The reasons for cutting Bartell are obvious. He’s allowed 18 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns on just 28 targets. Quarterbacks have a rating of 139.1 against him, the highest among cornerbacks who’ve played 25% of their team’s snaps. He also has just six tackles in run defense, which ranks him 62nd among cornerbacks.
Where the Raiders apparently found Bartell’s performance to be insufferable, they found McClain’s performance, immaturity, and general outlook to be, well, sufferable. Two weeks ago, the Raiders suspended McClain for conduct detrimental to the team. Though no formal explanation was given, much was made of an apparent argument between McClain and head coach Dennis Allen. Many speculated that the suspension was a precursor to McClain’s ultimate release, that the suspension was ingenious maneuver to save the Raiders from having to pay McClain’s full salary. Apparently, there is no ingenuity in this move.
No matter how we dissect this, McClain is a detriment to the team. NFL Films’ Greg Cosell called McClain “arguably the worst starting 4-3 middle linebacker in the NFL.” With McClain patrolling the middle, the Raiders gave up an average of 4.7 yards per carry, good for 28th in the league. Without him, opponents have averaged just 3.79. You see, McClain is something of a one-trick pony, as Pro Football Focus believes. “When the scheme puts him in position to make a play, he can get there,” Steve Palazzolo of PFF notes, “but he hasn’t made many plays while working off blocks since his strong Week 1 game against the San Diego Chargers.”
Play aside, McClain has been involved in a myriad of off the field issues. In 2008, he was accused of intentionally hitting a man with his car. Twice. He was also once shot at while driving in Decatur, Alabama. Not to mention the whole firing a gun at a man’s face, a charge which was eventually dismissed after the accuser decided to no longer pursue the case. In any case, McClain’s poor play and even poorer off-the-field decision making has left fans with one quintessential question: Why keep him around?
Odds are we’ll never know. As it is, McClain is not allowed to return to the team’s facilities until he meets with coach Dennis Allen. So any weak excuse for not cutting McClain will have to wait until Tuesday at the earliest. I can’t wait.