Losing Gannon, Rice leaves leadership void
By Ann Killion
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.