Editors Note: Our beloved Raider Ute is on an epic discussion of how the Just Win Baby Raiders he fell in love with became what they are today. It’s a great read for any sports fan. So I hope you check it out. Parts I and II are linked below.
We last left off when Lane Kiffin decided to break tradition against a traditional rival…
September 30, 2008–Al fires Lane Kiffin in the now famous “overhead projector” press conference. Offensive line coach Tom Cable takes over as interim coach. Yes, the same Tom Cable that couldn’t get so much as a dozen wins out of the Idaho Vandals is now in charge of this thing.
October 19, 2008–It’s Brett Favre era Jets vs. Jamarcus Russell era Oakland Raiders. Feel the nostalgia. If this game were against two very good teams, this would be defined as “sloppy”. However, I can’t really use that adjective in this case because this is now simply 3 hours of distraction from the world. The Raiders hold a 13-10 lead with time winding down when the defense holds the Jets just enough to get a game tying 52 yard field goal attempt from the Jets Jay Feely. Of course, Feely makes it and we’re going into overtime.
Both teams had two possessions in OT when I’m getting the sinking feeling that this game is going to end in a tie. Neither offense can get out of its own way and it’s now the Raiders 3rd possession in the extra time. On his own 19, Russell completes a pass to Javon Walker for 19 yards. Next play, Zach Miller over the middle for 27 yards! Into Jet territory. Next series goes 3 and out, so Cable decided to bring Janikowski out for a 57 yard field goal. Before the kick happens I had a thought pop into my mind–which was pretty amazing given what I had to drink that afternoon–that this was the man who represented the beginning of the end of Jon Gruden with the Raiders.
Quick story: it’s the 2000 draft and Al and Jon put their heads together. Picking 17th, “Chucky” has his heart set on a running back from Alabama named Shawn Alexander. Al, on the other hand, really wants the kicker from Florida State, Sebastian Janikowski. Guess who won this round?
Janikowski’s career up to that point had been sort of non-descript, save from his getting high at the clubs in San Francisco all the time. But surely he had one long kick in him to justify a long ago draft selection, right? Sure enough, he did and the Raiders won.
November 23, 2008–The Ashley Lelie Game. Denver is contending for a playoff spot sitting at 6-4. We aren’t, but if there’s one thing I know about my team, it’s that when there’s a score to settle, we’re all about it. Whatever blessings we earned to get a solid fellow like Lelie sure paid off in this game and he caught for 92 yards and a TD to beat Denver 31-10. Denver would finish 8-8 and kick Shanahan, the Professor Moriarity to our Sherlock Holmes, to the curb.
February 4, 2009–After ending the tenures of both Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden in week 17 in Tampa to knock the Bucs out of a playoff spot, Al lifts the interim label off his title and is now the full-time head coach of the Raiders. Little did Al know at the time that he would be consorting with a known brawler and wife beater (allegedly).
April 25, 2009–With the 7th pick, the Raiders select Derrius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland, again the man with the title of fastest player at the combine. Yes, Michael Crabtree was available, but it was Erin Andrews who reported from the Crabtree camp that when the Raiders picked DHB, they all breathed a sigh of relief. Which got me to thinking: if players actually think they luck out by not being picked by us, what good would it do us to take them?
September 6, 2009–One player did prove me right, at least initially. Patriots DE Richard Seymour was traded to us for a first round pick in 2011 but refused to report to the team. Your standard “I feel blindsided by the trade, so I’m going to file a grievance against you with the player’s union” kind of thing, nothing too major or anything like that.
December 6, 2009–Cable may be fine with a 3-8 record, but I’m certainly not. Yet, that’s where we were headed going into a Week 13 tilt against the Steelers. Having seen enough of Jamarcus Russell for his and everyone else’s liking, a man named Bruce Gradkowski was slated to start in place of him. Whatever beer truck he came from didn’t matter at the time. Raider Nation was grateful. As I was expecting, the Steelers held a 10-6 lead going into the 4th quarter, but I did have the sense that Pittsburgh might have a chance to put this game away if we don’t score some points. 14 points came the Raiders way as each team traded scores with Pittsburgh holding a 24-20 lead with less than 2 minutes left. Gradkowsi gets to the Steeler 11 yard line when Louis Murphy sits in the back of the endzone and Bruce finds him. Touchdown Raiders! Final score, Raiders 27, Steelers 24.
December 20, 2009—Well, here we are again, Denver contending for a playoff spot and we think we’re rebuilding. Bruce Gradkowski was injured for the rest of the season a few weeks before, so it’s back to the Jamarcus Russell/Charlie Frye two headed monster. Game starts off with neither team moving the ball that effectively when Michael Bush opens up the scoring for the Raiders to give them a 7-6 lead. Game is fairly tight and was actually delayed by lighting in the area as well as someone shining a red laser onto the field. Yep, it’s going to be one of those days.
Raiders have the ball down 6 with 3:29 left to play, when the following things happen:
—Russell gets sacked, fumbles the ball where Cooper Carlisle recovers.
—Incomplete to Louis Murphy, pass interference called on Denver.
—Russell gets hurt, J.P. Losman comes in for one play.
—Russell’s back in, completes 3 straight passes to get to the Denver 10 with one minute to go.
—Completed pass to Chaz Schilens, illegal contact on Denver, fresh set of downs.
—False start on Raider OG Cornell Green. Back to the 10 yard line.
—Russell finds Schilens again over the middle, TD Raiders! 20-19.
Denver would lose their final three games of the season, miss the playoffs and you now curse the name of Josh McDaniels. You’re welcome.
April 22, 2010—Raiders select Alabama LB Rolando McClain with the 8th overall selection. This was a good pick at the time and few people disagreed with me. You have to admit, he did look pretty good in the SEC.
October 10, 2010—The Chargers come into town holding a 15 game winning streak against us and it was looking like 16 in a row after three bad losses to the Texans, Cardinals and Titans. After a blocked punt for a safety, a Janikowski field goal, and another blocked punt for a touchdown, the Raiders lead 12-0 after a quarter. San Diego storms back to take the lead at half 17-15. After a Michael Bush touchdown run to give the Raiders a 28-27 lead, the Chargers are driving for a game winning score when Michael Huff knocks the ball out of Philip Rivers hand before his arm went forward. Play is never whistled dead, Tyvon Branch runs it all the way in for a score. Raiders finally beat San Diego!
October 24, 2010—59-14. The Mile High Massacre. I missed the very first touchdown pass to Zack Miller, but everything else…the Kyle Orton Pick 6, the fumble recovered in Denver territory that lead to a Darren McFadden touchdown. In the second quarter where it’s 38-0 Raiders. Was it a dream? Did I wake up in a parallel universe? It still doesn’t quite seem real.
November 7, 2010—Raiders are now at 5-4 atop the AFC West after outlasting Kansas City in overtime. It isn’t a dream.
January 2, 2011—The second half of the season saw a defensive collapse that put us at 2-4 after taking the lead in the West from Kansas City and in a stretch where the Raiders gave up 30 points or more 4 different times (including one EPIC FAIL where the Raiders gave up 35 points in the second half against the Jaguars). With the Chiefs already in the playoffs (and the Raiders at 5-0 in the division), it was time to smack them around. Final Raiders 31 Chiefs 10. Cable declares after the game that “we aren’t losers anymore!”
Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in Part IV…