Bill Plaschke: Oakland Raiders need some brain with their brawn
They hit hard. They also hit late, cheap, sometimes without helmets, and often without conscience.
As always, I couldn’t stop watching them. But, as always, I could barely stomach what I was seeing.
The Oakland Raiders played perhaps the toughest football of the NFL’s first week Monday, overpowering the Denver Broncos with three forced turnovers and five sacks while rushing for 152 more yards in a 23-20 victory.
They also played absolutely the dumbest, most thuggish football of the first week with 15 penalties for 131 yards, more penalties than were assessed the New Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets combined.
The Jets, incidentally, had zero penalties while mounting a bruising comeback against the Dallas Cowboys, proving it is possible to use both your muscles and your brains, sometimes even at the same time.
On display Monday was the truth rarely understood by fans with lives draped in silver and black. The color that owns their organization is actually yellow. What they love most about their Raiders is precisely what dooms them. Their rogue rebelliousness may win hearts, but it loses games.
For all their bluster, the Raiders haven’t won a Super Bowl in 28 years. In the eight seasons since their last Super Bowl appearance, after the 2002 season, they have finished an average of 29th out of the 32 teams in number of penalties. How many times have they had winning records during those years? Zero. What has been their record during that time? Would you believe 38-91?
Earlier this summer I wrote about fearing the Raiders might return to Los Angeles upon the completion of Farmers Field. After Monday night I wonder if the Raiders belong anywhere.
They were seemingly scuffling with the Broncos from the last tones of the national anthem. And when they weren’t shoving or slapping or tearing off their helmets and prancing around like angry guys on a darkened street corner, they were violating even the most simple of football rules. On one drive, tackle Stephon Heyer jumped offside on consecutive plays.
The Raiders, whose motto is still "Commitment to Excellence," first need a Commitment to Discipline, which will never happen as long as they also have a Commitment to Al. This is all about the ravings of aging owner Al Davis, the sports world’s last pirate, an angry man whose swashbuckling attitude would be cute if it wasn’t hurting his team and ruining his legacy.
Did you watch the Raider sidelines Monday? The coaches and staff still dress in those silly scowls, everyone trying to imitate Al with an attitude that not only spreads to the players, but infects them.
You remember that last Raider Super Bowl played in San Diego, right? Barret Robbins, the Raiders all-pro center, disappeared two days before kickoff to reportedly go on a drunken binge in Tijuana. He never showed up, and his team never recovered, losing 48-21 to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team coached by a exiled former Raider coach named Jon Gruden.
These sorts of collapses will not end until Davis finally retires and releases control of the team, allowing his great athletes to feel comfortable being smart and controlled athletes.
Just when, baby?
-- Bill Plaschke
Photo: Oakland Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes and Denver Broncos defensive end Jason Hunter scuffle during the first quarter of Monday night's game. Credit: Ron Chenoy / US Presswire