On Wednesday, Raiders coach Tom Cable
made it official and announced that Bruce Gradkowski
would be his starting quarterback. The decision comes just three halves into Jason Campbell
's Raider career.
Cable gave two reasons for the move: one, that Gradkowski brings a higher level of energy and intensity into the huddle. And two, simply put, Gradkowski puts points on the board.
Of course, Campbell's arrival in Oakland was met with much fanfare. In the wake of JaMarcus Russell
's failures, Campbell was supposed to lift the Raiders into an offensive renaissance. He was called the anti-Russell and a leader in the huddle. In an interview on Sirius NFL Radio, Al Davis
compared Campbell to former Raider great Jim Plunkett.
Meanwhile, Gradkowski sat patiently, nursing a torn pectoral muscle and the subsequent surgery. The enthusiasm that came with Campbell's arrival essentially made Gradkowski a very good backup. Even when Cable announced that there would be an open competition at quarterback, no one really took him seriously. After all, you don't bring in a guy like Campbell just to create competition.
But as he's always done in his Raider career, Gradkowski sat patiently and was always at the ready. Last year, when the organization essentially put up the white flag with JaMarcus Russell, Gradkowski led the Raiders to wins over the Bengals and the Steelers, throwing for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns in those two games.
Gradkowski has endeared himself to Raider Nation with those two wins. "Bruce Almighty" is not the prototype NFL starting quarterback—he doesn't possess the size, pedigree and arm strength that scouts and general managers covet. But ultimately, Gradkowski is a winner. He makes up for his physical shortcomings with all the essential intangibles.
He's respected in the locker room. He does was a quarterback has to do in leading and inspiring in the huddle. He's a winner that gets it done with heart and grit. On paper, he might not impress. But this is a league where results matter most and ultimately, this is what the decision comes down to.
The change was noticeable against the Rams. As soon as Gradkowski was in at quarterback, the offense started moving the chains. Louis Murphy
hauled in 91 yards and a touchdown and the much-maligned Darrius Heyward-Bey
had a career day: six catches for 80 yards.
This is not to say Campbell isn't a capable quarterback or that he can win back the starting job. Campbell has all the skills to be a good quarterback, but compared to Gradkowski, he just doesn't work well in the Raider offense.
Particularly, Campbell suffers working behind the Raider offensive line. Perhaps he needs more time to become comfortable with passing routes and scheme, but when Campbell drops back, it takes him that much longer to make the right decisions.
Gradkowski, however, gets it. The biggest difference between the two, besides the physical, is that Bruce Gradkowski understands the weaknesses of the Raider offense and then compensates for them.
With a weak offensive line, Gradkowski is quick to deliver the ball. He is more comfortable with the offense itself, so when he drops back, he has a better idea of where and to whom he should throw the ball. And as he's shown, Gradkowski has a sixth sense in the pocket. When the protection breaks down, Gradkowski knows how to buy more time for the offense. It might not be the explosive offense that the Raiders want, but they produce points and yards with Gradkowski at the helm. Ultimately, isn't that what matters most? Winning ugly is still a win.
Who is to say what is to happen from here on out? More than likely, Campbell will be given every opportunity to win back the starting job. Maybe with more time learning the offense behind Gradkowski, Campbell can become more comfortable working behind center.
But again, Gradkowski drives this offense because he compensates for its weaknesses. How long he can maintain this is impossible to tell. But after seven years of losing, the Raiders need to win now. Campbell is a process that the Raiders do not have the time to endure. Gradkowski provides the best opportunity the Raiders to put W's in the column.
Head Coach Tom Cable announced on Wednesday that Bruce Gradkowski has taken over at quarterback in place of Jason Campbell. While the news has surprised many, it is the right choice as the Raiders are looking to have their first winning season in seven years. The time for waiting has passed, and the Raiders have made a move to win now.
Bruce Gradkowski takes over for Jason Campbell. It's a surprising move but the right one.