Today’s Cardinals/Raiders game has been dubbed “the dysfunction derby,” and the only reason a clash between 0-5 and 1-5 clubs isn’t being called the Toilet Bowl is because that one was used up when the Raiders played the 49′ers. Labeling the Raiders, “the false start champions of the free world,” and coming awfully close to predicting an 0-16 season, the Contra-Costa Times’ Gary Peterson considers the brutal start of Art Shell’s 2nd tour of duty.
At play is the question of whether or not Shell can hold the room in a China Syndrome season. Given that coaches who lose their players rarely win them back, that would count as no small concern. It’s of even greater concern in Oakland, the one NFL habitat where you can see players pointing fingers at one another from a prone position.
No one quits on a lost season quite like the Raiders. Here we speak of Tim Brown’s proclamation after the final game of 1997, which he entered poised to break the team record for receptions in a season. “The talk in the locker room all week,” he said, “was, ‘Let’s get Tim the record in the first series if we can, then try to go out and win the game.’”
We speak of the abandon-ship mentality that resulted from then-coach Bill Callahan’s “dumbest team in America” speech near the end of the 2003 season. And to Charles Woodson’s assessment late the following November: “We are just not a good team. We haven’t really bought into what’s going on, and the system we are running.”
We refer to the dying days of the Norv Turner empire — six consecutive losses (by an average of two touchdowns) to end the ’05 season.
If anything, these Raiders are even more predisposed to bagging a bad thing than their forefathers. For one thing, hopelessness can have a cumulative effect. The Raiders have had little in the way of hope for the better part of four years now.
For another: Randy Moss. The king of Who Cares. The man enjoying an active retirement in Oakland. The guy who phones it in on Sunday just as surely as he does with his widely referenced radio show on Monday. When the man atop the salary totem pole can’t be bothered, why should anybody else?