During half time of the Raiders-Jaguars game, Greg Knapp allegedly let the team have it. According to reports, he went on a rant about the poor play of the players in the first half. This outburst is credited by several players as being responsible for the turnaround in the game.
Apparently, it took a little while to set in. In fact, it wasn't until the second drive of the second half that the team responded with anything approaching enthusiasm. This happened to coincide with the first no huddle of the game and that drive went for a TD. The previous drive (the first drive of the second half, after the inspiring speech by Knapp) produced a routine 3 and out that was as uninspired as the play in the first half. It's not clear if Willie Smith even heard Knapp's speech since his play continued to be uninspired to the very end. In fact, it might be a good idea to track down who was actually present for the speech.
It's obvious that the change in the game was not the speech but the switch to no huddle. It had the same impact as it did in the Pittsburgh win. This, of course, has created the great no huddle debate of 2012 which threatens to trump the other great Raider debates of 2012: ZBS, Start Pryor, Trade DMC and of course, Knapp sack. Of course, the Knapp sack debate seems to be intricately bound to the no huddle debate due to confusion about the Raiders motives for the no huddle. Knapp supporters maintain that Knapp is still calling the plays and therefore it's his offense that's winning the games. Knapp detractors point out that Palmer is doing a better job of selecting Knapp's plays than Knapp. Supporters point to Palmer's pre-snap reads on defense and his ability to adjust play as the basis for his success. Knapp doesn't have that option on the sideline.
The Raiders organization is responsible for some of the confusion regarding the no huddle. The reason given for using it is that the Jags defense was tiring and Knapp had decided during the half to go to it. Apparently, this was forgotten in the first series but the 3 and out quickly brought it back to the attention of the OC. I found it interesting that with the offense on the field during the first half only twice for longer than 3 plays, anyone would think the Jags defense was tiring. Granted, our last field goal drive took 3:55 minutes but one could argue that 15 minutes of rest during the half would be enough for the Jag defenders to recover. In addition, we gave them another 3 and out (just to get some more rest) before we decided to work on tiring them out. Whatever the motive, it was not inspired by a tired Jag defense. The tempo change argument is meaningless since going from silence to a sound is not technically a tempo change. Since the game, there has been a lot of effort on the part of coaches and players to downplay the no huddle but more importantly, to downplay Palmer's role and emphasize Knapp's role. A suspicious article citing a 4th quarter dis by Palmer to Knapp only fueled the flame and may be responsible for some of the effort by the Raiders to diffuse the issue.
Knapp's return to Oakland was met with much skepticism by fans who remembered Cable taking over play calling duties in 2008 (and being more productive than Knapp) after we had just 77 yards of total offense against Atlanta. The skepticism grew as it became apparent that 1) We were going to stick with the return to ZBS 2) There was no significant upgrade to the line and 3) DMC still has the same allergies to ZBS that he had in 2008. Knapp's offense is supposed to be run oriented but Palmer is currently on pace for 4500 yards of passing precisely because there is no running game. In addition, Knapp's play calling (outside the no huddle) is producing the exact same numbers as 2008. The line is struggling in week 7 with blocking while Miami, which converted to ZBS this year, had no problems running over us in week 2 for 175 yards. We have yet to have anyone rush for 100 yards. Everyone talks about the RB read in ZBS but no one talks about the most important thing for a back: confidence in the line. That's what affects their read more than anything else. If Suh is lined up anywhere near Smith, would you really run in that direction????? Would you look in that direction??? How about after the third time of being stuffed when you tried it?
Calls for patience are perfectly reasonable for a first year coach. However, it must be tempered with reason. McDaniels erratic actions of the first season did not mean a championship rebuild was underway. It apparently meant he had lost his mind. Let's see, the scandal was he wanted to get rid of Cutler for Cassel, the guy who was benched for Brady Quinn, a QB second only to Jamarcus Russell. Before they face us which means they really do believe he gives them the best chance of winning because they hate us too much. Cutler is still a starter. McDaniels was out after a 3-9 season the next year. So it would be wise for fans not to sign off on every hare-brained idea that comes down the pike. First year jitters aside, do your job.
Assuming, there are issues with the Knapp hiring, the question is how do we handle it? The first method is to pretend it isn't there. That's the official position and it's not without it's merits. Stability is one thing the organization needs if it wants to project the image of change. A firing with our record would project exactly the wrong image even if it was the right thing to do. The Knapp spin, after the Jags game, is precisely what we have to do as an organization. Spin everything back to the OC, even if it's irrelevant. Because the truth is, that the changes will have to be made in the locker room and on the field and not in the public eye.
That's why you keep Saunders. Or did we keep Bresnahan on as a consultant too? That's why you see no huddle in Pittsburgh, after getting screwed by Miami Vice in the second game. The opening was Palmer playing Pittsburgh twice a year and familiar with their offense. Made sense, didn't it? So Knapp puts out the connection in a press conference and 'voila', we see a no huddle offense win a game. Of course, it's familiarity that brought it on, right? Great, well we know we got an offense. Let's run with it to Denver??? Back to Atlanta?? More than 77 yards this time but still no win. Back to Oakland where we are facing the 1-4 Jags. The worst run defense in the entire league (when did Atlanta crack the top 25???). We should maul them. Little wary of MJD but he's out by the second quarter, which is good because the 31st ranked QB in the NFL has been shredding us like Manning. You would think it was Tarver that would be throwing the fit but of course, his players had been on the field 9 drives and he was tired. Knapp's players had only played 4 downs twice during the entire half so they were well rested and it made sense for him to throw the fit.
Knapp isn't the problem. The problem is what to do with Knapp. Firing Knapp creates it's own set of problems. Allen's challenge is to neutralize Knapp. Allen and RM have always known that. Saunders retention as a consultant, regardless of intent, has always afforded them an offensive philosophical shift to the prior offense without a severe disruption. Regardless of what the intent may have been, that lifeline has and continues to be available. Also, despite the public rhetoric, the PBS has always been available. Which is why the press conferences moving forward will contain more reference to things like man blocking, PBS or hybrid blocking scheme. While all of this is well and good, the real issue is the line and the caliber of players. This falls equally on Knapp and Allen's head for deciding to push through the ZBS given the problems. Allen will have to address that failure in the off season. His challenge for the next 10 games is to neutralize the negative impact of Knapp's role in the offense. He can't afford to rely on the no huddle. That's not an attempt to stand by his man. That's his realization that he's a Willie Smith missed block away from having to run the offense with Leinart or Pryor. If the only way we're getting points is no huddle, it ain't going to work.