Darren McFadden loves you Raider Nation.
When his contract expired at the end of last season many pundits, and fans alike expected McFadden to be on the move, but as Lee Corso says on College Gameday, “not so fast my friend!”
Since being drafted #4 overall by the Raiders in the 2008 draft everybody knew Darren McFadden would break-out. It wasn’t a question of if, but when. In 2010-11 with Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator, it finally happened. Jackson smartly built the offense around McFadden’s talents and with a decent, and only decent, offensive line McFadden accumulated 336/1771/11TDs, 8 100 yard games, and led the NFL with an impressive 5.3/YPC. Oh, BTW he also had 66/661/4TDs receiving, despite only playing in 20 games.
The Raiders fired Jackson after the 2011 season however, and changed to OC Greg Knapp’s zone running scheme ( don’t ask me why! ). That effectively put the Kibosh on any momentum McFadden built up over the previous two seasons, and he hasn’t been his dominant self since.
The flak he catches though is not about his 3.3 YPC or declining production, but the alarming amount of time he has been spending in the trainer’s room, and not on the field. He’s never played more than 13 games in a season. He missed 19 of the Raiders’ past 41 games, and 29 total in his six-year career. Every time the guy gets tackled Raider fans subconsciously hold their breath until he jogs back to the huddle.
And therein lies the rub with McFadden. Due to several “freak” type injuries he has yet to play a full 16 game season in the NFL, and hasn’t had more than 225 touches in any of his 6 seasons with the Raiders. In fantasy football circles he is somewhat of a pariah, and is rarely if ever talked about without the caveat,“If he can stay healthy” added to the sentence.
I admit he has had more than his share of injuries, but don’t dare refer to him as fragile. The injuries are due to his all-in style style of play. He finishes runs by lowering his shoulders and punishing defenders not running out of bounds, and when called upon to pass protect he does it violently, often blowing up much bigger linebackers in the process. I’d like to see certain fantasy pundits try to do that, just one time. They’d be on IR the rest of their life.
“It’s not like I get hurt walking down the street or anything, McFadden says, I play football hard”.
“It’s a tough thing to go through because you want to help the team so bad,” McFadden stresses. “Nobody wants to be healthy and productive more than me. I want to help win games for Raider Nation. But things happen sometimes, you have to stay focused and keep faith in yourself through tough times.” Raider fans know all about keeping the faith Darren, we got your back.
So why didn’t McFadden walk at the end of his contract? What was he thinking?
The reasons not to re-sign with the Raiders were many, off the top of my head;
they haven’t had a winning season since McFadden was 16,
their stadium is the worst in the NFL,
they may be moving to another city,
he’s had constant bad luck with injuries wearing the Silver and Black,
and last but not least the Raider Offensive line was in a pretty bad place while contract negotiations were taking place.
for context check out this NFL Network take:
Raider Nation could hardly blame Darren McFadden if he chose a change of scenery or split for greener pastures. At least 5 other teams pursued him or offered him more money than the anorexic 1 year, $100,000 guaranteed contract the Raiders offered. Sure, with reached incentives he could earn as much as $4,000,000 this season. However the devil is in the details as they say, and in the contract it actually says that these incentives are “not likely to be earned incentives”, whatever the hell that means. Could you imagine being an agent, and having to tell your client that? Pfffft. I’m adding it to the reasons not to re-sign list.
Could it be that Darren McFadden loves and appreciates Raider Nation so much that he would actually sign such a contract just to stay in Oakland, and play for you?? Well as news of the signing began to trickle out, McFadden went on the record and had this to say:
“Raider Nation has been incredibly loyal to me over the last 6 years, and I am loyal to them, they’ve been with me through ups and downs. I wanted to come back and give them the very best of Darren McFadden. It’s what they deserve, and it’s what they should have been getting all these years.”
He took less money to stay in Oakland.
Read that a couple times slower, and let it sink in. He took less money to play for the Raiders.
Players do not take less money to play for the Raiders. Players take less money to play for the Patriots, or Seahawks or almost anybody but not the Raiders. Players usually take less money from other teams not to play for the Raiders!
He then Tweeted this: “I want to prove to the team that drafted me that I am a top running back in this league.” #Raiders
It may be now or never for McFadden to prove that to the Raiders. He is only 26 years-old, and still has a lot of tread on them tires. If he gets enough touches in this offense I predict another break-out for McFadden in 2014, except this time I think he’ll do it again, and again, and again.. all the way Canton. He’s that good.
Of course there will always be those who will add “if he can stay healthy” to the end of that sentence.