Granted, I've only got 21 other years to build upon, but so far the last two days have pretty much been the worst start to a year of my life. Capped off yesterday morning by the double whammy of running into the cockhead I was dumped by my now-ex on the morning of New Year's Eve for and realising just why I was shafted (fucking lawyer dipshit who drives a nicer car than me and can probably afford penis enlargement surgery if all his compensating isn't enough) and, of course, the game.
Naturally, I did what I always do in these situations - I hit the bottle and started scribbling every thought I had on the future of the Raiders on some paper, with the intention of doing a FanPost once I got home from work the next morning. Here's what I got.
Coaching Staff: Obviously Pillow needs to be thrown out on his arse. He never should have been hired in the first place, but unfortunately Al was too set in his defensive ways to hire a co-ordinator who wouldn't run his system. There are a few names who obviously come to mind - Jack Del Rio and Steve Spagunolo being the first two as guys who may not have done so well as head coaches but who had a lot of success on defense. However, both Del Rio and Spagunolo are 4-3 guys and I really think this team needs to move to a 3-4 to be successful down the line. As such, here's a few other names I would consider:
- Green Bay LB coach/assistant head coach Winston Moss - we're all familiar with Moss, if not from his time as a Raider then from last year when he was rumoured to be our next defensive coordinator but for some reason it didn't pan out. He would be ideal, only problem is that he could be a head coach candidate for other teams.
- Texans linebacker coach Reggie Herring - he has experience as a DC at the college level and comes with knowledge of the Wade Phillips 3-4, the system (or variant) I believe would be best suited to this team.
- Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler - has had a role in developing all the great Pittsburgh LBs of the past ten years or so - James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons etc. Given that our LB corps are young and need development, he would be a dream DC - but he's also considered the most likely successor to LeBeau when he retires.
I also wouldn't be totally opposed to promotion from within (Waufle or Woodson) if we do due diligence on all potential candidates and figure one of them is the best option.
The thing that worries me most is the fact that we can't stop any QB who can make a play with his feet. Considering we probably play Tebow twice next year, as well as my non-Raider man crush Cam Newton (and possibly
As for offense, I would bring back Al Saunders and give him a greater role working with the team. One of the most telling things I drew from the commentary all season was Rich Gannon quoting Carson Palmer saying that he had not been able to spend as much time working with Hue (as the offensive playcaller and QB coach) as he would have liked because he was so busy with all his other duties. If not Saunders, then bring in a full time quarterback coach.
Front Office: We obviously need a GM. There's varying debate as to how much power he should have, but having seen Hue try to wear both hats this year I think it's pretty obvious he needs some help - again, I quote the apocryphal Gannon/Palmer exchange. We need Hue to focus on coaching.
The question is, though, how to go about it. I'm a little worried that Hue's close relationship with Mark Davis may lead to him hiring someone in a relatively ceremonial role - as an overseer rather than someone who handles the bulk of personnel duties, which is what we need. Coaches tend to make bad GMs because the nature of both jobs is different - GMs have to build a team, coaches need to win right now. Not many can handle it and it's clear Hue can't.
I'd previously written a post on our options at GM - I can't find it right now but when I do I'll put it up.
Offense: Look, I think we all know by now that as great as Run-DMC is when fit, we can't rely on him to be fit for a whole season. There's nothing we can do about it - it's just the way he's put together combined with the way he plays. As someone who finally quit contact sports this year after breaking my ankle in a park rugby game (along with two shoulder reconstructions, a failed knee reconstruction, a broken wrist and several prior ankle injuries) I can't fault him. I can fault our training staff and coaches for over-using him, but that's another story.
Where I'm going with this is that we need to lessen his workload when he can play for us. The good thing is that I suspect it's gonna be easier to re-sign Bush now that his limitations (specifically, a lack of explosiveness) have been exposed - while we'll probably have to make him one of the the highest-paid No.2 backs in the league, it's a fair investment. We can also mix more of Taiwan in on stretch/pitch/draw plays to further limit pressure on McFadden. Long story short, I think our run game is fine.
Everyone knows what I think of Palmer - I'm not going to re-hash it here - but the bottom line is that we're stuck with him as long as Hue is around so we may as well look at the positives.
(Just let me say this though - watching the way Matt Flynn destroyed the Lions D...why didn't we offer Green Bay the same package we offered Cincy for him? Hell, we probably could have had him for a 2013 No.1).
Carson had a good game against SD and had the defense given him any help at all we would have had them. Having a full off-season with the team and a (hopefully) fully fit receiving corps next year will further aid his progress - more on the WRs later.
Behind Palmer, I'm hoping Terrelle can do enough in the pre-season to become our No.2 - he has the talent, it's just a question of what he's managed to learn this year. While he should know the offense by now, I suspect Hue hasn't had much time to work on his development - again, an off-season together will help.
