The instability of the San Andreas fault pales in comparison to the Oakland Raiders’ and New York Jets’ starting quarterback role. Since 2003, the Raiders have tabbed 16 different signal callers and the Jets have used 10.
When the Silver and Black travel to MetLife Stadium to play Gang Green on Sunday, the match will likely remind viewers why both teams must continue to assess their most important position.
A decade ago, the Raiders and Jets saw their quarterbacks as an area of strength. Rich Gannon and Chad Pennington were coming off their best seasons, and their backups (Marques Tuiasosopo and Vinny Testaverde respectively) were viewed as luxuries.
Then Pennington broke his hand in the preseason and Gannon damaged his shoulder in Week 7, which triggered the end of an era of dependability for both ball clubs.
For the Raiders, Gannon’s career was cut short when the 2002 NFL MVP injured his neck in a comeback bid in 2004. A quarterback carousel of retreads (like Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Brooks) ensued, until Oakland handed the franchise keys to JaMarcus Russell in the last game of 2007.
The Dark Ages came and went and what emerged in a 2010 quarterback controversy was a blossoming Jason Campbell until he broke his collarbone in Week 6, 2011. Oakland traded midseason for fading star Carson Palmer, who posted a renaissance year in 2012 before an awkward exit to Arizona. Palmer’s departure set the stage for today’s dysfunction.
For the Jets, the decline behind center has been slow and steady. Pennington led New York to two more playoff berths but was painfully unreliable not for his performance but frailty and mileage. The Jets experimented with project Brooks Bollinger and supposed successor Kellen Clemons before hitting “abort” and adding Brett Favre. A lewd text and 22 interceptions later, the team bet the college fund to draft Mark Sanchez in 2009 who in 62 NFL starts compiled a 71.7 quarterback rating, 69 picks and 43 fumbles. That was enough to convince the Jets in the offseason to move in a fresh direction.
This year, the script is unchanged. The Raiders and Jets thought they had their seat warmers in Matt Flynn and David Garrard, but naturally both clubs opened the season with a prospect whose readiness was unknown. After hot starts, Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith have slumped harder than scoliosis, and now their long-term futures are in question. Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin will start for the Raiders on Sunday, as Smith tries to defend his job at home.
Retrospectively, the Raiders have had it worse than the Jets, which a 10-year playoff drought enforces. But both AFC forefathers are in the midst of a difficult period tempting fans to yearn for seasons past. Gamblers would be wise to put their money on the notion that in 2014 the Raiders and Jets will pull another shakeup at the quarterback position.