Camp questions: Can Gradkowski start?


Ninth in a series analyzing questions and issues as the Raiders report for training camp in Napa next Wednesday:

Is Bruce Gradkowski really competing to be the starter?

Bruce Gradkowski went from Jon Gruden’s golden boy to the depths of the NFL to a miracle worker in his hometown in short order.

Once Tom Cable got the OK to bench JaMarcus Russell, Gradkowski hijacked a season seemingly headed for 2-14 and helped make it a slightly more palatable 5-11.

(I’d argue that even though Russell emerged from the bench to lead an improbable win in Denver, the momentum generated from Gradkowski’s insertion in the lineup before being injured kept the team together).

He guided the Raiders to an upset win over playoff-bound Cincinnati at home and a come-from-behind win over his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in what might be the Raiders’ most stirring win in the last seven years.

Don’t forget that in the Chiefs game in which he took over for Russell, Gradkowski had the Raiders deep into Kansas City territory when one of his passes bounced off the hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey and ended up an interception. The Raiders lost, 16-10.

Keep in mind Gradkowski was fighting with Charlie Frye for a roster spot in training camp, with Russell the anointed starter and Jeff Garcia brought in to be the veteran backup. If Garcia didn’t take a look at Russell and surmise, “No way I’m playing behind this guy” and ask to be released, there’s no guarantee Gradkowski even makes the roster.

Before coming to the Raiders, three teams had given up on Gradkowski _ Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Cleveland _ teams playing at a level at or worse than Oakland.

Yet Gradkowski played better than he ever had, even as a rookie starter in Tampa, and played a hugely important role in giving the offense a spark after the listless tenure of Russell _ something that contributed to Russell’s eventual exit.

When Jason Campbell was acquired from the Washington Redskins, he immediately said in an NFL Network interview it was his impression after conversations with Cable and Al Davis that he’d be the starter.

Cable said that no, Campbell would compete for the starting job. By the time Campbell met the media in Oakland, he had softened his position considerably.

Meanwhile, Gradkowski suffered a torn left pectoral muscle lifting weights. That left most of the work with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to Campbell, with Gradkowski starting light throwing as the Raiders finished organized team activities. Both Cable and Gradkowski expect the quarterback to be ready to go by the first practice a week from today.

So is it really a competition?


Not when Gradkowski is under for contract at around $1.8 million per year after being tendered as an unrestricted free agent, and Campbell was brought in at more than $3 million and extended an additional year to over $4 million.

Campbell is a veteran of 45 starts, has a 61.2 completion percentage with 55 touchdown passes and 38 interceptions. He wasn’t brought in to “compete” with a spunky underdog.

Not that what Gradkowski did was all for naught. He caused the Raiders, as well as every other team in the league, to give him serious consideration for a roster spot as an ideal backup quarterback.

Gradkowski would never look at it that way, nor should he. He wants to start, but his enthusiasm, mobility and skill set make him ideal to come in for a starter who is either injured or struggling and still give his team a chance to win.

Still only 27, Gradkowski could have himself a long and fruitful career as an NFL backup, and given attrition at the position, get another chance to work the kind of magic he did last season before one day becoming a coach at some level. I’m guessing that’s how the Raiders envision him, anyway.

Previous camp questions:

Will wee see T.O.?

Can less be more for Cable?

Can the starting linebackers hold up in coverage?

How good is Mike Mitchell?

Can Mario be super?

Can Higgins return to ’08 form?

Where is Seymour’s ripple effect?

Can Bush be a beast?


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Thec07

    Boldin is cream…

  • Thec07

    The Oline will determine what the NATION does….

  • fat kidd

    John Elway thinks Tim Tebow “has plenty of arm”
    Posted by Michael David Smith on July 22, 2010 4:30 PM ET
    Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway thinks far too much is being made about the question of whether rookie Tim Tebow is an NFL-ready passer.

    “The thing about Tebow is they’re focusing too much on his release,” Elway told the Denver Post. “As long as he can get it in a timely manner, I think he has plenty of arm there. . . . He’s not going to change his release. He may get better. Obviously, by throwing you get more accurate and more accurate and you may shorten it up as time goes on but if it’s long and quick, that’s OK.”

    Overall, Elway sounds like he’s sold on Tebow and on the direction the Broncos are heading in. But he cautioned that people shouldn’t expect too much from the team because “they are so young.”

