5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Wiggling Toes in the Sand

Seems appropriate for Valentines Day – how contractors run afoul of Federal investigators when they get caught wiggling their toes in the sand with procurement officers.

More to come………………………



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.




Is that Whip or WIP

A wise and sage person once said, “manage your project, don’t manage WIP”. For years the idea of Work in Progress (WIP) has eluded the understanding of senior management at many companies. Senior management labors under the impression that there is a WIP God that is all seeing and all knowing and will swoop down upon the company if anything is awry. What senior management in many companies fail to understand is that the way the company estimates projects makes the calculation of WIP immediately suspect. Many projects are already upside down before they even get out of the gate. Pointing this out is to no avail when senior management is convinced that WIP is the problem, not poor estimating or project management. Of course, the problem of profit fade and poor performing projects never goes away when management remains convinced that WIP, or is that WHIP, caused the project to lose money.

A short primer on the critical elements of WIP for the uninitiated. There are three key elements that are needed to insure that the process of WIP operates as accurately as possible:

  1. You need an estimate that is in the ballpark. This was the beginning of the problem at one firm. Estimates were so far out in left field that the math to calculate percent complete was immediately whacked.
  2. This part most firms cannot screw up too much – contract value. Although firms never stop trying to screw this up by not updating the contract value throughout the contract, both up and down. At this point this becomes just one other piece of the calculation that goes wrong.
  3. Competent project managers who can actually manage projects. SURPRISE! What a concept, there must be capable project managers who know where they are in the project and can accurately forecast an estimate to complete (ETC).

Simple enough, don’t you think?? Yet those at many companies cannot wrap their brain around the concept and continually come up with processes and procedures to manage WIP, versus manage the projects or change clearly deficient estimating procedures and project management.

A case of dumb and dumber, the blind leading the blind, etc… We know that if we manage the WIP that the projects will make money, you MUST be calculating it incorrectly. Bwaa Haa Haa, such ignorance. Folks, WIP is just a timing mechanism that matches revenue to expense and has no impact upon a projects profitability. That is the main purpose of WIP – match revenue to expense was what I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs after sitting through the 100th meeting where the same pronouncement regarding how WIP needed to be managed. The usual Jim Carrey look came when they would make these statements – “we know the truth, you can’t fool us”, LOL. I am convinced this was done to WHIP me into submission. As if telling me over and over  would make me a convert to the insanity. To this day the senior management at many companies is clueless to the concept of WIP.

Being able to effectively estimate projects is where many companies have real issues that doom projects to profit fade from the beginning and/or during the project when an estimate to complete is needed. I recall asking for an estimate to complete from a senior manager at one company for a project in Southern California. He sticks his finger up in the air, gauges the direction of airflow, and says “we only have another $150,000 worth of work left on this project”. This was at yearend when preparing for audit so I asked “are you sure?”. Yes, absolutely was the reply by not only this senior manager but others as well. The first quarter of the new year the firm immediately proceeded to spend $1.5 million to complete the project – whoops, a little off. WTF. You got it – the WIP was wrong, we lost money because of the WIP, LOL. Unfortunately, this is not the exception but the rule at many companies. Estimates and estimates to complete are many times about as accurate as a Tarot card reading. Actually Tarot card readings are probably more accurate. My apologies to all Tarot card readers.

Trying to get accurate estimate to complete in some companies on any project is like whack a mole. They keep guessing until the end of the project when it is  impossible to get it wrong anymore!! Consistently profit fade on projects follows a pattern of 35%, 30%, 15%, to 9% once the project is done. There are always estimates given to substantiate the profit percentage of the month. You got it – the WIP was the culprit. Gotta manage that WIP better. Senior management actually many times increases focus on WIP everytime a project loses money and then cannot understand why the same profit fade continually occurs. DUH, the root cause was poor estimating and project management.

Many companies are populated with “C” players at the senior management level. From the Harvard Business Review (I have added emphasis), “There are three main types of C players, and what you should do depends on which you’re working with. The first are those who have been promoted beyond their level of competence (a concept popularly known as the Peter Principle). They simply don’t possess the capability to perform in their current job. These are the individuals you need to manage out of your team. Perhaps they can flourish in less-demanding roles or in other parts of the organization, or perhaps they simply need to leave entirely.“. Unfortunately, the senior management of many firms aren’t going anywhere even though they clearly lacked the competence to perform at the level required. They truly have risen to their highest level of incompetence.

