Never during its 92 year history has the NFL experienced anything like this: battles everywhere, but not inside stadiums. They're occurring in federal courtrooms, where more than 100 former players are suing the league over various health issues they claim were caused by negligence on the part of everybody from the commissioner to trainers to coaches.
It's rare that I begin with the Stat of the Week in this column, but there's a method to my statness.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Midway through Tuesday's news conference at the Raiders training facility, Mark Davis was asked if his late father, Al, had left any sort of instructions about how to proceed with running the organization after his death.
The Hue Jackson error in Oakland is over, and as it turns out, maybe the Raiders are starting to make progress after all.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 17 that gave us playoff-scenario drama, record-breaking performances and the close of another unpredictable regular season in the NFL...
1. A new meaning for the L word, as in Lockout. Talk about your labor pains. The NFL and the league's players went at it for more than four months, negotiating, posturing, pontificating and threatening, but in the end, a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement was forged in late July, averting any loss of games except the excruciatingly boring Hall of Fame Game to kick off the preseason. At 136 days, it was the longest labor stoppage in league history, and both sides took turns looking like the Grinch who wanted to steal Christmas from the nation's rabid football fans. The new CBA strongly reworked the parameters of rookie contracts, but players won plenty of concessions on safety issues, health care coverage, the terms of free agency and the length of the regular season (remaining at 16 games for now). In the end, it really was the rich fighting the richer for the right to get richer, and naturally both sides benefited. As if to prove it, the NFL announced new TV contracts with
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we stare down the last two weeks of the NFL's regular season, and the playoff chases that somehow still involve 22 of the league's 32 teams. That's right, it has taken us almost four months to eliminate all of 10 teams...
Four weeks remain in the regular season, and this is the time of year when we begin to convince ourselves that we see the 12-team playoff field taking shape in great clarity. But there are almost always developments and postseason drives that we didn't anticipate, and assumptions that get proven false as the final weeks of results roll in and upsets play havoc with our preconceived notions.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight in a Week 13 fairly well filled with playoff-contending teams -- like Chicago, Atlanta, Oakland and Cincinnati -- that didn't look particularly playoff worthy...
CHICAGO -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest a Week 11 that looked dreadful on paper but wound up playing out as one of the most entertaining Sundays of the NFL season....
Fairly amazing weekend in the NFL: Road teams went 10-4. Giants by four at one of the toughest places to win in the league (Foxboro), Ravens by three at a similarly tough Waterloo (Pittsburgh), Niners by eight in their fourth East Coast trip in seven weeks (Washington), Pack by seven against a troubled but troublesome team (San Diego), Broncos by 14 in a Black Hole (Oakland), Dolphins by 28 in what formerly was a very tough venue (Kansas City) ... and, Monday night, the Bears by six over a team that continues to mystify the western world (Philadelphia).
MIAMI -- Musings, observations, and the occasional insight from an eventful Week 7 in the NFL.....
Conventional wisdom in the NFL holds that at any given time, about a third of the teams in the league have a quality starting quarterback in place, while the other two-thirds are constantly searching for one. Those seemingly never-ending quests continued this week in NFL venues as far flung as Washington, Minnesota, Denver and Oakland, with quarterback changes that dominated the news in recent days.
Tommy Kelly was holding forth on new arrival Carson Palmer at the Raiders facility on Wednesday afternoon, while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Hustle or Die."
In July, someone close to Cincinnati owner Mike Brown explained to me clearly the near- and long-term future of Carson Palmer, the quarterback who said he'd rather retire than return to play for the Bengals, though he had a contract with Cincinnati through 2014.
This is one of those where-to-begin Mondays. I could begin with Al, or with so many of his cockamamie first-round decisions combining in some bit of cosmic grid karma to make grown men cry in Houston. Or with the Raiders' NorCal neighbors beating a 3-1 team by 45 points. Or with Tim Tebow ... he may not be great, but he sure is fun to watch, and he lifted the black cloud from over the Broncos in one zany half of football. Or with the Eagles, who have gone from Dream Team to Keystone Kops in one sorry month. Or with the Packers, who cannot be stopped. Or with a tight end whose story is better than his talent, which is saying something.
While questions of succession have naturally arisen in Oakland in the wake of Al Davis' death after decades of leading the franchise, let's not focus so long-term that we overlook the arrival of some long-awaited success to Raiders football, and to the NFL landscape in the Bay Area as a whole.
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we digest Week 5 in the NFL and watch the unfolding resumption of the Jets-Patriots blood feud in the AFC East....
The NFL is never going to be the same. On Saturday morning, it lost its last true original, when Al Davis died.
