Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:17 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
With the death last Saturday of Raiders owner Al Davis, we got to see a side of him that most people under 35 never got to experience. When Davis was an innovator, a kick-ass coach and owner, a fighter against The Man and one of the most important figures in NFL history. It was nice to be reminded of that with tributes all over the Internet, newspapers and in NFL stadiums on Sunday.
Maybe we didn’t think about it in terms like this, but Davis, though largely reclusive to the public, was a living legend, and in the final years of his life, we probably didn’t appreciate him as much as we should have.
That said, here are 10 other living legends who hold (or who should hold) a special place in the league’s heart. No matter what they’ve become today -- those who are outspoken for and against their old teams, those who spend their time behind the scenes, and those who have disappeared for now -- it’s not too late to show them our appreciation for all the good they’ve done and the lives they’ve led.
10. Ron Wolf: Another of Davis’ protégés, Davis gave Wolf a job as a scout for the Raiders in the early 1960s, and after helping the Raiders to a plethora of wins, he helped set up a 1979 division title in Tampa Bay before moving on to Green Bay as the general manager. He hired Mike Holmgren as the head coach, traded for a backup quarterback named Brett Favre, revitalized that franchise that led to Super Bowl riches and restored the name of a storied organization that had fallen into disrepair.
9. Mike Westhoff: The only man on this list who’s still active in the game, you might remember Westhoff from his turn on Hard Knocks where he played the Jets awesome special teams coach. It wasn’t much of a stretch, because Westhoff has been an awesome special teams coach. Aside from that, he’s a bone cancer survivor (he had to have nearly a dozen surgeries to get rid of it), and he’s one of the most respected working coaches today. But he won’t be around much longer. After 30 years of coaching, he’s said this season will be his last.
8. Ray Guy: Last year, I made him my No. 1 former player who deserves be in the Hall of Fame, but since he probably won’t ever get to Canton, that list and this one will have to suffice. Once Shane Lechler’s career is over, he’ll be considered the No. 1 punter of all time (maybe he’ll have a chance at the HOF!), but Guy was the one who showed the NFL how important a punter could be to his team.
7. Jerry Kramer (seen at right): He was a better football player than Jim Bouton was a pitcher, but both opened up the world of sports that fans had never seen before. Bouton’s tome, “Ball Four,” is a masterpiece that shocked those who had watched baseball and thought of players like Mickey Mantle as pure of heart. Kramer’s 1968 book, "Instant Replay," was a diary he kept of the 1967 season in which he gave glimpses of what life was like inside the Packers locker room under coach Vince Lombardi while chronicling some of the most famous moments in Green Bay history.
6. James “Shack” Harris: He was the first black player in the NFL to start at quarterback for the entire season in 1969, and in 1975, he led the Los Angeles Rams to an 11-2 record and an NFC West division title. He wasn’t a dominant quarterback in his day, but he was a trailblazer. And after retirement from playing, he was the head of pro player personnel when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001. He’s currently a personnel executive with the Lions.
5. Chuck Noll: We don’t see much of Noll -- who’s rumored to be in declining health -- these days, but his impact is unmistakable. He won four Super Bowls as head coach of the Steelers in the 1970s, and Al Davis thought so much of him that he once tried to sue him (the two were on the same staff in San Diego in the early 1960s). And he was the first coach to allow his team to take baseline concussion tests -- which, as we know today, was a pretty important development.
4. Joe Namath: The legendary Jets quarterback has become a thorn in coach Rex Ryan’s side. Namath is constantly on Twitter, exhorting or back-handing his former team, and because he’s Joe Freakin’ Namath, the media has to pay attention. With that -- and his on-air exchange a few years back with Suzy Kolber -- it’s not difficult to forget just how good Namath was as a signal-caller. He was the first to throw for 4,000 yards (in a 14-game season no less), and he boldly guaranteed victory for the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and then went out and delivered.
3. Joe Gibbs: One of my colleagues recently called him the greatest coach of the last 40 years, and considering Gibbs won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien), he’s one of the legends. His return to the Redskins from 2004-07 didn’t go so well (a combined 30-34 record), but before that, his complete career winning percentage was better than all coaches not named John Madden or Vince Lombardi.
2. John Madden: We don’t get to hear much from John Madden these days, and that’s too bad. I liked him on Monday Night Football -- his football knowledge and his enthusiasm -- and though he was before my time, you have to admire his coaching record. He took over the Raiders job in 1969 at the tender age of 33, and when he retired after the 1978 season, he had a coaching record of 103-32-7. That is a winning percentage of .763, and to go with it, he won a Super Bowl and seven division titles in 10 years.