As in many companies, staff can see senior management for what they are. Only management themselves are blind to the issues that originated with their lack of competence in key areas. I suppose it is the only way this type of senior management survives in many companies. The feeble minded band together and validate each others bad decisions. In that way they survive in the only environment they can, one in which they can control and elude performance measurements which would doom them in any other company. I have a recurring nightmare where Moe, Larry, Curly and Jane show up and we are working together. No, this can’t be real – and then I wake up and am overcome with a feeling of relief. It was just a dream.

Lesson learned: manage your projects, not WIP. Beware of those who speak authoritatively on a subject and attempt to lead when they have no inkling of what they speak of.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Castles in the Sand….

…fall into the sea eventually. Having just spent, in my opinion wasted, years building what I thought was a stable relationship, both internally and externally, with several companies this statement rings so true. The experience also validates another truism – always go with your first gut instinct. Had I done so I would have ditched this company within the first couple of years or, at the very least, at five years when it became very apparent that those in senior management had no moral compass but, even worse, no business instinct needed to grow the firm past where it already was.

From Harvard Business Review, “The problem is about 70% of leaders rate themselves as inspiring and motivating – much in the same way as we all rate ourselves as great drivers. But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A survey published by Forbes found that 65% of employees would forego a pay raise if it meant seeing their leader fired, and a 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82% of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In our opinion, these two things are directly related.”.

What were the signs you ask. The immediate sign was the lack of leadership skills the senior management had. There was no ability to rise above the petty, personal, and vindictive nature that they possessed. Everything was taken to the personal level – I don’t like so and so because they are friendly with Jesse, or whoever happened to be the flavor of the month. It was akin to mean girls and being in high school again. Talk about those in positions of power wielding that power inappropriately. “Because they could” became justification for tremendously bad judgement. Initially I thought this was just an immaturity that eventually the company would grow out of but, alas, this was not the case. There were so many warning signs but there was also always the hope that the various shortcomings would resolve themselves. Kind of like staying in a bad relationship because you kept thinking the other person was going to change. In the end, however, it became the lack of business acumen that convinced me it was time to the pull the plug on this patient. An inability to understand the difference between gross margin and net margin and figure out why we weren’t making money.

You would think that with all the shortcomings the smart thing to do would be to surround yourself with those of a higher caliber. That would have been the smart thing to do in order to prevent disastrous business decisions being made due to the egocentric nature of the top management. The most polite thing I can say about the inner circle is that they were very entertaining from a Three Stooges perspective. There was Moe with the page boy haircut and whose only claim to fame was his nickname which is the only thing he could speak to authoritatively. Curly was the one who scratched his balls in every meeting and hemmed and hawed when he got upset with something you were saying. Larry was the newest of the group and he was never one to rock the boat, just go whichever way the wind was blowing. Read this as whichever way the senior management said was up. Not one to be bothered with doing the right thing, just do whatever was politically expedient. Against this backdrop is it any wonder that things lurched from one disaster to another. It was life on a roller coaster of one bad decision after another with no one wanting to listen to ways to improve the situation. As I had written in another of my posts – it was going over the cliff over and over again even when warnings were constantly given.

The upside to this is that it personally validated what I have come to see as the sorry state of leadership and management in many firms. In fact, the experience described spans a spectrum of companies across 30 years of experience. It also precipitated a career move which has been very satisfying in validating from a business perspective that there was a better path. Many more stories to share regarding business ethics and morality, stay tuned. A teaser – how wiggling toes in the sand can lead to federal intrigue.

Lesson learned: your first instinct will in most instances be right. If the situation does not feel like a fit you should look to make a change in your environment, not necessarily wait for the environment to change since it may never do so.

