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9:02AM

S.F. Examiner: Chargers replace Raiders as team that finds a way to lose

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The Raiders could have lost — they kept moving the ball but couldn’t get a touchdown — maybe should have lost. But not against the San Diego Chargers.

The Raiders used to be the Chargers, finding ways to lose. Now they find ways to win.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

10:11PM

One stadium, two problems for A’s, Raiders

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — On Wednesday they were holding a baseball game in a football stadium, the yard lines still chalked on the grass.  

On Sunday they were holding a football game in a ballpark. What else should you call a place with a dirt infield neatly, and nearly, filling the area that spreads out from home plate?

The MLB-NFL Oakland Coliseum is the last of its breed, a multipurpose facility where the Athletics have to chase fly balls across an outfield chunked up by the cleats of 300-pound linemen and the Raiders must survive being tackled on a packed dirt surface that extends from one 20-yard line to the other.

The A’s are almost done for the 2016 season. From the attendance Wednesday, apparently most individuals thought it ended a few months ago.

Only 11,197 were in the place for a game, which admittedly meant little and ended in a somewhat bizarre manner, Oakland pinch runner Arismendy Alcantara caught trying to steal with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Houston won, 6-5.

Yes, Babe Ruth made the final out the same way in the 1926 World Series, the Cardinals beating the Yankees, but Alcantara isn’t exactly the Sultan of Swat. His attempt — A’s manager Bob Melvin thought Alcantara “didn’t get the best jump” — of course has nothing to do with the facilities in Oakland, or lack of same.

You know the narrative. Both the A’s and Raiders are in need and deserving of new stadiums. One team, the A’s, seemingly was headed to San Jose before that plan fell through. The other team, the Raiders, has been guaranteed a $2 billion stadium in Las Vegas.

Apropos of nothing but possibly pertinent to everything, the one East Bay team that doesn’t really need a new arena, the Warriors, is prepared to build one in San Francisco. Money, ask for it by name.

An investment group, which claims it has money, instead has asked to purchase the land where the Coliseum stands along the Nimitz Freeway in Oakland with the intent of keeping the Raiders there and out of the clutches of the casino types.

That the group has ties with Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Fame defensive back who played for the 49ers and the Raiders, may be pertinent. Or it may not.

A month ago, the big cash guy behind the A’s, John Fisher, who with Lew Wolff is listed as co-owner, took an exploratory visit of the Howard Terminal, in the Oakland docks, which would be an absolutely perfect place for an A’s ballpark — something to rival AT&T Park across the Bay.

Just kicking the tires, so to speak. Still, a visible search for a ballpark site, on the water no less — the same as the other MLB team in Northern Calfornia (hint: it is in the midst of a late-season collapse) — and a new move to keep the Raiders from moving are more than acceptable.

You have to start someplace.

It’s an open secret that the NFL commish, Roger Goodell, does not want a team in Las Vegas for various reasons, mostly the perception of a sport that is as popular for action at the sports books as it is on the gridiron might be seen in a different light when one of the franchises is based in Sin City.

Also, bless his heart, Goodell has a special feeling about the Raiders, as much for the venom with which longtime owner Al Davis battled the league as for the historical lunacy and success over the seasons of the team and its fans. Any team that had John Madden and Ken Stabler, made a roundtrip to L.A. and back, and was the first to have a “nation” needs to stay where it is.

Goodell may be a pariah in Foxboro but, in concert with others, saving the Raiders for Oakland would make him beloved at Jack London Square. Crab cioppino, Roger?

But let us not be too optimistic. It takes time, money and intelligence to transform these hopes from fantasy to reality. A new Raiders stadium? A new A’s ballpark?

A skeptic would say they have as much chance as Arismendy Alcantara stealing second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday.

9:12AM

S.F. Examiner: Defenseless Raiders prove change comes slowly

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

This is a warning to the Raiders. If you want to draw fans to that $2 billion stadium out on The Strip where Sinatra and the Rat Pack used to hang out, you’d better get your act together. Las Vegas isn’t Oakland.

They want winners there.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

8:40PM

Raiders Carr just wants to win — like Al Davis

By Art Spander

NAPA — This was Al Davis talk, but from Derek Carr. Davis has been gone four and a half years now, and yet for the Raiders, for a player like Carr, it was as if Al still was parading around the field in training camp reminding us to just win, baby.

Carr wants nothing else, even in preseason games. “Anytime I put on a jersey,” said Carr, “my whole mindset is, ‘What do I need to do to win?’”

Most likely be on the field for more than a dozen plays, or something like that, to which most NFL starting quarterbacks are limited in the first or second week of what, in truth, are practice games.

No reason to take a chance with injuries, and conversely you’ve got to give a chance to the backups.

So for Carr, there’s impatience. Ten plays last weekend against Arizona, although with Matt McGloin throwing a couple of touchdown passes, an Oakland victory. Thursday night, it’s the Packers at Green Bay.

“There’s something where, like, if you lose,” said Carr, “it stings, because you’re a competitor.”

And unquestionably, in his third year, a leader — the leader. As a quarterback is supposed to be. Someone who understands the plan and people, and no less importantly himself. Someone as adept at dealing with the media as with a safety blitz.

The Raiders closed camp early Tuesday afternoon, not long after Carr, enthusiastic — as always — and reflective gave what would be the final session behind the podium for Napa 2016. And, according to some rumors, the final ever.

If the Oakland Raiders indeed are to become the Las Vegas Raiders, as Al’s son, Mark, is planning — scheming? — then, according to the predictions, training camp would be switched to Reno. Not that anyone associated with the Raiders would discuss it.

“Man, I’m just . . . I didn’t even think of that until you said that,” Carr offered. “That’s how focused we are on football. I love Napa. I love the Bay Area. If it is, I loved it. If it’s not, I look forward to coming back.”

