The Oakland Raiders missed the playoffs for the ninth football season in a row for 2011/2012. Now, everyone that follows the Raiders wants to blame this and that, but the straight-up truth is they weren't good enough.
Sure, there is plenty of talent on the team, but to put it in perspective, the Raiders are just two years removed from their seventh straight double-digit loss season. And just like a lot of talent has been added to the team, there are holdovers from those losing teams.
The two sides balanced out for 2010 and 2011, leading the Raiders to back-to back 8-8 records. You can say injuries played a role in the Raiders' collapse this year, but great teams don't let that happen.
Raider Nation is happy not to be in the double-digit loss era anymore, but 8-8 sure won't get it either. The Raiders sold out all eight home games this season because fans thought something special was on the way.
Raider Nation has been starving for a contender to come back, so to keep the fan's interest, one must be made in 2012. As is, this team won't become contenders, but it appears that the Raiders are making moves.
Turn the page for a look at them and other moves that should be made during the Raiders' colossal offseason.
The Raiders pass defense went from No. 2 in 2010 to No. 27 in 2011 with the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha. Head coach Hue Jackson couldn't wait to make his first move to get that area fixed.
A few days ago, ESPN. com's Bill Williamson reported that Jackson has moved Michael Huff to cornerback. http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/38052/report-michael-huff-to-move-to-cb
I thought the move should have been made a long time ago, but better late than never. The move will allow the four best players in the secondary to play together and do what they do best.
Tyvon Branch isn't a man-coverage guy, but has speed that gives him all the range a free safety needs. His tackling ability makes him a reliable last line of defense on a potential big play.
Mike Mitchell is the hardest hitter and at 6'1", 220 pounds, he's the best fit to play in the box. He didn't cover San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates very well last Sunday, but he usually shuts down tight ends too.
Stanford Routt, who was a top five corner last year, had too many touchdowns and penalties against him this year. He'll be bounce back next year, realizing that he won't get the same treatment Darrelle Revis gets.
Huff, when healthy and focused, can be the Raiders' best corner in 2012 with his fluid hips, feet, and 4.3 speed. He is also 6'1" with a 40-inch vertical leap and physical from his experience jamming tight ends.
By the way, the Raiders have to re-sign Branch.
I laugh my behind off when after every loss, I hear someone say, "The Raiders need a new GM!" That may be true, but a GM would have had no impact on the Raiders' collapse the second half of the season.
There were no moves the team could have made to make them any better this year. But I am glad to have a GM on the way, as former Raiders linebacker and Green Bay Packers director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie has been hired.
His resume and experience as a Raider makes him the best candidate outside of John Madden for the job. And according to Fox Sports.com, he will start right away, as the Raiders reached an agreement for him to do so. http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/GM-McKenzie-expected-to-start-next-weekRAIDERS-60339869
This is a good hire.
After a post-practice press conference during the season, Jackson told the media that he wouldn't be against switching to a 3-4. Looking at the defensive personnel of the Raiders, it looks like the natural thing to do.
Huff has already been put in position to better serve the Raiders, so it should be the same for the front seven. Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are 3-4 ends by nature, but play defensive tackle for the Raiders.
Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry are the best edge rushers the Raiders have, but they play outside linebacker. Outside linebackers never blitz in the Raiders 4-3 scheme, but they would have to in a 3-4.
As a middle linebacker, 2010 first-round pick Rolando McClain is struggling, but doesn't have to. McClain is a big-bodied thumper that doesn't have the sideline-to-sideline movement of a Ray Lewis.
Jackson already got Darren McFadden out of the bust dumpster by using power running plays in 2010. Then he got Darrius Heyward-Bey out by giving him more short to intermediate routes, giving him time to develop as a deep-ball target.
Now, it's time to make it a hat-trick with McClain by putting him in a 3-4.
Anything that gets rid of Chuck Brensahan will do.
Like it or not, Carson Palmer is going to lead the Raiders into the foreseeable future. Many call the trade a failure, but imagine the 2011 Raiders with Kyle Boller or Terelle Pryor as the starting quarterback.
With no offseason or training camp, Palmer still had the Raiders in position to win the AFC West. And in that game, where his team needed him the most, Palmer played his best game as a Raider.
He was 28-43 for 417 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception that was a result of receiver Jacoby Ford falling. The game showed that Palmer was more comfortable in the offense and he can perform in a big game.
But the most important thing I saw from Palmer in his up-and-down season is that his big arm is back. Opposers of the trade point out his sliding quarterback rating the last few years, but that was with an arm that wasn't healthy.
He showed this year that his fastball was back—he just needed shake of some rust and get used to his teammates. Remember, Campbell didn't have a great start with the Raiders and he went to camp.
Anyways, Palmer will make a boat load of money next year, so cap room has to be made for him.
According to ESPN's John Clayton, Palmer's contract will have the Raiders $10 million over the cap in 2012. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7118538/nfl-raiders-wager-all-palmer-deal
The Raiders need to make changes anyway.
The number of sizable contracts expiring after this season will help Palmer's cap number fit alone. You can start with quarterback Jason Campbell's $4.5 million contract because Palmer is replacing him.
