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A new leader will inevitably make purges, the quality of which can only be parsed after that leader has been replaced or – more safely – has died, since there may still be supporters of that regime in power long after that leader has passed on. After Stalin’s death, there were two factions struggling for control of the organization, and power wasn’t stabilized for three years.
Worse, there could be allies of the former regime still in power, who have to be dealt with before “regime change” could clearly be undertaken. For example, after the passing of Mao Zedong, China could not fully begin the process of reforming its bureaucracy until the Gang of Four had been removed from their offices of power.
And, of course, what’s a dictatorship without a little crazy:
“My mom called, she said that maybe Mr Davis was calling the picks down from heaven,” Gruden said after day two of the draft.
What cannot be denied early on is that changes were swift and unmerciful. While the new regime in Oakland may not be of the same political ilk, it has been caught in the grip of a Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, with speeches just as banal yet foreboding as those Stalinist and Maoist treatises that preceded them.
I’d just like to thank Mark Davis and Mrs. Davis for this opportunity. I used to get phone calls from Al Davis at 3 a.m. Now, I get them from Mark Davis at 3 a.m., but I want to thank you for this opportunity from the bottom of my heart… Obviously, this is very emotional for me. I never wanted to leave the Raiders. I never thought I’d be back, but here I am and I’m ready to get to work… I love the Raiders. The brand is global. Everywhere I went as Monday Night Football analyst, the Raider Nation would come out of the ground. I love the Raiders, and most of all, I love to win. I am going to do everything I can. No guarantees, no promises, but I want to win. I look forward to working with Reggie [McKenzie] and his staff. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I can’t wait to get started.
I’ll let Mark talk about Vegas. I am a real short-term, goal-oriented coach. Big reason why I’m here is the passion I have for the city of Oakland and this franchise. People in the Black Hole, if you are listening, I can’t wait to see you guys. I really can’t and I would like to fill that place with Raider fans at least seven or eight more times. That is all I care about right now.
As for the roster, there are some real positive traits to build on, but I’m not going to make any predictions. I’m going to say the same things I said when I was here before. We will get what we deserve and we will see what that is as time unfolds.
The Gang of Four were swiftly removed and replaced once Coach Gruden took over. Like all ‘good’ dictators, he was able to keep his hands relatively clean.
King had signed a five-year contract worth $16.5 million with Oakland in 2016 and had three years remaining on the deal, but Gruden’s decision to cut him saved the team $2.9 million in salary cap space. What the personality problems between Gruden and King were remains unclear, though former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio also experienced difficulties with King, who was known for his flamboyancy — on and off the field.
“He can’t have another penalty,” Del Rio said after the October 29th debacle. “Cannot have another penalty.” King had picked up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in consecutive games. He was flagged in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs for chasing down Tyreek Hill and exchanging words after Hill returned one of King’s punt 78 yards for a touchdown. King was also penalized the week before against the Buffalo Bills for celebrating with a penalty flag after the Bills were called for roughing the punter, a game the Raiders had lost by 20 points.
“I’ve allowed him to have his freedom,” Del Rio said. “I want him to express himself. I think that’s when he’s at his best. But we can’t have routine 15-yard penalties out of our punter. We’ve got two in a row, two weeks in a row, and that’s got to come to a stop.”
King was also flagged for a horse collar tackle in Week 2 against Atlanta, although that saved a touchdown and is less likely to draw a coach’s ire. But his three personal foul penalties and 39 penalty yards lead the league among kickers and punters. In fact, Miami Dolphins punter Matt Darr was the only other specialist to have picked up a personal foul in the 2017 season.
Marquette King was released within days of the new regime taking over.
My only regret was that I couldn’t remain with the Raiders for the “liberation” of our division. We’d purged the front office of the Del Rio filth, and now it was time to carry the war beyond our stadium. I wish I could have been there, the day we formally started training camp. I wish I could still have been a participant, but he had “other plans” apparently…(his voice drifted off)
Anyway… (overcorrecting from his soft tone). Man, for a guy I’d heard was pretty upfront, it seemed like a gutless way to do business.
Well, they have this big press conference, to announce his hiring. I didn’t bother going, because I figure I’ll meet him once all the fanfare is finished and he’s ready to get down to actual 2018 planning. I’m not worried – I had the third-best net punting average in the league last year. Who’s gonna get rid of that?
Then I look at the coverage of the press conference, and who can’t but notice all the former Raiders on hand? Legends like Howie Long, Cliff Branch, Michael Haynes, Willie Brown, Jim Plunkett, Tom Flores, and James Lofton were there. Guys who played for him the first time, like Lincoln Kennedy, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Grady Jackson, Russell Maryland, Rich Gannon, and Charles Woodson, just to name a few, were there.
