Division Winner? No, and there isn’t a person on the planet beyond a handful of blindingly die-hard Raiders fans who thought it would happen any other way. In the midst of transitions from the top (the death of Al Davis and his son taking over the job) to the middle (new head coach Dennis Allen, formerly defensive coordinator of the Broncos, etc) and, of course, down to the field itself. The senior and deceased Davis, despite a passion for his Raiders that never waned, was simply inept at managing the entirety of the organization, and numerous draft blunders mixed with hefty contracts had the team digging out of a self-imposed black hole. If all this internal moving and shaking wasn’t enough, the other three teams in the AFC West made the playoffs in 2013. If ever the deck was totally stacked against a team…
Milestones Of 2013: Most of these came well before the season started, as Allen and new GM Reggie McKenzie began the arduous process of working the roster (and, in turn, the salary cap) to meet future needs. Their balancing act has turned a disastrous situation into the league’s most bountiful heading into 2014, as the team began free agency this year with nearly 65 million dollars to spend, an unheard of number in the history of the league. Now, what they’ve done with it so far is suspect, but we’ll get to that soon.
When looking back at the team’s 2013 season, it was readily apparent that no actual judgment of the new coaching staff could be made. No, it was the roster, a collection of low draft picks, cast-offs from other teams and a lingering mix of former Oakland draftees that either lived up to their promise or didn’t. The entire season was a test of each person on the roster, and as it stands, the majority of them failed.
At the top of the roster, there’s no telling if Terrelle Pryor is the long-term solution at QB. His play was sporadic, and injuries caused the younger Matt McGloin to start and, like Pryor, show the same growing pains. With two young men battling at the position, drafting another QB in the early rounds of the draft will come with a fair amount of criticism, but it’s hard to gauge just what they have after one year of mixed results.
Elsewhere, Darren McFadden was once again plagued by injuries, inconsistency and a below average offensive line. His reward? A new (cheap) one-year contract. Rashad Jennings, a surprise tailback who stepped up and produced much more than McFadden, is now a Jacksonville Jaguar. Go figure.
The almost total lack of production at the receiving positions, including tight end, is both a symptom of lack of quality QB play and a consistent running game as much as it is a reflection of the lack of talent overall. The offensive line has a couple of key pieces…wait, had a couple. Now, center Stefen Wisniewski is the only proven starter as LT Jared Veldheer, who impressed in limited work, is off to Arizona.
The defense? Equally bad, and not much better after free agency stripped them of most of their production. Veteran Charles Woodson provided a major boost in leadership and, in a true reflection of how bad this defense is, a big boost in production in the secondary, but beyond him and Lamarr Houston (now a Chicago Bear), the defense was a mix of middle-of-the-road veterans and rookies trying to adapt to the NFL level.
Hey, Sebastian Janikowski still has the biggest leg in football, though. In yet another reflection of how bad this year was for the team, however, he missed 4 out of his 7 attempts from 50+ yards.
The Season In Review
After five games, the Raiders actually appeared to be in fighting form, sitting at 2-3 with a divisional win over the Chargers and only one lopsided loss (against Denver, forgivable for most teams in 2013). For a variety of reasons, many of which are pure speculation (losing the will to fight, fighting for a lost cause, what have you), the rest of the year would be a series of let downs broken up by only two more victories.
A loss to the Chiefs, a bye week to collect themselves, and a solid win over the Steelers had the Raiders at 3-4. Respectable for their circumstances, but at this point, both the Broncos and Chiefs were undefeated and the writing was on the wall for the Raiders season. Oakland was drubbed by Philadelphia, 48-20, and followed it up with a loss to the lowly Giants and what would be their last win, a squeaker over the shockingly inept Texans.
The last six games would all be losses, some close, some nowhere near close (at the hands of their divisional foes in Kansas City and Denver), and all of them putting a frame around the Oakland Raiders of 2013: fighting, but getting nowhere. A team still stuck in the quicksand of so many years of terrible management. But the fight was more important than the results, of that you can be sure. It was just ‘one of those years’, as they say.
The offseason, as of now, has been an utter disaster for the Raiders. Their incredible amount of cap space has been either squandered on past-their-prime or nowhere-near-prime free agents or simply left off the negotiating table for so many quality free agents who would have represented true improvement for the team. The one move that seemed to make sense, a contract agreement with Rams OT Roger Saffold, fell apart after Oakland deemed his physical inspection a failure. Saffold immediately signed a long-term deal with the Rams shortly thereafter, which begs serious questions about both the Raiders’ brass and the Rams’, whose 2013 wasn’t all that much better in comparison.
Minor free agent improvements aside, this year’s draft is one of the most pivotal in the Raiders’ history. An influx of young talent is exactly what this team needs to succeed, and they need more of it than almost any other squad in the league. With questions at virtually every position on the roster, they can only mess this up with bad scouting and management, and they’ve been very eager to show, at the very least, that their management isn’t ready to be dubbed “good” as of now. Especially not after giving money to Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley (Steelers) and Antonio Smith (Houston), three players on the back-ends of productive careers. Aside from snagging guard Austin Howard from the Jets (and overpaying him in the process), nothing the team has done so far has made sense, not from a financial standpoint, and especially lacking in the “let’s keep what we have and know works” mentality.
QB – D+
HB – C+
WR – D-
TE – D-
OL – C-
DL – C+
LB – D+
CB – D
FS/SS – C+
K/P – B-
KR/PR – D
Team MVP: Rashad Jennings, RB
Offensive MVP: Marcell Reece, FB/TE
Defensive MVP: Charles Woodson, FS
Rookie Of The Year: Mychal Rivera, TE
Biggest Disappointment Of 2013: Darren McFadden (WHY IS HE STILL IN OAKLAND?)
Very Early 2014 Projection: 3-13, No Postseason Berth