Friday, November 13, 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy: Week Nine, Chiefs @ Raiders

Been away from this feature for a minute. Had the bye-week blues a couple of weeks ago, and my Jaguars contact blew me off last week, so please forgive me. Sleeping with the Enemy is back, however, just in time for Raider Week, the sequel. This week we sat down with none other than Elwyn Grimes, Jr., who dons the Silver and Black on Sundays.

There was a time when we battled one another in the same fantasy league and talked smack on the message board. Now we do the same on Facebook, and hate each other's teams just as much as ever.

Our conversation, a mere click away.

Bankmeister: Let's get the Hot time, summer in the city. Back o' my neck gettin' dirty and gritty outta the way first. Are you from the Oaktown?

Elwyn Grimes, Jr.: Nope. Born and raised in Kansas City.

B: I see. So the obvious question then, is, how'd you become a Raiders fan?

E.G.: I'd have to say it was the first football game I remember watching, which would've been XV.

B: Raiders/Eagles? Heh. That was my first game, too.

E.G.: Yeah. And I've been hooked ever since. There was a time, though, when I would cheer for both the Chiefs and the Raiders--

B: Root for two squads in the same division? Unpossible!

E.G.: It seemed like everyone in Kansas City felt compelled to tell me that I couldn't be a Raiders fan. That and the, uh, oh, what was that Lin Elliot game where they had home field throughout?

B: Ah. Well, there were three occasions in which they've been 13-3 with a first-round bye, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and gone home after one contest. The Lin Elliot year would be 1995, a 10-7 loss to the Colts.

E.G.: That's the one.

B: The other came in 1997 when the Broncos and Chiefs played each other for the only time in playoff history, and Denver knocked us off 14-10. Granted, they got some road cookin' goin' on in the form of a nullified Tony Gonzalez touchdown catch, but it wouldn't be a Broncos game without that kinda grease on the gears.

It happened again in 2003 when the Colts won again at Arrowhead in a puntless shootout. But what're some of your other sports teams?

E.G.: As far as baseball, I'm a Royals fan first, BoSox second. I like KU basketball and KU and Miami for college football.

B: Miami? For reals?

E.G.: Yeah. I think it was that 1984 Orange Bowl

when they beat Nebraska that sealed the deal for me.

B: So pick your poison: college or pro ball.

E.G.: Well, I liked the pros better than college for the longest time. Now it's kinda swung back in the other direction. I dunno if it's because the Raiders have been so bad for a decade or what. It's tough, though. They had so many good players back than. And both clubs did in that Super Bowl: Mike Quick, Harold Carmichael, Jim Plunkett, Wilbur Montgomery, Cliff Branch.

B: What about your hatred for Notre Dame? Are you one of these guys that hates them because of the television contract?

E.G.: I suppose the TV stuff has fueled my hatred for them, but before that it was games like the one in which they beat Miami on the last-second failed two-point conversion in South Bend. There was a fight in the tunnel before the game. It was especially tough because Miami had crushed 'em 45-10 the previous year. That was the game where they had the Catholics vs. Convicts t-shirts.

But also, I never liked Lou Holtz. He irritates me.

B: Why? How can you hate Lou?

E.G.: Probably just because of his Notre Dame affiliation. If he'd never been there, been somewhere else, I'd probably like him.

But there was also the '88 national title, the time they beat Tennessee on a last-second touchdown in like '91 or '92. I just don't like 'em.

B: Fair enough. Getting back to the NFL, though, what're your top three Raider memories?

E.G.: Well, the Super Bowl against the Redskins for sure. In 1983. Jack Squirek had an interception before halftime and ran it in. There was a Tyrone Wheatley touchdown in Kansas City, which happened to be the first Raiders/Chiefs game I attended. We actually won that one. It had to've been around 2000, I think. And then the other is from that same Super Bowl: the Marcus Allen 79-yard touchdown run.

