Friday, February 29, 2008

Thank You Barry

This afternoon I post with a heavy heart. Ok so I’m exaggerating a bit, but it is somewhat an end to an era in Oakland. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting that the Raiders will cut Barry Sims today.

I’ve already seen unbridled joy expressed on one Raider board over the termination of Sims’ contract. Its one of those things that I will never understand, how some fans can be so unappreciative of a player who gives it his all on the field each and every game.

Sims was never an all-pro player. Coming of an injury his senior year the Raiders picked him up as an undrafted free agent. Early in his career he bounced around the line before grabbing hold of the left tackle spot and, other than the ill-fated Art Shell year, never letting go.

His detractors will point to the Super Bowl loss to Tampa and the following seasons embarrassment in Tennessee and put much of the blame on Sims inability to handle speed rushers and label him a false start artist.

Was Barry susceptible to the speed rush? Sure, but no more so than all but the top 3 or 4 left tackles in the league. I know at one point, after another round of Raiders fans calling for “False Start” Sims’ head I went through all the false start numbers for offensive tackles and found that Sims was middle of the pack for the NFL.

Barry was an above average left tackle in the NFL. His detractors are those who will not appreciate any player unless he is playing at a hall of fame level. And if he was playing at that level they would find something to criticize until he was gone and they realized what big shoes he had left to fill.

Other than the Art Shell year, you never heard a disparaging word from Sims towards the organization. And in that year it was only due to him loosing his spot without a fight. And even then Sims didn’t demand a trade, he bit his lip, sucked it up and did his best to transition to left guard, a position he was ill-suited for in Shell’s scheme (if you could even call that abortion a scheme).

Injuries have robbed Sims of what little speed he had, and the writing has been on the wall for a couple years now. He performed adequately in yet another system this past year under Tom Cable. But you had to know that if another option came available the Raiders would pursue it.

That is the story of Barry Sims’ career, always solid, never spectacular, always looking over his shoulder. But that is the NFL, there is always someone “better” waiting in the wings. Your team is always looking for the next guy to come in and replace you. That is what makes Sims’ all the more admirable for what he accomplished. As an undrafted free agent he held off younger, bigger, faster, stronger, more highly touted and better paid competition for 7 seasons at left tackle.

Barry Sims was not the best left tackle to ever put on the Silver and Black. He was a step slow, he never overpowered the competition, and he made mental errors. I won’t lie and say I never cursed at my TV when I saw him make a mistake, I won’t say that I didn’t hope that the Raiders would bring in an upgrade. But he was also a fighter; he gave everything he had on every play. He played injured, he didn’t complain when left on an island against superior competition. He did not make excuses for his errors or pin blame on others. There is a reason that Barry Sims wore the captain’s “C” in what appears to be his final year in Oakland.

Barry Sims was a football player; he was not a prim Donna looking for the paycheck. He was the last link to that superb line that allowed Rich Gannon days to find open receivers. Barry Sims was the kind of competitor that I would take on my team any day. But most of all, Barry Sims was a RAIDER. For that I thank him.

Unless he signs with KC, Denver or SD, then fuck him.

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