Of all the quarterback changes that took place this week, arguably the most surprising – even more so than the Michael-Vick-for-Kevin-Kolb swap in Philadelphia, was the decision of Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable to start Bruce Gradkowski ahead of Jason Campbell.
Campbell was supposed to be the antidote to JaMarcus Russell, the Raiders’ No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft and a failure by anyone’s measure. He was compared favorably last month to former Raiders QB Jim Plunkett by none other than owner Al Davis, an anointing that should have stood the test of time. But Campbell lasted six quarters.
The Raiders have one win and one loss and have scored 29 points, certainly enough for Cable to opt for someone he hopes will stir the offense. Gradkowski, who has played for three teams in five years, is an energetic player and the kind of leader who knows how to rally his teammates in close games.
“If you look back to the preseason, even at that time in the two games he came in, he scored points,” Cable said earlier this week. “That's what we're about. If we can get this thing to where we can score 24 points a game, we'll be very tough to beat.”
That’s a tall order for the Raiders. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland has scored 24 or more points just five times in Cable’s 30-game coaching tenure. Of course, Russell was the QB in some of those, so maybe Cable deserves a pass.
There’s no question this move has the look of desperation, despite the fact it’s only Week 3 in the NFL. Remember, the Raiders spent a fourth-round draft pick and $3.14 million to get Campbell, so Cable’s neck is clearly on the line. Davis won’t hesitate to fire a coach in midseason.
Then again, if Gradkowski lights a fire under the Raiders and they beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Cable will look good in the boss’ eyes – at least until the next loss.
But in this league, and especially in Al Davis’ world, nothing is for sure. Gradkowski understands there are no guarantees.
“No matter what coach said, you just never know,” he told reporters. “Winning's the name of the game, and if I'm not getting it done, I'm sure he's going to try to find someone else who will. You just have to respect that.”