By Steve Corkran
Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 at 6:17 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Owner Mark Davis told colleague Tim Kawakami earlier this month that the Raiders are ending their “deconstruction” phase and entering a “reconstruction” phase. If so, then now is as good as time as any to measure the progress.
With that in mind, close emphasis was placed on Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers as a means of gauging what Davis, McKenzie, Allen and the Raiders have to show for their two-year tear down of a Raiders team that went 8-8 and came within a season-ending loss to the Chargers from making the playoffs.
In short, not much, and we’re not solely talking about the fact the Raiders lost 26-13 and dropped to 4-11 on the season.
Part of the lack of progress owes to many of the players on the roster being under one-year contracts and several others on the verge of hitting free agency unless McKenzie uses some of the league-most cap money at his disposal on them to bring them back.
Some of that owes to McKenzie failing to land any game-changing players of the 16 he selected in the NFL draft the past two seasons. The rest is a result of McKenzie not signing any free agents that are indispensable.
Add it up and the Raiders don’t seem much closer, if at all, to turning the corner than they were in 2011, when then-coach Hue Jackson got the Raiders within a final-game collapse of the Raiders first playoff berth since 2002.
The knee-jerk reaction is for many to call for Allen’s firing. Davis and/or McKenzie very well might decide to go that route.
If so, McKenzie needs to answer how he expected Allen to win without a proven quarterback, with a patchwork offensive line, no standout running backs, wide receivers or tight ends and a defense devoid of impact players.
Those calling for Allen’s ouster also need to explain how it’s his doing when fullback Marcel Reece has a ball fall through his hands in the end zone in the final minute. Or why it’s Allen’s fault when Lamarr Houston and Jason Hunter jump offsides, Greg Jenkins fumbles a kick return, Jeron Mastrud drops a pass in the open on a third-down play or Mike Jenkins and Miles Burris keep alive Chargers drives with senseless penalties.
The Raiders still are in the market for a quarterback and McKenzie might be faced with a major roster turnover for a third straight season.
Lest you disagree with this assessment, you better be able to provide a lenghty list of players worthy of coming along for the ride next season, when this so-called reconstruction phase is in full swing.
From here, and based what we saw today, again, it says that the Raiders still have a long way to go.
On the bright side, the Raiders likely will have a top-five draft pick to help with their latest infusion of talent next year. As of now, they are in line for the No. 3 pick, behind only the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.
Then there’s the matter of McKenzie having north of $60 million in salary cap room to spend on re-signing players such as left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and other prospective free agents, his draft class and whatever free agents he feels can help the Raiders get over the proverbial hump.
– The Raiders committed 12 penalties for 73 yards, while the Chargers got flagged only three times for 24 yards. This harkened to the Jackson Era, when the Raiders set the league marks for most penalties and yards penalized.
– Sebastian Janikowski appeared to strain a groin muscle on a pre-game kick. However, he remained healthy enought to convert both his field-goal attempts against the Chargers.
– Running back Darren McFadden scored Oakland’s first touchdown on a 5-yard burst up the middle in the second quarter. That turned out to be the lone highlight for McFadden in his most extensive action since he suffered an ankle injury against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
McFadden rushed four times for 8 yards and caught one pass for 8 yards. Rashad Jennings led the Raiders with 45 yards rushing on 10 carries.
– Rod Streater caught one pass for 2 yards Sunday. What seemed like a safe bet two weeks ago, now is a long-shot of Streater reaching 1,000 yards.
He needs 152 yards against the Denver Broncos in the regular-season finale to become the first Raiders receiver with 1,000 yards or more since 2005, when Randy Moss accomplished the feat.
Streater got denied of 35 yards or so late in the game, when a long pass he caught and turned into a touchdown got overturned when the ball came loose at the end of the play.
It’s something that happened to Louis Murphy a few years ago, when the officials ruled that Murphy didn’t control the ball through the play.
– If you thought the Streater call was brutal, how about the officials waiving off a play the Raiders ran because of a clock malfunction and then taking back a penalty on the Raiders because a fan blew a whistle from the stands?
– McGloin completed 20 of 36 passes for 206 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception. He made a handful of nice throws, missed badly on a slew of passes and had the kind of game you might expect from an undrafted rookie.
In other words, the Raiders still aren’t much closer to having a franchise-type quarterback, and McKenzie and Allen have only one more game to evaluate McGloin and Terrelle Pryor to see if either might fit the bill.
Given Pryor didn’t play today, it’s unlikely that he’ll be used against the Broncos, unless Davis intervenes and orders a change, as he did before the finale last season.