For the past few years Raider fanatics such as myself have helped turn the legend of Chaz Schilens into an urban myth. Anytime someone would ask me about the Raiders I’d always find some way to mix in a mention of Schilens. While little was seen of the Cali native on the field what few glimpses I got had me convinced like I saw Big Foot.
It was like being hip to some up and coming musical act you caught at a local bar on an off night. You and the few others in attendance knew you’d stumbled onto something before the rest of the world was aware.
Schilens’ story had all the makings of a Raider folk hero. He grew up in Lancaster, went to school in San Diego and was brought to the Bay when the Raiders unearthed Schilens in the 7th round. His size, speed and the way Schilens attacked the ball must have given Al Davis delusions of grandeur when thinking of what could have been with JaMarcus Russell.
At the end of Schilens’ rookie season he came on strong and actually helped Russell to look like an NFL quarterback. Between Russell, Schilens and a once-productive Johnnie Lee Higgins the future was looking bright.
However the game of football is cruel in its nature. Schilens sustained a broken bone in his foot during a non-contact drill in training camp at the start of his second season. That would be an ominous sign of things to come.
An injury that was supposed to be healed in a few weeks turned into a few months. When he finally was cleared to practice again Schilens developed a knee problem caused by over compensation for his foot. His second season became a complete wash.
The injury issues combined with the emergence of a new group of young receivers left Schilens as the odd man out. Finally good enough to compete, last season saw Schilens the healthiest he’s been since his rookie season. It was also a season in which Darrius Heyward-Bey would breakout and Denarius Moore burst onto the scene.
Schilens was once again an afterthought. Once praised by Al Davis for his potential, the Raiders and Schilens are at the crossroads.
Slated to become a free agent, Raider Nation might have seen the last of Chaz Schilens. He never emerged as the dynamic playmaker we thought he’d be but Schilens has had some big moments.
On occasion flashes of Schilens’ clutch nature showed. He had a game-winning grab in Denver a couple years ago on a drive led by Russell. Schilens also had a big game against the Steelers during a surprising win in Pittsburgh. Last season Chaz caught a clutch TD in Oakland’s emotional win against Houston on the heels of the passing of Davis.
There is no doubt the talent is real. The question is, are the Raiders finally ready to move on? The franchise – better yet Al Davis – stood behind Schilens despite his injury woes. As it stands he’s lost in the shuffle, battling with Louis Murphy for the job as 4th receiver.
Both the Raiders and Schilens have a decision to make.
Oakland likely won’t offer much in terms of years or money. Schilens has got the game but no production to warrant a lucrative deal. Some other team might be willing to roll the dice but for Schilens he’s got to want to be in a situation where he’ll get more snaps.
If Schilens reaches his potential with another team it might be a little tough to digest. Truth be told it would also be nice to see him flourish. Right about now it doesn’t look like the Raiders will provide that opportunity. So, the next chapter in the urban legend of Chaz Schilens won’t likely be written in the East Bay.