In 2010, the Oakland Raiders held the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft coming off a 5-11 season in Tom Cable’s first full season as the head coach. The Raiders were one of the worst run stopping teams in the league during the 2009 season as they finished as the fourth worst team in rushing yards against and worst in the league in rushing touchdowns allowed. In an effort to shore up a leaky front seven the Raiders selected the first team All-American and Butkus Award winning linebacker Rolando McClain out of the University of Alabama. At the time many pundits applauded the Raiders for their selection, but it has simply not worked out. In his three years in the NFL, McClain has been an unmitigated disaster for the Raiders.
McClain can safely be categorized as a bust as he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations that were placed upon his shoulders. McClain was projected to be a run stopping force in the heart of the Raiders’ defense. He has been simply average at best during his time with Raiders and has failed to make an impact in the Raiders ability to stop the run as they still rank among the bottom of the league in rush defense.
McClain has a combined 246 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 20 pass defenses during his three year career. This season was an absolute disaster for him as he only recorded 62 total tackles and a sack in 11 games this season and it was a huge step back from his promising 2011 season. He was replaced as the starter midway through the seas as he only recorded nine starts as the Raiders chose to feature rookie Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler. Burris in particular surpassed McClain as the most promising young linebacker on the team with Football Outsiders ranking Burris as the 10th best linebacker according to run stop rates. Burris’s emergence has also made McClain expendable, especially with his cap hit and the Raiders’ cap situation.
McClain has also struggled mightily off the field as well. He has several run-ins with law enforcement during his career. During the off season following his second season, McClain was arrested in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama. He was charged with several misdemeanors in response to a shooting incident in which he was alleged to have pointed a gun at a man and then fired a round near his head. In May, McClain was convicted of all charges and sentenced to 180 days in jail. He later appealed the conviction and during this time the accuser dropped all charges, under the assumption that a settlement was reached by the parties. McClain had another run in with the law at the beginning of this year in January. He arrested again in Decatur, Alabama following a traffic stop due to the tinting of his windows and for giving a false name to law enforcement when he signed his name as “(expletive) y’all” on the citation.
He was later released on $1,000 bail that evening. His off the field transgression do not just include run ins with the law. He also got himself suspended in the later part of last season following an argument with head coach Dennis Allen. The two got into a heated argument during a practice leading up to their week 13 game against Cleveland, which led to McClain being kicked out of practice.
McClain took the Facebook later that evening as he posted that he was “Officially no longer an Oakland Raider” and that he would like to play for a “real team.” This tirade was punished with a two game suspension by the Raiders for detrimental conduct. He failed to the see the field in the final three games following the suspension. It is pretty clear that many bridges were burned between the two parties and McClain’s time with the team had likely come to an end.
McClain’s troubles on and off the field have led the Raiders to their breaking point in dealing with the troubled linebacker. The most troubling fact to all of this is that he has not learned from his actions at all. The January traffic stop incident, while the most tame incident, is the most troubling due to the fact that if he had simply signed his actual name that everything else could have simply been avoided. He is showing no signs of maturing and is probably ruining his chances to stay in the NFL as he is not talented enough for teams to take on the headaches that he will undoubtedly cause.
The Raiders should part ways McClain and most likely would have, if not for the cap complications. According to Ian Rapoport, the Raiders have given McClain’s agent to seek a trade and that if no trade is reached the Raiders will release him. The Raiders will most likely release McClain before June and designate him as a “June 1st cut” so that the remaining $7.26 million of dead money he has will be spread over the next two seasons instead of all this season.
The moves the Raiders have made in the off season in bolstering their linebacker core has shown that they are moving on from McClain and will most likely be better off for it as they can find players that actually want to put in the effort to be successful. After a series of missteps, the Raiders seem to be on a better path and parting ways with McClain can be a big show that the culture is changing in Oakland.