No Way Around It: The Raiders Suck
by Trevor Whenham - 11/06/2008
I struggle to find words to describe just how insanely messed up the Oakland Raiders are. There are so many ways you could describe their problems that it's hard to know where to start. We don't really need to look too far beyond last week, though. That was when they managed just 77 total yards of offense, including 31 through the air. The bright spot of that offensive mess, if there was one, is that they improved significantly in the second half. That's not hard to do, of course, when you put up a total of -2 yards in the first half. If you wind up with zero yards in the second half you've shown improvement.
So, the team is in a bad, bad place. Are they doomed? Or can they turn this thing around? Let's take a look:
JaMarcus Russell - I don't want to kick a guy when he is down, but Russell just isn't very good. That would be true for a journeyman backup, but it's especially true when you are talking about a first overall draft choice who is being paid millions of dollars. The problems were put in sharp contrast last week - while Russell was struggling to a 19.0 QB rating, Matt Ryan, this year's top choice, was tearing the Raiders apart. The biggest concern with Russell, among many, is that he just isn't showing improvement. He has completed more than half of his passes in just three of eight games. At a time when rookies like Ryan or Joe Flacco and new starters like Tyler Thigpen are getting better with each game, Russell just doesn't seem to be getting more confident and comfortable. There is already a vocal chorus who is suggesting that Michael Vick might be the best choice for the future. That's premature, but it's understandable why people would be starting to think that.
Some of the problems Russell faces can be traced back to a long holdout that cost him his first offseason and training camp. There is much more to it than that, though. Though I have my doubts that Russell really has the makings of a star, a good deal of what has gone wrong isn't his fault. His coaching situation has been less than stable. His receiving corps is useless. His offensive line is more like a gate than a fence. Darren McFadden was supposed to be his savior, but the rookie has struggled with turf toe and has been mostly ineffective. Ryan and Flacco both have good pieces around them to help make the transition to the pros smooth. Russell doesn't have that luxury.
Al Davis - This team is run as badly as a team can be run, and that is all Al Davis' fault. Despite being only barely alive, Davis holds control of his team with an iron fist, and he won't let go. He is making increasingly bizarre decisions, and there is no one out there to tell him to stop. He clearly doesn't have a long-term plan, and every stupid mistake he makes just puts the team further and further away from respectability.
As proof you need to look no further than this ridiculous DeAngelo Hall situation. In the offseason, Davis sent second and fifth round picks to Atlanta for the privilege of overpaying Hall to be the second cornerback in the Oakland secondary. After eight games, Hall had three picks, but he had struggled in coverage - mostly because he didn't seem focused. He probably hasn't been worth the investment that Davis made in him, but then most people knew that when the deal was made. Proving that he always does the stupidest thing, Davis has now cut Hall. That means that he was paid $8 million to play eight games. Whether it was a chemistry problem, a cashflow problem, or something else, the fact remains that this whole situation does nothing to improve confidence in management inside the team or out. The worst part of the whole thing is that cornerback wasn't even a position of real need.
This isn't just an isolated situation, either. Javon Walker was also ridiculously overpaid in the offseason, and he also could be cut soon. There will be more moves, and they will make us shake our heads just as these have. The team is a punchline, and it is going to be harder and harder to convince free agents to take Davis' money. Things will not get better in the near future.
Coaching - This is yet another area of Davis' ridiculousness. He hired Lane Kiffin last year when no one else in the world thought he was ready to be an NFL coach. Almost immediately, Davis did everything he could to make sure that Kiffin couldn't succeed. He inevitably failed, but Davis let him stick around well into this year just to make sure that this season was a lost cause. Now Tom Cable is the interim, and the last game against the Falcons shows just how well that experiment is working out. Now Davis is in an ugly situation - Cable isn't the answer, but no coach in their right mind would take over the team next year given all that they have to deal with. That means you get a coach who is either bad or desperate. Either way, this team isn't likely to get better through superior coaching.
They have even managed to screw up the one coaching asset they had. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was one of the top defensive minds in the league. He may still be, but he isn't showing it. The Raiders are only ranked 28th on defense, and they show few signs of life. It's not all Hall's problem, either. Davis is a big fan of Ryan's, but even that can't last.