Friday, November 28, 2008

Sleeping With the Enemy: Week 13, Chiefs @ Raiders

Yes, yes. Raiders week indeed and the House of Georges staff is ready for it. With us for this week's installment of "Sleeping with the Enemy" is 67MARQUEZ, who hangs his coat on the hook over at Silver and Black Pride. We sat down for a moment to discuss Al Davis, the Chiefs and Raiders, and the AFC West. Once you've read our engaging conversation, be sure to visit his site, as there's always fresh material being posted. Join is if you please, after the jump.

Bankmeister: 67MARQUEZ -- thanks so much for being with us. Kindly fill us in on your history as a Raider fan. Be as brief or extensive as you please.

67MARQUEZ: I was born and raised a Raider fan. When the team is doing well, I praise my father. When the team is not doing well, I blame my father. It's just how it goes. I've been a season ticket holder since 1997, but attended many games (pre-move to LA) and even went to a couple of games in LA. I was at the AFC Championship Game when we beat Tennessee, my all-time favorite "in-person" moment. Speaking of Dad, he's 76 and still tailgates with us. And now I'm passing my passion on to my son, who is 16 and has been to probably 40 games in his young life.

B: Excellent. I've always been a sucker for tradition. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of this game, let's talk AFC West. I trust we all share the same slice of embarrassment regarding where our once-heralded division finds us in 2008. I've been a Chiefs fan for nearly 30 years. My folks grew up Chiefs fans, and pretty much the very first thing I learned was to hate the Raiders. Now, this was simple when I began watching in the early 80s, as the Raiders -- be they the L.A. or the Oakland variety -- were a good team then, and the Chiefs were not. As the decade wore on, Denver became one tough little nugget of a franchise, so my hatred for the orange and blue grew to match that of the silver and black. By the time the 90s rolled around, however, things didn't look so good for Oakland anymore; more often than not, KC handled them, but failed miserably against the Broncos. So, Oakland kind of took back burner on my range of seethe. During this time, however, I became alarmingly aware of what the fan base, especially in the Black Hole, resembled, and as the team continued to sign, shall we say, lesser-quality character players, my spite for them was re-invigorated. San Diego and (when they resided in our division) Seattle always took a back seat. How about you? Who do you hate more: KC or Denver? Or is there another club that draws your ire even stronger?

67MARQUEZ: I would say Denver has earned my hatred more than Kansas City, but not my much. In fact, switch coaches, and well, there you go. Of course when Marty was there, I hated both the exact same. And it irked me to no end to see Marcus Allen suit up for the Chiefs.

B: Fast forward to the present day, and things look awful. I used to take a certain pride in the tough teams of our division, given that east-coast biases and television networks always favor teams like New England, Indianapolis, and the entire NFC East. Besides the simple answer of having perennial winners in the West, what needs to happen to reclaim our throne as one of the great NFL divisions?

67MARQUEZ: There's always a cycle and it's the AFC West's turn to suck right now. It seems the division is lacking two things that would make people notice: star power (not to be confused with star potential) and a return to what you touched on earlier. That genuine hatred of each other. Marty used to get so worked up over Raider Week, that he'd cry. Gruden's first goal when he got here was to restore the dominance over division opponents.

B: In my estimation, the Raiders have been a sort of league laughing stock for some time given the ridiculous club decisions that always appear to be tied to owner Al Davis. The most frequent answer/gripe I get from Raiders fans is that they just want the man to die already. Morbid as it sounds, there's likely some weight to this opinion. Do you share it? If Davis does pass, who takes over, and how will it be different?

67MARQUEZ: I am too nice of a guy to go that far. Step down? By all means, yes. Croak? No. I wonder if Billy Beane would be interested in taking over (haha). Not sure who takes over, but it would have to be someone who can stay with the times, while not forgetting what it means to represent the Raiders.

B: Let's talk roster. JaMarcus Russell. Give us the top three things this guy needs to accomplish/have to become a top NFL passer. Do you agree with this year's selection of Darren McFadden as your first overall?

67MARQUEZ: Russell needs what many QBs need: a solid line and some time to grow into the role. Many, MANY other great quarterbacks struggled at the dawn of their careers. Lastly, let him get accustomed to one coach, one system. Think Gruden/Gannon. I was pleased with the McFadden pick. I believe he has the make-up to give us that "star power" I alluded to, and he gave us a glimpse of that against the Broncos.

