SAN DIEGO -- Basically, it comes down to this -- Greg Knapp or Darren McFadden.
The Raiders have to make a choice between a beleaguered offensive coordinator whose version of the West Coast Offense and zone-blocking scheme all-but neutered what had been one of the game's more explosive running attacks and an explosive running back who has a propensity to get injured and yet to play a full 16-game season. Reports have Knapp and other staff members on their way out this week, though coach Dennis Allen would not comment on them Sunday.
Following the Raiders' season-ending 24-21 to the San Diego Chargers, I asked McFadden just how frustrating this season was, exactly. McFadden, usually quick with a smile and a cliche answer, was a bit snippy.
"I don't want to speak on it anymore," he said. "It is what it is. The season is over now. I am just looking forward to next year."
But will it be with the Raiders, after rushing for 707 yards on 206 carries, a career-low 3.3 yards per carry with just two rushing touchdowns? Should it be, because might McFadden garner the Raiders a draft pick or two in trade as he enters the final year of his contract? As it stands now, the Raiders are already without a second-round and fifth-round pick due to the Carson Palmer and Aaron Curry trades, but do have a late-round pick (believed to be a seventh-rounder) for Louis Murphy.
A high ankle sprain caused McFadden to miss four games this season, a year after he missed the final nine games with a Lis Franc sprain to his right foot when he was running like a league MVP candidate.
It was obvious McFadden was struggling early and often with the return of the ZBS, a system for which not only Mike Goodson but undrafted rookie Jeremy Stewart seemed more fitted and comfortable. In fact, owner Mark Davis told McFadden midseason to speak to Knapp about instituting some of the plays he was more comfortable running.
Knapp, meanwhile, has been accused by Raiders fans of everything from wrecking McFadden to stealing the Lindbergh baby. His hire was not a popular choice. And while Knapp himself compared the job in camp to a business start-up, which should have signaled the siren, he was hired to do this -- scrap the old system and replace it with his. The Raiders finished with the No. 28-ranked rushing offense (88.8 rushing yards per game) in the 32-team NFL a year after finishing No. 7 (131.9).
No, this is not an endorsement of Knapp, nor is it an advocacy piece on retaining McFadden, who is scheduled to make $5,826,250 million in base salary and have a cap number of $9,685,084 million in 2013. But here it is -- if the Raiders can Knapp and keep McFadden, it would be the third different offensive system in as many years for a rebuilding franchise intent on a paradigm shift built upon consistency. And how consistent would that be?