Just 11 games into his third season, Rolando McClain is on the verge of being released according to a report by ESPN’s John Clayton. As of Thursday afternoon McClain was still on the roster. He missed practice with what Dennis Allen called “team-related issues” on Wednesday and was asked to stay home on Thursday.
McClain took to his Facebook page to announce his unofficial release and proceeded to deride the team, but the posts were later deleted. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that McClain and head coach Dennis Allen got into a heated exchange and ended with McClain being booted from the practice field.
This is a key moment for the new regime in Oakland. Allen and Reggie McKenzie need to stand unified, unwilling to tolerate a poor play and a player that steps over the line with his coach.
Billed as the best draft pick by Al Davis in years, McClain was supposed to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell. He was tutored under the great Nick Saban at Alabama and the so-called "can’t miss" player of the 2010 NFL Draft. This type of incident wasn’t supposed to happen.
McClain’s rookie season was a disappointment; the 259-pound linebacker failed to make impact plays and finished the season with just 85 tackles. People made excuses for McClain and ignored that fact that linebackers drafted that highly should step in and be productive as rookies. It finally became apparent at some point during his second season that McClain was far from the next Ray Lewis.
The new regime gave McClain a clean slate in year three, but after four games took him out of the nickel package in favor of rookie fourth-rounder Miles Burris. In the process, McClain lost his defensive play-calling duties to Philip Wheeler. At that point it seemed unlikely that McClain would return in 2013 as $4 million is a lot to pay a two-down linebacker that frequently jogs around the field.
The end of McClain’s time in Oakland was coming and his most recent conduct is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Off the field McClain has rarely spoken with the media and was convicted on a gun charge in Alabama that was recently overturned on appeal.
On the field McClain was routinely slow to react, he missed gap assignments and he failed to shed blocks. McClain’s coverage skills were so suspect the Raiders opted to give a rookie the opportunity to play in the nickel package. McClain appeared uninterested in making up for his poor play with hustle.
The organization is still trying to decide what to do with McClain, according to Allen (via Vic Tafur’s Twitter account). The answer seems clear; McClain should be released immediately.
Allen said, “There’s going to be consequences to his actions” (via Steve Corkran’s Twitter account). Holding a player out of practice is not a consequence. If McClain isn’t going to be on the team next year, there’s little reason to keep him around on a 3-8 team for the remainder of a lost season after his conduct.
The regime is about to make a statement one way or the other. Releasing McClain makes a strong statement and sends a message to the rest of the team that the head coach has the power to impact more than just playing time. Keeping McClain around after his actions only shows the team weakness, and that the new regime isn’t willing to do what needs to be done.
McClain doesn’t want to be a part of what the Raiders are building and he made that clear with a series of Facebook posts. It’s not time for Allen to be civil or contemplative. It’s time for Allen to grab his team and shake some life back into it.
The team will either respond or it will not respond, but either way the new regime will know what dead weight needs to be cut off going into next season. Failure to act quickly, decisively and harshly now will only lead to future failure. It’s about respect and it’s time Allen demands it and McKenzie support it. This is their chance.
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