Just after the draft in April and before Raiders mini-camp, summer training camp and the opening game this season, new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said he took the job to make a long-term difference in the franchise.
“We want to build for the long haul,” he told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “I didn’t want to try to do a quick fix. But even in this building (process) it’s not a rebuilding. When you hear rebuilding, it’s OK, you know you’re going to lose a lot of games but you’re trying to get better for the future. …
“And that’s not what we’re doing. We want to win this year and we want to win early and often and we’re trying to put our team in that situation to where we can win early and often. Hopefully, we do.”
Yet more than halfway through this 2012 season, McKenzie’s best hopes for this season appear doomed.
That doesn’t mean that the GM and his coaching staff can’t turn the Raiders into a winning franchise “for the long haul.” That’s still possible. McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen both got high marks as up-and-coming professionals before they stepped foot in Oakland this year and deserve a chance to see what they can do over a longer span.
But it now appears starting their first season in the Bay Area with a winning hand was too much to hope for.
After getting blown away by the Ravens in Baltimore Sunday, 55-20, the Raiders are 3-6 and have a defense that seems to be getting worse rather than better. In its past two games, the defense has given up a total of 97 points and now faces the prospect of trying to stop Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
“It’s like a dam right now,” Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly told the Bay Area News Group after Sunday’s defeat. “You put your finger in one hole, two or three more holes pop up.”
The Raiders essentially started from scratch this season after firing coach Hue Jackson and his coaching staff after an 8-8 season that again left the team out of the playoffs.
McKenzie came in. Allen, a defensive-minded coach from the Broncos was hired. Some high-priced starters were ejected. There were very few draft choices left to stock the cupboard. And the team began this season with new offensive and defensive schemes and hoped for the best.
Lately, though, it’s been the worst. After playing well after their bye week – almost toppling the Falcons and then posting consecutive wins against the Jaguars and Chiefs – the Raiders have been punched in the face twice in a row in lopsided losses to the Bucs and Ravens.
It now appears those victories over the Jags and Chiefs might have been more about how bad those teams were than how much the Raiders had improved.
After Sunday’s loss in Baltimore, Allen told Kawakami that it’s his job to make this roster work. Whoever suits up in silver and black needs to do the job.
“At the end of the day, it’s my job to make sure that this team is ready to play and it’s my job to make sure that we execute our job on the football field,” he said. “We didn’t do that today. That ultimately lies with me.”
For now, all Allen can do is work hard, try to get his messages across and keep his players playing hard.
But after the season, McKenzie will have to start making some magic moves. He’ll have more draft choices and a year of player evaluations under his belt and a second chance to remake the roster in a way to give Allen some more weapons with which to work.
Winning “early and often” isn’t going to happen. But winning for the “long haul” is still feasible.