Well, Oakland Raider fans, here we are again. Standing on a 2-5 record after seeing winnable games slip through our hands as quickly as passes find their ways through Mike Williams fingertips.
At this point last year, we were coming off of two consecutive wins by Andrew Walter after 5 disheartening losses where we were outscored 126 to 50.
Those were the last two games that we won on our way to the #1 draft pick. (Who still hasn't contributed to 2007)
This year we are 2-5 and coming off of three disappointing losses in a row where one single catch could have made the difference in the game.
The defense has given up 27 more points (153, Tied for 18th in the League) than last year and the offense has scored 85 more (135, Tied for 20th in the League). That is a plus minus in scoring differential of +58 from last season, yet the record remains the same.
The most painful part of the 2007 season is that this team is finding ways to lose every week.
The team is not being outplayed by much, (thus a -18 scoring differential through 7 games, compared to a -76 last season) but they are making each week painful to watch.
I still have a sick feeling in my stomach from Sunday's debacle and it has been the same for the past two weeks.
As I analyze the situation I look at things that could have been done differently and also inefficiencies with the team that are keeping them down.
The first place that I have to look is the Head Coach. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they get all of the credit and also all of the blame depending upon how their teams perform.
In the case of Lane Kiffin, you have to look no further than his refusal to play healthy players over injured ones to see that he is a very stubborn coach.
I have to believe that it is his belief that his "System" and the players that understand it best is what will win games for the team, not the talent or health status of his players.
How else can you explain Daunte Culpepper, his most talented QB, not getting first team reps from Day 1?
He had a career second stringer who could not get a snap as a QB in Detroit last year starting and Al went out and signed a Pro-Bowl, All Pro QB for him. That All-Pro got, primarily, second team snaps from Day one until week 3.
It is no wonder that Daunte and Porter are not on the same page with their reads in the secondary.
Also, how can you explain an injured tailback (who is in his contract year) being used for the last three weeks when his "backups" are healthy and running much better than he is?
Another bone to pick with Young Lane is his lack of experience as a head coach.
This is on display every week when the 2 minute offense is nowhere to be seen.
With an effective 2 minute and end of half offense the Raider record could easily be 5-2 and should be 4-3.
His management at the end of halves is borderline juvenile.
My third and last criticism, although I'm sure that you readers will come up with more, is his use of Chris Carr on punt returns.
Chris Carr is not a good punt returner. Sure he has good hands, but he runs into his own men and is going to fair catch the ball more often than not.
Johnnie Lee Higgins was drafted to be the punt returner on this team. He broke a punt for a TD in pre-season and should have had another if not for a terrible penalty away from the point of contact.
With Ike, O'Neal, Stewart and Cooper out he wasn't getting the blocking that he needed and he mishandled a couple of punts. So, what does Lane do. He benches him and puts in our less than average punt returner who was exactly that.
Needing an actual punt return last week, he finally inserted JLH back into the role and he got a dazzling 18 yard return. I call it dazzling because he juked about 10 defenders and worked hard for the 18 yards.
The Raiders had the worst punt return team in the NFL last year and at the first chance "Son of Monte" reverted to last year's return guy. That doesn't say alot for the guy who keeps sending out guys who stink it up (Stu, LaMont, McCown early on) or are hurt every game.
Like I said, it is easy to put the blame on the Head Coach, but this blame he does deserve.
You can't blame LaMont and McCown for wanting to get out there. They are fierce competitors in contract years. What else would you expect from them?
At 32, he is the most wet behind the ears head coach ever, so we should know that he will have growing pains and applaud his growth. But, until he fixes these flaws he will still be "Son of Monte" and nowhere near "Fast Lane".
The again, we know it could be worse...We could still have 2006's bump on a log at the helm.
My next analysis pertains to the defense and their head man, Rob Ryan.
When 16% of your opponents runs go over 10 yards that usually means that your safeties are not making tackles and that your 4 man front is being dominated.
I don't know how you expect a team that is built to sack the QB, to improve on a terrible run defense.
Warren Sapp has slimmed down, Derek Burgess is always rushing up field, the LB's are running back into pass coverage and the safeties have their heads up their posteriors.
You needn't look further than the Tennessee game where Michael Huff whiffed on a one on one situation and Stew was dragged 8 yards for trying to just jump on Lendale White's back. That is pathetic play from your safeties. Oh, yeah, did I mention that Stu also got run over, even though Morrison had White's ankles wrapped?
Look at how terrible the Colt's run defense was when Bob Sanders was out last season. It was the worst in the NFL. Then when he came back they were one of the toughest teams to run against.
Don't believe this coaching staff when they try and sugarcoat the horrid safety play against the run by blaming the D-Line. The D-Line is not built to stop the run. In fact, this entire defense isn't!!!
Can you imagine the mess this team would be in if Rob Ryan would have gotten the Head Coaching job? EEEeee-Gads!!!
I have a feeling that IF this team does not win this week-end they will lose faith and stop feeling good about the "moral" victories.
I have to stop the ripping at that point, because until the coaches fix these basic things the players will just keep doing what they are told, so it makes no sense to rip into them.
I do have a fix. Move Routt to safety, bench Stu and move Fabe back to the corner. And while you're at it...Resign BJ Ward!!!
After 7 weeks, two things are apparent:
- There is a ways to go for this team which has had 4 coaches in 6 years and is still finding an identity.
- If we,as fans, manage our expectations we may be pleased with 3-4 more wins. This team is better than last year's so we should all still be "In".