Mailbag: Stop bashing the Raiders

From the Oakland Raiders to the San Diego Chargers to a series of other topics along the road, readers have weighed in during the past couple of weeks. Here are some of your thoughts and my responses:

The Raiders are 9-19 since Tom Cable took over.
(Eric Risberg/AP Photo)

On the Raiders

Now you know damn well that the media spins things to what people want or need to hear. I know the Raiders have had the seven (years) in a row (of) losing 11 or more games, but why do the Raiders get all the negative media attention? If I’m correct, the Rams haven’t been better by any means the last few years, neither have the Lions … but I don’t hear you talking negative about them! And you wonder why there is media bias. If there’s nothing to worry about, then why worry when they want to have an intern there to record it? Save your finger pointing and do your job.

Tracy, Calif.

Honestly, I don’t agree. There is no possible way to spin something to what people want or need to hear because there are too many opinions out there to consider. Plus, why waste that kind of effort on the Raiders or any football team? This is entertainment, not anything truly important. Your argument is nonsensical. As for me, I actually enjoyed watching the Raiders when I was growing up. They won and they were fun. Now, they don’t win and, as a result, they’re not fun. As for the Rams, they’ve been better than the Raiders during the past dozen years, winning a Super Bowl and getting to another. More recently, it has been ugly for the Rams. But the reasons are obvious (aging roster, for example) and typical of what happens to a lot of successful organizations. As for the Lions, have you been paying attention? They’ve been the butt of jokes around the NFL for years. Seriously, you don’t think the Lions have been ripped over the years? As for the taping of interviews, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Regarding your observation about the Raiders organization not trusting the media and believing that they all have it in for them? As a Raiders fan since the mid 1960s, I believe that the media, and others, have always been critical of the team in good times and bad. An essential part of being a Raiders fan is to recognize that the media, NFL (Tuck Rule, Immaculate Reception), my buddies who I play poker with (just jealous 9rs, Broncos and Chargers fans) and my son in law (a Chargers fan) are always going to hate the Raiders and give me crap whenever possible. I relish it and every year I attend at least two games sitting in the “Black Hole” with the Raider Nation. Thanks for your article as it just makes me look forward to the new season. Signed, a white, 60-year old, born again Christian, lifetime Raiders fan.

Ed Parker
Redlands, Calif.

OK, but are your buddies and son-in-law part of the media? If they’re part of your proof that the media is against the Raiders, that’s a pretty lame argument.

Please expound on why it’s annoying that the Raiders tape their interviews. I give you the benefit of the doubt because you’re a respected journalist, but it seems like a smart move by any football team given how many times players and coaches claim that they are misquoted.

John Vannucci
Augusta, Ga.

It’s a fair question. If I had been accused of misquoting someone, I could definitely see the justification for a third party taping the interview. However, short of that, the problem is three-fold. First, it destroys the comfort of an interview, preventing the subject from really opening up as you ask questions. For example, look at the difference between most TV press conference interviews vs. a one-on-one interview. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s important to doing the best job you can. With the Raiders, I’ve got this 20-something kid standing to the side of me and the player. The intern is just shoving the recorder between us and not even participating in the conversation. In fact, the intern wasn’t even looking at either of us. Incredibly annoying. Second, the action of team taping conversations often makes the player feel as if the team is spying on him. Let’s say a player wanted to go off the record with me to explain something, even about something innocuous like how a stretch play is supposed to be run. He’s never going to do that with a team tape recorder in his face. Third, what the Raiders are doing is basically piggy-backing on my work. If I have some unique question, or I’m able to get a unique answer or, best of all, get some news somehow, the Raiders can post it on their website and take claim to it. Again, it’s annoying. Not illegal, just annoying.

Excellent article. Jason Campbell(notes) might not ever play in a Super Bowl or be named to the Pro Bowl – that’s yet to be seen – nevertheless, for his character alone, his face should be on a Wheaties box. A class act and a classy article. Keep up the good work.

Yusuf Hassan
Washington, D.C.

It’s nice to see that somebody at least read the article on Jason Campbell. It doesn’t seem like a lot of real Raiders fans read it.

Russell vs. Leaf

No one is a bigger NFL draft bust than Ryan Leaf was. Not even Russell. Ryan Leaf has retired the “Greatest Draft Bust of All Time” trophy. None will ever surpass his gruesome litany of gridiron failure. Ryan Leaf is the all-time Sultan of Suckitude.


