Former Raiders defensive end and linebacker Lamarr Woodley didn’t like playing under defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
That is a summation of what Woodley, who started in the NFL as an outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said in his “Avenue 56” podcast this week. He said:
“The last two years that I’ve been banged up, let’s be honest about this situation. When I went to play for the Oakland Raiders, it was overall, not a good fit for me. I went out there and they moved me to defensive end. That defensive end spot really didn’t work for me.”
Woodley, who is currently an unsigned free agent at 31 years old, was responding to a query of why the Steelers should sign him. He spent the 2015 season with the Arizona Cardinals, and Woodley apparently didn’t get positive vibes from his coordinator there, James Bettcher.
“In Oakland, we had a dumb defensive coordinator and in Arizona, we had a dumb defensive coordinator. It was just two dumb guys, that never played football, but felt like they knew more about football. They thought we were like Madden players. They’d draw something up and on paper it looked good, but the players still have to go out there and run it. Those guys didn’t really listen to their players. It was a one track mind and they wanted to do it their way and their way only.”
The Raiders defense was atrocious under Tarver, and Woodley hit injured reserve with a biceps injury halfway through the season. When he was absent, the defense took a turn for the worst.
In week 13, the St. Louis Rams lined up three receivers bunched together and the Raiders only had one defensive back on hand to cover them. Which was the second time that happened in the span of eight weeks, the first time taking place in London versus the Dolphins. .
When asked about it, Tarver said:
“It was actually different personnel groups than the Dolphins did. What we didn’t do is tackle the ball around the line of scrimmage, so the corrections in this case were pretty easy. Now, it’s athlete on athlete, so, simple corrections but we’ve got to make the plays and we have made those so we’re looking forward to this week and getting to show what we’ve corrected.”
Tarver took a very simple question, which a guy with a Master’s degree in biochemistry should have understood and been able to answer, and disregarded the reporter who asked it, and the fans who he is paid to issue answers to at some level.
Whispers from other players were streaming out of the Raiders facility during Tarver’s final season with Oakland, frustrated with the schemes and the coordinators’ ineptitude regarding fundamentals.
The Raiders allowed 452 points to be scored in 2014, compared to largely the same roster in 2015, 399 points scored.
It could even be argued that Oakland had even less pure ability on defense last season, with pass rusher Khalil Mack learning how to move after adding 30 lbs and moving to defensive end, the absence of linebacker Sio Moore, who is far more talented than his replacement Ray Ray Armstrong, and a veteran cornerback in Tarell Brown.
Or Justin Tuck being placed on injured reserve when the Raiders were really figuring things out, and not even through eight games.
Woodley lauded Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LaBeau for listening to the locker room and implementing strategies that his squad suggested at times.
Nonetheless, with Woodley being a free agent this time of the year, he did exaggerate on a few things. Tarver did play football at West Valley community college in Saratoga, Calif, and at Foothill High School in Pleasanton.
Just nothing like a four-year college at any level, or the NFL. For what that’s worth.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.