Coming into the 2013 season, the Oakland Raiders were expected to be the worst team in the NFL due to a roster bereft of talent, but they managed to win four games and were significantly more competitive than expected. It wasn’t a good season in Oakland by any means, but the Raiders are trending in the right direction and were an intriguing team earlier in the year when Terrelle Pryor was electric with his strong arm and talented rushing. Pryor and the Raiders cooled since then and Pryor has a very long way to go in the readiness department, but he has such good physical tools that it’s tough not to try and believe in him for one more season. With some development and much better decision-making, Pryor could be a good quarterback in this league.
The Raiders have a big offseason ahead of them, as they will have to decide on their franchise QB, decide whether or not to keep Darren McFadden or Rashad Jennings (they could keep both, but the Raiders had better keep Jennings and let McFadden walk), re-sign their two best players who are set to hit free agency in Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer, and they will also have to make a big push to improve the overall health of the roster. Their defense has a severe lack of talent, particularly at corner, and they could afford to add another WR to the mix.
Critical months are ahead for the entire organization, but nobody will have more on their plate than GM Reggie McKenzie, who has plenty of critics. Some of that criticism is unfair, because McKenzie’s first job was to purge the bad contracts and he did a great job of clearing out cap space. That said, he has to do well this offseason with the space and opportunity to make savvy moves, and I think this is the offseason that will either make or break his career.
McKenzie isn’t just concerned about the offseason, though, he’s also concerned about the Raiders ability to win close games. It’s one thing to be in games, but it’s another to actually pull those games out and notch Ws.
Here’s what he said, via CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair, “Let’s figure out how to win games, the close games, especially. Let’s take a look at that and see what happens, whether we fix it, or get it turned around, however it gets done, so we can win one or two of those close ones.”
People can try and spin things and make it sound like it’s mostly Dennis Allen’s responsibility to pull out close wins, but I think it starts at the top. In order to win close games in this league, you need to have a good passing attack and a good pass defense (or a great pass D/O that makes up for a weak pass D/O). The Raiders? They have neither, and they were completely abysmal in coverage. The talent needs to change in order for the Raiders to start doing a better job of winning those games. Without good groceries, it’s going to be awfully tough for Allen to cook delectable dishes.