From Harvard Business Review, “Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey & Company, says that selflessness is the foundation of good leadership. Leadership is not about you, but about the people and the organization you lead. With selflessness, you take yourself out of the equation and consider the long-term benefits of others. Selflessness does not mean you become a doormat for others and refuse stand up for yourself. Selflessness comes out of self-confidence and self-care.  Here is a simple way of checking whether you are selfless in your leadership: When you make decisions, check your motivation; are you doing it for personal gain, or for the benefits of others?”.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


nationmobile5Yes, believe it or not, there was a time I actually drove this car around town!! Obviously, years ago in a galaxy far away as the Pacific Bell reference makes clear – it was long ago. Not many people can say they were a big enough fan to do this on a daily basis. Gives new meaning to the phrase I bleed Silver and Black, or at one time I did.




The Legend Continues


More pics from the archives of the Original Raider Nation…………

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Autograph signing with Jon Ritchie at the Raider Locker Room.

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John Vella and Phil Villapiano showing off their Super Bowl Rings. Another autograph signing at John Vella’s Raider Locker Room. From the Raider Nation archives.




Vindication – ERP Nirvana


Life has a funny way of making things right in the long run. Heading up a consortium of the largest architectural firms my final recommendation was at odds with the eventual failed choice – Lawson Software. WTF, how could anyone believe that software that, at the time, was predominantly in grocery stores could fit in the engineering/architecture space. I have expounded on this lunacy in previous posts so will not belabor the points again.

My choice was JD Edwards as it was a Tier 1 ERP system that was heads and tails above the competition, this was circa 2000 . Dial forward to 2015 and, lo and behold, the ERP system of choice being installed is JD Edwards. Granted this is the “new” Oracle JD Edwards but it still retains functionality that is above the competition for this market.


I harken back to the days of doing a site visit to London in order to see JDE in an installed environment and how everyone was totally satisfied with the selection. Another site visit to St. Louis to see Lawson installed in a live environment where everyone was lamenting the need for a multitude of workarounds. Can you say cluster fu*k? Then coming back reporting the results to “senior” management who turned a blind eye to reality. JDE is not for us but this Lawson software is the cats meow. Who are you to come here telling us otherwise. This on the way to pissing $5.0 million down a failed implementation drain. LOL.

 Yes, things do have a way of working out………… and, yes, I believe in Karma.


The Snake Design


The snake design came about based upon the popularity of Ken Stabler who came to be identified as “The Snake”. Early in the evolution of Raider Nation I opened discussions with representatives of Stabler and, eventually, with Stabler himself. He was developing a presence on the internet and I thought there might be some synergy to be gained if we could team together on a design that he endorsed. The original concept is pictured here with the website Snakes Place incorporated, this was Stabler’s site. Let’s just say that we could not come to terms on pricing strategy and I pulled out of the deal. The idea was good enough, however, to move forward without incorporating any references to Stabler, a generic Raider Nation t-shirt which turn out to be as killer as the original design.



But now you have a little bit of insider history on what went into the designs development and what could have been – see below. Lovely isn’t it? Too bad it never went into production as originally designed since I am not inclined to be sued for infringement and no agreement could be reached. In my opinion, very short sighted on The Snakes part as this would have been a marketing gold mine for him and establish his place among a new generation of fans. Alas, it was not meant to be.

scd2All was not lost however as the design went on to become a top seller and solidified its place in Raider Nation history. Of course, it never hurts to have Raiderettes modeling your designs!!

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Lessons learned: don’t be short sighted with your marketing. Look to the long term to capitalize on success, what cost you now will come back to yield dividends in the future. All photos are exclusive to the original Raider Nation website.






Raider Nation Brand Identity – The Original Design

scdThese are the original draft designs from initial concept to final design which made it as the official logo of Raider Nation.

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I originally went to a t-shirt screen printer in Berkeley thinking where else would you go to get a far out wild design done the right way. Big mistake as it turns out they were good at concert graphics but simple sports designs were just not their thing.

From these drawings you can see the skull and bandana went through several iterations until it was done right. Once the design was finalized there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be popular. The design incorporated all the base attributes which Raider fans identified with – skull and crossbones, being a team for the nation, and portraying the rogue mentality.

2013-03-17 16.58.42So, these original draft designs document the true origin of Raider Nation as this became the iconic symbol for the website and all merchandise associated with Raider Nation.

