The Oakland Raiders lost to The San Diego Chargers 14 to 22 on ESPN Monday Night Football, and before a sell-out crowd at the Oakland Coliseum, with the same problem this blogger pointed to just two games into the preseason: a lackluster offense coached by Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp. It’s time to call it: Coach Knapp must be replaced, along with the overall approach of this new Raiders Offense. This is nothing personal; it’s only business. Knapp’s problems in scheme and in play-calling judgment with the Raiders go back to the Jamarcus Russell days.
(And also in the only business area is the poor job the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Media does in picking up these problems. Gary Radnich at KNBR, and the crew at Comcast SportsNet’s Chronicle Live, are particularly guilty of failing to call out these problems of offensive scheme before the season starts. They should be subject to a football strategy white board test before being allowed to comment on any football contest. The test would be to see if they can design football plays and explain them; if they can’t do it, then they should stick to baseball.)
The Raiders offensive problems were called out in those previous articles. Here’s an example:
Looking back, the Raiders Offense was about what this blogger expected from a Greg Knapp-coached squad: pass percentage of just over 50 percent, low yards-per-play yield. That’s because Knapp is good at coaching and designing basic “West Coast Offense” plays, but he’s not the best at moving a step up toward the kind of system the late Bill Walsh himself would give his stamp of approval to. Innovation in offense comes by design, and its not something that one has to save for the regular season of the NFL. Instead, Knapp just creates and calls plays that are by the book – and folks, you’re not going to see much that’s different during the regular season. I’ve been an advocate of Knapp in the past and came away very disappointed. I’m not making that error again.
The next game, the third contest of the season, the Raiders and Oakland fans got a taste of life with an unleashed Terrelle Pryor. With two long runs and two long passes, the Ohio State QB phenom made plays on his own, and not because of anything Knapp did. Still, it was enough to make Coach Knapp look good – a much needed cosmetic dressing that masked the fact that the real problem was not addressed.
We can over-look the 4th game as a “don’t do too much” affair, and get right into this Monday Night disaster. The many special teams mistakes aside, the Raiders Offense was not powerful enough to make up for them and win the game. Looking at the numbers, the Raiders “O” looks like the same unit that played during the preseason. Have a look.
This is what was written then, on August 21st:
The Oakland Raiders fans are restless for improvement, as one visit to Raiderfans.net will show, and while the team finished 8 and 8 in 2011, it was after a 7 and 4 start; Hue Jackson, the Raiders head person then, asked for more power, and in instead was removed by the new Raiders General Manager, Reggie McKenzie…Mr. McKenzie brought in Dennis Allen, who hired Knapp. Thus far, the results have been terrible. Over two games, the Raiders have executed 139 plays, gained a 3.9 yard average, and 537 yards total offense, which comes to 253.5 yards per game. Raiders QBs have completed a respectable 58 percent of their passes, but the overall average has been 5 yards per throw, versus 6.4 yards for the opponent.
The stats from tonight’s Monday Night Football Game look incredibly similar. the overall average gain per pass play was 5.6, and the overall gain per play, run or pass, was 4.7 yards. For the San Diego Chargers, the average gain per play was 4.8 yards, and for the pass, 6.6. yards. It is obvious that play structure dictated statistical output, and this game and all of the Raiders games played this year is proof of that.
OK. Other Than Dumping Knapp, What Next?
The solution is more complicated than just dumping Coach Knapp. The problem is that the Raiders don’t have a play approach that is exotic enough to gain the yards needed to get the ball downfield and into the endzone.
Knapp’s taken some of the pattern combinations used by the 2007 New England Patriots, specifically the tight-end following the back in double-crossing patterns, but ran them from tighter formations, thus restricting the yard-after-the-catch potential that pass combo offers.
The Patriots run that combo from a four-wide-out offense, or a formation that spreads the defense, thus allowing for it to work as it has. Knapp appears to have borrowed this without really, fully understanding why it works. Moreover, he had two variations of this theme, both worked to gain yards, but again out of running formations.
The Raiders must stop doing this. The best solution is a variation of the formations from The Pistol Offense. Also, Knapp’s using a very simple set of wide-receivers clearing for backs passing combos, when he also has to get the wide receivers open. Perhaps due to lack of knowledge of how to do this, Knapp gave us and the Chargers a steady diet of short passes to Darren McFadden – too many of them. It’s as if Knapp was using McFadden to mask problems in the Raiders game plan.
The Raiders can elect to deal with this problem and not win, or reassign Greg Knapp, and win. It’s that simple.