VINCE D'ADAMO: Time for Tui

 

When it comes to the Oakland Raiders current quarterback situation, the question becomes -- is what they "should" do consistent with what they "will" do?

            The feeling here is not very likely.

            Reigning NFL MVP Rich Gannon, like most of his teammates, has struggled this season after four outstanding years, which included a conference championship a year ago. Gannon injured his shoulder in Monday night's 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, dropping the Raiders to 2-5. Oakland is currently in a bye week before returning for a road game at the Detroit Lions Nov. 2.

Enter Marques Tuiasosopo.

The third-year man from Washington played about one would have expected in his first extensive action in an NFL regular season game. Tuiasosopo showed some signs of promise after a bit of a rough start. He completed 16-of-28 passes for 224 yards and one interception. Tuiasosopo also ran for 20 yards on four attempts and nearly rallied Oakland to force overtime against the unbeaten Chiefs before falling short.

Gannon, meanwhile, underwent an MRI examination Tuesday but the results remain a mystery as both he and head coach Bill Callahan have opted not to discuss them.

Callahan added that the injury affects the throwing motion and if the Raiders had a game this week, Gannon would not play. If Gannon is healthy, however, by Wednesday Callahan said that he would start the Detroit game.

The Raiders chances of reaching the playoffs are a long shot at best. Realistically, they would have to win eight of their last nine games but they have not done anything that would lead one to believe they can achieve that feat. Therefore, it only makes sense to give Tuiasosopo a shot regardless of Gannon's health.

That is not an indictment on Gannon because a lot of the Raiders success is because of him. Then came the Super Bowl, where Gannon threw five interceptions. He has not been the same since that late January day in San Diego. You can blame it on his receiver's age, his offensive line's injuries and his coaching staff's reluctance to commit to the running game. Gannon has been given ample leeway to right himself and if he was going to get hot, shouldn't it have happened by now?

Oakland has expressed its confidence in Tuiasosopo as the eventual heir apparent. Why else would they have spent a second-round draft choice on him in 2001? Also, what better time to find out than now?

Maybe things will get better – or worse – with Tuiasosopo. There's no way of telling for certain. So why not give Tuiasosopo say, a four, five or six game stretch to show what he can do? Granted, the Raiders will not find out everything they need to know in that time but it's much more to go on than what they previously had.

There's an even more noble reason to give Tuiasosopo an extended chance. Gannon's abrasive personality has perhaps worn thinner than the team is suggesting. Basically, it can be tolerable in successful times but tuned out in tough times.

In one respect, Gannon epitomizes a leader. Very few players have a better work ethic and are more diligent in their preparation. However, he has not exactly been a calming force in time of crisis either. Look no further than his Monday night tirade in a 31-10 loss to Denver mostly directed at Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

The Raiders season is fading fast and Tuiasosopo has always been eager to prove that he is ready. Perhaps, the team could use that youthful exuberance now.

Again, Gannon has meant a lot to the team's success and was nothing short of terrific for four seasons (1999-2002) but now it should be more apparent than ever that it's time to find out if Tuiasosopo truly is one that can lead the Raiders.

It's just not a slam-dunk that the team thinks that way.

 Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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