Quarterback for Raiders? Not now


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Jan 22, 2006
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Quarterback for Raiders? Not now
Column by Monte Poole
Inside Bay Area

IMAGINE THE flashbacks, Al Davis waking up in a cold sweat, toweling off, then screaming into his pillow.
How can the Raiders boss not be haunted by the 1991 draft, when he crossed his fingers, closed his eyes and grabbed a quarterback in the first round.

The chosen one, Todd Marinovich, was the embodiment of a 220-pound bong. Son of a former Raider, his head in a cloud of smoke and his wrists drawn to handcuffs, the left-hander from USC couldn't have damaged the organization any more if he had lobbed a grenade into the weight room.

So disastrous was the Marinovich selection that Davis has spent 15 years wrinkling his nose at the draft's top young quarterbacks.

Until now.


Matt Leinart and Vince Young, the top QBs in the 2006 NFL draft, already have visited the team's facility in Alameda. Were they smoke screens or objects of genuine interest? As speculation swirls in anticipation of Saturday's action, it's conceivable Leinart or Young could be available for Oakland, picking seventh overall.

The safe assumption is both will be there if the Raiders move up, as is persistently rumored, and pick second.

If either is there, and the Raiders take him, it would be yet another sign of a plan without vision. Or vision without a plan. Or an entirely new plan.

A team coming off seasons of 4-12, 5-11 and 4-12 has no business drafting a quarterbackunless it plans to build around him. And there is enough patience to allow him to develop.

For the Raiders to draft a quarterback now would suggest they're projecting to Super Bowl 43, set for Tampa in February 2009.

Which is not how the Raiders traditionally operate. And until Al reverses the aging process, there is no reason to believe they'll break tradition.

The Raiders' custom is to stagger into each off-season seeking a way to contend next season. That means turning to veterans such as Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan in 2005, Warren Sapp and Ted Washington in 2004, Dana Stubblefield in 2003, Rod Woodson and John Parrella and Bill Romanowski in 2002, and Trace Armstrong, Charlie Garner and Jerry Rice in 2001.

More to the point, Aaron Brooks in 2006, following Kerry Collins in 2004, Rich Gannon in 1999, Jeff George in 1997 and Jeff Hostetler in 1993.

The Raiders don't concede to rebuilding. They always think they're a player or three away from the next Super Bowl. And because teams with rookie passers don't get there, it's reasonable to conclude the Raiders won't be waving a multimillion-dollar contract at a rookie QB.

Unless they stop zigging and start zagging.

If Davis, approaching his 77th birthday, looks at his 2006 roster, concludes it's not ready for the Super Bowl and, more to the point, can't be made ready by any player in this draft, how does he not consider the young men who visited this month?

If Leinart is there when the Raiders pick seventh overall, they should leave him for the team picking eighth. If he offers as much as his record and statistics, he'll go no lower than third, to Tennessee. If he gets to third and the Titans pass, it should sound an alarm around the league.

Why? Because Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who spent three years with Leinart at USC, knows Leinart better than anyone in the NFL. If Chow can't — or won't — convince his people to take Leinart, all others should beware.

If Young is there, and he likely won't be, the Raiders almost have to take him.

Even if the Texas star is not expected to start right away, it would generate a lot of buzz for a team in need of it. Young has demonstrated the tangibles and the intangibles. He has the tools to be fantastic — with the proper organization, coaching staff and teammates.

The more logical Raiders selection, should they stay at No.7, would be Young's teammate, Michael Huff, a safety who would be Oakland's answer to Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu, Dallas' Roy Williams and Washington's Sean Taylor.

Huff is, by all accounts, a difference-maker. The Raiders have not had an active, young Pro Bowl safety since Vann McElroy 23 years ago.

See, the nightmares extend beyond Marinovich. Three times Al has taken a quarterback with his first pick. The results: a punt, a fumble and a fumble at the goal line, taken 99 yards the other way for a TD.

Eldridge Dickey, taken in 1968, was converted to wide receiver and lasted four years. Marc Wilson, taken in'80, threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The third was our boy, Todd.

If Al can't go there again, I think I'd understand. Thrice burned in the same place leaves quite the scar.

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