NFL Nation: Ian Greengross
And it began with Jackson simply asking McFadden what kind of plays he liked to run upon Jackson's arrival as the Raiders' offensive coordinator prior to the 2010 season.
Of course, a litany of injuries turned Run DMC into Limp DMC over time and Jackson, who was the Raiders' offensive coordinator under Tom Cable in 2010 and Oakland's head coach in 2011, sent packing by Reggie McKenzie altered things.
But with the Raiders apparently tired of being unable to count on McFadden, McFadden due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11 and Jackson just promoted as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator, might McFadden find a new home in Ohio?
“You guys know how I feel about Darren McFadden; he's still one of my favorite players,” Jackson told ESPN affiliate 95.7 The Game in San Francisco on Friday.
“What a tremendous talent. But I really like my little guy Gio [Bernard]. He had a real good season. But I don't think you can ever have too many good backs.”
The 5-foot-9, 208-pound Bernard, a second-round draft pick from North Carolina, averaged 4.1 yards per carry for 695 yards and five touchdowns and caught 56 passes for 514 yards and three scores as a rookie this past season. But he had a costly fumble for the Bengals in their wild-card weekend loss to the San Diego Chargers.
It's also interesting to note that Bernard was selected with a pick the Bengals gained from the Raiders -- in the infamous “greatest trade in football” that sent quarterback Carson Palmer from Cincinnati to Oakland.
Of course, it was a deal engineered by Jackson himself.
And it should be noted that McFadden and Palmer never ran a single play together under Jackson as McFadden, who had been playing at a league-MVP level, was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot before Palmer debuted.
So does Jackson still think McFadden, who missed six games this past season with an assortment of ailments, can be a game-changing player?
“I would have to be around him again but I think it's still no different with Darren,” Jackson said. “Darren is still a downhill runner, he's a one-cut runner. He has the ability to split out and catch balls and do those things but I think, with any football player, you've just got to build their confidence and let them know you believe in them and create an environment for them to be as good as they can be and normally good things happen. And I don't think it's any different with him.
“Somebody's going to get a really good football player here in the future if he doesn't stay there in Oakland and I just wish him the best.”
McFadden's agent, Ian Greengross, has represented him since the Raiders took the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up fourth overall in 2008. Greengross acknowledged his client has had injury issues, though there is a silver (and black?) lining since it's not the same injury every time.
“Unfortunately, it's always been a little knickknack of injuries here and there at different body parts,” Greengross told 95.7 The Game. “So, injury prone? Sure. I mean, unfortunately, in six years he has yet to play 16 games [in a season].”
McFadden has never appeared in more than 13 games, which he did as a rookie and in 2010. And before suiting up for the Raiders' last two games this season, he had missed 19 of Oakland's previous 39 games.
In his career, McFadden has missed 29 games with toe, knee, hamstring, toe, foot, ankle, hamstring and ankle injuries.
“I don't want to say he's unlucky, but at some point you've got to figure that he's just not going to have that bad luck,” said Greengross, who added that his agency would look into McFadden's history to see if his offseason training program should be modified. “It's not like there's one weak spot that's always being injured and will never be healthy.”
Greengross said McFadden would “certainly love” to return to Oakland but that no conversations had taken place.
“He's always been a Raider at heart, he's never looked to leave so he would certainly come back,” Greengross said. “A lot's going to depend upon the circumstances and how he sees [himself] fitting in, and how they see him fitting in. And certainly we'd probably be wise to talk to some other teams as well once free agency begins.”
Even if the Raiders did have interest, McFadden's price tag would seemingly have to be lower than the $5.8 million he made this past season, when he also had a salary-cap number of $9.6 million and ended with a second consecutive per-rush average of 3.3 yards -- equaling his career low.
But under Jackson, McFadden's average went from 3.4 the year before Jackson arrived to 5.2 and then 5.4.
“When they ran that straight power [blocking scheme], for running backs that had 200 or more carries over those two seasons in total, Darren led the league in rushing average,” Greengross said.
But since then, with the Raiders going back to more of a zone-blocking scheme in 2012 and a combo this past season? Not so much.
“As long as he gets a little hole, I know that speed is still there,” Greengross said. “Even though he hasn't been out there as much as he would have liked to be because of the injures, the one thing the injuries haven't done is taken away that speed.”
And yes, Greengross said McFadden is open to playing a complementary role.
Which brings us back to Jackson and the Bengals -- when the time is right, of course.
“I think Darren can play with anybody,” Jackson said. “If it's the Darren McFadden that I used to know, there's no question -- whether it's in Cincinnati, Oakland or San Francisco or anywhere. He's talented enough to play anywhere in the National Football League.”
But will he be healthy enough?
New Oakland coach Dennis Allen indicated that the running back will be part of the team’s plans moving forward. There has been speculation that McFadden might be traded in an attempt by Oakland to recoup draft picks. The Raiders have very few picks this year.
“As far as I’m concerned he is,” Allen said Friday when asked if McFadden is in Oakland's future plans.
The former Denver defensive coordinator said the Raiders were “much more” difficult to defend last season when McFadden was in the lineup. McFadden was lost for the season on Oct. 23 with a foot injury. Allen said Friday that McFadden is healthy and will be ready for training camp.
The Raiders are planning to move back to a zone-blocking scheme. However, McFadden appeared to be more comfortable as a power runner. Allen said new Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp -- who was Oakland’s coordinator in McFadden’s first NFL season in 2008 -- will put McFadden in position to be successful. Thus, expect the offense to be flexible enough to cater to McFadden’s skills.
Because of the commitment to McFadden, it could be an indication that the team will not give the franchise tag to running back Michael Bush. Safety Tyvon Branch is a candidate for the tag as well. Allen complimented Bush on Friday but did not say what the team’s plans are with any potential free agents.
I will come back with more thoughts on Allen’s news briefing later Friday.
UPDATE: McFadden’s agent, Ian Greengross, said he was told by the Raiders on Friday that McFadden is, indeed, in their plans for 2012.
It's usually a warning sign when a draft-eligible player changes agents in the middle of April, and, well, Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith doesn't need any more red flags.
But that's exactly what has happened, writes Ian R. Rapoport of the Birmingham News. According to the report, Smith fired agent Alvin Keels over the weekend and is expected to hire Ian Greengross.
If you haven't noticed, I don't typically dig too deeply into agent news. Most of it is inside-baseball gossip that doesn't hugely impact what you see on the field. But in this case, Smith's handling of his representation is a reflection on the general disarray of his draft status over the past five months.
It's an issue on this blog because Green Bay, armed with the No. 9 overall pick, has a strong need at tackle and will face a difficult decision about whether to draft him. Or, perhaps this news will be the final hint that Smith brings too many sideshows to merit being a top-10 pick.
Smith was suspended for the Sugar Bowl because of illegal contact with an agent in December, according to ESPN.com's Chris Low and others. He didn't settle on Keels as his agent until the middle of February, and his subsequent decision to leave the annual scouting combine without working out was disastrous.
Was it Keels' fault that Smith left early, or that he showed up out of shape for his pro day? No. But for the issue to boil over so close to the draft indicates an unsettling sense of chaos. Greengross, if he is indeed Keels' replacement, has the difficult job of halting a freefall.
Let's hear from you, Packer types. Aside from the off-field drama, and the conditioning issues, Smith is considered the most talented offensive tackle in a deep draft. Do you want him at No. 9? Or is he too risky of a pick?