Raiders

John Madden gives advice to Cliff Branch on Hall of Fame quest

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AP

John Madden gives advice to Cliff Branch on Hall of Fame quest

Cliff Branch believes he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though it’s up to the senior committee now. The Raiders agree, and have pushed hard to get their legendary receiver a gold jacket.

That body nominated Houston Oilers linebacker Robert Brazile and Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Jerry Kramer instead. Those guys most always get inducted.

Branch fell just short of a long-sought nomination, but wasn’t frustrated one bit. He received a ton of votes. Coming so close encouraged Branch, who was flattered by a lavish Raiders campaign  (#CliffToCanton) promoting him with stats and testimonials from contemporaries and others already in the Hall of Fame.

His case is strong, one you can read about here. In short, Branch was one of the best receivers of his era, with numbers better than other receivers with a fitted gold jacket.

“It’s going to happen,” Branch said on the Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was really close this year in the senior committee. When (former Raiders offensive lineman) Art Shell went in to represent me, it came down to (Brazile, Kramer) and myself. It was a three-way tie, but the committee chose those guys over me. I’m real close. I’m looking at 2019 like it could me my year.”

Branch remains confident, even after being overlooked so many times as a modern-era candidate. He’s holding strong based on advice John Madden, his first NFL head coach, gave him during the long wait.

“Coach Madden told me that it’s going to happen. He said to stay patient and stay alive,” said Branch, who, it should be noted, is in terrific health. “He said, ‘When it does come, and they call your name for the Hall of Fame, make sure you’re there to reap all the benefits.’ I told him, ‘I am not dying until I get in the Hall of Fame.’ Once I get the call, get that gold jacket and that ring, I could die the next day. But I’m going to stay alive for that deserving honor to come my way.”

As career winds down, Donald Penn is becoming impatient

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AP

As career winds down, Donald Penn is becoming impatient

ALAMEDA – Donald Penn plans to play two more years after this one. That’s it.

The Raiders left tackle plans to play out a contract extended this fall, which would complete 14 NFL seasons.

Penn wants to make the most of the time he has left. This season hasn’t been good use of an opportunity. The Raiders are on life support following Sunday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Raiders entered Kansas City with a chance to control their own destiny, a shocking and possibly undeserved turn following the Chiefs' midseason collapse. They went from 2-4 to sitting atop the division with four games to play. They had a chance to erase a disappointing start, and ultimately coughed it up. They did that last year, too, and had to settle for a wild card spot.

“One of these days we’re going to stop giving it away. We we’re going to take it,” Penn said Tuesday. “Maybe I, being a veteran, need to do a better job of leading these guys and reminding them that chances are rare. I’m only playing two years after this, so my opportunities are getting shorter and shorter. I want to play in and win a Super Bowl before I’m done. My sense of urgency is at an all-time high right now.”

Salvaging this season might be tough, and players know it. They were just as frustrated as head coach Jack Del Rio was talking to the press a day before. This Chiefs loss stung. They were given a golden opportunity and squandered it. 

The Raiders need to win out and get tons of help to reach the postseason. They can’t get eliminated this week, but an eighth loss Sunday to Dallas would be a virtual death sentence.

“If we don’t beat Dallas, there won’t be a playoff scenario,” Penn said. “All I can focus on is our next game. We have to get that going and do something positive. It has been a frustrating season.”

A victory over K.C. would’ve been huge, but the Raiders never showed up in a terrible offensive effort. The Raiders had three or fewer plays on six of their first eight drives, and were shutout into the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t make plays when we had the chance. Kansas City did,” Penn said. “They made all the plays at the right time they needed to. They made the plays we didn’t make early in the game. We were still fighting. We didn’t make progress with the chances we had.

“We had opportunities but didn’t capture them. It festered all through the game. We did the same thing last year. We went to Kansas City last year with a chance to control our own destiny and gave it away.”

Del Rio 'frustrated and pissed off' after Raiders waste golden opportunity

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USATSI

Del Rio 'frustrated and pissed off' after Raiders waste golden opportunity

ALAMEDA – Head coach Jack Del Rio started his Monday press conference with a message for Raider Nation.

He didn’t wait for a question or a prompt. Del Rio just went for it, and set the tone for a new reality. Going to the playoffs is a considerable long shot after Sunday’s 26-15 loss in Kansas City. Not an impossibility, but it’s close.

Del Rio wanted everyone to know that’s unacceptable, and he isn’t happy about it.

“As players and coaches, we are as frustrated and pissed off about what occurred yesterday as anybody out there,” Del Rio said. “Losing a game like that hurts, and there are no words I can say here today that will take away that pain or make people who care about the Raiders feel better. I’m really not going to try.”

Fans should be upset when a team with offensive firepower to spare can’t score consistently. Fans should be upset when drafted players weren’t developed, and major defensive flaws weren’t addressed in the offseason.

This year’s Raiders are a woefully disappointing 6-7, nowhere near the lofty internal expectations held to start this season. It feels like a waste now, with so much talent producing so little. People will point fingers. Someone will ultimately be held accountable and several will end up unemployed, players and coaches alike.

That’s what happens when you fall short. Ownership isn’t happy. Nobody is.

Looking back, Del Rio wishes his team would’ve played with abandon, with some risk in their play. The Raiders haven’t done that much this year, tiptoeing through quality competition with lackluster results.

“I think that there have been many examples throughout this season where we have not played boldly to go make the plays,” Del Rio said. “I would really like to see that because, at the end of the day, if you kind of go half-way, it’s not good enough anyway. I’d love to see us just let it rip. And go play. We’ve talked about playing with our hair on fire, talked about that kind of effort and energy and playing fast. That’s what I believe in, and I’d love to see it more often.”

The Silver and Black played like that back in Week 7, in a game against Kansas City. It was the only time these Raiders channeled last year’s group, which got by with a little hocus pocus and quality performance under pressure. It felt like a turning point then. The past few weeks proved it was not.

The Raiders could still make the playoffs. Getting there was simple math heading into Sunday’s game. Now calculus is required.

What comes next? The Raiders have to win out and pray for rain, hoping it’s good enough to sneak into the postseason through the back door. Different is necessary to do that. They simply haven’t been good enough or consistent enough to believe that’s possible.

“We have to coach it better. We have to execute it better, as players and coaches,” Del Rio said. “Head coach and quarterback get a win-loss record off of their performance in these game. We’ve won a bunch of games over the last three years, and we’re going to continue to win a bunch of games. Yesterday was a disappointment. We can’t go back and do anything about that. I tell guys all the time that you get what you earn in this league. What we’ve earned is 6-7. What we have in front of us are three games and what we’ve got to do is play good football and win the next one and see where that takes us.”