B: Okay. Since a lot of your Raiders talk is Super Bowl-related, let's talk about the Pirate Bowl, the Raiders/Bucs matchup of 2002.

E.G.: Ugh. When the playoffs started that was the one team I didn't want the Raiders to face. I thought Tampa was the one squad that could give the Raiders trouble. It was a hunch that proved right; I stopped watching about halfway through the fourth quarter.

B: That was really a bizarre matchup. I'm sure you remember that it was, of course, a way for Jon Gruden to spit in Al Davis' face. What was the craziest thing, though, was all of that footage in the off week of him taking snaps under center and mirroring Rich Gannon's tendencies for his defensive unit.

E.G.: Yeah. He was a well-prepared coach. I absolutely loved Jon Gruden.

B: Things really seemed to go downhill for Oakland after that. What do you think happened?

E.G.: Well, there are, I think, three things that you can identify that've lead to the Raiders demise. One is letting go of Gruden. Two is Gannon's neck injury that pretty much ended his career. And the third is the Tuck Rule.

B: 'Scuse me?

E.G.: Well, if that doesn't happen--

B: Wait. We're talking Oakland/New England in the snow in Foxboro. Tom Brady, right?

E.G.: Exactly. I think if that play doesn't happen, the Raiders go to the Super Bowl, probably win it, and have success beyond that season. I truly, truly believe that.

B: Why?

E.G.: Well, I think if it doesn't happen, then Al Davis doesn't feel desperate after. He remains capable of making rational decisions.

B: Huh. Fascinating. Since you brought that up, I was listening to the SportsTalk Radios today, and someone made the comment that they often wondered if Al Davis was intentionally running his franchise into the ground. They said that his business simply isn't good for the NFL, and they wondered if the league would ever step in and assume control of the franchise to better the league's image.

E.G.: Well, that's probably just wishful thinking. I think Al Davis still thinks he's doing what's best for the organization.

B: Okay. What were your thoughts on the Lane Kiffin regime?

E.G.: I thought it was a strange hire. He was good at developing quarterbacks, but I would never take a college offensive coordinator in and make him a head coach at the pro level. If you're groomin' him it's one thing, but NCAA O.C. to NFL H.C. is a Quantam Leap. That's why it was a strange hire, but it was a good hire in contrast to the second coming of Art Shell, who hired a defensive coordinator that'd been running a bed and breakfast.

B: That ain't no lie. What about firing Kiffin, though? Naturally, the argument there is that he wasn't given nearly enough time to prove he wasn't cut out for the job.

E.G.: I think that was Al Davis' paranoia more than anything else.

B: Did you watch that press conference?

E.G.: No. I saw part of it. I just remember a whole lot of "he wasn't who I thought I'd hired."

B: The next time you have a minute, you've got to watch the whole thing. Al Davis is a fascinating creature.

(Editor's Note: Also available in parts I, II, III, VI, and V)
E.G.: He is. I remember hearing that, 10 minutes before the Tom Cable hiring, Davis leaned over to an assistant and pointed to Cable's name in the media guide and said, "Who's this guy again?"

B: Wow. That's amazing.

E.G.: What's even worse was when Cable was the interim coach. Davis didn't like what certain reporters were writing so he started banning them from the press box. Eventually the NFL stepped in and, basically, they were like, "Dude -- you cannot ban people from the press box."

B: Well, all of that behavior sort of certifies the ongoing claim that the man is senile. There's even the latest claim from the organization against ESPN, that it has continued to paint the Raiders in a negative light.

E.G.: Yeah. That's just Al Davis spilling into the media.

B: The stories really go on. You have post-retirement Warren Sapp saying that Davis would call down to the field and allegedly say "We're going deep on this next one."

E.G.: I tend to believe it. He's got his hands in every part of what happens out there. He's a hard guy to figure out. He wants to be seen as a maverick.

B: Well, and he was. Thirty years ago.

