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

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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.

Raiders' Mack, Osemele honored on PFWA's All-NFL team

Raiders' Mack, Osemele honored on PFWA's All-NFL team

Honors keep piling up for a pair of star Raiders. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and left guard Kelechi Osemele were named to the All-NFL team, an all-star list created by votes from members of the Pro Football Writers of America.

The association released it’s all-league and all-conference teams on Monday.

Mack is obviously deserving. He had another excellent season, with 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception returned for a touchdown. He also had 16 tackles for loss, the NFL’s second-highest total in 2016.

Mack is among the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year awards. The PFWA will announce their DPOY on Wednesday.

Osemele signed a record contract for an offensive guard, and lived up to his five-year, $58.5 million contract with $25.4 million guaranteed.

He was one of the NFL’s best guards, and added a nastiness to the Raiders' offensive line that helped them excel running the football. He was an excellent pass protector as well. He didn’t allow a sack, and gave up just two quarterback hits and nine other pressures in 2016.

The PFWA honored four Raiders on the All-AFC team: Mack, Osemele, center Rodney Hudson and left tackle Donald Penn were on the all-conference roster.

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

Boswell boots Steelers to AFC championship with six field goals

BOX SCORE

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Who needs to reach the end zone when you have Le'Veon Bell chewing up yards and the clock, and Chris Boswell setting an NFL playoff record with six field goals?

Throw in a stingy Pittsburgh defense for most of Sunday night, and a multitude of mistakes by Kansas City, and the Steelers' 18-16 victory sent them into the AFC championship game.

The Steelers (13-5) needed to hold off a last-ditch threat by the Chiefs (12-5) before advancing to face New England next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl. The Patriots won at Pittsburgh 27-16, but Ben Roethlisberger was injured and didn't play.

"I think it's going to be a showdown," Bell said. "Two great quarterbacks going head to head. Two of the best teams in the AFC. It's time to settle it next week."

Since 2001, the Patriots and Steelers have combined to win nine AFC titles.

Spencer Ware's 1-yard touchdown run took Kansas City within 18-16. The Chiefs at first converted the 2-pointer to tie it, but tackle Eric Fisher - the first overall selection in the 2013 draft - was penalized for holding. The next try failed.

With 2:43 remaining, Justin Gilbert misplayed the kick return and was tackled at the Pittsburgh 5. Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 7 yards on third down and Pittsburgh then ran out the clock, securing a ninth straight victory for the Steelers. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1994, losing five in a row.

The scoring started furiously in the opening minutes, then the game became a kicking exhibition by Boswell, who also had six field goals in the regular season against Cincinnati. And Bell put on a virtuoso running performance, patiently finding holes and then exploding through them. He added a team-record 170 yards rushing to the 167 he had in a win over Miami last week.

"The coaches put a lot of trust in me to get the job done," Bell said of his 30 carries. "Just run hard. Just picked my spots where I could and run hard."

The Steelers became first team to win a playoff game without a TD since eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in the 2006 AFC divisional round at Baltimore.

Using a no-huddle attack almost to perfection early on, the Steelers drove deep into Kansas City territory. But they bogged down inside the 5 and Boswell made a 22-yard field goal.

The Chiefs were just as efficient on a six-play march capped by receiver Albert Wilson lining up in the backfield, then slipping uncovered into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Pittsburgh's answer came on a 52-yard heave to All-Pro Brown, who somehow was covered by linebacker Justin Houston. That led to Boswell's second field goal, a 38-yarder. He added a 36-yarder to cap a 14-play drive on which Pittsburgh again barely huddled.

A clean game up until then turned to, well, turnovers, on successive series. Bud Dupree pounded Alex Smith, whose pass shot high into the air and was caught by linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers got to the Kansas City 5, where Frank Zombo leaped to deflect Roethlisberger's throw, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry - burned for 26 yards on the previously play - picked it off in the end zone.

Boswell's fourth field goal, from 45 yards, made it 12-7 at the half. His 43-yarder, setting the franchise record for a postseason game and tying the league mark of five, came on Pittsburgh's first series of the second half. A 43-yarder midway in the fourth quarter gave Boswell the NFL record.

"It's just about doing my job," Boswell said. "Coming out here, put it through the yellow pipes. Don't really think too much. Don't think like I'm the guy or anything. I'm just doing my job and doing my one-eleventh for the team."

Kansas City's Cairo Santos got in on the kicking act with a 48-yarder to make it 15-10. At that point, 10 seconds from the end of the third quarter, the Chiefs were outgained 333 yards to 150.

WEATHERMAN

Switching the game from noon local time to an evening kickoff to avert an ice storm had no effect on the crowd. Fans arrived early, tailgated in the rain as the worst of the storm never hit the area. But fog rolled into Arrowhead Stadium in the second quarter, obscuring some views from on high. Not that what was going on was worth watching for Chiefs fans.

NOTES

Bell rushed for almost as many yards (101) in the first half as the Chiefs gained (106). ... Boswell's four first-half field goals tied the team record for an entire playoff game. ... Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce had a rough game, including a big drop and a 15-yard roughing penalty in the third period.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Head to New England for a shot at making the Super Bowl.