What Will It Take to Believe?

By MikeBullock  |   Tuesday, September 21, 2010  |  Comments( 2 )

Oakland Raiders
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When the Oakland Raiders first picked up journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, his arrival was met with little fanfare and maybe even a few yawns. While Bruce himself, and maybe a few members of the Raider staff, believed in his ability not many others did. That is, until he took the field and pulled out some of the best Oakland offensive performances in the last seven years.

Heading into last off-season, it was a no-brainer to let Gradkowski have the starting job when the 2010 season got under way. Instead, Oakland pulled off a seemingly praiseworthy draft day trade for Redskins signal-caller Jason Campbell, a guy with a big arm who fit the mold of prototypical Raider quarterback. The problem is, new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson preceded Campbell with his variation of the west coast offense, a system that really doesn’t suit a big armed quarterback like Campbell.

And it shows.

Once Cable made the decision to pull Campbell half-way through last weekend’s game, it was 2009 all over again. The big armed quarterback sat down on the bench looking dejected and in went Bruce Gradkowski, the second coming of Rich Gannon, to save the day.

While Gradkowski’s numbers were anything but stellar, going 11 of 22 for 162 yards, a pick and a touchdown, his presence in the huddle was enough to spark the Raider offense to pull out a win against a team they should beat. And, nothing is more demoralizing than losing to a team you should beat. While a win is a win, being the second team to lose to the Rams in a 28-game losing stretch is certainly nothing any team wants to carry into the locker room after the final whistle.

Another bright spot to Oakland’s weekend was the second best game of running back Darren McFadden’s career. While he never hit pay dirt, McFadden did amass 145 yards on the ground, landing him in the #2 slot for total rushing yards on the season behind the Texans’ Arian Foster. Amazingly enough, after two games, McFadden is almost half-way to eclipsing his professional best of 499 total yards in a season.

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Sheriff Cable hasn’t decided as of this writing, who will go under center next weekend when the Raiders travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals, another team Oakland should beat. To any outside observer, the answer is obvious, play Bruce. But, in Oaktown, where ill-advised trades, draft picks and free agent signings often hamper the team’s ability to execute, expect the pressure from on high to force Cable to start Campbell, then bench him once more in a move eerily similar to what happened last season when Todd Marinov-err, JaMarcus Russell got the hook twice before Cable finally handed the keys to the Silver and Blackmobile to Gradkowski.

With the week six trade deadline fast approaching, maybe Oakland can trade Campbell to one of the half-dozen or so teams searching for a good quarterback and reel in a left tackle to keep Gradkowski on his feet. If they can do that, things in Oakland suddenly get far rosier than they will be when the shine of beating arguably the worst team in the league wears off.

Gradkowsi makes the young receiving corps look like Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. His presence pulls the pressure off McFadden and Bush, his scrambling ability makes a porous offensive line look capable and his accomplishments put ‘W’s in the books. Sending Campbell back on the field is simply a commitment to wishy-washiness, not excellence. Hopefully, Coach Cable and the man upstairs realize that before today’s practice begins.
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