The Oakland Raiders have been known as the model of dysfunction throughout the league for the better part of the last decade. Al Davis, despite the great work he did in the league, descended into a late-life spiral that saw him evaluating players solely on their foot speed. A revolving door of coaches made their way through the teams facilities, with little in the way of consistency on or off the field.
So now what? Reggie McKenzie was brought in to help right the ship, but it seems as if he is just continuing to rock it. Hue Jackson was sent packing despite a successful season, and player turnover will be aplenty as per the norm with the organization. They brought in Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to be the third head coach in three years, but what is the identity of the team?
The reminders of Al’s model are still all over the field, with a who’s-who of record 40 times littering the roster. Carson Palmer was brought in mid-season last year, but he had marginal success against the rest of the league who didn’t take the last season off. They brought in the Texans quarterback coach Greg Knapp to be their new offensive coordinator, and the master of the running game will have some exciting toys to play with in Oakland.
Do the Raiders have anything resembling a team identity? At this point it is impossible to say. There are so many new faces running the ship that the players are probably confused about who to report to. And this team is handicapped in both the draft and in free agency, with a number of high-dollar players pushing the cap. This offseason will say a lot about whether the Raiders intend to go with “business as usual,” or if big changes are in the autumn wind.
Two first round picks were dealt for Palmer, so no high-end kids will be joining the squad this year. They shipped their second round pick to the Patriots to pick up another burner, and Terrelle Pryor was deemed worthy of a third-round pick in the supplemental draft last year by the powers that be.
The Raiders roster is flush with overpaid players that will put them up against the cap unless they are released or restructured, so perhaps it is a good thing that the front office doesn’t need to worry about bringing in more new faces. Kamerion Wimbley is slated to make $11 million, Palmer is good for a $12.5 million cap hit and Richard Seymour is bringing in a nice clean $15 million. Is that all? Of course not. Tommy Kelly is owed $9 million and after picking up Aaron Curry off the scrap heap, they have to pay him $5.7 million if they plan on keeping him on the team.
That is a lot of cash for players that simply are not elite. Michael Bush picked up the pieces when Darren McFadden went down with a foot injury last year. The Louisville product ran like a wheel of cheese rolling down the hill, but he is unrestricted this offseason and it is unlikely that they will franchise him considering their extensive salary concerns. Can Run DMC hold up for an entire season and play at the MVP level that he started last year with? Can Jacoby Ford be anything more than a scat back? Questions aplenty for this team.
New owner. New coach. New GM. New offensive coordinator. And as they point out over at Thoughts from the Dark Side, our Raiders site here on Bloguin, more changes are yet to come in Oakland:
“When Al Davis came to the Raiders in 1963, there were maybe six coaches, eight coaches, maybe four front-office people. Scouts like Ron Wolf and those guys. They did it on a shoestring.
“The business part really wasn’t there. It was all football. Just win. Over the years… I think the size of the league and the different things you had to deal with, media and all those things, kind of dwarfed the capabilities of the organization. There’s been a lot of plugging holes.
“So at a certain point in the near future, after careful evaluation, there will be a more modern structure so to speak.”
More of the same for the Raiders as the endless run of new faces continues to cycle through the franchise. It is hard to make any sense of what their plan is for the coming season, as it is unclear of which players will get cut and who will be asked to restructure. No one’s job is safe in Oakland, that has always been clear.
Is there hope for the team? Well, Palmer started to throw the ball better later in the season. Denarius Moore was a surprise standout on the outside. Chaz Schillens may find out how to stay healthy someday. A new zone blocking scheme implemented by Knapp could bring great success to an already potent attack, and it could reduce the number of injuries on the backs if they aren’t putting their bodies on the line as often.
The only rookies that will be making the team will be late picks, unless McKenzie ships a few vets out of town in return for some cheap youngsters. Training camp will resemble something of a track meet, and the story seems to be heading down the same road as it always does for the lovable Raiders. Dysfunction aplenty. Talent aplenty. But it will quite simply never be able to work under the current regime. That is, unless this new Davis is able to roll back the clock about forty years.