A Love/Hate Article: Credit Where Credit is Due
Jon York – Jun 6, 2012
(First in a series of subjects that seem to draw disproportionate emotional responses)
Oh how wonderful it is this time of year. Temperatures are rising. Beaches are crowding. Vacationers are planning. For anyone who enjoys the shining sun or a cool swimming spot it's a good time.
It's a special time for the NFL as well. Coaches are teaching. Players are sweating - and quite possibly cursing a few things they did or didn't do during what little off-season there is.
It's an even more special time for fans. Haven't won a title since 1984? Haven't had a winning season or playoff appearance since 2002?
No problem! "This is the year!"
Sometimes common sense applies and the optimism is a little more subdued but hope is a recurring theme going into every season - or at least going into preseason games. Coach A was hired. Player X was cut, Player Y drafted, and player Z signed. Going into every season most fans of any team have a good deal of hope for their team.
For whatever reason that hope isn't carried over to individual players. At least not all of them.
Cooper Carlisle was signed from the Broncos prior to the 2007 season. It seems as though many Raider fans have been trying to replace him since. Perhaps it was his previous uniform or a hatred for the zone blocking system but the calls to replace Carlisle began much sooner than the 2010 season - when his play may have began to warrant it.
Statistically speaking he has earned both the love and hate suggested in the title of the article. In five seasons in silver and black he has started 79 out of a possible 80 games. During Carlisle's tenure the Raiders were a top ten rushing team in 2007 (6th), 2008 (10th), 2010 (2nd), and 2011 (7th). The past five seasons have seen two constants: Cooper Carlisle in the starting lineup and a solid rushing attack.
Team pass protection has been another matter as those same five seasons saw the Raiders finish 22nd, 24th, 30th, 26th, and 5th in the NFL for sacks allowed. No offensive lineman can excuse themselves from those rankings but the type of offense, style of QB, and quality of other linemen also contribute. For his part Carlisle allowed 1, 4, 4.5, 3, and 1 sacks over the past five seasons.
Penalties have been another thorn in the Raiders side.Carlisle was responsible for thirteen of those - neither an alarming nor outstanding number.
Those rankings better reflect the offensive line as a unit. ProFootballFocus.com provides a grading system for the players as individuals. Week by week they are assigned a grade in pass protection, run blocking, blocking on the move, and penalties. These grades are summed up to provide weekly scores - which in turn are added together to evaluate the entire season.
In 2011 there were 58 guards that took at least half of their team's snaps. Cooper Carlisle ranked 48th - though a very poor showing against the Texans influenced that. This was an improvement over 2010 when he finished 56 out of 58 with several substandard games throughout the season.
If those two seasons were the only basis for judging Carlisle then fans would be well within their rights to desire a changing of the guard (pun intended).
However, that is not his entire body of work in Oakland and criticism began well before that 2010 season. In 2009 Carlisle was the 23rd ranked guard (out of 57), 2008 saw him finish 20th out of 62.
This is not to imply that he has been snubbed in post-season award voting. He has not been a player worthy of being called irreplaceable. What he has been, for three full seasons and the majority of a fourth, is a very solid player. What he has not been is one of the worst guards in the NFL - a title given by many fans on several forums.
For the upcoming season he has been cut and resigned at a reduced salary. He will be switching from the right side to the left. Carlisle may benefit from a change in offensive philosophy. Greg Knapp returns and may bring elements of the system that he succeeded in during his first few seasons for the Raiders.
This is not to suggest every fan has wanted him replaced since day one. I only suggest that for most of his time playing for the Raiders Cooper Carlisle has been a lightning rod for criticism and portrayed by some as the weak link on the offensive line.
No team is made up of 53 All-Pro players. Great teams have succeeded starting nothing more than a solid player at some positions. It is past time to recognize that Carlisle has been better than the perception. It is time to give credit where credit is due.
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