B: How about free-agent signings? The out-for-the-year status of Javon Walker has to hurt given the pile of money he "earned" with his signing. True or false? And Justin Fargas? He seems like a gritty back that could really produce in a good system. Are the ingredients for said system in place in Oakland for Fargas to become a top rusher?

67MARQUEZ: I think some of Davis' signings were out of desperation to bring "names" to Oakland, simply because he saw that this was not the alluring franchise it once was. There was a time that putting on a Raider uniform was football's equivalent to Yankee pinstripes. Not any more.

B: That's fair. I think I hate the Yankees as much as I hate Oakland. The defense has been perhaps the only solid bit of consistency for Oakland in the last season or two. Categorically, your team is in the top half for points scored and pass yards allowed, but nearer the bottom in total yards and rushing yards allowed. In your mind, has the defense stayed on track for this year? Has it stayed the same, improved, or taken a step back?

67MARQUEZ: While it's true the defense has been something you could pretty much hang your hat on the past couple of years, it has had its own issues with consistency this year. And they still seem to give up too many first downs on third and long. But I like what I've seen the last two weeks.

B: Then there's coaching. I'm not necessarily inclined to argue about the carousel that Davis has had going on for some time now, but I will if necessary. In my mind, Jon Gruden was the best coach that Oaktown has had since Tom Flores, and the way that Super Bowl went down had to be about the bitterest pill one could possibly swallow. Mike Shanahan might've been better had he been given the time, but that seems to be the big issue here. I didn't think Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, or a second go with Art Shell were wise decisions then, and I don't think they were now. That said, neither were even given three seasons, if I remember correctly.

I thought Lane Kiffin was a good, if nothing else different, option, but his rug was also prematurely yanked. Now you promote the offensive line coach to the level of interim? Basically, the past 10 years of the head-coaching status has baffled me, and I don't have a question really, but am interested in your thoughts on what has been, what is, and what will be in this regard.

67MARQUEZ: It's hard to tell what behind-the-scenes issues Al and Gruden had. I mention this because Al and John Madden (who was every bit as charismatic as Gruden, though in a completely different way) had, from what I can tell, a warm-and-fuzzy relationship. On the outside it seemed that Al was threatened by Gruden's popularity, but who really knows. I do know, that it has been a mess since he left. Kiffin clearly was cut out of the Gruden mold, but we never got the opportunity to see it blossom. You have to have a plan, and plans take time to develop. Bill Walsh was 2-14 his first season; Jimmy Johnson was 1-15. It helps to draft wisely, but in order for any system to succeed, you have to give it chance to fail, so long as their is progress. A coach needs to set the mood, rid the clubhouse of a losing atmosphere (look at the manager of the Tampa Bay baseball team), and then move forward with his plan. I have said all along, the wins and losses don't mean much right now; just give me a consistent effort, and a little bit of progress along the way.

B: On to the Chiefs. One and 10 says more than anyone really needs to know. As Raiders fans, it must be nice to be out of the basement for a change. How special have the wins at Denver and Kansas City been? Would it have been better, worse, or the same if those games had been against non-division rivals? Do you see any stepping stones or reasons for hope for this Chiefs team to get better? Do you have an opinion on Herm Edwards?

67MARQUEZ: OK, the part I said about wins and losses don't mean much -- well, that only applies to non-division games (and maybe games against SF and New England). Any win against an AFC West rival is special, regardless of circumstances. And on the road? Icing, my friend. I honestly don't have much to add on KC's future, but I have always liked Herman Edwards.

B: And the Thanksgiving-week game. It seems that Chiefs/Raiders games have fallen around one holiday or another frequently in recent years, which is apropos of nothing, really. But how do you see this post-Turkey Day matchup? Do the Raiders have the edge because it's at home? Is there any possibility they overlook the struggling Chiefs? Might they be still high off their win against the Broncos?

67MARQUEZ: I would think there would be some danger of a letdown Sunday, IF we were playing anyone other than the Chiefs. The Raiders actually developed a slight hint of a swagger against Denver. I imagine they liked that feeling of winning. With a post-holiday crowd urging them on, I see the Raiders winning this one.

B: Finally, give us a prediction.

67MARQUEZ: Oakland 24, KC 14.

B: Alright. I'm gonna go out on a limb with this one and say the Chiefs actually steal a road win, 34-27. Thanks, nevertheless, kind sir. It's been fun.