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The tragic tale of Rolando & Raiders

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The Raiders have closed the book on Rolando McClain. That story was a tragic one which ended sooner than the team had hoped.

Rolando McClain mughshot after arrest in Decatur Alabama January 8, 2013
Rolando McClain mughshot after arrest in Decatur Alabama January 8, 2013

Our tale begins on the day of the 2010 NFL Draft in fair New York City. This is where we lay our scene and the moment this player, this team, and their collective fates would be forever intertwined.

1. Raiders draft Rolando McClain

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell takes the podium. "With the eigth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select Rolando McClain, linebacker, University of Alabama." It was a glorious day for Raiders fans. They got one of the best inside linebacker prospects in recent memory. Rolando McClain was the Butkus Award winning inside linebacker and team Captain for the National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

With McClain on board, the Raiders traded middle linebacker Kirk Morrison to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the right to move up into the fourth round so they could draft speedster receiver and return man, Jacoby Ford.

2. McClain begins his star-crossed love affair with the media and fans

With the media clamoring to speak with McClain as the newly ordained leader of the Raiders' defense and the team's top pick, he tells them he won't speak until the team sells out a game. The team does eventually sell out a game at which point he lays down another rule - he will only speak on Mondays. Evading speaking to the media (and therefore the fans) with BS reasons and stipulations was apparently the new standard for leadership in the Raiders' locker room.

3. Amendola body slam

In just his second regular season game with the Raiders, the 6-3 254 pound linebacker displayed his version of toughness when he body slammed 5-11, 183 pound wide receiver, Danny Amendola, to the turf. Amendola's forward progress had been stopped and McClain had him wrapped up, but that apparently wasn't enough. McClain then lifted the little slot receiver in the air WWE style and slammed him down. He, of course, was flagged for unnecessary roughness and a 15-yard penalty. He was later tagged with a $5000 fine by the league.

4. Sproles blown up

Danny Amendola is big compared to Darren Sproles. The little scat back stands at 5-6, 181 pounds. He was on the receiving end of McClain's next highlight hit. This one was actually a legal hit. It was easily the biggest hit McClain had in his three-year career with the team. It was late in McClain's rookie season. Sproles came out of the backfield and received a pass across the middle and as soon as he pulled it in, he turned up field and McClain laid the boom on him. McClain chose to go for the big hit instead of wrapping up and wow, did he ever lay down the big hit. It wasn't illegal as he used his shoulder and Sproles was not defenseless. Sproles left the game with a concussion and missed the following game as well.

5. Rolando shot at

While at home in Alabama in July of 2011, McClain's Chevy Tahoe was hit with gunfire. McClain says he saw a group of people standing on a corner, and one began randomly shooting at his SUV. He quickly alerted police after a bullet struck the rear of the vehicle. No suspects were ever found. This is the story element known as "foreshadowing".

6. Career high 12 tackles

Week three of the 2011 season, McClain posted a career-high 12 combined tackles (7 solo). Little did we know, that would be the only time he reached that feat. He had 10 tackles two other times for a total of 3 times in 3 years he reached double figures in tackles. For a comparison; Phillip Wheeler was in double figures in tackles 4 times last year alone (11, 11, 10, 10).

7. Al Davis passes away

This is significant because without Al Davis running the team, there was no one to step in and defend McClain's place on this team. He was the man who drafted him and he has always been the type of owner who insisted on the team playing the top picks even if they hadn't done anything to earn it. Darrius Heyward-Bey was the most glaring example of this in recent years.

8. Rolando arrested on assault, weapons charges

In the week leading up to the Raiders trip to Miami in week 13 of the 2011 season, McClain was excused from practice to attend his grandfather's funeral in his home town of Decatur Alabama. By Wednesday of that week, Rolando had been arrested. He was being charged with assault, menacing, reckless endangerment, and discharging a fire arm in city limits.

The alleged incident involved a supposed childhood friend. The alleged victim claimed McClain joined with his buddies in beating him up and then Rolando himself put a gun to the man's head, threatened to kill him and then fired off a round by his head. His arrest also gave us the infamous grin by McClain as he was being put in a squad car as well as his smug, smirking mugshot. His grandfather would have been so proud.


9. Hue Jackson leaves his team in Miami

The plan for McClain when he was excused from practice to head to Alabama was that he would meet up with the team in Miami afterward as they were set to play the Dolphins in week 13. Following his arrest, the expectation would be that McClain would incur some form of punishment for his actions. And no, I am not talking about his "alleged" actions. The parts of what happened that were never alleged were that of stupidity and irresponsibility. Regardless of what exactly happened, he was already guilty of putting himself in that situation. The result: He missed one play. One. Play.

Hue Jackson told the Raiders and the world that day there would be no consequences for their actions and that moment, he lost his team. He lost their respect and their desire. The Raiders were 7-5 heading into that game and they finished the season losing three of the next four games - the final game ended their playoff hopes.

