By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 3:48 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Reading (or listening) between the lines Monday, it’s hard to come away with the impression that coach Tom Cable wants to go into the last three games of the season with JaMarcus Russell at quartertback.
Give him credit for not offering up a company line and insisting there’s been some grand change in Russell in the three games since he lost the starting job to Bruce Gradkowski.
Cable could have said:
“We really feel good about having JaMarcus back in the lineup. He’s gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of preparation, appears to be taking his job more seriously and is turning it loose at quarterback. He played very well at Denver last season and we expect him to do so again.”
Instead, Cable said this:
“I think certainly I’m going to look at what the options are and again as I told you before I’ll do what’s best for this team, what gives us the best chance to win. Right now, it’s to figure out where Bruce is at here in the next 24-48 hours and then make that decision.”
Reality check: Gradkowski is a quarterback who thrives through mobility and has one torn MCL and one partially torn MCL. He’s not playing against Denver.
“You know after looking at it on film, I see some things that are the same. I think that there’s a couple things he did that were good. Again, I’ll look at all that here in the next 24 hours because if we’re heading towards a decision at the quarterback spot, then I pretty much do diligence in all those things and I’ll sit down and look through everything again.”
You wonder where Al Davis comes out on all this. At one point, he liked Frye enough to have him up to the office for a talk when he came for a visit early in free agency (although Frye didn’t sign until much later).
But Davis certainly wants Russell to begin achieving his potential, and there are three valuable lessons to be had.
Those three “lessons” could be the last games of Cable’s Raiders head coaching career if they go down without a fight.
Frankly, the Raiders didn’t put up much of one Sunday after Gradkowski went out of the game. Russell got almost no protection, and if you were to put Russell-Frye to a secret ballot as to which quarterback gives the better chance to win, the Raiders’ actions on the field against the Redskins suggest it would be Frye in a landslide.
Russell didn’t talk with reporters after the game, although Comcast SportsNet Bay Area managed to get a couple of minutes while Cable was addressing the press and before the quarterback made a hasty retreat.
“It’s kind of different coming in, and not starting,” Russell said. “Best thing to do is just let the game come to you, don’t force anything. Couldn’t get too much going. That’s basically it. Nothing else to be said, just couldn’t get nothing going.”
Asked if about his protection and the six second-half sacks, Russell said, “I don’t know, but I say everything is my fault, so I’ll put it on me, maybe. I could’ve stepped up a different way to protect those guys, but that’s what happened.”
Cable didn’t deny there seemed to be the entire team seemed to sag once Russell got in the game _ whether it was Russell’s fault or not.
“Potentially I guess there was,” Cable said. “I really didn’t feel that because you’re so into what you’re doing and all that. When you look at it on film, we look like a different team but to put that on them that way, I don’t want to do that. We’ve got to step up and all play better. That’s really the bottom line here.”
More Monday news and notes:
– Zach Miller walked past in an off-limits area of the Raiders facility, carrying a folder which had diagrams of the human brain on the outside. In his postgame press briefing, Cable said Miller had a stinger. He said Monday it was a concussion.
Miller also had a concussion on Oct. 4 against Houston.
“We’ll be as cautious as we have to be, and what I mean is we’ll protect the athlete and do all the testing and due diligence in terms of his return,” Cable said.
Cable said he thinks the league will take a close look at the hit by Rocky McIntosh without the Raiders having to send in the film as evidence. And he was pleased to see safety Mike Mitchell and cornerback Louis Murphy take exception to Fred Smoot’s celebration near the fallen Miller.
– Could be another week without rookie first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey at wide receiver. The improvement in his foot sprain has been “minimal” and Cable said he was day-to-day.
– Safety Michael Huff is day-to-day with a stringer and hopes to make it through the season.
“I first did it in Dallas, and then I reinjured it in Pittsburgh. I finished the Pittsburgh game, I finished the Dallas game, so I can play with it,” Huff said. “I just have to make it through these last three.”
– Wide receiver/return specialist Nick Miller will run on a machine this week and hopefully will soon graduate to grass. Is it possible Miller will make his debut in the Raiders season finale against Baltimore?
– The Redskins got to Raiders quarterbacks, and Russell in particular, with a Cover 1 defense in which any player that had a responisiblity to cover a back or tight end immediately became a pass rusher if those players were held in to block.
“Every pass play they can extra guy on you,” Cable said. “So it’s a matter of getting it out of your hand out there.”
– Defensive end Greg Ellis played well in Cable’s estimation and the hope is he can make it through the next three games. Ellis said afterward he has not thoughts of retiring and is committed to keeping his promise to Cable and Davis to help get the Raiders turned around.
Defensive end Richard Seymour, in the final year of his contract and potentially locked up with a franchise tag, said being with the Raiders if and when they become a good team would be gratifying, but noted, “Obviously that’s the business side of the game. As we all know, I thought I was going to be in New England last year and six days before the season I’m here in Oakland. You never know what happens so I’ll just let those chips fall where they may.”
– Cable shrugged off a pass interference call against Stanford Routt (Santana Moss fell and Routt tripped over him _ not exactly the textbook definition of a PI) as part of the game. Cornerback Chris Johnson said he understands the game is not set up for cornerbacks to succeed.
“If they’re going to call it like that, it may as well be touch football,” Johnson said.
Johnson laughed when asked if defensive assistant and Raiders Hall of Famer Willie Brown talked about playing cornerback in the true bump-and-run days of the American football League.
“He said he would like just get up and choke them,” Johnson said. “I’m like, ‘You can’t do that no more. You do that you’ll surely get flagged.’ We try to play the rules of this game. He tries to get us to do what he did back then. I said, ‘Nah, that ain’t going to work.’ ”
– A welcome sight _ Darren McFadden getting 74 yards on two snaps on the ball, one on a slant, the other on a slant-and-go, both against former SEC nemesis LaRon Landry (LSU).
“Just felt great to get out there and at least rip off a big play, whether it was running the ball or receiving, it just felt good get that in and get out there, move the ball around to me a little bit, felt good to move around out there,” McFadden said.
– McFadden and Justin Fargas both said Michael Bush, who never saw the field on offense has been accepting his reduced time like a professional.
Bush chatted amicably with reporters Monday about college basketball, but politely declined to discuss his current role with the Raiders.