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MIKE DOWNEY

No Names--but Don't Be Negative

August 09, 1993|MIKE DOWNEY

We took a look Sunday at the new-look, "no-name" L.A. Raiders.

They met the San Francisco 49ers in the first annual Ronnie Lott Doesn't Work Here Any More bowl.

The Raiders lost, 27-0, in a performance by the visiting team that must have reminded many Palo Alto football fans of Oregon State.

It takes awhile to recognize all the men in black these days. Once upon a time in the AFC West, the Raiders employed some of the biggest stars in football. This team had more famous names than Heidi Fleiss' appointment book.

And now?

Marcus Allen, gone. Eric Dickerson, gone. Lott, gone. Jay Schroeder, gone. Bob Golic, gone.

What's past is past. Trouble is, the Raiders want things both ways. They endlessly remind you of their past successes and excellent winning percentage, then scold you for "dwelling on the past" when you mention the players who are gone.

It's called two-way football.

This season, a number of Raider superstars have come and gone. The team also played Sunday without Greg Townsend, who was out with an injury; without Howie Long, who was out with his accountant, and without Rocket Ismail, who was out of sight and out of mind.

The game was over before it was over. With Jeff Hostetler throwing a couple of balls that looked as though they were thrown by Tom Candiotti, the Raiders committed three turnovers in the first quarter and spent the rest of Sunday afternoon wishing that it would hurry up and be Monday.

Bad game, man. Bad game.

Yet there is really no need to be totally negative today, in spite of the 49er runaway. Don't forget, the Raiders did look pretty good against Green Bay in a previous exhibition.

If you winced at the way Hostetler played quarterback in the first quarter, join the club.

Yet, think how San Francisco fans must have winced after Steve Young broke his left thumb.

You know what Joe Montana always says:

It isn't easy breaking in new people.

After years and years of playing celebrity football, the Raiders are--by design or circumstance--making an effort to promote untapped potential over proven reputation. That is partly why Allen, Dickerson and others have moved on. For once, the Raiders are looking to start fresh.

They have even done a lot of work remodeling that 100,000-seat fixer-upper of theirs.

The job isn't complete yet, because not everything in camp is fresh. At quarterback, for example, the Raiders still have to keep sending older-than-the-Coliseum Vince Evans out there until somebody younger proves that he can throw the ball any better.

We're still waiting for a progress report on those two little Pac-10 campus rascals, Surfboard Todd Marinovich and Six-Gun Billy Joe Hobert.

One thing the Raiders have never lacked is star power.

Al Davis has always preferred professionals to amateurs and a have-been to a wanna-be. Davis leaves the star-searching to Ed McMahon. He prefers players he already knows to players he has heard about.

Davis is someone who plucks Bo Jackson and Ismail out of college drafts while others cross them off. He likes Heisman Trophy winners better than nobodies from Nowhere State. Or he goes after proven predators such as John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado or Ted Hendricks, the tyrannosaurus, stegosaurus and velociraptor, respectively, of NFL eras past.

In recent seasons, Davis took chances on Lott and Roger Craig because he had remembered what they had done before. He also had seen Jeff Hostetler and James Lofton play for teams that made it to Super Bowls, which might be why they are on this team today. Success impresses Al Davis more than promise.

It's the no-names, though, who hold the 1993 fate of the Raiders in their hands. The Nick Bells, the Anthony Smiths, the Anthony Bells, the Alexander Wrights.

No disrespect intended.

We wouldn't want the Raiders taking umbrage at their gifted young players being referred to as no-names. We only mean that in comparison to Allen, Dickerson and Lott, these guys are not yet shoo-ins for Canton, Ohio.

Being critical of the Raiders can be a tricky business. They evicted one newspaper's reporter from camp last week for what was perceived as negative coverage.

The newspaper, which is owned by Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, does not carry too much negative coverage of the Raiders.

It does, however, carry very little negative coverage of the Washington Redskins.

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