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I am Positive it Won’t Work or the Power of Groupthink

A long and tortured tale of a failed ERP implementation at a large architectural firm headquartered in San Francisco.

pospiss1The best moments are only available upon reflection as at the time it was a period of total lunacy in my career. Dominated by a culture so dysfunctional that it allowed $5.0 million plus to be pissed down a hole. Of course, I was painted as the dysfunctional one since, as the SF Regional manager, so astutely told me during one discussion, “You need to be positive about the ERP implementation!”, in her chirpy upbeat way. To which I replied, “OK, I am POSITIVE this implementation will fail”. How is that for being positive. This was several months into an implementation that saw us christening the project management module of the software as “Project Uranus”. Very appropriate, given that you could stick this software up “your anus” since it was never going to work.

Talk about swimming upstream, every person on the project team fell in line behind the founders son in proclaiming that the software implementation was going to be a success. This against every single indication that it was failing. A countdown clock to the “go live” date was established so everyone could eagerly await the dawning of the new day for the firm. It was a joke of huge magnitude which only I could see.

Everything was done according to the book to insure success – a focused evaluation and implementation team was formed that included outside consultants, outside accounting firm, and representatives of other firms. The consortium of outside keefe031607firms was a who’s who of the architecture industry in the United States. It was impossible to fail, or so some in upper management thought. With so much brain power, and I use the term lightly, there was no way that we could go down the wrong path. The problem was that, to a person, everyone on the implementation “team” had no facility for independent thought and/or it was not in their vested interest to buck the trend if it would be perceived negatively. The prodigal son made it clear that what he wanted is what would be chosen and implemented, regardless of whether it would work – everyone was to MAKE it work, or else. That was the environment which caused everyone to fall in line and follow each other over the cliff even though it became a forgone conclusion that the implementation was going to fail. Questioning the decision was a career limiting move or it would cost the outside consultants their fees.

I recall one meeting held in a large conference room when things were already going sideways in which everyone formed a circle to encourage openness and unity, LOL. Did I mention this firm bought into, and probably still does, buy into every management craze that happens to be in vogue. Doesn’t matter whether the latest trend works, just that we did them so we showed our intellectual prowess, again LOL. They were high on appearance but low on execution – they had not figured out that without execution the latest theories are nothing more than opiates for the masses – we are doing OK because we are doing what everyone says is right!! I digress, we are in this room in a circle and the prodigal son goes around the room one by one and asks each person to give their impression of where the project stands. Remember, this was to be his way of getting to the truth of the situation, whether his belief that things were OK could be validated by the assembled “experts”. I am standing next to one of the founders of the accounting firm we utilized at White-liesthe time, he leans over and whispers, “..this is a cluster fuck”. I nod my affirmation that, indeed, this is an exercise in stupidity as not one person uttered what was overwhelmingly the only conclusion a sane person could come to – the ERP system chosen was a complete failure and would never work. It was as clear as the nose on everyone’s face but no one wanted that nose cut off by the prodigal son, easier to go with the flow over the cliff and over they all went. All telling little white lies to keep their positions within the firm intact. Several went on to become principals in the firm when they rightly should have been terminated for gross negligence. Nothing so harsh – they were “team” players, no matter they cost the firm $5.0 million as the culture of this firm was better to go along with the dysfunctional behavior because that was part of our culture, and our culture is what got us here. Whacked.

To this day I gag every time I see quotes from senior managers of this firm, or in particular the ex-CEO, who speak authoritatively on management theory or techniques. Unless they have somehow pulled their heads out of their asses, which I doubt, their words of wisdom fall on deaf ears as experience has shown they lack the ability to execute.

Lesson Learned: without execution all the management theories are not worth the paper they are written on. Groups who are not empowered to speak freely are capable of tremendously stupid decisions. When the overpowering emphasis is on going with the flow there is real danger in going over the cliff.

Raider Nation – Bruce Allen Interview

Another great interview from the archives. This with Bruce Allen and was conducted during the Jon Gruden era.

