Rolando McClain’s Retirement Was Three Years Too Late


Dec 18, 2011; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) warms up before the game against the Detroit Lions at Coliseum. Detroit defeated Oakland 28-27. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

Do not confuse Rolando McClain with John McClane; the former will likely surrender when facing adversity.

On May 15 McClain retired from the NFL, surpassing the likes of Ernie Sims and Aaron Curry as the worst linebacker bust in recent memory.  The eighth overall selection in 2010 collected 173 solo tackles, three arrests, and one suspension in 41 games (38 starts).

McClain’s stellar college career and athleticism made him seem like a can’t-miss prospect when he left Alabama as a junior to enter the NFL.  At 6’4” and 250 pounds, the 2009 SEC Player of the Year possessed the size of a defensive end and the speed of a Will linebacker.

And as Patrick Willis blossomed into a stud across the bay, expectations were high on the Raider.

Of course, Raider Nation’s hopes never came to be, as McClain was overwhelmed by his responsibilities as leader of the defense.  The middle linebacker (who was dominant stopping the run in college) struggled to shed blocks and pursue ball carriers at the fastest angles.  McClain failed to call defensive adjustments when necessary and he was targeted on passing downs.  Despite force-feeding him snaps, the athlete repeated novice mistakes until head coach Dennis Allen lost patience.

McClain was invisible on the field, but his antics off the turf weren’t.  The troublemaker was arrested in December 2011 after discharging a handgun next to an individual’s head, and he provided false identification to a police officer at a traffic stop a year later.  Three months after his Leon Sandcastle impersonation, McClain was detained for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest (there was no mistaking him this time).

Perhaps McClain’s missteps would be swept under the rug if he brought a constructive attitude to practice, but this was not the case.  The Mike backer never won over the defense, and he was sent home for two games in 2012 after arguing with Allen on his effort.

Such a head case would be detrimental to locker room chemistry, and making the dollars that McClain did (he signed a five-year, $40 million deal as a rookie), his release in the offseason was a practicality.  The 23-year-old signed with the Baltimore Ravens to play a backup role, but for now he is done with the sport.

We are left to wonder if McClain ever held a passion for playing football.  According to’s Ian Rapaport, the Crimson Tide star told the Raiders before the draft he had no intention to play for them, but the team picked him anyway.  (Thank you for the parting gift, old friend.)

McClain gave JaMarcus Russell’s Oakland tenure a run for its money, and that is no easy feat, so he deserves some credit.  But even if Al Davis told the cousin of Le’Ron McClain to take the fat check now and consider playing quality ball later, it still doesn’t excuse the player to act like an idiot.  Unless McClain sacks up and takes advantage of his physical gifts rather quickly, he will be known as the Ryan Leaf of his position.