From the start of the season it was obvious that an uphill battle was underway for the Oakland Raiders. Too bad it was a war being waged between offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and his best asset. Perhaps you’ve heard of Darren McFadden. If not don’t worry. It seems like ages ago he actually looked like a dominant NFL running back.
So with yet another lost season circling the drain in Oakland the time to play the blame game has begun. Of course for those of us that have seen the best of McFadden and are all too familiar with the worst of Knapp (let’s not forget he was fired from the same position by the Raiders just a few years ago) the blame game began months ago.
It was painfully obvious that McFadden isn’t the type of runner destined to thrive in the zone blocking scheme. Early in his career the Raiders utilized that same scheme and the results very mixed for McFadden.
Enter Hue Jackson, a man whose offensive imagination was rivaled only by his ego, and suddenly McFadden blossomed into an elite level player with an almost certain MVP candidacy in his future. Jackson did what all competent coordinators should do. Examine the talent on your roster, design a scheme that best suits and play to your strengths.
Under Jackson the Raiders became a dominant rushing team. McFadden and Michael Bush were unstoppable beasts running behind a bullying line. Oakland might have limped their way to consecutive 8-8 seasons but there was reason to believe an identity had been forged.
In 2012 that identity was lost in the selfish desire of Knapp to impose his system regardless of the pieces at his disposal. Problem is when the pieces don’t fit most will go back to the drawing board in hopes of creating a winning formula. If nothing else most men fear for their jobs in the NFL so progress becomes mandatory if you want to keep your parking space and office.
Not the case for Knapp.
While Knapp did install some power blocking principles he continuously has called mind numbing plays that do not at all fit the situation will insisting on playing away from the strength of the team. Like it or not the Raiders roster was built for power running and vertical passing. Yes, those are very Al Davis ideals. And yes, this is no longer Al’s team. We all know that.
What we don’t know is why Knapp has been allowed to blow off an entire season simply for the sake of instituting his ill-fitting scheme. Coaches cannot be on scholarship regardless of how much turnover there’s been in Oakland over the years.
This team already had serious defensive issues that weren’t going to be fixed in one offseason. So with that in mind the logical step should have been to ensure the offense was still a strength allowing the Raiders to remain competitive while the new staff worked out its game plan.
Instead a doomed system was installed and a season was over before it started. Without a dynamic weapon like McFadden producing on a weekly basis the Raiders were relegated to a check down passing game that racked up yards but produced few points. Drives regularly stall in the red zone and to date the Raiders have just three rushing touchdowns. That is in stark contrast to what this team was one year ago and it’s a testament to how poorly prepared Knapp was for the job he was given.
Of course many openly questioned Knapp’s system long before the season began. Many wondered if Carson Palmer was a good fit for a scheme that routinely called for an immobile quarterback to be asked to rollout. Well, if you want a snapshot of what Knapp’s system has led to look no further than the very play in the Carolina game that likely has ended Palmer’s season.
Now Knapp isn’t to blame for Palmer being hurt. That is unfair. However calling for a rollout pass on a third and short is highly questionable. But that’s pretty much fitting for what this lost season has been filled with – highly questionable decisions from a coaching staff that has taken an entire season and thrown it away simply because they feel as if their way is the only way.