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Pi Network

Draft King Analysis
January 10, 2012
Lou Pickney,

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New Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie didn't waste much time making an impact with his new team, firing head coach Hue Jackson today. This brings to an end the highly unusual situation that came in the wake of the death of longtime Raiders owner Al Davis, who served as the de facto general manager of the team. Hue Jackson found himself not only as the Raiders head coach, but also with general manager powers in a situation without a possible owner veto. The gravity of the situation for Jackson had to be strong, knowing that Raiders would likely bring in an official general manager after the season and that the new GM might be inclined to bring in a coach of his choosing.

The situation was complicated when the Raiders lost starting QB Jason Campbell for the year to a broken collarbone. At that point the Raiders were 4-2, and with Kyle Boller looming as the new starter, Jackson went all-in to bring "retired" Bengals QB Carson Palmer on board. The doubt in Boller was perhaps well-founded, with him throwing three first-half interceptions in his lone start of 2011 for the Raiders in an embarrassing 28-0 home blanking by the Chiefs.

Oakland gave up a king's ransom to land Palmer, with Cincinnati receiving Oakland's 2012 first-round pick and a conditional 2013 second-round pick that upgrades to a 2013 first-round selection if the Raiders make the AFC Championship next season. Moreover, the Raiders redid Palmer's contract after bringing him on board, agreeing to a four-year, $43 million deal with $7.5M guaranteed.

Jackson's roll of the dice didn't work out as he had hoped for the Raiders. Oakland finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the 2011 season. Palmer, who had to learn Oakland's offense on the fly, managed to crack the 60% completion mark (60.7%) for the season, but also posted more interceptions (16) than he did touchdowns (14 total: 13 passing and one rushing) in 2011.

The desperation by Oakland to find a replacement for Campbell wasn't exactly unfounded: Kyle Boller, Campbell's backup to start the season, threw three interceptions in his only start for Oakland this year, a 28-0 home drubbing against Kansas City. But Oakland giving up two premium draft picks to bring in Carson Palmer didn't lead to a playoff berth for the Raiders in 2011, and the result was Jackson being relieved of his duties today.

There's a reason that coaches aren't typically the ones authorized to make trades in the NFL: the motivation to mortgage tomorrow for victory today will often be overwhelming. Jackson risked the future to win in the present, and when that didn't work, he lost his job. It also puts McKenzie in a tough spot as the incoming general manager, with two high draft picks that normally would have been at his disposal belonging instead to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The kicker is that, for once, the stubbornness of Bengals owner Mike Brown paid off big-time for the team. His refusal to trade Palmer for anything short of a lopsided deal paid off big-time for Cincinnati, with the team landing two high draft picks in exchange for a player who the Bengals seemed content to keep on ice indefinitely.

Addendum: Literally just after I finished writing the previous paragraph, my ADD kicked in and I checked out my Twitter feed. A post on there directed me to this article by Mike Silver, which would seem to counter the notion that Jackson had carte blanche and was the final say in Oakland trading for Carson Palmer. So keep that in mind. As it is, I suspect we haven't heard the last about this story.


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