But you know who I didn’t see? Guys from the current team. And that told me more than anything he actually said during the presser – that no one on the team was safe. At least, I see that now. I didn’t think he’d go after the kickers; I was top-third last year, and I never thought he’d take down Sea-Bass – on account of that he played for him before. But I guess… (his voice trailed off)
I figure he just went and looked at the roster, and just cut guys he didn’t figure would work with his style. What does he call them,…”Gruden Grinders”? He wants dudes who will play hard every snap; put the team first. Hell – that’s what I did! Sure, I’ve got my own way of doing things, but how many punters throw hits these days, especially now that McAfee’s retired?
I figured effort alone would keep me around.
How were you told?
Man, that’s the shittiest part of the whole thing. Dude never even told me face to face! I show up at Alameda one day, figuring I should check in now that he’s in charge. Well, I get to reception, and the secretary – after asking my name – looks down a sheet, puts a tick on the page, and then asks me to take a seat. Next thing I know, Reggie (McKenzie, the GM) is standing there in front of me. Let me tell you, that guy blocks out the sun! Anyway, he starts talking to me about contributions and how valued I’ve been to the organization.
So not only am I getting cut, he doesn’t even have the fucking courtesy to tell me behind closed doors. Does it right in the foyer so everyone can see. Guess he didn’t want me trashing all the trophies he won while GM. (laughs sarcastically) And that’s the thing – Coach didn’t want me, so Coach didn’t figure he needed to man-up and cut me himself. Gets his “associate” to do it for him.
At least you landed on your feet.
But that’s the thing – I shouldn’t have had to. I figured I was a “Gruden Grinder” – I do my job, talk smack, and back it up. But I guess he wants guys who won’t outshine him. Who want to be a team player – a “Raider”, not an individual. Well, good riddance to that, then. The cool thing about the Broncos is the people that work at the Broncos encourage you to be yourself. That is real cool. Players play a lot better when they can let their hair down and be themselves. It’s cool. Denver is a punter’s paradise. While I’m competing, I’m going to see if I can take advantage of it.
Have they talked with you about on-field behavior?
I’m aware I must protect the team. The flags — I got three flags two years ago and one flag last year — it’s in the past. I’m just looking forward to doing my thing and making sure I’m working on my composure and doing the right things to making sure the team is in the best situation possible.
Also, I’ll need a new go-to routine. It’s time to find a new celebration because I one I used when playing against the Broncos
that was one when I was trying to troll them. I can’t ride the pony now that I’m playing for them. I’ve got to find something else. It’s definitely going to be a nice little dance.
And besides, they want you to hear this. That is why they’ve let you into our facility, to hear my story, to ask your questions. You’re being used, too, you know. Your mission is to tell your world of ours, to make them see what will happen if anyone ever tries to fuck with us. I used to say that about being a Raider; I hear Aqib (Talib) used to say that about being a Bronco, and that fucker was crazy.
A former first-round pick of the 49ers in 2009, Michael Crabtree had been the poster child for inconsistency during his nine years in the League. Now on his third team – the Baltimore Ravens, a team that had beaten his 49ers for the Super Bowl – he was hoping to once again restart his career.
He’d had two years left on a four-year, $34 million deal, and the move saved the Raiders roughly $7.7 million in cap space this year and $8.2 million in cap for 2019 with the release of Crabtree, who was due base salaries of $7 million and $7.5 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
I know. I keep teaming up with whiter colors on the Sherwin-Williams color chart.
I’ll never get to the top, though, on account of Tebow never came back and the only thing BYU graduates these days is Samoan missionaries. I’m hoping Steamed Milk is as high as I go.
Why do you think you were cut?
I tried to fit in, settle down, make some friends, do my job and do my part to help get the Raiders back to the Super Bowl. But it just didn’t seem to want to happen. In 2016 we lose Derek (Carr) to the foot and the playoff game goes straight to hell, and then last year for whatever reason everything just turned to shit. And when that happens, people get to speculating about the problem, or problems as it turned out. It turns out there were four of us who were determined to be “problems”.
Me? I’d had inklings during the season, but it was Week 12 versus the Broncos when Talib got all up in my business. Getting thrown out led to the rumors, and the rumors led to the whispers.
There were stories about how Jack (Del Rio) & Reggie (McKenzie) were tired of “my act”. Man – that ain’t no act! It’s all me; the passion on the field, it’s what drives me to succeed. People had no problem when Richard Sherman talked that shit about me. If people want to call that selfish, then fine – I’m selfish. The story was that at the end of the season they were going to get me and the Beast (Beastmode – Marshawn Lynch). Well, turns out Mr. Davis got Jack before he got me, so I figured I was in the clear.
