This is the time of the year when bad NFL teams turn the standings upside down to see where they are in the race for the No. 1 draft pick. The Raiders won’t even win that one because this is a vintage year for really bad NFL teams.
Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Kansas City — the Raiders’ Sunday opponent at the Coliseum — all appear to be worse teams. Tennessee seemed to be for a time, but the Titans have righted themselves.
But when it comes to being consistently bad, nobody is in a class with the Raiders. Last year they set the dubious NFL record of six straight seasons with double digit losses. This year they’ll extend that record. At best, they’ll be 5-11. More likely, they’ll
It’s not hard to see the problem. Successful NFL franchises have a general manager who gets good players, a good coach, a topflight quarterback and an owner who stays out of the way.
The Raiders strike out on all of those.
Al Davis acts as both the owner and general manager and he has created a toxic atmosphere. Once, free agents would talk about how happy they were to sign with the Raiders and talk to “Mr. Davis.” No longer. After the last game, Richard Seymour may head straight from the field to the airport.
Tom Cable is a running gag line as a coach. Nobody in the NFL ever considered this stiff to be a head coaching candidate, but Davis hired him because he would do exactly what he was told. Cable is still in place despite the latest allegations of physical abuse from a former wife and girlfriend.
In fact, Davis has little choice. No reputable NFL coach will come to Oakland, nor will any young college coach, despite the ridiculous rumors that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh might.
Davis hired two assistants who know the passing game, Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner, to work with quarterback JaMarcus Russell but it’s made little difference. Russell has a strong arm but he’s inaccurate on the long passes Davis wants because he throws off his back foot. He makes bad decisions, calls the wrong formations, practices poorly — and won’t accept responsibility for his errors.
He has done nothing to show that he will ever be a good NFL quarterback.
Russell is an example of one of the biggest problems the Raiders make: Mistakes on high draft picks. That’s on Davis because he makes the call on the first two rounds; he listens to his scouting staff on later picks and the Raiders have made some good choices in later rounds. The last three first-round picks, all no worse than seventh, have been Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
McFadden was a good choice but he’s had injury problems and the offensive system Davis favors, with backs running inside, is better suited to Justin Fargas. McFadden should be running wide or taking passes out of the backfield, so he could use his open field running ability.
Davis drafted Heyward-Bey because of his speed, but speed doesn’t help a receiver who can’t hang on to the ball. Heyward-Bey was an inconsistent receiver in college and he still is.
So, the beat continues. The other bad NFL teams can reasonably hope to get better. With Davis in charge, the Raiders have no such hope.