Position outlook: Quarterbacks

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, a look at quarterbacks:

Looking back: The Oakland Raiders were used to the stability of Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP, taking virtually every snap from 1999-2002. In 2003, however, this position was a revolving door.

Gannon, however, sustained a shoulder injury (torn labrum) that ended his season in a 17-10 loss to Week 7 against Kansas City. Gannon's performance before that injury, however, paled in comparison to his previous four seasons.

Some people would say Gannon never recovered from his five-interception performance in the Super Bowl. Gannon, meanwhile, said that the coaching staff's decision to overhaul the offense in training camp set he and the rest of the unit back. What's the real reason? Maybe, it's some combination of both factors.

Third-year man Marques Tuiasosopo entered training camp as the great unknown and he still remains that way. Tuiasosopo sustained a season-ending knee injury in his first, and only, start against the Detroit Lions. Tuiasosopo showed flashes of brilliance in relief of Gannon the previous week.

It was hoped that Gannon's injury would allow Oakland to take an extended look at Tuiasosopo, whom the Raiders drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft. Four appearances, only two of which were extensive, however, are not near enough to even begin drawing conclusions about Tuiasosopo's long-term potential.

The injuries to Gannon and Tuiasosopo meant an opportunity for No. 3 man Rick Mirer, who mostly looked the part. Mirer had some good moments and others that were not as such.

Rob Johnson and Tee Martin also made brief appearances in the final two games, losses to Green Bay and San Diego. Enough said.

Looking ahead: The Raiders have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and could be in a position to draft the University of Mississippi's Eli Manning. Oakland, however, has so many shortcomings elsewhere that a franchise quarterback might not solve all of its ills. Still, if Manning is available, that's awfully tempting.

Gannon said he wants to return to the Raiders regardless of who replaces the dismissed head coach Bill Callahan. The 38-year old Gannon added that his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule – but how effective can Gannon be when he comes back? And will he be too expensive for Oakland to keep?

The Raiders have always viewed Tuiasisopo as Gannon's heir apparent but it remains far too early to make that claim. Mirer is an unrestricted free agent but the Raiders will probably try to resign him because he is a veteran who comes relatively cheap.

Johnson is also an unrestricted free agent but don't count on him being in Oakland. Martin has enough raw ability, as well as mobility, to possibly warrant an invite to training camp but not much more.

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

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