Earlier in the NFL season I wrote a piece about how JaMarcus Russell will end up as one of the biggest busts in history, and some readers maligned me for it. Everybody has their own opinion, and Russell’s performance thus far has only been in my favor (the guy was benched against the Chiefs today...yes, the Chiefs ).
But now I want to look at another Oakland Raider who has fallen on hard times: Darren McFadden. And before I get into it, I want to reiterate that I am not a Raider hater or am not picking on Oakland players. This article just came to me as I was watching the game today.
Anyway, back to McFadden. Remember how great the guy was at Arkansas? He had a lean body with great speed and unheralded strength. And while many forget his fellow running back was the Dallas Cowboys’ Felix Jones, he was the star of the team and an obvious Heisman Trophy finalist.
McFadden did not win the Heisman after the 2006 and 2007 seasons (he was a runner-up both years), but he was acknowledged as the nation’s top college football player in 2007. He also received plenty of attention from NFL scouts and numerous teams when he declared for the draft, and it was all warranted. You don’t get drafted fourth overall if you are a complete hack.
The guy was a beast, plain and simple. And he still is.
But playing in an ever-changing Raiders offense and splitting carries with Michael Bush and Justin Fargas has had an impact on McFadden’s contributions-not to mention missing a significant chunk of games due to injury.
This begs the question: will McFadden ever be the featured tailback in Oakland? Can he remain healthy long enough to assume the role? Will he be a Raider for life?
It may be considered premature to ask such questions in McFadden’s second season, but most of us realize the different shelf-life of running backs as compared to other offensive positions. One day you could be the starter, the next you are holding the clipboard or being released.
Look at Larry Johnson. He came off a 1700-yard plus season in 2007 and was on the verge of surpassing Priest Holmes for the Chiefs’ all-time rushing mark, but he has gotten a couple years older and seems to have lost some of his burst. Alas, he made some stupid mistakes recently which have impacted his career in a negative way, but if a guy can play in the NFL then many teams will grab him.
McFadden so far has not made any gay slurs or ridiculed his coach in his short career. He has, however, been utilized in a less-than-stellar fashion. His injuries have given players like Bush and Fargas more time to prove their worth, and they have delivered.
Look at today’s game against Kansas City. Russell gets yanked for Bruce Gradkowski, and McFadden only receives four carries for a measly 11 yards. At the same time, Bush and Fargas had a combined 24 carries for 160 yards—119 yards by Bush alone.
Maybe Bush was showing the most promise on this given Sunday, but giving only four carries to an athlete like McFadden makes me scratch my head. If he is healthy he should be more involved, and if he is hurt there should be no risk of injuring him even more.
All I know is that the Raiders really need to look in a mirror in the off-season and ask themselves how they can better their most skilled offensive players, especially Russell, McFadden, and Bush. If they waste any more time, they are equally wasting away precious years on McFadden’s career.