OAKLAND RAIDERS RAP
A Franchise In Chaos
The Raiders issued a cryptic media release on Tuesday in response to criticism by ABC-TV announcer Al Michaels one week earlier. In biting comments prior to the start of the Oakland versus Denver game on Nov. 24, Michaels called the Raiders "the most underachieving team in the league." He also mocked the team's "Commitment To Excellence" slogan.
The media release that followed eight days later was entitled: "The Oakland Raiders Respond To Al Michaels Blather." The release read in part: "Michaels doesn't have an ounce of truthfulness and morality in his body. Michaels should confess about his own lack of morality in dealing with fans over the last several years."
The rambling statement wasn't attributed to any member of the Raiders organization. Nevertheless, media reports confirmed that the Raiders acknowledged issuing the release.
Let the record show that Oakland is 11-24 in its last 35 regular-season games. The Raiders heirachy reportedly has been angry with Michaels ever since his interview with running back Marcus Allen on Dec. 14, 1992. Allen, who played nine seasons for the Raiders, severely criticzed team owner Al Davis in the interview.
Unveiling The Truth
There were no positives from Oakland's dreadful 13-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Raiders were uninspiring on offense, defense and special teams. And coaching also had a negative impact on arguably the Raiders' most deflating performance since the franchise returned to Oakland in 1995.
Predictable play-calling was a key contributor in Da Silver and Bleak gaining a season-low 221 total yards and amassing a mere 12 first downs. While the Oakland defense played well compared to recent games, it also couldn't prevent the juggernaut Saints from overcoming a 10-0 deficit.
This is the same Saints team that had dropped 10 of 12 road games and hadn't scored in 161 minutes before playing the Raiders.
Amid the gloom of the Oakland dressing room, Pro Bowl wide receiver Tim Brown told the media: "It's really embarrassing. I feel badly for the fans." Oakland is 10-22 in its past 32 regular-season games. The Raiders qualify as the AFC West's version of the Titanic.
Unsaddle The Hoss
The Hoss had been in limbo since mid-February when Oakland signed free agent quarterback Jeff George to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. Four months later, Hostetler was released June 17 - one day after he reportedly threatened to file a grievance with te NFL Players Association. He then agreed to a three-year, $3 million contract with the Washington Redskins. During his introductory news conference as a Redskin, Hostetler claimed that the Raiders gave him permission to find a new team when George was signed. The Hoss said that once he had negotiated a new a contract, the Raiders assured him a trade would be worked out.
While the Redskins and Raiders reportedly agreed on a seventh-round draft choice as compensation for the veteran quarterback in April, the trade never materialized. After the Redskins announced Hostetler's signing June 18, Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen said: "The system doesn't allow much sentiment."
Hostetler threw for 11,122 yards and 69 touchdowns with 58.5 completion percentage in four seasons as the Raiders starting quarterback. His inability to throw the long ball and growing concerns about injury made him expendable. Oakland was 1-11 in games the last two years that the Hoss didn't start or finish because of injury.
Mike White's Firing
White learned of his fate through club senior assistant Bruce Allen. Mr. Davis lacked the gumption to tell his beleaguered head coach face-to-face that he was history. Professionalism and dignity never has been associated with Dirty Al, the NFL's version of Darth Vader dressed in white bell-bottoms.
White joins a long list of former Raiders employees who have been treated disrespectfully when commissioned to leave the womb. If the names Ken Stabler, George Anderson, Ken LaRue, Marcus Allen and Art Shell strike a nerve, you have a keen understanding of Davis' tyrannnical rule. Wonder if White was asked to dust off Big Al's shoes on his way out the door.
Another Dreadful Season
As the losses and frustration mounted in 1996, the Raiders didn't or couldn't change their ways. They were undisciplined, they continued to repeat the same stupid mistakes and their strategy ranged from predictable to questionable. Someone had to be The Fall Guy, someone had to accept responsibility for successive underachieving seasons. The honor was bestowed on White, known as a good guy with a creditable coaching background who seemed out of place from the beginning working for clandestine Al Davis.
White's removal won't cure the ills that plague the Raiders. It's no accident that this floundering team has missed the playoffs the last three seasons and eight of the past 11 years. Oakland is deficient in four major areas - penalties, takeaway/turnover margin, pass protection and poise. Especially poise.
The Raiders have been the NFL's most penalized team for four seasons running and five times during the 1990s. This season, they equalled their team and NFL record with 156 penalties. And they were eight yards shy of tying the club and league mark of 1,274 penalty yards (set in 1969).
When yellow flags weren't being thrown at their feet, the Raiders demonstrated a penchant for losing the football and their cool. They had 19 interceptions and 12 lost fumbles while forcing 26 turnovers. Last season, they threw 21 INTs and lost 13 fumbles. Although the Raiders rushed effectively in 1996, they allowed 44 quarterback sacks (only six teams surrendered more in the NFL) and 80 over the last two seasons.
Playoff-caliber teams are known for mettle and execution. Too frequently this season, the Raiders self-destructed -- or worse, they stood by helplessly as the opponent made plays to decide the outcome. For now, there is a huge gap between Da Silver and Bleak and the NFL's playoff elite.
The World According To Al
The main theme of Big Al's state-of-the-Raiders address was to blast the Oakland Football Marketing Association, which has sold Raiders season tickets since the franchise returned from La-La Land last year. Davis said that the lack of capacity crowds at the Oakland Coliseum this season will cost the Raiders $10 million in projected revenue. The Raiders have had only one sellout among their first five home games in the 62,500-seat facility.
Of course, the Raiders' on-the-field performance has had little or no impact on attendance. Davis claimed that he was misled by Oakland and Alameda County officials about the OFMA's ability to instantly sell out the available 54,000 PSLs at the start of the 1995 season. As of November, the OFMA had sold approximately 35,000 PSLs. Davis did tell the media that he has no intention of moving the franchise. "I'm here now," he said. "I'm going to make it work." Big Al's encourgaing words must be of great comfort to the Raiders' PSL holders.