It is still early, but the Raiders look like a joke

Published: Monday, Sep. 17, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C

No moral victories or silver linings, nothing of redeeming value.

The Raiders so thoroughly embarrassed themselves Sunday that the team photo should be 45 clown suits, all of them empty.

The Oakland roster that showed up in Miami was not a team ready to play but a joke willing to be played.

And the Dolphins, considered by some the worst team in the NFL, laughed and laughed until the merciful intervention of the clock spared the Raiders further indignity.

After Oakland took a 35-13 spanking from a team of such little promise, the Raiders' season is on high alert. A year of radical transition is threatening to deliver four months of sheer futility.

The Dolphins, after all, looked like one of the likeliest wins on the schedule, with a new coaching staff, a rookie quarterback, a hollow secondary and one of the least-imposing receiving corps in the NFL.

There may not be a more pessimistic fan base.

But the Raiders were an elixir, energizing fans at Sun Life Stadium and making the Dolphins look like a well-coached, highly skilled contender.

Most disappointing, the Oakland defense that has been dreadful for years but was respectable in the season opener last Monday vanished in the second half, when the Raiders were outscored 28-3.

Miami running back Reggie Bush (26 carries, 172 yards, two touchdowns) rambled as he did in his USC heyday. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw three interceptions in his pro debut last week, performed like a polished pro. Wide receiver Brian Hartline (nine catches, 111 yards) could not be covered.

"The way we started in the first half, I didn't foresee 35 at the end of the game," Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly conceded to reporters in Miami.

The Raiders' offense that scored one touchdown against San Diego did no better against Miami. The running game sputtered again. Darren McFadden (11 carries, 22 yards) already misses the schemes of former coach Hue Jackson.

First-year general manager Reggie McKenzie knew he was inheriting a mess, but he saw how deeply his personnel department needs to dig. It will scan the waiver wire again this week and probably find someone at least the equal of what the Raiders have.

Rookie coach Dennis Allen, in his first two attempts to distinguish himself, has brought nothing to indicate his team is ready to be a force. And after looking at Jim Harbaugh's work with the 49ers last year, we know what's possible in Year 1 of a new regime.

Allen, the NFL's youngest head coach, wants to vindicate his GM for making the risky move of hiring him as Jackson's replacement. Optimists are scratching their heads, and skeptics are screaming at the skies.

They all have memories. They realize this is looking like 2007 – the last year the Raiders hired a fresh-faced young coach and opened with back-to-back losses.

The '07 team won its next two games, then lost six in a row and finished 4-12. The coach, Lane Kiffin, was fired four games into 2008.

Well, the Raiders look like a team that might need three or four seasons before rising to mediocrity.

There will be growth. There will be change. The "New Era of Excellence," as described by the team's PR department, is very much in its embryonic stages. There will, eventually, be measurable progress.

But right now, after this forgettable effort, everything points toward regression.

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