Only factor forcing Mark Davis out of Oakland is his own desires

Only factor forcing Mark Davis out of Oakland is his own desires

So now that Mark Davis will formally apply to move the Raiders twice in two years, the second time with the news coming this morning under cover of hangover, maybe this was to convince the last few stragglers that Davis really wants to keep the team in Oakland.
This is not to say that if he actually gets approval to move his team to Las Vegas that he’s the only one you may be want to be angry at. Hell, be angry at whomever you want. We are an angry country right now, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get your piece of the bilious action.
But do not be fooled into thinking that Davis is being forced to leave by mean old Libby Schaaf and the Oakland political structure, or action malaprop Roger Goodell, who is already being blamed enough by his employers for turning Southern California into a hot mess with a side of tubercular phlegm, or Jed York, who benefits from the Raiders’ departure but otherwise is up to eyelids in his own problems, or that amorphous blob of media whose typing and speaking is singlehandedly responsible for all evil in the world, including this.
Mark Davis has craved escape from Oakland for years – some people within the NFL diaspora even suspect that he has wanted to go back to Los Angeles since the team left Los Angeles to go back to Oakland. The stadium debate, the lack of fear among the political class when confronted by moving threats, the lack of glamor, the absence of celebrities among which to frolic . . . it all allegedly added up to dissatisfaction

That has led not just to his totally expected filing but his eagerness to join Dean Spanos in the ill-fated Carson venture that ended a year ago but had already been more than a year in the forging.
The only real difference this time is that he has what most people think is an excellent chance to pull it off – as opposed to last time, when he was regarded as a hopeless and helpless tool of forces beyond his control.
The nettlesome piece of Sands Casino owner/stadium investor/putative-partner-bait Sheldon Adelson has not yet been solved, but Davis’ minions claim he can do the Vegas stadium deal (listed at $1.9 billion, though many people think it is considerably less) with or without Adelson. It is not yet clear what Adelson could do if he is cut out of the deal, since he has unimaginable throw-weight in town, but for the moment he is not a declared obstacle.
The next matter, the local political structure’s steadfast refusal to knuckle under to the NFL’s standard extortions, is a huge prod for his departure. The city didn’t really bother to do anything as regards the Coliseum, and when it belatedly and quarter-heartedly offered the Fortress Group as its agent for stadium construction, the league dismissed it out of hand because – well, because it wasn’t theirs, either by deed or by wink-and-nod.
This tends to fly in the face of the last-ditch Oakland-only supporters theory that Davis’ fellow owners are just setting him up for another massive humiliation. That possibility cannot yet be ascertained, and nobody has even lost money wagering on the NFL owners’ collective mendacity, but there is a sense among NFL observers (who in fairness also thought the Carson deal would happen) that Davis was told to cut his own deal, has cut his own deal, and should not now be punished for having done so.
But that’s still for the owners meetings March 26-29 in Phoenix. What we know is simply that Mark Davis has wanted to leave Oakland for at least two years and quite likely more, and he will now make it official a second time.
So if he ever dares to say he wanted to keep the team in Oakland but just couldn’t, you may rest assured that if he ever felt that way, it is now ancient history.

Four Raiders players to watch Week 11 matchup vs. Cardinals

Four Raiders players to watch Week 11 matchup vs. Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- We’ve hit that point in this season where fans start to question the merits of a win over a loss.

The No. 1 overall draft pick is in play for the 1-8 Raiders. In fact, they’re in pole position to get it, with the two-win New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers just behind. A winning streak would hurt Oakland's draft position, something the players don’t care one bit about right now.

The Raiders still are striving to win games, and that’s a goal realistically reached Sunday against the Cardinals. Arizona has struggled mightily this season, on offense in particular, with both of its wins coming against a down-on-their-luck 49ers squad.

The Raiders must score against a savvy Cardinals defense that possesses an excellent pass rush, and they also must rattle rookie quarterback Josh Rosen enough to negate gains from running back extraordinaire David Johnson.

Here are four Raiders who can help achieve those ends Sunday in Arizona.

