General Manager Reggie McKenzie was hired to bring stability to the Oakland Raiders. The idea was to start fresh and stabilize a team that was in a constant state of change over the past decade.
McKenzie hired a new coaching staff, completely revamped the scouting department and began remaking the roster.
The personnel would need to change, but the idea was that the rest would be stable. It’s now clear that not every hire McKenzie made was a good one and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp should be fired at the end of the season.
It’s not preferable to change offensive coordinators after one season and there is something to be said for keeping the same scheme in place, but that doesn’t mean Knapp is the right guy to foster offensive growth.
Knapp is the wrong coach for many reasons.
First, it’s been clear from the start that Knapp wasn’t going to be as successful as Hue Jackson. A scheme takes time to develop, but the entire offense should not take a step backward before making progress in the second season. The offense should also show some progression throughout the first season ,and for the most part that hasn’t been the case.
In fact, it wouldn’t be hard to make a case that the offense has actually gotten worse. The Raiders have averaged 15.4 points per game over the last five games and 21.4 points per game over the first eight games.
That’s called regression, not progression.
There is a legitimate case to be made that Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer are poor fits in Knapp’s offense, and that’s not something that changes over the course of a year. Palmer isn’t going to gain mobility and if McFadden can’t grasp the zone-blocking system by now, he’s not ever going to be able to get it down.
Knapp’s most recent media session was filled with statements that make it clear that he isn’t the right man for the job.
Knapp said in response to his expectations for the offense next season via Raiders.com:
With a year’s off-season work at that, and a better understanding of the system, the performance level usually goes up the following season because of that.
It sounds right, but has only been the case once in Knapp’s career. This is Knapp’s fifth stint as offensive coordinator and he only made it to his second year three times. As offensive coordinator in San Francisco and Oakland (the first time), Knapp’s offenses were ranked lower in yards and points in his second season. Knapp’s offense in Atlanta did improve in his second season there, but the team lost three more games.
Knapp’s claim that it takes time doesn’t really jive with his own experience. Knapp is just looking for reasons that he should keep his job. What’s Knapp’s explanation for a disappointing first year?
In response to if he was surprised it has taken this long, Knapp said:
“No, every place I’ve been to it’s usually going to take at least a year’s transition time to get everything taught, and the parts we’ve changed.”
So, it takes time does it? Nope, Knapp’s memory doesn’t serve him well. Knapp’s offenses have improved in his first year as offensive coordinator in every instance except the 2012 Raiders. The offense improved in San Francisco in his first year, Atlanta, Oakland (the first time) and Seattle.
Knapp’s other excuse for the poor year is about the personnel changes:
You’ve got to remember, we’ve changed both linemen; we talked about the center (Stefen Wisniewski) and the tackle earlier that played quite a bit. Our top two running backs went down in the same game, and we converted a fullback to running back.
You could make a case that the offensive line needed time to develop, but it’s the zone-blocking veterans—Cooper Carlisle and Mike Brisiel—that are having the most trouble. Both Jared Veldheer and Wisniewski—who are new to the scheme—have been playing well.
Blaming the running game seems to make sense until later on in the media session when Knapp said:
“I’m very pleased with the fact that we’re in the top 10 in passing, and we’ve improved in the running game the last six weeks.”
Does Knapp realize that it’s his scheme? Does he realize that his top two running backs were hurt and his fullback was playing running back during that six-week span when the running game improved? He’s using the reason for the improvement as an excuse for bad offense!
When the running game didn’t get going in the first two games of 2012, it was crystal clear that something was wrong. The strength of the offense was supposed to be the running game and the Raiders are now dead last in rushing touchdowns, 30th in yards per game and 24th in yards per carry.
The passing game has nice stats that Knapp is said he is pleased with, but most of the yards and touchdowns have come when the Raiders have been trailing by multiple scores. Palmer has been the king of garbage time in 2012 and unable to produce when the score is tied or the Raiders have the lead.
Knapp also drops this nugget when talking about if the pieces were in place for next year:
“The first year in Houston we finished I believe at 6-10. That was the fifth year in the system. They had just finished 30th or 32nd in running. All of the sudden a guy named Arian Foster showed up undrafted.”
Wait a second—did he just say the fifth year in the system and the running game was 30th or 32nd in rushing? He did and then explained that Foster showed up and changed everything.
Rewind to earlier in the media session when he said:
“I’m a firm believer in the scheme. I’ve been to too many places, and had too much experience, to know that it’s a very productive scheme.”
Huh? Realistically, there will be no jump in the second year unless McKenzie brings in players that fit Knapp’s scheme. McKenzie has an entire defense to rebuild and the Raiders need an offensive coordinator that can maximize the talent the Raiders have right now. The Raiders can't be waiting five years for the right player to come along.
On Knapp’s insistence on using a scheme that doesn’t fit his players he said:
“It’s not that big of a change when it comes to football 101, as far as the different types of route concepts, and the running game. It just takes some time to be more efficient.”
So the scheme isn’t that different? Again, fast-forward to when he’s talking about his confidence in the offensive scheme:
“You’d much rather have a coach come in and teach what he knows best, than have him teach a system that he doesn’t know at all. That’s going to take some time.”
So his system is not that different, but he doesn’t know the other schemes at all? You can’t make this stuff up. The offense is not performing and it’s bad enough that Knapp is making excuses, but they should at least make sense.
In this place we call reality, it doesn’t take time. Knapp hasn’t been any better in his second season and the personnel is basically the same as it was last year when the offense was much better.
Knapp needs to go and McKenzie and Dennis Allen need to realize it sooner rather than later.