The sports media likes to make mountains out of mole hills, but in the case of who will be the Oakland Raiders’ starting quarterback going into the 2014 season, there really is no mountain to make. Recently, writers have published numerous stories claiming there is now a quarterback controversy in Oakland since the Raiders grabbed Fresno State University quarterback Derek Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft.
Problem is you have to have a starting quarterback in the first place to actually make it a controversy. The Raiders haven’t had a starting quarterback since Carson Palmer.
The Raiders are still in a very unique situation and have been for last two years: In a lot of key positions on the team there is no real starters… and there hasn’t been since Al Davis died. Fact is, in many key positions, the Raiders have simply been unable to do anything because of salary cap constraints coupled with having very few draft picks to fill holes. The moves they have made in numerous positions (including quarterback) have been nothing more than attempts to find anyone to “hold down the fort” until Raiders’ General Manager Reggie McKenzie restructured the team.
Despite what the media said last year about the signing of Matt Flynn… or the rise of Terrelle Pryor during preseason… or the surprise takeover by Matt McGloin, none of these players were ever honestly seen as the future. The media, however, never addressed the Raiders’ quarterback situation in a truthful manner.
They still don’t address it truthfully today and this has been the elephant in the room.
During the past two years, both McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen have put up a good front. The Raiders had no one, couldn’t afford to get anyone and didn’t have any draft picks to replace anyone. No one in the media wanted to address this fact and both Allen and McKenzie simply pushed forward, never complaining nor really addressing the situation themselves. They did what every good GM and coach would do: They stuck by the guys they picked up. The media acted as if these moves were part of some larger strategy when, in reality, it was simply a matter of who they could get until things were fixed.
Although this year is an upgrade from last year’s quarterback situation, former Houston Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub is another guy that wasn’t signed as “the future” of anything, despite what many have said… He is simply another move to improve the position overall and to “hold off the wolves” for the immediate future. When Carr was drafted, it was the first step in finding a potential franchise quarterback, but hardly a move that should suggest a “controversy” at that position.
Schaub, Carr and McGloin all seem to have an equal shot, even if no one will actually say that. It’s virtually the same situation as last year. Luckily for the Raiders, this year’s roster at quarterback is far better than last year’s squad. On opening day of last year, Flynn, Pryor and McGLoin had a combined total of three NFL starts. Schuab has pro bowls and playoff experience, McGloin appeared in seven games and showed flashes of superior play last year while Carr was one of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 draft.
None of this should surprise anyone. The situation when McKenzie took over the Raiders was a Catch 22. To fix the years of damage, McKenzie had to drop the players with bloated contracts, which would create a ton of dead money against the salary cap and hinder the team’s ability to sign any strong free agents. McKenzie also had very few draft picks to replace the players he had to purge because Al Davis traded so many of the picks away before his passing. The only option was to find any player the team could afford and try to fill as many spaces as possible with a handful of draft picks.
Quarterback Matt Flynn is probably the best example of this Catch 22. The team publicly supported Flynn as the starter, as expected of any team’s management, but in reality, Flynn was not meant to be the future and I highly doubt that McKenzie ever really thought he would be. Carson Palmer needed to take a pay cut in order to help the team free up some cap space and get other players in needed positions. Palmer refused, so they traded him and simply picked up Flynn because he was the best available for what the Raiders could afford.
Put in the mix an explosive, but untested, talent in Pryor and an undrafted rookie in McGloin and it was what it was: You have three guys and the Raiders prayed that one of them would keep things together until the financials of the team were straightened out and they had one or two more full drafts to work with.
Despite the upgrade at the quarterback position this year and the strong game-face that Allen and McKenzie have put in supporting Schaub, he is no more the starter than Carr or McGloin. Allen has always maintained that every position on the team is a competition, recently saying that they will see how the situation between Schaub and Carr “plays out…” essentially Allen said what we all know to be true. We’re rebuilding and hopefully one of them surfaces as a legitimate starter, hopefully a franchise guy.
In the ideal world, Schaub would return to pro-bowl form and Carr would become the franchise quarterback of the future. If they both busted, then McGloin somehow becomes the next Tom Brady to come out of nowhere. This will be the situation on opening day of 2014.
Not much of a controversy to write about… just a fact of life for a team redefining what it looks like when rebuilding a highly damaged NFL franchise.