Gradkowski must stay Oakland's starter

September, 19, 2010
9/19/10
8:50
PM ET
The Oakland Raiders waited three seasons to pull the plug on JaMarcus Russell.

[+] EnlargeBruce Gradkowski
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIs Bruce Gradkowski the new starting quarterback in Oakland?
It took all of six quarters to yank the starting quarterback job away from Jason Campbell.

In one of the most stunning developments of the young NFL season, Oakland abruptly went away from Campbell, the player the team touted as savior of the floundering organization. During the summer, Oakland owner Al Davis compared Campbell’s arrival to the impact Jim Plunkett had on the team in 1980 when it won the Super Bowl.

Yet, Sunday, the Raiders suddenly moved away from Campbell. How in the world are they going to go back to him? After all, benching Campbell worked.

Once again, journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski saved Oakland. It seems every time Gradkowski, a failed starter elsewhere, has been given the chance in Oakland, he has sparked the team. Gradkowski played well when he replaced Russell last season and he played well in the preseason.

Despite Gradkowski’s ability to rally Oakland’s offense last season, the Raiders tried to replace him. Oakland was connected to every available quarterback on the market and the speculation became reality when the team acquired Campbell from Washington during the draft.

Gradkowski led Oakland to 13 points in the second half in its 16-14 win over St. Louis. How can Oakland go back to Campbell next week in a winnable game at Arizona? After the win over St. Louis, Oakland coach Tom Cable said he will deal with who’ll start next week during the week. Come on, Coach, you know it’s going to be Gradkowski.

Gradkowski was far from perfect as he completed 11 of 22 passes for 162 yards. He had one touchdown pass and he was intercepted once. Still, Gradkowski has an undeniable connection with his young receivers. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined for 12 catches for 171 yards. It seems as if all of Oakland’s offensive faults go away when Gradkowski enters the game.

The Raiders could hardly move the ball with Campbell playing. He was 8-of-15 for 87 yards and was intercepted once. The Raiders didn’t announce during the game that Campbell was hurt, so we must assume he was benched and we must assume it will continue next week.

While the Gradkowski move worked Sunday, it’s debatable whether it’s a long-term solution. Gradkowski hasn't shown he can sustain production for long periods of time and he has a history of getting hurt, partly because he plays so hard.

Plus, the sudden demotion surely won’t sit well with Campbell. This is not what he expected after hearing for months how important he was to Oakland’s plan. He has to be mystified about being benched after six quarters.

So, this will be an interesting situation to monitor in the long term. In the short term, Gradkowski, once again, showed that he is a sparkplug for Oakland’s offense.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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