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By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
Raiders may as well go back to Gruden
Jon Gruden Since Jon Gruden left Oakland in 2001, the Raiders have had seven coaches.
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Most of us want to learn from the past, not live in it.

When it comes to the Oakland Raiders, however, maybe it's time to stop focusing on the future and start peeking in the rear-view mirror.

It was never a matter of if with Dennis Allen in Oakland, it was always when and Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie answered that question on Tuesday when they fired the latest in the Hall of Ignominy that is the team's recent head- coaching history.

Since Jon Gruden broke up with Davis' father after the 2001 season, the Raiders have had seven coaches over the ensuing 13 years, men who have amassed an almost laughable 64-132 record in a parity-driven league, a winning percentage of less than 33 percent.

The latest Keystone Cop was Allen, who finished a dismal 8-28 in two-plus years as the team's mentor.

"It's tough, because it's about families and everything else," Davis said. "This is a result-driven industry and the results weren't there and Reggie made a decision to move in a different direction, so it's tough."

The question is whether McKenzie deserved to make that decision because Allen was the general manager's hand-picked coach after arriving from Green Bay and that means that McKenzie has also won just eight of 36 games while in charge of this team's football operations.

The differences seem to be that Davis gives McKenzie the credit for cleaning up the franchise's salary-cap woes, and also believes Allen underachieved with the talent at his disposal.

"In my analysis, I think we do have players that can play in this game," Davis said. "And I just think there may be some changes in house, the schemes are utilized. Dennis is the one that has taken the fall for it. I think Dennis gave his heart to the Raiders and I always appreciate that. That's the way it goes."

Others point to McKenzie's acquisitions of quarterbacks like Matt Flynn and Matt Schaub, along with the drafting of a player like D.J. Hayden and wonder what Davis is smoking.

"I think it's just the way that we lost some of the games," Davis explained. "I think we weren't in them. To me, that's not what the Raiders are and we're still trying to get to be what the Raiders are. I think as far as I've been saying we've been looking for an identity for this organization."

In reality, the current struggles are exactly what the Raiders have become, a team which hasn't had an identity since Gruden was in charge and isn't likely to get one under interim coach Tony Sparano, who was a nondescript coach in his previous opportunity in Miami.

Whether Norv Turner was worse than Art Shell or Lane Kiffin was more of an embarrassment than Tom Cable or Allen is inconsequential at this point, though. What isn't is the fact that Hue Jackson, who finished with an 8-8 record in 2011, looks like Vince Lombardi compared to the other hires this organization has made over the years.

Gruden was the last really good coach in Oakland, recording a 38-26 record and taking the team to consecutive AFC West crowns in 2000 and 2001 before Al Davis decided that Gruden's horizontal passing approach wasn't the Raiders way and shipped the coach to Tampa Bay for a boatload of draft picks, and $8 million in cash.

The winner of that trade was decided in Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season when Gruden's Bucs destroyed the team he had built in Oakland by a resounding 48-21 margin. To this day, 2002 remains Oakland's last winning season.

Yet, Mark Davis still believes a good coach will want to work for him and lead the Raiders back to glory.

"The organization itself is in a very good position to move forward, whether Tony Sparano wins this year and becomes the permanent head coach of the Raiders or we bring in another head coach," Davis said.

"I believe the salary cap, contracts, all of those things, I think we're going to have $60-$65 million in cap space next year and so it's quite an encouraging thing," he continued. "(It's) enticing for a new head coach if in fact we find one and go through a search that this could be an organization they would want to be with."

It's certainly nice to have space under the cap but Oakland also had $60 million plus this past offseason yet signing a plethora of veteran names has meant virtually nothing during the team's disastrous 0-4 start.

The truth is smart organizations move money around better than Jordan Belfort no matter what the raw numbers say in October so Davis may be overestimating that aspect of his plan.

Or maybe he's just trying to induce Gruden to come out of the "Monday Night Football" both and rejoin the organization that was last relevant when he was in charge.

"I may reach out to him," Davis admitted before pumping the brakes. "I may reach out to anybody. That's the future, and I'm not going to talk about future coaches."

For Oakland the future lies in the past.

Make the call, Mark.

WEEK 5 (All Times Eastern)

Minnesota (2-2) at Green Bay (2-2) (-9), Thursday, 8:30 p.m. - Teddy Bridgewater is the Vikings' future and rushing him back into action with a sprained left ankle on a short week of preparation doesn't make a lot of sense long-term. That could telegraph Christian Ponder starts for Minnesota and that alone will decide this one.

Packers 34, Vikings 13

Chicago (2-2) at Carolina (2-2) (-2 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Bears will be searching for their fourth straight win over Carolina and will lean on quarterback Jay Cutler, who is tied for the NFC lead with 10 touchdown passes. His counterpart with the Panthers, Cam Newton, has thrown for 688 yards in two career games with Chicago.

Panthers 24, Bears 23

Houston (3-1) at Dallas (3-1) (-6), Sunday, 1 p.m. - J.J. Watt takes his MVP push north to Dallas for this Lone Star State matchup. Watt changed the momentum in the Texans' win over Buffalo last week by picking off a pass and returning it 80 yards for a touchdown. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 35 sacks (38 1/2), an interception return for a score and a touchdown reception in his first four seasons. The Cowboys have been one of the league's most surprising teams behind their own MVP candidate DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL in rushing with 534 yards and had has at least 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in each of his team's first four games.

