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Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2003

Woodson lacks authority to criticize

Oakland cornerback’s comments would mean something if he were playing up to potential

November 6, 2003

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— The Raiders call Charles Woodson "CWood."

See Wood lose some speed and quickness after last season's broken leg. See Wood quietly slip from Heisman-winning shutdown cornerback to just another OK player. See Wood sweat about losing free-agent bargaining power in the final year of his contract.

See Wood turn himself back into a big star by emasculating his coach in an ESPN interview and shifting most of the focus and blame for the Raiders' 2-6 collapse back onto perhaps the NFL's easiest target, Al Davis' "puppet," Bill Callahan.

See Wood take heat from one wise-as-an-owl teammate.

Raiders guard Frank Middleton was critical of Woodson in a TV interview, saying: "He wants to be a franchise player, and he's trying to act like one."

Here is another sickening example of Terrell Owens Syndrome. If Woodson were performing at his All-Pro level of two years ago, his words would pack a wallop. If he walked his talk, at least this would come off as: "I'm doing my part, but I can't overcome my dead-headed coach."

Yet Woodson went beyond Owens. Owens is prone to blasting everyone but himself moments after logic-wrecking losses. Woodson calmly took apart his coach in a midweek interview with ESPN's Andrea Kremer. This was premeditated. This was designed more to save Woodson's reputation than the Raiders' season.

And if he was attempting to shock some life back into the Raiders, they pay even less attention to "CWood" than they do "BCal." With two weeks to prepare for a 1-6 team, the Raiders played like they had one day to throw together a plan for a 6-1 team. Losing to Detroit validated Woodson's claim that Callahan lost his team.

No doubt Callahan deserves a share of the blame. But what you did not hear from Woodson is the most obvious reason for the Raiders' stunning rise and even more stunning fall. Rich Gannon, NFL MVP, was so battered physically and psychologically in the 48-21 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay that he never recovered.

Last year's often unstoppable passing attack, which camouflaged a pretty average defense, revolved around and depended solely on the quarterback's ability to make quick decisions and deliver pinpoint passes. But from the first exhibition game -- heck, the first camp practice -- it became clear Gannon had lost his confidence, rhythm, accuracy, even nerve. The Raiders went from Rich to poor.

Gannon went Kurt Warner. Callahan went Mike Martz. There are strong parallels to what happened to the St. Louis Rams after they blew the Super Bowl.

Woodson's contention that Callahan has "a big ego" applies only in this regard: Like Martz, Callahan began thinking he was pretty darn clever for re-inventing the wheel. Like Martz, Callahan threw a passing game at the NFL that confounded defensive coordinators until the Super Bowl. Like Martz, Callahan fell so in love with the pass that he couldn't let go when Gannon suffered QB amnesia.

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