Last Sunday, Oakland Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable decided to switch quarterbacks at halftime of the Rams game, down 7-3. Now, Cable showed a pretty quick hook when he pulled Jason Campbell from the game. Campbell was 8-15 in the first half. Not great, but not horrible. Heck, last year, 8-15 would have gotten you the game ball.
But things are different in Raider Nation, and Cable made that clear when Bruce Gradkowski put on a helmet to start the 2nd half. Gradkowski is a Cable kind of guy. Born in Pittsburgh, he played his college ball in Toledo. He’s the kind of guy who would take a shot of whiskey to ease the pain.
You want him in the foxhole with you. If the Raiders lose, he says we stunk. No excuses. Quite simply, he exemplifies what it was like to be a Raider back in the day.
Cable, however, needs to win games, and win now. And if he is going to go down, he’s gonna go down with his guy at the helm. This was most obvious late in Sunday’s game. Darren McFadden was having arguably his best game as a pro, rushing for 145 yards on the day.
With 5:12 remaining, he took a hand-off and went 8 yards for a first down. The Raiders were methodically chewing up yardage and the clock, leading 16-7, now with less than 5 minutes to play.
And that’s when Cable decided to give this team to Gradkowski. If the Raiders are going to win, and I don’t mean 7 or 8 wins, but WIN like they did for years and years, then Cable needs a man to be his quarterback. On 1st down, Gradkowski threw.
On 2nd down, he threw again, both times looking to end the game with a home run. Then, after a penalty, he threw again, on 3rd and 15. The ball was picked off, and set up a quick touchdown to make the score 16-14, Raiders.
When Cable got the ball back, he ran on first down, but threw again on 2nd down. A roughing the passer penalty gave Oakland another set of downs, and after two runs, on 3rd and 7, Cable called for another pass. This time Gradkowski hit Louis Murphy for 13 yards and a first down. Game over.
Now, many, including myself, could seriously question the play calling. McFadden was running well, and the Raiders just needed to run out the clock.
But with 5 minutes left, Cable was sending Gradkowski a message. And that message was, “I believe in you. I think we can win right now, and you are the man to make it happen.” And he kept going back to him, until Gradkowski finally connected.
If the Raiders had lost, it would have been tragic for both Cable and Gradkowski. If they had won by running out the clock, they would have just beaten a bad Rams team.
Instead, Cable was trying to give his team a shot in the arm–Gradkowski’s right arm, to be specific. And although the results were iffy at best, the message was clear.