The Oakland Raiders concluded their 2011 season with a loss to the San Diego Chargers Sunday in Oakland, eliminating them from participating in the playoffs for the ninth straight year. It was a campaign that started with so much hope, and a wild roller coaster ride of ups and downs finally ended with a disappointing loss at home to a team that had very little to play for. Looking back on the last several months of Raiders football, only one phrase comes to mind: missed opportunities.
There are several reasons why the Raiders failed to qualify for the postseason, and truthfully, they simply didn’t deserve a playoff berth. The consistent inability to put away beaten opponents, which I previously wrote would be their downfall, was just one of the major issues this team had in 2011.
They set records for most penalties by an NFL team in a season and most yards penalized in a season. Undisciplined, sloppy football that was, at times, embarrassing. The blame falls squarely on head coach Hue Jackson’s shoulders, as he failed miserably to instill any semblance of professionalism or discipline in his football team. Jackson’s clock management was also a constant issue throughout the year, so it’s no surprise that his team appeared confused and unprepared at times.
Their defense was porous, particularly in the secondary, where teams were able to complete deep passes in big moments and running backs feasted on their weak-tackling corners and safeties. The defensive line wasn’t much better, and the fact that they failed to record a sack in the biggest game the organization played in 10 years is simply unforgivable. The defensive disaster that was this season’s unit should cost coordinator Chuck Bresnahan his job.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders often stalled in the red zone, something that should be rectified next season when the injury-decimated unit is healthy and quarterback Carson Palmer has time to build chemistry with his receivers. The offense was bailed out often by the cannon-like leg of kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who will be going to his first Pro Bowl this year.
As the Raiders prepare to spend another January watching the NFL’s elite teams fight for the Lombardi trophy, fans can take some comfort in the fact that the team has now recorded back to back .500 seasons, something that last happened in Jon Gruden’s first two seasons in Oakland. The question now is whether Hue Jackson can actually get this team to the next level, as Gruden did.