At the quarter pole of the 2011 season, the NFL has seen an interesting twist surface on the familiar length-of-game issue. If you've been paying attention through the first four weeks of the schedule, by now you know that games are never over, even when they seem over. You could say that the art of the comeback is making a comeback in the NFL, except for the fact we've never seen historic comebacks like this before. To wit:
New England Patriots (2-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-1)
Before this one, the last, best week for the Oakland Raiders was almost eight years ago, in late January 2003.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in the all-important (OK, more important?) Week 3 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do ...
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on training camps across the country. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
NAPA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor was out on the Raiders practice field for the first time on Friday, recognizable by his height but not by his number.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in Week 2 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do ....
If any segment of sports fans should be hyper-aware of fan violence, you'd think it might be those in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sometimes the stereotypes are accurate, and the past is indeed prologue. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has always coveted freakish athletes in terms of size and speed, so naturally he stayed true to his track record Monday and spent a third-round pick on Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the NFL's twice-rescheduled supplemental draft.
The mayors of San Francisco and neighboring Oakland, California, on Sunday vowed to keep the peace at each city's arenas after two shootings and a beating followed a preseason football game at Candlestick Park.
You have to love it: a brash, loose-cannon, Us-Against-Everybody-Else franchise struts and barks its way through the playoffs, following the lead of a verbose, defiant rotund head coach with an X-rated vocabulary -- and a distinctly aberrant behavioral quirk.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a 16-game NFL Sunday in which 16 teams entered game No. 16 with their Super Bowl chances still alive ...
Quick-hitting insight on today's 1 p.m. games ...
It's far too early to play taps for the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning.
Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann co-host a cooking show. Billy Joel covers Megadeath. Hell freezes over. The Oakland Raiders are a winning football team. And from coast to coast, Raider Nation, emerging from hibernation, exchanges fist bumps (with spiked gloves).
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Greatness. It's a term that's easily understood but difficult to quantify in athletics. Is it measured by championships? Personal accolades? Individual statistics? Or is it something with broader context, like being able to improve the performance of those around you?
Oakland Raiders stories in the SI Vault
OAKLAND -- Well, that about settles it. There really is something strangely different about the NFL's half-over 2010 season. The clincher for me was watching the Raiders win a legitimately big game in November. Before a soldout and delirious crowd at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. To get within sniffing distance of first place in the AFC West, and win their third straight game for the first time since December 2002.
Who says superstar quarterbacks are a dying breed in the NFL? Just call the Seattle quarterback Charlie White-hurts. Who's leading the coaches' dead pool? And toast could be the operative words in Houston and Philadelphia.
ColdHardFootballFacts.com breaks down Sunday's Kansas City at Oakland game (4:15 p.m. ET, CBS).
Six quick topics, and a good dose of your e-mail:
Excerpted from "Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders" by Peter Richmond. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.
Three points on a very busy football Tuesday: the Rams legitimately turning it around, the Patriots going back to the future, and why you should care about the legacy of George Blanda.
SI.com dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Jim Trotter had to say about Raiders camp in Napa, Calif.. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we run down the winners and losers in Week 2 of the NFL's preseason. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do. ...
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we unpack from training camp travels and crank up Week 1 of the NFL preseason starting tonight...
Every NFL season starts with a host of unanswered questions, and this year it's even more so. With the opening of the first training camp less than 10 days away -- Dallas, on July 24 in San Antonio -- here are 20 pressing questions, in no particular order, that begged to be answered as the 2010 preseason looms:
JaMarcus Russell is a big, big boy with an even bigger bank account and access to all kinds resources. So it's wrong to portray him as a victim.
Doing a post-mortem to the end of the JaMarcus Russell error in Oakland doesn't require a degree in forensics. The cause of death for his career as a Raiders quarterback was on display almost every day of his three-plus years in silver and black: A chronic and apparently incurable aversion to work and the necessary dedication to his craft.
They are four years apart in age and 10 million miles apart in career outlooks. Yet the differences between JaMarcus Russell, apparently one of the greatest busts in NFL history, and Jason Heyward, apparently one of the greatest prospects in major league history, can be whittled down to a singular factor: sanity.
Sam Bradford getting picked No. 1 overall to the Rams? Gerald McCoy going No. 3 to the Bucs? That's old news to readers of my annual (Way Early) NFL Mock Drafts, in which I happened to nail two of the top three picks in last week's draft.
With the NFL draft having reshuffled a few quarterback depth charts around the league, let's take stock of the shifting arms-race landscape as we await the opening of training camps in about three months. It's a quarterbacks' world in the NFL, but it seems to change about every other week, so you have to stay current.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the third and final day of the NFL Draft, when a couple teams way out west -- Oakland and Seattle -- thrust themselves into the spotlight with some eye-opening headline moves. ...
I won't defend Ben Roethlisberger. I would rather face an oncoming pass rush blindfolded than defend Roethlisberger. I wouldn't want him anywhere near my barstool, let alone my female friends.
