Yesterday Rolando McClain returned to the Raiders participating in his first OTA of 2012. If Reggie McKenzie is going to keep to his principles then this should be the last time we see McClain in silver and black. With the East Bay scholarship program officially abolished its only right that an underachieving player with a high draft status be shown the exit. Especially when that same player is sure to be away from the team for an extended period of time be it a result of jail time or suspension.
Put it this way. The Raiders could have been just as terrible on defense last year without McClain as they were with him. It’s not like we’re talking about replacing an All-Pro here.
Put Aaron Curry in the middle. The prospects of defending the run might not improve but I guarantee you there will be much more physical presence in the middle of the silver and black defense. For all of McClain’s athletic ability and size it sure was easy for him to disappear for long stretches. Curry doesn’t always make the right play but you’d better believe he gives it all he’s got on every snap.
Give Travis Goethel a chance. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his first two NFL seasons but Goethel is sure to be hungry to prove his worth. Guys like McClain lose their motivation the second the check clears. Guys like Goethel go hard everyday knowing their career is forever at the crossroads.
Rookie Miles Burris could be the player the Raiders hoped McClain would become. Burris plays with a high motor and flies to the ball. Sure, Burris has got plenty to prove before making McClain expendable. But when was the last time you saw McClain play with all-out effort and swarm to the ball on every snap? The next time it happens will be the first.
But let’s just forget about the skills necessary to play the position of middle linebacker and instead focus on what makes that position what it is – leadership.
In order to get this Oakland defense up to par it will take more than just better personnel. Having the talent is one thing. Getting that talent motivated to play with pride is quite another. A head coach can only do some much to motivate his players. Beyond that it’s on the locker room leaders to get their teammates fired up on Sunday afternoons.
To date McClain hasn’t shown the ability to lead. So far McClain hasn’t inspired much more from his teammates than feelings of disappointment. Surely McKenzie can get the same results at a cheaper price and with less off-field drama.
The Raiders just don’t need the McClain headache any longer. He hasn’t done enough to warrant the Raiders waiting around for his future to be decided. He isn’t nearly the type of player that will suddenly improve overnight. The Raiders will better served moving forward without McClain. They might not be any better without him but they’re definitely not going to get any better with him.