I can’t honestly say that watching the Oakland Raiders has been a picnic over the past few seasons, but Sunday’s vibe at the Coliseum was the most forlorn and hopeless I’ve seen in a long, long time. The one saving grace for the Silver n’ Black concerning Sunday’s 23-3 loss to Denver? Few locals saw it … the game was blacked out in the Bay Area.
Some pesky rule about a game having to be sold out in order to be on local television. Of course JaMarcus Russell’s performance wasn’t cable-ready to begin with: Those of you who have him on your fantasy rosters, my condolences. He was a glossy 12-of-21 for 61 yards and two interceptions. Worst. QB. Ever? Time will tell. And Rich Gannon was there to see it all, which has to be particularly galling to Al Davis. If you’re not familiar with the Gannon backstory, here it is:
Gannon is the former Raiders quarterback who took them to the Super Bowl in 2002, then retiring following the 2004 season. He went directly into broadcasting, and is now with CBS.
Gannon did color on the Raiders-Broncos game on Sunday, but not before some controversy. The Raiders at first denied him access to their Alameda facility for the customary TV production meeting in preparation for the game. After the NFL told them, um, no, you can’t do that, they relented and let Gannon in.
A hell of a way for a team to treat a former player. But the Raiders’ organization, and especially owner Al Davis and by extension his Egor, John Herrera, hate Gannon, because Gannon has a tendency to say what he really thinks about the team. Thoughts such as this, from Sept. 4, when asked about the Tom Cable dustup with assistant coach Randy Hanson:
“I can’t say honestly that I’m surprised. I can’t look at it and say well gee, that’s a shocker to me. It’s really not. I can’t say that I’m surprised by anything I see or hear that comes out of that place. I just think that — listen — I’ve been criticized for being what some would refer to as overly critical, but listen, it’s clear when you look at the football team, there’s not enough…they certainly have players, but you look at each level of the organization, I just don’t know if there’s enough leadership there and I think that’s what holds them back.”
Not sure what Gannon said about the Raiders on Sunday (couldn’t watch it on TV, after all) , but it couldn’t have been good. Here’s what the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS said of the crowd’s reaction to Russell:
Though this was a team loss, the brunt of the wrath landed on Russell. He was blasted each time he came out to open a series, fans alternating from vociferous booing to chanting “Russell sucks.” It was at least as loud as anything experienced by the likes of Donald Hollas or Kerry Collins or Josh McCown — all failed Raiders quarterbacks past.
And JaMarcus, with his buttery body and errant slings, is an easy receptacle for a frustrated fan base to dump its emotions. He not only is the leader of an impotent offense, but also a chief contributor to its impotence.
Dysfunction such as this usually runs from the top down, and this is no exception. After the NFL ordered the Raiders to allow Gannon into their facility on Friday, Herrera took the opportunity to offer this classy assessment of his former quarterback:
“He’s attacked us on a regular basis since becoming a member of the media,” Herrera said. “After affording him the opportunity to establish a career here, he has since gone on to attack us in a way that’s totally unacceptable.”
Herrera quoted Gannon as saying in several interviews they should just “blow up the building and start over” in Oakland. Team officials took that as literally as they did figuratively, and told Gannon as much before last season’s home game against the Chiefs.
“We think in a post 9/11 world, that’s not a very proper thing to say,” Herrera said. “It’s uncalled for. He seems to be a guy who can’t get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself.
“I guess it’s our fault he threw five interceptions.”
Yes, it kind of is. The Raiders lost that Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, which was coached by the guy Oakland let get away, Jon Gruden. If you had just paid Gruden above minimum wage, Al, he would have been coaching for you, and you probably would have won.
As it stands now, we won’t see another Oakland Raiders Super Bowl title, um, ever. I saw folks streaming out of the MacAfee Coliseum at the beginning of the fourth quarter on Sunday … and the place was only three-quarters full to begin with. Davis will be long gone, and the team in Sacramento or Portland or, I don’t know, Las Vegas, before they reach the playoffs again.