It seems everyone has an opinion as to the poor performance of the Oakland Raiders in recent years. Some say its QB play. Some say it’s the defense. Still others say it’s the coaching staff or the ownership. They’re all right in some way; it's a combination of all of these. The following is just one old coach’s opinion.
Let’s start with the symptoms of the problem…no points on the board, a defense that hasn’t stopped the run since 2002 and seven straight years with at least eleven losses…
Let me make something perfectly clear…I am NOT going defend the horrific play, attitude and apathy of Jamarcus Russell. I’m only saying that he is not the only one to blame. While it is true that he did not play well at all, he is not the only problem.
The simplified game plans, lack of creativity and inconsistent O-line play contributed to the lack of production on offense.
In the first San Diego game they ran the ball 32 times for 148 yards with 29 of those rushing attempts by the RBs. Against Kansas City they attempted 25 rushes for 67 yards with only 22 tries by the RBs. Denver held them to 23 attempts for 95 yards with 20 going to the RBs.
See the trend?
The strength of this offense was the running game and the RBs, yet they got fewer and fewer opportunities as the season wore on.
These kinds of numbers are not conducive to winning games at any level. It is imperative for them to run the ball with the RBs more and not give up on it when they get a little behind.
Not only to ‘hide’ poor QB play, but to control the clock and keep opposing offenses from getting on the field to take their shots at the defense. When they ran the ball they were fairly successful averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but they only attempted 25.6 rushes per game to rank 23rd in the league.
Without a legitimate threat under center opposing defenses will keep loading the box with eight or nine guys and dare them to pass. This is what we saw when Russell played. After Gradkowski replaced him, the offense became much more productive and they won some games.
Raider nation must hope that new Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson understands these things and takes appropriate measures to play to the strengths of this team.
As for the defense, the big numbers put up by their opponents is not entirely the defense’s fault. They came out of the gate and played inspired football against the Chargers only to watch the offense struggle to move the chains. That takes some wind out of your sails.
In that game they won the time of possession battle 31:37 to 28:23 and should have won the game but the offense couldn’t sustain drives late and close it out.
Against the Chiefs, the T.O.P. battle was lost 38:39 to 21:21 and they probably should have lost. They got lucky with a roughing call and a turnover. In the first Denver game they had the ball for 31:15 to our 23:45 and the Raiders lost again.
This is a total difference in possession time in favor of the opponent by nearly 28 minutes over the first three games of the season.
That’s almost an extra half of football for the defense!
No wonder they’re exhausted and allowing big numbers to the opposition! No team in the league can expect their defense to look good when put in that position.
These bad defensive numbers are a direct result of a floundering offense's inability to sustain drives and keep the defense on the sideline resting and hydrating.
It also means that they don’t have the time needed to make adjustments to the other team’s offense. I truly believe that if given more than the time it takes for a three and out or a turnover by the offense to rest, hydrate and adjust, the defense would look a lot better.
Of course there are places they need to improve from a defensive talent perspective, like the DT and LB positions, but they have to be allowed time on the sideline to look at the pictures, make adjustments and correct mistakes too.
They aren’t getting any help with that from the offense. They aren’t getting a lot of help from the coaching staff either. Again, there is not a shred of creativity in the defensive calls whatsoever. It’s man to man single high safety on almost every down.
The secondary is certainly talented enough to play man to man, but when the opposing offense knows exactly what you’re running before the ball is snapped you are automatically at a disadvantage.
I’m not convinced that newly hired Clancy Pendergast is the right person to improve this. I only hope for the Silver and Black faithful that he is.
With that information most people will say, “Then it’s the coaching staff’s fault.” Not so fast, there are other factors to consider. Try to remember that this is Al Davis’ team. Not your team, not my team, not Tom Cable’s team…AL’S team. He will be sure to point that out to everyone that applies for a job with the organization.
There is no doubt in my mind, having been a die-hard member of Raider Nation since the early 70’s, that a lot of the play calling comes from the owner’s box. Other than the obvious undermining of Coach Cable’s credibility with the team, it’s not 1969 anymore. What worked then doesn’t work anymore.
He needs to realize this and move aside to let some one that is more in touch with today’s game and today’s players run the show on game day.
All of the successful teams in the last decade have a GM. The owners of those teams (the Rooney family in Pittsburgh , Robert Kraft in New England , and Tom Benson in New Orleans ) all understand this and let others make football decisions while they do nothing more than pay the bills and shine the Lombardi trophy in their office!
If Al Davis really wants to see a return to the “Commitment to Excellence” he’ll step aside and do nothing but sign checks.
He has built something great, but is beginning to run it into the ground. He should do what he contemplated in a 2008 interview and hire a real General Manager with a history of success and get out of his way.
You can't expect greatness if you're replacing coaches, making questionable draft day decisions and spending more time on finding a scapegoat than you are acquiring players that will help your team.