It’s Sept. 14, second week of the NFL season — the Raiders are at Kansas City. Fourth quarter, 2:44 left, Oakland trails 24-20 and has a fourth down and 1 at the K.C. 37. A field goal does no good. Lane Kiffin sends Darren McFadden, his 6-foot-2, 215-pound prized rookie running back, into the middle of the line looking for a first down.
At the line of scrimmage, Kansas City’s monstrous rookie defensive tackle, Glenn Dorsey, explodes off the snap, propelling every one of his 315 pounds into the Raiders’ center-guard gap, grinning widely through his mouthpiece and looking for blood.
McFadden takes the handoff and surges forward and, spotting the massive Dorsey immediately, makes a lightening quick jab-step to the outside. Dorsey, entrenched in the A-gap after shedding two blockers, isn’t biting.
Needing just a yard, and not wanting to dance his way to a loss, McFadden commits himself to the play call and lowers his powerful shoulder. Dorsey angrily greets him at the line of scrimmage, and the two collide …
And then we’ll know.
Did the Raiders make the right decision in passing on the most dominant run-stuffing ogre to hit the NFL draft in years? Or did the team with the second-worst run defense last season, enamored by the game-breakingpotential of the can’t-miss kid from Arkansas, lose the most important piece of their seemingly perpetual rebuilding puzzle?
The way they tell it in Alameda, it wasn’t even a tough call. They had decided on McFadden months ago, and were even willing to part with more picks or players if that’s what it took to move up to get him. Although sporting a healthy stable full of tailbacks already, including a 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago, Al Davis saw a Bo Jackson-Marcus Allen (or perhaps Adrian Peterson?) type talent, and just knew he had to have him. And it’s certainly hard to argue with him.
If McFadden, who has the sort of freakish combination of size, power and speed that makes NFL scouts drool, is everything he is purported to be, then it’s worth ignoring the team’s more glaring needs to add him to the roster. Look at it this way: If a Kobe Bryant or a Michael Jordan is available to an NBA executive, you don’t pass him up because you already have a couple of competent shooting guards and are in need of a center. And that’s exactly the position the Raiders were in. Justin Fargas, Dominick Rhodes, Lamont Jordan — they’re all competent backs. Michael Bush may or may not be more than that — we just haven’t had a chance to find out. But McFadden is widely believed to be a franchise back, and you don’t pass up franchise players.
On the other hand, the decision to bring McFadden to Oakland allowed a division rival to snatch up the guy that many feel was the best overall player in the draft. Kansas City wasted no time in choosing Dorsey to give their thin defensive line instant credibility, and he’ll have shots at McFadden twice a year for the next decade. More importantly, the Chiefs seem to realize something that the Raiders don’t want to accept: that in order to compete in the AFC West, you have to stop the run. Having been tortured for years by the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and whomever the Denver Broncos choose to be their 1,000 rusher of the moment, the Raiders should at least have considered the possibility of taking Dorsey. But the explanations coming from Raiders’ camp tell us they never seriously considered him. It was McFadden or bust.
So will Davis and Kiffin come to regret the decision? We’ll see — when it’s Nov. 30 — 12th week of the NFL season. Chiefs at Raiders. Kansas City with a fourth and 1 on the Oakland 37, down by four with 2:44 left. Larry Johnson thunders straight ahead and encounters not Dorsey, but Tommy Kelly. They meet at the line of scrimmage, and the two collide …
Then we’ll know.