We all saw our worst nightmares manifest themselves once again, when Jamarcus took the field, to once again squander a potential victory the rest of the team never stopped scratching to hold on to, demonstrating a resolve that it would be just a matter of time, until our last resort became a reality.
It's clear the team performs notches below it's normal level when he takes the field; it's also clear that we'd probably be in the playoffs if we'd have had even mediocre play consistently from qb.
Instead, we had subpar play from Jamarcus almost the entire first half of the season, only to see Gradkowski eclipse his stats in yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, and even the win category in just one quarter.
Tom Cable said it, in a classless, unchampionlike coach response to the media pointing out that the team should shoulder a large portion of the blame. Shame on you, Tom Cable, for doing what no coach should ever do: blast the guys who've merely bought into the philosophy you've sold them-exactly what you expect from a leader--that it in fact the reason we've suffered many losing battles we could've, and rightfully should've, won, with the right use of personnel, calls, and most importantly, decision to start the right guys at qb.
In a way, when I saw Jamarcus take the field today, it was my worst nightmare in that it suddenly became a lose-lose situation. He leads the team to victory, and the Russell apologists and the media alike come out in defense of a guy that is the reason we lost almost all the games he started. You might be able to make an argument against some of the other phases of the team in a couple of his starts, but I still think you'd have seen a different team on the field had we fielded an adequate leader sooner in the season. It was obvious, we saw the players respond to Gradkowski in a way we had not yet seen until he started and was given a real opportunity to lead this team; Jamarcus never embraced it, and for that I'll never forgive him.
But today proved what all the other games did when he started; the team plays down to his level when he comes on the field, and can play with the best in the league when we field a competitive qb, passing game, and offensive leader. It proved our team is essentially an effective passing game away from being competitive with the best teams in the league, and coming into the season we lacked a defensive identity, the ability to use our offensive weapons to our strength and to exploit opponents' weaknesses, and any semblance of consistency or how to move forward or a foundation on which to build. Today proved we have most of the essential ingredients you need to compete in this league. I pray we use our resources wisely to address those few missing ingredients most of us have seen as clearly lacking from the current roster.
I won't spend time distributing where you lay the blame for the decision to stay with Russell for so long, or not doing whatever we needed to do to keep Jeff Garcia on the roster as an alternative, or realizing Gradkowski was a much better option than Jamarcus all along. I won't point fingers at the suspect blocking that once could say put a serious damper on McFadden's career, was perhaps at least partially responsible for some of the turnovers and fumbles Jamarcus committed, and was unable to spring Bush to paydirt this season (he got more carries today, for those of you who've been screaming for him to get them, with the same two yard result we got from Fargas and McFadden),
or even the dismal playcalling, which I'll agree was as puzzling as it could possibly be, most of the time, especially the rare times we found ourselves in the red zone.
While Gradkowski proved able to read the defenses enough to exploit the quick drops and find an open guy or two, today drove home how poorly our line protects our qb, how fragile Charlie Frye is, how poorly Jamarcus is without all kindza time and a decent pocket and maybe how durable he is (though he can't hold on to the ball or complete one before he gets nailed, he doesn't get taken out for the season from the mauling our qbs take, but I still look forward to the day he's not on the roster).
We have some amazing leadership in the locker room as opposed to last year, and some young talent that has established itself among NFL elite.
I'm with a lot of you die hards here on the site in my feelings about Cable: He can't call a game to save his fat ass; he's wearing too many hats' he's perhaps not suitable for head coach and doesn't possess the chudzpa to butt heads successfully with Davis, or just doesn't have enough of a brain of his own to have his own philosophy.
I do, however, believe the players who say the team is behind him, and ambivalent as to whether moving in a new direction at this point is the correct move at this juncture. I think you give him better blockers, a qb at least as good as Bruce in the leadership and competitiveness departments, and a DT to bolster the pass rush and run D and another corner to complement Nnamdi (both CJ and Routt need to go)
Bottom line: We have a pretty clear picture of where we are, and where we need to go from here. All signs point to it all being an upward climb, but one we are for the most part poised to take head on, and provided we can fill a few key positions--DT, OT and OG and probably C, MLB and CB--we can be a playoff and super bowl contender, sooner than later.
I've enjoyed discussing the season with you all. Please feel free to give all your POSITIVE feedback on the season.
We've exhausted the negatives, of which there is never a shortage for this organization; save them for another post, please!
Consider this an opportunity to laud that which we can be proud of, and speculate as to who we hope will be the missing ingredients to propel this Raider team back amongst the historic Raider teams and a dominant force in this league, where we belong!