E.G.: Exactly, but now, I mean...there's a time to pick your battles. There comes a time when you have to realize that maybe doing things your way isn't the best way, but he refuses to do any differently. I liked Warren Sapp when he was happy, but how many Raiders players stay happy? I remember him saying after he retired: "Whatever you do, you do not want to go play for Oakland."

B: Was Gruden the best coach you've seen in your lifetime?

E.G.: (pauses) No. Well...I still have to give the nod to Tom Flores and his two Super Bowl wins.

B: How much Monday Night Football have you watched in the last 10 years?

E.G.: A lot. Probably 85-90 percent of the games.

B: Tell me about Gruden in the booth. I feel like for a long time the MNF duo was solid, and then they changed it up and it's been pretty shitty. I think Gruden's awesome, but I've also heard some gripes.

E.G.: I think he's really good and most people I talk to agree. I hated Cornheiser. Theismann was alright. I mean, he was better than Dennis Miller, and I liked their attempt with Miller.

B: Speaking of changes, somebody once told me: "You can change your religion, your spouse, and your sex, but you can never, ever change your team." Agree or disagree?

E.G.: I can't imagine ever not being a Raiders fan. I mean, it'd be a lot easier to be a Steelers fan right now. But I'd never be a Pats fan.

B: Why not?

E.G.: Pats fans are arrogant. Fan bases like theirs have such a sense of entitlement, like everything's ours to lose.

B: What about some of the characters that have been on your team's roster in recent years? Guys like Javon Walker.

E.G.: It used to be that misfits and miscasts were brought together as a team, but that doesn't work anymore.

B: I would look no further than this year's Washington Redskins.

E.G.: Yeah. They just don't mesh well. Guys like Walker, DeAngelo Hall -- who they cut after eight games -- Gibril Wilson, Tommy Kelly.

B: What about the Richard Seymour signing?

E.G.: For a second I thought he could bring a different attitude, be a unifying force, but the culture of that locker room is so fractured that not even a Pro Bowl/Super Bowl resume can bind things together.

B: This is all leading us in the direction of your leader, your key figure.

E.G.: Oh. I feel a headache coming on...

B: JaMarcus Russell. It's quite possible that he could finish the season with the worst completion percentage in NFL history.

E.G.: That's probably pretty accurate.

B: What went wrong there? Has he hit his ceiling? Is he a product of his environment? Just plain simply a bad pick?

E.G.: He was a one-year starter at LSU. He put up incredible numbers and has an awesome arm. But I think he's incapable of reading a defense. It's the same thing as with Ryan Leaf. Maybe worse than Ryan Leaf. God, is that even possible? Yes. It is. He's clearly that bad.

I just don't think he has the tools to be an NFL quarterback. He's awful. Awful.

B: I don't get to see a lot of Raiders games, but I caught the one against Denver, and the first contest against the Chiefs. He looked outright terrible. Throwing five yards behind guys, hitting the ground...Do you get to see many games?

E.G.: Not a lot. I listen to the radio via the Web, and catch what I can on TV and Sportscenter.

B: How is it that he was that good in college, but this bad in the pros?

E.G.: I have no idea. I mean, it's the same thing as Robert Gallery.

B: Wait a minute. Gallery's played decent.

E.G.: Yeah. As a right guard. But they brought him in as a left tackle and that's the same mistake they made with Russell: They looked at nothing more than one year of film and made their decision on that, but that's the rudderless ship that is the Oakland Raiders.

B: Do you take a lot of grief in KC as a Raiders fan?

E.G.: I catch all sorts of hell, but mostly in good fun. I tend to give as good as I get.

B: Have you had any negative experiences at Arrowhead? Do you go out their and represent the Silver and Black?

E.G.: I've been to three or four games in my Raiders gear. Nothing real, real bad has happened for the most part.

B: What about home games? You ever been to one in Oakland? Is it as bad as the rumours suggest?

E.G.: That's something I really wanna do is go to a game at the Black Hole.