1. Bum Phillips: The old Oilers coach -- and 3-4 defense innovator -- is still kicking around in Texas, attending Texans games, wearing his big cowboy hat and writing books about his life (OK, it’s one book, but you should check it out). He’s a fun guy to speak with, and he’s fully into philanthropy. But aside from his defensive prowess, the dude is a great storyteller. Quickly, one of my favorites: when he was an assistant coach to Sid Gillman, one of the earliest believers in breaking down film, Phillips barely could keep his eyes open one night as Gillman continued studying game tape. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Gillman excitedly claimed that watching film made him feel so awesome that it was better than having sex. Responded Phillips: "Either I don't know how to watch film, Sid, or you don't know how to make love."
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Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:55 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
In the days since Raiders owner Al Davis passed away, everyone associated with the NFL has, in one form or another, honored his memory. Davis, who had been associated with the league since 1960, gave Mike Shanahan, now with the Redskins, his first head coaching job in 1988.
On Monday, Shanahan spoke about Davis.
“I got a chance to be around him, I was 35 years old," he said, according to the Washington Post. "I never met a guy with more passion and worked harder than Al Davis. He was just relentless in his approach to the game, and he had a great understanding from Xs and Os and personnel and knew it extremely well. I wasn’t around him extremely long – a year and four games – but I learned a lot from him."
What Shanahan left out was that Davis had fired him four games into the 1989 season and that, along with some things we'll get to shortly, led to hard feelings that lasted long after Shanahan left Oakland.
And that brings us to this gem from CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, written in 1998 when he was with the New York Times. It's a story of intrigue and revenge with a dash of slapstick comedy.
It was 1994 and Shanahan and Grbac were both with the San Francisco 49ers. Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, was working with Grbac before a game against Oakland. Shanahan had spent just over one season as coach of the Raiders before being dismissed by the owner, Al Davis. The breakup was bitter, and the two men despised each other, mainly because of a dispute over back pay.Poor Elvis Grbac. The guy was trying to work on his game and his coach had him firing footballs at a 65-year-old man.
But as Freeman wrote after Davis' passing Saturday, the Raiders owner had a reputation for occasionally rubbing people the wrong way. "For much of his brilliant, chaotic and unreal life, Al Davis was at war. He fought commissioners. He fought other owners. He fought cities. He tussled with mayors and politicians and his own players. He earned a reputation as a crazy man."
Which reminds us: the Vikings play the Redskins on Christmas Eve. We fully expect Donovan McNabb to be winging balls in Shanahan's direction during pregame warm-ups.
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Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 12:36 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.
1. The Billboards Worked!
When John Fox decided to bench incumbent starter Kyle Orton at half for would-be Denver football messiah Tim Tebow, it seemed like a pretty good excuse for Fox to let the fan-favorite quarterback struggle his way to a miserable second half, giving Fox has a totally justifiable excuse for refusing to answer any Tebow-related questions and instead just glaring at whoever asks them with a stern, judgmental look.
Then Tebow scored on a rushing touchdown that was a designed quarterback draw.
Then Tebow threw a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno, a ball so blessed by Tebow's hand that Moreno used its powers to break several tackles, cross the goalline and bring the Broncos inexplicably within two points.
So, um, we have a quarterback controversy, right? Rich Gannon and Marv Albert certainly think so.
Fox agrees, I think. Maybe. Possibly.
"I think Tim Tebow sparked the team today," Fox said. "We haven't had a chance to watch the tape. We haven't had time to watch the film. I think at this point we've got a bye week. We do need to improve offensively. And it will all be up for discussion."
Right. We definitely do. Although it's pretty arguable that Tebow, despite his shortcomings, should be starting for the Broncos. Kyle Orton will be a free agent after this year, and would still have trade value to a few teams (ahem, Miami).
Tebow, as Fox noted, managed to make the Broncos play harder, even if his own personal play was lacking. Yes, he ran for a touchdown. Yes, he threw for another. And, yes, he gave the Broncos a shot at winning a game in which they had no business having a shot to win. But he still finished 6 of 13 4 for 10 for 34 79 passing yards (28 came on the Moreno touchdown) and played so poorly up until four minutes left in the game that at least one dork fired up Photoshop and created fake, apologetic billboards.
(Ed. Note: Had Orton's stats in there. My bad. Note strikes. Still doesn't make Tebow's stats "good.")
Doh. And, yeah, I literally put this on Twitter 10 seconds before Tebow scampered in for his first touchdown.
Look, I'm prepared to take a ton of flak from Broncos fans in the comments for even begin to suggest that going to Tebow isn't the smart move. But from a perspective of "putting the best player under center" it isn't. Orton's still better. But the Broncos are bad and won't sniff the playoffs this season, so perhaps rolling the dice with Tebow now and at least seeing what he can is the play.
