VINCE D'ADAMO: Raiders not better -- or smarter

The 2004 Oakland Raiders are different than the 2003 version but they are not any better – or smarter.

Former head coach Bill Callahan drew national headlines for referring to the Oakland Raiders as "the dumbest team in America" after a 22-8 loss to the Denver Broncos, whom the Raiders host Sunday, last November. Oakland dismissed Callahan after the team went 4-12 one season after advancing to the Super Bowl. Callahan is now the head coach at the University of Nebraska, where he has his own set of problems after the Cornhuskers lost 70-10 to Texas Tech, marking the worst loss in Nebraska history.

Anyhow, back to Callahan's former team.

The Raiders fell to 2-3 after losing to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday and if they're not careful last season could resemble this one. Oakland has a new coach (Norv Turner), a new quarterback and several other new faces. The problems, however, remain the same with the possible exception of a poisonous relationship between the players and coaches. Who is to say that won't happen but I digress.

The Raiders still commit penalties, turnovers and make bad decisions. Granted, the Raiders have always been synonymous with penalties and that does not figure to change any time soon no matter what Turner suggests about vowing to clean up the mess.

Oakland has been whistled for 48 penalties for 335 yards. On top of that, the Raiders have lost five of their 10 fumbles and thrown nine interceptions over the previous 10 quarters.

Since 1995, the Raiders have been among the league's top five for penalties each year. Oakland led the NFL in 1996 and again during last season's 4-12 debacle. In 1996, the Raiders committed a franchise and NFL-record 156 penalties. Kansas City broke that mark two years later in 1998 with 158 penalties.

Last season, Oakland received 134 penalties for 1,120 yards. When Jon Gruden coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, he was able to curb the amount of penalties somewhat but only to the point where they didn't lead the world in penalties.

The Raiders getting whistled for penalties helped, to one extent or another, lead to the Colts first four touchdowns. Even in 2002, when Oakland reached the Super Bowl, penalties were a problem – 129 for 1,094 to be exact. That Raiders team was so good that penalties were not as costly.

For years, the Raiders complain that the NFL has the "Raider conspiracy theory." Well, they can't all be judgment calls. Plus, all of the talk that Oakland is a better team than it was a year ago has yet to be proven. The Raiders still have not won on the road, 12 consecutive losses away from the Oakland Coliseum. And they are still making the same mistakes, which they are not good enough to overcome.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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