Friday, November 29
Updated: December 2, 6:04 PM ET
Two teams on the uptick
By John Madden
The Outback Steakhouse Madden Cruiser stays in the Bay Area for a second-straight week, as the New York Jets play the Oakland Raiders on Monday night (ABC, 9:00 p.m. ET). These teams met last January in the playoffs, with Oakland coming out on top.
New York struggled for a while at the beginning of this season. But they made a change at quarterback, when Chad Pennington replaced Vinny Testaverde. Pennington was a first-round draft choice a couple of years ago, and he's played very well since taking over as the starter for the Jets. He's adjusted to the offense and the offense has adjusted to him.
I've always said that the best friend of a quarterback is a good running game and Pennington has that because of Curtis Martin. Martin's one of the top backs in football, and he's a class guy -- that's something I really like about him. He's played well in his last two games, going over 100 yards rushing in each of them.
Head coach Herman Edwards and his coaching staff have done a nice job getting New York back up from where they were in September and early October, and now the Jets are playing some very good football.
The Raiders are really something else right now. Quarterback Rich Gannon has so much confidence in himself, and everyone has a lot of confidence in him. Of course, he's throwing to some pretty darn good wide receivers in Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Jerry Porter. He has those guys to throw the ball to, and he has the running game with Charlie Garner.
Heck, you think that Oakland's throwing the ball so much, but with that offense and those short passes, and short, quick passes that they use, a lot of times it's just an extended handoff. They're just screen passes and those kinds of things. You look at statistics and at the number of times they pass, and you think, "Jeez, they're just throwing the ball all over the lot." That is, like they're throwing 15 and 20-yard passes and stuff. Some of those throws, though, are just 1-2-3, that is, a 3-step drop, and -- BOOM! -- Gannon gets rid of it quickly, and then the receivers run with it. Heck, that's just like a pitchout in the running game.
I think if you were to take those plays, that are short passes, and count 'em as runs, you'd see that they're a lot more balanced on offense than they look. When that Raiders' offense gets hot and when Gannon gets hot, they can light it up. We saw that a few Monday nights ago against Denver. What Gannon did in that road win against the Broncos was one of the great quarterbacking games that I've ever seen.
I mentioned Charlie Garner earlier -- he brings a lot of speed to that offense. That's something that the Raiders don't really have a lot of, on that side of the ball. Garner, however, is a guy who really scares you speed-wise.
Another player, though, who's still running like heck is Jerry Rice. And if you think that he still can't run fast, and you start to play him tight or don't worry about him deep, he'll still get behind you. It's funny, because you don't count him as a speed guy, but the minute you don't count him as a speed guy, he seems to become one, and he beats you downfield for a big catch. He's still a heckuva receiver. He's always been one of my favorites.
Bringin' back the memories: This game brings me back so many years, going back to when these teams were in the AFL. It goes back to when Joe Namath was the quarterback for New York, and the rivalry that was established then. That rivalry probably started in the 1968 season, when the Jets beat us [Oakland] in the championship game at Shea Stadium, and then went on to beat Baltimore in Super Bowl III. That was the famous Super Bowl, where Namath guaranteed his team would beat the Colts -- and they did.
You also had the "Heidi" game and all of those high-scoring and close games, between us and them, when I was a coach with the Raiders. Heck, I remember a great one between Daryle Lamonica and Namath, and an exciting game between Ken Stabler and Namath.
And then you go to last season, when Oakland lost to New York at the end of the regular season, but then beat 'em the very next week in the playoffs. There's been a history and a tradition in this rivalry and in that period of time, there have been some great games between the teams.