bait (like the Cardinals), the Rams denied everything and the Eagles were left looking silly.

- The Raiders want McNabb. Doubtful. The Raiders are looking for youth not a veteran QB, ask Jeff Garcia. McNabb is a career west coast offense QB with diminishing mobility. Unless McNabb’s long-lost distant cousin (per rumor) Hue Jackson is going to a WCO McNabb has the makings of the next DeAngelo Hall. He doesn’t fit.

- Asomugha is part of the deal. Are you kidding? The Eagles via the NFL version of eBay (aka ESPN) said they’d take the Raiders 39 pick for McNabb. Unless the Raiders think they can draft a guy at 39 who is a lock to start and virtual lock to go to the pro bowl, why would they part with Asomugha? If they want McNabb the Raiders 3rd (yes third, not second) rounder makes more sense.

When you look at all the rumors floating around it looks like the Eagles were exposed by the Rams and have decided to float rumors about the franchise least likely to go public with a rebuttal. It is far more likely McNabb will stay in Philly and the Eagles will proclaim they never shopped him or they’ll deal him on draft day to a team that misses out on their targeted QB of the future. Until then McNabb rumors seem to be full of something chunky that smells much worse than soup.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Does Al Davis Need To Get Mean?

By Fran Vaughan
First in a series evaluating the Raiders prior to the draft and 2010 season.
Position: Owner / GM

It may seem shocking to hear but in order for the Raiders to turn things around they may need owner / GM Al Davis to get a little meaner. Davis’ reputation as the NFL black hat served him well for decades. Lately though Davis is looking more and more like the grandfather who ignores the fact his grandkids are stealing him blind. It’s time grandpa made like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and started knocking some punks around.

Love him or loathe him there is no denying Davis wants to win. He had no problem kicking off 2009 by resigning All Universe CB Nnamdi Asomugha and making Shane Lechler the richest leg in history. He followed that up with a blockbuster trade for Richard Seymour. He franchised Seymour to open 2010 and made K Sebastian Janikowski a rich man. While other small market teams quickly took advantage of the lack of a salary floor by dumping salaries, Davis is spending like he wants to win.

Davis hasn’t just been player friendly with his pocketbook. Look no further than QB JaMarcus Russell for evidence of Davis’ commitment to his players. The Raiders spent 2009 trying to make Russell all he can be. They started by retaining Tom Cable as head coach for consistency. They brought in Paul Hackett to teach Russell fundamentals. They brought in Ted Tolliner to beef up the passing game.

Despite having two young receivers on board the Raiders drafted WR in the first and third rounds. They encouraged Jeff Garcia to mentor Russell and then sent him packing before the Raider Nation could start chanting his name. A pass heavy training camp and an abysmal nine game grace period weren’t enough though. Despite Davis displaying incredible loyalty to his young QB, Russell flopped.

The problem isn’t that Russell failed horribly. The problem is instead of acknowledging Davis commitment to him he happily took Davis’ cash and showed no commitment to the Raiders. You can accept a guy like Justin Fargas has physical limitations because Fargas was committed to the team 100%. Russell has done nothing to earn his GM’s loyalty.

Davis has spoken publicly about his love for his players and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as he remembers coddling guys who can’t / won’t perform means guys like Asomugha are doomed to playing on a losing team. They deserve to play on a winner and ultimately it may all depend on Al Davis kicking some guys in the backside or to the curb.

In 2010 the team can’t afford to use the first nine games as Russell’s personal preseason. If he isn’t the best man for the job he needs to be benched or cut. The days of Ken Stabler reading simple defenses with a hangover are gone. Guys like Russell can’t win on talent alone. The NFL is a full-time job and pays like one. If they aren’t committed to excellence Davis should have them walk the plank.