Then they brought in Jon Gruden, and I couldn’t have been happier. His first time ’round, he had guys like Tim Brown and Jerry Rice; I figure me and Amari (Cooper) will get a chance to try and live up to those legends. He’s more of a defensive guy, so I figure he’s going to bring in someone who will help Derek open up and really let us fly.
You must have been ecstatic, then, when the rumors about Rich Gannon started.
You bet. That guy had an arm. I figure he’s going to work with Derek to start launching the ball downfield, and me and Amari are just going to become fantasy monsters. I’m practically working out my TD celebrations when those whispers started again.
What did those ones say?
They said that Coach was “noncommittal” about my status, but that he’s going to meet with my agent. A couple of days later, there’s a knock at my door and through the peephole I see this white blob
asking for a reaction to being cut. First I’d heard of it; I never even got a call from Jon Gruden, telling me like a man should that he was letting me go. Then I hear this clown read some stupid poem he wrote, like I’m Juliet & I’ll open the door for that fat fucking Romeo.
I hear it is true,
The Raiders have let you go.
What will you do now?
Next thing I know, my agent’s put my resume up on Linkedin, and sure enough the Ravens call within minutes. So now I’m catching elite passes against the Browns & Bengals four times a year. I’d better put up some numbers!
Are you hoping the Ravens are the team you can wrap up your career with?
I still got hope. Sounds crazy, but you never know. That’s why I save most of my salary instead of giving back to my family or blowing it on who knows what. Remember how Trent Richardson said his family & friends blew through $1.6 million of his money? That guy wasn’t even in the league more than five years. I ain’t getting fucked like that. That’s why I made sure I got ($11.0 million) guaranteed money.
I’m hoping this is the last stop in my career, and I can help lead this team to a Super Bowl. It can happen, finally getting the monkey off my back. My only goal now is to meet the Raiders in the AFC Championship.
Oh, and maybe getting another crack at Talib. Unless the Rams break him first.
Picked by the Vikings in the first-round of the 2013 draft, he was acquired after the Vikings traded up to get him, sending a second-, third-, fourth- and seventh-round pick in that draft to the Patriots in exchange for their selection. [The Patriots turned those picks into outside linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerback Logan Ryan, wide receiver Josh Boyce and running back LeGarrette Blount, who they acquired in a trade for the seventh-round pick.] He spent four years with the Vikings before signing as a free agent with the Raiders, inking a two-year deal.
After Jon Gruden was signed on as coach, he and a sixth-round pick were traded to the Patriots in exchange for a 2018 fifth-round pick.
So, how quickly did you find out?
I got a text from Reggie McKenzie asking me to call him. Now, I’ve got a two-year deal, so to get a message from a GM between the Super Bowl and the Draft usually only means one thing. The fact that he texted before calling, that meant he was making sure I was somewhere I would be ready to hear the news. Some real, ‘Are you sitting down?’ kind of shit.
Were you surprised?
A little bit. I mean – sure, I had a bit of an off-year. From what I gather, the whole team did. I thought I was safe after they got Crab (Michael Crabtree) because he was double my cap-hit. Hell, I figured I’d be getting some of his passes. So I kinda felt pretty good about it. For five goddamned minutes.
So, I call Reggie back, and after a couple of minutes he starts with the “the reason I wanted to talk to you…” speech, and he tells me the team has decided to go in a different direction.
FROM WHAT? Catching passes? They’re going to run every down?
Anyway, he goes on about how the new regime is looking into maximizing efficiency and looking “to build a team, not collect individuals who have good stats”. And that’s when I know it’s all Gruden’s decision. Watch any Monday Night broadcast, and that joker’s always running on about “team first” and “don’t hurt the team”, and how he’d cut guys who “did that”. Oh sure – he’ll cut guys who don’t mesh with his style, but I guess it’s not his style to have the guts to call & tell me the news himself.
Man – Oakland was my fresh start after sitting on the sidelines in Minnesota under Coach Zimmer. Nobody up there liked me – not Coach Zim, not Coach Norv, and certainly not Mr. Winkles.
From what I hear, that little fucker doesn’t like anybody.
*laughs* No kidding. Anyway, I asked Reggie what my options were, and he says that I haven’t been cut, I’ve been traded.
That must have been somewhat of a relief?
You bet. At least I’m going to get paid. So I ask where to, and he says “to the AFC East”. That was kinda vague, so I asked, which team? And he says that “it’s not the Jets, Dolphins or Bills”.
At first, I’m trying to figure out why he’s saying it that way, like I’m supposed to guess. I don’t want to play games at a time like this – But then it dawns on me, and I blurted, “The New England Patriots?!”
The next thing I know – the lights went out, there was a puff of smoke, and a hooded figure appeared out of the darkness…
Then I heard Reggie say, “Whoops – gotta go. Good luck with your future endeav-” and then the line went dead.
