New Raiders coach Joe Bugel says he'd like to spend two hours a
day talking with team president Al Davis. Thanks, Davis replies,
but two hours a week of face time with his coach will suffice.
Either way, Davis will certainly have more involvement with the
Raiders under Bugel than he had in the past two seasons with
Mike White, who, with his 15-17 record, was jettisoned last
Christmas Eve. Bugel, who joined the Raiders as an assistant in
1995, became the team's third head coach in four years. He got
off on the right foot with the boss. "I don't mean to embarrass
him, but I love Al Davis," Bugel said at his introductory press
conference. "This love affair has been going on for 22 years."
That's how long Bugel has been in the NFL. His first job was as
an assistant with Detroit from 1975 to '76. He later worked with
the Redskins as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach
during their three 1980s Super Bowl appearances and was head
coach of the Cardinals from 1990 to '93. During his tenure in
Oakland he had become a favorite among the players to take over
the top spot. Davis said guys he hadn't seen in his office for a
year stopped by to tell him to give Bugel the head job. One of
those who trumpets Bugel is running back Napoleon Kaufman. "A
lot of coaches sugarcoat things, but he just tells it like it
is," Kaufman says. "You have to respect someone who shoots from
the hip like that."
Oakland finished 7-9 last season and has made the playoffs just
three times since 1986. Now Bugel and Davis vow a return to
"Raider football," which presumably involves a bit more winning.
"Raider football is getting the ball to your star players,"
Bugel says. "The Raiders have always been known for a crunching
running game, and we're not going to get away from that. Raider
football has always been based on big, thick offensive linemen.
We're going to get back to that. We've got people who can run
down the football field. We've got to find a way to get the ball
to those players."
Kaufman is one of those guys, and Bugel wants to get him the
ball 20 times a game. The third-year back out of Washington has
always displayed spectacular speed and flair; now the Raiders
want to see more of it.
But the key to returning to the Raiders style of old is
strong-armed, strong-willed quarterback Jeff George. After being
chased out of Atlanta because of his differences with Falcons
management, George signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract in
February. The Raiders, George's third team in eight years, say
they did plenty of homework on the temperamental QB before
offering him the deal. "We checked as much as we can check,
short of bringing in listening devices," Davis says. "We might
have done that, but we can't admit it."
For his part, George has lofty ambitions. "I'll be embarrassed
if at the end of the year we're not playing for the AFC
championship," he says. "Because we have the talent. We're going
The Raiders also signed Green Bay's return man extraordinaire,
Desmond Howard. He joins cornerback Larry Brown, late of the '95
Cowboys, as the second straight Super Bowl MVP inked by Davis.
Oakland's off-season moves weren't limited to free agency. Three
weeks before the draft, and in need of a top offensive lineman,
the Raiders traded up for the second pick, with their sights on
Ohio State's Orlando Pace. Alas, shortly before draft day, St.
Louis, which also wanted Pace, traded up to No. 1 and snared the
big man. Thwarted in their efforts to get Pace, the Raiders
tapped two tackles in the third round, Nebraska's Adam Treu and
Iowa State's Tim Kohn.
The No. 2 overall pick was spent on USC defensive tackle Darrell
Russell. That raised the eyebrows of ESPN analyst Mike
Gottfried, who drew the Raiders' ire when he said North Carolina
tackle Rick Terry was a better player than Russell. "He might be
suffering from burnout," Bugel said of Gottfried. "He needs a
vacation. Something may be seriously wrong with him." If
Russell, who Bugel says reminds him of a young Reggie White,
racks up 10 sacks this season, nobody will care what the draft
Russell is happy to be in Oakland with Davis. "It makes me more
comfortable knowing that I'm under a person with a mind like
his," Russell says. "He has an impeccable record. Everywhere you
go, everyone either fears or doesn't like the Raiders."
Lately it's been more of the latter than the former. This year,
the Raiders are hoping to again inspire some fear. --D.G.
