Behind Enemy Lines: Raiders Part 1

We asked Raiders Insider Michael Wagaman to share some insights from behind the scenes in Oakland. This this installment Michael talks about Robert Gallery, the Lane Kiffin situation, JaMarcus Russell's struggles and more...

1) From the outside, the coaching upheaval in Oakland seems a constant struggle of Al Davis vs everybody he ever hired. How much of a distraction has the Lane Kiffen situation been for the Raiders?

Michael Wagaman: There’s no question the beef between Davis and Kiffin had a major effect on the team going way back into the offseason. Most of the players were behind Kiffin and weren’t happy when he was fired. That being said, Tom Cable has his supporters as well and so the transition has gone from a likeability standpoint. But the players also see that the offense has gone completely backward under Cable’s watch and so there is not exactly an overwhelming sense of confidence in the locker room.

2) JaMarcus Russell was the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, after being selected by the Raiders. With all of the success rookies and relative unknown quarterbacks have had this year, does it seem that Russell was overhyped, or will he eventually live up to his Draft status?

MW: When you look at Russell’s production this season you have to look beyond the numbers and examine the variables around him. Tackles Kwame Harris and Cornell Green have been terrible this season, with Green getting picked up and tossed back five yards by San Diego’s Shaun Phillips last week. Harris, who leads the NFL with 11 false start penalties, was benched this week in favor of second-year tackle Mario Henderson.

3) There's a perception that Al Davis has "lost it" as a general manager, or owner. With some questionable trades, and his calling out of the Patriots and Mike Lombardi for collusion recently, is the perception close to reality?

MW: I hate to use that phrase or anything like it because while Al has definitely made some questionable decisions, you have to remember that he is still routinely consulted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about financial matters like television contracts and he was on the committee to find a new commissioner when Paul Tagliabue retired. So it’s unfair to say he’s “lost it.” I just think that Al’s beliefs in how to run a team are outdated and he’d be better served by bringing in someone to at least help run the football side of operations. But everyone knows that isn’t going to happen and so the malaise that has set in with the franchise will unfortunately probably continue.

4) The Raiders made a point of acquiring LaMont Jordan as a prized free agent a few years back, then let him sit in obscurity until they eventually released him this off-season. Why did Oakland decide to let Jordan go?

MW: Jordan’s production had dropped off due to injuries and when he was sidelined in 2007, Justin Fargas kind of took the ball and ran with it, so to speak. Fargas put up phenomenal numbers and brought a different spark to the offense while Jordan turned into more of a plodding-type runner. There were also some questions about Jordan’s work ethic in practice, which might have helped expedite the process.

5) Few people might remember that the Patriots and the Raiders made a trade for a Raiders receiver before the Randy Moss deal. Oakland sent Doug Gabriel to New England for a fifth round pick. The Patriots eventually released Gabriel who later re-signed with Oakland. It seems the Raiders got the better of that deal, but it's never talked about. What happened to Gabriel and how productive was he for Oakland?

MW: Gabriel has been out of the league since 2006 and his whereabouts are unknown. But at the time, yeah, it definitely looked like a steal deal for Oakland. But then the Moss situation blew up in the Raiders face, Gabriel’s production dropped off and both men were never seen around these parts again.

6) When Robert Gallery entered the draft he was labeled as the next Tony Boselli - a potential Hall of Famer. Is it fair to say Gallery hasn't nearly lived up to his first round draft status, let alone approach the level of production Boselli had with the Jags?

MW: I think that’s a fair argument when you look at how he did at tackle, but since moving to left guard Gallery has turned into a pretty decent player who is one of Oakland’s best linemen. The penalty problems that plagued him early in his career have disappeared for the most part and he seems to work better inside than he did outside where speed-rushers gave him major problems. While he might not be the Pro Bowl player the Raiders hoped for -- and let’s not forget, Gallery was a near unanimous top-5 pick by every NFL team when he came out of college -- Oakland is happy with where he’s at now.

Michael Wagaman covers the Oakland Raiders for Silver and Black Illustrated

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