Throw-Away Day

October 23

The Raiders’ trade for Carson Palmer was undoubtedly the hot sports topic of the week around the Bay Area. The Raiders are relevant again, and on the heels of the death of longtime leader Al Davis, they’ve been in the headlines quite a bit lately.

On Wednesday, several reputable NFL reporters had Palmer starting. We cited those people in our reports, also citing the fact coach Hue Jackson had not made a decision and “laughed” at those reports. This despite the fact his offensive coordinator, Al Saunders, told a Kansas City radio station Palmer would play “if he’s breathing.”

On a certain level it made sense to start Palmer if he was anywhere near football-ready. The Raiders gave up a lot to get him, and Kyle Boller was the alternative. Saunders inadvertently dissed Boller by summing up the reaction to Palmer’s arrival on the practice field: “there’s a REAL quarterback.”

On another level, Palmer had a lot of information to digest and hadn’t had any training camp. The Raiders were also hosting the lowly Chiefs, and with a bye week coming up, you wouldn’t blame them if they kept Palmer on the sidelines.

Jackson, who is certainly acting “large and in charge” these days, was having a fine old time playing with the media, much like a cat with a ball of yarn. Either he knew who was going to start and was stringing the media along, he didn’t have an idea until right before the game, or he changed his mind.

As it turned out, Boller got the start. Even against the Chiefs, his presence made this a “throw-away” day. Take the loss if you have to, and reload with Palmer for the stretch run to the playoffs.

Sadly, Boller took “throw-away day” literally. At the outset, he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Later, a potential scoring drive was killed by his third pick. That’s when Jackson definitely changed his mind.

The Raiders went into the half trailing 14-0, and that was extended to 21-0 early in the third quarter when the loudest roar of the day was heard. Palmer came into the game and threw a completion on his first pass, but that drive and a subsequent drive stalled. In the 4th quarter, he threw his own pick-six and had three interceptions to add to three for Boller. As Twitter follower Ernie Hernandez noted, the Raiders gave up two picks for Palmer, so he decided to give a few back in return.

In short, the Raiders were no worse off with Palmer in the game than they were with Boller. It’s possible they would have been in better shape, assuming Palmer wouldn’t have had all those disastrous throws in the first half. Especially if he knew he was starting and could prepare as such. If Jackson was worried about putting his prized quarterback at risk, those concerns washed away in the second half.

If Palmer was good enough to bring into a game with a 21-0 deficit, when the Chiefs could pin their ears back, wouldn’t he be good enough to enter the game 0-0 ? Maybe starting Palmer limited the playbook and thus made him easier to defend, but starting Boller providing the Chiefs’ defense with even more opportunities. With a chance to tie the Chargers atop the AFC West, the Raiders literally threw it away.

In one sense, it didn’t seem to matter who started because the offensive line blocked poorly for both quarterbacks, making one wonder how long before Terrelle Pryor saw action. Combined, Boller and Palmer threw two touchdown passes, to Chiefs receivers. But the Raiders had an even bigger problem Sunday: the foot injury that sidelined star running back Darren McFadden.

In the final analysis, the desultory loss to the Chiefs seemed to raise more questions about the rest of the season. Will the Palmer deal end up like the Giants’ trade for Carlos Beltran — mortgaging the future for a short-term payoff that never comes ?

Will the offensive line be able to keep Palmer upright for the rest of the season ? How many reps does Pryor get next week ? Will McFadden be able to come back, and if so, will he be 100 percent ? Will Boller’s beauty-queen wife be able to comfort him?

I think Palmer will be fine. It was his first action of the season, a week after he was sitting on the couch watching NFL games with a friend. He will get the bye week to get used to things, and he’ll make a contribution down the road. Hopefully not too little, too late. Like Beltran.

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2 Responses to “Throw-Away Day”

  1. Jim from Napa Says:

    Boller and Vernon Gholston are the poster boys as to why the NFL combines is nothing but a fashion show to create jobs. I’ll take a short Drew Brees any day than a prototype Kyle Boller.

    Even Dan Fouts said it; why are you bringing Palmer in when he only knows a handful of vanilla plays, and they know you have to pass the ball down by 21?

    The 2 glaring things? The Raiders can’t win without McFadden. They have no speed in the backfield without him.

    2. The defense is awful at times. Their DB’s are really bad. Before today they were 30th against the pass. They also have issues against the run and were the 25th rated defense before today.

    It makes me look in awe to know Jim Brown never missed a game in 9 years, and so many RB’s miss time. McFadden has never played a full season.

    • raywood Says:

      McFadden is absolutely the key to this team, outside of Palmer. I just think it would have been better had he been able to prepare as the starter — unless he begged off. The defense has been up and down this year, and at times has been really bad, but Sunday the Chiefs scored 14 on pick-sixes, plus were set up for another touchdown via an interception.

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