    “Maybe they make eight, nine, 10 wins would be a good year I would think,” Elway said. “But show a little more consistency and finish the season out.”

  • Thec07

    F elway….

  • JaMarcus Ohbombah and S P@lin are neck in neck in a head 2 head poll. P@lin isnt even running and Pres Purple lips hasn’t stopped campaigning. Pretty funny!

    m0pe & ch@nge

  • Thec07

    F tebow…

  • Fat Runts playoff predictions.

    Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Cubs

    Raiders, Mariners, Browns, Astros

  • J Wiggle

    You want your O-lineman and WR’s to be your boys not your co-workers.


    Ideally, yes …

    At the end of the day, it’s all about production on the field though mayne. That’s all I’m saying.

    The icing ain’t no good without the cake!

  • RaiderRockstar

    Flacco was one of the worst if not the worst QB down the stretch. The guy was terrible.

    I think they finish 3rd in their division and miss the playoffs.


    LOL @ Jwigg!

  • J Wiggle


    I think the division is there for Cincy to take.

    The question is the battle between Pitts and BMore for #2 in the division.

    Not a fan of Flacco though. And I think Ed Reed and Fabes coming off MAJOR surgeries as well as Rays advanced age are going to matter.

  • fat kidd

    Rob Ryan would like to coach the Raiders
    Is the NFL ready for another Ryan as head coach?
    Rob Ryan hopes so, and he made it clear that he hopes to be considered for the Raiders job if Tom Cable is let go.
    “Hell, yeah, I’d have interest,” Ryan told USA Today. “I haven’t talked to Mr. Davis because he has a coach. Let’s see what happens.”
    The Browns defensive coordinator doesn’t lack for confidence. No surprise there.
    “I will be a head coach in this league, and I will be damn successful, too. . . . There are a lot of good coaches out there, but there are only so many Ryans.”
    The words are a small surprise because Ryan seemed eager to leave Oakland a year ago. But he reportedly didn’t burn any bridges and even had kind words for JaMarcus Russell a few weeks back.

    He must really want that job.

  • MTraidernation

    the way i see it is this way:

    there is at the very least a quarterback competition. no one is being handed the keys, ala ja-quarter-pounder-with-cheese last fall. if gradkowski doesn’t start, he will no doubt challenge JC on a weekly basis AND will be prepared in the event of a JC injury or drop-off. BG will make JC better, or visa versa.

    i don’t care who starts as long as we win and the guy is a professional i.e. staying awake in meetings, showing up on time, not wearing 50 extra pounds of body wieght AND jewelry. also, don’t blame your receivers for your piss-poor play.

    also, who wears a ski-cap when it’s 80 degrees. what a clown.

  • Chris Paul to the Lakers sound niiiiiice.

  • J Wiggle

    CP3 can’t play in the triangle

  • J Wiggle

    Josh Powell to the Hawks for 1.1 million …

    Wasn’t going to play or dress in front of Caracter.

  • Dakota, would you trade Bynum for Paul? I think Paul would be hampered by the triangle, but is the triangle still gonna be the Lakers system in 2 years?

  • 53 man roster prediction:

    Quarterbacks 3

    Starter: Jason Campbell

    Reserves: Charlie Frye, Bruce Gradkowksi

    Running backs 5

    Starter: Michael Bush RB, Chane Moline FB

    Reserves: Michael Bennett, Rock Cartwright, Darren McFadden

    Tight Ends 3

    Starter: Zach Miller

    Reserves: Brandon Myers, Tony Stewart

    Wide Receivers 6

    Starters: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens

    Reserves: Jacoby Ford, Todd Watkins, Nick Miller

    Offensive Line: 10

    Starters: Mario Henderson (LT) Robert Gallery (LG) Samson Satele (C) Cooper Carlisle (RG), Langston Walker (RT)

    Reserves: Khalif Barnes, Bruce Campbell, Daniel Loper, Chris Morris, Jared Veldheer

    Defensive line: 8

    Starters: Desmond Bryant (DT), Lamarr Houston (DE), Tommy Kelly (DT), Richard Seymour (DE)

    Reserves: John Henderson (DT), William Joseph (DT), Jay Richardson (DE), Matt Shonasty (DE)