Other than that, may as well just bring Boller back again as No.3, if only for his wife.
The brightest light of the season has been our offensive line. Once he gets more consistent in pass protection and cuts out the silly holding penalties, Jared Veldheer will join the elite LTs of the league, and Stefen Wisniewski was a revelation at both LG and C. Satele wasn't perfect, but I have enough faith in him that I'd like to see him return at center rather than spend for a guy at the position or to replace Wiz at LG so he can move inside. The right side wasn't so good, but I imagine that we'll be seeing a lot more of Joe Barksdale and Bruce Campbell there next year. Bruce in particular has to start showing something soon - he's been in the league two years now and done next to nothing for both of them. Carlisle would go OK as a veteran backup/mentor, but Barnes sucks.
After the O-Line, the other genuinely satisfying aspect of this season was the emergence of Heyward-Bey as probably our best WR. While I still don't trust him on deep routes, we have two terrific deep threats in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. Wide receiver is probably the only position where I can safely say we have net depth, which is why I'd be looking at a trade for a draft pick this year. Probably for Chaz, who managed to stay fit for the bulk of the season and produced pretty well also - he's got to be worth a 3rd or 4th round pick at least. New England were supposed to be interested in him last year. Keep Murphy as our 4th WR and pick up a UDFA as depth.
Hopefully we see some more of David Ausberry at TE next year also - a guy with his size and speed at the position would give the offense another dimension. He made a nice catch split outside in the last game. Kevin Boss also made a hell of a TD grab. While he's not as good a receiver from the position as you'd hope - mostly because he's lacking in the speed department - he's a top blocker and red zone guy, and Myers is solid also. Unless we can get a 2012 pick for either of them, may as well get them back.
Defense: And now here's where the knives may need to really come out. Our much vaunted defensive line - the one that tied for the most sacks last season despite only rushing four most games - were the biggest disappointment of the year. Richard Seymour seemed to coast on his new contract for the bulk of the time and his attitude appeared to rub off on the rest of them. Admittedly, losing Matt Shaughnessy for the year didn't help - but the fact is, our defense was heavily reliant on getting to the quarterback. When we didn't, we generally had results like yesterday or the Patriots game in Round 4, and more often than not we struggled to get to the QB on a regular basis.
I don't think it's a question of talent here - more of coaching and motivation. A move to the 3-4 would be great for our guys, although we'd have to draft or sign a big NT for running downs (unless that kid we got on the practice squad can come through). Kelly could play there in passing situations, while rotating with Seymour, LaMarr and Desmond Bryant at 5-tech end. Shaughnessy can play OLB with Wimbley and we can either re-sign Trevor Scott or bring in another guy as depth.
Assuming we stick with the 4-3, then our linebackers need the most work. I don't know if it's fair to call Rolando a bust - after all, DMC and DHB didn't come through until their third seasons - but he's certainly been a disappointment this year. He hasn't come anywhere near as good as we hoped. I'm also a bit worried with Ro's work ethic and extra-curricular activities. McFadden and Heyward-Bey both came good because they worked hard on their games and didn't cause trouble for the team while doing so. I'm not so sure if Rolando is capable of doing so - as it is, we haven't heard anything about that shooting incident since it happened.
Other than Ro, Wimbley should be playing DE or rush LB and Curry is good against the run but can't cover a bed. Ideally, next year if we're running a 4-3 we could play Wimbley at defensive end - even if only for passing plays - and have a LB corps of Curry, McClain and Travis Goethel, and pick up some depth guys.
The secondary did a fair job IMO this year given the injuries. Routt has his flaws, but I'd take him over almost any CB in pure man coverage other than Nnamdi or Revis, assuming ceteris paribus. (Sorry - my economics background coming through there). Chekwa looked decent for a mid-round rookie when he was healthy, and DVD clearly has talent but needs to build on it. Of all our free agent needs, bringing in a solid No.2 CB may be the most important. Brandon Carr from KC would be a guy I'd make a run at, as would Cortland Finnegan from the Titans and Rashean Mathis from Jacksonville, who's a bit older but can still cover most No.2 WRs.
Regarding safeties, Branch had a great year and was probably our most consistent performer in the secondary. Huff's injuries hurt though - Giordano is OK depth but not a guy you want to heavily rely on. I was disappointed by Mike Mitchell's development though, but again I don't know how much of that is just poor coaching. I do think Mitch has a future as a nickel back rather than a safety, but that may just be me.
Anyway, I'm done with this shit. I'm going to go watch cricket with my dad now and hope that Woodley and Harrison gives Tebow a thorough beatdown next week and I get my personal shit in some kind of order before I find myself repeating my NYE experience of stumbling around Kings Cross (Sydney's infamous red light district, where you get a shooting every week in a country with very tight gun control laws) drunk and stoned at 2am again.