A Tale of Two Seasons

It’s been a NFL season full of abnormalities due to the lockout and the Raiders have been no exception. Many thought the Raiders would finally find their grove. The team finally had a guy they could call their franchise quarterback in Jason Campbell and they were full of young talent at just about every position. Hue Jackson, a fiery new coach, seemed to have the right formula for success. It started well enough, until week 5 when the wheels started to come off.

The Raiders lost their fearless leader Al Davis. While the Raiders were able to rally to beat the Texans that week, it was easy to tell that things were not the same in Oakland. Although often scrutinized for his managerial decisions, Al Davis ran things his way and answered to no one. Meaning when it came time to make decisions, they were made, and people moved on. Uncertainty was the word of the week when it came to how the Raiders would move forward. It didn’t take long to find out who was now making the calls. Hue Jackson quickly took the reigns and swung a trade for former first-round draft pick Aaron Curry to replace then starting weak-side linebacker Quentin Groves.

In the very next game against Cleveland, the Raiders took another big blow as starting QB Jason Campbell went down with a broken clavicle. The Raider faithful was in disbelief. A season that showed so much promise was quickly taking a turn for the worse. The Raiders managed to hold on and win that game on the strength of Janikowski’s leg and a fake field goal pass to Kevin Boss for a touchdown. The win was bitter sweet as Oakland, now 4-2, was left wondering who was going to finish the season at quarterback. Kyle Boller did very little in relief of Campbell against Cleveland and it was painfully obvious the coaching staff did not have faith in his abilities to run the offense.

Hue Jackson knew the season was hanging in the balance and, with his added decision-making power, began negotiations on a bigger than blockbuster trade that brough Caron Palmer to Oakland. Jackson called up his old buddy Mike Brown and persuaded him to hand over the key to a former Pro Bowl quarterback who was sitting out in protest of playing another season in Cincinnati. Palmer did not come cheap as the Raiders sent the Bengals a first round pick in 2012 and a conditional first round pick in 2013. With the acquisition came many questions. How much did Palmer have left? How quickly could he pick up the offense? Would he be able to gel with Oakland’s young receiving core? Would he be ready in time for the next game? Did the Raiders give up too much of the future in panic of having this season be lost?

The NFL season does not stop to allow a franchise to catch its breath. The Raiders had an important divisional game to get ready for against the Kansas City Chiefs. Having only a couple of days in Oakland before the next game, it was pretty clear that Kyle Boller had to make the start against the Chiefs. Adding to the list of problems for the Raiders, kicker Sebastian Janikowski injured his hamstring in practice and running back Darren McFadden sprained his foot on the opening drive and would not return. After an atrocious first half and opening series in the second half that saw Kyle Boller seemingly throwing more completions to Kansas City defensive backs than his own receivers, Hue had seen enough. In came Carson Palmer who knew all of 15 plays in his new offense and had essentially no time to get any type of timing down with his new wide receivers. The rest of the game concluded as you would expect. Palmer threw three interceptions and the Raiders offense was clearly in shambles. To say the offense wasn’t on the same page would insinuate that it appeared they were even reading the same book. From the looks of things, it wasn’t clear that was true. After a 28-0 loss, the bye week couldn’t get here soon enough.

The Raiders had two weeks to get things straight before division games against Denver and San Diego within a span of five days. Hue Jackson, still trying to adjust to all the turmoil, was not done making waves. He brought in T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a workout and eventually signed him to a veteran minimum deal much to the dismay of a lot of fans who did not understand the reason behind the signing. Houshmandzadeh played with Carson Palmer for six seasons, and has trained with him in the offseason for many years.  Veteran knowledge and timing with your quarterback are very undervalued in this league today.

Heading into the second half  the Raiders are essentially starting a whole new season. Not only are they tied for first in the AFC West with San Diego and Kansas City, but they are beginning the second half with a new starting quarterback, the backup running back, a new receiver, and the return of fullback Marcel Reece. Reece has been out of the lineup with an ankle injury since week two.

While many may expect Carson Palmer to take off as the Raiders new starting quarterback, you have to take a step back to realize what is actually unfolding in Oakland. How many times in NFL history has a starting quarterback gone down mid-season, only to have the team trade for quarterback that had been unemployed and pick up right where they left off? Fans should absolutely have faith in the Raiders new Palmer-led offense, but should also understand that patience will be essential. The Raiders face an up hill climb to winning the AFC West. That climb starts on Sunday when Denver comes to town. Nothing would begin to heal the wounds better than a thrashing of Tim Tebow and the Broncos in front of a sold out O.co Coliseum crowd.

Posted in Regular Season 2011, Roster Moves Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,