Brooks' honeymoon could be brief with Oakland's tough fans


Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2006
Reaction score
Man who isn't Kerry better get a fast start
Brooks' honeymoon could be brief with Oakland's tough fans
Column by Carl Steward

THE BEST thing Aaron Brooks has going for him heading into Oakland Raiders training camp Monday is his name isn't Kerry Collins.
That said, he'd better not waste much time making a name for himself.

While Brooks will enjoy a brief honeymoon as The Man Who Isn't Kerry, both the Raiders and their fans are wary. He has a mere two-year contract, he's getting the starting job by default, and there's a young buck named Andrew Walter waiting in the wings who a lot of people would prefer to see.

Oakland is a brutal town on quarterbacks. Even though Rich Gannon led the Raiders to three consecutive AFC West titles and a Super Bowl and won the MVP, a lot of fans couldn't wait to ditch Gannon for Collins ... until they got a load of Collins when it mattered. Suddenly, Gannon wasn't so bad after all.

Brooks doesn't have nearly as tough an act to follow. Collins was so reviled by the end of his run here that fans were threatening to cancel their season tickets en masse if he returned, even without an obvious replacement. The Raiders surveyed an array of possible successors before finally settling on Brooks, who was one of the last veteran starters on the market with any potential upside.

We say "potential" because no one really knows what's there now after Brooks was unceremoniously benched, then released, by New Orleans after a horrific 2005 season. The Raiders can point to their brilliant reclamations of Jim Plunkett and Gannon, but naysayers can just easily point to Jay Schroeder, Jeff George and Collins. The truth is, nobody knows which way Brooks will lean.

What should be clear to Brooks is he's in a good spot to revive his career — it could be his one and only shot at it — and the Raiders could strike gold, if he comes into camp determined to prove that he's a lot better than people say he is, as Gannon did.

Brooks should be right in his prime, having just turned 30 in March. He's healthy and has no history of significant injury. He's getting in on the ground floor with a new coaching regime highly motivated to reverse the ill fortunes of the past three seasons. He's just a year removed from back-to-back seasons in which he threw 45 touchdowns and ran for six more against 24 interceptions.

Moreover, Brooks has weapons. He had good receivers with the Saints in Joe Horn and Dont Stallworth, but nobody will mistake either for a healthy Randy Moss. He has a fleet of other receivers who will stretch the defense and open up running lanes when he gets too much pressure. He has a backfield warrior in Lamont Jordan and a tight end in Courtney Anderson who should be a more involved this year.

"Just talking to him, he's excited about the system we have here," coach Art Shell said this week. "He's excited about what the capability of the system can allow him to do as far as being the quarterback, the freedom it allows him to have."

Brooks had better be excited, because you can bet the Nation has studied his New Orleans rsum closely and is well aware some of the biggest knocks against him have focused on his casual approach, that he occasionally was spotted chewing sunflower seeds on the sideline and had a penchant for coming off the field smiling, even after a poor decision that resulted in a turnover.

In the end, Brooks was banished with the heavy label of a talented player who just didn't appear to care enough. Whether that's fair or not, it won't fly here even as a perception. Even Collins, for all his faults, was a dedicated and cooperative quarterback always striving to atone for his mistakes. A recalcitrant will be gone before he can say "hike."

It goes without saying Brooks needs to dump the seeds, if he hasn't already done so. And if he wants to make the most of this chance, his outward demeanor toward — oh god, we're going to say it — commitment to excellence must be as strong if not stronger than his arm.

It is notable that until last season, Brooks had crafted a .500 record as the Saints QB, not acceptable in a lot of places but pretty impressive for New Orleans. Last year's 3-10 falloff until he was benched very well could be an aberration.

Hurricane Katrina, to be sure, may have been enough to undermine Brooks and the Saints, as it made them a vagabond team. But what's more, New Orleans also lost top tailback Deuce McAllister for the season in the middle of the fifth game, and were 1-10 afterward. Horn was lost for three games in midseason and wasn't nearly the same receiver afterward. He caught just 49 balls for 654 yards and one touchdown after 94 catches, 1,399 yards and 11 TDs in 2004.

With that in mind, Brooks ultimately could prove a lot of people wrong. That's what the Raiders are hoping for, and we'll find out soon enough about the man himself. Maybe he still has the ability to carry a team instead of simply being the next Kerry.

Carl Steward can be reached at (510) 293-2451 or by e-mail at [email protected].
This thread has been closed due to inactivity. You can create a new thread to discuss this topic.