As the NFL gets bigger and richer, and as a result more complicated and scrutinized, managerial roles are becoming increasingly specialized. Rare does the responsibility for constructing and coaching a team fall on one man. Except in Alameda, where the Oakland Raiders operate with the type of hierarchical structure where the buck stops with one guy for decades.
Al Davis was the Raiders' owner, general manager, lead scout and overlord (he also coached a little, too). After he passed away on Oct. 8, a black hole-sized void was left. Hue Jackson stepped into that void in a big way. He led the team to an emotional road win over the Houston Texans on Oct. 9, with a good percentage of the emotions shown that day displayed by Jackson himself. They were genuine, and the Raiders appeared on their way to an inspirational and successful winning season.
Through trying circumstances in 2011, Jackson has led the most interesting Raiders team since back when Jon Gruden crinkled and contorted his face on the Coliseum sidelines. But it's past time for someone else to join the Raiders' current head coach in that cavernous void Davis left. Someone above Jackson who can reign him in at least occasionally when he feels like taking a huge risk, like when Jackson's gambles seem to be more about hinting toward Jackson's own cleverness than putting the Raiders in a better position.
Hue vs. Chuck: No Contest
The Raiders lost a game to the Detroit Megatrons on Sunday that defied logic, a game with defensive lapses in the final quarter that left many calling for Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan's head. Not surprising, for two reasons. First, the Raiders gave up 80 points combined to the Dolphins and Packers and came into the Detroit game as the worst team in the league in terms of yards allowed per carry (5.2). Second, it isn't a good look when the road team's allowed to complete "three flies up" passes to Calvin Johnson, the best deep threat in the league.
However, Jackson had some interesting decisions of his own against the Lions. Going for it on 4th-and-1 in the 1st quarter from Detroit's 24-yard-line is the kind of move statisticians love, but the overthrown pass down the middle -- a pure go-for-broke move -- was an unnecessarily risky play call. Then, with the Raiders nursing a 6-point lead with 2:27 remaining in the contest, Jackson called for a deep pass to the right side on 3rd-and-3, even though the drive up to that point consisted of 5 strong Michael Bush runs for 37 yards and the Lions only had one timeout left.
Now Jackson's Raiders are still looking up at the Denver Broncos in the increasingly muddled AFC West, and face a game in Arrowhead against a Kansas City Chiefs team that's so happy to be rid of Todd Haley that they went ahead and ruined the Green Bay Packers' perfect season. Then the Raiders host the San Diego Chargers. Two teams traveling in the opposite direction, as the Raiders have now lost three in a row as the Chargers have won their last three. Add it all up and, even in this crazy season the Raiders have had, they probably aren't making the playoffs.
Missing the postseason after making the Carson Palmer trade would lead to questions and complaints, but it probably doesn't mean Jackson he'd get fired. Mostly because with the way the Raiders are currently structured, that would require Jackson firing himself. Even though Hue Jackson is a master at speaking in third person, there's no chance of that happening.
The Raiders will probably use the defense as a scapegoat and part ways with Bresnahan. Jackson is mostly in charge of the offense, and that part of the team has been relatively lively this season -- especially considering the Raiders lost their best offensive player in Week 7 and multiple receivers for varying periods of time.
That's a reasonable way to go into next season, but Jackson better not be the GM then, too.
Unless the Raiders want to fall into a long-term period of bad times and old players, they're going to need to hire someone who can step back and take a longer-range view of the Raiders' prospects. That also means someone who values prospects, as in draft picks that can help shore up a porous defense.
Jackson deserves credit for taking accountability for all that goes on in Alameda County, but deflecting everything upon himself might make it easier for several others to relax when it comes to their own responsibilities (after all, Bresnahan isn't the one missing all those tackles). Plus, the Raiders never won on the strength of only one man, even during Davis' prime.
The Raiders' head coach deserves credit for being a steadying influence during a time of immense pain for the entire organization. But he also deserves help in the form of an authoritative football mind -- someone who sits somewhere on the chain of command between head coach and the chair Al Davis used to sit in.