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL CHAPMAN/BRSP Kaufman gives Bugel his endorsement; Bugel will give Kaufman the ball. [Napoleon Kaufman in game]
BY THE NUMBERS
1996 Yards per Game (NFL rank)
1996 Record: 7-9 (fourth in AFC West)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 135.9 (3) 192.4 (23) 328.3 (8)
DEFENSE 104.8 (15) 188.8 (7) 293.6 (8)
A Disappointment, by George
Jeff George, whom the Colts selected first overall in the 1990
NFL draft, has hardly turned out to be the quarterback of the
decade. After seven NFL seasons he arrives in Oakland with the
second-worst record as a starter among active QBs (minimum 25
starts) and the worst record among QBs chosen No. 1 overall in
the past 30 years.
Worst Won-Lost Records Among Active Quarterbacks
Quarterback W-L Pct.
John Friesz 12-24 .333
Jeff George 30-54 .357
Vinny Testaverde 44-75 .370
Billy Joe Tolliver 13-22 .371
Trent Dilfer 13-21 .382
Rick Mirer 20-31 .392
Chris Chandler 28-42 .400
Craig Erickson 14-21 .400
Won-Lost Records of QBs Selected First Overall in NFL Draft
QB, Draft year W-L-T Pct.
Terry Bradshaw, 1970 107-51 .677
John Elway, 1983 126-76-1 .623
Drew Bledsoe, 1993 32-27 .542
Troy Aikman, 1989 70-43 .619
Jim Plunkett, 1971 72-72 .500
Steve Bartkowski, 1975 59-68 .465
Vinny Testaverde 1987 44-75 .370
Jeff George, 1990 30-54 .357
PLAYER TO WATCH
Coach Joe Bugel's first message to '97 fourth-round draft pick
Chad Levitt was this: "Hello, Chad, you're a fullback." As a
tailback at Cornell, Levitt rushed for 4,657 yards and 44 TDs,
both second best in Ivy League history, but Oakland thinks his
6'1", 236-pound frame is well suited to blocking and bashing.
That means a role reversal for Levitt. "As a tailback my job was
to avoid defenders," he says. "Now they want me to run into them."
PROJECTED LINEUP With 1996 Statistics
Head Coach: Joe Bugel
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Jeff George[A] 54[*] 99 att. 56 comp. 56.6% 698 yds.
3 TDs 3 int. 76.1 rtg.
RB Napoleon Kaufman 34[*] 150 att. 874 yds. 5.8 avg.
22 rec. 143 yds. 6.5 avg. 2 TDs
FB Harvey Williams 166[*] 121 att. 431 yds. 3.6 avg.
22 rec. 143 yds. 6.5 avg. 0 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Tim Brown 39[*] 90 rec. 1,104 yds. 9 TDs
WR James Jett 254[*] 43 rec. 601 yds. 4 TDs
WR Desmond Howard[A] 194[*] 13 rec. 95 yds. 0 TDs
TE Ricky Dudley 171[*] 34 rec. 386 yds. 4 TDs
PK Cole Ford 304[*] 36/36 XPs 24/31 FGs 108 pts.
KR Desmond Howard[A] 194[*] 22 ret. 20.9 avg. 0 TD
PR Desmond Howard[A] 194[*] 58 ret. 15.1 avg. 3 TDs
LT Pat Harlow 6'6" 290 lbs. 10 games 9 starts
LG Steve Wisniewski 6'4" 295 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Barret Robbins 6'3" 305 lbs. 14 games 14 starts
RG Lester Holmes[A] 6'3" 305 lbs. 16 games 14 starts
RT Lincoln Kennedy 6'6" 325 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Chester McGlockton 63 tackles 8 sacks
LT Darrell Russell (R)[A] 56 tackles 9 sacks
RT Russell Maryland 52 tackles 2 sacks
RE Lance Johnstone 32 tackles 1 sack
OLB Mike Morton 43 tackles 2 int.
MLB Greg Biekert 98 tackles 0 int.
OLB Rob Fredrickson 47 tackles 0 sacks
CB Terry McDaniel 48 tackles 5 int.
SS Lorenzo Lynch 94 tackles 3 int.
FS Eric Turner[A] 81 tackles 5 int.
CB Albert Lewis 54 tackles 2 int.
P Leo Araguz 13 punts 41.1 avg.
[A] New Acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)
[*] *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 165)