At the very end of the post-press conference gaggle with Al Davis on Jan. 18, the Raiders’ owner was asked about Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and if he regretted not taking the Cal quarterback in the draft.
“Sure I would regret not drafting him. Fact, I made two calls to two people,” Davis said. “Yeah, he’s a good player.”
Davis said his normal course of action when he sees someone he likes on television is to “go back in the files upstairs and we got a report on the guy that’s, `ehh, he’s 50 percent.’ I might call (the scout) and say, what were you doing?’ ”
The exchange happened at the very end of the marathon press conference with no follow-ups. So it’s left to the imagination as to who Davis called, when he called them, and if he thinks scouts responsible for evaluating Rodgers were in error.
A couple of things:
— Davis didn’t need to call anyone from another team to take Rodgers in the draft. He was sitting there when the Raiders selected at No. 23, undergoing the draft day free fall which has been recounted daily as Rodgers prepares to lead the Green Bay Packers into the Super Bowl Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Oakland took Fabian Washington out of Nebraska who was _ surprise! _ the fastest cornerback at the NFL scouting combine. Green Bay followed with the selection of Rodgers at No. 24.
The Raiders quarterback in 2005 was Kerry Collins, with Rich Gannon out of the picture after suffering a broken vertebra in his neck and making his retirement official in August of 2005. Erstwhile backup Marques Tuiasosopo was named the starter for the rest of the season by coach Norv Turner with the Raiders at 4-8 heading into a Week 14 game against the New York Jets, only to play horribly in a 26-10 loss.
Turner then backtracked and went back to Collins, giving a tortured explanation that it was his call while his eyes and mannerisms said something entirely different.
Turner was gone following the season, and while Rodgers remained in Green Bay, immersing himself in a single system of football, the Raiders continued playing musical chairs, running through Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell.
Campbell, by the way, was taken No. 25, one pick after Rodgers, by the Washington Redskins. Walter went to the Raiders in the third round at No. 69, two picks after Cleveland selected Akron’s Charlie Frye at No. 67.
— Oakland had a second chance at Rodgers entering the 2007 season as Packers quarterback Brett Favre was lobbying hard for wide receiver Randy Moss. Green Bay G.M. Ted Thompson, however, wanted a lot in return _ and not just Moss. He also wanted draft picks. Thompson could have been the “couple of calls” referred to by Davis.
The Raiders had the No. 1 overall pick that year and rather than put together a Moss-to-Green Bay package by getting additional picks, trading out of the top spot and dealing for Rodgers, Davis went with Russell.
Sounds ridiculous in hindsight. At the time, however, Rodgers had sat the bench for two years and while there were scouts who were worried about Russell, others thought the LSU quarterback worthy of the top pick.
So Russell became a Raider and perhaps the biggest flop in the history of the NFL draft. Rodgers stayed in Green Bay.
Could Rodgers have changed the course of Raiders history?
If the Raiders had drafted Rodgers instead of Washington, he would have had to survive the stone-age Art Shell-Tom Walsh offense in 2006. Had the Raiders decided to trade for Rodgers in 2007 and pass on Russell, Lane Kiffin would have had a quarterback much more suited to his style of offense.
As for how things would have transpired after that, feel free to write your own doomsday or happily-ever-after scenario.