Oakland Raiders Off-Season: Trade Darren McFadden?
John Doublin – Jan 19, 2012The Oakland Raiders suffered some bitter defeats late in the 2011 NFL season and missed their goal of an AFC West title and a playoff berth. There were many factors that led to this unceremonious demise: Defensive meltdowns at the most inopportune times, massive amounts of penalties and injuries to key players.
Since then, new owner Mark Davis has hired a position the Raiders haven't had in a long timeâ€”a general manager. Reggie McKenzie was hired to take over the day-to-day football operations of the team. With this hire comes a lot of speculation.
After firing head coach Hue Jackson, many in Raider Nation wonder if any player or coach is immune to this "house cleaning." Is Carson Palmer the quarterback for the foreseeable future? Will Tyvon Branch and Michael Bush be allowed to leave via free agency? And most of all, who will coach the team in 2012?
None of these questions will be answered before McKenzie is ready to divulge his plan. He's interviewed a lot of candidates, but has yet to hire anyone to replace Jackson.
With all of this set aside, what can Oakland do to improve the team enough to compete at a high level in the future? What are the positions of need? Without draft picks and sitting $7 million over the salary cap, how can McKenzie get the players the Raiders need?
One solution that has been circulating in the fan circles and social media is to trade superstar, but oft injured running back Darren McFadden. Some fans feel that McFadden is too injury prone to "waste" money on and the Raiders should just "cut bait" with him and use the resulting draft picks to bolster the rest of the team.
Wow! I can honestly say that I've never heard such a ludicrous idea in my 38 years as a Raider fan. I mean seriously, Al Davis did some things that left me scratching my head, but this? This is just...just...asinine!
However, for the sake of argument, let's examine both sides of this issue.
Getting hurt vs Being Injury Prone:
It is very accurate to say that McFadden has had injury problems. He's missed time in all of his four seasons. In his rookie year, "D-Mac" missed a total of three games. In year two of his career, he missed four games, three more games missed in 2010 and finally, nine games missed to the now-infamous Lisfranc injury.
While I see the how the facts would lead some to want to apply the dreaded label of, "Injury Prone" to McFadden, I have to wonder: Is this really the case? Are all of these missed games due to the same, exact injury? No. They are all different.
In 2008 it was an ankle, in 2009 a knee, in 2010 a hamstring and this year was the aforementioned Lisfranc injury to the foot. That's not "injury prone," that's called "Football."
Every back in the history of the league, going all the way back to Bronco Nagurski got injured and missed time. Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, Ladanian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson have all missed time to one injury or another. Some of those legendary names I mentioned have missed entire seasons and even had to retire. Being injured is not unique to McFaddenâ€”it's unique to running backs.
Running back is an extremely brutal position to play in the NFL. The average NFL career for all positions is almost six years. For running back, it's less than three years. It's simply the nature of the position and has nothing to do with McFadden's toughness or fragility.
By the same logic used by those calling for McKenzie to trade McFadden, the Houston Texans should trade Arian Foster, the Chicago Bears should trade Matt Forte and the New York Giants should trade Ahmad Bradshaw. All of these players have missed time more than once throughout their career, just like McFadden.
Why are those fans not calling for the trade of these players? That's an easy answer: Because they understand that play-makers like these men don't grow on trees. Finding a player that possess all the skills needed to be a "home-run hitter" doesn't come easy.
Do these fans think there's a mystical land of football fairies mixing magical ingredients like blinding speed, power, soft hands, willingness to block, a brain that understands pass protection and a desire to be great into players for easy picking? If there is and they know where to find it, please contact Reggie McKenzie!
Sorry to disappoint you, but this argument holds no weight.
By their own argument, Darren McFadden's perceived injury problems would limit his trade value.
If it's as bad as some fans believe, no team in their right mind would give up more than a third round pick for a guy like McFadden. Therefore, the idea of "trade McFadden for draft picks, (plural)" is completely unrealistic.
It's really a sad state of affairs, but running backs in the NFL hold their value about as well as a used car.
Customer: "What's the warranty on this beauty?"
Salesman: "30 feet or 30 seconds, whichever comes first."
The fact of the matter is, even without alleged injury problems, no running back in the league is going to garner multiple high draft picks. Mike Shanahan proved for the world to see that teams can get productive backs in the later rounds when he selected Terrell Davis in the sixth round.
Even today, guys like DeMarco Murray (3rd round), Shonn Greene (3rd round), Ryan Grant (undrafted) and Arian Foster (undrafted) prove that teams don't need to sacrifice more than one pick, or in some casesâ€”no pick at all, to get a productive back that fits their system.
Why in the world would they give up more for an allegedly "injury prone" guy like McFadden?
This too is a poor argument for trading McFadden.
Assuming McKenzie and the Raiders go through with this idea, where does that leave the Raiders at the running back position?
It would mean that Oakland is left with Michael Bush, (who in all likelihood will have gobs of money thrown at him in free agency to be a starter) Taiwan Jones, (who is unproven at best) Rock Cartwright, (who is a great special teamer, but is more suited to be a fullback) and the fullbacks Marcel Reece and Manese Tonga at the running back spots.
Are you going to roll with these guys, or by trading McFadden away, did you just create a position of need on your team? So basically, you've just traded away a game-changing back so you can roll the dice on a rookie you get with the lone third round pick you got in exchange for a guy that can score at any moment, and from anywhere on the fieldâ€”running or receiving.
This is ridiculous!
When McFadden went down with his injury he was leading the league in rushing, total yards from scrimmage and average yards per touch. This production kept the Raider offense "on schedule" and producing points. Teams had to game plan around stopping D-mac, which took time away from their planning to stop Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Once he was out of the lineup, point production was down, time of possession was down, and the team wasn't winning as easilyâ€”or as much. That is not a coincidence.
We learned that when expected to be "the guy," Michael Bush performed admirably, but began to wear down as the season progressed. This is common in big, powerful backs whose game relies on punishing the opponent.
The fact is, the Raiders are a better team, a more explosive team and a more formidable opponent when McFadden is in the game compared to when he's not. If we get 13 games, 10 games or even just 9 games out of him each year, he's well worth the money and roster space to keep himâ€”PERIOD!
The fans that want Oakland to trade Darren McFadden are probably the same ones that wanted to keep JaMarcus Russell. They seem to be looking at things from a skewed perspective. Skewed by what? EA Sports-Madden Football, in which a player performs up to the ratings he's given, regardless of his work ethic or his intangibles.
The same is true of roster moves.
A trade in real life is much more difficult than it is in Madden. There is much more to it than simply turning the little "approval bar" green. If you put a guy like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady on the trade block in the game, every team in the league will offer you the moon. Sorry, but that's only "in the game."
This isn't a video game; it doesn't work that wayâ€”please stop thinking it does.
To hear more about "getting hurt vs being injured" tune into my Friday radio show, All Things Silver & Black. My guest will be Dr. Nick Chicoine whose video fully explains the injury that ended McFadden's season, the long-term affects it could have, (if any) and much, much more.
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