The Oakland Raiders are Hue Jackson’s team.
One of the biggest questions in the NFL since the Oct. 8 death of Al Davis has been who would lead the Raiders? Davis, the most hands-on owner in sports, had held control of the franchise since the 1960s. The answer is their 45-year-old rookie head coach.
The Raiders' trade for Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer shows that Jackson has been the given the power to do what he thinks Oakland needs to do.
After looking through an awful list of available quarterbacks (Todd Bouman, Todd Collins, Trent Edwards and Josh McCown were among those the Raiders considered) and deciding against going with backup Kyle Boller, Jackson plucked the flashiest quarterback left. Jackson coached Palmer at USC and in Cincinnati, and he's clearly the player Jackson thinks can keep the 4-2 Raiders in the playoff mix after Jason Campbell broke his collarbone.
The price is steep. The Raiders are sending their first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional first (and at least a second-round pick) in 2013 to the Bengals. The 2013 pick becomes a first-round choice if the Raiders win their first playoff game in nine years this season.
This is an extremely risky deal. Palmer will turn 32 this season and he has been in a decline. The Raiders probably could have gotten veterans Kyle Orton or Donovan McNabb for much cheaper than the rusty Palmer, who hasn't played this season. The trade means Oakland doesn’t have a pick until the fifth round next year (although it probably will get a couple of compensatory picks, which start at the end of the third round, for lost free agents), and it puts the Raiders in a tight salary-cap spot.
I’m sure Jackson is not worried about the trade risks. In his first six games as the head coach in Oakland, Jackson has made several aggressive calls and often pulls out trick plays. This is how Jackson rolls, by rolling the dice. If Palmer is awful and the Raiders don’t make the playoffs, this trade will be Jackson’s legacy in Oakland.
But the point is, Jackson has been given the opportunity to make a legacy pick. This is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility for a man who was brought to Oakland to be the offensive coordinator in 2010. Since Davis’ death, Jackson has said Davis trained him to make personnel decisions, and Jackson has made it clear in the past week-plus that he is the leader of the organization.
There have been reports that Davis’ son, Mark Davis, would look to hire a general manager, probably after the season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Mark is relying on advice from former Raiders employees and Al Davis confidantes John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.
Jackson said Monday that every decision he makes includes input from Mark and Raiders CEO Amy Trask. It will be Mark who ultimately decides the structure of the Raiders’ front office. But it is clear the first person to get the chance to lead the Raiders is Jackson and, if his moves work out, he probably will stay in the power chair.