I love the phrase Sultan of Suckitude. The Leaf vs. Russell argument is a really good (good?) one. Statistically, Leaf is worse, although the difference is somewhat marginal. Leaf played only 25 games, compiling a 50.0 rating that included 13 TD passes compared to 33 INTs. With Russell, it was 31 games, a 65.2 rating and 18 TDs against 23 INTs. While Leaf’s numbers are worse, there is a question about what it means that Russell was the No. 1 overall pick vs. Leaf being the No. 2 overall pick in 1998. There’s some weight there to consider, and I think it makes Russell the winner, for now. Hopefully, the kid will get his life together and rebound. One other thing to consider: In 2007, the Raiders also had a chance to take either Calvin Johnson(notes) (the second pick) or Joe Thomas(notes) (third) rather than Russell. Ugh. After Leaf, the next four picks were Andre Wadsworth(notes) (got hurt), Charles Woodson(notes) (terrific player, as Raiders fans can attest), Curtis Enis (bust) or Grant Wistrom (OK career). Those options don’t come out a lot better overall.

Super Charged

I don’t know quite what to say. That has to be the crappiest column I have ever had the misfortune to read. Yes, I’m a Chargers fan. Go ahead … blame my comments on that … your opener was lame, and very unfunny … then some super negative only comments on what has to be the worst team in all of football, to hear you tell it … wow … ya think they might win one game? Then some more non football culinary comments … and what? Looks like you copied one of Michael’s columns, and mailed it in.

Butch Felthauser
Tallahassee, Fla.

For someone who didn’t “know quite what to say,” you said a lot. Sorry you disagree with my analysis on some of the Chargers positions, but I don’t think you got the point. I think the Chargers are good … if they have all their players. Right now, they don’t and that’s a BIG problem. Look, if you want it sugar-coated, buy a donut. As for the rest, sorry you didn’t enjoy it.

Just wanted to say I laughed pretty hard reading your Impala story. Props on giving National City, Calif., a little love. I enjoy the love you give the Chargers each year.

David Garrison
Chula Vista, Calif.

Thanks. After Butch’s diatribe I was a little bothered. This was a refreshing change of tone.

On divas in Cincinnati

Owens and Ochocinco will bring plenty of attention to the Bengals.
(Al Behrman/AP Photo)

It is sad that some of the sportswriters criticize Terrell Owens(notes), and then because of your positions, many of the ignorant mainstream NFL fans, and even coaches/owners, go into this mislead. … Like, T.O is a cancer in the locker room, for example. I was just watching ESPN and the discussion of T.O going to the Bengals. During this was video showing T.O. During one clip it showed T.O storming down the sideline and yelling at his teammates something to the extent of: You aren’t playing hard enough. To make my point, T.O wants to win the Super Bowl, and I want to see it happen.

Pete Mazur
San Diego

I think there is sufficient public evidence to show that Owens has been a problem child in his career. Does that mean he can’t help a team win some games? Of course not. He has some talent. But he has a long history of wearing out teammates, coaches and management with his antics. For his sake, I hope that doesn’t impact him now. But at this point, the odds aren’t good that he’ll find the success he has craved for years.

This is all about show, not go. The circus is in town and football has taken a back seat to the game. Once again, you guys are talking about anything but the game … I hate it. The sooner the season starts , the sooner these three idiots will fade into obscurity. Talent cannot overcome rampant ego-driven stupidity.

John Tabarrini
Moreno Valley, Calif.

I tend to agree with you, particularly when factored over time. However, this is a short-term deal for the Bengals. It’s one year and out, particularly if it doesn’t work. I see what the Bengals are trying to do. Given the circumstances that they usually face, this is a pretty typical move for them.

Jason, You are so full of (crap)! There is no way T.O. would admit his skills have diminished. You’re quoting some Bengals staffer? Who’s that, some middle-age porter who sweeps the offices and empties the trash? It’s (jerk) media guys like you who like to dip into a quote and then dip out just to get people talking about it. Yeah, people are talking. What are they saying? Jason Cole is a (jerk)! Sounds familiar, man.

