Ray Ratto

Raiders botch first impression in Jon Gruden's NFL return vs. Rams

Raiders botch first impression in Jon Gruden's NFL return vs. Rams

OAKLAND -- There is actually no Raider Nation, and really hasn’t been since the team left Oakland the first time. It has more resembled a confederation of smaller states bound together by the symbols and the occasional successes, but still clinging to their own separate versions of what Raiderhood in the 21st Century actually means. They unite around the idea of the team and results when warranted, but have any number of separate motivations and philosophies. Raider Nation, essentially, is the Balkans.
 
Thus, while the 33-13 loss to the patently superior Los Angeles Rams in the home opener clearly devastated the audience, they all found different reasons to be dismayed, and different views on just how much worse this team will be than the one that got Jack Del Rio fired in January.
 
Put another way, they didn’t even bother to boo Ram cornerback Marcus Peters when he paid his groinal homage to Marshawn Lynch on the pick-six that finished the scoring. Raider fans of old would have never tolerated that, even from one of their own, whom Peters is. The Oakland lifers understood – that’s what Oakland does.
 
But everyone else – the ones who stayed – they were just too beaten to boo.
 
They entered the building with some trepidation; the sting of the Khalil Mack trade was still fresh and made fresher by the havoc he rained upon the Green Bay Packers Sunday night. The Rams were one of the game’s realest deals. 
 
But the fans believed, as they always have. They roared and remonstrated through an interesting first half in which the much-maligned defense forced Rams coach Sean McVay to avoid using running back Todd Gurley and the offense played a safe but efficient half guided by Marshawn Lynch’s indomitability. They didn’t boo Jon Gruden for trading Mack, and they didn’t snipe at Mark Davis for getting all those change-of-address cards. They weren’t ready to cut ties with the good old days, such as they are. They were ready to bestow another dose of BOTD (benefit of the doubt) upon a team that historically hasn’t been worth the bother since shortly after the turn of the century.
 
And then it collapsed in a series of sequentially-timed heaps, almost like a controlled demolition. Lynch touched the ball four times in the second half, and Amari Cooper was targeted only three times as part of a wide-receiver-less offense. Carr lost his confidence, his touch and even his gift for spatial recognition; his three interceptions were positively awful judgments.
 
In all, They. Simply. Stopped.
 
The defense, which had held Los Angeles to 98 total yards and only nine first downs, got only one stop in Los Angeles’ final five drives. McVay forced Gurley to be the game’s defining player, and on the sidelines Gruden managed mostly to offer just a look of lipless consternation.
 
And the fans didn’t even boo. They had nothing to give and too many targets splayed out before them. Mack was gone. Carr was awful. Cooper was invisible. Lynch was rendered inert. There was no pass rush to trouble Rams quarterback Jared Goff. And depending on how they chose to prioritize the depth of this failure, Raider Nation splintered into its constituent elements.
 
They could blame Gruden, or Carr by extension, Mark Davis or Reggie McKenzie. They could blame a vanilla-on-mayonnaise offense, a defense that caused no fear, a future being put off yet again, even the growing spectre of Nevada. They could blame them all, or just cherry-pick their favorites. This was a game that offered all the scapegoats, and every province in the Nation, from Oaktown out to the Valley and south on I-5 could choose its own target and not be wrong.
 
They couldn’t even find common ground in opposition to Peters, because in the moment he twisted his body in mid-leap and seized his delicates to reprise the famous Lynch touchdown in Super Bowl The 49th, he was still regarded as OOTO – One Of Their Own, a man of the neighbodhood talking truth through an off-color mime that Oakland natives could understand more readily (“I did the Beast Mode. That’s what I did,” he said) than their own football team.
 
It could get better than this, mind you. Nothing is impossible, and an entire season of Gruden doing postgame pressers that sound like he was imitating Del Rio is almost too much for even neutral observers to bear.
 
But there’s only one first impression to be made, and this was it. A barely endurable disaster without any of the fun explosions and rage. Just a sense that the end times really are upon all the parts of Raider Nation, and those times may not be worth watching.