He apparently inspires the team, and that's great. But the reality is that he's a below-average quarterback with a limited skill set who just about helped his pretty awful team pull off a come-from-behind victory against a much better team at home.
Yet, we're still talking about Tebow. And that's OK. But there's a whole lot of chatter about Tebow being "the guy" in Denver. And even though the statistics and the tape show that he wasn't all too productive -- though the statistics can't measure heart, not yet anyway! -- that chatter won't stop until Fox caves and names him the starter.
Which should make the next two weeks (the Broncos are on the bye) of speculation super-duper fun.
2. The Snooze Button Is Broken
Leading up to the Eagles's Week 5 matchup with the Bills, Michael Vick made sure the media knew that Philly no longer saw themselves as "the Dream Team." Unfortunately for him, we already knew that. It comes with the territory on a 1-3 start.
After a 31-24 loss in Buffalo, the Eagles are 1-4, and with all due respect to the very-much-for-real Bills, it's not even that hard to fathom. Sure, Andy Reid's team "won the offseason," but as their NFC East compatriots the Redskins know, that means nothing in the regular season.
"No. 1, there's nobody to blame but me," Reid said after the game. "That's how I look at it. I take full responsibility for it. It's my team."
And that's fine, because the Eagles are an incredibly sloppy team right now. If you need more proof than Vick's four interceptions -- he had six all of last year -- just look at the way each half ended. With the Eagles in the Bills territory, Vick took to long to throw the ball away and chunked the rock through the end zone as time expired. In Philly he might have gotten a second, but on the road, that clock's ticking, and the Eagles didn't got a shot at three points.
The worse crime came on a fourth and one with 1:23 to go and the Eagles down seven -- the Bills somehow managed to draw Juqua Parker offsides, grabbed a free first down and took knees to move their record to 4-1.
Buffalo is the real story, because it's absolutely improbable that they're a legit playoff contender. But the Eagles, clear-cut preseason favorites to win their division, are quite the nice juxtaposition to a Buffalo team that's well-coached, scraps for everything and plays sound football en route to winning games.
On the bright(ish) side, there have been seven teams since 1978 to make the playoffs after starting the season 1-4. So Philly's got that going for them.
3. Just Win, Baby
Since Al Davis died on Saturday morning, there were any number of very impressive, very emotional and very deserving tributes for one of the all-time great figures in NFL history.
But the best tribute of the weekend? Oakland figuring out how to just win in Houston, in what was clearly an emotional game for everyone on the Raiders payroll.
"I know he's looking down on this team," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "And he's with us every step of the way."
As Clark Judge noted Sunday, Oakland is indeed finding ways to "just win" and most of the season, they've looked better than their AFC-West counterparts the Chargers, despite sitting a game back in the standings of their division foes. They're still just 2-2 outside the division, but those two wins equal the number they had outside the AFC West in 2010.
If they can replicate their in-division success, 2011 could be a special year. And it probably won't hurt that Oakland has three-straight games at home starting in Week 6 -- you can bet that the Black Hole will be especially dark, which is exactly how Al Davis would have wanted it.
Real quickly, if anyone that's as "young" as I am (30; I'm using the term loosely) is confused by the heartfelt tributes to Al Davis over the weekend, take some time to read about his history in the AFL and NFL and watch some of the offerings the NFL Network is putting out there right now.
The stereotype that my generation takes from Davis is that he ran the Raiders into the ground with his obsession for speed and athleticism. This is because the Raiders last Super Bowl win was in 1983 and since they moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, they've made the playoffs just three times.
Reality is that while some of those stereotypes do apply, Davis helped spark the rise of the NFL that we know today, he broke down serious barriers when it came to minority hiring in the NFL, and while he owned the team, the Raiders became the only franchise in NFL history to make a trip to the Super Bowl in four consecutive decades.
That's sustained success by any measure, and throughout it all, there really was only one constant: Al Davis.
4. Meanwhile, Across the Bay ...
The San Francisco 49ers are 4-1 after taking Tampa Bay to the woodshed 48-3 on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.
Improbably, Alex Smith threw three touchdowns as San Fran's offense, with the help of a second-straight 125-yard rushing game from Frank Gore, carved up the Buccaneers defense. Vernon Davis found the end zone twice, and the 49ers used the all-around dominant performance to vault themselves to 4-1, as they maintained firm control over the NFC West.
What Jim Harbaugh is doing with San Francisco (and this is the second week in a row I've written this) is absolutely phenomenal, even if allowing a wide receiver to suffer a potentially serious ankle injury with four minutes left and up 41-3 deserves some flak.
Everyone felt confident believing that the Niners needed better coaching to really utilize their talent. That might be true.
