For the first time in his NFL career, JaMarcus Russell was pulled from a game and spent the rest of the afternoon on the bench, much to the delight of the announced crowd of 39,354, the lowest home crowd to watch a Raiders game since they returned to Oakland in 1995.
It would be tough to argue Tom Cable's decision, either.
Russell completed 6 of 11 throws but had three turnovers – two interceptions, and a fumble on the Raiders' very first offensive play of the game. His quarterback rating of 31.1 was atrocious, leading Cable to call for backup Bruce Gradkowski after Russell nearly was picked off a third time.
"For the first time I thought he was really out of sorts early in the game," Cable said. "In the first play of the game he could not get the formation lined up the right way, and then they drop into quarters when it should just be a check down to the back, kinda holding it and looking down field and he shouldn't be there. And then the two interceptions, first one, no reason for that and the second one really just kind of threw it up. So I just did not feel like at that point he gave us the best chance to have the success we needed to have offensively and made the move."
It's a move, many would argue, that is long overdue considering how poorly Russell and the offense have played this season.
Yet not even the arrival of Gradkowski, who trotted out to a huge round of cheers when he replaced Russell, was enough to spark Oakland's meandering offense, which managed all of 119 yards while the passing game tallied 158.
The backup only fared marginally better than the starter. Gradkowski did add some juice to the offense with his scrambling but he also committed a costly turnover in much the same fashion as Russell has, by holding the ball out carelessly while on the run.
Fans, however, didn't seem to care too much. He wasn't Russell, and in many of their eyes, that's all that mattered.
Cable, though, said benching Russell was a tough call to make and added that the third-year quarterback remains the Raiders starter.
"It was very difficult. I want him to succeed and I know how bad he wants to succeed, but at the end of the day, when you feel like I felt there, you have to do something that you think is right to help your team succeed."
Since Cable remains committed to Russell, the question now becomes how will the QB handle what happened on Sunday. He told reporters after the game he was surprised to be benched and said the turnovers were a combination of players' fault.
"I never been in that situation," Russell said. "It was kind of shocking to me at first. I felt like he thought his decision was the right thing to do. Once Bruce got in, I became a cheerleader. I had no problem with that."
Several players in the locker room downplayed the benching, some offensive players going so far as to say they initially didn't even really notice a change had been made.
But to a man they said it's up to Russell to determine how he handles what happened.
"Depends on him, depends on how he looks at it," running back Michael Bush said. "If he gets mad about it or thinks that's not right instead of telling himself, ‘OK, we need to get going, pull myself up a little more' … Like Cable said, he's still our guy and we're going to get behind him the whole way."
Ironically, the decision to bench Russell took away whatever excuse fans had for why Oakland's offense has been so terrible this season. The offense under Gradkowski managed only 139 yards, 15 more than it did under Russell. And of those 139 yards, 80 came on the Raiders' final drive.
The running game, which was expected to be the absolute strength of the offense, has been virtually non-existent. The Raiders called designed running plays just 17 times all day; by comparison, New York's third-string running back Shonn Greene carried 19 times by himself.
Granted, Oakland fell into a 14-0 hole but it was still in the first quarter at that point and there was plenty of time to get back in the game. Yet the coaching staff, in essence, panicked and abandoned the running game almost entirely.
"Once we give up 14 points right off the bat, it's like you're playing a scrambling game," Bush said. "Can't run the ball like you planned to do because you're trying to make up. It's very frustrating. The style of play that we have and the players we have, we're not one of those teams that can get behind by 20."
That's because the Raiders don't have a passing game to facilitate a comeback.
What they do have, though, is a budding quarterback controversy.
Cable to stick with Russell as the starter
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