Hester is averaging 21.2 yards per punt return, and the Raiders have already allowed two return touchdowns this season. Even if Lechler comes out of this game averaging just 30 yards a punt, it is better than the alternative of Hester putting points on the board.
Shane Lechler breaks it down himself. Lechler, as quoted by Steve Corkran:
As far as I’m concerned, no, it’s not the same attitude right now. That guy’s too dangerous. With them getting a new quarterback in there, (Hester’s) going to be the big-play guy. I’m not sure yet what we’re going to do, but I’m going to try to at least make him run sideways early, and we’ll go from there.
I don’t want to put ourselves in that situation, where giving him a chance for him to be the spark in this game, especially with Cutler being down and a new quarterback coming in the game. I don’t want to give him the edge in the special teams battle.
Atta boy, Shane. Sometimes you just gotta put pride aside for the greater good, and in this case it is definitely playing the percentages to force the Caleb Hanie led Bears' offense to beat the Raiders' defense than it is to have Hester beat the special teams.
Reading into Hue Jackson's comments I think he may be thinking along the same lines.
Jackson, as quoted by Corkran:
I can’t tell you exactly what the game plan is right this second, but I know we’ll have a plan because this guy is as good as there is in football. There are going to be times you’re going to have to kick it to him, and there are going to be times you’re not going to have to kick it to him. So, we’ll come up with the right plan to fit this football team so it gives us the best opportunity to win.
When Lechler is kicking from the Raiders 40 or closer, they can go ahead and kick it straight and high and force a fair catch. Otherwise, that ball needs to be sailing for the sidelines.
Should the Raiders punt it to Hester?
Yes (183 votes)
No (622 votes)
805 total votes