If you want to ponder an overriding football philosophy that could steer Raiders owner Mark Davis deep into the future, I think I would focus more on their most famous former coach than anybody else …
That would be Jon Gruden, of course.
Now, let me be clear: Gruden is not calling the shots for the Raiders, Reggie McKenzie is.
And Gruden is not coaching the Raiders, Dennis Allen is.
Also, I’ve written many times that — despite repeated rumor-mill rippling about Gruden being interested in returning to the Raiders and Davis being interested in bringing him back — a Great Gruden Return to Oakland doesn’t seem immediately likely.
But that doesn’t mean Davis hasn’t thought about it and doesn’t let his mind wander to the prospect of a Gruden Restoration in some near future time frame.
Hey, if Gruden is thinking about leaving his ESPN booth and getting back into coaching, maybe the Raiders would be on the list of interesting teams for him if things were set up right.
If you’re an owner and you think Gruden is relatively intrigued by the prospect and you know what kind of electric shock a Gruden return would give the Raiders fan base (and the NFL at large), and …
You want to improve your franchise generally to A) be better and B) be more attractive to super-candidates like … well, just like Gruden.
What steps would you want to take before sitting down with him and making that big serious job offer?
Well, mostly, you’d want a quarterback in place, preferably one Gruden really, really likes.
So why wouldn’t Davis be curious about Gruden’s thoughts on a quarterback these days?
I’m not saying the Raiders will check every move with Gruden in mind, and I’m 100 percent sure McKenzie and Allen should absolutely only pick players that fit what they want to do.
But I think Davis might have some thoughts in this regard, and I think he might have some feelings about players who might qualify as Gruden-types.
Two things are a given about NFL teams’ eternal quest to hire Gruden …
1) He will want a ton of money and a ton of power.
I think we can all presume Davis is giving McKenzie and Allen one more year to get this team on the right track, and if they don’t, the Raiders logically will be looking for a new G.M. and coach, and Gruden or somebody else could theoretically take both jobs.
The Raiders don’t have a lot of money, but the recent string of short-term deals to middle-aged veterans leaves open the idea of great salary cap space into the near future.And even if Davis’ cash flow isn’t good, and his stadium situation remains a bummer, the idea of bringing back Gruden might be worth the extravagant expenditure, at least theoretically.
2) And Gruden will, at the very least, want a good young quarterback in place and probably other very good players in important positions.
Gruden doesn’t want to spend the first few years of his next gig — possibly the job that will define him, if he ditches the TV career — searching frantically for a quarterback and other good players in order to avoid 7-9 seasons.
If he gets back into the NFL, he will want a quarterback sitting there waiting for his teaching.
– Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News
The cream puffy, nerdy, BMW-driving girls from Stanford are going to Nashville.
There! Now that we got some of the Stanford stereotypes out of the way, it’s time to get down to basketball – Final Four style.
The word on the street in women’s college basketball circles is that the West Coast is soft. That word was almost the Word on Tuesday night, as North Carolina’s young and physical team took Stanford superstar Chiney Ogwumike out of the game, almost out of the gym, almost out of the tournament.
Ogwumike, who works most of her magic down on the low block, was triple-teamed into oblivion in the first half, smothered and knocked around and humbled.
“It just took us a while to get some traction,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said after Stanford’s very difficult 74-65 comeback victory.
The Cardinal got no footing until well into the second half. Ogwumike must have felt like Nashville singing star Patty Loveless, who famously sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction and my tractor don’t get no traction.” Although when they sing that song at Stanford, they clean up the grammar.
The cast keeps changing at Stanford over the past decade or so, but the plot remains the same. VanDerveer wrings her hands about having to motivate overprivileged kids from the burbs, opponents decide that physical play is the way to beat the Cardinal, and every year at this time Stanford winds up in the Final Four.
How does that happen?
This time it happened because Ogwumike, maybe the greatest player in the nation and a member of any mythical all-time Bay Area team (Bill Russell, Jason Kidd, etc.), got her head together at halftime.
That, and her teammates – notably role player Mikaela Ruef – stepped up to hit shots and draw the smothering defense away from Ogwumike down low, giving her room to wheel and deal for 20 points.
“We banged her in the first half, and (the refs) let us do that,” North Carolina associate head coach Andrew Calder said. “We didn’t bang her enough in the second half.”
“It wasn’t really a physical game to us,” said North Carolina forward Xylina McDaniel. “It might have been to them.”
There they go again with that stereotype of soft Stanford. The Tar Heels figured their best chance to win was to turn the paint into a bad intersection at rush hour.
“At Stanford, we push through that” physical defense, Ogwumike said.
But she wasn’t able to push through it in the first half as North Carolina swarmed her, and it wasn’t until about four minutes into the second half that Stanford completed its first pass to its superstar on the low block. Hey, anybody ever heard of a bounce pass?
Ogwumike said she was a different player in the second half because of advice from her sister, her coach and her teammates. Older sister Nneka, now a pro, took Chiney aside in the hallway at the break and told her to relax. VanDerveer said the same, but also to be more aggressive, and her teammates told her to get tougher. Sure, take a deep breath, take it easy, and get more intense. It takes a Stanford-level intellect to process all that conflicting advice and turn it into a dominating performance.
And there’s no better example of a Stanford ballplayer than Ogwumike, who is super-bright, cultured and well-spoken – and can also deal in the trenches. It’s Stanford’s dirty little secret. West Coast ball might not be as physical as East Coast ball, but that’s not Stanford’s fault; they don’t ref the games. The Cardinal can muscle up.
You don’t make it to the Final Four six times in seven seasons by getting bullied in the paint. And in the long line of Stanford superstars, none has been more of a load inside than Ogwumike.
So how did the Cardinal get such a rep for being all brains and no brawn? Blame Ogwumike, who two years ago wrote and starred in a music video titled “Nerd City Kids.”
See, it’s all a clever plot. Ogwumike and her teammates reinforce all those geeky stereotypes, and teams like North Carolina come in and feel they can open a can of whoop-ass, and it never works.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
Welcome back, Tim Hudson, even if you do look a little strange in that Giants uniform.
In a day and evening of masterful starting pitching performances, Hudson’s may have been the most important. Making his first regular-season start since that gruesome fractured ankle ended his season last July, Hudson’s debut with the Giants was brilliant, that great sinker of his dipping and diving and leaving the Diamondbacks flailing at air and pounding worm burners into the ground.
Hudson threw 103 pitches in his 7 2/3 innings, 74 strikes, and put a zero in the run column while allowing three hits and no walks as the Giants won 2-0. Fifteen of his outs were registered via a groundball (eight) or strikeout (seven). At 38 and coming off a serious injury, there had to be some question marks about what Hudson could bring a Giants rotation that struggled last season behind ace Madison Bumgarner. How good was he? His Game Score of 80 was Hudson’s highest since throwing eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts on Sept. 17, 2011.
Hudson went 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 21 starts for the Braves last year and the Giants need that kind of performance — or something a little better. The Giants’ rotation last year was pretty much a disaster, despite its “We won two World Series” reputation. Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong took the brunt of the punishment, but Matt Cain struggled for two months and Tim Lincecum’s ERA was also over 4.00. As a group, the Giants ranked 22nd in rotation ERA and 27th in FanGraphs WAR — worse than the Twins or Cubs.
For one game at least, it was vintage Hudson. And that’s a wonderful thing.
–David Schoenfeld, ESPN.com