The Raiders were an exercise in unevenness in 2011. There were pre-season expectations and subsequent failures, drama and dead people, a quarterback switcheroo, and all the chaos that seems to follow Raider Nation on an annual basis.
You can’t say the Raiders don’t try every year. They brought in a new head coach, attempted to patch up the defensive holes, and made the pretty ballsy-slash-risky acquisition of Carson Palmer when a broken collarbone buried Jason Campbell mid-season. Palmer had a handful of solid outings, but ended up throwing too many footballs at the guys in the wrong-colored hats to be truly effective.
Oakland matched 2010 with another 8-8 finish in this rather cruddy division that we are forced to discuss due to football blog bi-laws. They see-sawed through the schedule, opening the year with win-loss-win-loss, then hitting a snag shortly after Al Davis’ death, going brutal loss-bye-brutal loss, then temporarily recovering by going win-win-win, then falling back to turf with loss-loss-loss before finishing the season (to balance things out) win-loss. That’s not very scientific analysis, but it seems to exemplify the inconsistency that plagued the team.
Maybe deservedly, they were ousted from playoff contention in week 17, at home, in an uninspired 38-26 loss to San Diego. Depressing for fans, but let’s face it: they didn’t have the necessary playoff tools and likely would have gotten thrashed no matter who they were matched up with in the postseason. If you don’t agree, you probably have silver spikes flanking your ears as we speak.
To make this recap more enjoyable/painful, I recommend reading the rest of it out loud in Chris Berman’s constipated death-wheeze. SO HEAH IT IZZZ. THA RAIDAZ RETROSPECTIV.
Season Highlight: The death of Al Davis. BOO! HISS! JEER! TOO SOON JERKFACE! Ok, enough, mom. I don’t intend to trample on the memories of the deceased. Davis was a maverick owner; he did great things for the game, and is no doubt one of the most important, if not the most important owner in league history. But his declining age and legendary stubbornness was affecting his ability to make rational team decisions. We all knew the only way that the organization was going to turn around was if he departed. And we also knew he wasn’t going to relinquish his iron rule unless death took him or Jamarcus Russell sat on him and tied him to a rocket headed to Neptune.
Season Lowlight: Bet you thought I was going to say “the death of Al Davis,” just to be clever. Well, in the words of Buford Tannen, “You thought wrong, dude!” The lowlight, although there were several to choose from, is probably the three-game skid in weeks 12-14 that left them begging at the door for a wild-card slot. It looked like they had turned things around with a winning three-game run coming in, but it was not to be. They weren’t easy games, as they had to deal with both Chicago and Green Bay, but the beat down applied by the Dolphins was unnecessary and ugly, and it ended up costing them postseason (cough) glory.
Team MVP: Bleechh. I have to pick a kicker. It’s a bummer but it’s true. Janikowski was awesome. The Raiders couldn’t seem to ever get the ball in the end zone, so they had to rely on Janikowski’s powerful boots to put them on the scoreboard. He nailed seven out of ten from 50+ yards, and only missed a single field goal of less than 50 all year. He also pitched in a franchise-record 6 FGs in the Bears loss.
Needs: The linebackers overhaul that management deployed in 2010 hasn’t gone very well. So there’s that. They could use a good No.2 receiver to compliment Darrius Heyward-Bay, which might help alleviate some of their inability to get into the end zone. The situation at cornerback was just flat-out sad (which seems to be a theme with nearly every team I write about). I don’t know. Hopefully newly-christened GM, Reggie McKenzie, will shed the Raiders’ notorious tendency for draft-day failure, not to mention lure potential free agents to come to the Bay Area, here in the post-tyrannical, post-Davis era.
What’s a Raiders Fan Drinking These Days?: How ‘bout a little malt liquor bender? Colt? Mickey’s? the always-regal Olde English 800? These beverages speak of going nowhere, yet whilst in their grip, can convince one that sunny days are just around the corner. Obviously, pouring out a little for Al before indulging.
Jango Scale of Scandal Likelihood:
Usually I’d say high, because much like the famed Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels, you never know what’s gonna go down when these guys show up in one place. But this year, we’ll bet low. They’re trying to right the ship and I have a feeling that dissent and stupidity will not be tolerated by the new staff.
Entirely Too-Early Prediction for 2012: Big changes are happening in Oakland. It’s tough to say how a new coaching staff and new upper management will adjust, but it’s likely things won’t get worse. The Raiders set an NFL record for penalties in 2011, and that points to preparedness and attitude, read: coaching. And then there’s the advantage of playing in the feeble AFC West. Look for the Raiders to improve slightly, but still have growing pains (Like the TV show! Man that show kicked ass. Kirk Cameron was all ‘ehhh, I’m too cool to care, bro, ain’t it bitchin?’ Oh yes it is, Kirk.) Anyway, I wave my wizard staff and proclaim a 9-7 finish, but they once again fall short of the playoffs.
Editor’s note: Prepare for tomorrow when Joe Schmidt takes on the Chargers! We figure it will start off slow, then really gain some steam before fizzling out at the end.