Why Frye, and not Gradkowski, should be the Raiders’ starting QB

Photo by Kelly Thomas
Photo by Kelly Thomas

Some may think I’m a little nuts for saying that Charlie Frye is a better quarterback than Bruce Gradkowski, and I admit that I don’t have a statistical leg to stand on, but I’m going to hold true to my assessment that the Raiders have a better chance of winning with Frye in 2010.

When you look at the stats, Gradkowski definitely looks to be the superior quarterback overall. Last season, Gradkowski was 2-2 in games that he started, threw for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions for a QB rating of 80.6.

On the other hand, Frye was 1-2 in games he started (including the final game in which he merely finished the first half), threw for 581 yards and only one touchdown to four interceptions for a low QB rating of 65.3.Open and shut, right? Look a little further into the stats and you find that there are some troubling issues with anointing Gradkowski as the best quarterback on the roster. While Gradkowski managed to avoid interceptions enough to toss six touchdowns in the process, he also fumbled the ball five times, losing three. In comparison, Frye had zero fumbles.

In case you’re wondering, JaMarcus Russell had nine fumbles and lost six in his nine starts.

So, if Russell’s fumbling problem was something that made you want to break your television set or radio, Gradkowski projects to do it just a little more than Russell did. When you count those three lost fumbles, Gradkowski is responsible for six turnovers against his six touchdowns, while Frye is still responsible for his four picks and one touchdown.

Both quarterbacks proved to be a little fragile–neither finished the season healthy. Gradkowski lasted four starts before being injured for the season, which is a lot better than what Frye did. Frye was injured in his first start, and then finished for the season midway through his third.

So, when it comes to durability, we’ll grade this comparison as even. This actually may be the only area that Russell would win the comparison, which tells you more about Russell than the two quarterbacks that backed him up most of the year.

One of the things that any quarterback needs is a good completion percentage. While this comparison isn’t necessarily fair to either quarterback due to the ineffective play of the receiving corps for most of the year, at least the two used the same receivers…mostly.

Frye had the luxury of playing without Darrius Heyward-Bey starting, where Gradkowski had the first-round enigma start two of his games. Gradkowski completed 82 passes in 150 attempts for a completion percentage of 54.7%. Frye completed 53 passes on 87 attempts for a rate of 60.9%.

In the end, stats just don’t tell you everything you need to know. Like passing game coordinator Ted Tollner said after the Cleveland loss, “The bottom line, as we all know, is did you win the game? Did you score enough points? Not how many yards you got. If you got more yards than them, that’s insignificant. But, if you do lose, you’re looking for some positives, too, to grow on.

So let’s go into some of the intangibles. Watching the three quarterbacks in training camp, I was convinced that Charlie Frye was the better passer of the three and that Russell was even better than Gradkowski. In practice, Russell performed much like you’ve all seen during games–badly. Now think about that for a minute while I tell you that Gradkowski made Russell look like a starting caliber NFL quarterback in practice. Without exaggeration, Gradkowski looked more like a high school quarterback on the practice field, under throwing everything…unless he was overthrowing it.

A funny thing happened during the first preseason game. The lights came on. If you’ve followed sports for any length of time, you’ve heard about players that simply play like world beaters when there is an actual game to play. No doubt, that’s the type of player Gradkowski is. He can’t hit the broad side of a barn unless the bright lights and cameras are on him.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Gradkowski. He truly is a leader and he’s charismatic, but better yet, he’s a really good guy to have a conversation with. He’s everything that you expect from a quarterback, or should I say, a starting quarterback. Besides his inability to shine on the practice field, he’s a guy that you want on your team.

Contrast what I’ve told you about Gradkowski to Frye. Frye is more subdued. He’s more serious, and doesn’t crack a smile during practice, where as Gradkowski is almost always smiling. Then Frye gets under center and the offense seems to click. Most of his passes go where they are supposed to go, the spirals perfectly, and the velocity is that of what you’d expect from an NFL quarterback.

