The Last Defense: Looking back on a decade of Raiders defensive ineptitude By Vic Tafur 3h ago Fresh off the success of “The Last Dance” docuseries on Michael Jordan’s Bulls dynasty, ESPN has unearthed some never-before-seen footage of the Raiders defense from 2010-19. Viewers can experience again and even more vividly what it was like when the Raiders gave up seven touchdown passes to Nick Foles or when they had linebacker Rolando McClain cover Calvin Johnson with the game on the line. No? Not interested? Forget Jordan and his cigar. You would be missing a great scene when McClain brought in his baby daughter to work one day and begrudgingly met with reporters for a rare chat. At one point, the girl cried out and McClain looked down at her and said, without the hint of a grin, “She hates reporters, too.” ESPN is not really doing a show on the Raiders defense, but the network did find it necessary to crown them as the worst defense in the NFL for the last decade. (What is the trophy for that? A brass sieve? A threadbare welcome mat?) It’s a well-deserved honor, no doubt. The Raiders were at or near the bottom of the league in every category — last in points allowed (26.2 per game), 29th in yards per play allowed (5.7), 31st in takeaways (206) and last in passer rating against (94.7), per the Associated Press’ Josh Dubow — and they did it with a stumbling flair and brash personality that annually defied logic. Like, who can get forget when in 2014, in London, the Dolphins bunched three receivers on one side of the field and the Raiders had one cornerback on them? Even the good times — we counted, there were five — were scary. Like when the 0-10 Raiders stunned the Chiefs in 2014, but rookie Khalil Mack and Sio Moore were still dancing after a third-down sack in the final minute when the ball was hiked for the next play. Alert veteran Justin Tuck called timeout just before the snap to prevent a penalty — and the Chiefs getting a free fourth-down play against a nine-man defense — though it probably took a few years off of the lives of Tuck and Charles Woodson. (They both told Moore after the game that if the Raiders would have lost, one of them would have fought him in the locker room.) The other four defensive highlights last decade were Michael Huff’s 2011 game-sealing interception in Houston the day after owner Al Davis died, the Thursday night win that same year over the Chargers when Kamerion Wimbley (four sacks) and Richard Seymour put the Raiders in first place in the AFC West, the Mack five-sack game in Denver in 2015 and the game a year later when Mack had a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a touchdown to beat the Panthers. The Raiders simply had trouble drafting good defensive players as well as signing free agents who weren’t just looking for a final payday. All told, the Raiders had only five defensive players named to the Pro Bowl from 2010-19 — Nnamdi Asomugha, Seymour, Mack, Woodson and … wait for it, Reggie Nelson. Only Asomugha and Mack made first-team All-Pro. Mostly the Raiders had a bunch of overachievers and underachievers who both fell short. And all the coaches they hired and fired just weren’t up to the task — not even the two (out of six) head coaches who were defensive guys, Dennis Allen and Jack Del Rio. The Raiders had six defensive coordinators the last decade — John Marshall, Chuck Bresnahan, Jason Tarver, Ken Norton Jr., John Pagano and Paul Guenther. The jury is still out on Guenther in Year 3, but he did crack the top 20 in yards allowed last season — the first time in seven seasons the Raiders have done that — and this offseason is the first time that Jon Gruden has spent close to half of the salary cap on defense. Since we’re not doing a 10-part TV series on the Raiders defense, I figured we’ll look at 10 moments from the last decade, highlighting how a confident group of players, feeding off of an organizational history of toughness, spirit and defiance … simply got trucked by opposing offenses most Sundays: 10. The five-safety defense I covered all six defensive coordinators and the best one was probably Marshall my first year on the beat in 2010. The Raiders ranked 11th in yards per game allowed (322.8) and 20th in points per game allowed (23.2) but had trouble stopping the run (29th in rushing defense to counter the No. 2 ranked passing defense). And first-round pick McClain was not the answer, something that was clear right out of the gate. Six games in, I asked Marshall about McClain and he said, “I tell (the players), I don’t want a bunch of iron deer on the lawn, cardboard cutouts (that say), ‘Oh, I’m doing what Coach said. I’m not making any plays, but I’m doing that.’” McClain was stiff, but his lack of development was not the reason Davis had Marshall walk the plank after the season. No, that was because of the Dec. 12 game at Jacksonville. Marshall sat Asomugha, a first-team All-Pro cornerback, for a play and tried a five-safety defense, and then watched as somebody named Jason Hill beat Huff for a 48-yard touchdown. That proved to be the difference in a 38-31 loss that ruined Darren McFadden’s finest hour as a Raider — the running back had 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and 86 receiving yards and another touchdown. I remember asking Asomugha after the game if he was injured that play and he looked at me with a sad grin and raised eyebrow, followed by a resigned smile. That was the face of the Raiders defense the last decade. 9. Rams 52, Raiders 0 The late Tony Sparano, who took over for the fired Allen in 2014, was close to shedding the interim tag and becoming the full-time coach. The Raiders finished 3-3 after the 0-10 start and the players believed in him, but one of those three losses smelled worse than a skunk eating a microwaved tuna sandwich. A week after beating the Chiefs for their first win, the hungover Raiders went to St. Louis and lost 52-0 to the Rams on Nov. 30. Not the Kurt Warner-Marshall Faulk-Isaac Bruce Rams. The Shaun Hill-Tre Mason-Stedman Bailey Rams. Mason finished with a combined 164 yards and three touchdowns — one more than he would have the final 17 games of his career after that. https://twitter.com/NFL/status/539124326931644417 8. The 1-on-3 coverage Previously in 2014, the Raiders went to London on Sept. 28 and were down 38-7 to the Dolphins by the third quarter. We mentioned the 1-on-3 coverage earlier, but many European fans left the stadium that day thinking that Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the Michael Jordan of football. Allen and his family made the long, uncomfortable flight home on the team charter and then he was fired. Mark Davis never cared for Allen — he thought he was a little smug — and general manager Reggie McKenzie never did get a second chance at hiring a coach. Del Rio was 100 percent Davis’ choice after that embarrassing loss to the Rams soured him on Sparano. 7. Playing McClain against the Dolphins Hue Jackson will say that he had no control of the defense the year he was head coach, and he is right — Bresnahan was an Al Davis guy who came along with the keys to the big office. But Jackson did make a decision on the defense that had some lasting effects — he decided to play McClain against the Dolphins on Dec. 4, 2011, the week after the linebacker was arrested in Alabama on charges of third-degree assault and discharging a firearm (he was eventually found guilty, though on appeal the charges were dismissed when the victim declined to pursue charges). The reason: Jackson didn’t have any faith in backup linebacker Darryl Blackstock. The Raiders got blown out 34-14 — they did often in Miami — and some players started questioning Jackson. “Next man up” is sacred stuff to players in the locker room, especially when the original man up is being compared to lawn deer. The Raiders lost three games in a row to erase a 7-4 record and the momentum from the Carson Palmer trade. 6. The football burial Sparano wanted to shake things up when he took over the 0-4 team in 2014, so he called a team meeting and literally buried a football — and the team’s old ways — on the side of the practice field out back at the team facility. https://twitter.com/Bookerc94/status/1021093698472308737 The Raiders lost their next six games. The ball was dug up the next year and was not placed in the glass case in the main lobby.