Authors Note: This article is a tribute to the actor James Garner who recently passed away at the age of 86. Garner was not only a great actor but also a veteran of the Korean War where he was awarded two purple hearts.
Garner was a great fan of the Raiders. Often times, in the 1970's he could be seen patrolling the sidelines at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum on Sunday afternoons. He was also at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena California when the Raiders won their first of three Lombardi Trophies.
If you remember James Garner playing the private detective Jim Rockford in the mid 1970's, I think you will like my story. I have also put into this story a bit of analysis of the Raiders receiving corp. in keeping with the purpose of this site, but, I must admit the true purpose of this article is to pay tribute to a great man, and, a great Raiders fan.
I would also like to thank my superiors here at fantasy knuckleheads for allowing me to write this piece of fantasy fiction. Your kindness is truly appreciated. Thank you.
Dennis Allen stared blankly at the wall opposite his desk. The morning fog in Alameda had yet to clear the skies over the Oakland Raiders training facility. The old saying, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it", kept ringing in his ears. Allen knew that being the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders was going to be tough, but, he never thought it would ever be this tough. Looking down at the worn out business card he held in his hand, Allen slowing read the back of the card. "If you ever need me", signed JR. The area code did not look familiar, but at this point it did not matter. Allen picked up his phone and dialed the number.
The phone rang three times. Allen heard the click of one of those old time answering machines. You know the kind that would physically record your calls onto a cassette tape. Allen remembered being fascinated by the old answering machine that sat in his grandpa's den when Dennis was only five years old. The recording clicked on. "This is Jim Rockford, at the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you".
Allen spoke softly into the receiver. "Hello, Mr. Rockford I was told that if I was ever in a jam to call you". "Call me back".
A few hours later Allen's cell phone rang. He knew who it was, the strange area code gave the identity of the caller away.
Allen answered the phone. "Hello Mr. Rockford, I need you to find some people for me". Allen went on to explain his problem. When the coach was through talking, a gentle reassuring voice that sounded as if it came straight out of the dust bowl of Oklahoma finally spoke. "Don't worry coach, it will be taken care of. With that the line went dead.
The Raiders Receivers
The Raiders are now heading into training camp. Coach Allen has not heard a word from the mysterious Jim Rockford. This silence has given Coach Allen more sleepless nights then he would care to admit too.
In 2013 Rod Streater caught 60 balls for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. Denarius Moore caught only 46 balls for 695 yards and 5 touchdowns. The rookie Mychal Rivera pulled in 38 balls for 407 yards and 4 touchdowns from his tight end position.
In the off season the Raiders acquired James Jones the 7 year vet formerly of the Green Bay Packers. The Raiders are hoping that Jones can regain the form he had in 2012 when he found the end zone a total of 14 times.
Yes, the Raiders receiving numbers were bad in 2013. This was partly due to the inconsistent and inexperience play from the quarterback position. The presumed starter Matt Flynn fell flat in his face. Starting in only one game for the Raiders in 2013. He was unceremoniously cut from the team after that one game. The Raiders could have gotten the same production from Tom Flores. The difference is that Tom Flores is 77 years old and has not played in a competitive football game since 1969.
The Terrelle Pryor experiment also came to an end in 2013. The last man standing behind center for the Raiders turned out to be an undrafted free agent. Matt McGloin did the best he could, having no experience, limited weapons, and a broken down offensive line. The best you could say is that McGloin did the best he could with what he had.
Playing With An NFL Roster
The Raiders organization is hoping that their receiving corp. will have a marked improvement in 2014. The offensive line has been strengthened by the acquisitions of Austin Howard, Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe, and 3rd round pick, rookie Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi State University.
The quarterback position has hopefully been stabilized by the addition of Matt Schaub, a former Pro-Bowler and, the drafting of Derek Carr out of Fresno State.
If the Raiders can improve their ground game in 2014 though the combined efforts of Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece. The Raiders hope to open up the passing lanes for Matt Schaub and his intrepid group of receivers.
A few days ago a weary Dennis Allen drove into the Raiders facility. The dark circles under his eyes would once again tell everyone in the building that he had not slept the night before. As is the norm Dennis Allen is the first person in the building. Today would be a little different.
Allen's eyes widened a bit when he reached his office. In the small waiting area outside his door, he was greeted by fourteen of so of his players, all huddled into this small foyer. James Jones rose from his seat and said, "Coach we need to speak with you".
Allen nodded his head and opened the door to his office. It took almost a full thirty seconds for every receiver to file into the room. When the last man entered, Allen closed the door and took his seat behind his desk. Looking up into his players faces Allen asked, "What can I do for you guys"?
Once again James Jones stepped forward. "Coach something has happened. It happened to all of us, and, we wanted to tell you about it. We have been on the phone with each other since 5 o'clock this morning. It is all so strange. You see we have all had the same dream.
Unknown to each of us, we all went to bed early last night. We all had the same idea of coming in early and getting in an extra work out, and, doing some extra film study.
When we fell asleep we apparently all had this same dream.
The dream went like this, I was walking down a highway. It looked like the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California. I knew that I had to get back to the Bay Area so I decided to hitch a ride. I started to slowly walk down the highway with my thumb out, hoping that a passing car might pick me up and give me a lift, but, the road was deserted. After walking for what seems like hours a car finally appeared on the horizon. As it got closer I almost rubbed my eyes because I could not believe what I was seeing.
This 1974 gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit is coming down the road. I have never seen a car like this before in my life, but, somehow I knew what it was. The car pulls up next to me and stops. The passeger door pops open, and, I hear a voice from inside the car. It tells me to get in.
I climb into the passenger's seat and look at the driver. The guy in the driver's seat looks at me and smiles. It is a warm smile. It made me feel safe and warm. Almost like when your mother use to tuck you into bed at night.
The Drive Home
He had dark hair and he was wearing a pair of sunglasses that looked just as old as his car. The guy looked to be about 45 years old, but, he was good looking. You could tell that in his younger days he could have been a ladies man. I told him I needed to get back to the Bay Area. He gave me that smile again and told me, "no problem I am heading that way myself".
He popped an old cassette, into a player that was built into the dash, all of a sudden this NFL music starts coming out of the speakers, and this booming voice says, "The Autumn Wind Is A Pirate". I get excited and I tell the guy that I am a Raider. He looks over at me and says, "That's great kid. I have been a Raiders fan for a long time.
There we are driving up the coast highway and this guy is telling me about the Raiders and what it means to be a Raider. He tells me the history of the team, and, what the team means to the community.
I do not know why but his words are reverberating inside my body, and then, what he was saying seemed to plant itself deep inside my heart.
It was like I was being transformed.
All of a sudden we are pulling into the complex here in Alameda. He pulls the car right up to the front door. He smiles at me one last time and says, "Remember James, Just Win Baby".
A New Beginning
James Jones looks at his coach and asks. "Coach what does it mean"?" With every eye in the room on him, Dennis Allen leans back in his chair and looks up at his veteran wide receiver. The corners of his mouth begin to curl into a Mona Lisa like smile.
Dennis Allen almost chuckles and say, "don't worry guys it is going to be a good year".
After the players leave, and he finds himself alone, Coach Allen picks up the phone.
He dials the number with the strange area code.
A recording comes on. This time the recording says that the number has been disconnected.
The clouds continue to hover over Alameda, but, Coach Allen knows that just behind those clouds, the sun is waiting to shine down upon the Raider Nation.
RIP James Garner- Husband, Father, Actor, and, Raiders Fan For Time and All Eternity