But they're a miraculous comeback -- and just three points -- away from being undefeated, and it doesn't really matter who they've played against. Because, frankly, their schedule doesn't get that much tougher. Not counting NFC West games, San Francisco has games in Detroit, versus Cleveland, at Washington, versus the Giants, at Baltimore (Thanksgiving), and versus Pittsburgh.
No one's going to confuse them for the most dominant team in the NFL, even if their win Sunday looked that way, but even if they win the rest of their division matchups and lose the rest of their games (the latter's harder to fathom than the former, by the way) , they'd still end up with nine wins.
They're squarely in the driver's seat for a playoff game at home come January, Alex Smith's got the keys and everyone seems alright with this.
5. Paint it Blonde
I asked this like 12 times on Twitter Sunday, but no one could give me a good answer, so I'll ask again: How is that Reggie Wayne was the only person in the entire Colts organization that knew Curtis Painter was better than Kerry Collins?
Because Wayne knew -- he knew so much that he told us twice that Painter could compete. Unfortunately for Wayne, the newest Manning brother (Curtis!) actually prefers Pierre Garcon when it comes to touchdown passes ...
Don't get me wrong -- even Jeff George would have found Garcon on that play, so terrible was Brandon Flowers coverage. But it's pretty obvious at this point, even with Indy sitting at 0-5, that Painter gives them a better shot at winning than Collins, even if they're now 0-5 after a 28-24 loss to Kansas City.
So why did it take three games and a Collins concussion to figure that out? It's a great question and it probably involves someone(s) on the coaching staff or the front office not being as in-tune to the roster as Wayne is.
For Chiefs fans (read: my good friend and colleague who runs Eye on Basketball, Matt Moore): let's not get too frisky just yet. Your two wins are squeakers against teams that are a combined 1-9. But Todd Haley's seat is cooling at least.
6. Come on, It's All Ball Bearings These Days!
Actually, if you're the Vikings, it's simpler than anything Irwin M. Fletcher ever suggested: just give Adrian Peterson the ball.
Through four games -- all losses -- Peterson was "only" averaging 20.3 carries per game. This isn't to suggest Leslie Frazier should have run him into the ground as soon as he got the head coaching gig in Minny, but if you're leading by double digits at halftime, there's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of AP.
Frazier finally figured that out, and let Peterson loose against a suddenly hapless Cardinals team. Peterson ended the day with 29 carries for 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns; all the scores came in the first quarter, making AP just the fourth running back in the last 20 years to find the end zone three times in one quarter.
The obvious gameplan led to an obvious result: Frazier's first win as a (non-interim) head coach.
Now he's got a bigger problem to solve -- what to do with his quarterback situation. Donovan McNabb struggled again, completing just 10 of 21 passes for 169 yards against a Cardinals secondary that doesn't begin to qualify as "competent." The oft-maligned QB was pelted with "We want Ponder!" chants from the crowd at the Metrodome, and it's probably time for Frazier to perk his ears up and listen.
Could Ponder have produced the same stat line as McNabb? Absolutely. And he certainly could have handed the ball off 29 times, with the potential upside of actually letting Frazier find out if he's a legit franchise quarterback.
7. When the Circus Comes to Town
Victor Cruz of the Giants now holds the (unofficial) NFL record for ridiculous, luck-based catches. Unfortunately for the Giants, he canceled out his big-top performance against Seattle with two absolutely back-breaking turnovers that eventually cost New York the game.
His final statline? Eight catches, 161 receiving yards, a touchdown, a rush for three yards, a terrible fumble and a tipped pass with just over a minute left that the Seahawks Brandon Browner returned 94 yards for a game-clinching pick six.
The catches are nice and the acrobatic entertainment is fun to watch (see: below). But you absolutely can't miss a catch near the goalline that results in the ball being tipped up to a crowd of defenders and gets intercepted.
Eli Manning and Co. could have won even if they probably shouldn't have, given that they were pretty much outplayed from the get-go. Instead, the Redskins are all alone atop the NFC East, which is exactly what Rex Grossman predicted, the Seahawks finally won a game on the East Coast and it's perfectly acceptable to go running for your bomb shelter right now.
8. Clock Mismanagement
Speaking of circuses, whoever spiked the collective Kool-Aid of NFL coaches with Andy Reid's Jamba Juice probably won a lot of money in their pick-em league this week -- the final two minutes of the early games featured a series of incredible gaffes, many of them game-changing.
The Panthers, for instance, lost by three. You think calling a timeout with two seconds left as the Saints scrambled to set up for a field goal, which they eventually made after the pause in action, helped New Orleans? Yes it did. The Saints won by three.
We chronicled the Eagles mistakes -- in each half, no less! -- above. This is nothing new to an Andy Reid-coached football team. But it's still inexcusable.
