As far back as September, fans and the Bay Area media were questioning the Raiders offense, with the No. 1 query being this:
How could a team with one of the best running backs in the league in Darren McFadden be so bad at running the football?
As columnist Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group wrote on Sept. 16:
“They can’t run. Whether it’s the zone blocking system of (offensive coordinator) Greg Knapp or a lack of talent, I’m not sure. But they could run under Hue Jackson and Tom Cable, and now they are dead in the water on the ground.”
Now, about 3½ months later, it’s expected that Knapp will pay for that failure with his job.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur, who reported this past weekend that head coach Dennis Allen likely will be back for another season after a 4-12 debut year, wrote after Sunday’s loss to the Chargers that the Raiders will fire Knapp and possibly other members of the coaching staff.
If so, it will be Strike 2 for Knapp with the Raiders, who also fired him after he served as offensive coordinator in 2007-08.
The Raiders went into their final regular-season game ranked 29th in the league in rushing, and were again unable to consistently run the ball on the Chargers.
McFadden carried 19 times for just 57 yards and finished this season with a woeful average per carry of 3.3 yards, the worst of his five-year NFL career.
Over the previous two seasons, by comparison, running behind an offensive line that used a power-blocking scheme, McFadden averaged 5.4 and 5.2 yards per carry.
After Sunday’s game, McFadden was asked about his team’s poor season-long running game and didn’t want to address the issue.
“I don’t want to speak on it anymore,” he told Tafur. “It is what it is. The season is over now. I am just looking forward to next year.”
McFadden, who has one more year on his contract, is expected to return for 2013. So is starting quarterback Carson Palmer, who missed Sunday’s finale with an injury.
Now, too, expected back is Allen, who completed the first season in a four-year deal given to him by general manager Reggie McKenzie. While the Raiders have officially not said anything about the status of Allen or Knapp, sources have told Tafur and others that McKenzie and owner Mark Davis believe Allen deserves another year to build on what he started this season.
For an organization that fired Cable and Jackson the past two years, sticking with Allen would be a good move as far as the team is concerned. After so much instability in recent years, keeping a head coach – even if some of his assistants disappear – is considered a positive.
Said receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to Tafur: “It would be nice to have the same coach back for a second year.” Added tackle Khalif Barnes: “It would be huge to not have a new coach come in again. You want some familiarity and solidarity going into training camp, and not have to learn something new all over again.”
Then again, a return to the power-blocking scheme used before Knapp’s arrival might be one change players would welcome.