Everyone likes to blame the quarterbacks for lack of success. People are quick to point out that Pryor was a winner, and McGloin struggled to win games. The real story behind our ups and downs was the defense. When the defense played well in the first half of the season, we were winning games. When the defense's play declined in the 2nd half of the season, we struggled to even win a single game. Its been a common theme for the Raiders throughout the past decade to be "close until the 4th quarter, then we blow it". How many times have each of us said those words? The times we squeeze out wins weren't on game-winnning 2-min drives, they were on defensive stances: SD - 2 ints in the last 2 drives; PIT - int with 6 min left; HOU - turnover on downs; WAS and NYG were able to run the clock down on us, TEN and IND beat us because we couldn't stop their 2 min drives. We won and lost on the play of the defense. Our defense has rarely been balanced and good. When we were great against the pass, its because teams were running it all over us. If we could stop the run, we couldn't stop the pass.
Its foolish to ignore examples from around the league when constructing our blueprint. The Seahawks proved once again that defense wins championships, even if the other team has the greatest offense of all time. While those are at the extreme ends, I think a prototypical example to follow is San Francisco. Over the years they've built a superbowl caliber defense. Who, throughout 2 different QBs, 2 different kickers, and an aging RB, and a changing WR corps every year, were able to carry the team to 3 straight NFCCGs and a SB, and each of those losses came down to the last play of the game. Carolina is another great example. They went from 6-10 to 12-4 over the span of 2 years, largely because of the addition of key defensive players, all the while Cam Newton's production declined and efficiency remained about the same.
Draft and Free Agency:
So a time like this, when the canvas is blank and we have all the resources in the world, we have to set our priorities and create a blue-print. In my opinion, most of our effort should be put into defense. Our top 3-4 draft picks - all defensive players. Top 2 free agents - defensive players. Specifically I think we should target front-7 defensive talent. With free agency and the draft combined, I think we should acquire 4 new starters in the front 7, a DE, DT, and 2 LBs. I think 1 veteran CB would also help a great deal and I think we have safeties in-house.
So possible linebacking corps could look like: Barr-Roach-Moore, Barr-Roach-Orkapo, Orkapo-Roach-Moore, etc. Possible defensive lines could look like: Clowney-Melton-Sims-Houston, Houston-Sims-Melton-Allen, Allen-Sims-Hatcher-Houston, Clowney-Sims-Hatcher-Houston, etc. Any of those LB/DL combinations combined would mean a very formidable front 7 that would not only be able to shut-down the run, but rush the passer as well. Two of our biggest weaknesses on defense last year.
What to do with Offense:
If we can accept that the chances of a winning season are very slim, and that 'rebuilding' following the 'deconstruction' should take at least 2-3 years, then we don't have to rush to get a QB or WR. I think having a great offense with a good QB is the fastest way to the playoffs. Guys like Brees, Rodgers, Manning, Brady, will always be in the playoffs. If your goal is simply to make the playoffs, then sure. If your goal is to win the superbowl and build a dynasty, then the foundation of the team must be defense and running-game. There is simply no way around it. Even the best QBs in the league, if not best ever, have failed to win superbowls without a defense and running game. Yet a great defense and running game have won superbowls with average to above average QBs, and their success has been more sustainable as their QBs don't require mega-contracts tying the team up. Which is why you see the Steelers and Giants with multiple superbowls, and early 00's Patriots win multiple superbowls when Brady wasn't yet an elite QB.
As for our current situation, I think McGloin is servicable. If you project his stats to a full season of attempts, he's basically a cheaper Carson Palmer. His Total QBR paints a similar picture. His work ethic is undeniable, and with a season under his belt and a full off-season to improve, he will at minimum be slightly better and best case scenario step up to be a decent starter. Another option is a cheap veteran like Freeman or Sanchez. Sanchez would reunite with his old QB Coach from NY earlier in his career when he was successful, and Freeman would reunite with his old OC Olson. Both have shown flashes of being good QBs in the past and these connections set them up best for success. And absolute worst case scanario, we can look at Mariota or Winston next year, if our defense proves to be formidable. Although personally I would prefer us taking defensive players every year until we become a championship caliber defense.
I love Bridgewater and Manziel as draft prospects but the point of this post is basically to express my opinion that having a great defense sets us up better for sustained long-term success than a great QB. Lastly, I apologize for the relatively unorganized post and terrible writing quality. I'm not a writer and I just sorta spat out my thoughts without organizing them first.