John Crist: Lane Kiffin is the youngest head coach in the NFL and certainly wasn't the frontrunner for the Raiders job after Art Shell was canned (again). Is Kiffin gaining the respect of veteran players, and do you think he'll be given a chance to grow into the job despite Al Davis' notoriously itchy trigger finger?
Denis Savage: Kiffin inherited a team that was in need of a major reconstruction, and Davis knows that. He has the respect of his team because of his approach, holding players accountable and keeping his team in the game.
It takes time to learn how to win, and he is beginning to breed that healthy mentality. They should be a better team down the road because of what Kiffin is introducing on a regular basis.
JC: Daunte Culpepper seems to have played reasonably well when given the opportunity, yet the organization keeps backing Josh McCown as the starter at quarterback when he's healthy enough to go. Who do you think should be under center, and how long before we finally get a glimpse of JaMarcus Russell?
QBs Josh McCown (top), Daunte Culpepper (middle), and JaMarcus Russell (bottom)
DS: A great question. The truth is neither has played very well, and you never know when one will fumble the ball or throw an interception. Each has had his moments, but they are too few and far between. At 2-6, and understanding that McCown and Culpepper are not the future, Russell should be getting snaps to expedite the learning process. The Raiders are not going to the playoffs this season – what is the harm in letting the kid show what he can do and be better served going into next year?
This is a questionable call by Kiffin, but my guess is that he is still naïve enough to believe he can win a few games in his quest to turn around the franchise.
JC: Dominic Rhodes came to Oakland from Indianapolis via free agency and was supposed to help alleviate some of the pressure off LaMont Jordan in the running game, but he was suspended by the league for four games and now appears to be in the doghouse. What's the full story in the backfield with Jordan, Rhodes, Justin Fargas, and now Michael Bush?
DS: Rhodes spoke out about his role after his first game back, and that was the first step into the doghouse. He hasn't made a statement during his few chances to warrant more time. Jordan came back from a back injury and has not been the same. It began when he was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 versus Kansas City, and it has spiraled downhill from there.
Bush is back practicing and could see some carries in the future. If healthy, he could be the future.
JC: The Raiders were quietly one of the better defenses in football last season despite an atrocious 2-14 record, but now they're a middle-of-the-pack unit and getting gashed on the ground. Why is this team having so much trouble stopping the run, and is there any end in sight?
LB Kirk Morrison
Gregg Trott/Getty Images
DS: They weren't that good last year, but it was masked by big leads early and the opposition going to the running game. Their best run-stuffer, Tommy Kelly, is done for the season, and there appears to be no end in sight.
Winning the battle of the trenches is vital, and this team does not have the manpower to consistently come out on the winning end.
JC: This franchise has been somewhat of a laughingstock around the league ever since getting smoked in Super Bowl XXXVII by Tampa Bay. What is the root cause for all the chaos, and what drastic measures need to be taken in order to get back to the "Just win, baby" Raiders of yesteryear?
DS: Last year, Shell was the worst coach that could have been brought in. He strong-armed some of the best talent, leaving Jerry Porter on the outside looking in, and had no idea how to use his players' strengths. His ideals and lack of foresight were eradicated, and this is a team that will be on the rise.
They have several key players who are improving and must continue to acquire talent through the draft. The days of grabbing overpriced veterans at the end of their careers are over. Time will heal the wounds.
To read Part II of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answers five questions from Denis, Click Here.