Okay, Bruce, now what? Oakland Raiders Head Coach Tom Cable did a gutsy thing on Wednesday by naming Bruce Gradkowski his starting quarterback after Bruuuuce led the Raiders to 13 points and a come-from-behind win over the Rams last Sunday. But let’s be honest: beating the Rams is about as impressive as beating the Washington Generals.
The fans wanted Gradkowski, the offensive coordinator wanted Gradkowski, the Head Coach wanted Gradkowski, Carly Fiorina wanted him, Barbara Boxer wanted him, cats, dogs, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, even Lindsay Lohan (most prisoners are Raider fans) wanted him.
Cable didn’t make this decision for the fun of it. He did it to win games. This team isn’t good enough to have a quarterback who just can’t lose games, and at best, I think that’s what Jason Campbell is. On a really good team, Campbell could be a Trent Dilfer. The kind of guy who could learn how to not lose a Super Bowl, but not the kind of QB who could actually win one. There’s nothing wrong with a quarterback like that, it’s just that they need to be surrounded by lots and lots of talent. Look around–this ain’t 2002.
After two weeks of play, the Raiders are 1-1. They were thoroughly embarrassed by the Titans, who were then beaten handily at home by the Steelers, followed up by their win over St. Louis. So although the results aren’t overly impressive, they are somewhat predictable. That being said, I think for the first time in years, the Raiders actually have some talent on this squad. Super Bowl talent? No. When you’ve lost 11+games a year for an NFL record 7 straight seasons, it’s all about baby steps.
So now comes the hard part for Gradkowski. For the first time since Rich Gannon was at the helm, there are expectations for the Raiders. Not Dickensian great ones, but expectations nonetheless (good thing they went with Great Expectations as the title, because Expectations Nonetheless would have really sucked). A win on Sunday would go a long way towards meeting those. Two years ago the Cardinals almost won the Super Bowl, but that was with future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner slinging the ball. Derek Anderson is not Kurt Warner. In other words, the Raiders can win this game.
To do so, they’ll need someone to stop Larry Fitzgerald. They’ll need the O-Line to create holes for Darren McFadden. They’ll need to pressure the quarterback, and make plays on special teams. They’ll need to do all the things that good football teams do to win games–something they haven’t done on a regular basis for almost a decade. And most importantly, they’ll need a quarterback to lead them. Can Gradkowski do it? As Mr. Jaggers said to Pip, “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”
I’ll let you know if my expectations were met… on Monday.