The Raiders probably appreciate the Texans going incomplete-incomplete-sack with three timeouts to close out the first half, instead of utilizing their clock-killers to get good field position and a shot at some points. The Raiders didn't score, and Jacoby Jones probably deserves some fault, but you can't give the ball back to the other team that quickly.
The Vikings and Giants also behaved in a manner unbefitting of quality teams near the end of the first half, and both Mike McCarthy and Hue Jackson made poor decisions to go for a two-point conversion at an inexplicably early time.
Just sloppy decisions all around. On the bright side, maybe this Les-Miles-to-the-NFL thing could work out after all!
9. Best Team's Best Win?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Packers march to the Super Bowl in 2010 was their resiliency amid tons of injury. Well, that and their ability to adapt when things weren't going their way. It's what great teams do, and it's what the Packers did once again on Sunday night, despite getting down early to a sharp-looking Falcons team and, most devastatingly their stalwart of a left tackle in Chad Clifton.
Bryan Bulaga was already out on the right side, but it didn't matter -- Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers adjusted their gameplan and spent the second half doing their best General Sherman impersonation, piling up a whopping 25 unanswered points on Atlanta's defense en route to a convincing 25-14 win that puts the Packers at 5-0 for the first time since 1965.
"We just stayed patient," Rodgers said afterwards. "It was a tough game -- I took a lot of shots. I had to move around a lot. [The offensive line] did a great job. The rhythm wasn't there all the time, but we just stayed with it, stayed patient and knew the big plays were going to come."
Rodgers threw for 296 of his 396 passing yards after the half and completed passes to a franchise-record 12 receivers. That's even more impressive considering that the Packers seriously stalled after Clifton went out, as the Falcons were actually able to get some pressure on Rodgers.
It was a brief period in neutral, though, as Rodgers -- who's established himself as the best quarterback in the NFL at this point, and I hope you're alright with that -- and the Packers got rolling and ended up winning in near-blowout fashion.
If they continue to adjust when adversity hits as they have this season (and last), Mike Freeman's note earlier this week about the Packers going undefeated doesn't seem remotely far-fetched.
And as long as No. 12 is under center, neither does another Super Bowl.
10. The Old Don't Bury 'Em Yet Game
High-quality teams that are struggling, like the Steelers, always bust out this old chestnut, randomly ripping into an opponent and reminding us that they're not dead yet.
So we come not to bury the Steelers, but to praise them, on the heels of a 38-17 beatdown of the Titans on Sunday that happened despite a weakened Steelers offensive line, an aging Steelers defense, a surging Titans offense and a busted-up Ben Roethlisberger.
"I told ya, I was just faking it," Roethlisberger said. "I'm a wimp."
Ben, obviously, is the complete opposite of a "wimp," mainly because pain either a) doesn't effect him or b) makes him better. Or something -- the dude was limping like crazy in pre-game warm-ups, and I felt pretty good about my Steelers pick.
Then all 350 pounds of Max Starks managed to rejuvenate the Pittsburgh offensive line who bullied an underrated Tennessee front four, giving Jonathan Dwyer his first career 100-yard rushing game, only allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked once, and protected like a unit capable of helping a team get to the Super Bowl.
Oh yeah, the defense was OK too -- LaMarr Woodley made it quite clear early on that Pittsburgh was going to have a statement game, recording an interception and 1.5 sacks, one of which was one of the most beasty sacks I've seen in a while -- Woodley fought off a blocker after briefly getting his hands on Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and just forcing his way to the takedown.
Pittsburgh's still tied with the Bengals (right?), but they're both just a half-game back of the Ravens now, and in case you thought the Steelers would just limp off into the sunset, you were clearly wrong.
Worth 1,000 Words
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Matt Schaub thinking on the final play of Raiders-Texans??? Just a horrible pass.
... When Antonio Cromartie picked off Tom Brady to end the half in the Jets-Patriots tilt, it was the first red-zone interception that Tom Brady has thrown at home. Ever. In his career. Say what you want about cherry-picking stats, but that's absolutely insane.
... Comebacks continue: the Chiefs stormed back from 17 points down, making it the seventh time an NFL team has done so this season, the most in NFL history.
... Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history with more than five passing and five rushing touchdowns in the first five games of his career Sunday. Yes, they lost. Whatever.
... Speaking of that Panthers game, what it's gonna take for the NFL to let an official eject someone? Because what Roman Harper did -- needlessly cheap-shotting Steve Smith after Smith made it to the end zone Sunday -- was about as close as it came, and nearly sparked a brawl. Not to wussify the sport further but how about we make a statement before we get Auburn Palace 2.0.
Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Take a bottle,drink it down...pass it around"
This is what you want the owner of your football team saying shortly before Curtis Painter gets second career start to try and get your team the first win of the season. Obviously.
GIF O' THE WEEK
Courtesy of the fine mustachioed fellas at SB Nation, Victor Cruz' insane circus catch.
Hot Seat Tracker
Colts (-400) -- It occurred to me today ... if Andrew Luck is really patient and wants to enjoy life and learn things and go about things the smart way, wouldn't he want to end up sitting behind Peyton Manning for two or three years? He'd be like Aaron Rodgers on play-calling steroids after that time frame.
Dolphins (-250) -- Presumably, Luck is part of Ross' package to Gruden.
Rams (+150) -- One would think they'd trade the pick for a lot of wide receivers.
Jaguars (+250) -- Another team with a franchise passer, huh?
Vikings (+300) -- Boy, it's a good thing they didn't rent McNabb for just one year ...
Broncos (+400) -- But, but ... Tebow!
Cardinals (+500) -- Wouldn't this be awkward? "Hey, Andy ... Do you do refunds?"
Panthers (+750) -- Also a very serious "trade the pick" candidate.
Eagles (+1000) -- Are their odds of getting Luck better than their odds of making the Super Bowl? So. Awkward.
Last week, I pointed out that Aaron Rodgers easily eclipsed anyone else with his performance against the Broncos. (Stafford and Tom Brady got honorable mention and still do.) With stiffer competition on the road, Rodgers again stepped up in a big way. We're only five weeks into the season, so it's a touch silly to speculate on votes, but he'd win unanimously right now.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Al Davis, Alex Smith, Andy Reid, Antonio Cromartie, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Ben Roethlisberger, Buffalo Bills, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chad Clifton, Charlie Whitehurst, Christian Ponder, Curtis Painter, Denver Broncos, Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning, Frank Gore, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Hue Jackson, Indianapolis Colts, Jacoby Jones, Jeff George, Jim Caldwell, Jim Harbaugh, John Fox, Jonathan Dwyer, Juan Castillo, Kansas City Chiefs, Ken Wisenhunt, Kerry Collins, Knowshon Morenso, Kyle Orton, LaMarr Woodley, Leslie Frazier, Marv Albert, Matt Ryan, Max Starks, Michael Vick, Mike McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Pete Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles, Pierre Garcon, Pittsburgh Steelers, Reggie Wayne, Rich Gannon, Roddy White, Roman Harper, Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Sorting the Sunday Pile, Steve Smith, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Tom Coughlin, Vernon Davis, Victor Cruz, Washington Redskins, Will Brinson
Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 1:41 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
The Raiders lost the single-most important figure to their team on Saturday, when Al Davis died at the age of 82. Davis was their owner, their GM and their Director of Player Personnel. He ran the team.
We mentioned Saturday that Mark Davis, Al's son, would take over as managing partner. Charley Casserly of CBS Sports reported Sunday on The NFL Today that the Raiders actually have a full contingency plan in place to move forward after Davis' death.
"Right now the control of the team will be with his wife Carol and his son Mark," Casserly said. "Through the years he told me this is exactly what his plan was. The Raiders verified it to me yesterday. The biggest decisions you make in-season from a football point of view are roster decisions.
"I talked to the Raiders yesterday -- the mechanism is in place with the scouting department to handle that. Obviously Hue Jackson takes a bigger control and voice in those decisions."
Casserly also reported that CEO Amy Trask -- the first woman ever hired for such a position in the NFL -- will represent the team at the owners meetings on Tuesday, and that she will handle all business decisions for Oakland moving forward.
Worth noting: it's a very nice tribute to Davis' legacy that two often under-represented minorities (Jackson and Trask) will handle the majority of the day-to-day decisions for Oakland going forward.
And it's also worth noting that this contingency plan isn't that different from the Raiders previous operation; there's no new authority figures outside of Mark stepping in, and it appears as if Davis was grooming members of the organization for a seamless transition after his death.
The team will need to add a general manager, of course, and as well as someone to handle player personnel, but that will probably involve a more detailed process than simply looking for the first available name. Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network also notes that there will be plenty of speculation about additional outside ownership, the team moving to Los Angeles and stadium security.
In other words, there's only so much planning an organization can do when one man meant to much to the process of running the team.
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Posted on: October 8, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:22 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Forty-five years ago, Al Davis wanted blood. He wanted revenge. He wanted to take the NFL for all its worth and engulf it, like the NFL had done to so many other start-up leagues before. But unlike those other leagues, the American Football League -- which had been established in 1960 and which had been looked down upon by NFL owners -- was about to make a real problem.
