Tom Cable waited until the tenth game of the 2009 season to make a switch from his ineffective starting quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, to Bruce Gradkowski. In that first start f0r Gradkowski, he helped lead the Raiders to a stirring, 20-17 come from behind victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Marquis Cooper day.
This year, Cable didn’t bother to wait that long before making the switch to Gradkowski. Just six quarters into the 2010 campaign, Cable replaced his starter Jason Campbell. After Gradkowski led the Raiders to another comeback victory, the head coach decided to make the switch permanent. Now, Cable is hoping that Gradkowski can duplicate his first start of 2009 against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday.
“The reasons are pretty simple,” said Cable of his starting quarterback change in his daily press conference on Wednesday. “I think there are two of them. First and foremost is the energy and the level of intensity that was brought into the huddle when he came into the game. They way the guys responded around him. And obviously scoring points. If you look back to the preseason, even at that time in the two games he came in he scored points.“
Offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, spoke with reporters about the decision to pull Campbell in favor of Gradkowski at the half of the Rams contest, and confessed that initially it was his idea to do it. “This past week’s game at halftime I made a decision to go in and talk to our head coach about making a switch at quarterback,” said Jackson about the move at halftime.
“I have great latitude from our owner, Mr. Davis, and from Coach Cable, that anything that I think needs to be done on offense in order for us to score points that I’m able to do. Obviously, we have a head coach and I run everything through him. But my job is to make sure that I put our offensive football team in the best situation to score points.”
Gradkowski started four and played in seven games during the 2009 season. In his four starts, the then fourth-year quarterback had a 2-2 record, and passed for 844 yards and six touchdowns with a 54.2% completion percentage (65-120), and just one interception. For the season, Gradkowski finished with a 80.6 quarterback rating and was considered to be Oakland’s starter coming into 2010 until the Raiders traded for Campbell during the NFL draft.
After being traded to the Raiders, Campbell was anointed the starter and given a new contract that pays him $3.14 million in 2010, $4.5 million in 2011, and a $100,000 workout bonus. Now he’ll be backing up a teammate who signed a one-year tender worth $1.759 million. Cable said Campbell was disappointed when told of the decision, but was confident that his new backup will be ready if called upon. “Now he’s just one play away so he has to prepare himself and be ready to go, and I think he will be.”
An injury to Gradkowksi won’t be the only possible way of losing the starting job again. Cable said that he’ll be the starter as long as he’s playing well. “He’ll go in there and do the job. It’s his now. Where we go from here, obviously, will be decided by how well he plays.”
A six-quarter audition as a starter isn’t much time for a player with a track record of starting for another team — especially for a player you specifically traded for. Cable explained the logic as to why he’s comfortable with the quick hook by talking about the week two win over the Rams.
“I think the thing that stood out to me, so you get where I’m coming from, is the same people, same day, same defense, same opponent, same people in the huddle with you, didn’t change the plan, and yet we were able to go out and move the ball and score some points [with Gradkowski].”
Coming into the day, many observers couldn’t decide which quarterback Cable would choose, but nearly all of them had guessed that Gradkowski would be the better pick. The only thing preventing anyone from making that prognostication was the fact that the Oakland Raiders are owned by maverick owner Al Davis — known for forcing coaches to play specific players to the detriment of the team.
That wasn’t the case in this decision. Cable said the decision was made within the coaching staff and he was the one who pulled the trigger, not Davis. “This was handled by us as coaches,” Cable admitted when asked if Davis had been consulted. “It ultimately rested at my feet and when we made the decision, it comes from me.”
If Gradkowski flops as the starter, and the Raiders have another losing season, the decision to keep Cable around will rest at the feet of Davis.