Rich Gannon retires

Even though it was rather expected, Rich Gannon said goodbye to pro football as a player after 18 years.

Although never fully appreciated by the Oakland Raiders fan base, Gannon brought something the Raiders lacked in quarterbacks for years - stability and leadership.

Gannon, however, will not be totally removed from the game of football as he is set to join the CBS TV broadcasting team. Gannon announced his retirement at a press conference at the Oakland Raiders training camp facility in Napa, CA Saturday. Raiders head coach Norv Turner and owner Al Davis flanked Gannon at the podium. In addition, several current players and organization members were on hand.

Gannon had finished the last two seasons on injured reserve (torn labrum in 2003 and broken neck in 2004).

"The decision (to retire) was an easy one," Gannon said. "It was not really my decision so it takes the guesswork out of it."

Gannon, who signed with the Raiders as a free agent in 1999, led the team to three consecutive AFC Western Division titles from 2000-02 and compiled a 45-29 regular season record as a starter from 1999-2004. He started in 71 consecutive regular season games from 1999-2003, a Raiders record for quarterbacks. Gannon compiled 28,743 passing yards and 180 touchdowns in his career that spanned 18 seasons with stops in Minnesota, Washington, Kansas City and Oakland. Interestingly enough, scouts felt that Gannon would make a better defensive back in the NFL because of his foot speed. Gannon, however, wanted none of the kind.

The 2002 season was the biggest shinning moment for Gannon on the way to winning NFL MVP honors. Gannon led the Raiders to the Super Bowl that season by passing for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns while completing more than 67 percent of his passes. "I enjoyed all the teams I played on," Gannon said. "I always thought I was good enough as a player but I just needed to be in the right situation. I needed someone who would stick their neck out for me and live with my mistakes."

The Raiders became that team.

"He gave us something that we needed," Davis said. "He gave us a work ethic. The important thing was that he wore our famed colors with pride, poise and class. His will to win was an inspiration to everyone on the football team."

Even beyond the numbers, Gannon's arrival brought an end to a revolving door at quarterback for the franchise. The Raiders tried their hands with the likes of Jay Schroeder, Vince Evans, Jeff George, Marc Wilson and Rusty Hilger. Even though he only coached Gannon for three games because of the career-ending injury, Turner became quickly aware of Gannon's influence.

"Everyone talks about what could have been," Turner said. "What I have regret for is from a personal standpoint. The personal experience of being involved with someone of his work ethic was something I missed out on."

Those who have followed the Raiders often long for the days of Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett and Darryl Lamonica.

Gannon and former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden brought a no-nonsense work ethic to an organization that reeked of arrogance for no reason. Gannon's personality might have been a too abrasive for some people but also established a work ethic that pertained to preparation that the franchise had not seen in years. In fact, Gannon and Gruden -- two Type A personalities -- were so much alike that they often clashed but respected each other.

"We had a unique relationship," Gannon said. "We both had similar traits. It's a heated game at times but we knew we were both trying to win."

Gruden's four-year stint in Oakland (1998-2001) has been the single most important move the franchise made in recent memory followed very closely by Gannon's free agent signing one year later from division rival Kansas City.

Gannon added that he will be able to live a normal life despite the neck injury. As for Gannon's professional future, he has not entirely made up his made but broadcasting will be his next job. One reporter jokingly asked Gannon how he would respond if a quarterback falters in a game he's broadcasting.

"Hopefully with etiquette and integrity but I've also got to be honest," Gannon said. "It's going to be a transition for me but when you get older you have to learn to control your feelings."

There is a possibility that Gannon could join the Raiders organization in some capacity but coaching will not be one of them despite the fact that some people believe that role would be a perfect fit for him.

"I have as much admiration as anybody for coaches," Gannon said. "I'm not ready to make that commitment. Every coach I ever played for, I respected them for the time they put in."

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

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