The Oakland Raiders organization has seen its share of controversy and chaos over the years. While there was no shortage of setbacks in 2011, there are also signs that point to an inevitable turnaround for the Silver and Black. And the proof has been in the pudding for true hope and change over the last several months.
It was all instigated with the unfortunate and shocking passing of a legendary maverick, trailblazer, innovator and long-time team owner who lived, breathed and slept Raider football. Al Davis passed away on Saturday morning, October 8, 2011.
Injuries and Coaching Chaos
It wasn’t long until many key players like quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Darren McFadden and wide outs Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, among others, were hampered with injuries. That was quickly followed by Hue Jackson‘s narcissistic and bone-headed decision-making.
While he was overall an effective and productive offensive-minded coach, he needed to be brought back down to earth because he was clearly given too much sudden supremacy after Al’s passing and there were no limits.
The Carson Palmer trade was only the beginning. When you eclipse NFL history for committing the most penalties and most penalty yards in a single-season and finish 27th or worse in total defense, run defense, pass defense and points allowed and also allow the most touchdowns through the air (31), most yards per carry on the ground (5.1), most passing yards (4,262) and most total yards (6,201) in franchise history, changes have to be made in the coaching staff.
The rebuilding process kicked into full swing in January 2012 when the son of the late Al Davis and current owner Mark Davis hired former Raiders player and the director of football operations for the Green Bay Packers, Reggie McKenzie as the team’s new General Manager. Last week the Raiders also hired Dennis Allen, who became the franchise’s first head coach with a defensive background since John Madden and the youngest since John Gruden.
In his first and only year as defensive coordinator for the Broncos, Denver’s defense improved steadily over the course of the regular season, finishing 24th in scoring (24.4 PPG), 22nd against the run (126.3 YPG), 20th in yards allowed (357.8 YPG) and 18th against the pass (231.5 YPG). The Broncos were also 10th in sacks (41.0) and 6th in percentage of 3rd-down conversions allowed (34 PCT) under the direction of Dennis Allen.
Davis, McKenzie and Allen alike will look to move the franchise into the new era of the great future of Raiders football.
“I don’t think radical changes are what need to be made,” Allen mentioned in a recent press conference regarding the Raiders defense. ”There’s a talented defense [here] and we got enough players, both on offense and defense, that we can win a championship with.”
Allen also indicated that Carson Palmer will become the starting quarterback come fall. He also tossed the word “discipline” around a couple hundred times, which is a very, very good sign. In the coming weeks we all will have a better indication of what Allen’s coaching staff will look like.
“The vision for the future of the Oakland Raiders is going to be just that. It is going to be a tough, smart, disciplined and committed football team,” Allen stated.
Don’t Sleep On Knapp Or Oakland Trading DMC
The Raiders hired former Houston Texans quarterbacks coach Gregg Knapp as the new offensive coordinator on Tuesday, replacing Al Saunders, which came as a surprise to many. Knapp was hired by Lane Kiffin in 2007 and took over operations as Oakland’s primary play-caller when Kiffin was fired.
Knapp is regarded as one of the NFL’s most running game-oriented offensive minds, having engineered seven Top 5 finishes in rushing attempts over the last nine seasons as the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (2001-2003), Atlanta Falcons (2004-2006), Raiders (’07-’08) and Seahawks (’09). The Texans were also tied for leading the league in rushing carries this past season.
The hire seems to increase the likelihood of the team using the franchise tag on Michael Bush and perhaps weighing possible trade options with star running back Darren McFadden.
Coming off a Lisfranc injury, McFadden has missed 19 games in his four seasons in Oakland. Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group recently referred McFadden as the team’s best bargaining chip. While the 6-2, 210-pound proven dual-threat has displayed tremendous talent and outstanding production when he’s on been on the field, he might be worth a first or second round pick.
As for now, Oakland only has two draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft in April—one in the fifth round, the other in the sixth round. Albeit the Raiders will also collect three to four compensation selections since the loss of several free agents last fall, that’s not going to cut it for a new regime that wants to hit the ground running right away.
Defensive Coordinator Candidates
As for the defensive duties, uncertainty is in the air after losing out on Greg Manusky to the Colts, but optimism still rains onward after the team reportedly requested permission to interview the cornerbacks coach of the Packers, Joe Whitt. After helping develop former undrafted free agents Sam Shields and Tramon Williams into starting corners, the 33-year-old up-and-coming position coach is becoming a hot commodity for the defensive coordinator job in Oakland, especially since he also has ties with McKenzie.
ESPN’s Adam Shefter also reported that the Broncos denied the Raiders permission to speak with linebackers coach Richard Smith and Hall of Fame defensive back Emmitt Thomas is also on Allen’s list of possible candidates for the defensive coordinator position. Thomas, 68, was also a defensive coordinator for the Eagles, Panthers and Vikings from 1995-2001.
“You don’t win football games in the National Football League by talent alone. There are a lot of others things that are a part of winning, those are the things that we are going to develop and the things we will preach on a day to day basis to our players. Al Davis was a big part of developing our tradition and a big part of setting the foundation for what we are and what we are going to become,” Allen continued.
Look for the Raiders to continue their proactive procedures in order to restore the regime in the near future heading into the draft and free agency with a strong staff of coaches and more disciplined player personnel.