10. New regime, new attitude

The man who drafted McClain had passed away. Now the man who coddled him and his staff were also gone. He would have to prove himself to be more than his troubles on and off the field would suggest. Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen were forced to answer repeatedly what they saw in McClain and what they expected from him. All answers suggested they saw the same potential in him that got him drafted so high but he had yet to show it on the field. They were going to let the case against him in Alabama play out, but they also were clearly not going to be giving him any free passes.

11. Rolando convicted on all four counts

On May 17, 2012, McClain's case for assault with a deadly weapon went to court. Not only did a video surface that showed the alleged victim being assaulted by several of McClain's posse but one of his co-defendants agreed to testify against him. With the evidence against McClain pretty strong, he was convicted on all counts by a judge in Alabama and sentenced to 180 days in jail.

McClain's lawyer appealed the ruling by requesting a trial by jury and before it could go to trial, the charges were dropped. Many times in situations like this, the accused will reach an out-of-court monetary settlement with the defendant. Those situations always include a confidentiality agreement which requires the defendant not to speak of any of the details of the case, including any such settlement. So, I guess we'll never know (but we kinda do know, don't we?).

12. Part timer

It took just four games into the season before the new coaching staff realized that Rolando was a liability in coverage. They took the bye week to make the transition and when they returned in week six, McClain saw about 50% of the plays on defense while fellow linebackers, Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris, were every down players. Along with this change, McClain also saw his play calling duties stripped. Wheeler was given the green dot helmet and he would receive the plays and line up his teammates. Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver had clearly lost they faith in McClain.

13. Record day for Doug Martin

One of the most embarrassing performances by the Raiders' defense last season came in a week nine game in Oakland versus the visiting Buccaneers. And no member of that Raiders' defense was more of an embarrassment than Rolando McClain. Rookie running back Doug Martin posted 251 yards rushing for the Buccaneers that day in front of a full house at coliseum.

On one of Martin's big runs, McClain completely lost track of the 'muscle hamster'. Martin was McClain's assignment and the little scat back went right around him and was gone for a 45-yard touchdown run. McClain later almost spitefully engaged in a block with the fullback which allowed Martin to break off a 67-yard touchdown run. He would later give up another 8-yard touchdown to Martin. And McClain did all this while playing just 58% of the snaps.

14. McClain suspended

Following week 11, McClain and Dennis Allen got into a verbal altercation that caused Allen to kick McClain out of practice at which point McClain was reported as saying "I got 4 million reasons not to care" referring to the amount of guaranteed money still remaining on his contract. McClain then stormed into the locker room in anger and soon took to facebook announcing he was no longer a Raider and how he is glad to finally be able to join a "real team". The Raiders didn't cut him as he had hoped would happen. In fact, his words on facebook only served to cost him a lot of money. The team suspended him for two games for conduct detrimental to the team.

15. Rolando the ghost

After serving his two-game suspension, it was thought the Raiders would waive the disgruntled linebacker. The problem with that was the salary cap ramifications. The league prohibits teams to go over the cap during the season and if McClain were to clear waivers, the dead money would instantly have put the Raiders over the cap. In addition, it would simply allow McClain to pick up with another team, perhaps a winning team, and get exactly what he wanted all along. The Raiders therefore kept him on the roster but made him inactive the final three games. He was forced to attempt practices with a team that no longer wanted him and had no intention of playing him and with teammates who knew he badmouthed them and didn't want him around anymore. The way he jogged through practice drills, you would have thought he was in a game and a running back had just ran by him.

16. "Fuck Yall" arrested (again)

The season officially ended for the Raiders on December 30. Nine days later, Rolando McClain was being arrested again. It was in Decatur Alabama again, too. He was pulled over for a minor window tint violation. For most people, this is a "fix-it ticket" - not for Rolando. When he signed the citation, he wrote "Fuck Yall" and was promptly arrested. He claimed later that basically everyone is out to get him. That's right, Rolando, it's never you; it's everyone else. Good ol' Fuck Yall, he's quite the character.

16. Freedom postponed

Come the first day of free agency, Rolando McClain was waiting for that phone call that would make him officially a free agent. That call didn't come. His agent would soon contact the Raiders and ask for his client's release but with little to gain from it, there was no reason for the Raiders to acquiesce to his request. The team instead took their time and hoped perhaps another team might step in and agree to take him off their hands in a trade. The trade offers never came.

17. The End

Nearly a month after the start of free agency, the Raiders finally waived Rolando McClain, thus ending his time in the land of Oak.

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;

The sun, on the morrow, will soon show its head:

Go hence, poor Rolando, to have more talk of these sad things

You have been often pardoned and rarely punished:

For never was a story of more woe

Than this of the Raiders and their Rolando.