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The 2012 season was about as disappointing of a season as it could be but was it an anomaly or a sign of seasons to come? How much of the damage that was done is permanent and how much was actually helpful in the long run?
There is reason to believe a lot of the damage from this past season is going to help the team in the long run. The inexperience of the new regime did this season in and now they have to learn from what went wrong. The young coaches the Raiders have are more than capable of learning from their mistakes and it will be interesting to see where they go from here.
The biggest blunder of course was the hiring of Greg Knapp. There was nothing at all impressive about what Knapp did with this offense, except of course being impressed at his propensity for ineptitude. He was clearly the wrong decision for this team and there were plenty of reasons why many Raiders fans felt doomed the moment he was announced as the hire.
Greg Knapp being fired is one of the primary reasons that I believe that this new regime is going to be able to learn from their mistakes. There was no doubt that Knapp had to go and the team acted swiftly at season's end in rectifying this mistake.
One could argue that if they really were capable of learning from their mistakes with Knapp they would have fired him mid-season and let Al Saunders take over. However, that would have appeared more like Dennis Allen was throwing Knapp under the bus and he wanted to see if the offense could improve and he could earn a spot on the staff next year. He did the same thing with Jason Tarver but the difference was Tarver earned his spot on the staff for 2013.
Another major damage was the regressing of one of the best running backs in the league in Darren McFadden. He has proven his talents in previous years but that the staff of 2012 failed him.
McFadden doesn't earn an all out pass for this year because he is too good to have been so ineffective but we have witnessed that ineffectiveness was due to a complete lack of creativity in the offense and the failure to convert to the Zone Blocking Scheme.
There are times it has seemed maybe the Raiders would be better off trading Darren McFadden due to his major injury problems but realistically those injury problems also limit how good of an offer the team would get for him.
A healthy productive Darren McFadden is worthy of a first round pick but an injury prone running back coming off a bad season is not primed to bring in serious compensation. Due to the lack of value in trading him DMC it appears more likely he would be back next season. If he is coming back then the OC needs to understand what works and what doesn't in regards to McFadden.
This staff is already showing signs of having learned from that mistake as well though. One of the first things that Dennis Allen said about the next offensive coordinator search is that he is not tied to any system. This was an important acknowledgement that this team did not fit what he wanted to do and he is willing to listen to better alternatives. He knows that McFadden is a huge talent that was not used properly this past season and now he wants to find an OC that will make a system that works with DMC.
As our new contributor here at Silver & Black Pride James Arcellana pointed out, the Raiders need a creative play caller who can make his system fit the players and not the other way around. Raider Nation already saw what trying to force a system on the players does, and it was not pretty. This needs to be key on finding a new coordinator and DA's comment that he is not tied to any system is a sign that he did learn that lesson.
The Raiders defense was supposed to be much improved this year but for most of the year it was even worse than the monstrosity that was Chuck Bresnahan's defense. It appeared adding a defensive head coach had actually hurt the team and that major damages were being done. By the end of the season though it was already a different story with the defense and the Raiders definitely have some momentum on that side of the team going into next season.
The biggest difference for the defense as it developed was the removal of the tumor that was Rolando McClain. This was a major step forward for this team on many different levels. One level of it helping was addition by subtraction.
Rolando was not making plays on the field and he was actually bringing the defense down. Removing his playcalling duties made the team better, and then removing him from the field altogether made the defense flourish. There is no denying that as the team saw less of McClain on the field they performed better.
A whole new level of how McClain's removal helped this team though is in terms of discipline and respect. In years past this type of player may have been placated and left to sulk like a child without any real punishment. It is clear that the old way of ignoring problems is no longer the accepted protocol. This time the team made sure McClain felt it in his wallet for his unacceptable behavior.
The message was sent to the entire team that players need to respect this team and their coach. The other players saw McClain lose two game checks for his outburst and then be inactive for the rest of the year. They know if they don't want to also fall by the wayside they will need to respect the team and keep their behavior in check. This is a major step forward in creating the disciplined team that Dennis Allen wants.
The worst damage that happened in 2013 may not be to the team, but rather the fans. Many fans have lost faith in the new direction of the team and the people running it because of how bad of a year it was. This is going to be very difficult to overcome but there is one clear cut way of doing so -- WINNING!
Winning solves problems in sports quicker than anything else and if this team can come together next year with a renewed vigor, the worst damage of the 2012 season can be overcome too.
This team regressed last year after two straight 8-8 seasons. The fans were hurt the most about this because we fans have already gone through so much with this team. It looked like they were getting where we want them to be only to be tossed back into this dismal mess. It is important though to try and look at it as whether the team can learn from the season they just went through or not.
For years they were doomed to repeating the same mistakes with no real justification besides blind hope for feeling things could get better. When I look at 2013 I see things that the team is already learning from and that is something of substance to believe in for next year.
The damages done in 2012 are mostly things that are going to help this team in the long run and they are already working hard at fixing them. This team should be better next year and there are real reasons to believe so.