Here is a link to my Monday Raiders column. The ful text runs below:
The Raiders are for real. More real than most people expected. Ask the New York Jets, a good team the Raiders ran out of California with a 34-20 whipping, sending them back to their haunt near the Hudson River.
By demolishing the Jets, by humiliating and humbling and banishing them, the young Raiders served notice on the league — “Take us seriously from now on. Overlook us and we’ll kill you. Don’t overlook us and we’ll still kill you.”
Long time since the Raiders mattered in the NFL. They are still rebuilding. Make that building. They are building something new. Making a proper team. And in the middle of this building, they may make the playoffs this season as a wild card. Unexpected. Impressive. Strictly amazing. A credit to Raiders ownership and general manager and head coach.
What did the Raiders do against the Jets that meant something?
Well, they won the game, pushed their record to 4-3, achieved one more win than all of last season. You look ahead and see many wins in the Raiders future.
What else did the Raiders do against the Jets?
Now, it gets interesting. The Jets have a shutdown defense. A complicated, elite, knock-your-head-off defense. It was possible — I sure thought it was possible — the Jets defense would present looks and problems and coverages too advanced for the quickly-advancing Raiders offense. Nothing shameful about being overmatched by the Jets defense, which recently gave the Patriots a world of trouble and pain.
It was possible second-year Raiders quarterback Derek Carr would have trouble reading the Jets defense — like someone at the Dick-and-Jane level being forced to read James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
Forget that. Carr was an advanced reader. And he was a speed reader. And he is a prodigy. Such a pleasure to watch. Poised under pressure. The quickest release you can imagine. Aaron-Rodgers-like quick release. That little flick with almost no windup and the ball zings toward its target. Aimed precisely. Fast. Catchable. The works.
Hard not to compare the surging Raiders to that flop football team in the South Bay. The Oakland quarterback keeps getting better. Makes his receivers look brilliant. Leads his receivers so they catch his passes in stride and keep going.
The guy in the South Bay doesn’t know about leading receivers. He waits until he hopes they are open. By then it’s too late. The guy in the South Bay cracks under pressure, throws grounders when there is no pressure, throws out of bounds for no reason or over the heads of his receivers. Or throws too hard. Or aims wrong.
The Oakland team has a strong offensive line that run blocks and pass blocks. The bunch in the South Bay does not. Wishes it did.
The Oakland team has two hard-running, hard-hitting running backs. The team in the South Bay has no strong running back at this time.
The Oakland team has a world-class wide receiver (He’s Amari Cooper. If you didn’t know, you should.) The South Bay outfit has no receiver comparable to Cooper.
The Oakland team has a professional, dignified coach. The South Bay team has … well you tell me about its coach.
The Oakland owner leaves his general manager alone. Lets him general-manage. The Oakland owner also leaves his coach alone. Lets him coach. All that leaving alone is called owner wisdom and it’s called owner lack of ego. And most good teams require that.
The owner in the South Bay fired his elite coach. We’ve been over his football sins before — cardinal sins — and I apologize. But this contrast with the Raiders owner blows the mind. The South Bay owner let his ego get involved. Took it upon himself to impose himself on his team, to intrude on his team, to pretend he knows football. And he ruined his team. At the county fair, he would rate a pie in the face for his misdeeds and his chutzpah. Boston cream pie. In school he’d wear the dunce cap. Kids would laugh at him.
The South Bay owner had help ruining his team. His general manager enabled him. Another dunce cap please.
But Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders general manager, got that wonderful quarterback and got running back Latavius Murray and Cooper and defensive end Khalil Mack and tight end Clive Walford. And although the Raiders need more talent — they do — they are on track, ascendant. They showed it against the Jets. The Raiders cooled their jets.
That bunch farther south is going down, clueless, aimless, talentless, leaderless at every level.
So, right here in the Bay Area we have the best example of compare-and-contrast in the world, a comparison of two franchises. Call it The Right Way Franchise and The Wrong Way Franchise. And the Raiders have done everything the right way and the owner has been patient and understanding.
For some context and wisdom and insight, here is Raiders old veteran Charles Woodson on where the Raiders rank. He began with the idea the Raiders at last are competitive:
“When people say your team is a competitor, it has a negative connotation to it,” he said after the game. “Like you guys are almost there but not good enough. One thing I’ve been hearing the last week or so is that all of our wins came against teams that aren’t very good. Really kind of taking a dig at this team and what we’ve accomplished. We’ve just beat a team today that’s supposed to go deep into the playoffs. We beat a playoff-caliber team according to everyone. I wonder what the narrative will be now.
“My break before the game was about being an underdog. I think it’s fine for some people to want to play from the underdog role, but I don’t like it. I want to be expected to win games. I want these guys to go out there and expect to win games. Yeah, it’s a little premature to be thinking playoff-wise, but there’s no reason you can’t think of yourself as a playoff team. We’re gaining some respect and those that aren’t ready, that’s fine too.”
Which meant he doesn’t care. The Raiders are moving on. Let the world catch up.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.