- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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OAKLAND -- On a day of immense emotion, the Oakland Raiders suffered a crushing blow that will force them to make a huge decision in the post-Al Davis era.
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. Campbell was injured in the second quarter of the Raiders’ 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A source close to the situation said it is unlikely Campbell will return this year. Raiders coach Hue Jackson did not give a timetable for Campbell’s injury, but he sounded like a man who knows he needs to make other quarterback plans.
The injury put a damper on what is developing into a very strong season for the Raiders, as well as on a poignant day when the Raiders paid tribute to Davis. Oakland’s owner died Oct. 8 at the age of 82. It was the Raiders' first home game since Davis’ death.
Campbell was one of the Davis’ favorite players, and his acquisition in 2010 helped the Raiders begin a revival as they moved away from colossal draft bust JaMarcus Russell. Campbell was making great strides under Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders this season and was the perfect game manager for an offense that features the NFL’s best running game.
Now the Raiders have to quickly figure out what they are going to do. For now, it looks like backup quarterback Kyle Boller will be given the first opportunity to start.
The Raiders must decide now whether they think Boller is capable of keeping them in contention. Oakland is 4-2 and trails San Diego (4-1) by a half-game in the AFC West. The Raiders host Kansas City next week, then have their bye. They then host Denver. So the Raiders -- who are two games over .500 for the first time in nine years -- have a manageable next few weeks.
Boller was just OK on Sunday as the Raiders won on the steam of a kick return for a score by Jacoby Ford, a touchdown pass on a fake field goal from punter Shane Lechler to Kevin Boss and improved defense. Boller was 8-of-14 for 100 yards. He missed badly on some passing attempts.
Still, Boller is experienced. He has started 46 NFL games, the last coming while with the Rams in 2009. He played under Jackson in Baltimore. Several Raiders receivers said Sunday they will have confidence in Boller if he is their starter. Ford said he will expect to see Boller as the starting quarterback “until I’m told otherwise.”
Ford should expect Oakland to consider other options in the next couple of days.
This is the first big personnel challenge for the Raiders since Davis’ death. Jackson and Mark Davis -- Al Davis' son -- are currently making decisions with input from others including former Raiders employees John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.
If the Raiders decide to pursue a quarterback outside the organization who can start, the list probably will begin with David Garrard. He is a free agent who was cut by Jacksonville. He would give the Raiders a veteran presence. But he hasn’t played in six weeks, so there is a rust factor.
Perhaps Oakland would consider calling Denver about Kyle Orton, who was replaced by Tim Tebow last week. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that the only way Denver would trade Orton is if a team suffered a major injury and called the Broncos.
Would the Broncos deal the free-agent-to-be inside the division, though? I bet they would.
I’m sure the quarterback Jackson would most like is Carson Palmer. He coached him in Cincinnati. Yet the Bengals have maintained that they won’t deal Palmer. The trade deadline is Tuesday. Yahoo is reporting the Raiders are already trying to get Palmer.
Of course, there’s another name out there. Yes, Brett Favre. He is 42 and has maintained he is retired. But wouldn’t that be the ultimate tribute to Davis, adding a beaten-up gunslinger to save the season?
That scenario is much more of a pipe dream than reality, and the Raiders must face reality in this situation.
If they stick with Boller, I could see them bringing back Trent Edwards to back him up. Boller beat out Edwards for the backup job this summer. The Raiders also probably will try to speed up the development of rookie Terrelle Pryor. He is expected to be activated from the roster-exemption list Monday. His five-game NFL suspension ended last Monday.
Pryor was expected to be a project. He is still a project, but if other options fail, he could be pressed into action. But he is far from being ready.
This major flux at quarterback is definitely not what this team needed. It's also devastating for Campbell, 29. He fit in well with this team after not succeeding in Washington. Now his future is up in the air. His contract expires at the end of the season. There were indications that the Raiders could give him a new deal. Now, that is likely on hold.
Jackson said Sunday that the biggest thing the team will miss is Campbell’s leadership.
They also will miss the balance he gave the Raiders' offense. With Campbell out, teams will key on stopping the running game, which could limit the offense. The ever-optimistic Jackson vowed that his team will “be just fine.”
There is a lot to like about this team. But the loss of Campbell certainly casts a cloud over this season.
5dEric D. Williams