Gruden makes his call for Raiders QB

Jon Gruden was instrumental in helping develop Rich Gannon into a Pro Bowl quarterback, so he knows a thing or two about the position. The former Raiders head coach also knows who he'd pick to be Oakland's starting quarterback if he were still involved with the team.

Gruden is the last head coach to get the Raiders into the playoffs in consecutive seasons. He's also largely responsible for building the last Oakland team that played in the Super Bowl, albeit against a Tampa Bay team that was coached by Gruden.

The veteran NFL head coach, who will replace Tony Kornheiser on Monday Night Football this season, was also a huge factor in helping Rich Gannon become the league MVP in 2002, the same year of the Super Bowl.

And despite having coached Jeff Garcia for two seasons in Tampa Bay, Gruden believes the Raiders' best chances this season lay with JaMarcus Russell running the offense.

"I think they gotta go with JaMarcus Russell," Gruden said. "He's the No. 1 pick in the (2007) draft. They've added Paul Hackett who I think is an outstanding coach. He's a tremendous quarterbacks coach. No one talks about the addition of Paul Hackett. I think he's going to really reach out and help JaMarcus Russell. But they've got a lot invested in him. This is only his third season. This is the time where JaMarcus Russell has to explode onto the scene. Hopefully [Darren] McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, some of his young support system, can help him, because he does have great ability throwing the football."

Having said that, however, Gruden also realizes what it means to have a backup like Garcia coming off the bench.

Like many others, Gruden believes Garcia is a perfect mentor for Russell.


Gruden with Jeff Garcia at Bucs' camp in '08.
Getty Images

"(Garcia's) a premier competitor and I think that's the No. 1 criteria that you have to have to survive in the NFL at that position," Gruden said. "You have to be a premier competitor. Garcia is that. And if you look at Jeff's career in the history of this game, he protects the ball as good or better than anybody that's ever played. He's one of the top four or five all-time in not turning the football over. And I think that's one thing that Jeff Garcia always brings to you, is a guy that will protect the football.

"It might frustrate you at times. You might want to take a little bit more risk, but Jeff Garcia will take care of the football. He'll be a premier competitor and I think that will help JaMarcus Russell as much as anything. And Oakland does have a fine supporting cast. They proved that against us [the Tampa Bay Buccaneers].They've got some dynamic backs. They got a big, fast wide-out in the draft, and they're pretty darn good on defense. They have the best corner, in my opinion, in football and this could be a year that they could turn it around."

As a side note, Gruden also talked about working with Gannon while both men were in Oakland. According to Gruden, he was trying to get Gannon to change a play at the line of scrimmage only to be shut down by the veteran QB.

In the middle of an audible, against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football," Gruden recalled. "We were in a situation where we wanted to run one play or another, we either ran the play that was called or we canned it to another play. And right out of nowhere Gannon saw something better and he started a live audible. So I started yelling at him from the sideline and in the middle of his audible [he says], ‘Black 350…Shut up, leave me alone! Black 350.' He told me to shut up in the middle of an audible. I will never forget that as long as I live."

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