    Linebackers: 7

    Starters: Trevor Scott, Rolando McClain, Kamerion Wembley

    Reserves: Thomas Howard, Quentin Groves, Travis Goethel, Rocky Brown

    Defensive backs: 8

    Nnamdi Asomugha, Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, Chris Johnson, Stanford Routt, Mike Mitchell, Hiram Eugene, Walter McFadden

    Special teams: 3

    Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski

    Punter: Shane Lechler

    Long Snapper: Jon Condo (grrrr)

  • Nnamdi21

    Just Fire Baby Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:32 pm
    Watching the Ravens game last week, if Jamarcus wasn’t such a rockhead, teams would be kicking down the door inviting him to camp. Not for a starting gig, but to see if they could foster his talent.

    He looked good and made some pretty good throws. Too bad he is a complete tool.


    Like I’ve said, talented football player with massive potential.

    Just got rich, fat and lazy with his entourage eggin him on.

    What a massive waste…

  • Bo Schembechler Jackson Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 2:22 pm
    Dakota, would you trade Bynum for Paul? I think Paul would be hampered by the triangle, but is the triangle still gonna be the Lakers system in 2 years?

    I struggle with this….if Bynum didn’t have injury problems it would be a resounding no because I think he has great potential and you never trade size…but Bynum and some picks and garbage (Sasha, Walton) to make the money work for Paul and Okefor’s bad contract….I might do that deal. Chris Paul could play in any offense.

  • Looks like Matt Barnes is using the Lakers to get a better offer from the Cavs, but I would be glad to see him added to our bench.

  • Just Fire Baby

    A week away!!

    Interviews and twitter updates……..life doesn’t get any better.

  • Just Fire Baby

    We will start to see if we have a competition or not.

    See if Bruce or anyone else gets any above normal reps with the firsts.

  • Sure, Garbagekowski can compete to start….against Russell….in Omaha maybe….but not for the Oakland Raiders.

    Sorry Garbage Man!

  • See ya! CP3 in LA…..I like it….if N.O. will take Sasha, Walton and Fisher or Blake!

    Chris Paul


  • Thec07

    Reserves: Jacoby Ford, Todd Watkins, Nick Miller

    No JLH????

  • JT52

    I think some of the posts on here about players and their salaries and how players should take pay cuts. Who cares its not our decision of who to pay. By stating TK should take a pay cut cause he has underperformed is pointless. Who knows maybe he will by the end of camp if it is proposed to him, but dont say I wouldnt mind keeping him for depth and him taking a paycut like you are the GM and its your budget to run. Gimme a break

    One another note what I think is our biggest overall concern on defense this year is linebackers covering RB’s and TE’s.

    Offense JC will start and improve the efficiency of the passing game however he will miss plenty of throws too. DHB will be key to the season if he can make some big plays and actually hold on which i have faith he will doo

  • Just Fire Baby


    Playing arm-chair GM is what we do.

  • Richard Bentley

    I guess this board is not a place to post comments on the article. It’s a message board where you can talk about anything you want or insult another poster. Enough said.

  • MiamiBornRaider86

    i agree with bentley..

    can we discuss RAIDER FOOTBALL?

  • fat kidd

    MiamiBornRaider86 Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 3:59 pm
    i agree with bentley..

    can we discuss RAIDER FOOTBALL?


  • DKnight007

    Dakota Says:
    July 22nd, 2010 at 2:14 pm
    Chris Paul to the Lakers sound niiiiiice.

    Oh yeah!

  • inonewordraider

    we all saw what Schilens Murphy and DHB did last year. Even with all of them improved, do you think that’s a playoff caliber corps?

  • Thec07

    DHB <——- Will Improve
    Murphy <——- Bad A$$
    Schil <——- Good when active
    JFORD <——- Rookie to have biggest Impact
    TO <——- Will continue to be productive, and draw dubs

  • Raider guy

    I was watching the auburn northwestern game last night and even though walter mcfadden reminded me a lot of namdi in body type, intelligence, and willingness to defend the run.

  • If the Raiders don’t win with Campbell…we have no QB

    If Dmac, Bush, et al don’t succeed we have no RB’s

    If Schilens, Murphy, DHB, Zach Miller don’t succeed, we have no Passing game.

    All the rest is supposition.