Cowboys 23, Texans 17

Baltimore (3-1) at Indianapolis (2-2) (-3 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Ravens come in on a three-game winning streak after riding Steve Smith to a victory over the wide receiver's former team, Carolina. Smith, who had 139 yards and two TDs on seven catches against the Panthers, already has 429 yards receiving in 2014, the most ever by a player 35 or over through four contests. The Colts have won two straight after starting 0-2, scoring at least 40 points in both wins. Quarterback Andrew Luck is red hot, becoming the first player in NFL history to post consecutive games with at least 370 passing yards, four- or-more touchdown passes, a completion percentage above 70 percent and one or no interceptions.

Colts 33, Ravens 24

Cleveland (1-2) at Tennessee (1-3) (-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt expects quarterback Jake Locker, who sat out last weekend's loss in Indianapolis with a strained wrist, to be back under center. That's a positive development for Tennessee, which is 6-2 when Locker starts and amasses a 90.0-or-more passer rating. The Browns, meanwhile, continue to stick with veteran Brian Hoyer, who is now 4-2 in six career starts with the organization.

Titans 23, Browns 20

St. Louis (1-2) at Philadelphia (3-1) (-7), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Eagles QB Nick Foles will try to shake off a poor effort against the 49ers and is 6-0 with 11 TDs versus just two interceptions in his last six home starts. The Rams are coming off the bye and will likely stick with Austin Davis at the game's most important position. Davis has a 98.4 passer rating in his first two NFL starts and threw for a career-high 327 yards in his last effort against Dallas.

Eagles 30, Rams 21

Atlanta (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2) (-4), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Giants are back in the NFC East race after their dismal 0-2 start. The key to that has been the running game with Rashad Jennings averaging 115.5 yards over that span. Falcons QB Matt Ryan completed 82.1 percent of his passes (23-of-28) with three TDs and a 142.6 passer ranging his last start against New York. Atlanta is 36-2 when Ryan is above the century mark in passer rating.

Giants 27, Falcons 20

Tampa Bay (1-3) at New Orleans (1-3) (-10), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The desperate Saints are back in the cozy confines of the Superdome where they have won nine straight. Drew Brees, who has also won five consecutive starts against the Bucs, has completed 256-of-346 passes for 3,128 yards with 29 TDs against just three INTs for a 125.7 passer rating in New Orleans' current home run. The Bucs tasted victory for the first time under Lovie Smith last weekend in Pittsburgh thanks to second-year QB Mike Glennon, who recorded his first career 300-yard passing effort (302).

Saints 31, Buccaneers 17

Buffalo (2-2) at Detroit (3-1) (-7), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Bills pulled the plug on second-year QB E.J. Manuel this week in favor of veteran Kyle Orton, who has never lost to the Lions. Orton is 4-0 as a starter against Detroit, passing for 822 yards with four TDs in those contests. The Lions' high-powered offense is piloted by Matthew Stafford, who is averaging over 320 passing yards per game in his last seven against AFC foes.

Lions 30, Bills 23

Pittsburgh (2-2) (-6 1/2) at Jacksonville (0-4), Sunday, 1 p.m. - In his first NFL start last weekend in San Diego, Jags rookie QB Blake Bortles completed 29-of-37 passes for 253 yards and a TD. This week he will try to get Jacksonville its first win against a Pittsburgh defense led by Lawrence Timmons, who has 34 tackles in 2014, including a club-high 10 in a setback to Tampa Bay last week.

Steelers 27, Jaguars 20

Arizona (3-0) at Denver (2-1) (-7), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. - The Cardinals finished September undefeated for just the third time since the 1970 merger and have allowed just 45 points in three games, leading the NFC in points allowed at 15.0 per game. In the fourth quarter, Arizona has yet to allow a single point, outscoring opponents 30-0. Conversely Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown eight touchdown passes in three games and enters this one just one shy of 500 for his career and nine behind Brett Favre (508) for the all-time mark.

Broncos 28, Cardinals 20

Kansas City (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2) (-6), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - Chiefs QB Alex Smith returns to Northern California to face his old team with a hot hand. The veteran has completed 39-of-51 passes for 434 yards and six TDs with a 140.5 passer rating over his last two games. Smith's replacement with the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick, is 11-3 in home starts and has won five of six starts against AFC foes.

49ers 24, Chiefs 20

New York Jets (1-3) at San Diego (3-1) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - When Philip Rivers plays at a high level, look out. In his only previous home game with the Jets, San Diego's QB amassed a 130.0 passer rating and the Chargers are a perfect 21-0 when the veteran reaches that threshold. The Jets, meanwhile, are searching for something and their second-year QB, Geno Smith, could be hearing footsteps with Michael Vick waiting in the wings.

Chargers 27, Jets 14

Cincinnati (3-0) (-1) at New England (2-2), Sunday 8:30 p.m. - The undefeated Bengals have been the best team in football, allowing a league-low 33 points. Cincinnati is the only team in the NFL to allow 16 points or fewer in every game. The Pats and Tom Brady, who is just 60 passing yards shy of becoming the sixth player in NFL history with 50,000, will be attempting to bounce back from last week's embarrassing loss at Kansas City.

Bengals 27, Patriots 17

Seattle (2-1) (-7) at Washington (1-3), Monday, 8:30 p.m. - The Seahawks have won eight consecutive games on Monday night and quarterback Russell Wilson is 3-0 with seven touchdowns and a 121.6 passer rating on the national showcase. The Redskins are led by pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who leads the NFL lead with five sacks along with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has scored five touchdowns (four receiving, one rushing) in his past six Monday night games.

Seahawks 31, Redskins 17