It was the belief of the late Bill Walsh (whose first job in pro football was as an assistant to Davis in 1966, when Al was the Raiders' head coach) that a quarterback needs three years to develop: in the rookie year mostly watching, in the second year playing when he could succeed, in the third year becoming the starter.

Now rookies, such as Jared Goff with the Rams this season and Carr back in 2014, instantly are first-string, learning in the school of hard knocks and one-sided defeats. Peyton Manning himself endorsed the method with the man who succeeded him at Indianapolis, Andrew Luck.

“You’ve got to get out there and find out,” in effect is what Manning advised.

Carr definitely did. That first year, the Raiders lost their opening 10 games. For someone who prizes a win in preseason, the pain still lingers from the difficult beginning. Yet, Carr rarely gets down.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time,” he said of his attitude, “it’s real. It really is. I just love people, being around people. But there’s one percent of the time when you wake up and your body hurts or something bad happened with a friend or family member, and it bugs you. I’m human.”

But he recovers quickly enough.

“I just remind myself who I am,” said Carr, “my foundation, what I believe and who I am. That’s how I go about it, because I want to make sure I’m always the same for my teammates. Like when we were 0-10, it was hard. But I tried every single day to be the same guy. So, as they saw that when we were losing, when we started winning and I was the same guy, they knew it just wasn’t a game.”

He meant his behavior, not football, which is just a game — and more.

“When I came out of (Fresno State), I felt very prepared,” said Carr, “When I hit the NFL, there hasn’t been anything that was said to me that didn’t make sense. It’s all about experience, though. It’s just a matter of experiencing those things, those blitzes, those coverages.

“It made sense to me why they were doing it, but I had never seen it before so it wasn’t in my memory bank. Those two years of experience are what really gave me the most knowledge.”

We’ll find out whether, in his critical third year, they also give Carr the winning edge.

8:14PM

For Raiders, no success ‘without a Super Bowl’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Wait ’til next year. Or the year after that. Or the Twelfth of Never. The Raiders aren’t there yet, perhaps aren’t even close to being there, meaning the postseason, where they last played 13 years ago, a virtual lifetime in the NFL.

Are they better than last season? Their record would indicate as much. Even after getting beaten by the superior Green Bay Packers, 30-20, Sunday in the rain and chill at O.Co Coliseum, and being eliminated from the playoffs, the Raiders are 6-8. And wins in their final two games, unlikely since one is at Kansas City, would make them 8-8, which would be their best record since 2011.

They had a new coach this season, Jack Del Rio, and after defeating the Jets in early November had a 4-3 record. Where would they go from there? Nowhere, it turned out. At least figuratively. Progress, sure — from three wins a year ago, it was inevitable they would progress. Still, that doesn’t placate the fans, drenched and deflated, who toughed it out. Or the veteran defensive back Charles Woodson.

Someone wondered if the season could be described as success, what with victories over the Jets and, a week ago, the Denver Broncos. Woodson had a ready response. “There is no success,” he said, “without a Super Bowl.”

This from a 37-year-old who entered the league in 1998, was drafted by and played with the Raiders, moved to the Green Bay Packers where he got that Super Bowl and then in 2013 returned to Oakland. This from a man who has battled and survived and, even Sunday, after another bruise to his sore right shoulder, missed only one scrimmage play before re-entering the game.

“But,” added Woodson, “progress has been made.”

The Raiders have fallen — or raised — themselves into the category called teasers. As opposed to finishers. The Raiders are out there making big runs, big receptions, big defensive stops — and big mistakes.

As in the first period Monday, when they — meaning quarterback Derek Carr — threw two interceptions and fell behind 14. After which they pulled ahead, 20-17. After which they gave up two touchdowns and a field goal.

Is it a lack of experience, of understanding how champions compete, or a lack of talent? Is it a failure in the coaching or a failure in comprehension? Is it bad breaks or bad play?

For seasons the Raiders have been heavily penalized, a legacy of the late owner Al Davis, who often said he didn’t care about discipline. And while there has been improvement in 2015, the penalties remain a major negative. Time after time Monday, the Raiders were called for pass interference, illegal use of hands or holding. In all, the Raiders had 10 penalties for 95 yards, the Packers six for 75 yards.

On a third and sixth, a pass is knocked down, a flag is thrown and the Packers — or the Chiefs, or the Steelers — have a first down. “Just play with better technique,” said Del Rio about the calls. “I saw a couple examples where guys were trailing and did not play with proper technique. That will be called every time. Wasn’t even close.”

Nor were the two quick interceptions by Carr, who, in his second year, has not attained a level of consistency needed by winners. In the middle of the first quarter, Micah Hyde picked off a Carr pass at the Oakland 36. Four plays later, the Pack led 7-0. One play later, a 43-yard interception return by Damarious Randall made it 14-0.

“The first interception,” said Carr, “I tried to sneak it in without the guy seeing me, and he turned his head around and caught it. The second just got high on me. It did. I wish I had the play over. I’d love to bring it down, obviously, but that’s where I wanted to throw it. It was just high.”

After the one-two punch, Del Rio brought Carr to his side, not to criticize but to reassure. “It was just, ‘Things like that are going to happen, I believe in you,’” Shaw said of the coach’s advice. “‘You already know these things. Just go out there and be yourself.’”

For now, Carr being himself is not good enough. He’s an individual on the verge. The Raiders are a team on the verge. But so far that’s not enough.

“In critical situations,” said Woodson, the wise and relatively old man, “you can’t beat yourself. It’s hard enough to go out there and play the other team. As this team grows, we’ll get better at those type of things.”

For that we must wait. ’Til next year, or well after that.

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