METAIRIE — “Just Win Baby!’’
Before his death on Oct. 8, 2011, those three simple words served as the business model and marching orders for a proud Oakland Raiders franchise under its irascible, renegade owner, Al Davis.
But, after yielding 97 points the past two games and sinking to 3-6, it might be time for Davis’ son, Mark, who assumed control of the team upon his father’s death, to lower the lofty expectations of Raider Nation.
Dial down the mantra a notch or two. For instance, “Win? Heck Baby, Just Hold ‘Em Under 50!’’
After all, if the Baltimore Ravens registered 55 points and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored 42 against the Raiders, imagine what quarterback Drew Brees and the high-powered New Orleans Saints (4-5) can muster Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
It is the most points yielded in consecutive games by the Raiders in franchise history.
“Nobody is as bad as the Raiders have looked the last two weeks ... in the history of the game,’’ mused columnist Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com, perhaps mixing truth with fiction. “They’re going to limp in with five or six wins at season’s end and then the real excavation is going to start.
“They still have a bunch of not very good players with not very good contracts. The only real burning issue is not how good they are, but whether they have given up as other Raider teams have been prone to do in the past. I’m not ready to say that yet. But if they lay down like dogs this weekend, then I would say there is an excellent chance.’’
Barring a sudden turnaround, it appears the Raiders will miss the postseason for a 10th consecutive year. They last made the playoffs following the 2002 season under Coach Bill Callahan, falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former Raiders coach Jon Gruden, 48-21, in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Since then, six coaches have tried to buck the trend and six have failed — Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson. A seventh, former Saints secondary coach Dennis Allen, is nine games into his rookie campaign and fading fast.
The Raiders appeared to be headed to the playoffs last season after starting out 7-4 under Jackson but lost four of their final five games to finish 8-8. They ended in a three-way tie with Denver and San Diego for first place in the AFC West but lost both tiebreakers to both teams and ultimately finished third.
On Jan. 5, 2012, Mark Davis named former Raiders linebacker Reggie McKenzie as general manager, who promptly fired Jackson and hired Allen as the franchise’s 18th head coach. Consequently, the Raiders have begun the rebuilding process in reverse order, changing out top management and biding their time with an underachieving, overvalued roster that features veteran quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer was acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals by Hue Jackson shortly after Davis’ death for the steep price of a first-round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional second-round pick in 2013.
To date, that deal has proven to be costly for the Raiders and not returned the desired dividends.
“Al Davis would have never let Hue Jackson trade those draft picks for Palmer because he loved his draft picks,’’ said sports columnist Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group. “But Jackson had a team that was in the playoff hunt, and after Jason Campbell went down, Jackson didn’t think he could get there with backup Kyle Boller.
“To me, that was a mistake.
“That said,’’ Poole said, “there is a lot of pressure on Carson to make things happen, and I don’t think he has a lot of help around him.”
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said RB Darren Sproles is questionable for Sunday’s game because he experienced swelling in his surgically-repaired fractured hand. Vitt said Sproles, who returned to practice this week after missing two games, will be available to return punts if he’s active. … Vitt said T Zach Strief (groin), DE Junior Galette (ankle) and CB Corey White (knee) won’t play against the Raiders after missing practice again Friday, while WR Courtney Roby (shoulder) is probable. …With White out, CB Johnny Patrick will be the fifth defensive back in the nickel package. … Raiders DT Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring), RB Darren McFadden (ankle) and RB Mike Goodson (ankle) were ruled out of the game by coach Dennis Allen. SS Tyvon Branch (neck) and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) are questionable.