Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Report Cards
Norv Turner
S&BI
Posted Dec 20, 2005


The questions are coming more often and with nearly every press briefing. How does Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner feel about his job security? The answer seldom varies.

"That question is going to be asked, it was asked last night and it will continue to be asked," Turner said Monday. "And I'm sure the whole thing will be evaluated and be dealt with at the end of the season."

Oakland's 4-10 record is a breeding ground for uncertainty.

"We all have lessons to learn -- the players have lessons to learn, coaches have lessons to learn, the organization has lessons that need to be learned," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Whether we'll all be here to learn those (lessons) together, I don't know. I hope so, but I don't know."

Unlike the departures of Joe Bugel in 1997 and Bill Callahan in 2003, there appears to be little in the way of revolt among the rank and file.

Players seem to genuinely like Turner and for the most part have played hard for him, if not always well.

"We're staying together as a team, we keep working hard, and no one has thrown in the towel and quit on us," left tackle Barry Sims said. "We've got to keep fighting to get out of this losing streak. I haven't thought things out much farther than that."

In contrast to the previous Raiders teams which grew old and played with the frustration of veterans who were at the end of the line and knew it, the 2005 Raiders have built a decent group of young players which could pay off in the near future -- whether it's for Turner or a new staff.

"When you are struggling like this it is easy to look and say, `Where is the future?'" Turner said. "There is an outstanding nucleus of young players who have continued to improve and will be very good football players. Things can change fast in this league. There are too many examples over the last three or four years of teams turning it around real fast. I would think, in terms of that message, a lot of these young players provide a bright future for this organization."

Jarrod Cooper, a former special teams player who has been playing 60 snaps a game as a safety in addition to kick coverage responsibilities, sees a team that can still look itself in the mirror.

"You show up to work, and as long as you give everything you have to give, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I don't care if you lose 50-0. If you're giving everything that you've got, that's what you've got. That's the man you are, and people are manning up in here. If you start doubting yourself, it's over."

In the end, any support Turner has in the locker room may not be enough if accompanied by a 4-12 record.

"There's some guys that have been around that know we're doing everything we can to do things right," Turner said. "Guys who have been on good football teams, guys who have been on teams that have been competitive. They know the approach we've taken in all areas.

"The whole key, obviously, is this league is about wins and losses. That ends up being the issue."

NOTES, QUOTES

Running back LaMont Jordan became the first Raiders running back to gain 1,000 yards since Tyrone Wheatley (1,046 yards in 2000), and credited his college position coach with helping him get his mind right.

Jordan, who gained a career-high 132 yards on 25 carries, received a phone call from Mike Locksley, the offensive coordinator at Illinois and the former running backs coach at Maryland.

Locksley read about Jordan's criticisms of the Raiders' approach against the Jets, and felt it was time to show a little tough love.

"He basically ripped me a new one," Jordan said. "He told me a couple of things I need to work on. He said don't worry about the amount of carries you get. He said I was dancing around too much. He told me my pass protection sucked."

With that in mind, Jordan, despite a case of turf toe he picked up some time in the first quarter, took it out on the Browns.

"My mindset was just to play power football, pound, pound, pound," Jordan said.

-- There was a Randy Moss sighting, and it was in the end zone. Moss caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins -- his first touchdown in a month. The 28 yards marked the second-longest gain since suffering rib, groin and pelvis injuries Oct. 16 against San Diego.

Collins threw to Moss only four times, with two passes missing badly and with Moss catching another one out of bounds.

As has been his season-long custom, Moss declined comment.

-- On the same day LaMont Jordan broke 1,000 yards rushing, the Raiders went over 1,000 yards in penalties on Doug Gabriel's false start in the first quarter.

With two games to play, the Raiders lead the NFL with 133 penalties for 1,037 yards. Their penalty-free game two weeks ago against San Diego will make it difficult for Oakland to reach the NFL records of 158 penalties and 1,304 yards set by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998.

Oakland is 25 penalties and 267 yards shy of the records with Denver and the New York Giants left to play.

-- Of the seven penalties for 45 yards against Cleveland, five were false starts.

Amazingly, none of the false starts were on offensive linemen -- two were on wide receiver Randy Moss, one on wide receiver Doug Gabriel, one on running back LaMont Jordan and one on running back Zack Crockett.

-- Oakland's lone personal foul was the key to its downfall. With the Browns facing third-and-3 at the Oakland 43 and 1:23 to play, defensive end Derrick Burgess sacked Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye for nine yards.

Burgess, however, was whistled for a major facemask penalty, giving the Cleveland a first down at the Oakland 37.

Burgess said he barely brushed the helmet of Frye with his hand.

"That ain't nothing," Burgess said. "A crucial penalty, a crucial time. It's over with now, right?"

Moments after the Burgess penalty, Bobby Hamilton ripped the ball from Reuben Droughns, with Tommy Kelly recovering the ball at the Oakland 19.

It was reversed on replay, with Mike Carey ruling Droughns' knee was clearly on the ground. The Raiders were incensed, feeling the replay was inconclusive at best and flat-out wrong at worst.

"Man, we're the Raiders. That's pretty much how it goes, right," Burgess said. "I was thinking it was our ball, but something told me they were going to overturn it."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

-- QB Kerry Collins will start against Denver Saturday, coach Norv Turner said.

REPORT CARD VS. BROWNS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Quarterback Kerry Collins had more incompletions (16) than completions (14). Inaccurate both short and long, Collins' 28-yard touchdown strike to Randy Moss was the lone bright spot. His primary target, Jerry Porter, had six catches for only 31 yards and a drop which glanced off his hands and into the hands of Leigh Bodden for an interception. Collins threw just four times in the direction of Moss.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Career day for LaMont Jordan (25 rushes, 132 yards) as the Raiders controlled the clock (33:38 to 26:22) and the line of scrimmage by pounding it inside. The running game softened up the Browns on the touchdown drive. With John Paul Foschi back at fullback, Zack Crockett got four carries for 10 yards. No rushing touchdowns.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Pressure on Browns rookie QB Charlie Frye was so-so, with Frye using his mobility to get away. The Raiders managed to keep Browns receivers in front of them for the most part with Frye's 21 completions accounting for 198 yards. Stanford Routt had what could be a breakout game in place of injured cornerback Fabian Washington. Renaldo Hill had Oakland's fourth interception of the season.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- Running back Reuben Droughns, who had 38 carries for 176 yards as a Denver Bronco in his last game at McAfee Coliseum, had just 53 yards on 18 carries -- a 2.9-yard average. Defense was stout both inside and on the edge. Goal line stand in the first quarter, with Cleveland starting at the 4, finishing at the 1 and running it four times into the heart of the Oakland defense, was of highlight-film quality.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Disaster. Sebastian Janikowski missed from 51 yards -- into the notoriously difficult south end of the stadium -- and had a second attempt blocked from 46. The latter miss set the Browns up at their own 37 with 3:15 to play. Following their only touchdown, the Raiders let Joshua Cribbs get loose for a 46-yard kickoff return that enabled the Browns to get a last-second field goal from Phil Dawson and steal the momentum.

COACHING: C -- The Raiders had the right idea in terms of running LaMont Jordan early and often against the Cleveland defense, but five false starts are the sign of a poorly coached team. Defensively, there isn't much to quibble with. The defense gave up no touchdowns for the second time this season, holding an opponent under 10 points for the first time since a 24-0 shutout of Kansas City in the 2002 season finale.


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