Yeah, but: Knapp hiring has many points, counter-points


Yeah, but: Knapp hiring has many points, counter-points

The Raiders reboot is in full effect.It's no secret that I have endorsed -- heartily -- new Raiders coach Dennis Allen keeping offensive coordinator Al Saunders in that same role because, well, it made sense. Probably too much sense.The offense was a bright spot for Oakland last season and Saunders provided the high-powered gameplans, even as Hue Jackson called the plays. Still, a little continuity on that side of the ball, a full offseason program with quarterback Carson Palmer, and a (cross your fingers, Raider Nation) healthy Darren McFadden with Saunders overseeing it all seemed like the right call.
And yetAllen has chosen to go in a different direction. Really, a radically different direction. His choice of Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator harkens some of the darkest memories of recent Raiders time. And the offense will undergo another facelift, along with the defense and special teams units.And while it has created a firestorm on the internet by furious Raiders fans, there seems to be an inherent point-counterpoint to Knapp's return. A whole slew of "Yeah, buts" slinking around the streets of Silver and Blackdom.This is not to criticize the hire as a bad fit; it's just that there was seemingly a better fit already on staff in Saunders, who is still under contract. All of which is explains, while I don't necessarily agree with the choice of replacing Saunders with Knapp, I understand it. Besides, why tell an incoming head coach he can pick and choose his entire staff if it's not really true? A guy has to feel comfortable with his assistants and trust them, no?As such, five such "Yeah, buts" to chew onKnapp already had his shot as the O.C. here and it failed miserably then, right?Yeah, but you try and be an effective offensive coordinator in the middle of the maelstrom of negativity that existed between Al Davis and Lane Kiffin. You want to talk dysfunction? Thar she blows. Or have you also forgotten the carousel of quarterbacks with which Knapp had to deal in 2007 -- Josh McCown? Daunte Culpepper? Andrew Walter? And yes, JaMarcus Russell as a rookie. I'll give you this much, though, things got so bad a year later Knapp had his playcalling duties stripped and given to Tom Cable. True, numbers don't lie. But again, imagine trying to work in that environment. I remember thinking Knapp would be the runaway choice to be the interim coach in the wake of Kiffin's firing, only to hear rumblings that Knapp wanted nothing to do with it and wanted out. Enter the Cable guy, to be followed by HueJax City.Knapp had Darren McFadden as a rookie, and wasted his skill set then, no?Yeah, but remember, Knapp was the O.C. when Run DMC ran over Kansas City for 164 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown in his second-ever NFL game. Knapp's West Coast Offense might actually benefit the hybrid McFadden's skill setso long as he can stay healthy (an annual big if). The emphasis then was on developing Russell and by the time Cable took over the offense, McFadden was being used almost exclusively between the tackles in Cable's zone-blocking scheme. What a waste, as he is best in space. No doubt McFadden blossomed in his third pro season, under Jackson. The key was Jackson actually asking McFadden what kind of plays he liked to run and then implemented them. Knapp needs to take a cue from Hue on that point.What about re-training Carson Palmer? He's not a true West Coast Offense quarterback.Yeah, but well, you got me there. CP3 is anything but a Captain Checkdown-type of QB in the mold of Jason Campbell. Still, a dink here and a dunk there might benefit Palmer, who prefers the quick strike downfield. His deft touch on long throws should be able to translate to the flat, right? And even if Palmer is an old dog (in QB years), he is willing to learn a new trick or two, so long as it translates to success. And with a new offensive coordinator coming in, he was going to have to learn a new "language" anyway. At least this go-round, Palmer has an entire offseason to digest a new system and get on the same page with a receiving corps that did not exactly welcome him with open arms last fall.Wait, Allen said the offense would be up-tempo, like the New Orleans Saints' offense. Knapp's offenses over the years have been anything but explosive, more like churning the butter.Yeah, but he hasn't had this many weapons at his disposal, either. Again, it all depends upon health, but look what he did last year in Houston, getting third-string rookie T.J. Yates to not only survive but thrive in the playoff race and win a playoff game. Yes, I know Knapp did not run the Texans' offense, that he was merely the QB coach. But he did do a helluva job with Yates as a teacher, of sorts. And sure, Knapp might get too run-heavy at times, but his Atlanta teams led the league in rushing in 2004, 2005 and 2006. And when he had more all-around talent across the Bay, his 49ers teams ranked fourth, eighth and fifth in total offense in 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively. Talent makes coaches look smart. Lack of talent? Look up the rankings of the 2007 and 2008 Raiders offenses and the 2009 Seattle Seahawks. You get the picture.I'm sure Knapp is a nice guy, but this feels like a retread hire and I thought the Raiders were in full reboot mode looking to the future.Yeah, but The coaching fraternity is thisclose to be a good old boy network, meaning just about every coach out there is a retread. They live a vagabond existence. At least Knapp understands the dark belly of working for the Raiders. And with a regime change, things are decidedly different. The Raiders have entered a new era while paying respect to the past and, obviously, Knapp wants to be here. Most likely he feels a sense of unfinished business in Oakland, much as did Saunders. What it all comes down to is this -- Allen has made his choice of Knapp and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing but come up with points why he should not be here, and counterpoints as to why he should. And vice-versa. And try not to drive yourself mad, literally or figuratively.

