Raiders

Raiders fans got remarkably little bang for their bucks, or for their hearts

Raiders fans got remarkably little bang for their bucks, or for their hearts

The original Oakland Raiders, the ones who colonized the city for professional sports in 1960, lasted 7,964 days, and died at the hands of a jury in a Los Angeles courtroom.

The re-relocated Oakland Raiders, who fled L.A. and rebooted here in 1995, lasted 7,948 days, and died at the hands of the 32 National Football League owners in a Phoenix boardroom.

There, the similarities end, but not the feelings.

The 32 franchise owners voted Monday at the league meetings in the Arizona Biltmore to give Mark Davis the same thing his father Al fought for 35 years ago – the right to leave. The first time, Al left without the owners’ support; this time, Mark did it eagerly courting the owners’ support, and in a few cases, overt aid.

But whether this move will take any better than the others remains a point only time can reveal. After all, when you chase money, sometimes the money decides not to get caught.

And that ultimately is what dictated this vote, and this move. Mark Davis decided at least three years ago, and perhaps longer, that the team left to him by his parents and future did not lie in Oakland, and worked aggressively if not always efficiently to find a new business home.

Like his father, though, leaving was time-consuming, expensive and came with a great deal of friction. He talked to San Antonio only to find out that Jerry Jones and Bob McNair would never allow him to move his team into their state. He tried to move to Los Angeles in tandem with San Diego’s Dean Spanos and marched cheerily to the altar only to find out at the last minute that it would end as a red wedding.

And even this time, he repeatedly false-started his way through a year of deals and abortive deals before finally convincing his wealthier and haughtier brethren that the new money of Las Vegas was a better bet than the tradition and size of Oakland.

As regards that supposition, only time and short-term greed vs. long-term growth will tell. The league hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory with the multiple ways it screwed up the Los Angeles and San Diego markets, after all, and Davis as the league’s cash-poorest owner is always vulnerable to market forces and bullying partners.

But the possibility that this move might turn out to be an ill-fated choice does nothing to assuage a second generation of jilted Raider fans. Those fans were badly served through most of Oakland Raiders 2.0, deserved better, and ended up with a bittersweet experience, heavy on the bitter. In total:

- There was the gall of watching the third-worst record in football in those 22 years (Detroit and Cleveland), the league high total of 12 non-interim head coaches and the added irritation of watching the team opt to leave just as it was freshly positioned for an extended run of success.

- There was the financial and architectural sinkhole of Mount Davis, which added seats and as-yet-unpaid debt while removing ambience from an old stadium living off the memories of the best Raider teams.

- There was the organizational paralysis of the later Al years and the aggressive wanderlust of the Mark years, leaving the fans to wonder what stable ownership might have offered.

In short, the new generation of Raider fans got remarkably little bang for their bucks, or for their hearts, and still got the same cruel reward their parents did.

Still, the Raiders were theirs, for good or ill, even if the last few years they only kept their team through the fecklessness of their owner. Now that the team is leaving again, these fans have only the commiserations their parents and older relatives who went through it once before, and learned in the most painful way of all that cities and fans don’t own teams – billionaires do, and billionaires are only citizens of the empire of money. Fans and cities and traditions and allegiances are merely wallets toward an end.

But one never knows what the future will bring. They might come back in 2030 and give it another 8,000-day try for the children of the brokenhearted. It would be a particularly perverse thing for the Raiders to do, but there is nothing in their history that suggests they mind treating their fan bases perversely.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

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How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”