It was a season filled with promise despite the passing of owner Al Davis. The once vaunted vertical game had returned. The ground game was as explosive as any in the NFL. The defense was playing inspired and the kicking team was challenging all-time records. First year head coach Hue Jackson was making all the right calls both on and off the field. Everything was falling into place for the Oakland Raiders.
For the first time since a trip to the Super Bowl in 2002, Oakland seemed like a stone cold lead pipe lock to end their playoff drought. Through eleven weeks the Raiders were 7-4 and holding sole possession of first place in the AFC West. Unfortunately for Raider Nation a season that was filled with hope, excitement and promise finished with emptiness, frustration and disappointment.
After losing four of its last five to the end the season including an uninspiring performance at Miami, a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the fourth quarter of a home game against Detroit and an embarrassing effort against San Diego, the Oakland Raiders are watching the playoffs exactly like you and I…on the couch.
No matter how you look at it the lack of a playoff appearance makes this season a failure. Coming off a 8-8 season in 2010 that included a 6-0 record within their division, a playoff appearance for the 2011 Oakland Raiders had to be the only criteria by which success for this year could be measured.
Many think the inability of the team to finish should cost Jackson his job even after just one season. I disagree with that believing that coaches need more than one season to showcase their abilities. I would give Jackson one more year. If they don’t make the playoffs after next year then I would give him the pink slip.
To give Jackson the best chances to succeed I would make the these changes. The first thing I would do is hire a General Manager and give them complete control over player personnel. In this day and age I will never understand how teams expect to have success without a General Manager in place. This person will give the team an identity and build it in their image. Head coaches or owners should not be making player personnel decisions.
Owners put their employees in the best positions to succeed, general managers find the talent and coaches get the most out of that talent. That is the recipe for success. See Bob Kraft who owns the New England Patriots or Los Angeles Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss if you disagree with me.
The next thing I would do is fire Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan. His defenses inability to hold three different second half leads this year against Buffalo, Denver and Detroit are arguably the biggest examples of failure for the 2011 Raiders.
In losses to Detroit and San Diego the Raiders allowed them to drive over 95 yards in the fourth quarter in just a handful of plays. That type of defensive performance is inexcusable. To steal a famous line from Al Davis, “Bresnahan must go down and he must go down hard”.
In addition, I would try to upgrade the pass defense from my linebackers and try to bring a free agent or use what little draft picks I have left in this years draft to upgrade my secondary. The play of the secondary was a source of weakness all season long and was routinely exploited throughout.
Lastly, I would do whatever it takes to re-sign Michael Bush. As much as I love Darren McFadden, he has proven himself to be unreliable. When healthy he is as good as any runner in the game. Unfortunately he has never played more than 13 games in a season and is coming off a season in which he only played in seven games. Bush may not have the speed and quickness of McFadden but what he lacks in that area he makes up for in durability and routinely proves he can perform like a starting running back when given the opportunity.
The 2011 season was a failure that will not soon be forgotten by fans of the silver and black. It was a performance that should serve as a reminder of what happens when a team doesn’t give it’s best performance for an entire season. It should also serve as a reminder that the Raiders should live by the example of their slogan and once again “commit to excellence”.
Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.
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