Brian Bonito
Las Vegas

You must have been talking to my ex-wife. Be that as it may, I certainly didn’t talk to somebody who empties the trash. Believe what you want, but Terrell Owens said that to the Bengals. And he said it to more than one person.

Rethinking Cutler

Good grief, did you ever consider that Cutler might have had 26 interceptions in ’09 because it was his very first in an entirely new system, and that he was simply trying so hard to live up to the “savior” image that had been thrust upon him in Chicago? Look, during his first three seasons (even though he only played in five games that first year), Cutler had 54 touchdowns compared to 37 interceptions, which grades out to about 69 percent. Peyton Manning(notes) had 85 touchdown compared to 58 interceptions, and that grades out to about 68 perent. So the numbers through both players’ first three years are very comparable, unless, of course, one looks more closely at their first year … when Peyton actually threw for more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26) in 16 games, while Jay had 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions (he threw for nearly twice as many touchdowns as he did interceptions). Now let’s look at their fourth seasons. Cutler had 27 touchdowns and 26 interceptions while Manning had 26 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, so even those numbers are reasonably comparable, don’t you think? However, it should also be noted here that Manning has at least had the extra benefit of consistent coaching during his first four seasons in the league, while Cutler clearly has not had that same luxury. So let’s take some of this into consideration the next time, and also try to remember that he’s still a young man, and young men usually try too hard “to look good” before the world, which might explain the off-year (I think) that he had in ’09. And when compared with the other “Top 3” quarterbacks taken in the first round of the ’06 NFL draft, how can you even put them in the same category, when both Young (32 TDs, 39 INTs) and Leinart (14 TDs, 20 INTs) have already been benched as starting quarterbacks by their respective teams and were replaced for long-term runs into the season by veteran quarterbacks (Kerry Collins(notes) and Kurt Warner(notes))? Who do you know of that actually puts either Young or Leinart in front of Cutler at this stage of their NFL careers?

John Hennekes

This was good research and a fair point. My only counter to this is that Cutler has not demonstrated great interpersonal skills as a leader, which compounds the statistical side. By Manning’s fourth season, it was pretty clear he was on a path to greatness in all respects of the game. With Cutler, I don’t sense that. But there’s time for change.

Defending the Eagles … sort of

Kolb has only appeared in 12 games in three seasons.
(Rick Schultz/AP Photo)

Your comment about Kevin Kolb(notes) and expectations surrounding the Eagles is a head-scratcher. There is nobody (and I mean nobody) in Philadelphia who believes the Eagles are a Super Bowl contender. I don’t know where you got this. If anything, the local belief is that this is a 9-7 team that was fully exposed by the Cowboys last year. Our O-line is in shambles, our LB corps is below average, (Brian) Dawkins has not been replaced, we have no inside pass rush, and we are starting (an inexperienced) QB and a second-year RB. Sure, we hope that Kolb can run a short-pass, West-Coast style offense with more efficiency than (Donovan) McNabb, but we don’t know that for sure.

Chris Jandoli

I’ll sort of buy your argument that you’re tempering expectations. However, I’m not sure why that’s the case. In the NFL, it’s not that hard to go from 9-7 to the Super Bowl. Plenty of teams have come from much farther to win a title, particularly in this era of the NFL. Furthermore, the Eagles had a quarterback who had proven capable of getting to the Super Bowl before. If the feeling wasn’t that the team would be better off by trading McNabb, why did they do it? Furthermore, with a receiving corps that features DeSean Jackson(notes), Jeremy Maclin(notes) and Brent Celek(notes), the offense should be really good. The defense is better than average (way better when it’s completely healthy). So why not think Super Bowl?

Jerry Kramer question

Can you give reasons why Green Bay Packers guard Jerry K. is not in the Hall of Fame? Does he have a criminal record or something? Thanks.

Savannah, Ga.

I was a toddler when Kramer was ending his career, so I can’t give you good reason. I never watched him play, other than the highlights – and those aren’t a good measure of lifetime achievement. However, I think the general consensus is that he just wasn’t that good. I know some people say he’s the “best player not in the Hall of Fame,” but that’s sort of hollow. Somebody has to be the best player not in the hall. That doesn’t mean that person belongs in the Hall of Fame.

On the music

For a great cover song, I wanted to suggest Cake’s cover of Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive.” It’s a staple in my playlist.

