The 2012 Oakland Raiders, like so many of their iterations this century, are a disgrace to professional football.
By now, you know the story: since SiriusXM Blitz host Rich Gannon led the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders have not had a winning season and have lost 10 or more games a staggering seven times.
The 2012 Raiders have been unable to buck the trend. They are 3-8 and have lost six games by double-digits, including the last four in a row.
It’s been yet another embarrassing season for the once-proud franchise, which features one of the NFL’s finest fanbases.
Even though 2012 has gone off the rails, there is hope for the long-term direction of the franchise. While there have been missteps made by new general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen, both men deserve the opportunity to right the ship, and do it their way.
No, it’s not the fault of McKenzie or Allen that the Raiders are once again staring down the barrel of a double-digit loss season.
So, let’s examine where the blame for the 2012 Raiders actually lies.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp
One thing it’s fair to criticize Dennis Allen for is his hiring of Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator, which was a first guess.
It was a move that greatly frustrated the fanbase, which had already suffered through two seasons of Knapp as their offensive coordinator, in 2007 (offense ranked 25th) and 2008 (offense ranked 29th).
With Allen’s expertise on defense, he needed to slam the hire of an offensive coordinator out of the park. Instead, he whiffed badly.
Knapp, a run-first coordinator, has been unable to get the rushing attack on track. While injuries to star back Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson haven’t helped, the Raiders weren’t running the ball well when both backs were healthy.
The Raiders' offensive numbers look better than expected because of statistics put up when the team is behind. The offense, which needed to carry the team this year, hasn’t been up to par.
Allen is a young, talented head coach who made a poor decision with his first hire at offensive coordinator. He’ll make a better choice next time.
I believe the Raiders will replace Knapp at season’s end, and 2013’s offense will improve as a result.
Quarterback Carson Palmer
We’ll get to the man who brought Carson Palmer into Oakland a little later, but for now, let’s discuss the team’s supposed “franchise” quarterback.
Carson Palmer’s days as an upper-level starting quarterback in the NFL are long over. Foisted upon the new regime of Allen and McKenzie, Palmer has been a mixed bag in 2012, good enough to score points when the team goes down big, but not good enough to lead them to victories.
The proof is in the pudding. Since Palmer’s last winning season as a starter (2009 in Cincinnati), his record is 11-25. That’s simply not good enough.
While Palmer isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination, he is competent, but that’s not enough for a bad football team. If you surrounded Carson with weapons on both sides of the ball, it’s feasible he could win games. That’s not the case in Oakland.
It’d be one thing if Palmer was young. But, at age 32, he’s not going to be the guy to lead the Raiders back to prominence. The Raiders need to start over at the quarterback position.
While Palmer isn’t a franchise quarterback, it’s not his fault that the Raiders traded for him and anointed him as “The Guy.” The man who orchestrated that move is the person most to blame for the Raiders' 2012 debacle.
Former Head Coach Hue Jackson
Things were looking up for the Raiders as they entered the 2011 campaign.
It turned out to be one of the worst hires in team history, and Jackson is the main culprit for the Raiders' failure in 2012.
The season started well. When Davis passed away before a Week 5 contest in Houston, the team rallied together in his honor and upset the favored Texans. The Raiders started 4-2 behind quarterback Jason Campbell and in a weak AFC West seemed poised for a potential playoff berth.
But Campbell broke his collarbone in the Week 6 victory over the Browns. It was the events that unfolded after this injury that ruined the franchise’s chances in 2012.
With Davis - the sole voice and decision-maker of the franchise for nearly a half-century - no longer in the picture, the organization was at a crossroads. It was a greedy, power-hungry Jackson who assumed control, gaining seemingly full autonomy over personnel decisions.
It was after Campbell’s injury that Jackson made one of the worst deals in NFL history, trading a first- and conditional second-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for then-retired quarterback Carson Palmer.
The trade produced several “wow” moments upon its announcement.
As in, wow, I can't believe a team actually traded a first- and second-round pick for Palmer!
As in, wow, it’s crystal clear that Jackson is trying to win and establish himself in the organization now, with a blind eye turned toward the future!
And, most stunningly, as in, wow, the Bengals actually ripped someone off in a trade!
The Palmer deal was one of the easiest first-guesses in the history of sports, a classic panic move that has set the organization back. It was an incredibly selfish decision by Jackson, who didn't have the long-term interests of the Raiders at heart.
In the aftermath of the deal, Jackson called it “probably the greatest trade in football,” which would be like saying Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” is the best album in the history of music.
In predictable fashion, Palmer struggled with his new team and the Raiders finished 8-8, going 4-5 in contests started by Palmer. The most egregious loss was a Week 17 home defeat to a Chargers team with nothing to play for, which knocked the Raiders out of playoff contention.
After that game, Jackson said that the loss was a “joke,” and he promised to take a “stronger hand” in the organization. He refused to shoulder any of the responsibility, either for his team’s undisciplined play (the 2011 Raiders are the most penalized team in NFL history) or his horrendous personnel decisions.
Enter new GM McKenzie, who couldn’t fire Jackson soon enough.
Jackson was the man who made the decision to trade for Palmer, mortgaging the future for a present that never came to fruition.
He’s most to blame for the failures of the 2012 Oakland Raiders.
It’s been easy for pundits (me included) and fans alike to criticize the recent personnel decisions and coaching hires of Davis.
There’s no questioning his Hall of Fame credentials, but it’s safe to say that the game passed him by in this century, as years of poor drafting (hello, JaMarcus Russell), signings (Tommy Kelly, anyone?) and coaching hires (how’s Lane Kiffin treating you, USC?) have certainly contributed to the Raiders' recent malaise.
People can no longer blame Davis for the Raiders’ problems. He’s not the guy who made the inexplicable decision to trade high draft picks for a washed-up Palmer.
Now, it’s McKenzie and Allen’s team.
McKenzie is a Ted Thompson disciple, who will build the Raiders through the draft, a novel concept in Oakland.
Allen is a young head coach whose star is still rising. He'll overcome rookie mistakes and be a better leader in 2013.
It will take time for McKenzie and Allen to rebuild the Raiders. I urge Raiders fans to show this regime patience, as it has the team on the right track, recovering from years of poor moves, highlighted by the insanity promulgated by Jackson in 2011.
If the Raiders have similar struggles in 2013, the issue can be revisited.
But, for now, don’t blame McKenzie and Allen for the mess in the Black Hole.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz," hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter: @TheKostos.
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