Accountability Tracker: Who is to Blame for Oakland Raiders 4-12 Season?
John Doublin – Jan 10, 2013
The 2012 NFL Season is over, the Oakland Raiders missed the playoffs for the 10th straight year, and the "new era" started with a resounding thud!
There were moments when it appeared that Oakland was on the right track, as well as moments when it looked as though they had taken a huge step backward. There were players and coaches who lived up to their hype and salary, and players and coaches who let the team down in a big way.
This article will look back at the "Weekly Accountability Tracker" series from Raider Nation Times, and summarize the performance, (both good and bad) of the players and coaches.
With that said, where should general manager Reggie McKenzie start 2013? Who are the players and coaches who earned their money, who failed to perform and who are the people most responsible for the good, the bad, and the ugly that took place in Oakland?
First, the good:
Philip Wheeler proved to be the best free agent signing the Raiders made this year...probably the best defensive free agent in the league. He led the team in tackles, called the plays in the defensive huddle, and was a driving force for the drastically improved linebacker play Raider Nation saw in 2012.
Wheeler is due to become a free agent, and McKenzie needs to secure him with a long-term deal immediately.
Miles Burris should be in the conversation for defensive rookie of the year. He was second on the team in tackles, and even though he made some rookie mistakes, he continually proved that his motor never stops. Burris will be a super-star sooner, rather than later.
With Burris on the team, the future of the linebacker position for Oakland is in good hands.
Desmond Bryant got his shot as an every down, every game player when Richard Seymour got hurt, and proved that he is on the rise. Although he didn't tally a ton of sacks, he did frequently play on the opponents' side of the line, and caused disruption constantly.
Bryant, and the next guy on this list are the future of the Raiders' defensive line.
Lamarr Houston is really starting to come into his own. He turned in several double-digit tackle games, (which is unreal for a defensive lineman) on his way to a total of 48 solo tackles, which ranks him 3rd in the league among defensive linemen. He also added 4.5 sacks, to lead the team.
It's clear that with Houston and Bryant, the Raiders' front four are in good shape for the future.
Jason Tarver left Standford University to become the defensive coordinator of the Raiders. There were times in which the defense was just horrible, but by the end of the year, Oakland's defense was better than last season in every statistical category.
It was a bumpy ride, often taking the "three steps forward, two steps back" road, but in the end, the defense is better overall with Tarver running it.
Carson Palmer was, at times, all the Raiders had on offense. He's been criticized for his "back-breaking" mistakes, but he got virtually no help from most of the team. Asked to throw more than 40 times in most games, and more than 50 in a few, eventually, NFL teams will catch up and make a play.
Palmer had no running game, almost no pass protection on the right side, and terrible play-calling all year long, but still managed to put up great numbers. Anyone that wants to continue to blame Palmer is either not paying attention, or doesn't really understand the game.
Marcel Reece did what he does: Work hard, play smart and make plays when given the chance. He proved, once again, that he is the most versatile player in the league. The size of a fullback/tight end, and the speed and hands of a wide receiver makes Reece a match up nightmare for defenses.
Unfortunately for Reece, he wasn't allowed to contribute due to the poor play-calling and bad game-planning from the offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, (more on him later).
Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski are the core and future of the Raiders' offensive line, and they showed why in 2012. Both are smart players, who rarely get beat by the man in front of them. Very few penalties, very few sacks and a lot of great blocking from these two make this tandem one of the best in the league at their age.
Once again though, Knapp did the Raiders no favors, (see the trend?) when he asked these two Rhinos to play like Ballerinas in his precious zone blocking scheme, (ZBS).
Rod Streater was an undrafted rookie from Temple. He exploded onto the scene with circus catches and very reliable hands. Much like Denarius Moore last year, Streater found himself the favorite target of quarterback Carson Palmer.
He has to clean up his route running and read defenses better, but Streater proved he can play in this league.
Mike Goodson got off to an awful start in the preseason, but put that behind him, and wound up leading the team in yards per carry. It's obvious that he was much more comfortable in the ZBS than Darren McFadden.
Goodson is a great option at runningback and an asset to the team. He needs to be re-signed.
Sebastian Janikowski was probably the biggest Pro Bowl snub of the year. He missed three times all year: Twice from over 60 yards. He was perfect inside 50 yards and made all his extra point kicks.
Seabass, was basically...exactly what he's always been: Money!
Brandon Myers could have been on this list if he was a better blocker. His receptions and yards led the team, but he simply wasn't effective in the rushing game, at all.
Phillip Adams could have made this list as well, as he played pretty darn good substituting for injured starters. He gathered two, highlight-quality interceptions and was the only cornerback the Raiders had who could actually tackle.
Dennis Allen could have been listed as well becuase the team played hard all year, even when the playoffs weren't an option, and the penalties were reduced greatly. However, there were just too many rookie mistakes for him to have made it...like hiring the next guy on the list.
Now, for the bad:
Greg Knapp had a shot to run the Raiders' offense in 2008...and failed miserably. Then, he was given another chance in 2012...and failed miserably. It's not clear if he simply doesn't understand the game as well as he lets on, or if he's just too arrogant and thinks his system is so good that it will succeed, regardless of personnel.
