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Siani vs. Branch, Crabtree vs. DHB, and Al's thinking

Imagine if we had drafted 2-time Biletnikoff winner Crabtree as we originally hoped, then followed by drafting DHB where he should have been drafted; that is, in the 2nd or 3rd round. Everyone would have been fine with that, possibly even with the DHB selection. Then imagine the deluge of upset, or the uproar that would have borne witness had we then benched MC in favor of DHB right from the start of the 2009 season simply because DHB has speed! I know that most of you would laugh at the prospect of witnessing such a bewildering scenario. 

Believe it or not but a comparable scenario actually happened in '72 when we drafted Mike Siani and Cliff Branch. Siani was drafted in the 1st round out of Villanova, while CB was drafted in the 4th out of the Univ. of Colorado. At that time there was no Biletnikoff award, I mean, Freddie was their teammate. However, according to the Oakland Tribune, players were denoted as "blue chip" players, and Siani was the blue chip wr of the draft. He had Freddie's hands, ran perfect routes, etc. and was a very intelligent football player with incredible football smarts from what I recall. Siani would have immediately started on any other team. Siani is a classic example of Raider strength and depth at that time. He did play as backup to both Branch and Freddie, and when a 3rd wr was needed and he made plays when on the field. The notion of drafting such a player and sitting him on the bench is beyond imagination by today's standards. Another example was the sitting of All-Pro Ted Kwalick from Frisco in favor of Todd Christiansen. No one was upset at that time because everyone had faith in Al and it showed. In addition, we are talking only thousands of dollars and not the millions that are spent on players today.

CB was primarily drafted for his speed and speed he had big time! Old timers might want to correct me if my memory is fallible, but to the best of my recollection there was speculation about Branch going to the "72 Olympics and expecting to win gold. Nevertheless, Branch saw himself a football player and was not going to mess up a potential football career for gold. I remember in those days the fastest players would get together and hold these "king of the hill" sprints, such as running 100 meter dashes. The Cowboys Bob Hayes actually beat Branch maybe a couple of times, but CB won most of them and against all other players. You can see Al's craving for speed even back then. In fact, at that time Davis invited the '68 Olympic gold winner of the 100 meter dash, Jim Hines, to try out for the Raiders. Unfortunately, Hines was a track star, not a football player and was released. By the way, Hines went to Oakland's McClymond's High School, the same school that NBA legend Bill Russel attended.

I have read so many posts ad nauseum about DHB's lack of ability to play. However, I will argue that in many respects, CB was also a terrible player, dropping passes and disappearing for games at a time. In fact, CB was downright frightening at times. I recall my brother and I falling out of our chairs watching CB as a return man. He would catch the ball and arrogantly run in the opposite direction for 20 yards or more thinking he could simply just outrun everyone. He did not hold on to return duties for very long. He did start showing promise in about his 3rd year, but I was not convinced until his 4th year when we won the '76 SB. Note who CB had around him - one of the historically best football teams ever in the NFL! CB had it far better for the sake of his development than DHB ever had. Now, I am not trying to defend DHB, just stating the facts as I have witnessed them. You cannot imagine what it was like for me seeing Siani on the bench just so that Al could get his fill of speed. My mind changed though, when I saw what CB could do as he transformed into a winner, including pulling double coverage so that Freddie, Chester/Casper, Clarence Davis, etc. could break free. I think CB had much to do with their all-pro/hof careers.

A point I'm trying to make here is that in comparing the experiences between DHB and CB, DHB has had it much worse. I would not rate CB a better player than DHB in their first 2 seasons, in fact, I have felt more comfortable with DHB. Also, I see DHB making advances that were impossible for CB due to their sizes, e.g., blocking. I believe he is about to have his breakout season, but even if he has an above average season, I'm sure Al will be happy to see that. Al is intrigued by his work ethic and I believe that that is DHB's saving grace. He's no whiner and an excellent team player. Al said at the end of last season he expects DHB to be an excellent player, and Raiders such as Routt has said he expects the same (I think there were others, just can't recall who). I have patience for DHB simply because my anger was burned out during Siani and CB. Instead of doing the Siani as backup deal, Al went directly for DHB and saved his money on Crabtree a la Siani. I am not saying DHB is going to be great, but I do have plenty of patience for him and have been spared of all of the enduring frustration that all of you have experienced. I don't think Raider Nation will ever change Al's mind, and frankly in Al I trust. By paying attention to history it is possible to make sense of Al's thinking and I have never questioned the choice of DHB because of it. 

Signed, In-Al-I-TrustPsycho

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