Why 2019 will be the Year of Real Estate for Bay Area sports teams

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AP

Why 2019 will be the Year of Real Estate for Bay Area sports teams

There are lots of ways 2019 can go, sporty-wise, and this won’t be one of those insipid end-of-year columns predicting anyone’s future, or making resolutions for them, or even pretending its actually 2020 and looking back at 2019. The present is difficult enough for all of us, as you might have guessed by reading and listening to us all these years.
 
No, here you will get something you actually know will be true. Oh, it’ll still be insipid, but you can’t have everything, at least not at these prices. So here goes next to nothing.
 
In 2019, the major story in these parts will be real estate. Stadium real estate.
 
Oh, there will be games, to be sure – 700 pro events, give or take the odd postseason game, hundreds of college events not including the annual Alabama-Clemson game, and all the weird offseason dramas about who’s signing with whom and who isn’t going to like it and how many millions will be burned to make this whole pageant work.
 
But it’s still stadium stuff that will be of the most impact, and unless that sort of thing starts your engine, this could be a pretty dry year. Nothing sucks quite like stadium suck. The story seems to last forever, it often has no resolution, and when it does, it means prices are going up or availability is going down. But let’s do the walkthrough.
 
1.        The Oakland Raiders are playing somewhere in 2019, but nobody knows where yet, which is so very Raiders. Only they can institutionalize homelessness because only they work by the seat of their pants this often while pretending to a team whose “greatness is in its future.” 
2.        The Golden State Warriors are moving west and going to tell us all about it every day to the point that we may forget that there’s a basketball team attached to the new place. There’s no telling how much longer their dynasty will last, but it will happen against a backdrop of seat licenses and tickets for games that you can’t see.
3.        The San Francisco Giants are celebrating the 20th year at their park by seeing the Warriors move next door and start poaching event customers, while trying to decide if it needs the Raiders to chew up the field of their 75-win baseball team.
4.        The Oakland Athletics are going to keep futzing around the Howard Terminal site until they actually commit to ordering a shovel, which is when we can finally take them at face value on this matter.
5.        The San Francisco 49ers have to figure out how to hide all the empty seats that have framed their work product for the last five years because while their stadium may be a cash cow, cows are not particularly telegenic.
 
It’s not all stadiums everywhere, though. Our local colleges don’t have the building itch, the Sacramento Kings don’t factor into this because they’ve already done the arena thing and are finally crafting a team worthy of the building, and the San Jose Sharks, maybe uniquely, don’t want a new building even though theirs is more than 25 years old.
 
Yes, don’t want a new building. Owner Hasso Plattner, the German billionaire who bought the team because he likes hockey even though he still lives mostly in Germany, negotiated a new lease three years ago that runs through 2025 and pays $0 in rent in exchange for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million in upgrades to keep SAP Center. That doesn’t mean they won’t want something new in the future on someone else’s dime, just that they have been silent on building matters since 2015 and remain so now.
 
But the Raiders in and of themselves are such a roaringly hot mess geographically that they may be the first team in the post-merger era (1970) to have nobody want them at all, and that’s a story in and of itself. The latest development is that two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a Supervisor-elect came out last week opposing the Giants potentially undercutting Oakland by picking up their team for a quick four-month slap-and-tickle.
 
This might drag Levi’s Stadium back into the whither-the-Raiders debate, even though neither landlord (Jed York) nor tenant (Mark Davis) seem to want anything to do with each other. And it keeps Oakland as the favorite to house the team for its true farewell season . . . that is unless the stadium in Las Vegas gets stalled for some unforeseen (or very foreseen, as these things go) reason.
 
The A’s remain in the Coliseum for the next few years, but have to advance beyond the artist’s rendering stage for the Howard Terminal version of their new park, which as we know isn’t a stage at all but merely watercolor sketches. What they do from this point on is the hard part, and there are skeptics who believe they might chuck it all in anyway, beg to relocate out of the area and throw themselves on the sandpapery mercies of Commissioner Rob Manfred, who remembers that the A’s voted against him when he was running for commissioner after Bud Selig’s retirement. Either way, that’s a year-long talker, too.
 
As for the Warriors, they will now move to the waterfront palace Joe Lacob cares about more than basketball, and if you think that won’t bring added pressure to the already exhaustive matter of keeping the dynasty fueled and stocked, you haven’t seen the way Lacob can agonize over a second-quarter turnover against the Suns.
 
