With the Raiders trailing 23-3 in the fourth quarter Sunday at home, and the boos raining down on JaMarcus Russell, coach Tom Cable never considered taking his starter out of the game.
“I just feel like we have to keep moving forward, trying to figure out what is going to help him be at his best,” Cable said.
It’s hard to say what Russell’s best would look like right now. Since Cable didn’t take him out, Russell got three drives in the fourth quarter to try to put something positive together. The team recorded one first down in those drives, and that came on a penalty.
Part of Cable’s problem is that he doesn’t have any alternatives, even if he wanted to make a change. (Or if he was allowed to.)
In my ride home last night from NBCSports.com international headquarters in lovely Stamford, Connecticut, an extremely knowledgeable Raiders fan co-worker of mine said he wanted to see what Bruce Gradkowski could do.
But playing Gradkowski is a no-win situation.
The journeyman with worse career numbers than Russell will either play like he’s always played on Sundays (poorly) or he’ll outplay Oakland’s prized number one overall pick.
Neither option is appealing, especially since Gradkowski is very unlikely to turn the Raiders ship around. Russell is still young, but his struggles are a good reminder of how much the wrong high pick at quarterback can set back a franchise.
The 2009 Raiders have a better roster than they have in last five years, but the quarterback position is preventing a chance for them to contend. Even a serviceable starter like Kyle Orton — who led the Broncos to another road win Sunday — would give them a fair shake.
Instead, they will continue to wait for their scattershot quarterback to develop some accuracy that may never come.