Would the Oakland Raiders have reacted to Jason Campbell’s broken clavicle by trading two first round draft picks to the Cincinnati Bengals for Carson Palmer at the deadline if Al Davis was alive? We’ll never know. A question we can answer, and one that’s been asked several times over the past week and a half, is who will take over the Raiders’ general manager duties that were vacated with Davis’ passing?
After trading for Palmer, it looks like Jackson has taken over Davis’ role for a couple of reasons.
1. Trading two extremely valuable picks like this (a first round pick in 2012, and a first rounder in 2013 if the Raiders win a playoff game in 2011; that pick becomes a second rounder in ’13 if the Raiders fail to win a postseason game this season) shows the Raiders are only concerned about how far they go this season. That’s a head coach’s mindset.
2. Jackson was USC’s offensive coordinator a couple years before Palmer arrived, and was the Bengals’ wide receivers coach from 2004-06. Those were Palmer’s first three seasons, and 2005-06 happen to be his best two seasons as a pro (averaging 3,936 yards, 30 TD and 12.5 INT while completing 65% of his passes). Jackson believes in Palmer, perhaps as much or more than any current personnel director in the league.
Jackson’s meteoric rise can continue if Palmer suddenly looks younger in Oakland, away from the Bengals’ dysfunctional scene and constant arrests (pretty nuts that the Raiders are thought of as a serene sanctuary these days compared to Cincy). And the Raiders have a great opportunity to make the playoffs and win at least one game once they get there, provided they can keep Palmer healthy and Kyle Boller as far away from the line of scrimmage as possible during games.
Whether the Raiders either overpaid for Palmer or wildly overpaid for Palmer depends on what you think of Palmer’s chances of playing better than Campbell before his injury against the Browns. And even though the Raiders have enough skill position guys to give Palmer some options when he drops back, his success is going to have more to do with the Raiders’ offensive line than anything else.
Palmer is a more dynamic passer than Campbell, and better suits Davis’ vertical passing ideal. Palmer has a 4.8 TD% throughout his career compared to 3.5 for Campbell, although Campbell’s INT% (2.3) is considerably safer than Palmer’s (3.1). Somewhat surprisingly, Palmer’s yards per attempt and per completion are only slightly higher than Campbell’s throughout their respective careers.
Where Oakland’s o-line really comes into play is due to Palmer’s mobility, or lack thereof. Campbell has rushed for 282 yards in 19 games with the Raiders. Palmer, whose knee problems and lead feet are well known, has rushed for 316 yards in his career (97 games).
Just win (now) baby!
Along with the trade for Aaron Curry for a 2012 seventh-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2013, the Raiders are clearly set on riding the emotional combination of Davis’ death and above average play on the field to the team’s first memorable season in almost a decade. That’s understandable, considering the Raiders are finally playing home games that aren’t blacked out in the Bay Area, they’re fighting the resurgent 49ers for media attention and one has to imagine the entire organization would like this season to end magically in dedication to the man who represented the franchise in every way.
However, unless you’re of the mind that Palmer can play like he did in ’05 after several years as a decidedly average starting quarterback, it’s a little worrisome that the Raiders gave Mike Brown exactly what he wanted at the last minute, when Brown’s only other recourse was to let Palmer sit and get nothing for him. No other team would have given the Bengals anywhere near this big a haul for Palmer. In all the tributes to Davis it was stated how he was a unique individual, a maverick who took risks and made moves nobody else would. This isn’t always true, but oftentimes the consensus view is that way for a reason.
Maybe Jackson’s vision will yield tremendous results. We’ll definitely find out, since there’s nobody in his way.