Most of this will not be true in 2020. The Warriors will be fully embedded in the city, the Raiders will be moving-vanned to Nevada and the A’s will either be staring at a hole in the ground or have to explain why they’re not. By 2020 the 49ers will have to show tangible signs that they can get this football thing right and maybe put more of their seats to use, and the Giants will be a year into their rebuild and the simultaneous fight with the Warriors for non-baseball events.
 
Some of those problems will be resolved in 202 for good or ill, and we can move on to the games and the players and the coaching and the drama and the rumors and the gambling and all the other things that make us care as much as we do about spectator sport. Hell, we might even get a firing or two just to break up the monotony.
 
But for the most part, 2019 is about where we watch just as much as what we watch. Were I you, I’d drink. This could get . . . well, insipid. 

What Raiders, 49ers had in common proves Bay Area can endure football

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USATSI

What Raiders, 49ers had in common proves Bay Area can endure football

Well, this much good happened on the last day of the 2018 football season, Bay Area Editions: The Oakland Raiders managed to finish their work in record time.
 
Their work, mind you, was to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs, which they did by turning the ball over the first four times they got it en route to a 35-3 mauling. The record time was two hours and thirty-seven minutes, which is ungodly fast for a game so formatted to get in all the possible advertisements that anything under three hours is an oddity, and anything under 2:40 is a game from 1967.
 
And if you want to be a pedant about it, it was the fastest game in nine years, the last being a tedio-spectacular between Jacksonville and New England won by the Patriots, 35-7, in 2009.
 
Now given that the 49ers played nearly an hour longer to lose to the Los Angeles Rams, 48-32, AND scored the last two touchdowns to make a rout look like a wacky circus, I guess that means that San Francisco was the superior team this year. Well, that and the fact that their most convincing win in five years had come against had come against the Raiders.
 
But there was plenty of very little for each team in 2018 as they extended their streak of non-winning combined records to 16 years, and there was something to be said for the fact that they were also 28th and 32nd against the point spread in 2018. In short, two public teams offended the public both in real life and BettingWorld.
 
But now that we all are clear on what happened, what happens next? I mean, other than the 49ers either picking second or trading down, and the Raiders picking fourth or trading in either direction?
 
Well, the Raiders need a place to play that is more developed than Bushrod Park, and the 49ers need to make Levi’s Stadium seem less like a furniture store on a rainy Saturday. The 49ers need to break in their new-old quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Raiders need to decide if they can or want to move forward with the increasingly beleaguered Derek Carr.
 
After that, they both need to demonstrate that the Bay Area can still endure professional football. I mean, the Raiders are beating feet out of town soon enough, but the 49ers have spent their margin for error with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, and the 21st Century hasn’t been very useful for the Bay Area.
 
These were two once-mighty franchises rendered low, lower and below the horizon, and 2018 was the lowest in years. Both teams had injuries, personnel shortages and general malaise. They both won four games, and there is no way to make that seem like anything other than the eyesores they were.
 
And while we are no longer naïve enough to believe that the Raiders are going to be anything other than inertia embodied in 2019 as Gruden continues the teardown that preps the team for Las Vegas, the 49ers need to have the season in 2019 that 2018 was advertised to be rather than what 20-17 ended up being. Shanahan is 3-19 in months other than December (and the team 7-38 since Jim Harbaugh was shown the front gate), which is Hue Jacksonian no matter what excuse you apply, and those fans who still will have a team in two years are wearying of being spoilers before Halloween.
 
We’d like to tell you that things are going to get better for both teams in 2019, but we thought that in 2018, 2017 and 2016, too. Selling hope to dispirited customers is how big-box scores went bankrupt, so it’s probably psychologically safer to sit back and wait for this alleged improvement to happen. Hey, it worked for the Warriors.

[RELATED: What we learned in 49ers season-ending loss to Rams]
 
But credit where its due. The Raiders knew what the audience wanted Sunday, and gave it to them -- a quick hello-and-goodbye and an early flight home to fearfully contemplate Jon Gruden’s second offseason. Their offseason might not be fun, but at least it started sooner.