The fourth-year pro replaced an ineffective Jason Campbell last week in Oakland’s 16-14 comeback victory over St. Louis, and now, Gradkowski could be named the starter for the remainder of the season.
Surprising? Yes and no.
As of Wednesday morning, the Oakland depth chart still has Campbell listed as the Raiders No. 1 quarterback for this weekend’s game in Arizona. However, LaConfora—who reports for the NFL Network—tweeted unofficially that a source tells him that Gradkowski will get the nod as the new starter. Officially, Gradkowski ran the first team offense in practice, while Campbell sat on the sidelines and watched.
Logic dictates that Gradkowski's elevation from back-up to starter is the best move for a team that’s still rebounding from the colossal failure of the JaMarcus Russell era. So, solidifying this position as soon as possible seems to be a no-brainer for head coach Tom Cable.
That’s why it’s a smart move to go with the hot hand. Gradkowski’s has become a fan favorite and mastered the knack of providing instant offense to a stagnant Oakland attack. He also provides that intangible quality of “leadership” something Campbell has lacked in his brief stint as the Raiders’ starter.
Meanwhile, Cardinals’ starter Derek Anderson has a career passer rating of 67.6 against Oakland, as the Cardinals are off to a very shaky 1-1 start with a close win over the Rams and a blowout loss to the Falcons. Obviously, losing Kurt Warner to retirement and waiving would-be starter Matt Leinart has added an intriguing subplot to this week’s game.
Still, there’s something to be said about winning ugly and that’s what the Raiders can do this week.
Beyond that, Al Davis is not getting any younger, and he wants to win now. This would be most compelling argument to start Gradkowski. The 27-year-old pro has defied the odds over his career—delivering come from behind victories against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in ‘09—and then continuing that “just win” mentality by delivering a 13-point effort in Oakland’s much needed victory over St. Louis last week.
Gradkowski also gets the Raiders’ young receivers involved in the game. He simply makes them better.
Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined for 12 catches, 171 yards and a touchdown in last week’s win (which was perhaps their best performance ever in silver and black), and, needless to say, that’s what the owner and the fans wants to see. Make no mistake, the NFL is about winning now, not tomorrow.
As for Campbell, he’s been too slow to pick up the offense. Campbell has spent too much time on his backside (six sacks in two games) and failed to build a rapport with Murphy and Heyward-Bey. If this one-time Raiders QB savior is replaced after a mere six quarters of play, his confidence won’t be shot—in fact, it will give him a chance to see how the offense should be run.
And given Gradkowski’s history of injuries and playing behind a suspect offensive line, Campbell could be back calling shots sooner rather than later.