Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Losing Lane, Part 1 - Lane the Coach

First things first, happy Eid to everyone, hopefully the end of Ramadan will mean that I get back to feeling like a normal human being, and for my lucky readers, I get back to a semi-regular schedule of posting.

Now it seems like there is a 300lb elephant in the room, something that I should be writing about. Did something big happen? Wall Street Bailout, presidential debates, no, you don’t come here for any of that. Oh, Lane Kiffin got fired, I almost forgot about that.

My faith in Lane has waned since the start of the season. Calling out Rob Ryan did not sit well with me. The KC game did little for me, because, well it was KC. It was the Buffalo game and the San Diego game that really got me wondering if this guy had what it takes to be a successful head coach.

In Buffalo the offense was putrid. The Rob Ryan bashers loved to point out this as yet another case of Rob calling a prevent D and surrendering a big lead. 1st things 1st, if you believe that Ryan called a prevent D, do yourself a favor. Go learn what a prevent defense is, then watch the tape. Soft zones, go watch the tape, the players are in man the vast majority of the game. That cushion that Hall gives up, that is how he plays man, get used to it.

That game was lost for 2 reasons. One being that the offense failed to have a drive longer than 6 plays the entire game. The other being that the Raiders dressed only 6 defensive linemen for the game. You are going to let your defensive front go up against one of the biggest Offensive lines for almost 40 minutes, with 2 subs. completely asinine.

We then witnessed almost a play for play repeat performance the following week against San Diego. The Defense was brilliant, up until the time the wheels fell off since the Offense could not put together a drive of more than 3 plays.

Time and time again I have said that I don’t put the personnel problems on Lane, now according to Al, maybe I should. But truth be told, until I am hired by the Raiders and have 1st hand experience, you will never be able to tell me that anyone other than Al has the final say on personnel matters. So I will let Lane slide on the only having 6 defensive lineman.

It is the complete lack of anything resembling a competent offense that makes me question Lane. I understand the limitations of the Raider’s personnel. The wide receivers cannot get open. The tackles are suspect in pass blocking. The quarterback is basically a rookie. As a result opposing defenses are free to load up the box to shut down the run game.

However there are ways to overcome these limitations. Motion your receivers; give them some space coming off the ball. Run two tight end sets; chip the defensive ends before going out in pass patterns. Run some screens, not just on 3rd and long, but on normal downs as well. The play calling was so pathetically vanilla that a high school linebacker could read the tendencies.

So while I liked the way that Lane was seemingly a straight shooter (more on this later), how he seemed to have all the players on the same page, and how he seemed to finally bringing back some accountability to the players that had been missing since Gannon and Gruden. I was becoming disenchanted with the way Kiffin called a game, and the way he managed the clock and down and distance.

In the end, at this time Lane did not have what it takes to be a successful head coach at the NFL level. So I am not heartbroken that he is no longer the coach of the Oakland Raiders. There is something to be said for letting a coach grow with his team for continuities sake, but now we have to look at underling factors. Of course this is the Raiders we are talking about, so there is allot to look at. Meaning this column is long enough, and we will split this into two parts, because I need to get some real work done.

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