Raiders to Try Something Old, Something New : Schroeder to Start Against Denver, but He’ll Work Behind Same Offensive Line
Ever order anything, say a couch, through a catalogue? Then you know what the Raiders have been going through the past few weeks.
You saw a picture of the couch. You imagined how it would look in your living room, how it would fit in with the other furniture. You spent more than you could really afford because you just had to have that couch, and then you had to wait agonizing weeks until it was delivered.
For the Raiders, the wait is over.
What they obtained was a quarterback. They had seen more than just pictures of Jay Schroeder. They had seen him in action for 4 years with the Washington Redskins and they figured he’d fit in perfectly with their new, more flexible offense. So they spent more than they could really afford--giving up one of the top offensive linemen in the game in Jim Lachey, along with several draft choices--and then had to wait several weeks while Schroeder took a crash course to learn the Raider playbook.
To carry this analogy all the way through, however, you’d have to imagine the nightmare of finally getting your couch, only to discover a bad leak in the roof above your living room.
Because when Schroeder finally makes his long-awaited Raider debut tonight at Mile High Stadium (5 p.m. PDT) against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, he will find himself operating behind an offensive line that has been full of damaging leaks this season.
The trade of Lachey was followed by injuries all along the offensive line. Don Mosebar and Bill Lewis both went out with sprained ankles and Brian Holloway was lost because of a separated shoulder. Mosebar was not expected to play tonight, but the Raiders have delayed releasing their inactive list until noon today on the chance that Mosebar still might suit up. Lewis is expected to play tonight; Holloway is not expected to play again this year after undergoing surgery earlier this week on his damaged shoulder.
So barring a return by Mosebar, the Raiders will go with the line they used last week--Rory Graves and Steve Wright at the tackles, Charley Hannah and Bruce Wilkerson at the guards and either Lewis or John Gesek at center--a line that gave up 9 sacks against the Rams. The Raiders have surrendered 14 sacks in 3 games.
There is, however, some good news for the Raiders. For one thing, the Rams’ Gary Jeter (5 sacks last week) won’t be there. For another, neither will linebacker Karl Mecklenburg, the anchor of the Bronco defense, who fractured his right thumb a week ago.
So these rivals limp into this confrontation with lowered expectations. Often when they have met in the past, the divisional title was on the line. This time, the prize is a .500 record as both clubs are 1-2. It’s a prize either will gladly take because the alternative, a 1-3 mark, is a hole perhaps too deep to dig out of.
The Raider problems at quarterback have been much heralded, but Denver’s John Elway hasn’t exactly been his usual superstar self either. In last week’s loss to Kansas City, he completed just 15 of 32 for 213 yards with 2 interceptions and no touchdowns. In 2 of his 3 games, he has completed fewer than half of his passes and has thrown as many interceptions (4) as touchdown passes.
Ironically, part of the problem could be Raider Coach Mike Shanahan. The rumor around Denver for years was that Coach Dan Reeves and Elway didn’t often see eye to eye, but that Shanahan, Reeves’ offensive coordinator, acted as an effective buffer between the two.
“I think Mike did a great job of preparing John and I think John misses a lot of the things Mike did,” Reeves said.
In all, Reeves lost three assistants when Al Davis hired Shanahan because Shanahan brought Alex Gibbs and Nick Nicolau with him to Los Angeles.
“People try to hire coaches from successful organizations,” Reeves said. “It’s flattering if you lose them to somebody outside your division. When you have to play against them twice, though, it’s not a whole hell of a lot of fun.”
When Shanahan first arrived in Denver, Elway had completed his first season, but nobody was touting him for Rookie of the Year. Finishing 17th among American Football Conference passers, Elway had thrown twice as many interceptions (14) as touchdown passes (7) and completed just 47.5% of his throws.
Shanahan, then only 31 himself, had some blunt words for the then 23-year-old Elway: You’re out of shape. But if you want to work at it, I’ll work with you.
Elway could have flashed his already prodigious stack of press clippings at Shanahan, but, instead, he flashed a smile and agreed.
Every morning, 5 to 6 days a week in the months prior to the 1984 season, Shanahan and Elway would meet at the Broncos’ practice facility, where they would lift weights and run.
“It’s hard to find somebody to work out with,” Shanahan said. “It’s easy if you get a partner. You’re going to come in just because you made a commitment to somebody else. It’s a two-way street. Some days, I didn’t feel like working out, but I said I’d be there every day.
“John had never lifted before. When we started, we were pretty close. But it didn’t take long until he passed me up. After a while, I started to get my workout just putting weights on for him.”
Tonight, they’ll be on opposite sidelines. Elway left to find his own way, Shanahan hoping he’ll find another Elway.
Denver’s Tony Dorsett needs just 97 yards rushing tonight to surpass Jim Brown and become the NFL’s No. 2 all-time rusher behind Walter Payton. . . . Also hurting for the Raiders is defensive back Lionel Washington (out with a groin injury). Linebacker Linden King (hamstring) and defensive lineman Scott Davis (back injury) are both listed as probable. . . . For the Broncos, receiver Vance Johnson (toe injury) is expected to play. Fellow receiver Mark Jackson (broken clavicle) will not. Also hurt are running back Gerald Willhite (probably out because of a calf injury), tight end Clarence Kay (questionable because of a neck injury), and three players listed as probable: cornerback Jeremiah Castille (head and neck injuries), defensive end Walt Bowyer (ankle and hamstring) and defensive back Dennis Smith (hamstring).