Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

May 27, 2008
Backup plan

"What's wrong with the Raiders?"

You have no idea how many time I'm asked that.

For those that don't believe me when I say the problem starts up top with player personnel decisions, I finally have a public ally not a part of the media.

I caught part of a radio interview with former Raiders receivers coach and Hall of Fame player Fred Biletnikoff on KHTK 1140 (Sacramento) in the car while on the way back from the store.

Biletnikoff said the Raiders simply have played with too many "backups" in the starting lineup.

He should know after having to coach the likes of Alvis Whitted as a starter.

Raiders owner Al Davis has stated the Raiders have the talent to win. But the 19-61 record since the Super Bowl season of 2002 indicates otherwise.

it's not as if teams were fighting to get a hold of former Raiders in recent years. Charles Woodson is doing well. Langston Walker (from what I hear) had a decent season in Buffalo.

But teams weren't lining up to sign Johnnie Morant.

Freddie B is also "sick" of hearing what a great athlete someone is.

That's another flaw of the Raiders personnel department.

The Raiders draft numbers (height, weight, 40 time). The good teams in the NFL (New England, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New York Giants) draft football players.

When asked about former player personnel employee Mike Lombardi, Biletnikoff was blunt:

"If you're not good at what you do you ask other people about players," he said.

Lombardi feuded with Art Shell before being fired last year. Some in the organization felt he received way too much credit for good decisions and not enough blame for bad decisions.

Biletnikoff said the team has made strides to purge the backups from starting roles.

(That means the so-called scholarship players are being removed).

Biletnikoff said the danger is when talent level is low, an organization can "accept mediocrity" based on what it sees good in offseason workouts.

That's definitely happened lately.

So the next time someone brags about all the "talent" the Raiders have had, ask yourself, we're they talented players or just talented backups?

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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