Will Al Davis have the courage to draft a quarterback No. 1? The Raiders should have a shot at either Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn or Ohio State’s Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, in April.
They’re tied with the Detroit Lions for the worst record in the league at 2-12, with Tampa Bay at three wins. If they lose their last two games, which seems well within their grasp, they’ll be assured of one of the top two picks.
With two high-quality quarterbacks available, it should be a no-brainer to pick one, but Davis has never been eager to draft quarterbacks high. He passed on Matt Leinart this year, remember? When you look at the Raiders’ drafting record since Davis arrived in 1963, you can understand his reluctance.
Davis has drafted only three quarterbacks in the first round — Eldridge Dickey in 1968, Marc Wilson in 1980 and Todd Marinovich in 1991.
Dickey was a very talented athlete but an undisciplined quarterback. He was eventually shifted to wide receiver but cut after he dropped a pass in the end zone against Kansas City because he “heard footsteps.”
Wilson always looked like he should be a good quarterback because he had good size and could make all the throws. But he wilted under pressure, physical and mental, and the Raiders’ fade from their two-decade level of excellence started when he took over for Jim Plunkett.
The Marinovich pick was one of those “What in the hell is he thinking?” choices. No other NFL club thought of him as a first-rounder. His dad, Marv, had programmed him to be a quarterback. But the program — and Todd — malfunctioned when he became a pro.
The Raiders have taken only four other quarterbacks in the first three rounds.
Ken Stabler, taken in the second round in 1968, was a huge success and is the best-qualified quarterback not in the Hall of Fame. Billy Joe Hobert, a third-rounder in 1993, was a washout. Marques Tuiasosopo, a second-rounder in 2001, was a Jon Gruden pick. He might have done well in Gruden’s offense, but he’s lost in the type of offense the Raiders are trying to run now. Andrew Walter, a third-rounder in 2005, hasn’t played enough to be definitively judged.
The Raiders have done better with quarterbacks acquired outside of the draft. Davis signed Plunkett after the 49ers released him and Plunkett took the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins. Rich Gannon was signed as a free agent and took the Raiders to their last Super Bowl. When Gannon went down with a career-ending injury the next season, the Raiders imploded and haven’t been the same since.
Davis remains committed to his “win now” philosophy — quit that laughing; it isn’t polite — so he’s signed free-agent quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Aaron Brooks. Their lack of success with the Raiders was predictable, except, apparently, to Davis.
As the Raiders find new ways to lose, it’s become comical. When Zach Crockett fumbled away a chance for a touchdown Sunday, the press box erupted in laughter because it was so, well, Raider-like.
Obviously, they need a lot of help, especially on the offensive line, but you have to have the right quarterback to win in the NFL.
But will Davis actually draft one? My guess is that he won’t have the nerve.