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Kansas City, an aberration of the highest order this season.

It proved to be just a one-game lull.

Crabtree was an offensive catalyst yet again Sunday in a 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a long bomb that changed the game.

Quarterback Derek Carr went big on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, sending a perfectly-arched ball down the right sideline that Crabtree caught over his shoulder at full gallop for a 56-yard gain that set up the Raiders’ second touchdown in five minutes.

Crabtree got it, again on third down, using a quick slant just beyond the goal line.

He refused to speak with the media again, but those around him were again wowed by his impact on the game, especially when Jaguars corner shadowed and largely shut Amari Cooper down.

“Michael Crabtree made some incredible plays today for us,” Del Rio said. “…Throughout the game he came up big for us and I thought he play really, really well for us. Obviously our quarterback is a good player. He did a good job for us hooking up with different receivers, but today Carr to Crabtree was special.”

King shows speed: Raiders punter Marquette King doesn’t have to run much. Players at his position usually don’t, except as a last resort when chasing a return.

King ran forward this time, prompted by a uncharacteristically poor Jon Condo snap. He didn’t have room to punt so he took off running, converting a 4th-and-24 with a 27-yard run down the sideline. It was a move that showed great athleticism, one he

“I just picked the ball up and started running,” King said. “After I passed the orange sticks, I got a little light-headed and realized ‘I’m really running the ball right now.’ It’s been since high school that I ran from the punting formation. I came in as a wide receiver for Fort Valley State and was really good at punting so they stuck with me.”

King ran out without getting hit – a plus in the coaches minds – and extended a drive that ended with a game-icing touchdown from Latavius Murray.

Too many field goals: Sebastian Janikowski had four field goals on Sunday night, which isn’t always a positive sign for the Raiders offense. They let too many touchdown-scoring chances escape, which bothered offensive players despite the fact they scored 33 points.

“When we’re in the red zone, we want points,” Murray said. “That’s most important, but we need touchdowns over field goals. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll keep striving to get seven points over three.”

Winning turnover battle: The Raiders forced three turnovers against Jacksonville and didn’t give up any.

David Amerson had an interception. So did Reggie Nelson. Andre Holmes recovered a punt muffed by Rashad Greene. That’s a recipe for success, something that’s become common for this Raiders team.

They’ve forced three turnovers without coughing it up three times this season. They’ve ended up with a plus turnover ratio six times in seven games.

Notes: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin recorded his fourth forced fumble of the season against Jacksonville, which are the most by a Raiders since Nick Roach equaled that total in 2013. …DE Khalil Mack had his second sack in as many games, and now leads the team with three. … Nelson nabbed his second interception this year and has 32 since 2007, a total that leads all active safeties. …RB Latavius Murray has five touchdowns in seven games, the highest total in that span since 2005. … The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, a mark that hasn’t been matched since 2000.

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Del Rio spent nearly nine full seasons as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in that time, before he was fired during the 2011 season.

He hadn’t been back to Jacksonville in a professional capacity since, but returned Sunday with a new team ready to face his old one.

The Raiders head coach publicly downplayed the impact of this return, and did so again Saturday in a speech to the team. He wanted players to locked on the game, not storylines surrounding the head coach.

“Jack said to focus on being a great teammate and having each other’s back,” Raiders cornerback David Amerson said. “With him coaching here before, we definitely wanted to have his back. We wanted to get him this ‘W,’ it was big for him and our team.”

As much as Del Rio wanted to turn attention away from his return, coming back to Jacksonville was a big deal.

His family united at EverBank Field on Sunday, a place where they had so many memories as the children grew up. He has friends in town and within the organization. He brought the Jaguars back to relevance, and it has fallen on hard times since he left.

The Jaguars are 18-57 since Del Rio left, mark set after the Raiders’ 33-16 victory on Sunday afternoon.

His players understood the moment and honored it once victory was secure. Quarterback Derek Carr gave Del Rio a game ball after his triumphant return to old stomping grounds.

Jacksonville’s a place Del Rio will remember always fondly.

“(There were) a lot of great memories here,” Del Rio said. “It was a great place to spend nine years raising the family and being blessed with the opportunity to lead the Jaguar franchise. I was very appreciative of that time. I met a lot of good folks here; a lot of good memories, a lot of good friends. It is good to come back here and get a good effort in this stadium.”

That’s as reflective as Del Rio would openly get during this process, which comes as no shock to the players who work with him every day.

“Coach is cool, calm and conservative,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “The motto is the same each week, even here (in Jacksonville). We want to come out and dominate. That was the whole focus for him. He didn’t worry about coming back. Everybody knew he had history here, but we were concentrated only on getting that win.”