Whatever the case, Knapp's play-calling was horrifically predictable. An example of this can be seen in the Atlanta game. It was 3rd and 6, the Raiders were driving, they were already in field goal range, they were leading, and the defense had been playing well. Knapp called a pass play...Asante Samuel knew it, jumped it, and stole the game from Oakland.
Why, on earth, call a pass there? Run the ball, kill some clock, and take the three points to make it a two possession game if you don't convert. That's not rocket science.
He also never utilized the best player on the team, McFadden, in a way that would allow him to be successful. McFadden is a down hill runner, who excels at hitting the hole quickly and out-running people. Asking him to slow down, run laterally, and then go was a collosal mistake.
Knapp told the media, "you can't judge the productivity of the run game after just a few games. Let's wait until the end of the season and look back to see if the run game was productive." Okay, Greg...we did...it wasn't...here's you last check, there's the door, have a nice day!
Frank Pollack took the 4th ranked offensive line in terms of rushing statistics and sacks allowed, and turned it into one of the league's worst. From 7th to 28th in rushing, and from 25 sacks allowed, (2nd in the league) in 2011, to 27 allowed, (6th in the league). However, there were many times in which the pressure got to Palmer, but he made a great play to get rid of the ball and avoid the sack.
Pollack is following Knapp out the door.
Steve Hoffman managed to turn one of the best special teams groups in the league into one of the worst. From "Long-Snapper-Gate" in Week-1, to allowing kick and punt returns for touchdowns that were the difference in the game.
Hoffman will be sharing a cab with Pollack and Knapp to the unemployment office!
Matt Giordano is known as a ball hawk, and he does occasionally make great plays on the ball. However, he misses more tackles than he makes and is absolutely terrible in run support. Constantly over-pursuing and taking bad angles, Giordano rarely makes the tackle when he does manage to be in the right spot.
His coverage skills are lacking as well. It seems there are only two options with him...a great interception, or a touchdown for the opponent, with the latter being much more common.
Giordano has no business starting in the NFL.
Mike Brisiel could be the worst free agent signing by any team in the entire league. He spent more time falling on his face and missing blocks than he did on the bench after losing his job to rookie, Tony Bergstrom. He was supposed to be the guy that taught the Raiders' offensive front the ZBS after coming over from Houston with Knapp and Pollack.
Rolando McClain played one decent game, (not even good...just decent) in 2012. Week-1 against the Chargers, he appeared to finally be "getting it." That went out the window quickly with more game film of him jogging instead of sprinting in pursuit, trying to tackle ball carriers by the shoulders, always going for the "SportsCenter Hit" rather than just getting the guy on the ground, and making virtually zero effort to shed blocks.
If his bad play wasn't enough, he also got into a screaming match with head coach Dennis Allen, where he allegedly said, "I have four million reasons not to care" about doing his job the way Allen instructed him. He was suspended for the last two games of the year, and didn't appear to care.
Not only was McClain arrested for various weapons and menacing charges last season, but less than a week ago, he was arrested again for lying to police by providing a false name.
Really? You're the Butkus award winning linebacker from the national championship Alabama Crimson Tide, did you seriously think an Alabama police officer wouldn't recognize you?
Hopefully, there is a clause in McClain's contract that will allow the Raiders to void his contract, but even if there isn't...he needs to hit the road, salary cap penalty be damned!
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore both took huge steps backward in 2012. Neither were able to get separation with any regularity, and both misread coverages and ran the wrong routes, which resulted in failed 3rd down conversions and turnovers.
What's worse is that both had multiple drops at critical times this year. In DHB's case, he's clearly not worth the $10 million he's scheduled to make. If he's not willing to deal, he could find himself traded or released.
These young men are both known as hard-working, high-character guys, but they need to step it up and improve if they want to stay in Oakland.
Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell signed one-year deals with the Raiders with the understanding they would solidify the cornerback spots. Both got hurt early, and missed most of the season. Spencer played some, and was up and down, but never made the impact Oakland needed.
Don't expect either of these men back in 2013.
Richard Seymour struggled with bad knees all year, and ended up on the injured reserve. However, even when he was in the game, he was an empty shell of his former self. It appeared that he gave up on the team long before his injury was a real issue.
Furthermore, he never stepped up as the leader the Raiders needed him to be. Scheduled to make upwards of $16 million next season, it's not likely Seymour will be back. We'd like to wish him well, and thank him for his service, but it's probably time for him to hang them up.
Tommy Kelly made this list due to his constant drive-extending penalties, angry tirades and lack of production and leadership. His regluar penetration into the opponents' backfield in 2011 is long-since past. He'll need to renegotiate his $9.374 million contract to be considered for a return to the Silver & Black.
Kelly represents the "old era" and it's not likely McKenzie will be troubled by letting him go.
Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes could have been on this list because their penalties and breakdowns in pass protection didn't do the team any favors. However, being asked to do something they aren't capable of, (ZBS) isn't their fault entirely.
Ultimately, football is a team sport, and no one player or coach can win, or lose games on his own. However, one player not doing his job, or committing penalties can sure drag the rest of the team down with him; one coach failing in his duties, creating the wrong atmosphere, or not being on top of his game can cost a team dearly.
Hopefully, McKenzie and Allen recognize those players who played well and will reward them with contracts and playing time. Conversely, recognizing those who let the team down, and coaching them up or letting them go will be critical to the future success of the team.
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