Just one week ago it seemed foolish to expect Bruce Gradkowski to start a game at quarterback for the Raiders without an injury to Jason Campbell. Now, it seems foolish to expect that Gradkowksi will be riding the pine when the Raiders visit the Arizona Cardinals this weekend for their week three game.
When watching the Raiders off the field, nothing ever is what it seems.
Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, Gradkowski came into the game after halftime in place of Campbell. When the game ended with the Raiders on top, Gradkowski anointed the hero, and Campbell still shocked by the move, the two quarterbacks had very similar stats.
Gradkowski completed 11 passes on 22 attempts for 162 yards and a touchdown with one interception, while Campbell completed eight passes on 15 attempts for 87 yards, and no touchdowns with one interception. In Campbell’s favor was that he had three rushes for 19 yards against Gradkowski’s four attempts for no gains.The major difference between the two quarterbacks on Sunday was the negative stats accumulated. Gradkowski did throw one interception, but so did Campbell, and he was also sacked twice for a loss of 18 yards. Campbell also fumbled twice, but the Raiders were fortunate that he didn’t lose any. And then there was the one stat that may be the deciding factor on who Tom Cable chooses to lead his team – points.
“we needed to change up a little bit and my job is to win games and do whatever it takes to do that,” said Cable about the switch at his postgame press conference.
The offense scored 13 points in the second half with Gradkowski, compared to three when Campbell was in at starter. While Gradkowski doesn’t play on the defensive side of the ball or play special teams, it appeared that the team as a whole became more energized when their backup quarterback came into the game.
I heard a deal where, if you have two backs like we do, Michael and Darren, we have a tandem of running backs. But if you have two quarterbacks, we have a controversy. There isn’t going to be a controversy. I’ll make a good decision, the right decision, and we’ll go from there.
-Tom Cable on having more than one capable starter at quarterback
Nobody on the team will admit that Gradkowski’s insertion made them play better. “I block the same way, no matter what,” said starting center Samson Satele on Monday. Instead, Satele blames success as the motivating factor. “But obviously when you start winning, you start playing harder and harder. But it’s not Jason’s fault. Nobody’s fault. But I just feel as a team, when we start winning, people start playing better.”
Linemate, and left tackle, Mario Henderson agrees with Satele that it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. “I said it last year…he’s a great quarterback,” said Henderson after the win. “A good backup and definitely a great starting quarterback. So like I said earlier, we don’t block any different for any quarterback; we block our jobs.”
Obviously, the only opinion that counts is that of head coach Tom Cable. Asked on Monday who his starter was going forward, Cable wasn’t ready to give an answer. “I’ll probably talk more about it come Wednesday but, for right now, I want to say this to you,” started Cable. “We’re pretty lucky to have the three quarterbacks that we have — and the two guys who played, obviously, we haven’t had that kind of depth around here, I don’t think, in quite some time.”
While Cable wasn’t ready to announce his starter for Sunday, he didn’t hesitate telling the media at the Monday press conference that he is already leaning in a particular direction. “I’m pretty sure about the direction we have to go as a football team and I just think it’s a matter of looking at the next opponent and looking at our team, really studying this, and all the situations, but I have a pretty good idea what we’re going to do,” said Cable without letting the cat out of the bag.
Reading between the lines, some of the offensive players may prefer Gradkowski for the fire he brings to the huddle. According to Johnnie Lee Higgins, Gradkowski did give the team a spark. “He came in and everything went the way we wanted it to go. It showed everybody what we’re capable of. It was like a domino effect. He got us going and one started to fall, they all started to fall.”
The REAL star of the Raiders’ win over the Rams was Darren McFadden. Thanks in large part to his 30 rushes for 145 yards, the Raiders held onto the ball for 36:49 to the Rams’ 23:11. After the game, McFadden agreed that Gradkowski sparked the team. “Bruce always comes with a great spark. His energy is great, and he definitely brought it into the game. He brought great energy into it.”
Judging by the Raiders 12th man on Sunday, Gradkowski should be the starter. Unfortunately, Cable’s assessment is more difficult to judge.
Other notes from Monday
- One person who agrees with Tom Cable’s decision to go with Gradkowski in the second half of Sunday’s game is former Raiders front office guy, Mike Lombardi. Even so, it’s likely Cable doesn’t completely agree with his assessment. When asked if the Raiders had a quarterback controversy, Lombardi credited Gradkowski with saving Cable’s job: “Well I think Bruce Gradkowski came in and possibly saved Tom Cable’s job. There was a very difficult situation, had the Raiders lost to the Rams, 0-2. That’s not where they would want to be, especially with as high hopes as they have for the team. And Bruce Gradkowski came in and ran the offense effectively, the way that Hue Jackson, Paul Hackett, Ted Tollner — they’ve got so many coaches there — want this West Coast offense to run. And Jason Campbell, frankly, couldn’t do it, couldn’t do it in the preseason, and didn’t do it in the beginning of this game or the first game.“
- It’s so uncommon that a team plays a regulation game without suffering injuries, but the Raiders were lucky enough to come out of Sunday’s game without any new injuries. Cable said that Gallery (hamstring) is getting real close. Michael Bush (thumb) said that he’ll fully participate in practice this week, like he did last week, with the hope that he’ll be healthy enough to play on Sunday. Cable also said that Richard Seymour (hamstring) is ‘real close‘ to making his return, but they won’t take any chances on losing him for an extended period of time.
- Stevie Brown was glad to get his opportunity to showcase his talents in the NFL. “I’ve been wanting to play,” said the rookie safety on Monday. “I always thought I deserved to play so now that I had the opportunity to, I was going to make the most of it.” The young safety from Michigan authored one of the Raiders special teams highlights with an explosive hit on Rams’ punt returner Danny Amendola. “I was just down there hustling. Surprised he didn’t fair-catch it. So as soon as he caught it, I just hit him. It definitely felt good.“
- The Raiders will be off on Tuesday, but on Wednesday they’ll begin to install their gameplan for the Arizona Cardinals. They’ll doing that without fullback Luke Lawton, who has been serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He served the final two games of 2009 and the final two were served to start 2010. The Raiders released the veteran late Monday night rather than make room for him on the roster.