Evidence suggests Marshawn Lynch is not bad for the Raiders

Evidence suggests Marshawn Lynch is not bad for the Raiders

God love Marshawn Lynch, for all he is, and all he isn’t.

All he is, is an Oakland icon. Not a Raider icon, or a Cal icon, or a Seahawks icon. An Oakland icon, because he did the most Oaklandish things Thursday night, and became a national debate point on Friday – while seemingly giving nary a toss about either.

He ran onto the field from the sideline to intervene in a potential fight in the Chiefs-Raiders piefight at the Coliseum. He grabbed an official and got ejected. He left the locker room, presumably to go home while the game was still going on, only to turn up in the stands to watch the end, go back to the locker room to celebrate with his teammates, and then BART home with Kansas City’s Marcus Peters, one of Lynch’s truest homies, who instigated the near to-do by hitting Oakland quarterback Derek Carr late.

Any of these things would have made Football America turn purple. All of them became a period piece, and the next debating bone upon which Football America will chew.

Namely, whether Lynch is a problem for the team that sought him out. They look to Jack Del Rio to teach the man some decorum esprit de corps, or fly in the face of owner Mark Davis and show him the door.

Likely, neither will happen. Del Rio may grind his teeth about Lynch, and he occasionally does, but there is no evidence other than the bleating of the drool-based punditocracy, that Lynch impedes progress. He has been singled out as a reason the Raider offense hasn’t functioned very well this year, and their late burst Thursday night will fuel that correlation-causation fire.

But the offense has sputtered on its own, and in varied ways. It has been conservative, predictable and even timid, and that is not Lynch’s doing. Playmaker (or playbreaker) Amari Cooper was targeted 18 times in the first two games, 21 times in weeks 3 through 6, and 19 times Thursday night, as the Raiders tried to decide whether he was sufficiently trustworthy.

Frankly, the oh-the-hell-with-it ethos that made them such a tough out last year had disappeared, and that isn’t a Lynch construct either.

But Thursday night, they reverted to their 2016 ways. Del Rio, Carr and offensive coordinator Todd Downing decided they had no choice but to take Cooper as he is, and made him the focus in 25 percent of their plays and more than a third of their passes.

But that’s the football stuff. The debate turns are going to be about Lynch, and whether he is bad for the proper working order of the Raiders. The evidence suggests that he isn’t, and that he isn’t really what will define this team anyway.

What will define it, it seems increasingly clear, is how willing it is to do what feels good rather than what is metrically approved. The Raiders cast themselves last year as a 53-man attitude, and showed Thursday night that the attitude plan still works, hand in glove with precision and work habits and all the other ethics that induce people to play a madman’s game.

How much you choose to credit (or blame) Marshawn Lynch for that attitude is up to you. But if it helps, he won’t be listening. Unless maybe you bump into him on BART.

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

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USATSI

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
 
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.

You philistines.

And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
 
Bizarre.
 
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
 
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
 
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
 
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
 
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
 
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
 
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
 
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
 
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
 
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Panic at your own peril over Warriors' opening-night loss to Rockets

Well, there’s a nice stomp on the ring finger.

The Golden State Warriors, Team Invulnerable, are already last in the Western Conference after a 122-121 loss to the Houston Rockets, and with only 98 percent of the season left . . .

Oh, who’s kidding whom? It’s an opening night, and opening nights are often liars.

But it was a more comforting lie for the Rockets, who spent most of the night chasing Warriors leads and didn’t actually catch one until P.J. Tucker’s two free throws with 44 seconds to play survived a post-buzzer jumper by Kevin Durant. The Rockets walked off the court when referee Scott Foster properly waved off the Durant basket, and new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta jumped about the floor like he’d just finished a fire ant-encrusted brisket.

And for a team that still has much to iron out with Chris Paul and James Harden, those free throws gave the Rockets a sense that they can run with the king – and therefore would make a fine prince regent.

True, it would be better to be the king, but nobody will take this game and declare the Warriors no longer prohibitive favorites. True, they needed an effervescent shooting night from new item on the menu Nick Young to just be close as it turned out, but one game is exactly one game and no more.

In other words, panic at your own peril.

Golden State’s defense was spotty throughout (Draymond Green got a half a coach’s per diem for his work with rookie Jordan Bell alone), and the rotations in particular were often sluggish by their standards. Giving up 34 points in the fourth quarter in a non-garbage-time situation will be a topic of discussion Wednesday, to be sure.

They were also cavalier with possessions (Kevin Durant had eight of the team’s 17 turnovers alone), and in many respects looked first-game disjointed.

Steve Kerr worked hard not to blame the ring ceremony and not because of the ravages of the China trip, or the lack of normal rest between seasons or any of the rest of it. But it is the price to be paid by the endlessly desirable – if there is money to be squeezed from this particular ATM, it will be, and those are just the conditions that prevail.

Besides, if the team’s conditioning is an issue, it should not be one by November 1. And if it is, then there are much larger concerns than getting winded. The first of those might be Green’s sore left knee, which will be examined on Wednesday but is not expected to reveal anything significant.

Then again, the Rockets did not look any sharper or different, and they skipped getting rings or Asia. They remained very Harden-centric, and Paul’s debut was hampered by a very balky left knee that reduced him in most practical ways to an adjunct to the typical Harden show.

But they were also a tough out, as they normally are. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said two days ago that his team wouldn’t stop the Warriors and that the Warriors wouldn’t stop him, and he was right both times. We said opening nights are liars, but that doesn’t mean people talking about opening nights necessarily are.

If you want the shiny bauble in the fish-shaped Jell-O mold, it is that the Warriors were light years worse in their last opener against San Antonio, when they lost, 129-100, and deserved to be beaten by more.

In addition, nothing they did or didn’t do is a difficult repair, and they don’t want to do anything at all to Young, who was easily the showiest of show-stoppers on a night that peaked very early and ended with a buzzer-beating.

One which Kerr said they richly deserved. So there’s that – with only 81 more games to fix the Western Conference’s worst team for one night.