Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Monte Poole - Oakland Tribune Columnist Sounds Early Death Tong On Raiders Season

Poof goes buzz: Raiders face most demoralizing year
Column by Monte Poole - Oakland Tribune

THEY HAVE endured losing seasons, 14 in all. They have submitted atrocious seasons, six times owning or sharing last place in the division.

So the Raiders are more familiar with failure than they are willing to acknowledge.

But never have they been as pathetic as they are now.

To contrast the anticipation in the air 60 days ago to the powerlessness now felt is to realize 2006 is making a strong bid to become the most depressing, demoralizing season in Raiders history.

Or have you forgotten the vigor of springtime?

They rehired head coach Art Shell, a popular former Raider who symbolizes the glory days and did a good job the first time around. There was just enough comfort and applause to obscure the skepticism.

They unveiled a new ticketing system, dumping the despised public seat licenses, theoretically righting a colossal wrong. This didn't please all, but it was spun as a goodwill gesture from an organization perceived to be disdainful of the concept.
They spoke boldly in training camp, describing power running and deep passing, about imposing their will and dominating opponents.

They generated momentum in the preseason, winning four of five, seemingly a response to Shell and his staff. They sold out their home opener, sending the Raider Nation, eager to purge the past three years, to the edge of frenzy.

The plan, it appeared, was working. The Raiders were ready to reclaim lost respect.

And . . . poof! In minutes, the buzz was gone.

That was nine days ago. So soundly was the team overpowered and the coaching staff overmatched that the Raiders were showered with boos in the first quarter of the first game.

So much for consistently selling out home games and taking advantage of the advertising that comes with appearing on local TV.

Suddenly, Oakland has gone from being a sleeper pick to make the playoffs to a team some speculate is the worst in the league.

It's not speculation, though, that the Raiders will attempt to alienate selected individuals, weakening the team and putting chemistry at risk.

Seeing Shell face media and fans, insisting the team is better with wide receiver Jerry Porter on the bench, mocks the "Just win, baby," slogan. Maybe that slogan should have died 15 years ago, when Marcus Allen, a great player and teammate, was punitively benched to the detriment of the team.

To paraphrase defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a blind man can see Porter can help Oakland's offense.

It's not speculation that the Doug Gabriel trade baffles or that Alvis Whitted, 32, is seeking his first productive season.
Gabriel had become a solid, versatile receiver, demanding attention from defenses, and moving him put a smell in the locker room. It's unfair to ask Whitted, who should be a fourth receiver, to compromise his speed by running into traffic.

It's not speculation that Randy Moss, the team's most gifted weapon, is displeased. His enthusiasm is dimming — he went into cruise control a couple of times Sunday at Baltimore — suggesting his hopes are rapidly deflating.

It's not speculation that Oakland's offensive unit is the league's worst and its line embarrassingly bad.
"We can't even get the quarterbacks into their stances," concedes tight end Courtney Anderson.

"We have the makings of a good offense," running back LaMont Jordan says. "But what we don't have is execution that we need to show it. We can talk about how we have good players, talk about this, that and the other. But in the NFL, the only time talking gets you a victory is when you're on the debate team."

Instead, debate around the league regarding the Raiders is about their ineptitude. ESPN is piling on, with unflattering columns and TV commentators openly wondering if they can win one game.

Always willing to stand up for themselves, the Raiders are in no position to fight back. They are no closer to the playoffs than W's posse is to Osama. No closer to the Super Bowl than you are to $1-a-gallon gasoline.

The Raiders are close, however, to NFL irrelevance.

During losing seasons past, there was the sense Al would wake up and reset his brain cells. He did it when John Madden retired, did it when he hired Mike Shanahan, did it after the mistake that was Joe Bugel.

Somehow, Davis manages to remind us he remains a potent force.

Can't help wondering now if Al is out of comebacks. That seen during spring and summer was a mirage. Visible now is a deficient roster, discouraging the fan base, hurting marketing in an important year.

The Raiders set out to make a statement in'06. They are doing exactly that, presenting a team without answers, an organization grasping at straws, quite capable of reaching a new low.

Art Shell - Raiders Head Coach's Press Conference After Ravens Game - Video Set

This is a three-part video set of the press conference featuring Oakland Raiders Head Coach Art Shell after the lost to the Baltimore Ravens. In it, Coach Shell adresses a lot of questions about the offense.

Part One:

Part Two

Part Three