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Jason Campbell Vs. Bruce Gradkowski
Sep 19, 2010; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson (left) talks with quarterbacks Jason Campbell (8), center, and Bruce Gradkowski (5) during the game against the St. Louis Rams at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Rams 16-14. Photo via Newscom

We all know the battle of the bay between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers. It’s definitely a classic and it’s lining up to be another good slobber-knocker this season. But Right now, the Raiders have their own interior “battle of the East Bay” going on between their QB’s. I can call it a battle—I’m good—as long as I don’t call it a controversy.

Competition creates character, but here is a situation where it could potentially backfire. Has anyone asked Campbell about his confidence level? He was ousted in DC and now he is ousted in Oakland after just six quarters? Let’s delve deeper into this dynamic dilemma.

First, why is it a dynamic dilemma?

Well, some teams don’t even have one quarterback who can get the job done (like the Raiders opponents next week). And while some might argue that Jason Campbell is obviously not capable of doing the job, I’d counter with this. Campbell has improved every year that he has been a starter in this league and even though they only scored three points on Sunday with him in the driver’s seat, he was still doing a nice job of moving the ball, as he says, “between the twenties.”

And Bruce Gradkowski is just a dynamic player. I remember when he first took over in Jon Gruden’s offense in Tampa Bay; he made some headlines over there as a rookie. In Bruce, you don’t have a guy who is going to put up big time stats (except in the 4th quarter in Pittsburgh), you have a guy who just does whatever it takes to get in the W column at the end of the day. And he is really good at doing that in Silver and Black for some reason that nobody can seem to figure out, while other guys look like they don’t know what they are doing behind this offensive line.

Who should the Raiders roll with?

It’s easy to say that Gradkowski should get the nod because he somehow finds a way to get the W. However, Tom Cable would not commit to Gradkowski during any of his most recent press sessions. Although he did say that he thought he figured out what the team needs to do to fix the problem on offense. He didn’t care to elaborate on what the solution was or what it would be down the road, but an onlooker could guess that the solution could be getting the ball out faster.

One reader of our site pointed out that Gradkowski was 9-11 with a touchdown to start the half and then he took a shot from a helmet to his hand and he was 2-11 with an interception after that. But Coach Cable said that the team started with some quick throws to get Bruce in a rhythm and then switched to some longer routs towards the end of the game once he got settled in. So perhaps the solution to the problem is not actually Gradkowski, but just getting the ball out quicker, even if it’s Campbell who is doing the tossing.

What does the team think?

Well, tight end Zach Miller agrees with what Tom Cable says, “If you look at it in a certain way it’s a good problem to have,” Miller said. “We have two capable guys and we haven’t had that in the past.”

While nobody on the team would come right out and give their preference of a starter, they did acknowledge that the two quarterbacks have different styles of playing the position.

“He’s just high-wired and really amped,” WR Louis Murphy said of Gradkowski. “It’s very intense—it’s just Bruce.

“Jason is calmer,” Murphy continued. “Just different guys, two different personalities; I’m not saying it’s wrong either way.”

But on the surface it appears as though the high-amped guy is the way to go. Gradkowski was 10-16 throwing to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Murphy plus he threw a touchdown to Murphy. Meanwhile, Campbell only completed one pass each to the combo. Gradkowski has led the team to victories over Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. He also had them in a competitive game with Campbell’s former team, the Washington Redskins, until he was knocked out of the game (for the season) and he nearly led a comeback victory against Kansas City after taking over for JaMarcus Russell at halftime in a game earlier that year.

Another advantage that Gradkowski has is that the guys know him from last season. Jason Campbell is new in town and while he has done a good job of getting to know the guys around them by hanging out with them outside of work and staying after practice getting extra reps or watching film with his teammates, there’s nothing that bonds teammates more than winning together and unfortunately, Campbell has yet to walk that road with this team.

What about injuries?

Certainly the biggest problem on the horizon if the Raiders declare Gradkowski the starter is his injury history. Aside from Chaz Schilens and Robert Gallery, Gradkowski has missed more time from injuries than any of the other Raiders. And they aren’t normal dings and bruises either, things like torn ligaments in knees and torn muscles. Granted, Jason Campbell could just as easily be injured playing behind this rag-tag group that the Raiders have assembled to play in front of their quarterbacks on Sundays.

But if Gradkowski is finding a way to win games and finding a way to complete balls people who aren’t Darren McFadden and Zach Miller, then injury issues shouldn’t really factor into a final decision. He’s not injured right now and that is the only way to look at it. If he did go down to injury then you have got to feel like you have a capable back-up behind him in Jason Campbell.

What about Al’s Money?

Ah, money…the root of all evil. That’s not to say its evil to start Campbell, I mean nothing of the sort, I swear. But if money was the ultimate contributing factor in the final decision on this matter, then perhaps my stance changes because that decision would obviously not be about Just Winning Baby.

Really, that was part of the journalists mentality this offseason- “You don’t bring a guy in that is making starter money and not start him.”

No, you just bring him in let him play six quarters and bench him, right? What’s more important, your wallet or the wins? If you win more, it makes your wallet fatter and therefore it is more in your best interest to pay a guy more to sit on the bench and get wins to get the fans in the stands and start generating a profit again. The decision to pay a more productive player less than a guy who is on the bench makes sense if the guy who is on the field is getting wins, regardless of who has a higher salary.

What’s the Verdict?

All that said, I really think they go back to Campbell and try to get some quick passes going on early against the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. It’s just way too early to quit on Campbell and jump all over Gradkowski, especially with the way Gradkowski finished the game. And let’s not forget how long it took to finally get a curtain call on JaMarcus Russell last season, even though Gradkowski replaced him after a few halftimes.

Campbell deserves another shot, and I say that even though I’m a big Gradkowski supporter. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled Jason again at halftime if he doesn’t produce points though, and this time it would be permanent. The Raiders will definitely have to make a final decision on the position after this weekend’s game when they will be staring down the barrel of the 2-0 Houston Texans followed by the team that has owned them for over six years now – the San Diego Chargers.

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