By Ryan Leong
For years, many Raiders fans thought the reason the team struggled to recapture its past glory was because Al Davis had control of the entire organization. The team seemed to be at its peak during the late 90’s when Bruce Allen was the senior executive and Jon Gruden was the head coach. In fact, Allen received the George Young executive of the year award in 2002, the last year the Raiders had a winning record, culminating with an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII.
So after Al Davis passed away, the following off-season owner Mark Davis did the exact opposite of his father. He decided to hire former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie as general manager, the team’s first since Al himself in 1963. McKenzie hired Dennis Allen for his first career head coaching position and both are struggling with the team sitting at 3-7 and mired in a three game losing streak.
The team was supposed to be ‘defensive’ minded, but during this current three-game losing streak, the Raiders have allowed 135 points, second-most in team history over a three-game span — the most since 1961, when the team was just 2-12.
McKenzie inherited a messy situation from former head coach Hue Jackson. Last year, the Raiders got off to a 7-4 start but lost four of their final five games to finish with a second straight 8-8 record.
At that time, Jackson took a huge gamble mortgaging the team’s future by making a blockbuster trade for quarterback Carson Palmer in exchange for the team’s first round pick in 2012 and second round pick in 2013. Jackson had basically taken complete control of the organization but because of the team’s inability to make the playoffs since 2002. McKenzie decided not to retain him and began a long process to overhaul the organization.
But under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the team has regressed. Last year, the Raiders ranked seventh in rushing and this year under Knapp and his zone blocking scheme, they’ve dropped down to 31st, second to last in the NFL. That scheme just didn’t work as protection for running back Darren McFadden, who requested the coaching staff start going back to a power blocking scheme that more suited McFadden. The coaches had also implemented a west coast offense that just didn’t work for Palmer.
Sure, they trimmed some of the fat by releasing overpaid players like cornerback Stanford Routt and linebacker Kamerion Wembley in order to fit into the salary cap. But many remain, like Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly who have both underperformed given their salaries.
The losing reached such a low point that Mark Davis made a rare appearance in the locker room following Sunday’s defeat and spoke to reporters for several minutes.
Coach Allen in his Monday presser echoed the owner’s frustrations.
“I’m right there with him. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed,” Allen said. “You wake up this morning and your gut hurts, but at the same time, when a man gets knocked down, a man gets up and fights. That’s exactly what we intend to do. I understand his frustration. I can appreciate that. Let me tell you, there’s nobody that’s going to work any harder to get it corrected than I will.”
There is no easy solution, players are under contract for the year and Allen himself was inked to a four-year contract. All the team can do for now is to continue to work collectively to turn things around and hope they can get on another winning streak.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.