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He sits at the right hand of one of the true football gods, Raiders’ owner    Al Davis.
Bruce Allen doesn’t get the publicity afforded a head coach or a high-profile NFL owner    such as Davis, but he is just as important to the Raiders organization. As the team’s    “senior assistant,” Allen handles a variety of duties for the franchise, from    negotiating player contracts and managing the team’s salary cap, to coordinating marketing    and community relations projects and answering media inquiries. The son of the late George    Allen, record-breaking coach of the Redskins, he brings a passion and work ethic to the    job only equaled by the Raiders’ new head coach, Jon Gruden.
Probably no employee, other than Davis himself, knows more about the day-to-day operations    of the Oakland Raiders than Allen. An articulate representative of the Silver and Black,    Allen spoke to Raider Nation Journal’s Randy Shillingburg on May 5 about the team’s draft    and prospects for the 1998 season. Following are excerpts from this phone interview which    probed into the inner workings of pro football’s most dynamic organization:
RS: What are you working on today, Bruce?

BA: We’re working on a number of things. We’re looking to fill out our    80-man roster and we’re also looking at some marketing and community relations activities.
RS: Which players are we looking at today? Can you tell?

BA: No, we don’t do it that way. As you know, we like to keep our    objectives quiet until they’ve been conquered.
RS: But you are talking to some players?

BA: Yes we are.
RS: Will the Raiders be active (in free agency) after June 1?

BA: If the right players become available that we feel can help us. With    our new coaching staff — they have spent an extensive amount of time implementing their    new terminology and their new schemes to our players since February. It can be difficult    for a new player to come in late in June or early July and get up to speed that quickly.    It is a complete change in terminology for us, and it’s something that needs a lot of work    and repetition. The players are still here working on it.
RS: If I would call the Raiders office about 4 o’clock in the morning, would I reach Jon    Gruden?

BA: (Laughing) If you had his direct dial, you would. Some days he gets in    late, around five.
RS: (Laughing) He’s sleeping in those days?

BA: (Laughing) Usually you can get him between four and five pretty    easily.
RS: It sounds as if he’d be a tough guy to try to keep up with.

BA: Well, he’s got so much energy, and it’s creative energy. We feel    fortunate to have landed Jon here, because he’s brought some adrenaline to the team that    has been needed.
RS: Almost everyone has alluded to the fact that returning this team to its rightful place    among the league’s elite will require a major rebuilding job. Does the team have a    timetable with a series of goals?

BA: Our timetable is to be as good as we can be each week. There is some    great history that shows quick turnarounds in this new salary cap era. We’re just going    (to) try to play one game at a time. We open with Kansas City, and Jon has all of his    focus on that game and (to) do the best we can. When the coaches came in here, they wanted    to have these early mini camps. In fact, we had one before the draft even, and they were    pleased with our talent. Offensively, we have some explosive weapons that excite the    offensive coaches, but defensively we also (have) a nucleus that can be built around with    some solid, young talent.
RS: What does Jon Gruden bring to the Raiders?

BA: He brings intelligence. He brings passion. He brings discipline, and    he brings energy.
RS: What does Bruce Allen bring to the Raiders?

BA: Definitely the passion and the ability to look at any possible    contractual problem from different angles and be able to solve it. As with everyone in the    organization, that burning desire to win.
RS: What do you think the chances are of having Charles Woodson signed before training    camp starts? Do you get the feeling that both Charles and his agents want him to be in    camp on time?

BA: Well, in talking to Charles, you feel that. There’s no way to predict    that far off. Last year, we were fortunate that Darrell Russell signed the day camp    started. He was the first of the top six draft choices to sign. None of those other draft    choices signed for, I don’t think, for another week or so. We’ll work at it and attempt to    compensate him fairly and come up with a deal. It takes two to make an agreement.
RS: What is it like to work with Jon Gruden? What are your impressions of him? Do you feel    that the team has turned around under his leadership?

BA: Results are what turn around a team. Chemistry is an often-used    phrase. I’ve only seen teams that win that have good chemistry. That (having team    chemistry) will be when we get on the field and outscore our opponents. I don’t want to    put too much on Jon too early. But are we headed in the right direction? Absolutely.
RS: Who have been your biggest influences in football?

