Palmer's debut with Raiders not so simple
October, 23, 2011
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com
AP Photo/Paul SakumaRaiders coach Hue Jackson, right, tried his best to tutor quarterback Carson Palmer during the game, but it was a rough debut.
OAKLAND -- In simpler times, when both Hue Jackson and Carson Palmer were younger and the colors they wore were cardinal and gold, not silver and black, Jackson had a saying to calm his young protege down.
"Just run the old brown shoe," he'd tell him. Palmer would nod, knowing exactly what his offensive coordinator meant.
"Yeah," Palmer recalled. "He'd always say, 'You could just run the old brown shoe and win.' "
In other words, keep it simple and let your talent take over. The plays, the offense, the protections don't matter. Just play, don't over-think it.
A decade later, and a whole lot more at stake, Jackson would have been better served heeding his own advice.
Palmer never had a chance to make much of a difference in Sunday's game, a 28-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
He had time to learn only three or four protections and a small fraction of the team's plays. He's still learning his receivers' names, let alone their tendencies. Oh, and the first time he'd thrown in pads in 10 months was Sunday, when he entered midway through the third quarter.
Jackson knew all this. So did Palmer. Heck, so did the Chiefs.
But instead of buying Palmer and the Raiders some breathing room by saying Palmer would need a week or two to acclimate after a daring blockbuster trade last Monday, Jackson elevated the expectations for immediate success by calling it "the greatest trade in football," then playing coy about whether Palmer would start.
Gamesmanship, Jackson called it afterward. And it would've been great if the Raiders had won.
Instead it seemed like Jackson faked out his entire team -- including Palmer, who said afterward he was never expecting to play this week.
"I didn’t think I was going to play so I didn’t have much expectation," Palmer said. "I expected to get a feel for watching from the sidelines, seeing coverages unfold, seeing protections be picked up and watch the running game, different play action things to watch from the boundaries.
"But as soon as it’s time to go, it’s time to go. When your number’s called, you’ve got to be ready to go."
By the time Palmer was summoned into the game, the Raiders were down 21-0 and the fans in Oakland had been chanting his name for an hour.
Jackson almost had to put him in. Palmer had to make the best of it.
"He was ready enough to attempt what we attempted to do with him. Nothing more than that," Jackson said. "That's a tough spot to be in. But if anybody can handle it, I think he could."
Afterward, Palmer could only shrug and look for the bright side. He's happy to be here. Things will get better. In the long run it was probably good he played. But you had the sense he wasn't thrilled with the way it played out and the position in which he was put.
"I mean, I was excited to be playing," Palmer said. "But with such a limited playbook, and little to no experience with the receivers, it definitely is an uncomfortable situation to be in."
Asked why he was OK with not starting this first game back from his pseudo-retirement, Palmer let on a little bit more.
"More than anything it was a health issue, getting in football shape and being able to protect myself from injury,” he said. “But like I said, when your number is called, it’s go time."
None of this is to say the Raiders made a mistake in trading for Palmer. One half of watching Kyle Boller is enough to convince anyone he's probably not capable of taking Oakland to the playoffs.
And for a guy who is basically six days into training camp after a 10-month layoff, Palmer actually looked pretty good Sunday. He had zip on the ball, moved well, and even bounced back up after he was knocked to the ground.
It just might have served the team better if Jackson had put more energy into building up Boller's confidence all week and reminding everyone the Raiders can win most games just by handing off to Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, than in trying to justify the high price the Raiders' paid to acquire Palmer.
To his credit, Jackson owned the loss after the game.
"When we lose it ain't on my players, it's on me," he said. "When we win it's good for them. I take everything for this football team and I will.
"Carson Palmer didn't lose the game. Kyle Boller didn't lose the game. Coach Jackson lost the game and you guys can write that. That's on me. But we will be back. This is a really good football team in there."
Jackson has done a remarkable job in steadying this franchise after the death of owner Al Davis on Oct. 8. He has led with swagger and strength.
It was what the Raiders needed after losing the man who had directed and defined them for so long. In the long run it will help them more than hurt them.
But in this case, a little restraint might have worked better. Less would have been more.
Or, in his own words, Jackson should have kept it simple and "just run the old brown shoe."