In short, on the practice field, if you didn’t know anything about the Raiders or their quarterbacks, you would assume that he was the starter. It’s just that clear in that realm. The only thing that Gradkowski was far better at doing during practice was changing his cadence and drawing defensive players offsides.

Only one quarterback–well really two, but we won’t count Danny Southwick who was on the field as an offensive assistant–stayed on the field after practice every day to get more rep’s. Can you guess who? If you guessed Charlie Frye, then you guessed right.

There were some days that Gradkowski stayed late to throw a few balls, but maybe it was after he had read a few press clippings about Frye. I don’t know that to be true, but I’m just saying it looked that way. After all, the two were competing against each other for the third (and final) QB spot on the roster at the time, while Jeff Garcia was holding the backup role.

I’m not going to be overly dramatic and say that Frye outplayed Gradkowski during preseason games. In fact, my honest assessment at the time was that the two competed to a draw, taking only the games into consideration. Even now, my biggest concern with Frye is that he may be another Kerry Collins–a quarterback great between the 20’s, but not so great in the red zone.

Even with those concerns, I’d like to see Frye get a shot to disprove, or prove, that thought. Why?

No quarterback on the roster shows up earlier or stays later than Charlie Frye. He’s even admitted that he wants to be a coach when his career is over, and that is a quality in a quarterback that you can’t teach. You know it yourself, there’s love for the game, and then there is LOVE for the game, and Frye has the latter. He was at the facility so much that he was actually aiding the coaching staff in game planning before he was anointed as the starter.

Not only does his passion give him an edge, but going back to the way he practices does also. If you are practicing your golf swing, bowling, archery, or any other sport that the outcome relies solely on your abilities alone, then it doesn’t matter how poorly you perform when you are practicing.

But football isn’t a solo deal. It takes all 11 men working in unison to be great on the field of play. It takes timing and repetition between multiple players to finally get it right, especially when the level of intensity is through the roof, and the opposing player is going to take your head off if you don’t get it right. A quarterback that practices consistently good also makes all of his receivers better, because the repetitions finally make the plays become second nature–i.e. no thinking when the real bullets are flying.

Due to Frye knowing the playbook better than anyone else on the field, as a starter he’d have both the knowledge and credibility to help correct the mistakes of his fellow teammates. In other words, while he’s silent and serious, he would command respect on the offensive side of the ball. He’d also leave very little leeway for his teammates to NOT take their responsibilities seriously.

Is Frye the answer for the Raiders’ quarterback woes? In the words of Tom Cable, when asked a question he didn’t know or want to answer, “I don’t know that.” What I do know is that I’d like to see him get a shot to prove whether I’m right or wrong about him being the best quarterback on the roster.

If that doesn’t work out, there’s always Gradkowski you could replace him with.

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This article has 20 Comments

  1. Didn’t you notice that they had to roll Frye out to the right exclusively, because if he roles to his left, he can’t throw the ball to his right?
    I haven’t been at practice, but I sure never saw this arm you speak of in a game.
    Sure, arm-strength is only part of it, but his seemed extra weak.

  2. This argument is ridiculous. With all due respect to Frye (I do like the guy), Gradkowski had wins over Cincinatti and Pittsburgh. Frye couldn’t get the job done against Cleveland. You neglected to mention Gradkowski’s mobility in the pocket, quick ball release and how he got everyone around him to improve. I can see the interest in providing the inside scoop to your practice scouting, but who gives a sh**t? Gradkowski was better statistically AND in the win column.

  3. From everything I read, Frye was by far the best in practice and on any other team may have been the starter based on that, but when on the field, I still have to disagree, Gradkowski is the one who had the intangibles to take the team up a notch. Maybe it’s the energy (the anti-russell) maybe it’s the camaraderie he had with other players, but something made him stand out over Frye (and obviously over Russell, but that is a no brainer) on the field.

    I remain worried about that durability factor with our porous o-line, but leadership wise, he, among our current options, gets the nod.

  4. Did you not watch the games this season?? I think every one in raider nation would agree that Gradkowski is clearly the better quarterback and should be the starter for the 2010 season. He gives us the best chance to win! Maybe he didn’t have success in Cleveland and Tampa bay but it looks to me that he has finally settled in and is becoming what an NFL quarterback should be! Any ways lets just hope that they don’t stick Russel in, I would rather have Lechler in than that guy!!!!!