Minh Chau
Baghdad, Iraq

I love Cake (both the band and the baked good). Love the irony they use. However, the irony that you’re in Iraq and suggesting “I Will Survive” is a tad disturbing to consider. Appropriate, but nonetheless disturbing. Godspeed.

Jason: Wow! Just listened to Etta James singing “Take it to the Limit” – you mentioned it in your “Day 3” column. Thanks for the music tip. I have never heard her sing that song before. The column was great, and Etta is – Awesome! Thanks again!


Glad to be of service with the suggestion.

Love your columns. As a musician, I can tell you that the best covers re-interpret a song in a new way that distills the essence/message of the original tune. With that in mind, the best cover of all time is Devo doing The Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction.” Devo’s nervous syncopated beats on this one really creates that lack of satisfaction. Also, anything done by Dread Zeppelin qualifies – the music of Led Zeppelin, the reggae arrangements and Elvis Presley clone Tortelvis singing, makes the tunes even better than when Zep did them.

Matthias R. Miller
Oakland, Calif.

Very interesting take on Devo’s version of “Satisfaction.” I like it and agree with your point about the beat-driven anxiety, but it’s one of those songs I can only listen to once in awhile. As for the other stuff, I have to check it out. Thanks for the suggestions.

Napa on my mind

Jason, it’s funny you say there’s not much to do in the Napa/Sonoma, Calif., area. Actually, there’s probably more to do here than 90 percent of other areas around the U.S., particularly outdoor adventures – loads of geographic diversity. Yes, the Pt. Reyes seashore is great – so is the Sonoma Coast; hiking, whale watching, fishing of all kinds, old school seafood restaurants, great beaches and scenery. Take a drive up Hwy. 1 … you’ll see. Are you a hiker or mountain biker? Mt. Tam (Marin) and Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa are world class. The road biking is incredible, just ask Levi Leiphiemer and Lance Armstrong who regularly train in Sonoma County and maintain residences here. How about lakes? Got ‘em; several within an hours drive – water sports, fishing (bass, trout, and various other species). The Russian River area provides outstanding canoeing/kayaking, exploring old growth Redwood forests, fishing, beaches, and unpretentious wine tasting. There are more outdoor festivals and live music events in this area than anywhere else I’m aware of; lots of town squares and reasons to celebrate, I guess. We pay a lot to live here, but for the most part, there’s good reason. Sure, there’s fru-fru (especially in Napa/St. Helena), but I think you were too easily lured in by the whole “wine country” tourist thing. Windy? Hmmm. Maybe that’s a Napa thing, or just bad timing. Our climate is probably one of the mildest (best) in the world; another reason for the expensive real estate. Never too hot or too cold – otherwise, the grapes wouldn’t thrive as they do. Take it from someone who’s lived in several areas around the West Coast. Generally speaking, there’s a heckuva lot to do within an hours of Napa (not many nightclubs or strip joints – probably why the Raiders train there). I’m a little surprised that you had a different experience.

Mitch Proaps
Santa Rosa, Calif.

I didn’t mean the area “within an hour” of Napa. I meant pretty much the winery route from Napa to Calistoga. It’s a wonderfully serene and a great place for a drive (stopping at a deli for wine, cheese and bread would make for a great day with the wife). However, I get tired of the shopping and the boutiques pretty fast. Point Reyes, Yosemite and even The Pinnacles are really more interesting to me.

I could have told you there is nothing to do in Napa. After two wineries, everything else is the same … Calistoga is just a bunch of bed/breakfast, spring … and nothing else much to do … I lived here for 20 years and went up to Napa twice only.

San Rafael, Calif.

I’m not quite in line with this feeling, but I’m closer to it than the other side.

Hey Jason, Mustard’s actually gave HGTV their famous Mongolian chop recipe awhile back. Here’s a link (if you want to avoid too much mustard sauce experimentation).

Brad Kemp
Oakland, Calif.

Awesome, thanks.

Closing Thought

So another words, your are a weak “henpecked sissy”, who constantly gets picked by his wife. That would never, ever, ever happen to me. Grow a couple, and be a man.

Jim Sherriffs

What you mean is “So, in other words, you are …” Try Strunk & White … it will help. Also, it appears from your expression “that would never” happen to you, that you’re not married. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s a pretty good bet, I think.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Aug 5, 2010