Ever since the McNabb trade didn't materialize, I've been pondering the quarterback situation. After much thought, I've decided that if none of the following 3 men are dressed in silver & black and under center for the first snap of the season, it will be a terrible disappointment. I've decided to pick one QB on the current roster, one who might be acquired via trade and one who might be drafted.
UPDATE: Let me clarify my position a bit. If I were GM, I'd call the Redskins about Campbell and then draft Trent Williams or Bryan Bulaga with the #8 pick. That being said, I'm arguing in favor of Clausen in the comments simply because many people seem to think it'd be a bad idea. That's what I don't get. I think it'd be a GOOD idea, just not the BEST idea. Hope that clears things up somewhat!
1. Bruce Gradkowski - Opinions differ in Raider Nation about Grads. Some love him, others don't see the big deal. I take a middle course. Certainly Gradkowski is no overwhelming pure talent. He doesn't have huge arm strength, isn't terribly tall and has average athleticism. That being said, he has good accuracy and a high football IQ. His work ethic is second to none and he's a fiery leader in the huddle. Stop and think for a second: When was the last time the Raiders had a QB that the rest of the team would be willing to storm the gates of hell with? Rich Gannon. None of the has-beens (Collins, Culpepper) and never-weres (McCown, Walter) who have been fobbed off on Raider Nation in recent years has been an inspirational presence. Gradkowski is, or soon can be, that guy.
Can Gradkowski ever be a "franchise" quarterback in the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees mold? Doubtful at best. But if the Raiders can build a good defense and improve the O-line, can they go far under Grads? Absolutely. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. The Bears got to one under Rex Grossman. The Panthers made it under Jake Delhomme. Gradkowski is, or can be (and with his work ethic and accuracy, don't bet against him), better than any of them.
After Cable finally had enough of Russell's ineptness last year, the offense experienced a notable upsurge under Grads. He lead them to two highly improbable wins. They were within 3 points of Washington and looked to be driving for another score when he went down with injury. At the very least, Gradkowski has earned the right to be a serious competitor for the starting job.
Besides, if it comes down to him or Russell, who would you want to see? Thought so.
2. Jason Campbell - Campbell, a 2005 1st round pick, has had his share of struggles over the years. But how many of them are truly his fault? He has been the full time starter for four years now in the one team that rivals ours in terms of organizational instability and chaos. Despite this, he has improved his numbers every single year, in completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and rating. Indeed, last year was his best as a starter, despite being on a terrible team and playing behind a banged up offensive line that allowed 43 sacks. Let's look:
64.5% completion, 3618 yards, 20 TD, 15 INT, 86.4 overall rating.
Can anyone here honestly deny that if JaMarcus Russell had put up those numbers in 2009, we would've been at least 8-8, if not 9-7 and maybe pushing for a playoff spot?
As I said, Campbell has improved every year. He has a strong arm. Right now, his trade value is low, since the Redskins are obviously going with McNabb. He can be had on the cheap and would instantly be the best QB on the roster. I have no doubts he'd be ready and willing to work his ass off to prove his detractors in Washington wrong and succeed in Oakland.
Rumor has it the Redskins would be willing to accept something as low as a 4th round pick. Given all this, it would be no bad decision to pull the trigger on a trade and might even be one of the best decisions the franchise has made in years. It's not unlikely the 'Skins would be willing to take something like a 5th and 7th rounder. Given everything Campbell can bring to the team, why not? At the least, I hope Davis is seriously mulling the possibility.
3. Jimmy Clausen - If no QB can be had via trade or free agency (just say no to Marc Bulger and Sage Rosenfels, Al!) and Davis doesn't have confidence in Grads or JaMarcus, then that leaves one possibility: the draft. There is a quarterback coming out this year that has significant experience in a pro style offense, who has all the physical and mental tools a franchise QB needs and who just might be available when the Raiders are on the clock in the first round: Jimmy Clausen.
I recently represented the Raiders in a mock draft on SB Nation's "Mocking the Draft" site. I decided to draft Clausen. I'll copy and paste my explanation for your edification:
I can hear a chorus of people right now: "Al Davis would never draft Jimmy Clausen!"
First, let's all be honest: no one really knows what Al Davis is going to do except Al himself. All people like us can do is use semi-informed conjecture and speculation. So...let's speculate.
Consider this from Yahoo Sports' Michael Silver: (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ms-thegameface040210)
"'He might be the most accurate thrower in the draft,” said a personnel executive for one AFC team. “I mean, he’s pinpoint accurate. He’d be a great West Coast [Offense] guy.'"
It's worth noting that recently hired Raiders offensive co-ordinator Hue Jackson is an expert in the West Coast offense AND has experience molding a talented young quarterback in Joe Flacco.
But, Al doesn't like the WCO, you say? Silver has more:
"A front-office executive for another AFC team had a different take: 'He can throw the ball downfield. He’s the perfect Raiders quarterback, what Al [Davis] has been dreaming about for years.'"
Also spare me complaints Clausen isn't built like a Davis QB. He goes about 6'2-6'3", 220lbs. He has a gunslinger's mentality at times. Know who that sounds like to me? Kenny Stabler and Jim Plunkett.
What about the belief that Davis is determined, come hell or high water, to make something out of JaMarcus Russell? I thought this too, until recently. But things I'm reading tend to point to the fact that Davis has just about reached his breaking point with his former prize pick. Nothing comes out of Raiderland without Davis' approval. He wouldn't let out the information that he was looking into trading for McNabb or even Sage Rosenfels unless he was pretty sure Russell was done. Russell, depending on who you believe, showed up for workouts weighing in between 270 and 290. Either one is too heavy; by all accounts the Raiders wanted him at 260 MINIMUM. Davis' financial commitment to Russell is almost up. He owes him 3 million more guaranteed and that's it. At this point, that's a small enough price to pay to get rid of an anchor around the franchise in case the cap comes back next year.
Clausen is the anti-Russell. He has accuracy and pocket presence, two things Russell notoriously lacks. Most importantly, he love s football. One scouting report describes him as a "film room rat." In meeting with Jon Gruden, Silver notes that Gruden was "wowed by Clausen’s ability to recognize plays they watched together on film and replicate them on the chalkboard." Think Russell could do that? Clausen has a fiery demeanor on the field. Russell is notoriously lackadaisical in the huddle. Clausen has spent 3 years in college playing in a system that requires him to read the whole field. Russell struggles to read half the field. I could go on, but you get the point.
In summation: The Raiders neeed a quarterback. Jimmy Clausen will likely be available at #8. I'll give the final word to Tim Kawakami, who's spent years covering the Raiders:
"I wonder what Al does if Clausen–a big-armed Notre Dame guy and Al has a fondness for those things–slips to his slot at 8? For curiosity’s sake, I hope Clausen is there when Al’s picking.
Then let’s see what happens."
The Clausen hate out there is weird and to me entirely unfounded. I don't see how a guy who has experience in a pro style offense, whose mechanics are almost flawless, who has pinpoint accuracy, a good arm and the demeanor to command attention in the huddle can be so denigrated in certain quarters. Allow me to direct your attention to this article that does a masterful job of disposing of all the stupid anti-Clausen arguments floating around. It's very long, but worth your time and quite enlightening. At the least, scroll down and just read the conclusion; it's like one or two paragraphs.
So there you have it: If one of the 3 above candidates are under center on opening day and the holes along the offensive & defensive lines are filled in the draft, then Raider Nation at last has real reason for hope that the devastating losing cycle of the past seven years will be broken in 2010.