WR Seth Roberts

The Raiders are down several receivers. Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks back. Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson now are down with knee injuries. Jared Cook will be the primary target, but Roberts must be a reliable secondary both outside and from the slot.

Roberts has a penchant for dramatic catches and scoring plays, though opportunities have been rare this season while he was mired further down on the depth chart. He’s back in the starting lineup Sunday, and must find ways to make big plays and take pressure off Cook. He’s also a stout run blocker, and could help free Doug Martin and Jalen Richard once those rushers reach the second level.

MLB Jason Cabinda

The Raiders made a position switch last week, moving Marquel Lee to strongside linebacker from the middle. That served two masters: 1. It helped strengthen the SAM spot, and 2. It gave Cabinda more opportunities from his natural position.

The undrafted rookie made his first NFL start and platooned with Nicholas Morrow in the middle. Cabinda has drawn praise all week, and coaches believe he can be a regular contributor from the middle linebacker spot.

“Cabinda, you’ve got that Penn State Linebacker U tradition all over him,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got that stuff. We need that at middle linebacker. Haven’t had a middle linebacker in terms of stability here for awhile, maybe since Greg Biekert (from 1993-2001). I don’t know when the last time was that we had a linebacker that played in the middle for two, three, four years in a row.

"He’s got those leadership traits. He’s a great communicator. Passionate about the game. He’s improving.”

Safety Karl Joseph

The team’s 2016 first-round pick either was hurt or buried on the depth chart for most of the season, but he played far more against the Chargers than any other game. He spent 27 of his 48 defensive snaps inside the box, where he can be most effective against the run. He had five total tackles, with three close enough to the line of scrimmage to constitute an offensive failure, according to Pro Football Focus metrics.

“He did a good job in there,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He had some nice hits, some good blitz pass. Did a good job in coverage for the most part. He’s a guy who will continue to progress, and I think he’s coming along right where we want him.”

Raiders safety play has been lackluster at best, and Joseph was effective at times and certainly worth a longer look as coaches evaluate young players. He could help slow Johnson some as an extra run defender, or assist in middle-of-the-field pass coverage. His size (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) is of concern against bigger receivers, but his main focus is on being more consistent. He’ll have to be against the Cardinals' attack. The Raiders simply need better from the safety spot.

LT Kolton Miller

This year's first-round pick was a full participant in practice this week for the first time in some time, meaning his ailing knee is starting to improve. That will be important in what might be his toughest challenge yet.

Miller will go up against Arizona edge rusher Chandler Jones, who already has 8.5 sacks and can be dominant rushing the passer. Miller has been solid when healthy and has struggled some while battling injury. He is working through those rigors while trying to maintain solid form.

"There’s a difference between pain and injury. I think he’s realizing that,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He has done a nice job in that regard. He has played with nicks throughout the season, his elbow, his knee, a number of different things that he’s experienced since he’s been here, knowing that he still has half a season left. He’s getting a real taste of what the NFL is like and the pain you have to play with.”

He’ll have a tough battle with Jones, though he’ll get some help from tight ends, running backs and left guard Kelechi Osemele. Miller must win regularly to keep Derek Carr upright and the Raiders' offense moving.


How 1968 Raiders-Jets ‘Heidi Game’ still resonates 50 years later


How 1968 Raiders-Jets ‘Heidi Game’ still resonates 50 years later

The Raiders and the New York Jets occupy opposite coasts, but they used to hate each other just the same.

Geography didn’t foster this rivalry in the 1960s AFL. Nasty, dramatic, entertaining affairs characterized the teams' regular meetings, often twice per year with plenty at stake.

Their first clash of the 1968 season might have been the best. Star-studded teams exchanged blows most of the day, before the Raiders did something spectacular. The Silver and Black scored two touchdowns just nine seconds apart in the game’s final minute to complete an epic comeback and secure a 43-32 Oakland victory.

Not that many saw the final stretch.

A Jets field goal tied the score at 29 with 65 seconds left. NBC aired the ensuing kickoff, went to commercial and never came back to Oakland Coliseum.

