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Lowell Cohn: Mishandling of rookie QB shows Raiders' ineptitude


The Raiders, who aspire to become a football team, committed the unforgivable. They blew it with a high draft choice, blew it badly.

On Sunday, they waived fourth-round pick, quarterback Tyler Wilson. Wilson, it must be noted, was the highest pick in the NFL from the 2013 draft to get dumped. That is not something the Raiders can be proud of — they should hide their heads in paper bags.

The Raiders cannot afford blatant, fantastic, mind-blowing mistakes like, say, the talent-heavy 49ers made with A.J. Jenkins. The Raiders are almost certainly the worst team in the NFL, the team with the least talented roster. And the Raiders are unabashedly a rebuilding team. When you are a rebuilding team, you can't blow it with important draft picks. It simply is not allowed.

Note on Wilson: Late Monday, the Raiders added him to their practice squad. Understand this. The Raiders thought so little of him they exposed him to waiver claims from the entire league. And the entire league thought so little of him no team claimed him — a withering indictment of the Raiders' football judgment. The practice squad is hardly the place for your fourth-round pick, for someone you once considered the QB of the future. Which means the Raiders really blew it by drafting this guy.

The Raiders' beef with Wilson was specific. He was a slow learner, slow in picking up their offensive system. Coach Dennis Allen, who also may be a slow learner as a head coach, got tired of Wilson and hardly played him in preseason exhibition games. This neglect seemed almost spiteful.

The Raiders screwed up with Wilson two ways:

The Raiders' No.1 screw-up: It is a coaching staff's job to teach a player, and that goes double for so-called slow learners, if Wilson even is a slow learner. Where was the Raiders' coaching staff when it came to Wilson? He played at Arkansas where he ran a sophisticated offense, where he was an excellent quarterback with what insiders call an amazing "skill set." Wilson was a top-10 quarterback prospect. The Raiders obviously thought so. They gave him a signing bonus of almost a half million dollars.

And then there's the Raiders' No. 2 screw-up, the big one. A coaching staff does not first meet a draftee in rookie camp, the rookie rolling into the facility in an old Ford Taurus with mud on the front bumper, the rookie asking where the locker room is. It's nothing that casual.

Drafting a player is sophisticated business and the stakes are high. Teams investigate and scout these guys like crazy — you wonder if they enlist the CIA for deep background checks.

Teams test the brain power of players (hello, Wonderlic Test), and talk to family and coaches and opponents. Teams watch a ton of film.

And they interview the players extensively. So much depends on the interviews with the players. You wonder how thorough the Raiders were with Wilson when it came to chalkboard testing — quizzing him on Xs and Os. It is a big part of the draft process with quarterbacks.

You understand the deal, right? Part of the interview with quarterbacks is to put the guy on the spot, put him in front of the board and ask questions, ask what he does when presented with this situation or that situation, ask about protections, ask what he feels comfortable doing depending on down and distance. Ask him everything. This is a rigorous test and, afterward, there is very little guesswork where the teams are concerned — at least, there shouldn't be.

If Wilson was that weak on the board — that slow — the Raiders should have known right away at the combine and during the workouts when they had him one on one. Coaches and scouts must do their homework.

So, I'm wondering if the Raiders' brain trust performed due diligence, if the coaches knew what they were looking for and what they had. If Wilson is as terrible as Allen portrayed him to the media — and Allen bashed him — the Raiders should have known way in advance. And they never should have drafted him or paid the big bonus. They should have drafted someone in the fourth round who could have made the active roster, someone who could contribute now. This whole thing gives the Raiders a bad look, just what they don't need when they look so bad to begin with.

It is imperative to give the Raiders every benefit of the doubt. Everyone understands that. Al Davis left the team in salary-cap hell, left the team talent impoverished. General manager Reggie McKenzie inherited a miserable situation and is working hard to improve the roster. And Allen is trying to coach this under-talented roster that McKenzie presented him.

So, to keep the genealogy straight, Al screwed Reggie and then Reggie screwed Dennis. OK, we get that. At some point, someone has to end the screwage and do the right thing, show he knows how to run a team.

When it came to drafting Wilson, no one did the right thing and no one ran the team right.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.