An Act of Desperation
Head Coach Norv Turner announced today that he is switching back to Kerry Collins as the starting QB vs. Cleveland. Turner said “We owe it to the guys on this team that are giving as much as they’re giving, we owe them the best chance to find a way to win a game.” Although this reasoning by Turner does have some validity to it since Tui did struggle mightily against the Jets, it does raise some other questions. Yes, giving your team the best chance to win is a noble cause but it rings hollow. Turner would have given his team the best chance to win throughout the entire 2005 campaign by installing better game plans, by being less predictable, by being more committed to the run, by taking more calculated risks, by using more creative play calls, by tailoring personnel packages to each unique opponent, by instilling discipline & accountability, by inspiring his players to greater heights, by passionately leading his men into battle each week.
What does this QB change mean? It means that Turner is fighting a losing battle to hold on to his job. This decision means that QB Collins will need to invest in some earplugs for his start in McAfee Stadium if he doesn’t perform at a very high level. It means that the focus & blame of the Raiders woes is shifted back on to lame duck QB Collins. More than likely it means that Turner is a puppet on Al Davis’ strings.
How was this decision made? Probably behind closed doors Davis & Turner met on Monday. After Tui performed poorly in his 1 game tryout, Davis insisted that Tui is not his type of QB. Turner probably thought he could breathe life into the offense by giving Tui a shot. After examining the game film from the Jets game, Turner realized that the entire style of offense was built around Collins deep passing abilities. He took the path of least resistance and decided it was much easier to switch back to Collins than to change the offense to fit Tui’s strengths. It would have been nice if Turner had tailored the offense in the Jets game to suit Tui’s strengths in order to truly give him the best chance to succeed. How many times did you see Tui use the roll-out, a pass/run option or bootleg play in the Jets game? Why was Tui stuck behind a static pocket the entire game instead of using a sliding, moving pocket? How many plays did Turner install that utilized Tui’s legs to run for 1st downs? You might as well pull the plug on Tui if you are going to run the same predictable offense installed for Collins.
Is this a 3 game audition for Collins to see if the Raiders want him back for 2006? Ridiculous. Collins has a body of work over 2 seasons as the starting QB. The results are clear. Collins is 7-18 as the starter. He loses 72% of the time. At best, Collins is a serviceable #2 QB with a restructured contract at this stage of his career.
What are the short term ramifications of this decision? The short-term ramifications are that the Raiders appear rudderless. There appears to be no clear direction & sound starting point to make decisions for next season. This switch might pick up an extra win but at what cost? Even if Collins plays well vs. Cleveland and the Raiders win, the season tally will still probably end up at a dismal 5-11. The QB depth chart has become cloudier.
What are the long-term ramifications of this decision? My best guess is that the Raiders organization is going to make a bold trade for a QB (Phillip Rivers, Aaron Brooks, Dante Culpepper) or go after a free agent QB (John Kittna, Brian Griese) once Collins is released and his $12.8M cap figure comes off the books. There would seem to be an outside chance that Collins could come back as the #2 QB at a discounted salary. It looks like Tui will be released. Don’t be surprised if Tui ends up in Tampa Bay and is reunited with Gruden who originally drafted him. Tui, who was mentored by Rich Gannon, would be good fit as the #2 QB in the Bucs’ west coast style offense. Rookie QB Walters will have another year to be groomed as the heir apparent.
Finally, who ultimately made this decision? None other than the patriarch of the Raider Nation, Mr. Alvin Davis. My only hope is that the godfather of the Silver & Black is feverishly working on 2 things in anticipation of the 2006 season. First and foremost is to start evaluating head coaching candidates who meets the following mandatory job requirements; Dynamic leader, creative football mind, willingness to instill discipline & accountability with players, excellent teacher, delegator, and communicator. After a head coach is hired, this new leader of the Silver & Black needs to be involved in identifying the best available QB in the market. This QB must command respect in the huddle. Both Collins & Turner are likeable, decent guys but it is time to turn the page and move forward. I anxiously await the next revitalized chapter in the quest for the Lombardi Trophy. I’m still a firm believer in Al Davis’ commitment to win. It is easy to second guess some of his decisions over the years but his passion & devotion to the Silver & Black is unquestioned. I love Al Davis, warts and all.
Silver & Black Forever,