To start the season, few were doubting Jason Campbell’s status as the starting quarterback of the Oakland Raiders. Bruce Gradkowski had supporters, but even they thought it was Campbell’s job to lose.
Fast forward six quarters of the season and Gradkowski is the new undisputed starter. The coaches reasoned with the media that Gradkowski’s personality fit the team better without going into any of the specifics of the situation.
Those specifics are important, because they are the same specifics that could keep Campbell the starter and push Gradkowski back into a backup role.
When Campbell was benched, the offensive line was doing a terrible job pass blocking and the Raiders hadn’t yet become the run dominant team they are now. The offensive line simply couldn’t block for Campbell because he was slow to make his reads and has a long delivery.
Gradkowski only lasts two games behind the porous Raiders pass protection. He doesn’t do significantly better and currently has a quarterback rating of 71.8 with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Raiders are 1-2 in games Gradkowski finished as the quarterback. Yes, the Cardinals game was a victory if Sebastian Janikowski makes one of the three field goals he missed, but it isn’t like Gradkowski was a great quarterback in the loss.
With Gradkowski sidelined for several weeks Jason Campbell takes the reins once again. In relief of Gradkowski, Campbell leads the Raiders to a victory over the Chargers.
The fans were asking, “Where has this Jason Campbell been?” Only to be disappointed when he turned into JaMarcus Campbell against the 49ers.
It was then fans were calling for Kyle Boller and hoping Gradkowski could return as soon as possible. Campbell then produces huge wins over the Broncos and Seahawks with solid statistical performances due in large part to an effective running game.
It begs the question, ‘Who is the Raiders quarterback?’ Tom Cable had the answer: It’s Bruce Gradkowski and “We know who our quarterback is.”
If two solid performances couldn’t get Campbell his job back, it probably wouldn’t happen unless he could produce a third.
The third, was a up-and-down performance against the Chiefs, but Campbell did manage to win the game and push his record to 4-2 in games he finished as the quarterback.
The question was asked of Cable again and this time with a different result. Now, Cable will likely ride the hot hand, meaning Campbell would start two weeks from now against Pittsburgh.
What changed during the Chiefs game that suggested to Cable and Hue Jackson that it was now time to ride Jason Campbell’s hot-hand?
Here are the possibilities:
1) Gradkowski isn’t healthy.
Did you not catch it? Up until this week Cable was saying Gradkowski is close and it’s just a matter of him being able to do all the things he needs to do on the football field as if Gradkowski was close to a return.
Cable mentioned Gradkowski had a chance the past two weeks to be the backup quarterback with good workouts on game day. Neither time did that become reality.
This week, Cable says Gradkowski is not healthy enough to do everything the Raiders need him to do.
Still? Three weeks and Gradkowski is still not able to go what he needs to do? Sounds like Gradkowski’s health is more of a concern than previous believed.
2) Campbell has taken on the Hue Jackson’s personality.
Did Campbell make a fundamental change to his behavior? Has he become as uptight as Bruce Gradkowski? Is he yelling at lineman and receivers in the huddle?
He sure looks as calm and cool as ever. His demeanor during the game against the Chiefs being the same as his demeanor in the two weeks prior.
It just doesn’t seem like Campbell has changed his personality to fit Hue Jackson’s desire.
3) Al Davis stepped in.
Based on history, Al Davis could have stepped in and made his feelings known. It could also be that Hue Jackson and Tom Cable solicited his opinions on the matter.
Either way, Davis is about winning and Campbell has lead the team to three straight wins and four out of the last five.
Why make a change when your quarterback is producing victories? A reasoning Tom Cable also echoed.
4) The protection is better.
Mario Henderson was benched in favor of Jared Veldheer. Despite no other changes on the line, Veldheer frees up Robert Gallery and it has a trickle down impact on the entire line. Possible.
The protection is likely better because the running game has picked up steam since Bruce Gradkowski went down. The running game is keeping he defense honest.
It is no secret the Campbell is slower to make reads and has a slower delivery. It could the Raiders couldn’t give Campbell the time when he was benched, but can today.
5) All of the above.
Or, a little of all the above. Gradkowski isn’t fully healthy, Hue Jackson has rubbed off on Campbell, Al Davis made his opinion known, and the protection is a little better.
What happens when Gradkowski is fully healthy? What happens if Campbell reverts to his old self? What if the running game struggles and the protection breaks down?
6) It doesn’t matter which quarterback.
Sure it matters, no one wants to see JaMarcus Russell again. Does it matter between Campbell and Gradkowski?
Maybe not. The Raiders still have suspect receivers and a line that can struggle to pass protect. Gradkowski and Campbell both have strengths and weaknesses.
Two solid quarterbacks is a good problem to have, right? Maybe riding the hot hand is the way to go.
Maybe a quarterback rotation isn’t a bad idea? Campbell is the starter until he is terrible for an entire game. If he struggles, you go to Gradkowski and it is his job to lose.
The problem with quarterback controversies:
Too often fans believe they are right if their choice starts and has success or their choice doesn’t start and the other guy struggles.
In fact, it could be that neither of the quarterbacks would struggle or both of the quarterbacks would have success. Or that one quarterback would struggle when the other would have success and vice versa the very next week.
Get behind the team and stop worrying about the quarterback, because it still takes an entire team to win a football game and a team is only as good as the weakest link.