Dickey: Something rotten in state of Raiders

Even the Raider Nation is catching on after their ingenious team found still another way to lose against the Chicago Bears.

Much of the Raiders’ fan base has remained remarkably loyal, or remarkably stupid, believing that Al Davis still knows what he’s doing, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

But the booing has been loud and frequent at McAfee Coliseum this season. It started in the first quarter Sunday, as the so-called offense started a game-long stutter that left the Raiders with less than 200 yards.

Most of it was directed at hapless quarterback Josh McCown, a good athlete who can’t pass accurately on any pattern exceeding 10 yards, a significant failing for a quarterback.

The fans started calling for Daunte Culpepper in the Raiders’ first game, but he wasn’t the answer, either. I’d like to see rookie JaMarcus Russell taking some snaps, but only so he can get a feel for the NFL game. The fact is that this team needs significant upgrading at almost every offensive position, and at some defensive positions, too.

The fault for that goes straight back to Davis. The Raiders are as secretive as the Kremlin in the bad old days of the Evil Empire, but it’s obvious that Davis still has an iron grip on player decisions.

Even when he was at the top of his game, Davis had some significant blind spots. He’s always overvalued speed, going for Olympic-type sprinters who lacked football skills. He loves players who have won the Heisman Trophy, which worked out well with Jim Plunkett and Tim Brown, but not with Desmond Howard. He’s always loved strong-armed quarterbacks, which caused him to sign Jeff George and Kerry Collins. Thunk!

When the Raiders have had their most success, there has always been a guy who could stop Davis from going overboard. Davis was brilliant when he first took over the Raiders, but he also had Ron Wolf, who successfully argued for drafting Ken Stabler, a quarterback Davis never liked. When Jon Gruden was the coach, he persuaded Davis to drop George and sign Rich Gannon, and Gannon ran the Gruden system magnificently, right up to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.

There has been no strong voice to challenge Davis since Gruden left. Michael Lombardi was a respected football man in the front office, but he became so tired of Davis’ interference that he started leaking information to writers. It was Lombardi who was the subject of Art Shell’s criticism last fall. He was fired this year.

The Raiders have been drafting high for four years now, and they also got Tampa Bay’s first- and second-round draft picks in 2002 and 2003 for Gruden, but they have little to show for it. Their highest pick prior to the Russell pick, No. 2 overall Robert Gallery, is an outright bust. Davis has also picked up mistakes such as Randy Mossand Aaron Brooks.

The top clubs in the NFL, New England and Indianapolis, have strong personnel men in Scott Pioli and Bill Polian. Davis needs to hire a comparable man and let him do his job.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen. No top personnel man would come to Oakland because he’d know he could never be independent. So, while Raiders fans are booing their team, the real problem is sitting in the owner’s box.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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