B: What've you heard from those who have? I've heard stories from fans about security suggesting late-fourth-quarter escorts to visiting fans. Trent Green has said that that's the one stadium in the league where his family was not allowed to sit in non-box seats.

E.G.: I've heard 'em all. I've heard those stories and others where people have gone and had no problem. I think some of it gets blown out of proportion.

B: Let's talk division hatred. Who do you despise the most?

E.G.: Well, the Chiefs are on top, far and away. When you live in KC, you hear Chiefs fans all the time, and over the last 15 years, the Chiefs have really had the Raiders' number, so I hate them the most. Then the Broncos, then the Chargers.

B: Really? Even with things as they are right now? Chargers are last?

E.G.: The Chargers pop up every five years. They're there. Then they're gone. They're just there. When LaDainian Tomlinson's gone, they'll fall off even more.

B: I think you could make the argument that he's gone already, but whatever. What're your thoughts on Denver?

E.G.: Who's their owner? Pat Bowlen? I think he's one of the better owners in the league, so I can't fault them there. I certainly hated John Elway and Shannon Sharpe and Bill Romanowski (when he was there). And Shanahan, too. He had the Raiders' number.

B: You ever hear about the bit in Shanahan's book where he claims that Al Davis still owes him like $300 grand, and that Shanahan wants Davis to donate it to the Oakland public schools or something?

E.G.: No. I haven't heard that, but it wouldn't be a terrible stretch of the imagination for Al Davis to still owe him some money.

B: How does this division shake up at the end of this season?

E.G.: Chargers win, Broncos second, Raiders in third, Chiefs last.

B: And next year? Repeat?

E.G.: I think they'll flip flop at the top, but the Chiefs and Raiders will still battle for the basement.

B: How about this Sunday's game?

E.G.: I think it'll be a really poor display of football. They've won in each other's stadiums for some time now, but I have a hard time believing the Chiefs pull it out. They are just not talented in a lot of areas, and I haven't seen anything out of the Chiefs defense to lead me to believe they'll rise up.

B: And Oakland is?

E.G.: The Raiders are talented but they don't work well together. They just run the ball.

B: Who will we see a lot of? Both Bush and Fargas?

E.G.: Yeah. Both, but again, that's because JaMarcus Russell is so bad. So bad at throwing the ball.

B: Score prediction?

E.G.: Thirteen-10, Raiders.

B: Any thoughts on this new Kansas City regime?

E.G.: Well, when Carl Peterson first got here, up until about 2006, I think he had the best intentions. I really think he was trying to win a championship for Lamar. But to be successful, everything from the top down has to fall into place. They never found that complete balance.

B: If you took over for Al Davis tomorrow, and you had to choose between the second coming of Art Shell and Herman Edwards to coach you team, who would you pick?

E.G.: I can't go with the first version of Art Shell?

B: Nope.

E.G.: I guess I go with Herm.

B: Did he get a fair shake in KC?

E.G.: Yeah. I think he probably did.

B: So what about Scott Pioli hiring Todd Haley to be his head coach who had but two years as a coordinator versus the New York Jets hiring Herman Edwards to coach their team when he'd only been a defensive backs/linebackers coach. Is the time logged as a coordinator that big?

E.G.: Taking that step to coordinator might be that huge. You're working with not just the intricacies of one position but the whole thing working together as a unit.

B: Will Herm ever get a head coaching job in the NFL again?

E.G.: No, not without some other steps. He'll be a DC somewhere, and maybe then as a head coach. Not directly.

B: How long should Haley get?

E.G.: At least three seasons. He has to be given a chance to get players on board, schemes implemented, unless of course you see a big step backwards.

That being said, Cable should be gone.

B: Really? Already? Who do you like?

E.G.: I wanted Dick LeBeau, but as I said, it's a rudderless ship out there.

B: Well thanks for stopping by. I, for the record, am saying that KC wins this one, 23-16.