"Commitment to Excellence"
It used to be a mantra that the Oakland Raiders lived by and their fans held up as a badge of honor, but as the team sits on the verge of their 10th consecutive season without a winning record, that slogan has become more punchline than prophecy in the Bay Area of late.
After getting pasted by the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12, the Raiders are preparing to host the Cleveland Browns in a game that means a lot more in regards to position for the 2013 NFL draft then it does in the standings, and a season that was supposed to be a step in the right direction has instead turned into more spinning of wheels.
So what can the Raiders do to get things headed the right way?
Well I'm glad you asked.
1.) Fire Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp
Much of Raider Nation wondered why head coach Dennis Allen hired Knapp to begin with, given that in his previous stint with the team from 2007-2008, the team ranked no higher than 25th in the NFL in total offense.
Their reservations have proven true, as the Raiders have been out of sync offensively more often than not this season. Knapp's new zone-blocking scheme has reduced the running game to shambles, and while the team ranks a respectable 15th in the NFL in total offense, that number is artificially inflated by garbage-time production.
Buh-bye Greg. Here's a snowglobe as a token of our esteem, and no you may not have a reference letter.
2.) Continue to trim the fat from the roster
It's been forgotten a bit as the losses have mounted and frustration has grown in the fanbase, but Allen and new general manager Reggie McKenzie were handed a mess of a roster by the previous regime, and McKenzie wisely jettisoned several players with bloated contracts in the offseason.
It may sting in the short-term, but that trend needs to continue.
With the team already trying to struggle out from under years of horrendous personnel decisions, the last thing Oakland needs is any more dead weight around their necks, so players that are either grossly overpaid or haven't lived up to expectations (or even come close) need to go.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour? Injury prone, over the hill and not worth anywhere near $7.5 million next season. Former first round pick Rolando McClain? A huge bust at middle linebacker whose role on defense should continue to be scaled back until he's out of the building.
In fact, I'd take a long, hard look at running back Darren McFadden at nearly $6 million next season. That's a lot of cap space for a player who just cannot stay on the field.
3.) See what they have in Terrelle Pryor
Listen, I'll be the first to admit that I don't think Terelle Pryor has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. However, there's also no questioning that Pryor is immensely talented physically, and according to Steve Corkran of The San Jose Mercury-News, Allen thinks the youngster is making strides as a passer.
"He's working to get better, and he's working to improve," Allen said of Pryor. "He's gotten better as a quarterback. I don't think any of us feel like he's the finished product, including himself, but he has worked to improve."
Carson Palmer will turn 33 years old before the season ends and is owed a whopping $13 million next season, so regardless of how well Palmer has played, the Raiders need to look towards the future and figure out what they've got in Pryor.
Only one way to do that. Roll him out there.
I'll grant that these are far from the only issues that are facing the Raiders, including an offensive front and secondary badly in need of upgrading. With that said, however, these are all positive steps that can be implemented fairly easily, and doing so would get the Raiders that much closer to returning to respectability where they belong.
Because seriously, this nonsense has gone on long enough.