Wednesday started innocently enough with former Raiders coach Jon Gruden tooting the Raiders' horn and ESPN colleague Ron Jaworski putting the onus on 49ers' Alex Smith for this season. Then along come the Sharks announcing Greg Jamison's departure atop their heirarchy.

Let's start with Gruden, because the NFL carries more weight around here than hockey, despite Jamison's impressive tenure. Gruden, promoting his third season on "Monday Night Football," offered up the following rationale on why the Raiders are poised to win the AFC West for the first time since 2002:

"The Raiders should be excited. I don't just say this being former a Raider myself, but I do like their defense," Gruden said on a conference call. "If you look at their front seven, I know all the years I was coaching, I'd love to have that group. Adding guys like (Kamerion) Wimbley, (John) Henderson, trading for Richard Seymour, (having) Tommy Kelly, getting (Richard) McClain in the first round. That's a good front seven. (Nnamdi Asomugha is) arguably one of the top corners in all of football. I like everything about their defense. And I think I should. These are talented football player.


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Gruden, the Raiders' coach from 1998-2001, continued: "Jason Campbell, between he and Bruce Gradkowski, will do the thing they need to do win there with this defense -- protect the ball. They have maybe the best punter in history. And I'm not kidding you. His statistics make Ray Guy look normal. Shane Lechler is an equalizer. Janikowksi can put points on the board.

"They're going to be outstanding in the kicking game, very good on defense. And if they can take care of the ball, run the ball and develop a couple of these young offensive linemen — and I've heard good things about some of their sleepers that they in camp -- I think they can win the division. I really do. I like the Raiders a lot."

That will keep Gruden in the good graces with Raider Nation, an admiration that surely has grown with each passing season of 11 or more defeats since he clocked them as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach in Super Bowl XXXVII.

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Jaworski, arguably broadcasting's most insightful analyst regarding NFL quarterbacks, has studied Alex Smith's trevails with the 49ers since 2005. No year is more important to Smith's career than this one.

"This is absolutely a huge year for Alex Smith. When you look at the quarterback position, you have to look at the team around him. The 49ers have done really good job putting him in pos where got weapons around him," Jaworski said. "This is a critical year for Alex Smith. You draft (Mike) Iupati, you draft (Anthony Davis). You're going to have offensive linemen playing at an All-Pro level the next 10 years. The offensive line has been solidified. Yeah it's young and inexperienced, but the talent level is there. ... The weapons are now in place for Alex Smith. There really are no more excuses. He's got to step up, he's got to be a leader, he's got to take take command of the offense. To me, it's a critical year to him. He has the talent to do it but only time will tell."

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This may be burying the news of the day but if Jamison had won a Stanley Cup in his tenure, we'd give him top billing. That said, the Sharks and the Bay Area, especially the South Bay, owe him a debt of gratitude for how well he oversaw the franchise's day-to-day duties since 1996.

The Sharks will have more later today reagrding the move and their search for a replacement. Jamison, 60, will remain part of the ownership group and apparently will still serve as the Sharks' "Governor" to the NHL as well stay on the league's 10-person Executive Committee.

"I have immensely enjoyed running this franchise and wish to thank the ownership group for their support and cooperation," Jamison said in a statement. "Our team, both on and off the ice, is set up for success moving forward, and I look forward to assisting my fellow partners in a more limited role.

"This organization, including the hockey team and HP Pavilion, has become part of the fabric and culture of the downtown core, the city of San Jose, Silicon Valley and beyond," added Jamison. "We have brought quality entertainment to countless residents of the Bay Area. The organization will continue to strive toward our goal of winning the Stanley Cup for our tremendously loyal fan base. I can attest that the Sharks and SVS&E remain in the capable hands of an extremely talented, dedicated and experienced staff."

Jamison was instrumental in forming the San Jose Sports and Entertainment Enterprises group that purchased the franchise from George Gund III. Considering the Sharks' constant ability to contend, it is fair to call Jamison the Bay Area's best sports executive over the past decade.

"On behalf of the ownership group of SVS&E, we want to thank Greg for his incredible leadership," said owners Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos. "He leaves a legacy of accomplishment both on and off the ice, strong devotion to the fans and community and a culture of integrity and passion that will carry on for decades to come."

Look for Cam Inman's Web-only "Candid Cam" takes whenever there's a breaking sports story, or whenever Cam's got something to say _ in short, just about every day. You can reach Cam at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com. You can follow him at twitter.com/CamInman.