Raiders coach Hue Jackson has received a fair amount of criticism for engineering a trade for quarterback Carson Palmer two days after Jason Campbell suffered a broken right collarbone. Yet, there are those who think Jackson made a smart move in trading two high draft picks for Palmer.
One of those in Jackson’s corner is former standout quarterback Kurt Warner, who guided the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls and the Arizona Cardinals to one during a career that might culminate with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
So, who better to break down Palmer than Warner, who now is an NFL Network analyst — he can be seen on the Thursday Night Kickoff, presented by Sears, pregame show, NFL.com/LIVE: Thursday Night Football and NFL Total Access on NFL Network throughout the Thursday Night Football schedule. In addition, he also is an analyst on NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Morning.
Here is the transcript from a one-on-one, phone interview conducted with Warner before the Raiders-Chargers game:
Q: What are your impressions of the way Palmer played against the Broncos? Did you see him play?
A: “I did. I was extremely impressed. The thing that was most impressive is, how many balls they threw down the field and how many plays he made down the field in just his second game back and, really, his first full-time start. He played tremendously well. He looked like he was pretty comfortable within the offense. He wasn’t perfect, by any means, both mentally and physically. But, just the number of plays he made down the field, he was pretty accurate on some balls down the field, as well. The thing that impresses you is, that team hasn’t necessarily been that kind of team up to this point. They were based on more of the checkdown or the long balls. They weren’t based on those chunk throws. He made a number of those good chunk throws in this game that excites you about the possibility with him as your quarterback, especially when you get McFadden back. So, I was definitely impressed. Everybody wants to look at those three interceptions but, when you actually go back and look at them, one was on a go route with Champ, who made a tremendous play. One was tipped up in the air. And one was late in the game, when he was trying to make a play, he gets hit and the ball is way underthrown. He didn’t make a bunch of bad decisions, either. Those interceptions weren’t based on bad decisions. They were just some physical issues and some things that happened along the way that he’ll only get better at.”
Q: Does he gamble too often, is that just in his DNA? Is he taking too many chances?
A: “I don’t think it’s unwarranted chances. As a quarterback, you have to have confidence in your receivers. If your receiver is on a go route, and it’s one-on-one, you have to take that chance. You don’t get that very often in the NFL. You have to depend on your players to make plays. So, when I watched it, I didn’t see him really forcing throws. I didn’t see it, where a guy was in a horrible situation or there was a safety over the top, and he’s trying to fit throws in. He’s definitely a guy that has the mentality that, I want to make plays, I want to make them down the field and I want to use my big arm and what my strengths are to attack a defense. I didn’t see it to a fault. I didn’t’ see it where he was trying to just jam things in there when he shouldn’t have, more times than not. I won’t say he’s perfect. I didn’t notice that as kind a theme when I was watching the game. I noticed it as, hey, I’ve got one-on-one on the outside, I’m going to take that chance. The one, his receiver didn’t fight for it, Champ went up and got it, and it was intercepted. But I don’t, by any means, think it was a bad decision or something that I wouldn’t have done in the same situation had I had confidence in my receiver.”
Q: What can the Raiders expect from Palmer, given his lack of practice, playing time, knowledge of the playbook, etc.? Can he be good enough to lead them to a Super Bowl?
A: “Well, the expectations are going to be based off of what Carson Palmer does. Nobody really has a track record of what he should be doing because nobody has ever been here before. I don’t care what they tell you, nobody has ever sat out with no offseason and no training camp and come in halfway through the season and been asked to be the guy for your football team, especially on a team that has playoff aspirations. Nobody’s really been there before. I can tell you that, I had high expectations coming in that if he can be the Carson Palmer that we’ve seen, that the expectations for this football team would go up. I can’t say that I’m disappointed after watching him the other day. I know they lost the game, but with what I saw him do on the football field, my expectations kind of went up a little bit, saying, ‘If he can do that in his second game back, wow, he really can do some things two or three games down the road and especially the tail end of the season.’ That’s going to be the key, how well does he play early in this process? And the better he plays, the higher the expectations are going to be for him down the stretch to really give them a chance to make the playoffs.”
Q: We heard questions about his arm strength, the effects from his injuries, etc. What are your impressions? His arm sound?
A: “It’s funny because, I always watched Carson, and it’s funny because he’s always had the big arm and he can always make the big throws but he also throws a soft ball, if that makes sense. So, if you watch him in a game, he doesn’t look like an Aaron Rodgers, where the ball just comes out on a line every time. So, it’s hard to really tell whether he’s accurate. Sometimes, it almost looks like he’s just kind of laying it in there, like he’s not using his big arm. But when you watch that game, he made the throws down the field, he can make the throws in the hole, he had enough velocity to fit it in some tighter windows. But, it’s just hard to say because, unless you’re out there and you’re catching the ball, it’s hard to really tell how much is on the ball. It’s really similar to the way I played the game. I was built on anticipation and always felt like I never had to throw the ball as hard as everybody else did because I was more about placement and I could throw a softer ball. I could throw it hard and make all the throws but I didn’t need to do that. When I watch Carson, he’s kind of that same way. He has a big, strong arm, where he doesn’t have to gun everything. So, I watched some of the balls and I go, ‘Eeh, it’s not great velocity, but it gets there and it’s on time.’ So, that’s something more for a guy that’s actually working him and they can feel the velocity of the ball because, the ball can look like it’s not going that fast but still have a lot of zip on it and have a tight spiral, and be more of what Carson maybe was before that injury then I’m able to tell on film.”
Q: What does coach Jackson do if, when, Jason Campbell returns from his injury? Has Jackson already played his hand?
A: “Well, again, I look at it from a big picture. I look at Campbell, and he’s a great young man, a leader and really good at what he does. But when I look at Jason Campbell, I look at a quarterback that is a guy that is better at managing a game than taking over a game. The reason I say that is because, I believe that Carson Palmer gives them the ability to have a guy that can take over a game and win games in the passing game. That’s what this team needs. This team, as good as they are running the football, they are not great, top to bottom, offense and defense, to where they can solely rely on that and they can play with the big hitters in this league, and they play with the playoff teams. I don’t think that they can survive winning games like that, when it comes to playoffs time, when they have to do it week in, week out. With that being said, if Carson does what he did the other day and improves on that throughout the year, they have to go with Carson Palmer. Not only because of what they gave up for him but because of the possibility he gives them moving forward. He makes them a more dynamic team, he makes them more of a dual threat than Jason does. It doesn’t mean Jason can’t do a great job and it doesn’t mean they can’t win because they’ve obviously won with him. But everybody knows, when you get to the playoffs, there’s games where you have to outscore teams. There’s games where you don’t have you’re a game or you don’t run the ball well, you have to be able to win them in other ways. And I’m just not sure Jason is a guy that can really do that week in and week out, whereas Carson gives you that possibility if he gets back. You have to go that direction because you’re trying to win a championship and not just get into the playoffs.”
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