Raiders search for continuity

Raiders search for continuity
December 31, 2012, 9:15 am
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The general manager isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, and that means the head coach isn’t going anywhere either. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The Oakland Raiders returned from San Diego Sunday night in triumph, as they had achieved their one truly achievable goal for 2012.

They survived the Mayan doom prophecy.

In all other ways, though, this was a lost season, valuable only if general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen came to the sobering conclusion that the real work of restoring this franchise to some semblance of value has only begun.

Put another way, they have to enter this off-season looking at each member of the roster with one question in mind: “How quickly can I replace him?”

The Raiders just polished off their fourth 4-12 season in the last 10 years, and can legitimately reclaim their title of the worst team in football over the last decade. Only two other teams have missed the playoffs every year (Buffalo and Cleveland) and only one has fewer wins (Detroit).

For handy decade comparisons, they are 77 games behind New England, 46 games behind San Diego, 41 games behind Denver, 21 ½ games behind San Francisco, and 19 games behind Kansas City. 

On the other hand, they do share the lead in one important decade statistic – head coaches. Allen is their seventh, unless you consider that Al Davis was the head coach rather than Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable or the first half of Hue Jackson. We’ll leave that to your own personal interpretation.

But they are tied with Miami (Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban – yes, that Nick Saban – Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles and Joe Philbin). For handy decade comparisons, they are six ahead of New England, four ahead of San Diego and Denver, three ahead of Kansas City, two ahead of San Francisco and one ahead of Atlanta and St. Louis.

For reference, going into Black Monday, as they so charmingly call the day after the regular season ends, there have been 100 coaches in the NFL, including Bruce Arians in Indianapolis, and there have been seven in Oakland.

In other words, continuity is clearly not part of the Raider Way. It is one of the things McKenzie is trying to establish, which is why Allen is in no danger.

But the roster itself is another matter entirely. There is no player on the team now around whom the new Raiders can sensibly build with confidence. Darren McFadden is hurt too often. Carson Palmer’s results are far too spotty. The defense is comprehensively awful in every phase, Shane Lechler is likely to be dismissed as the punter due to money considerations, and no, as good as Sebastian Janikowski has been all these years, you cannot build around your placekicker.

There are, in short, no keepers on this roster whatsoever. Oh, there are some who will be back in 2013, but not because they command any special talent or inspirational quality that would make them indispensable. You cannot turn over 53 players that quickly.

But the momentary love affair with Terrelle Pryor, to choose but one, will be only that, because what ails the Raiders is the fact that the process of rebuilding them has not yet reached the end of its deconstruction. They were an expansion team in the front office in 2012, and now they are about to be one on the field in 2013. Or should be.

That’s what happens when you win 30 percent of your games for an entire decade. That’s what should happen when the middle of every season comes with the reflexive question, “Have these guys quit?” Even if the answer is no, the fact that question is so often posed in the first place is sufficiently damning.

No player on a team that averages five wins a year through two Presidential administrations should feel too important or too secure or too valuable. Whatever residual loyalties may exist in the locker room to Hue Jackson, or Tom Cable, or (snicker) Kiffin or even Al Himself can endure any longer.

Well, not if improvement is the goal, anyway. If a perpetual hamster wheel of 5-11 is Mark Davis’ idea of a good time, then live it up, Skippy. You’re doing just fine.

But if the Raiders want to be something else, they have to view the present roster not as the start of something exciting and new but as an impediment to be worked around and eventually through. This team as it presently exists is done, and if this seems unduly harsh on the players, we note only this: The general manager isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, and that means the head coach isn’t going anywhere either.

And holding this course is, to any sensible Raider fan or stockholder, simply intolerable. Or at the very least, unwatchable. For the tenth consecutive year. Never forget that. Ten. Consecutive. Years.

 Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com