It’s all too easy to blame Greg Knapp for the inexplicable regression of Oakland’s offense this season. That Knapp and three other coaches were fired today about says all you need to know. There is no way around it, Knapp’s second tenure in the East Bay was more disastrous than his first and there was no argument to be made for keeping him around next season.
To be sure Greg Knapp’s firing was long overdue. However the reality is Dennis Allen should have never made the call in the first place. Allen’s inexperience showed when he arrogantly assumed Knapp’s previous failures in Oakland were the result of the old regime and not due to Knapp’s inability to maximize talent.
Before Knapp arrived Hue Jackson had transformed the Raiders into a lethal offense whose bread and butter was the running game. But that apparently wasn’t good enough for the new regime. Like most who come to power for the first time first year GM Reggie McKenzie and rookie head coach Allen desired to do things their way regardless of past success or failure.
Therein lies the real problem with this failed season.
Blaming Knapp is easy because his name is on the offense. But Knapp is as Knapp does. Had the Raiders hired a high school volleyball coach to coordinate the offense the results would not have been much different. So the ultimate blame falls at the feet of the men who not only made the hires but also allowed them to stick around when nothing was working as it should.
Allen was wrong to ignore Knapp’s track record in Oakland and his general manager was equally culpable for sitting on his hands as the season unraveled largely because the Raiders simply could not run the rock.
Knapp’s zone blocking scheme was never a good fit for Darren McFadden. We all learned that some years ago. Too bad Allen and McKenzie were blinded by their own selfish desires. From the start of the preseason it was obvious that the Raiders were having trouble adjusting to the new scheme.
However after every woeful showing the term “patience” was preached. The problem is you don’t get patience from fans when they’ve seen the same parts work in harmony in a better system.
So instead of scrapping the failed ZBS Knapp chose to incorporate some power blocking principles. Mind you that likely only came about once owner Mark Davis urged McFadden to talk to Knapp about his ill-fitting scheme. But even that didn’t help.
Fundamentally Knapp’s design was flawed from the start. McFadden’s struggles were the most obvious but even Carson Palmer was never meant to play in an offense designed for mobile throwers. Palmer’s numbers might look nice but at no point during the season did the Raiders have a pulse when it came to stretching the field.
Whether or not McKenzie liked the roster he inherited is irrelevant. This team was built for power running and vertical throwing. Maybe that’s not the type of football McKenzie and Allen wanted to play but that is selfish on their part. Whatever it takes to win in the NFL it what the job requires. John Fox scrapped his entire offense and installed the Tim Tebow system a year ago. In the end Denver won the AFC West then changed systems all together when they landed Peyton Manning this year. Once again the Broncos are best in the West. The lesson is simple – work with the pieces you’ve got and adapt to them so as to maximize their talents.