It's time for the Oakland Raiders to stop kidding themselves. Well, more specifically head coach Bill Callahan.
The Raiders enter Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings with a 2-7 record, which marks the franchise's worst start since 1964. Oakland is tied with Atlanta, San Diego and Jacksonville for the NFL's worst record.
Yet, Callahan continued to bravely talk on Monday about how the Raiders are not mathematically out of the playoffs. There's nothing wrong with being an optimist but Oakland reaching the playoffs? Well, let's just say there's a better chance that Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb will hire Rush Limbaugh as his public relations agent.
It should be more apparent now than ever, that the Raiders are not playing for a playoff spot this season. However, they have to play the last seven games anyhow so why not set more realistic goals. Seriously, there's not that much difference between 5-11 and perhaps 3-13.
Oakland needs to finish this season with a clearer idea of who among the current young players can contribute to a championship team in the future. Taking a rebuilding effort approach can be a bitter pill to swallow but it clearly makes sense even though the Raiders have never been a franchise to take that approach.
Some of the youngsters are already playing more such as tight end Teyo Johnson, running back Justin Fargas, offensive tackle Langston Walker and defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. Tyler Brayton is off the list because he has been playing regularly since the beginning of the season.
Then again, others might be worth a look as well.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the Marques Tuiasosopo experiment is over for this season. Tuiasosopo replaced starter Rich Gannon after the latter hurt his shoulder in a Monday night loss to Kansas City. Both Tuiasosopo and Gannon are now both on injured reserve. No. 3 man Rick Mirer will be the starter until further notice. Mirer, however, is a journeyman so perhaps Rob Johnson or Tee Martin may get a shot if something happens to Mirer.
Why not give Ronald Curry or Doug Gabriel an occasional look at wide receiver? Jerry Rice and Tim Brown cannot play forever so why not give Curry and Gabriel a few more snaps than normal? Defensive end Shurron Pierson is off the practice squad. How about seeing what he can do? He can't be any less productive in rushing the passer as anyone else wearing a Raider uniform.
Why not continue to give special teams ace Eric "Crazy" Johnson more snaps on defense? Johnson is has always been a player without a true position but is listed as a safety/linebacker. He can't be any less productive at safety than say Derrick Gibson.
Looking ahead, the Raiders will, at minimum, need help on the offensive and defensive lines. Oakland might need some help at wide receiver as well depending on whether Rice and Brown come back next season.
After Tampa Bay blasted the Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl last January, the team insisted that nothing less than a Super Bowl title would be acceptable. The sooner the Raiders realize that times are different, the sooner they can approach that level.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org