Backup quarterback Kyle Boller ($1.25 million), backup offensive lineman Stephon Heyer ($1.7 million) and right tackle Khalif Barnes ($1.7 million) are also up.
Then you have the tenders of running back Michael Bush ($2.6 million) and center Samson Satele ($2.6 million). Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh ($900,000) and defensive end Jarvis Moss ($1.25 million) are also up.
Expiring contracts will have the Raiders $16.5 million under their player payroll in 2011. Palmer now fits under the cap with $6.5 million to spare and there's more the Raiders can do to save money against the cap.
Now we cam turn our attention to players making more money than what they're giving back in production. I like John Henderson, but $3.25 million for five snaps a game is a bit much for my taste.
Cooper Carlisle isn't a power blocking guard so there's $2.5 million that can be better spent elsewhere. God bless cornerback Chris Johnson for what he's going through with the shooting of his mother and death of his sister.
But this is the salary cap era, so you can't have a guy making $3.3 million that hardly plays. It may be a little different if he were dynamic when healthy, but Johnson doesn't fall under the dynamic category.
The Raiders have too many safeties now and Matt Giordano is looking like a great backup at free safety. With Hiram Eugene's $2 million salary out of the way, the Raiders have even more cap space.
I like Kevin Boss a lot, but if the Raiders aren't going to use him, that $4 million is too heavy to carry. That leaves the Raiders another $15.05 under the cap, bringing the total to $21.55 million.
That's plenty of room to build a bully.
Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour are two dominant defensive lineman and the Raiders need one more. Paul Soliai, right now with the Miami Dolphins, just played out his franchise tag and the Dolphins can't tag him again.
A few days ago, the Raiders signed nose tackle Travis Ivey from their practice squad to the roster for 2012. Ivey was a nose tackle in Cleveland in 2010, so to me, that is a hint that the Raiders are switching to a 3-4.
Ivey is a backup player, so the Raiders should go with a nose tackle that matches Kelly and Seymour. Paul Soliai would take double-teams along with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, helping the linebackers.
The Raiders would then finally be a hard team to run on.
With the bully built on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders could complete the offensive line. They can start by hopping the backyard fence and snatching guard Chilo Rachal from the San Francisco 49ers
Rachal is from USC, who Al Davis loved, as does Jackson, who was Palmer's the offensive coordinator there. Rachal is the physical, dominant run-blocker the Raiders need at right guard to pry open holes.
He has been shuffled in with Adam Snyder all year to the tune of three starts this year for the 49ers. So they probably won't try extra hard to re-sign him when his contract ends this offseason.
He would be a huge help for the Raiders running game and offensive line coach Bob Wylie would improve his pass blocking. Jared Gaither is another man the Raiders should pick up, as he has proven he is healthy now.
In his five starts since landing in San Diego, he's allowed only two quarterback pressures. Gaither hymned Kamerion Wimbley up to the point where he didn't even manage a quarterback pressure.
As I've said in articles in the past, this former blue-chip high school basketball star has Hall-of-Fame talent. Jared Veldheer has become a very good player this year, but you can't turn down a talent like Gaither.
Veldheer can move to the right side and the Raiders will have two great tackles. From left to right, the Raiders offensive line would be Gaither, Campbell, Wisniewski, Rachal, then Veldheer.
Opposing defensive fronts will want none of that.
Marcel Reece has been a big play waiting to happen since joining the Raiders last year. He has displayed so much big-play ability, I thought they should have used him more, especially after McFadden went down.
Last year, Reece showed that he was a 250 pound vertical threat on linebackers with his 4.4 speed. This year, along with his receiver skills, he showed the ability to see a hole and hit it, making big plays running the ball.
If you think about it, Reece could have had touchdowns on some of those runs Bush got caught from behind on. Both Bush and Reece will be free agents that will get attention soon and McFadden already takes up a lot of the money spent in the Raiders backfield.
So Reece should get a bigger contract, take Bush's place as the power back, and still be the starting fullback. Reece will have more versatility filling McFadden's role in the passing game if McFadden gets injured too.
I would rather see the Raiders franchise trade him than just let him walk though.
The Raiders really aren't that far from building the bully that Jackson has promised Raider Nation. I know the 8-8 record they have doesn't show improvement from 2010, but as you see, there are but a few pieces left.
Tom Cable's guys will soon be gone and the Raiders will have big-bodied bullies on the offensive line. If they pull the trigger on Rachal and Gaither, the Raiders could have an offensive line that rivals that of Art Shell and Gene Upshaws days.
The secondary looks to be making the right changes and the Raiders look to stay in the family with a new GM. Bresnan had to have coordinated his last defense for the Raiders and I think the 3-4 is coming back.
And if my suggestions don't come into fruition, I'm sure McKenzie will find guys to do the job. I have nothing to say about the 2012 draft until we even know what it will be for the Raiders besides the fifth and sixth rounds.
I'm really hoping for two third-round picks as compensatory picks.
But from what I see so far, happy days will be here again next season in Raider Nation.
Just win baby!