The specter stood there for a while, and then said “I don’t know what you’ve been through in the past, but basically, we get the job done here. We’re gonna make you the player that you should be.” Then, before I could whip out one of my Grandmama’s “Devil, BE GONE!”‘s, he disappeared & then the lights came on like nothing happened.
A couple of days later, I read in the papers that the trade actually happened and that I wasn’t hallucinating. So I called up the Patriots and, sure enough, not only was I on the roster, but I was already late for a meeting. I was expected to meet with Josh (McDaniels) in the morning. And here I was thinking those were voluntary workouts. So I did what anyone who wanted to win a Super Bowl without selling their soul would do – I hopped a plane to Boston. It might be trading one dictator for another, but at least I’m going to a place with a winning tradition.
Another hint of King’s fate came when the Raiders publicly declared they were moving on from Sebastian Janikowski, a free agent who made $3 million last year, and were instead going with Giorgio Tavecchio, who will check in at $555,000. If they are willing to let go of the oldest of the Old Guard, surely no one could be safe from reprisal.
The same Janikowski (albeit older and much wiser) who came to the Raiders in 2000 as a first-round draft pick when Gruden was coach. Janikowski called Gruden to congratulate him when he returned to the Raiders, but the two never discussed a reunion.
Gruden voiced support for Giorgio Tavecchio, who took over kicking duties as a rookie last season in place of Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders recently announced they will not bring back Janikowski next season after 18 years in the organization — though Gruden made it sound as if that was not his decision.
“If it was up to me, I’d bring him back,” Gruden said, “but I think we’re going to move on for obvious reasons. Tavecchio is probably a little bit better right now kicking off.
“If I know Janikowski like I used to,” he added with a smile, “we couldn’t afford him in a million years.”
In April 2018, Janikowski signed a one-year contract with the Seahawks worth up to $2.015 million: $1.015 million base salary (player with 10+ years experience), a $600,000 signing bonus, a $100,000 bonus if he’s on the 53-man roster Week 1 and $300,000 in per-game active roster bonuses.
Where were you when you first heard the news?
Man, I was racing in my Benz when word came over the radio that Chucky was coming back.
It’s not like Mr. Davis was putting the band back together, but with Coach coming back, and rumors about other guys from those teams signing on, it was looking pretty good for ol’ Sea-Bass. I mean – I might even have been able to bring my cooler back onto the sidelines. The fans are right: gameday beers taste pretty sweet. (Makes Kliq “too sweet” gesture)
Did you get a chance to meet with him?
No, but in the first few days I didn’t figure it’d happen. He was back; it was busy; and who really has time in all that to talk to the only guy left from your first big dance? I figure it’d happen when it happened.
I did leave him a few messages – “HEY CHUCKY, IT’S SEA-BASS!” You know, like bros do.
How did you find out you’d been cut?
So, back in February, I’m driving up to the Condor Club in North Beach, because there aren’t any peeler bars in Oakland.
Man – did you know it’s against the law for dancers to go nude in Oakland, or anywhere in Alameda County? Hell, even pasties are out of order. Well that shit don’t stop Sea-bass; sometimes, a man’s gotta see some tit-tays! So I gotta cross the Bridge. And the sports guy comes on the air with some “BREAKING NEWS OUT OF OAKLAND!” and I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, are we not moving now?’ And then I hear Mr. Davis come on the radio:
“The Raider Nation salutes Sebastian Janikowski as the sun sets on his illustrious career with the Oakland Raiders. He joined the team as a surprise first-round pick in the 2000 Draft and finishes his time in Oakland as one of the greatest or perhaps the greatest kicker in pro football history. His powerful left leg produced an NFL-record 55 field goals of 50-or-more yards. The motto ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider’ has never been more true as his 18-year career makes him the longest-tenured player in Raiders history.”
Yeah, sure – ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider’ – until it’s “Fuck off, we don’t need you any more.” Man, that shit’s cold. But I guess Gruden finally got a chance to cut me, since everyone knew he wanted Shaun Alexander in that draft.
So I go by the next morning to clear out my locker and maybe split a six-pack with Coach one last time, like in the old days. Only I find my shit outside in the parking lot, in five garbage bags labelled “Polish packing boxes”. Fucking Mark Davis;
I would have filed a grievance, but I didn’t want to get Kaepernick’d. After all, Vinatieri still kicks for the Colts, and he’s, like, 80 or something. So I got my agent to put my name out there. I didn’t go off the rails about being cut; didn’t want to come across as a guy with an axe to grind. I just wanted one last chance to collect a big league paycheck, before I end up coaching my girls’ field hockey teams or some other retired dad things. I held my breath long enough for the Seahawks to bite. Excellent – I don’t have to leave the West Coast. Now I can go down in history like Jerry Rice and Franco Harris – retiring as a Seahawk. That’s pretty sweet.