"You give a move like this a lot of thought ... I think whoever's playing needs to have that opportunity, so we're going to give Tui an opportunity to go play." — Turner on Dec. 7 after naming Marques Tuiasosopo the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
"It's unfortunate we had the misunderstanding we had with Tui ... I just feel that this is the best way to go." — Turner on Dec. 14, announcing he was reinserting Kerry Collins into the lineup and sending Tuiasosopo back to the bench. Now this is not to debate the greatness of either Collins or Tuiasosopo, though greatness would probably not be the word used if we were to get into such a discussion.
Rather, this is about the way the entire situation was bungled from jump street and how, ultimately, it will serve as Turner's ticket out of Dodge.
He wasn't exactly the most popular man around to begin with, what with a team that has managed all of eight wins in 30 games, an offense mired in its own mess and an angry owner looming over his shoulder.
But when he started playing musical quarterbacks Turner guaranteed he would be working for someone else in 2006.
He had already lost support in the Raiders locker room because of the way the offense has operated. When he benched Collins, Turner created another divide. Then seven days later his switch back to Collins ruined whatever credibility he still had with his players, who have to be scratching their heads after seeing such a blatant stab in the back.
Some will argue that the decision to go back to Collins came at the behest of owner Al Davis, which isn't hard to fathom. Even if it did, the words came out of Turner's mouth and Turner accepted full responsibility for it.
And if the coach had hoped to gain any acceptance for making the move, he didn't get any help from Collins along the way.
Playing against a Cleveland defense that went into the game with the sixth-ranked pass defense, Collins had a typical Collins day. A few nice passes — that 28-yard TD strike to Moss was a laser — mixed around a plethora of missed receivers and poorly thrown passes. His 56.5 quarterback rating for the game was his second-lowest of the season, slightly better than the 52.3 he put up in the loss to Miami a few weeks back.
Good thing Collins gives the Raiders the best chance to win. Or does he?
Turner wouldn't even make a firm call on who the team's starting quarterback would be for the final two weeks, probably because Big Al hasn't let him know yet.
Whatever the case it's a pretty safe bet that Tuiasosopo won't be around next year. While he can't exercise an out in his contract, the fifth-year quarterback is almost certain to ask for a trade or to be released in the offseason.
Tuiasosopo has never been one to make waves or ruffle feathers. Throughout his NFL career he's stood by patiently waiting for his opportunity, only to get slammed by fate and then pushed off the cliff either by his head coach or the owner, neither of which is good.
Had Tuiasosopo had his druthers he would have left Oakland last year, following the pattern set by Eric Barton, Rod Coleman and Charlie Garner a year earlier. Each opted out of the final years of their contracts after seeing the Raiders ship start taking on water by the buckets following their 2002 Super Bowl run.
Tuiasosopo couldn't get out of his deal, but he never said a negative word about it publicly. He never griped or complained, even as he heard fans in the Coliseum chanting his name while alternately booing Collins. Not that fans' words mean much. As quickly as they called for him, Tuiasosopo knew, they'd turn on him just as quickly for an interception or bad play.
None of that really matters to Tuiasosopo. All he has ever wanted was a chance, an opportunity to show the Raiders, his teammates, Davis, the fans, the entire NFL — and mainly himself — whether or not he had the goods to play at this level.
He, nor we, know anything more than we did three weeks ago.
Here's the moronic part of it all:
Had the Raiders used the same game plan against the Jets as they did against Cleveland, Tuiasosopo likely would still be starting. Oakland ran the ball on 19 of its first 33 plays, LaMont Jordan hammering his way through the Browns defense with relative ease.
So what, Norv? Collins hands off better than Tuiasosopo?
None of it makes any sense. Then again, nothing the Raiders are doing these days seems to make much sense outside of the defense.
Oakland held Cleveland's offense to three field goals — nine points — and lost. The Browns managed just 255 yards of offense, the third straight opponent that has failed to reach 300 yards against the Raiders and the fifth time this season it's happened.
Funny thing is, Turner cited the way the defense has been playing as of late as a reason for making the switch back from Tuiasosopo to Collins. Not sure what kind of logic that is, but hey, if it helps him sleep better at night, more power to him.
Turner's two-year stay in Oakland hasn't proven much beyond the fact that his reputation as an offensive mastermind was highly overblown. He had the triplets to work with in Dallas and got the expected results from Stephen Davis in Washington, Ricky Williams in Miami and LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. He's had similar talent in Oakland — Randy Moss, Jordan, etc. — but hasn't been able to do anything with it. The numbers will show that Jordan did gain 1,000 yards this season, but he's had seven games this year in which he's failed to gain at least 60 yards.
So now the team is left to play for pride and draft position. What effect that has on 2006 won't be known until next summer but it's safe to say Turner won't be around to find out.
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