  5. I agree with all the comments, Frye might be better disciplined but its leadership at quarterback that wins championships. Gradkowski reminds me of Mark Sanchez of the Jets, maybe even better. Give Gradkowski an offensive line like the Jets have and maybe you’ll see the silver and black in the AFC Championship game sooner than later.

    It takes leadership to win on the road against tough opponents. Gradkowski showed he’s willing to play through pain. I just don’t see a toughness in Frye. If it comes down to releasing one of the two this coming season, let it be Frye. You can find another Frye, Gradkowski’s don’t come around that often. I’m still watching on-demand replays of the Raiders defeat over the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Gradkowski deserves the starting spot on that game alone.

  6. Cedric – Thanks for the correction. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

    All – Thanks for stopping by and for your comments! The discussion is very interesting.

  7. Look! You have NO leg to stand on so………Sit down! Bruce has “it”….Thats correct, he has the heart and drive to take this team to the next level. Fry had chances to do the same and has fallen short each time. Bruce has not had the kind of team he can take with like our Raiders. Bruce SHOULD be our QB next season BUT I feel that Al will not pay him the money he deserves and he will leave for greener pastures and YES….JaDummy will make be arrive in Oakland in a set of Tent size sweats like last season to hide his fat gut. He will say all the right things…..Perhaps even in english and will play…And LOSE! Your argument is sutpid as it sounds.

  8. seriously dude?

    you should be fired. So we should take the 1 td and 4 turnovers as oppose to 6 tds and 6 turnovers?

    ill take the scores any day, and i really feel like your lacking some football etiquette if you disagree.

  9. this idea makes SOME sense but its not realistic. so many overlook the “leadership” quality of a quarterback. Grad motivated his team to a point that ALL the Raiders on the field were playing up to their potential and with inspiration. there is a HUGE reason why Grad won those upset games… he made everyone in the huddle confident and with a real belief that they could win. anyone who has played the game to at least the college level would understand this. the QB is the voice you hear in every huddle. his demeanor and confidence in himself MATTERS!!… and the results of the game back up his character. Grad may not look the best but he is medicine for the sickly Raiders.

  10. Bruce is by far a better QB than Frye…Stats don’t lie…What we really need is someone to protect our QB in the pocket…

  11. Dude, fumbles are either the result of poor protection, or not protecting the ball. I Gradkowski’s case, the fumbles were mainly poor protection. Frye threw critical and red zone interceptions, whereas Gradkowski punched the ball in for TDs in the red zone and particularly in key drives for the lead or winning score. He’s clutch. Frye, though talented, is further back on the learning curve. While he has greater arm strength, he’s not equal to Gradkowski in game savvy, and, frankly, balls. When Gradkowski has the ball late in the game, you know the Raiders are going to score, and so does the other team. Not so with Frye, as of yet. The Frye argument is a stretch, but hopefully Frye wil make it a QB controversy next season. The competition would be great.

  12. I went to the Pittsburgh game and the Cleveland game. It’s not even close. Bruce is the better of the two. I’m more interested in JP Losman, however.

  13. To pick apart some of your argument here, the majority, vast, of fumbles occurred while Gallery was injured and thus not in the lineup, damn near all of them. The point about Heyward-Bey is irrelevant but Darius will be fine next year.

    I agree that Frye should be the starter for a different reason, he has a good throwing motion. He and Bruce both make good decisions and know where the play is supposed to develop, they are equals in finding open options and throwing the ball where a receiver has a chance to make a play on the ball. I would like to see both resigned with Frye and Bruce battling it out in camp for the starting position though, take another shot of whiskey, I have hopes that Russell will get off his dead ass and put in the work that is necessary to become a starter and team leader.

  14. Neither Frye nor Grad are under contract for next year, right?

    If so, all this talk may be moot because Al could easily pull a “Beurlein” and eliminate the competition for his golden child JaFatso.

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