Rich Gannon: The Last Decent Quarterback for the Oakland Raiders


December 2, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass against the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at Coliseum. The Browns defeated the Raiders 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Since QB Rich Gannon’s neck injury forced him to retire in 2005, the Oakland Raiders have had a revolving door at the quarterback position. First, they brought in journeyman QB Kerry Collins to run Norv Turner’s vertical passing offense, which came to an abrupt end, quickly forcing Collins to the bench in favor of QB Marques Tuiasosopo. The Washington product was supposed to be Gannon’s eventual replacement after being drafted in the second-round (59th) in the 2001 NFL Draft, however that never came to fruition, leaving the Raiders with a huge question mark at the quarterback position.

Realizing Tuiasosopo was no longer the answer, the Raiders drafted QB Andrew Walter out of Arizona State in the third-round (69th) of the 2005 NFL Draft. As expected, Walter never materialized into a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL, after earning the opportunity to start in 2006, by throwing three touchdowns against 13 interceptions. It did not help that Walter was sacked 46 times during the season either, but in the end Walter was not the answer. Though Walter struggled throughout much of the 2006 season, QB Aaron Brooks did not fare any better. A free-agent acquisition in 2006, Brooks was supposed to add stability, leadership, and experience to the quarterback position. So much for that, as Brooks finished the year with three touchdowns against 8 interceptions.

The very next year, the Raiders held the number one overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Raider Nation clearly in need of a franchise quarterback, drafted LSU product QB JaMarcus Russell. The move seemed to be the right one, as Russell had an absolute cannon for an arm, and was an ideal fit for the Raiders style of play. However, the Raiders hit a snag in contract negotiations with Russell heading into training camp leading the Raiders to sign damaged goods QB Daunte Culpepper to a one-year contract. Culpepper was exclusively brought in to create competition with newly acquired starter QB Josh McCown. The former Detroit Lion was traded to Oakland on draft day along with WR Mike Williams in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.

Neither McCown nor Culpepper fared well in 2007, as they combined for 15 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. The late owner, Al Davis witnessing the heartaches, finally turned to Russell. And he did not fare any better, in fact, he played worse with the lowest quarterback rating of the three (55.9).

In 2008, Russell was the unquestioned franchise quarterback and started for the most part of the 2008 season. He threw for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. A huge improvement for the second-year quarterback. The future looked bright for once, and the Raiders finally found their franchise quarterback and can now breathe a sigh of relief. Not so fast.

The following year, Russell was named the starter but was replaced by QB Bruce Gradkowski at the discretion of then Raiders coach Tom Cable during the Raiders week 9 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Gradkowski would go on and start the next five weeks throwing for six touchdowns against three interceptions, a 2:1 ratio. However, the success was short lived as Gradkowski went down in the second-quarter against the Washington Redskins, leaving Oakland to revert back to Russell. It became apparent that Russell was out of shape, and no where near his playing weight, leaving many to question his work ethic. As a result, the Raiders decided to go in another direction as QB Charlie Frye would be named the starter for the remainder of the 2009 season.

The Cable regime clearly gave up on Russell and wanted Frye as the unquestioned leader of the team, heading into 2010, as they gave Russell his walking papers on May 6, 2010. However, Frye was hurt during training camp and never was able to embrace that opportunity. The Raiders not going back to Russell, opted to trade for QB Jason Campbell for a fourth-round draft pick. It was an  Al Davis move as he compared Campbell to QB Jim Plunkett.

Campbell had a decent year in 2010, throwing for 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The future was looking bright for Oakland and things were going well. However, in 2011, the success was again short lived as Campbell went down to injury in week 6, forcing the Raiders to find his viable replacement. New coach Hue Jackson was in unchartered territory, finding themselves in the playoff race with a 4-2 record. So what do they do? They trade for disgruntled QB Carson Palmer.

Palmer was supposed to be the savior of the franchise. He was a former Pro-Bowl quarterback with a big arm. He had the resume to make the Raider Nation excited. And in 2011 he did just that. He was exciting for all the wrong reasons. He threw for 2,753 yards, 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Not the kind of production one would expect from a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

Palmer, eager to bounce back from that horrible season, did so admirably. He racked up 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. However, those stats did not translate into wins, and as a result Palmer was traded on April 2, 2013 in exchange for a 2013 sixth-round draft pick and a conditional pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The news was considered a cap casualty, as Palmer was unwilling to re-work his contract. In addition, QB Terrelle Pryor played extremely well in the season finale, leading to a quarterback debate. Pryor was selected in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, which was ironically Al Davis’ last pick he would ever make.

Now, with Pryor being named the starter, how will he fare in 2013? I would say not so well. Sure, he will excite the Raider Nation with his legs but can he lead the team to victories? It will surely depend on the players around him, but the quarterback will be scrutinized in more ways than one.

If I was Oakland, I would draft DT Sharrif Floyd (Florida) with the third overall pick or trade-down with teams like the St. Louis Rams or Minnesota Vikings as both those teams have multiple first-round picks. Also, the quarterback draft class is weak and the Raiders should be able to have their choice of tier two quarterbacks at the top of the second-round. Whatever the Raiders decide to do, do not reach for QB Geno Smith as he is not a first-round talent in my opinion.