As losses continued to pile up for the Oakland Raiders before Sunday's 28-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings, some of their fans suggested that the team should keep losing to get a higher, or perhaps the highest, draft pick.
The Raiders snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 3-7. Arizona, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh and the New York Jets also have such a record while Atlanta and Jacksonville are 2-8. However, playing for the Eli Manning, the University of Mississippi quarterback who most scouts view potentially as the draft's first pick, sweepstakes is not necessarily the answer either.
Most people would agree that the playoffs are in the past tense for the Raiders and now is the time to evaluate their young players, which they are doing. There are a couple of other reasons not to automatically play for the highest draft pick. For one, having the No. 1 overall pick comes with no guarantees. For every Peyton Manning, Eli's older brother, there's a Ryan Leaf.
In addition, you want to teach those younger players how to win – not lose – while evaluating them.
Running with a plan
When Jon Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, some of their fans bristled that he was too conservative.
Conversely, those same fans applauded current head coach Bill Callahan for making the Raiders a pass heavy team (about 70-30 pass) on the way to an AFC Championship season last year.
For a rare, and much welcomed time, the Raider coaching staff has appeared to have a plan the last two weeks in losing in overtime to the New York Jets (27-24 in overtime) and beating the Minnesota Vikings (28-18).
Oakland, which enters Sunday's game at division winning Kansas City with a 3-7 record, looked like a team an identity in its first eight games. The last two weeks, however, the Raiders have run the ball 95 times after calling just 151 such plays in the first eight games.
Forget reaching the playoffs but if the Raiders are to finish the season with a level of respectability, running the ball is the course of action to take. Kansas City ranks 12th in the AFC in run defense in allowing 130.5 yards per game.
O.J. (Santiago) siting
The Raiders decision to run the ball more frequently has led to more playing time for the well-traveled O.J. Santiago.
Oakland initially decided to start rookie Teyo Johnson at tight end over second-year man Doug Jolley because it felt the former was a better blocker. Santiago, however, has shown the last two weeks his value as a blocker. Santiago was a key component while a member of the Atlanta Falcons NFC Championship team in helping Jamal Anderson lead the conference in rushing.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com