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Raiders cleaning up the “Toxic Waste”

Last week, in the midst of all the speculation about where the recently released Terrell Owens would land next, Denver Post beat writer and known media laughing stock, Woody Paige, joined the chorus of those insisting that Oakland was TO’s most likely destination. His reasoning was that the Raiders are a “Toxic waste dump.” This line of reasoning is one of the most ignorant, outdated, and all too common judgments placed on the Raiders and their maligned owner Al Davis. And while Woody Paige is widely known as a complete jackass, his thinking here runs perfectly tandem with that of nearly every reporter, analyst, and correspondent in sports.

For instance, on Thursday’s ESPN NFL Live, Chris “Rumor Generator” Mortenson presented a list of teams that were NOT interested in Terrell Owens’ services but his list of those teams where TO could go had but one name on it: The Oakland Raiders. The funniest thing was, guess which team was on his list of non-TO landing places? That’s right, you guessed it: The Buffallo Bills. Which is where the cancer moved just two days later.

Not surprisingly, all three analysts on NFL Live; Trey “Patriot Knob Jockey” Wingo, Mark “No Question” Schitbreth, and Herm “The Reverend” Edwards, along with John “Quato” Clayton also listed the Raiders among their choices of those eager to grab the troubled receiver. This seems to me to be some seriously lazy reporting. Especially from Chris Mortenson because, not only did TO go to a team Mortenson claimed wasn’t interested, but he couldn’t even come up with multiple teams that “the player” would go to. Seriously, all you got is “The Raiders, because they take on all the troubled players”? Well, since they won’t do the research, I will.

The last “Toxic” player the Raiders signed was the unmentionable receiver who wouldn’t be gathered by any rolling stone. And that was FOUR years ago, back in 2005. Since that time, several teams have collected a slew of toxic refuse. For example: the Patriots have adopted a gaggle of problem children, including the aforementioned quitter. The Cowboys have brought in players like TO, Tank Johnson (who at that time was just removed from a half season suspension), and Adam “The Rainmaker” Jones. The Bengals have spent the past five seasons re-enacting “The Longest Yard.” The Broncos and Brandon Marshall’s fiancee continue to say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Albert “Face Stomper” Haynesworth just signed a $100 million contract with the Redskins (I don’t know if you guys have heard about that). And did I mention the Bills just signed TO?

Now, on the other hand, what the Raiders have been doing since 2005 has been quite different than their reputation suggests. They have been cleaning up the joint. Jerry Porter was given the finger before last season and headed off to Jacksonville, where he quickly wore out his welcome and is looking for work again. Lane Kiffin was becoming a problem child (literally) so he was fired and is…um…really making an impression at Tennessee. Then, a few months later, Cable made it very clear that anyone who wasn’t fully committed to this organization (as he is) needed to get ta’ steppin’. This eventually led to the departures of Ronald Curry and Gibril Wilson who, during the season, made no bones about their discontent with being a part of this team. That, of course, meant saying “Aw, HELL No!” to Jerry Porter when he assumed the Raiders would make a bid for him. Then the next order of business was to retain those players who would be a positive part of this team’s future — which meant making Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler the highest paid players at their positions and extending the contracts of Robert Gallery and Justin Fargas. It is no coincidence that Asomugha and Fargas recently shared the “Commitment to Excellence Award” (Fargas won for the second year in a row).

Unfortunately though, the Raiders appear to be trying to sign a player who may not fit the mold of a great team guy. I am speaking of free agent OT Khalif Barnes. The Raiders made their interest in signing him quite well known and Barnes reciprocated his interest in coming to the Raiders. It seems now that Barnes may not have been envisioning himself in silver and black of the Raider variety so much as rolling in green, of the dead presidents variety. His agent, with Barnes’ blessing, has notified several news sources that, after three days of negotiating, Barnes will not be signing with the Raiders but rather with an “undisclosed team.”

I don’t doubt that Barnes is now negotiating with another team. What is happening is that the Raiders showed Barnes so much love in his three days of wining and dining that he and his agent thought Al Davis and the Raiders could be taken for suckers. When they didn’t get the gaudy number they wanted, the agent got on the phone to tell other teams, “This is what the Raiders are offering my client. Outbid them if you want Barnes.” Khalif and his agent are assuming that in the end, even if they can’t get a better offer from another team, the Raiders love Barnes SO MUCH that they can always walk right back into Al’s office and take the deal. We’ll see.

I had Khalif Barnes on my list of players that the Raiders should pick up in free agency but now I am backing off of that assessment. The reason he was on that list was because he fit the style of play, he could play both tackles, and since he is not a superstar, he would come reasonably cheap. Then he expressed excitement at the prospect of coming to the team and it seemed like a match made in heaven. But now it appears he is simply chasing the money and will sign with the highest bidder.

He is like that cute girl you see at a club that keeps making eye contact with you. The looks persist until you finally go over and talk to her. You buy her a few drinks and you get to talking and you are thinking she is perfect for you. Then she finds out you drive a Honda Civic and next thing you know, she is ogling the guy at the pool table in the velvet leisure suit and faux hawk. And suddenly you hear Kanye West: “I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger, but she ain’t datin’ any broke Dizzles.” Then you finish a few more beers and suddenly there are a lot more decent looking women in the joint than you thought. You would rather have a “butta face” who is…um…’appreciative’ than a hottie of whom the only bulge in your pants she’s interested in is your wallet. If Khalif doesn’t appreciate the love he is being shown by Al Davis and the Raiders then he can take his oversized ego to a team willing to overpay for his services.

What it boils down to is this: Regardless of how much this team could use a solid right tackle like Khalif Barnes or a productive receiver like Terrell Owens, a dynamic athlete like Michael Vick or whatever Jerry Porter is, they are not what this team is about any more. Al Davis overspent last offseason and he is not about to do it again. And Tom Cable has made it abundantly clear that this TEAM will not tolerate malcontents and “Me” players. This will be a TEAM of high character, leadership, and integrity.

So why were all the so-called “NFL minds” so CERTAIN that the Raiders were the obvious destination for TO? Why is such lazy sports journalism and analysis not only accepted but encouraged? I wish I had an answer. Perhaps we could have a troubleshooting session (no I don’t mean putting TO, Pac Man, and Con-Vick in front of a firing squad) to try and come up with some ideas. It can’t just be simply hatred of the Raiders can it? Nah, that just seems way too easy.