Instead, the made-for-TV children’s movie “Heidi” started in the Eastern and Central time zones, exactly as slotted at 7 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. CT. Millions of viewers saw a little girl and her grumpy grandfather living in the Swiss Alps over one of the greatest endings in AFL history.

"The Heidi Game" was played 50 years ago Saturday, and it still stands as a reminder to never, ever leave an NFL game early. Broadcast networks took it to heart, and haven’t done so since. It also showed the AFL’s growing power in pro sports, thanks to an ability to play fun, entertaining football.

NBC pre-empting the end of a huge sporting event will live in infamy, mostly because of that awesome, unaired finish.

[MORE RAIDERS: Derek Carr appreciates Mark Davis' vote of confidence]

“It was amazing,” legendary Raiders defensive back George Atkinson said. “It has been 50 years, and is still considered one of the great games of all time. Playing in it, I can agree with that. It was as exciting as anything. For it to stay in people’s minds this long, it must have been one of the best ever.”

That Raiders comeback was the stuff of legend, sparked by Daryle Lamonica’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Smith with 42 seconds left. Then the Jets fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, and Preston Ridlehuber scooped up the loose ball and returned it 2 yards for an Oakland touchdown that iced this classic.

There were eight lead changes or ties in a game featuring 10 Hall of Fame players in a heated rivalry involved big-market teams on both coasts, the reigning AFL champion Raiders and a captivating New York Jets team led by superstar quarterback Joe Namath.

That’s why people were so pissed when "Heidi" overtook the airwaves. Out East, anyway.

Nothing changed in Raiders country. Don’t forget there was a local TV in the Bay Area -- even in a sellout, by antiquated rule -- and the rest of the West Coast got to see the game's finish, with “Heidi” set to start at 7 p.m. Pacific.

New Yorkers, however, were up in arms. They started calling NBC in droves, demanding the game be put back on their TVs.

The network wanted the same thing. While the pregame plan was to air Heidi at exactly 7 p.m. ET regardless of game status, NBC higher-ups changed that thinking as the game neared its dramatic conclusion.

They wanted the game left on.

[MORE RAIDERS: Why rookie CB Nick Nelson could have a bright future]

Packed switchboards prevented NBC executives from quickly communicating, with top brass unable to pass along new marching orders. That’s why, at 7 p.m. ET that fateful day, Dick Cline cut the game feed from Oakland.

“I’m sitting in a little control room in Manhattan and everything was swirling around me, but my phones weren’t ringing,” Cline said. “I didn’t know why at the time, and it was astonishing how much publicity it got.”

Cline, then NBC’s broadcast operational supervisor for sporting events, describes the situation as a perfect storm. “Heidi” was heavily promoted, with Timex a sole sponsor that owned the entire two-hour block of family programming. A football game intriguing to both coasts went far longer than normal thanks to 31 incomplete passes, 19 penalties and a few injured players. And it was high scoring and extremely close, leaving NBC execs pondering a new course of action with a scheduling conflict looming.

NBC switchboards flooded with folks wondering when “Heidi” would start and others demanding the game stay on hindered communication, creating a blameless situation the network instantly regretted. NBC issued an apology later that night, and parodied the gaffe in future AFL promotions, but it couldn’t go back and make it right.

“You can appreciate the fact that there were no satellites, no cell phones, both of which would’ve solved any problems we had,” Cline said. “The plan, based on our meetings earlier in the week, were to go to “Heidi” at 7 o’clock.”

The event was a big deal in the Big Apple.

“Without question, it made a difference that it was the Jets and Oakland,” Cline said. “There were a lot of things in play there. … The Jets were a big part of it, because the New York newspapers and TV stations went nuts.”

That also showed the growing interest in professional football and the dynamic draw of the AFL’s new-school style.

“It showed we had a huge fan following,” Atkinson said. “The AFL was still fairly young at the time, but the fan base developed quickly. As that game displayed, there were a number of people really upset about turning that (game) off.

“It came from the fact that we played an exciting brand of football that was different from the old NFL. It was all about speed. We played man coverage, and there were a lot of deep plays stretching the field. There was a lot of excitement and a little bit different than the old conventional style of football.”