A rooting interest

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
A cynic would suggest Marques Tuiasosopo doesn’t stand a chance of making the most of his chance as quarterback of the Oakland Raiders and making it his own. He’s just way too nice of a guy, and you remember what Leo Durocher used to say about where nice guys finish.

The Raiders, of course, are already in last. So what could it hurt?

No one who covers a college or professional sports team – at least no one I’ve ever met in 20-plus years – has a serious rooting interest in the teams they cover. Sure, you’d like your team to win if it gives you a chance to cover a Super Bowl in a pleasant locale. And more often than not it’s better if your team wins because it makes your job easier in terms of player and organizational access.

You get e-mails all the time from fans who insist you’re a “Raider Hater,’’ when in reality the coverage is a reflection of the record. Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of positive stories that go along with 13-31 since 2002. And writing stories about the players getting cut and coaches getting fired is no fun. Coaching searches, a way of life every few years under Al Davis, are miserable and stressful for everyone involved, including the media.

But while you don’t root for a team because it clouds the judgement, you’d be less than human if you didn’t occasionally pull for people. Tuiasosopo is one of those people.

He’s been nothing but a gracious, friendly, honest and classy guy from the moment he arrived. The same could be said for Kerry Collins, whose handling of his demotion was what we’ve come to expect from a recovering alcoholic who meets things head on and never loses his perspective or dignity.

But Collins simply wasn’t working out, and getting a look at Tuiasosopo is absolutely the right thing to do.

Frankly, though, I have my doubts, and it has nothing to do with Tuiasosopo’s poor play in the preseason. Preseason football means next to nothing. Never has, never will.

Can a guy who has sat for this long play with any sort of crispness and continuity? Can a player who did his best in college after making mistakes and falling behind suddenly become cool and efficient when he’s always excelled when he acts as if his hair is on fire? Does he pass the ball well enough to be a 60 percent passer and keep the chains moving?

If he can do all these things, he’s too good to be true.

While they’d never admit it, the Raiders braintrust would be surprised as well. Otherwise, Tuiasosopo never would have been temporarily demoted to No. 3 when Collins was signed to take over for Rich Gannon. So the odds are against Tuiasosopo developing into anything extraordinary.

They’ll tell you in the Great Northwest that Tuiasosopo used to beat the odds routinely at the University of Washington. For the sake of seeing something interesting over the last four weeks of the season, as well as a just reward for someone who appears to deserve it, here’s hoping it happens again.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer