American Football: No sign of a Raiders recovery
Tuesday 17 October 2006
Once they were a team to be respected and feared. The Oakland Raiders were one of the game's superpowers through the 1970s and 80s, their swagger and bravado encapsulated by their maverick owner, Al Davis, whose catchphrase "just win, baby" marked a period of excellence which yielded three Super Bowl titles between 1976 and 1984.
This season, however, the hapless Raiders will do well to achieve three victories of any kind. Following Sunday's 13-3 defeat to the Denver Broncos, they are now the only team in the NFL without a win this season, and their run of losses now stands at 11, dating back to last year. Just lose, baby, might be more appropriate.
Worse, the team appears to be on the brink of implosion. On Saturday, the head coach, Art Shell, suspended the disgruntled receiver, Jerry Porter, for four games for insubordination. Porter's crime seems to be little more than answering his coaches back in an insolent manner, and the punishment without pay has angered some team-mates.
Frustration spilled over on to the field on Sunday, as the angry Raiders clocked up a season-high 13 penalties. "We lost our focus," said Shell, a master of understatement.
Things could get even worse for the embattled Raiders. Next week they host the Arizona Cardinals, and defeat would raise the prospect of the Raiders becoming the first team since 1976 to go through an entire season without a victory.
There were encouraging signs from Sunday's defeat at Denver where Oakland did not yield a score in the second half. "We are getting better, but there are no moral victories in professional sports," said the quarterback, Andrew Walter. "To talk about that is ridiculous. We are judged on wins and losses." Plenty more of the latter are on Oakland's horizon.
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