BA: Well, my father was probably number one and number two. After that, I    would probably say a lot of his players, who I grew up as friends to, and Al Davis. Al is    every coach’s idol in that he was a Coach of the Year, successful coach, but he ended up    owning a franchise. I don’t think — now that George Halas and Paul Brown are gone — that    we’ll ever see this again in sports. The value of the franchises has gotten near a billion    dollars.
RS: What does Al Davis bring to the Raiders? Of course we know his knowledge of the game    and all of that, but what else does he add to the team?

BA: His incredible experience at doing every facet of an organization —    working in every facet of the organization — is invaluable. His ability to see the big    picture and clearly project what our future holds is really kind of amazing. Some of the    new coaches call him Karnac. Some of the owners in the league at the last league meeting    called him E. F. Hutton. He had predicted that television income was going to double —    two years ago. Everyone sort of laughed at that and sort of thought he was just talking.    And then it happened. He has great insight and great vision. He is the person that lights    this flame in everyone around this organization. When he comes by — not intentionally and    not directly — but his burning desire to succeed motivates everyone in this place.
RS: He’s an extremely loyal person, from everything that I’ve read. He’s the type of boss    who, once you prove to him that you have the same passion, he has extreme loyalty to you.

BA: You know, it’s funny. John Madden says that if he had (only) one phone    call to make, he’d call Al Davis. He actually gives you that loyalty before you’ve entered    the Raiders organization. He won’t ever let me explain some of the things he does for    people in need, or people that are looking for assistance of some kind, whether it’s    someone in the community, or a former Raider, or a former coach who just coached in    college. His generosity would shock people.
RS: That’s what I had heard. I remember hearing a story one time that he picks up the tab    whenever he enters a restaurant and sees any of his players there.

BA: That is minor compared to some of his acts of goodwill. If anyone that    he knows is sick or their family has a problem, somehow he finds the time to research    extra medical help and help people. When my wife was going into premature labor, Al Davis    was the person calling the doctor before I even got home to take her to the hospital.
RS: (Laughing) I can just see some doctor at Cedar Sinai Hospital or the Mayo Clinic    handing the phone to another doctor: “It’s Al Davis on the line for you.”

BA: (Laughing) That’s right — making sure that we have the right doctor.    It’s incredible how widespread his generosity is, but it’s also because he believes in    people, and he likes helping people who are less fortunate — not only less fortunate in    terms of money but also less fortunate in terms of knowledge.
RS: It sounds as though you enjoy working with him.

BA: I love it. I really do. The relationship is more than just football,    although that’s the centerpiece of it. I enjoy asking him questions from World War II    history to great leaders in our world, current events, political events, propositions that    are on the ballot, and hearing his analysis of it, and then making side wagers as to which    side is going to win. I haven’t won many of them.
RS: What was it like being in the war room during the draft? What was everyone’s reaction    when Charles Woodson was available and the Raiders selected him?

BA: It was easy on the Woodson situation because we had a definite feeling    that it was either going to be Andre Wadsworth or Charles Woodson, and we were going to be    happy either way. Maneuvering and getting everybody’s opinion on who the next player we    wanted — that was exciting. And then when we were able to complete the trade with Tampa    and get Mo Collins — you would have thought it was Cinco de Mayo in the draft room. It    was a great celebration.
RS: Was it nice to not only get a great player (Collins), but also beat San Francisco to    the punch?

BA: Beating San Francisco just means that their scouts evaluated him in    the same way that we did. We know that there was a team ahead of San Francisco that was    going to draft him.
RS: Really?

BA: So, it made it necessary to trade to the spot we did in order to get    Mo. But, once again, that goes into the preparation by all of our scouts and coaches, and    under Al’s leadership, making sure that we know everything there is possible to know about    a draft situation.
RS: What was the reaction when the Raiders picked up Leon Bender?

BA: We were hoping that he would last until that spot. That supplemental    pick we got from the league, we could not trade. We were concerned about the two spots    above where we were selecting. Our happiness was small when compared to the happiness once    we saw him at mini camp. He’s a big man whose explosiveness off the ball is rare.
RS: He doesn’t have the greatest 40 time, but he is apparently extremely quick.

