The Best Departure award goes to the player whose leaving actually improved the play of the team. Addition by subtraction, if you will. There are not always players who fit this category, however, and usually the award would go to someone who left in the off-season as a free agent or trade. Not this time.
Best departure - Rolando McClain
Or "Fuck y'all" as he prefers to be called. The term "cancer" is one that can be overused in sports. But rarely is it more appropriate than when describing this piece of work.
Since the day he walked in the door as the Raiders' 8th overall pick in 2010, he has acted entitled. And he has gotten worse every day since then.
While Al Davis was still in charge of the team and Hue Jackson was busy catering to the whims of his players, McClain's antics were allowed to slide. He was allowed to be evasive with the media and fans despite being the middle linebacker and therefore the expected leader of the defense. And his play was allowed to be so-so because of the immense "potential" which lied in that big, athletically gifted body of his.
After his rookie season, the sky seemed to still be the limit. The defense had begun playing well near the end of the season and helped them to finish with their first non-losing season in eight years.
The 2011 season began well too. The Raiders jumped out to a 7-4 start even with the loss of Jason Campbell for the season and the rough two games that saw Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer combine for nine interceptions. They were on the heels of a three-game win streak and in week 13, everything fell apart.
Hmm, why does week 13 sound so familiar? Oh yeah, that's the week McClain was allowed to miss the week of practice to attend his grandfather's funeral and while he was at home in Alabama, he and his buddies assaulted a guy and Rolando put a gun to his head and then fired off a round by the side of his head... allegedly.
The plan that week was for McClain to mourn the loss of his grandfather and re-join the team in Miami that weekend. The news of his misdeeds and the embarrassing pictures and mugshot that accompanied them, were all over the news. It seemed McClain was in for some real trouble. What was his punishment? One snap... One. Snap. Darryl Blackstock was given the official start by taking the first snap and McClain was sent in for the remainder of the game after that.
The Raiders would get destroyed in that game by the Dolphins. Demoralized even. Then again, McClain had demoralized them before they even set foot on the field. Then their coach further demoralized them by allowing him to play. The Raiders would lose four of the final five games and miss the playoffs.
With the end of the season came the dismissal of Hue Jackson and a restructuring of the front office and coaching staff. The last remnants of those who changed little Rolandito's diapers were now gone and there would be no one there to wipe his little behind if/when he crapped his pants again.
The coaching staff was asked a great deal about what their plans were with regard to McClain. After all, at the time, his possible second conviction and/or suspension was looming for the four charges he was appealing. The coaches spoke in carefully worded phrases that all suggested McClain had immense talent but had yet to show it.
The staff gave McClain four games to show he could live up to the talent they believed/hoped he had. The Raiders went 1-3 in those games while giving up an average of over 31 points per game. The staff deduced that taking McClain out on passing downs would be solution. They did just that and with the middle linebacker off the field for the greater percentage of the snaps, the Raiders nearly beat the then undefeated Falcons. Then they rattled off two straight wins.
That party wouldn't last as the Raiders had a tough stretch ahead and teams realized they had to find new weak areas to target without good ol' faithful Rolando to jog behind the play. But his influence on this defense was still present which made all the difference and the Raiders lost the next four games while giving up an average of over 42 points per game. After week 12, they were the only team in the NFL giving up an average of over 31 points per game. It was time for a change and McClain served up that change on a Silver & Black platter.
That week in practice he and Dennis Allen got into a verbal altercation which caused Allen to kick him out of practice. He was reported to have said "I got 4 million reasons not to care" either as part of the argument or a parting remark. He then took to facebook and announced he was no longer a Raiders and looking forward to joining a "real team".
The Raiders didn't cut him for this. No one was going to scoop this turd up off waivers and the salary cap ramifications made it impossible to cut him outright. They opted to take some money from him by virtue of a two-game suspension. Then left him in limbo on the inactive list the remaining three games of the season.
That was the entire month of December in which the Raiders defense experienced a resurgence. Over that month, they were the fourth ranked defense in the NFL while holding the Broncos to one of their lowest point totals of the season, shutting out the Chiefs, and holding the high-scoring Panthers offense to 17 points. It was clear, once again, that this team is much better without Rolando McClain on the field. Which means, it will be far better still with him nowhere near it next season.
Best Departure with a bullet.