The AFL had gone through troubles in the early part of its life. The owners had lost millions of dollars, the teams played in terribly unprofessional stadiums and the NFL looked at the AFL as short-term, inferior competition. But the AFL also was building a fan base, mostly due to its high-powered offenses that excited TV audiences -- which contrasted nicely with the NFL’s power-run game that put fans to sleep.
Al Davis started as an assistant coach with the Chargers, signing Lance Alworth and helping Sid Gillman build the most exciting offense in pro football, and then moved on to become the coach -- and eventually one of the owners -- of the Raiders.
By the mid-1960s, the AFL was becoming a real problem for the NFL. Not only was the new league’s football a more exciting brand, the AFL could offer competitive contracts to the best graduating college players. When Joe Namath left Alabama, he was courted by the AFL’s New York Jets and the NFL’s St. Louis’ Cardinals.
The Cardinals offered him $200,000 to sign. The Jets got him for $427,000. That was the power of the AFL in those days.
Which led the NFL to quickly decide to merge with the AFL -- which, by then, employed Davis as its commissioner. At that point, there was a strong belief by some AFL owners that the NFL could be beaten in a head-to-head matchup, and at least one person wanted to try to send the NFL out of business.
“We could have beaten them,” Davis said via Ken Rappoport’s 2010 book The Little League That Could. “I didn’t necessarily want a merger, but they wanted it.” In fact, the AFL owners were so confident in their place in the pecking order that, assuming they didn’t receive a legit offer from the NFL, one owner said, “If they’re lying to us, we’ll have to drop the bomb on them.”
But when the New York Giants signed away AFL kicker Pete Gogolek, who had played out his contract in Buffalo, that’s when the AFL went on the attack. Though a gentleman’s agreement between the two leagues stated that the opposing league wouldn’t sign players in Gogolek’s position, the Giants went ahead with it anyway, inkng Gogolek to a three-year deal worth $96,000.
That’s when Davis knew what he wanted. He wanted to be the one to drop the bomb on the NFL. He wanted blood.
Said Davis: “Now, we can go after their guys. We are going after the quarterbacks, after places they feel it.”
The AFL had been saving money for a scenario like, and the owners went to work going after the top NFL quarterbacks -- Roman Gabriel, Fran Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgensen. Then, a bombshell. Bud Adams in Houston signed tight end Mike Ditka, one of the biggest stars in the NFL. Ditka had never made more than $25,000 in Chicago, but Adams gave him $50,000 just to sign (the contract would have paid him $183,000 during the next three years).
While Davis wanted to go after the NFL -- or, at the very least, get the best possible deal from the opposing league in the merger -- the AFL owners met with their NFL counterparts and negotiated in secret meetings without his knowledge and then signed a deal without his input.
According to Jeff Miller in his 2003 book Going Long, Davis emerged from his commissioner’s office in New York early one afternoon, and Val Pinchbeck -- who went on to become a close advisor to NFL commissioners -- said, “Are you going to the press conference?”
Said Davis: “What press conference?”
“It seems that there’s an announcement being made by the AFL and the NFL over at the Warwick (Hotel) in a couple of hours.
Said Davis: “Do you remember Yalta?”
Later remarked AFL co-founder Lamar Hunt: “He was a general without a war. “
Davis soon recovered and went on to big success as the Raiders owner. But he had to wonder what could have happened if the AFL had put the NFL out of business, if he had dropped the bomb and taken its blood. Davis’ impact on the NFL was great, but if the AFL had survived and taken down the NFL, Davis could have been the most important figure in pro football.
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Posted on: October 8, 2011 11:31 am
Posted by Ryan Wilson
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Posted on: October 8, 2011 10:47 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:36 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Raiders owner Al Davis died on Saturday at the age of 82, the team announced on its website.
Davis was one of the most legendary NFL owners in the sport's history, winning three Super Bowls and five AFC Championships during his more than 40 years as part or principle owner of the Raiders franchise.
Known for his signature phrase -- "Just win, baby!" -- Davis helped user in a new era of NFL football and, as CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote, helped make the league great.
"Al Davis's passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He defined the Raiders and contributed to pro football at every level. The respect he commanded was evident in the way that people listened carefully every time he spoke.
"He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will forever be part of the NFL."
Born in Brockton, Mass. on July 4, 1929, Davis later graduated from Syracuse University and joined the Baltimore Colts as an assistant coach at the age of 24.
Davis joined the Raiders in 1963 as head coach and general manager, and he never left, save for a brief stint as AFL Commissioner in 1966. He coached the Raiders to a 26-13-3 record. Following his stint as coach, Davis purchased part of the franchise.
In 1976, Davis took over as managing partner of the Raiders, a position he wouldn't leave until his death on Saturday.