BA: Yeah, extremely quick. Other than Wadsworth, I don’t know if there was    a quicker big man in the draft.
RS: Do you think he’ll be a star in this league if he works hard?

BA: It’s too early to say that. We have two quality defensive tackles in    Darrell Russell and Russell Maryland, but this gives us a third man in the rotation that    should be able to help us for many years to come.
RS: What was the reaction in the war room when Jon Ritchie was available?

BA: We wanted Jon, and we knew that some other people wanted Jon. We had    an offer to trade down, but the coaches were looking to grab (him) as a fullback. We    decided to take Jon right there. Many people (in the organization) feel this way probably    after the first mini camp: He was everything we were hoping he would be.
RS: Do you think he’ll be a good short-yardage runner?

BA: Oh, the great part about Jon is that he doesn’t care if he ever runs    the ball. He’s a blocking fullback who has very soft hands, which is important in Jon    Gruden’s offense. He (Ritchie) can do that (short-yardage running), yes. We were really    looking for a lead back for Napoleon (Kaufman) and Harvey (Williams).
RS: I think that one of the sentences in my column this week about Ritchie is,    “Aren’t unselfish players great?”

BA: (Laughing) Yeah.
RS: It sounds as though he doesn’t care if he gets the ball two or three times a game as    long as he has a chance to knock a couple of linebackers, a couple of defensive linemen    and a couple of cornerbacks on their ass.

BA: I don’t know if he cares about getting it that one time a game. He    said that coming in and that’s his attitude, which is refreshing.
RS: This draft was kind of an attitude adjustment. The team picked players who are a    little cocky, who have the feeling that they want to be part of a team — not so much the    individual glory or anything — but that they really enjoy being a part of a team and    making a contribution.

BA: When you look at our first three choices, they came from Michigan, the    national champion; Florida, last year’s national champion; and Washington State, this    year’s Pac-10 champion. So, we added some players who are accustomed to winning, who know    what it takes to win, and are driven to win. That’s what we’re looking for here. At the    end of last season, we knew that we could go one of two ways. We could go back into free    agency and try and pick up some players, but the players that were out there really didn’t    excite us. We felt we got the best corner in free agency in Eric Allen via trade. We    decided to concentrate and spend our money and time in the draft, and we ended up with    three high draft choices and really three first round choices. We’re as happy as we can be    about those guys.
RS: If the defense last year would have given up one less touchdown per game, which still    would not have put it among the league’s leaders or even the division leaders, the team    would have finished at 9-7. The Raiders were blown out the last few games of the year when    the season was essentially over. Do you think that an 11-5 or 12-4 season is possible or    even realistic to think about at this point?

BA: We’re not in the prediction business. As I stated, we’ve got to focus    on beating Kansas City. We play them there in a Sunday night game as our opener. The    beginning of our schedule is a wake up call for coach Gruden. Our defense was number eight    in the NFL in 1996. We finished last (for) last year and really, personnel wise, all we    did was improve it with the addition of Eric Turner and Darrell Russell. I think we need    to get some confidence back. We need to get our aggression back, and I think having (new    defensive coordinator) Willie Shaw gives us a chance to do that.
RS: Tell us a little bit about Willie Shaw. What would you like to tell Raider fans around    the world that will give them confidence that he is going to turn this defense around?

BA: Well, there are two things. One, at age 19, he was a sergeant in the    Army. Number two, the New Orleans Saints last year had the number four defense in the NFL.    Now that’s an impressive statistic, but when you couple the fact that the New Orleans    Saints had the 30th ranked offense, and turned the ball over 55 times, it almost becomes    statistically impossible to have the number four defense. That and his proven record    within our division. When he was with the Chargers, they went to the Super Bowl. Those few    points really should give people comfort and it gives us great comfort.
RS: He turns around defenses quickly. He turns vanilla-type defenses into ball-hawking    defenses that create a lot more opportunities for his offense.

BA: He does it because he has a great rapport with players, but a very    disciplined rapport. People know that he’s the coach who’s in charge. We’re pleased to    have him. If Jon is in here at four, Willie is having that second cup of coffee around    here.
RS: (Laughing) So Willie is staying overnight, too?

