By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 8:57 am in Oakland Raiders.
I floated the question fully expecting Tom Cable to shoot it down as if he were hiding in a duck blind.
Given that the Raiders had won both of their games this season after a change in quarterbacks, and that the skills of both players are different _ Jason Campbell is more of a methodical game manager, Bruce Gradkowski better in two-minute situations and chaos _ would he be quick to make changes in the future and use both players?
The standard answer is no. Of course not. A team needs a single starting quarterback because of continuity, consistency, leadership, etc.
Instead, Cable, while conceding it was not ideal, invoked Raider history. George Blanda coming off the bench for Daryle Lamonica, and not always because of injury. He ended by saying “I think it’s just a good problem to have two quality players.”
Here is why I think you could be seeing both quarterbacks throughout the rest of the season:
– Gradkowski is the starter for now and has a propensity for injury. Some of it is playing style, taking on defenders, some of it is bad luck. Given the double blow Shaun Phillips put on his injured right shoulder Sunday, a chop to the shoulder pad followed by throwing him to the ground on the shoulder _ he may not be able to go this week against the 49ers.
Attrition is inevitable. Five games into the season the whole Darren McFadden-Michael Bush lead ballcarrier question hasn’t been addressed because one or the other has been hurt.
– There is no evidence that either quarterback is “the guy,” Al Davis’ declaration of Campbell as the next Jim Plunkett notwithstanding. Neither is the guy in a financial sense. Gradkowski is on a one-year tender, Campbell had his contract extended a single year through 2011, presumably non-guaranteed.
I could be wrong, but I don’t see Gradkowski ever being a 60 percent passer. He’s energetic, a worker and he possesses a spark. He gives the offense confidence it can score and is at his best when all is falling apart around him. And that’s a good trait to have for a Raiders quarterback. A great guy to have on a team, not necessarily your longterm solution.
Campbell is a safety-first, measured quarterback who has a knack of engineering long drives because he avoids risky throws and plays. Not sure where the Plunkett comparison came from, because it’s not his nature to be the kind of daring deep thrower Plunkett was. Davis has espoused his offensive beliefs in the past as “we don’t take what the defense gives us, we take what we want.”
Following the Chargers game, Campbell said he got in a groove by taking what the defense gave him and letting the game come to him. He’s been labeled as a cautious quarterback for six years now and it’s hard to see him morph into a risk-taker at this point.
– Fans, of course, want one or the other _ and Gradkowski has already built up the underdog’s following. You can expect dozens of comments below in support of both quarterbacks, with each side putting forth a passionate and sometimes angry argument.
However, there truly seems to be no factions in the locker room, and while Gradkowski and Campbell may not be pals, they work together, say all the right things in public, and realize the situation is beyond their control as to who plays and how much.
“Halfway through the St. Louis game, we put Bruce in, took Jason out, won the game,” tackle Khalif Barnes said. “Bruce got hurt this time, Jason stepped in. They’re real professional about what they do. When you’ve got that within a team you can win. They’re different emotionally _ Bruce is a little more animated. But they’re both leaders in how they approach and take over games. They both control the huddle.”
– If you’re Cable and Hue Jackson, and you’re in a situation that calls for some ball control and first downs, and you think Campbell is better suited for the task, do you stick with Gradkowski? What happens if you’re trailing by six entering halftime or regulation? Gradkowski could be like a shot of adrenaline.
In short, if neither quarterback is what you need to win by himself, then there’s something to be said for being bold enough to use both.