The next time Rolando McClain puts on silver and black could be the last time. Or it could be the first time he puts it on with a sense of real pride. If McClain is looking to remain a Raider then he’ll have to show it in a multitude of ways.
Let’s start with what he’s done on the field.
After two seasons McClain’s play has steadily improved but still leaves a lot to be desired. The athletic middle linebacker has all the skills it takes to play the position. In some instances you see him flying to the ball with ferocity and slamming QBs to ground with brute force. His tackling total increased to 99 stops in 2011 with his 5 sacks being a drastic increase from the half sack McClain registered as a rookie.
McClain has also shown that he doesn’t yet have all the intangibles to play the position at a high level. McClain is highly inconsistent, routinely takes bag angles and at times seems not to be giving it maximum effort. But those are things the young defender can control. What seems to be out of his grasp is the ability to lead…which brings us to the off-the-field McClain…
Playing the Mike position isn’t just sniffing out plays and blowing them up. You’ve got to be the quarterback of the defense. Through two seasons the soft spoken McClain has yet to embrace that quality but on and off the field. His arrest last season followed by his recent sentencing has jeopardized his future.
True leaders always put the team first. McClain’s selfish act during an excused absence from the team didn’t hurt last season’s Raiders but will certainly affect the team this year. No matter what comes of the re-trial McClain’s fate now rests in the hands of Roger Goodell. As you’ll recall Goodell didn’t wait for any court ruling to come down when he suspended Ben Roethlisberger so McClain shouldn’t expect any leeway.
What makes for a compelling case for McClain’s future as a Raider are the facts that he’s played through injury in both of his NFL seasons and there’s a new coaching staff with a new defensive philosophy in place. If Oakland is looking to give McClain one more chance to show what he can do they will likely have to play the waiting game. Waiting to see if he’ll have his freedom or if he’ll have a league mandated suspension isn’t ideal but it’s the way the cards have been dealt.
What we do know is that Reggie McKenzie is no Hue Jackson. McKenzie is not going to give his guys a pass even if it means not fielding the strongest team possible. This is a new era and McClain must prove he’s a new man both on and off the field.