Sometimes, football doesn’t seem fair.
Darren McFadden has everything an NFL running back needs: size, speed, the ability to cut on a dime and a burst that can leave defensive backs in his wake. Yet the durability he showed as a star at the University of Arkansas – when he had 609 carries for 3,477 yards over his final two seasons – disappeared as a pro.
Now, McFadden will likely disappear from the Raiders.
McFadden, who came back from injury to play vs. the Chargers this past weekend, will likely suit up for the last time in a Raiders uniform this Sunday against the Denver Broncos at O.co Coliseum.
The six-year, $60 million contract he signed as the No. 4 overall pick of the Raiders in the 2008 draft will run out, and the Raiders are expected to let him walk. Not because he couldn’t produce, because he could. As he showed in 2010 when he was healthy, McFadden can be terrific. That season, he rushed for 1,157 yards and seven TDs and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
But this stat is the important one: Of 95 possible games McFadden could have played in, he’s appeared in just 66. Almost 30 times, the Raiders have had to look elsewhere for a running back, and they just can’t afford to do that anymore. Especially not when Rashad Jennings has stepped in at a much lower cost this season to become a reliable, consistent performer. Especially when other options in the draft and free agency will be available this coming offseason.
In a pending offseason of many more moves for this rebuilding team, McFadden’s exit seems one of the few certainties.
Recently, McFadden was asked if he looks upon 2013 as another lost season. After playing in just nine games, after all, it wasn’t the big season he needed in his contract year.
“I feel that way, but at the same time there’s nothing I can do about that,” he told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “That time is gone. I can only move forward.”
McFadden told Tafur that he’s thought about the fact Sunday’s game could be the last time he pulls on his silver and black No. 20 jersey. A career that began with so much hope and optimism will come to a disappointing end.
“I would love to be a Raider next year, but I can only focus on the things that I can control,” McFadden told Tafur.
The Raiders will move on without McFadden, and McFadden will have to move on to re-energize his career in another city. Someone else is bound to take a chance on him. He’s still big, strong and fast. Many general managers and coaches will look at him and think, “Well, if he’s healthy for 16 games, he’d be great.” And they’d be right. But in six years he’s averaged 11 games per season.
McFadden says he’ll just try to move forward.
“It’s hard to deal with, but at the same time I feel like I’m built for this,” he told Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group. “I’m cut out for this. Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s always been my motto.”