Pride and poise go before a fall, or in this case an 0-2 start, the Raiders' worst since . . . when?
"We haven't started out losing two in a row in a long time," said Coach Tom Flores Monday, managing one of the few smiles in Raiderdom. "I think I was the quarterback then."
Give that ex-quarterback a cigar. It was 1964, Year 2 in the Al Davis era. The Raiders started with losses to the Boston Patriots and the Houston Oilers. Then they lost three more before tying the Patriots in the rematch at Fenway Park. They finished 5-7-2, Davis' only losing season as a head coach.
The current edition, smarting from Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Redskins, called a players-only meeting Monday. Their Raider conditioning notwithstanding, all that has happened so far is that they have lost two games in which they were underdogs, on the road, to two teams that missed the playoffs last season and had all off-season to brood about it. And, of course, both the Broncos and Redskins had reason to bear them a grudge.
Voila! The Raiders played well, could have won either or both and wound up with neither. If they bounce back against the New York Giants Sunday, they'll be 1-2, which is what they were after three games last season.
"When we looked over the schedule way back when it came out, we said this is really going to be the toughest start we've had in a long, long time," Flores said.
"If we were getting blown out, it would be different. I don't think there's a need for panic. I think when you start making changes or wholesale changes, it's because the things you're doing aren't working. I can't say that's the case.
"We're 0-2, but you all know what happened in Denver. Then (Sunday), we just didn't play as well as they did. We didn't take advantage of field position when we did have it. If it had been 40-0, or something like that, it would be a little different."
The other teams in the AFC West figure to have their own hard times. For one thing, the schedule is tougher: The top four division teams have four games against the top four NFC East teams, one of which the Raiders lost in Washington, another of which they'll play Sunday against the Giants.
Swagger also notwithstanding, the Raiders aren't so super that they can assume they'll beat anyone. They have a problem on offense that has yet to be worked out, whether it's the quarterback, the young receivers, the line, the scheme, or a combination thereof.
When they fought their way off the ropes in 1985, they got almost everything possible out of the season. They lost one close game all year--the overtime decision in San Diego. They won two overtime games from the Broncos and came from behind to win at Cleveland in the last 39 seconds.
Their defense scored three touchdowns in a 35-21 victory over the Patriots and set up the wins over the Chiefs, Saints, Bengals, Seahawks and Rams by allowing 10, 13, 6, 3 and 6 points, respectively.
Something on those same lines is no less possible this season.
Of course, if the Raiders lose to the Giants, then it'll be time to panic.
The Raiders activated guard Charley Hannah and cut defensive end Elvis Franks.
Flores is noncommittal on whether Hannah will get his starting job back at left guard, with Curt Marsh moving to right guard in place of Mickey Marvin. That was the plan in training camp. As usual, though, in Raiderdom, it's wait till Sunday and see.
The move leaves the Raiders with five defensive linemen. One reason they're daring that is that linebacker Linden King can be used as a pass-rushing end.
Raider Notes Said Tom Flores about Clint Didier beating Stacey Toran on a 59-yard pass play: "It wasn't a mental mistake. Stacey just got beaten physically. He had the deep zone and he was up trying to disguise it. They don't usually throw deep to their tight ends. As Lester (Hayes) said, this is a game played by mortals." You know it's a different season when Flores starts quoting Hayes. . . . The return of Ray Guy: after a slow exhibition season and an opener that wasn't quite the anticipated comeback, Guy had a net average of 36.0 for six punts in Washington, just under last season's AFC-leading 36.3. . . . Marcus Allen's 104 yards rushing made him the fifth back to get 100 against the Redskins in 48 games, the equivalent of three seasons. The Raiders held George Rogers to 80. They have gone 18 regular-season games without giving up 100 since Pittsburgh's Walter Abercrombie in the last game of the '84 season. . . . Washington writers are remarking on how insecure Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs is, even after two Super Bowl appearances in his first three seasons. Gibbs is working for quick-draw Jack Kent Cooke and is always getting off lines, like Sunday's compliment of quarterback Jay Schroeder: "The most important thing to remember, if he keeps playing like he has, we can keep the job for a while."