When will the misery end? Don’t hold your breath.
To be successful in the NFL, teams must have a competent management team (which can include the owner), a good coach and a reliable quarterback. Here’s how the 49ers and Raiders compare in those areas:
The 49ers do have a good personnel man, though, in Scot McCloughan, who is now the general manager. McCloughan learned under Ron Wolf in Green Bay and understands that teams must build through the draft.
With the Raiders, of course, owner Al Davis makes all the decisions. Davis’ career with the Raiders can be neatly divided into two parts. From 1963 to 1985, the Raiders were the winningest franchise in American professional sports and had been to four Super Bowls, winning the last three. Since then, the Raiders are 26 games below .500 in regular-season play and have been to one Super Bowl, where they lost handily to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Davis resolutely clings to systems and methods that worked for him in the first half of his Raiders career, never acknowledging the many changes in the NFL, on and off the field. He once listened to dissenting voices. Very early, Wolf persuaded him to draft Ken Stabler. Much later, Jon Gruden persuaded him to dump Jeff George and sign Rich Gannon. But since Gruden left, Davis has not tolerated dissenting voices.
» Mike Nolan is a disaster as the 49ers’ coach. He has lost the respect of his players, and his game-day decisions are often strange. With Mike Martz on board, some think he may not last out the season.
Lane Kiffin learned on the job this season with the Raiders. He’s going to be a good coach, possibly very good. Whether that will happen with the Raiders is problematical. Davis gave him the authority to hire assistants last year, but has denied his wish to get rid of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Kiffin didn’t want to draft quarterback JaMarcus Russell last year, but guess what — Russell was taken as the No. 1 overall choice.
» Both teams have nothing but question marks at quarterback.
Russell has a very strong arm (always a highly prized commodity by Davis) but he does not seem to have the agility or ability to make quick decisions that Kiffin’s short-pass, ball-control offense demands. But in fairness, he played so little as a rookie that any judgment is premature.
The 49ers’ Alex Smith seemed to make progress during his second season in 2006, but had regressed even before he sustained a shoulder separation this season. He’s clearly confused and has developed bad mechanics. Backup Shaun Hill played very well, but it’s unlikely he’ll be a long-term fix. Hill is very accurate on short- and medium-range passes, but Martz likes to throw deep, which is not Hill’s strength.
It’s a gloomy picture and not likely to change soon. The 49ers and Raiders will remain linked in futility for the foreseeable future.