From Run DMC to Limp DMC and back

NAPA, CA ( -- The conversation was as brief as it was prescient.

And frankly, one that should have happened two years earlier.

Hue Jackson, relatively new to the organization as the Raiders offensive coordinator, cornered an underachieving Darren McFadden in the weight room.

"What is it you like to run?" Jackson asked McFadden. "You were a Heisman Trophy finalist. What was it that put you in that group of people?"

McFadden, actually a two-time Heisman runner-up at Arkansas, answered, "Coach, I'm used to running a certain type of runs."

His interest piqued, Jackson pressed on.

"Well," Jackson said, "why don't we run them here?"

McFadden was amused by the audacity of this high-energy newcomer.

"Well," McFadden told him, "it's not our style."

Any observer of the Raiders since they used the No. 4 overall selection of the 2008 draft on McFadden could tell you with utmost confidence that the running back known in college as Run DMC was being misused in Oakland. He was more Limp DMC after being thrust between the tackles too often and coming up lame in former coach Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme, which forces running backs to be more patient and selective in finding their holes, rather than just attacking and free-wheeling.

So Jackson, feeling his oats, asked McFadden exactly what he liked to run and after the hybrid back who is best working in space "rattled off about three or four runs that he really enjoys," the newbie coach absorbed it.

"O.K," Jackson said. "They're in."

McFadden could not believe his ears.

"Oh no they're not," he answered.

"Yes," Jackson said, "they are."

Again, why wasn't this conversation had before McFadden started down that dangerous road to bustdom? Coaching, successful coaching, is about recognizing players' strengths and putting them in positions to succeed.

In Jackson's first year as Oakland's O.C., and incorporating some of McFadden's favorite things into the Raiders' revamped playbook, McFadden authored a breakthrough season. His 1,157 rushing yards, in 13 games, was the fifth highest single-season rushing campaign in franchise history, 137 yards behind Napoleon Kaufman's No. 2 mark.