Dickey: Gradkowski’s success could lead to Russell’s demise

Bruce Gradkowski solidified his position as starting quarterback by leading the Raiders to an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals — and he may have ended JaMarcus Russell’s career in Oakland.

Remember that NFL contracts are basically one-year deals with multiple club options because teams can cut a player after any year. That’s why agents fight hard for a big first-year payoff and signing bonuses, the only guaranteed money in a contract.

Remember, too, that Alex Smith came back to the 49ers only because he agreed to a restructuring of his contract for much less money. The 49ers weren’t going to pay Smith big bucks to sit on the bench — though he has since regained his starting position — and Al Davis won’t pay big bucks for Russell to sit, either.

And, after Gradkowski’s first start, it appears that Russell will be benched for the rest of the year.

It’s not that Gradkowski looked like the reincarnation of Peyton Manning. His stats were mostly ordinary, 17-of-34 for 183 yards.

But he threw for two touchdowns and, most of all, he looked like a quarterback. He moved around in the pocket to avoid the rush, he went through his reads efficiently; Louis Murphy was the second option on the touchdown pass that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. He called the right formations. He didn’t fumble.

In other words, he was the exact opposite of Russell.

Maybe it comes down to motivation. Russell was given a huge contract as the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, though it took half a year for him to agree to a contract, and he was handed the starting job last season. He has done little since to show that he deserved it and, in fact, had regressed before he was finally benched by coach Tom Cable, as always, after asking permission of Davis.

Russell has not worked to improve himself, either with his mental attitude or physical conditioning. He was relying strictly on his strong arm but, despite coaching by two excellent quarterback mentors, Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner, never learned the proper mechanics, constantly throwing off his back foot.

Gradkowski’s path has been much rougher. He was a sixth-round pick in 2006 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was released after two seasons. He was in the St. Louis Rams’ training camp in 2008, but went to the Cleveland Browns after being cut by the Rams. He was picked up in the offseason by the Raiders on a waiver claim and was battling Charlie Frye for a position on the practice squad before Jeff Garcia was released, apparently at his request.

But Gradkowski has persevered. He is much like Rich Gannon in his approach to the game, spending hours looking at game videos to know how to attack an opponent. If Russell’s lack of work ethic is an example of how not to approach the job, Gradkowski’s is the model for the right way.

And remember that Gannon was an unvalued free agent before he came to Oakland and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl.

No, I’m not suggesting that the Raiders are on a Super Bowl path. They have too many problems, starting at the top. But no NFL team is successful without a good quarterback. With Russell, the Raiders never had a chance. Gradkowski gives them that chance.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.



Raiders vs. Cowboys

WHEN: Thursday, 1:15 p.m.
WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TV: CBS (KPIX, Ch. 5)

Glenn DickeyRaiderssports

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco leaders argue that plans to develop housing in the region’s transit-heavy urban areas are at odds with goals to increase equity for people of color.
SF officials fear regional housing strategy could increase displacement of people of color

Equity and climate goals at odds in plan that concentrates development in transit-rich urban areas

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority cut most of its bus service last year due to the pandemic, and has been slow to bring it back due to budget concerns and low ridership. (Samantha Laurey/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
Supes urge SFMTA to expedite restoration of Muni lines

Resolution emphasizes focus on seniors, individuals with disabilities and community routes

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott listens at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Will the Biden Administration help SF speed up police reform?

City has struggled to implement changes without federal oversight

Reports say that the number of American visitors to Mexico’s Quintana Roo, where Tulum and Cancun are located, increased by 23 percent between 2019 and 2020. (Shutterstock)
Stop going to Mexico

Travel during pandemic is ‘vacation colonialism’

Snow covering the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe appeals to skiers and snowshoers. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Winter Wisdom: 50 lessons in 50 years, Part 1

Series offers tips for adventurers seeking enjoyment in nature

Most Read