Great article on Rice/Gannon

Losing Gannon, Rice leaves leadership void

By Ann Killion

Mercury News

The rudderless Raiders are leaking leadership at an alarming rate. Late Monday, the news came that Jerry Rice will be traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Earlier in the day, the strongest Raiders leader of the modern era confirmed that he can't help guide his team out of its current mess.

On Monday afternoon, quarterback Rich Gannon -- suffering from a broken vertebra in his neck -- stated the obvious. His season is over. He wouldn't announce that his career is over, but that's clearly the safe bet.

So write it down: Monday, Oct. 18, was officially the end of an era. An era when the Raiders restored meaning to Pride and Poise'' andCommitment to Excellence'' -- phrases that had run hollow for the better part of a decade.

It had been an era of success. The start of the new era isn't promising.

The void left by the departures of Rice and Gannon is enormous. Gannon did all he could to turn the Raiders into a winning team. Rice is taking with him all the knowledge about winning and preparation that he has accumulated in his 20-year Hall of Fame career.

Tim Brown is already gone. So is Rod Woodson. And Trace Armstrong. And Lincoln Kennedy. And even Bill Romanowski, with his twisted form of leadership.

In their place? The Raiders have some expensive spare parts. They have some loudmouths. They have some talent. But team leaders? Not many.

The Raiders rode their strong veteran leadership to a Super Bowl just two seasons ago -- although it seems like a lifetime ago. Even though they lost their leader and coach when Jon Gruden went to Tampa Bay, they were able to function at a high level under Bill Callahan, at least long enough to get to the Super Bowl.

Now the Raiders are without leaders on the field. And they seem to be missing a dynamic leader on the sideline. One can only hope Norv Turner exhibits more fire and energy with his team than he does at his news conferences, which are an agonizing display of evasiveness and non-answers.

Gannon's replacement, Kerry Collins, has been bewildered, overmatched and mostly incapable of leading his team to a first down.

The Raiders are in trouble.

They've been in trouble before, back when they had the right coach but the wrong quarterback in Jeff George. But then Gannon arrived to help turn the Raiders around.

Gannon's signing was the smartest player acquisition by the Raiders in the free-agent era. It went against all Raiders traditions -- he didn't have a big gun, didn't throw the long ball, wasn't flashy, hadn't been the MVP of a Super Bowl.

But he was smart and mobile, could understand Gruden's offense and could execute it. Gannon worked hard to wring every ounce out of his potential. That's why he and Rice clicked. They knew that game days are the result of the week before.

Such effort seems to be eluding the Raiders. On Sunday, after the Denver Debacle, Frank Middleton made a telling comment when asked when he knew it was going to be a tough day.

``We could tell on Monday,'' he said, of the day they first saw Denver film. But with a week of preparation, the Raiders were still impotent.

Gannon's hard work turned him into the league MVP. It landed him in a Super Bowl, though that game is something he would prefer to erase. He was the most successful Raiders quarterback since Jim Plunkett. Ken Stabler praised the man who did justice to jersey No. 12 once again.

Gannon could rub his teammates wrong. He didn't tolerate laziness or excuses -- trademarks of mid-1990s Raiders teams. He demanded a lot from his teammates, but even more from himself.

After his shoulder injury last season, he worked hard to come back. But Monday, encased in a giant white neck brace, he was forced to fold his hand.

I have prepared every game as if it was my last game,'' he said.I take a great deal of pride in my preparation and performance. This can be a very tough business. People can be very critical. But the one thing people cannot question about me these last six years in Oakland is the way I prepared.''

He was criticized, especially after the Super Bowl loss. But what has happened to the Raiders since has proved that Gannon was not the problem.

I have no regrets,'' he said.I did everything I possibly could.''

Gannon and Rice prepared. They did their job. They led by example. The Raiders could sure use that kind of leader right now.

Contact Ann Killion at or (408) 920-5805. Fax (408) 920-5244.