Raiders

SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator

684394.jpg

SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator

It's Tuesday morning at the San Jose SaberCats complex in Sunnyvale and the team's offensive players are gathered in a group meeting listening to their offensive coordinator break down the week's game plan. Only this isn't just any offensive coordinator, it's also the team's quarterback ... Arena Football legend Mark Grieb.

And when Grieb talks, his teammates listen.

But what's most striking about the way he commands the room isn't the reverence with which he's received, it's the ease with which he's handling the role. For the first time in his pro football career, Grieb is his own offensive coordinator.

Everyone realizes this means Grieb is calling his own plays in games but few people think about him also having to teach those plays to his team, practice them on the field and discuss how they'll be implemented with his team during the week.

From the outside looking in, he appears to be handling the role with relative ease. This should hardly be surprising considering his pedigree both on and off the field.

As a player, Grieb has more than stood the test of time. When he first arrived on the Bay Area sports scene in 1999 Steve Young was still the 49ers QB, Barry Bonds had yet to join the 500 Home Run Club and Antawn Jamison was just wrapping up his rookie season as a Warrior. All those players are long, long gone but Grieb is still going strong.

But it's Grieb's off the field growth that might be serving him most in his newly adapted role as both QB and OC. During the SaberCats two-year hiatus from existence Grieb earned his teaching credential and went back to school. He spent his two years away from football teaching high school biology in Southern California.

And in watching Grieb lead his teammates in an offensive meeting, printed out diagrams and notes in hand, it's obvious his time in front of the high-schoolers has him well suited to taking on this new task. He has clearly evolved into a coach in every sense of the word, knowing exactly what he wants out of his players, how to convey that so they understand and most importantly, how to get them to believe in his teachings.

Grieb's prowess in the job is so impressive it actually presents minor obstacles. Take last week's win in Spokane for instance.

With the SaberCats up 35 points late in the 4th quarter it was obvious Grieb's services as a QB were no longer needed. It was a perfect time to put in rookie backup Danny Southwick. Only one problem. If Grieb left the game so too did the team's OC.

Clearly Southwick couldn't call the plays. If Grieb were pulled the situation would get sticky. Grieb would have to relay the plays to Head coach Darren Arbet through a headset and Arbet would then have to relay them to Southwick -- not very efficient.

So the 'Cats left Grieb in the game... until he sustained a minor injury on his final series, that is. After that the "telephone" game was on.

(For the record the Grieb-Arbet-Southwick relay team engineered a touchdown drive to close out the scoring for the SaberCats).

There are whispers Grieb's playing days could be drawing to a close but for now those are just whispers. Whenever Grieb does hang up the shoulder pads a move to a fulltime OC and eventually fulltime head coach is all but a certainty.

For his part, the soon-to-be 38-year-old refuses to say just how long he'll continue this dual role with the 'Cats and there's little reason to really think about stopping. Through three games this season he's in the top 3 in most of the AFL's passing stat categories and the offense is averaging the second most points in the league.

More importantly, the SaberCats are just a single point away from being unbeaten in 2012 and Grieb is clearly still having a blast. His team is one of the favorites to win the title this summer and if that happens there's little doubt Grieb will be feeling the itch to defend his title much more than walk away on top.

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

pagano-raiders.jpg
USATSI

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.”

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

jordan-bell-ap.jpg
AP

Jordan Bell: Rookie year with Warriors 'like being a freshman all over again'

Warriors rookie Jordan Bell made an instant impact for the team this season. But as of late, his playing time has dwindled. In four of the Warriors' last five games, Bell has been inactive. 

“It's just the life of a rookie,” Bell said to The Athletic. “That's what Steve Kerr always tells me. It's not because I'm playing bad. Just gotta be professional about it and stay ready. It's like being a freshman all over again.”

While Bell wants to be on the court with his teammates, what he appreciates most from Steve Kerr is his communication. Kerr is always honest about when he won't play Bell and he keeps the former Oregon Duck encouraged. 

“He talks to me about it every time he sees me,” Bell said. “Lets me know I'm not going to be active. Keep doing what you're doing, you're doing good. But it still f------ sucks. You're playing well and it doesn't mean anything because you're younger. It sucks, but you got to be professional about it.”

Bell has played in 12 of the Warriors' 18 games this season. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game over 8.3 minutes per game. 

The Warriors bought the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft from the Chicago Bulls and selected Bell. On Friday night, the Warriors, and perhaps Bell, play the Bulls for the first time this season.