As the season comes to a close, the fans have to ask themselves one question. What happened?
The answer is a lot of things happened. So in typical year-end style I present to you The Top 10 Reasons The Raiders Aren’t Going To The Playoffs. A Retrospective.
10. The Offensive Line: Sure there were injuries, but the group wasn’t that good to begin with. This group took a huge step backwards in terms of run blocking and the pass blocking was spotty at best. On the bright side, Mario Henderson looks legit.
9. Richard Seymour: The defensive savior that we traded a very valuable 2011 first-round selection for was only at times worth the franchise tag that he will certainly receive this offseason. He almost single-handedly helped the Raiders lose a game as well. He makes the list because so much was expected of him on and off the field, both football related and not and I didn’t really see much from him. Greg Ellis seemed to fill this role and we didn’t have to give up a pick for him. Shaughnessey’s development may make that trade look worse going forward.
8. Johnnie Lee Higgins & John Fassel: What happened? He was on the verge of becoming a good receiver and one of the top punt returners in the game at the end of 2008. You can make excuses for anyone, but JLH just didn’t get the job done like he should have. Maybe you can place part of the blame on Mr. Fassel, because whoever decided to let Gary Russell returned kicks on a team filled with a dozen or more track stars is an idiot.
7. Receivers: Schilens got hurt, but hasn’t lit the world on fire since he returned. Murphy and Heyward-Bey were drop machines early, but have settled in a little now. Higgins is still dropping balls. Walker who? This unit still has loads of potential, but when JaMarcus does manage to hit you; you better catch it.
6. Darren McFadden: What else can you say, he is a big disappointment. Most fans actually were okay with seeing Bush and Fargas instead of McFumble. The criticism of you coming in was feet went dead on contact and that continues to be the case. You run hard, and you like contact and you have the speed, but those long legs make you slip a lot and holding the ball like a loaf of bread isn’t going to get you more touches. Who knows what the future brings for McFadden, maybe if he stays healthy and takes things a bit more seriously we can still get a good Lightning and Thunder attack going on. Michael Bush should finally get his chance to be the undisputed starter and McFumble, you can be our Reggie Bush.
5. The Linebackers and DTs: I will say this, the LB group was better than in 2008. Losing Ricky Brown hurt. Trevor Scott moving to linebacker is a bright spot and putting Howard on the strong side seems to be a good thing so far. I’d much prefer moving Morrison out of the MLB spot. He is just too inconsistent and his skill set would make him a monster at the SLB position. I chose to combine the Defensive Tackles on this point, because in a lot of ways their play and the linebackers play is linked. Warren and Kelly both played better this season, but the Raiders still need to find a DT in the draft that can consistently draw doubles and give the DEs one-on-one pass rushing situations or the linebackers tackling lanes.
4. Paul Hackett: Rich Gannon says he is one of the best QB coaches there is. I don’t dispute the fact that he may be able to teach a QB the fundamentals and footwork but can he teach the other things. Gannon, Chad Pennington, Bruce Gradkowski, these guys already had a kind of fire in them and leadership skills. Russell was looking pretty solid at the end of 2008, only to completely regress and fall apart in 2009 under Hackett’s tutelage. That speaks volumes about Hackett, because Russell does have the raw talent to succeed. If Hackett couldn’t get through to Russell, he should have lobbied for the move to Gradkowski earlier. It is an epic fail for any QB coach to have a #1 draft pick perform to badly, whether Russell is a bad egg or not.
3. Tom Cable: I will be the first to tell you I think Cable should be back because we need consistency, but he had way too many games he let get way out of control. Cable couldn’t manage to win back-to-back games and was blown out badly multiple times. You can’t blame Russell for blowouts, because Cable should have and could have benched Russell earlier. Cable could have also gone the Lane Kiffin route and realized his only chance was to run 80% of the time. Cable also has a nice ugly pattern going: L, W, L, L, L, W, L, L, L, W, L, W, L, W, L
2. Al Davis: You always have to look at the top and Al Davis’ hands are all over this team. I’ll leave the Davis bashing to others, but this was probably a playoff team if it wasn’t for the #1reason on this list. Tom Cable thinks it and so do many NFL observers. Was that completely Davis’ fault? I am not convinced, but seven years of losing will put a target on your head and the Nation’s blood is boiling.
1. JaMarcus Russell: He lost his uncle, which was basically like his father in training camp. That is tough. He had a ton of pressure and Paul Hackett was drilling him on footwork, fundamentals and check downs. Hackett completely mishandled you. Still JaMarcus, you cost us the playoffs and those excuses will not fly. Now the pressure is gone, you have been labeled a bust and no one expects a thing from you. So get your chunky self into the weight room and do some cardio. Study like a fiend and get the young receivers to do it also. Because of reason #2, you might have a very small window to salvage your career, unless you want to forever live with the label of biggest bust of all-time, whether that is fair of not.