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Raiders need roster overhaul

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:26 p.m.

OAKLAND

The Raiders played the Denver Broncos Thursday night — prime time, no less. The Raiders lost 26-13. They have suffered worse losses this lost season, but now they have dropped six games in a row.

The game hardly mattered, anyway. The Raiders’ season is over, and if you’re intent on reading a story about the game, please read my friend Phil Barber, who writes entertaining and informative game stories.

The Raiders have serious things at stake, more serious than the Broncos’ game. Owner Mark Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie have decisions to make — decisions now, decisions after this terrible season ends.

If the Raiders continue to get blown out for the balance of this season, despite everybody getting the Mark Davis message about showing improvement, McKenzie has to wonder if the players already have tuned out Dennis Allen. He must wonder if there is significant enough disconnect to make a coaching change after only one year.

I am not saying this is the case. I am saying McKenzie needs to consider it, needs to discover the truth and replace Allen, if that is the best course. If McKenzie dumps Allen after one season, Davis must seriously evaluate McKenzie’s judgment. McKenzie is the GM who hired Allen even though he never had been a head coach.

McKenzie has other serious choices to make.

Is Carson Palmer their guy at quarterback for the long term? This is not clear. It certainly is not clear Palmer has earned long-term security. He makes great deep throws, exactly what Al Davis would have coveted. But he is erratic and careless and throws mind-numbing interceptions — he threw a beauty of that genre at the Broncos’ end zone Thursday night. If the Raiders don’t want Palmer, do they replace him with Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor?

The Raiders must decide if Darren McFadden is their guy at running back. McFadden has so much talent, he makes coaches drool. But he’s always hurt and he is over-anxious in the Raiders’ new run scheme and has trouble finding holes. The Raiders must ask if he is worth it.

McKenzie and Allen need to go through the entire roster and give a thumbs up or down to everyone. You assume the kickers get a thumbs up. That’s a start. You don’t assume that with Darrius-Heyward Bey or Richard Seymour or Tommy Kelly or Denarius Moore or Michael Huff. I could name just about everyone.

The coaches need to make a decision about their schemes, especially on offense. Is the zone-blocking scheme of the offensive linemen a viable fit for the personnel? If not, the Raiders should go back to what they had before.

If they like the scheme — a possibility — they should rid themselves of players who have trouble adapting, perhaps even McFadden.

The coaches must adjust either scheme or personnel — one or the other. This is an essential task of the offseason.

The Raiders must gorge out on next spring’s draft like over-eaters at an all-you-can-eat buffet. They have a first-round draft choice but no second-round choice. The first-round choice will be very high. The Raiders must understand that just one player is not going to put them in playoff contention. McKenzie needs to go the route of Bill Belichick and trade a high No. 1 for multiple picks. Then he needs to trade down a second time in the first round to acquire additional early-round picks.

Here’s how it could work.

Say the Raiders have the fourth pick in the draft. They should trade that No. 4 pick to a club that wants to move up. They should then trade that new No. 1 pick, flip it again to another club wanting to move up or get back into the first round for an additional pick.

The Raiders then would be able to replace the second-round pick they lost (threw away?) to the Bengals for Palmer, and maybe pick up another second-round pick and probably one or two third-round picks, plus a fourth-rounder and maybe even a fifth-round pick with those two initial trades of first-round picks.

Basically, they get at least five or six draft picks for their initial first-round No. 4 draft slot. That gives McKenzie a chance to bring in six or seven players to replenish the roster as opposed to having just one first rounder and one third rounder. With his bad roster, McKenzie needs lots of new players, and he needs to build through the draft. He was valedictorian of his high school class. He needs to use his massive gray matter to be brilliant in the draft.

If there are current players McKenzie and Allen have not seen enough of, they must get those guys on the field to evaluate whether they are worth keeping.

McKenzie and Allen, if he survives, have to purge the dismal roster and keep only the gems, if there are any. They must use the rest of the season for hard-headed and hard-hearted evaluation to make the purge productive.

You understand where I’m going with all this. Everything from now until the season’s end is about evaluating, about learning, about making right choices. Thursday night’s game, as a game, hardly mattered.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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