No sooner had the last flake of confetti fallen in Miami that next year's Super Bowl odds were posted. Not surprisingly, the Colts are the favorite to do what they couldn't achieve this season. Everybody of consequence returns for the Colts next season. Linebacker Gary Brackett is scheduled to be a unrestricted free agent and Antoine Bethea is a restricted free agent, but both are expected to return to Indianapolis. With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest questions that need answered this offseason among the AFC teams.
We interrupt the NFL coronation festivities for a word from the dark side of the league.
In an era of 32-team leagues, championship hopes are slim for almost everybody. What you really want is belief.
With only Washington and Buffalo making moves on the coaching front, Black Monday in the NFL passed far quieter than anticipated, and certainly was less eventful than last year's day-after-the-season-ends blood-letting.
The holiday season is all about giving, so this week's column gives a little hope to the fans of teams that no longer have playoff dreams dancing in their heads. Happy Holidays, everyone, and perhaps even more importantly, a happy New Year.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 15 that was chock-full of drama, record-setting performances and thrilling comebacks and conclusions. With Christmas just around the corner, who could ask for anything more?....
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Peyton Manning, Colts The Colts are the winningest regular-season team in the decade, and Manning's immense presence, skill, accuracy and mastery of the offense are the biggest reasons. Twenty years ago, Fran Tarkenton was the all-time leader in passing yards, with 47,003. Barring some surprise in the last month of this regular season, Manning will finish 2009 with more than 42,000 in this decade alone. He is not the leader of his offense; he is the commandant.
1. Randy Moss to the Patriots from the Raiders for a fourth-round pick; April 29, 2007 On draft weekend, the team-minded Patriots shocked the NFL by dealing for Moss, whose talent as a game-changing receiver had supposedly atrophied during his two mostly desultory seasons in Oakland. But Moss, as it turns out, was merely disinterested in losing, and his reemergence in New England coincided with the team's history-making Super Bowl season. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and had a single-season NFL record 23 touchdowns. All in all, not bad production in exchange for a fourth-round pick that Oakland used to select little-known University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie.
There are, officially, six rivalries in the NFL. I realize that some people would suggest that one clueless fool with Internet access cannot make "official" proclamations... but they are wrong. We can. And we do. All the time. You can go all over the Internet and see!
Tom Cable took the podium for his Monday press conference with a new lease on life. With the Oakland Raiders surprising upset of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Cable slipped into the second tier of NFL Coaches Most Likely to Be Fired, dropping behind names like Washington's Jim Zorn.
The 2008 Detroit Lions set a high standard for low standards. They were the first 0-16 team in NFL history, an achievement that merited an upside-down banner and a parade down a street full of banana peels.
These were supposed to better days for the Cowboys, Browns and Raiders, with Tony Romo rising from undrafted free agent to Brett Favre clone sans Terrell Owens, Brady Quinn becoming the Robo-QB in Cleveland he was at Notre Dame and JaMarcus Russell showing improvement in Year 3.
Each week, SI.com's Richard Deitsch will report on newsmakers from the world of TV, radio and the Web.
Throughout the 2009 NFL season, SI.com's Adam Duerson will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the previous week's games. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
Last Thursday afternoon, in what some may view as a sign of the apocalypse and others may deem encouraging news for the future of America's youth, more than a dozen 7, 8 and 9-year olds gathered in a living room in Aptos, Cailf., for the inaugural Aptos Amateur Fantasy Football League draft. Just like their adult counterparts, the boys wore baseball hats (and one coonskin cap), carried notebooks full of scribbled rankings (some even legible) and appeared to subsist entirely on Rice Krispie treats and beer (okay, so it was root beer). To watch them was to see a distorted reflection of the 20 million of us -- mostly adults, tending toward the obsessive -- who play fantasy sports, and, perhaps even to gain a little perspective.
I know it's roughly the same story every year, but you gotta love the ability of the NFL's Week 1 to smash some of our preseason perceptions to smithereens while simultaneously re-enforcing other premises we held fast to as the season roared to life. Such as:
The opening weekend of the NFL regular season is finally here, which means it is time for you to sit on the couch and watch football from Sunday at 1 p.m. until after the Chargers finish their dismantling of the Raiders in the late game on Monday night. Below is the first of what will be a weekly look at either a key matchup or storyline to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern)
Here in the Bay Area we have a football pantheon. Legends that have shaped the Raiders and the 49ers. You know the names well: Al Davis, Bill Walsh, Eddie DeBartolo.
