As an Oakland Raiders fan, I have been forced to endure relentless Raider bashing by sports media ever since the Raiders tanked in the Gruden Bowl and have struggled ever since. It seems as though one of the favorite past times of many football related talking heads is to bash the Raiders when given the opportunity. Just the other day, Al Michaels took a shot at the Raiders when he wasn't even working.
As I said, this is nothing new. However, when the Raiders bashing occurs, the majority of the time, it is done by people who know what they are talking about and who point to factual evidence as to why they feel the way they do. While I may not always agree with their analysis, at least it can be said that it was made by someone who had taken the time to develop their thoughts based on actually studying the team, so its hard to justify getting mad about it.
This morning, however, I saw a story by Rich Walcoff of the San Francisco Examiner, comparing the 49ers and Raiders, that actually got my blood boiling. Reading his analysis left me thoroughly convinced that Walcoff had barely taken a look at the team rosters, let alone actually watched the teams play.
So, for all of the Raiders and 49ers fans out there, here is a head to head comparison of the 49ers and Raiders by someone who has done his homework.
Now, before I get to my comparison, let me start by explaining why I was so dumbfounded by Walcoff's article. While I disagreed with much of what he wrote, there were a few comments that were so off base, they need to be pointed out.
First, Walcoff makes the proclamation that the 49ers may have the best linebacking corps this side of Pittsburgh. This is so preposterous, I literally laughed out loud when I read it. The Niners lost Takeo Spikes during the off-season and while he is getting older, there is no question he played a major role for the 49ers. His replacement, NaVorro Bowman, has the potential to be real good, but has yet to have really proven himself. Meanwhile, Harbaugh was so unimpressed with his outside linebackers that he used his first round pick on Aldon Smith despite many other holes on the roster he could have addressed.
Next, in his "playmakers" section, Walcoff lists Darius Heyward-Bey as one of the Raiders biggest playmakers who should be unstoppable. I'm sorry, but has he even seen DHB play? I have yet to hear one person over the past three years mention him as a playmaker. As if that was not bad enough, Walcoff does not even mention Jacoby Ford who is clearly the Raiders biggest offensive threat behind Darren McFadden.
Finally, in comparing the special teams, Walcoff lists Nick Miller as the Raiders returner. Yeah, Nick Miller, the reserve wide receiver and third string returner that barely made the squad. Did he magically forget about how Jacoby Ford had three returns for touchdowns as a rookie? Did he not notice that the Raiders have a new wide receiver in Denarius Moore who will be splitting return duties with Ford? This one was so out there it literally left me dumbfounded.
Now, on to the head to head comparison. I will be using the same topics of comparison as Walcoff, but with realistic evaluations.
Both Harbaugh and Jackson are first time head coaches in the NFL and both come with impressive resumes. It could be said that Harbaugh has the upper hand because of his head coaching experience. But it also could be said that Jackson has the upper hand with much more NFL coaching experience.
Advantage: Toss up.
Comparing these two quarterbacks is pretty simple. They have comparable experience with Smith having been in the league for a year longer, but having missed over a year with an injury in 2007-2008 and neither player has played with a superior supporting cast.
Campbell has a quarterback rating 10 points higher than Smith and has a TD to INT of 68-46 while Smith boasts a 51-53. I know that quarterback ratings are flawed, but while they do not tell the whole truth, they are an indicator to be sure. That taken with the TD to INT ratio of the two and its really hard to make the argument that Smith is the better quarterback. I am by no means saying that Campbell is great, but of the two, he is clearly better.
This one is tough. The Raiders have a defensive line that some have argued could be one of the best in the NFL this season. Richard Seymour is still playing at all pro levels and defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Lamaar Houston are looking like future pro bowlers. However, their secondary is looking incredibly thin at the moment and could be a big liability.
The 49ers saw a lot of change in their defensive unit this off season, but it is yet to be seen how much of an upgrade they actually made. However, with inside linebacker Patrick Willis leading the defense, it should be a strong unit this season. If not for the Raiders secondary issues, this would be a very close call.
This is another one that is tough to judge. The Raiders will have an offensive line with two new faces this season, Stefen Wisniewski and Khalif Barnes. Thus far, Wisniewsi has shown the same mean streak that made his uncle famous and is looking like a monster in the run game. Khalif Barns will likely be the Raiders biggest weak spot along the line, but besides a false start issue, has had a decent preseason.
The 49ers, on the other hand, have had a massive issue this preseason with keeping their quarterbacks upright. Much like the Raiders, the 49ers have a fairly solid duo at left tackle and left guard. Also like the Raiders, the remainder of the line is suspect at best.
Until one of these units proves they can protect they can protect the quarterback, neither has set itself apart from the other.
Advantage: Toss up.
Not surprisingly, the Raiders probably have more speed on the offensive side of the ball than any team in the NFL. Runningback Darren McFadden is coming off of his best season in 2010 and will be looking to improve on that. Meanwhile, second year wide receiver Jacoby Ford showed immense big play ability as a rookie. In very limited playing time, Ford put up seven touchdowns his rookie season. Two rushing, two receiving and three on kick returns.
It also should be noted that the Raiders have a sleeper playmaker in fullback Marcel Reece. Reece is a wide out with the body of a tight end that was converted to fullback. The guy makes matchup nightmares like no one you've ever seen and had a number of big plays last season.
The 49ers big playmakers are Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. An argument can be made that Braylon Edwards should fall in that category as well. Vernon Davis just might be the best tight end in the NFL this season. If he had a better quarterback throwing to him, he would be right there with Antonio Gates as the best. Gore, on the other hand is coming off of a season shortened by a serious injury and after years of heavy use, is starting to wear down. Meanwhile, Braylon Edwards certainly has big play ability, but he and Darrius Heyward-Bey have the same theory on catching balls, they prefer not to.
Sebastian Janikowski, Shane Lechler and Jacoby Ford. Enough said.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
This one, Walcoff got right. The Niners have a much easier schedule than the Raiders do. That being said, I am really not entirely sure why this section is even included. This has nothing to do with the team itself, it has to do with the NFL schedulers.
In his article, Walcoff seemed to imply that intangibles had to do with a team's fans. I tend to think intangibles have to do with leadership and having that something that helps you win but that no one can quite put their finger on. Unfortunately for both teams, the intangibles have not been there in recent seasons.
However, given the Raiders' impressive wins against the Chargers and Chiefs last year, both of which came down to the end of the game, I'm giving the intangibles to the Raiders for their never give up mentality. Something that should be credited to defensive tackle Richard Seymour who came in and completely changed the thought process of the entire team.
The Raiders have the better team right now. As much as people like to mock Al Davis and his first round draft picks, he has built a strong team with a number of late round standouts. The 49ers are headed back in the right direction with first year coach Jim Harbaugh, but were put in too big of a hole by Mike Singletary to do much this season.