BA: (Laughing) Yes he is.
RS: It sounds as if things are turning around, or are in the process of turning around. I    know that people who are writing for and reading Raider Nation Journal are some of the    most rabid fans you’d ever want to meet. My second son, believe it or not, his name is    Todd Davis. I’ll just give you one guess as to who he was named after.

BA: (Laughing)
RS: Todd Christensen and Al Davis. I’ve been a Raider fan for a long time. I mean a long    time.

BA: I visited the site (Raider Nation). The reason you all got a hold of    me is that I visited the site, and I was reading (it). Our fans are the greatest. No    matter what survey the league puts out, the Raiders stand tall internationally as really    the flagship of the NFL. We spread across every race and nationality. It’s amazing to the    other teams when they see our popularity. It’s something we’re proud of, and it’s    something that we have to live up to. It’s based on the great players, and the great    coaches of the past, the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. We know right now that we’re challenged to    live up to the greatness that has been built up here. And that’s what we fight for. We    like it. It’s a great pressure to be under.
RS: When you look at the great players, how can you not be in awe when you have Howie Long    and Ben Davidson, Willie Brown and George Atkinson, and Jim Otto. Just being around those    people, you almost have to have goose pimples anytime you see them.

BA: Al Davis received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the    NFL Alumni (Association) for the way he treats former players. I believe we have 14 former    Raider players working within the organization, as well as what he’s done for players    outside the organization. And we feel that is our duty to take care of those players and    those former coaches. Coach Madden is still a consultant. Tom Flores works in our    broadcast booth. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they’ve created, not only for    the Raiders, but for the NFL. That type of feeling is special, but when you’re standing on    the sideline in a pre-game warm up next to George Blanda, Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff,    and Al Davis. I don’t know where else you can do that but with the Raiders, and it’s    special.
RS: Can you tell Raider fans any scoop today, or are you going to save it for Ann Killion?

BA: (Laughing) No, I’m not gonna — I’m certainly not gonna save it for    her. We’re just going along with our business. The one great part is this off season    program — for the four years I’ve been here — has the most players involvement of any of    them. As I’m sitting here right now, I can see the offensive line out in the field. That’s    exciting.
RS: Who’s out there today?

BA: All.
RS: All?

BA: All of them, except the rookies can’t be here until June. They’re all    out there.
RS: So you’ve got Wisniewski . . .

BA: And Lincoln (Kennedy). I see (Pat) Harlow. I see Rick Cunningham. I    see Barrett Robbins. There’s Tim Kohn. (Adam) Treu. And Scott Whittaker. Everybody’s here.    And then we signed Darryl Ashmore, who was with the Redskins last year, for some depth.
RS: He was drafted originally by the Rams, wasn’t he?

BA: Yes he was.
RS: Have you seen any young players that you think that we should keep an eye on — that    maybe they have a chance to be something special?

BA: We drafted somebody last year, Calvin Branch, who was a good college    running back, and we converted him to corner. These coaches have moved him to safety. I    don’t know if this will be his breakout year, but maybe the following year. He’ll make a    significant contribution on special teams this year. I think in another year you’re going    to see another one of these Raider projects (Branch) become a very good player.
RS: What about Scott Whittaker?

BA: Scott is battling for our starting right guard spot. He and Tim Kohn    are (competing for the starting position). I think that’s why they both are here. Each one    of them is trying to get the edge on the other, which is great. Scott has a chance to be    our starting right guard this year.
RS: That’s great. I’ve certainly enjoyed this, Bruce.

BA: Well, we’ll do it again during the season.
RS: What do you think would be the possibility of talking to either Al Davis or Jon Gruden    sometime?

BA: Jon, we’ll probably try and schedule, and I don’t think you’ll get Al.
RS: Even for a long-time Raider fan?

BA: Possibly, but he might want to do something in June. I’ll mention it    to him. Remember that there’s a guy named Larry King who calls once a month, trying to beg    to get him on also.
RS: (Laughing) Larry doesn’t get him?

BA: (Laughing) No.
RS: (Laughing) Well, let Randy Shillingburg get him.

BA: (Laughing) We’ll work on it, Randy.
RS: Thanks for talking with me, Bruce. It’s been a lot of fun.

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