One of the guarantees in life is that if you write something about the pathetic state of the Oakland Raiders, you will hear from numerous angry Raiders fans. And they will tell you all about how they went to the 2003 Super Bowl, and that they won three Super Bowls between 1976 and 1984, and that they were the most successful team of the 1980s or over some 25 year span or something. You will hear bland repetition of their now-ridiculous "Commitment to Excellence" slogan, and reminders of glorious victories and anyway how many Super Bowls has YOUR team won? Happens every time.
This season the Raiders dirty laundry was supposed to be stuffed in the hamper. Out of sight. Deodorized. This was going to be the year that the woeful Raiders finally turned it around. Instilled discipline. Got back to basics. Stopped all the nonsense and distractions and the Al Davis public displays that come complete with overhead projectors and legal action.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Jim Trotter had to say about the Raiders' camp in Napa Valley.
If the Raiders' goal is to see JaMarcus Russell become an elite quarterback, they have a funny way of showing it.
The recent revelation by Raiders coach Tom Cable that wide receiver Javon Walker had surgery and did not let the Raiders know about it until last weekend's mandatory mini-camp shines a bright light on a distinct issue in the NFL: the propensity of players to consult with medical personnel outside of their organization.
Oakland Raiders fans have undergone an interesting evolution since last weekend's draft, by which I do not mean to imply that they've only just begun walking upright.
Giving a draft grade for each team the day after the draft is a fruitless exercise. It takes a minimum of three years before a draft can be revisited and evaluated to determine how productive a team was with its selections. With that caveat, here's my reaction to every team's picks, grouped in categories as opposed to the standard letter grade.
Nnamdi Asomugha and the Oakland Raiders agreed to terms on a six-year contract that will bring the All-Pro cornerback $28.5 million guaranteed over the next two years, a source familiar with the negotiations said today.
PHILADELPHIA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we watch the total demolition of the Dallas Cowboys play out before an absolutely delirious throng of Eagles fans at Lincoln Financial Field ...
Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
The Raiders' surprising decision to release two-time Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall after only eight games is another example of a free agent not being an ideal "fit" for a team's scheme. Hall, the eighth overall pick in the 2004 draft, was acquired in the offseason to join Nnamdi Asomugha in forming one of the league's top cornerback duos. But Hall didn't play up to his all-star status in the man-to-man scheme, losing his job in midweek but reportedly signing on with the Redskins at week's end.
Halfway through this NFL season, I can't get over the staggering decline and fall of the West. There are few givens in 2008, but one of them is that nobody plays worse football collectively than the eight teams in the NFC and AFC West divisions.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from Week 9 as we await a Patriots-Colts showdown that features much more "down'' than we're used to in recent years.....
Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Lane Kiffin's long-anticipated firing this week instantly bestowed him membership in the ever-growing ranks of ex-Raiders head coaches, and there's certainly no shame in that.
I only took in the proceedings on TV, but the atmosphere in the room at the Al Davis press conference in Oakland on Tuesday afternoon must have been extraordinary.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take in a Week 4 that turned into a veritable points-palooza in so many NFL locales (six of Sunday's early eight games saw the winner score 30 points or more) ...
No matter how long you stare at them, the AFC standings after three weeks just look a bit off kilter, don't they? Not upside down per se, but refreshingly out of order, and jumbled to the point where our customary quick glance can't take it all in.
The Saints, looking to solidify their backup QB positions, have signed Joey Harrington. From WDSU.com:
I see that look and I know what you're thinking. It's ridiculously early to tackle the topic of NFL coaches on the hot seat. We're only staring down Week 3 for crying out loud. Could we at least manage to put September behind us before we start speculating how many casualties there will be this season among the ranks of the headset crowd?
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we behold maybe the grittiest, guttiest Colts comeback victory in the entire 11-year points-apalooza that has been the Peyton Manning era, that 18-15 slugging match with the shellshocked Vikings....
OK, let me get this straight now. How many enemies did I make this week with my Power Rankings? Cardinals fans hate me for ranking them lower than Miami. Steelers fans hate me for placing them two notches below the Patriots, who, if you haven't heard, are having QB identity problems. Giant fans hate me on general principles (how about normal sized fans?).
Thankfully, much of the country probably missed the season opener between the Raiders and Broncos on Monday night because of its late start (7:15 Pacific). The game was over almost as quickly as it started, with Denver dominating its way to leads of 7-0 after one quarter, 17-0 at the half, and 27-0 entering the fourth quarter before settling for a 41-14 victory.
Gene Upshaw came into the NFL through a scam, and the guy scammed later became one of the most respected personnel men in the league. But in 1967 Ron Wolf was just a hard-working, 27-year-old super scout for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, and as the draft approached he knew he was going to have a war on his hands.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we arrive at the midway point of the NFL's fake-game schedule, putting us (thankfully) just 17 days away from when they start keeping score for real. ...
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
Beginning Sunday we will have live, professional football games on TV for the next 25 straight weekends. How good does that sound?