"The Oakland Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of Al Davis. Al Davis was unique – a maverick, a giant among Giants, a true legend among legends, the brightest star among stars, a hero, a mentor, a friend," the team said in a statement. "Al Davis was the only person in professional football history to have been a scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner and owner. He was an innovator, a pioneer with a deep love and passion for the game of football. His contributions to the game are innumerable and his legacy will endure forever through generations of players, coaches, administrators and fans.
"Al Davis was a champion of diversity who maintained the courage of his convictions. His passion for the game we all love is best exemplified by his famous phrase, 'COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE.' The fire that burns brightest in the Raider organization, 'THE WILL TO WIN,' will continue to blaze through the legacy of the great Al Davis."His son, Mark, will take over as managing partner in his stead.
Davis moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982, and back to Oakland in 1995, the first time ripping out Raiders' fans hearts through a protracted legal battle, and the second time further endearing himself to the Silver and Black family.
The Raiders currently have no General Manager, nor a Player-Personnel Director -- Davis served in both capacities until his death Saturday. The notion that one man could run an NFL team and serve in those roles into his 80's is lost in today's NFL, but precisely why he's considered such a "pioneer."
"Al Davis was one of the most innovative and dynamic pioneers in the history of the National Football League," Saints owner Tom Benson said Saturday. "He was passionate about his team and about the game of professional football and he personified the legacy of the Raiders. We share with his family and friends our heartfelt sympathy on the news of his passing."
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver offered a similar sentiment, calling Davis "a pioneer who made tremendous contributions to the league."
"Al Davis was a wild card maverick,the NFL Brando!" Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted on Saturday.
Indeed he was -- Davis dressed and acted in a way that separated him from most "normal" NFL owners. His signature white-and-black jumpsuit with a Raiders logo is what he wears when most people conjure up an image of the fiery Raiders owner. And his slicked-back hair, an homage to a style that was popular many decades ago, never changed.
Perhaps most importantly, Davis hired the first African-American head coach in NFL history (Art Shell), the first Latino head coach in NFL history (Tom Flores) and the first female CEO in NFL history (Amy Trask).
And though Davis began to struggle with his health, he rarely missed a game (including Week 4 of the 2011 NFL season, six days before his death), even if it meant using a walker to travel to the stadium.
"Disease is the one thing - boy I tell you, it's tough to lick," he said in 2008, talking about the leg ailments that had restricted him to using a walker. "It's tough to lick those diseases. I don't know why they can't."
Davis inducted a record nine people into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and was himself inducted on August 1, 1992.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: August 27, 2011 12:07 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2011 12:07 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Rookie quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Terrelle Pryor are not so dissimilar. Both were third round draft picks -- Mallett last April and Pryor in the supplemental draft -- and both come to the NFL with character marks that have been branded on them by a lack of discipline.
Yahoo Sports’ Jason Cole compares the two and tries to explain why they will or will not succeed with the team that drafted them.
And while we’ve already discussed how these two players will affect their teams as rookies, Cole presents some interesting theories.
Yeah, it doesn’t take a soothsayer to predict that Pryor might be in trouble now that the Raiders have their paws on him, but Cole writes that Pryor’s biggest career problem is that nobody has had the audacity to tell him no. Not in high school and not former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
While Raiders coach Hue Jackson will try to make his mark on Pryor, it’s also documented that Oakland owner Al Davis doesn’t exactly back up his coaches when it comes to disciplining his players. Writes Cole: “Davis picked [JaMarcus] Russell, seeing him as the second-coming of [Jim] Plunkett from an athletic perspective. Davis then let Russell run wild over coaches Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable. Those coaches tried to discipline Russell from time to time, but Davis either waived the fines or didn’t do anything until it was way too late.”
And we all know where Russell is these days (well, actually we don’t, which is kind of the point).
Patriots coach Bill Belichick doesn’t have a problem letting his players know the way he wants things done, which means Mallett will have to adjust. And Cole has another interesting tidbit about all the partying Mallett is alleged to have done before training camp began. Writes Cole: “Aside from the sordid tales of him from college, the latest story about him was the all-night partying he did at the NFL Players Association rookie symposium in Sarasota, Fla., in July, according to two sources.”
Which probably isn’t a good idea, especially if the biggest predraft concern by teams -- and probably the reason he slipped to the third round -- was because of his off-the-field behaviors.
You can’t be stupid and play quarterback in the NFL, and right now, the jury is still out on how much sense Mallett has in his brain.
So, aside from what round they were drafted and the concerns about their character, you have to wonder how we’ll be discussing Pryor and Mallett five years from now. Obviously, there’s now way to tell, but if we’re discussing which of the quarterbacks has a better chance to succeed on where he was drafted, you’d have to give the nod to Mallett at this point.
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