On a day when Oakland's offense made more mistakes than it did positive plays, the burden of Sunday's 16-10 loss to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs rested solely on the shoulders of quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
How else are we to take his being benched for the second straight home game by head coach Tom Cable? The call for change was made late in the third quarter when the score was 13-10 and right after Russell missed badly on a throw to backup tight end Brandon Myers.
Cable seemed peeved that Russell had misread his receivers on the two plays prior to his getting benched, throwing a check-down to fullback Luke Lawton and another short pass to Myers. According to Cable, Oakland had other receivers open on the plays and Russell didn't look their way.
"This game is about making plays and we just did not do that whether it was JaMarcus in there or Bruce (Gradkowski) in there," Cable said. "I'm just looking for the guy who gives us the best chance to win and the same at every position, who gives us a chance to win by making the plays that are there for us to make."
Russell completed 8 of 23 throws for 63 yards but was saddled by eight drops.
Included in those eight drops was a monumental gaffe by wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, the speedy and consistently bad rookie who let a 55-yard throw from Russell slip right through his arms at the Chiefs' 2-yard line.
On the very next play, Russell pump-faked then hit Louis Murphy streaking down the middle for a 53-yard reception, only to have it called back by a tripping penalty against left guard Robert Gallery.
Yet Cable insisted he would have made a change at quarterback regardless of the drops.
"Yeah, because it's not why, the first half and into the third quarter, I made the change," Cable said.
When Cable benched Russell during the Jets game, immediately after the game he said Russell was still the starting quarterback. There was no such declaration this time around.
"I'm going to look at it," Cable said. "I'll have something more to say on that tomorrow after I look at the film. If (Gradkowski is) the right thing to do and it gives us the best chance to win, yes."
Russell did not take his benching well. He walked over to quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett with his arms apart as if asking why. Still obviously upset, Russell was then approached by running back Darren McFadden, trainer H. Rod Martin, Gerard Warren and Javon Walker.
"The thing is, he's in a tough predicament just because everybody wants him to save the Raiders, and it's not about that," right tackle Cornell Green said. "It's more than what you see on the field. You have to give him the support and you have to block for him.
"I can just imagine being the first pick and having all that type of pressure. If he just keeps his mind right, which I know he will, and support himself with people around him who really care about him, and he really just takes the game and studies it to the utmost level, I think he'll be fine. Even through my career there's always been ups and downs, not starting, starting, not starting, starting. It's just a part of this game. You just have to be thick-skinned."
But after getting benched twice in three week, Russell's state of mind is anyone's guess. He said he was stunned to get pulled, unlike when he got yanked out of the Jets game.
"Totally," he said. "(I) really can't explain it. I really don't know what to say about it, but that was his decision, and just move on from it. I can't explain it. It's different for me. Want to be out there helping the guys any way I can, just have to deal with it."
It's not like Gradkowski came in a gave the offense a big lift, either. He was 5 of 9 for 49 yards with two interceptions, though the second was hardly his fault. Heyward-Bey had the ball ricochet off his chest and bounce into the air, where Chiefs' safety Mike Brown plucked it down for an interception.
Brown said the pass from Gradkowski was not a good throw at all, but did have this to say about Russell:
"Obviously, he's been struggling a little bit," Brown said. "He's turned the ball over more than any quarterback in the league (and) that's something that we talked about. And usually he only looks at one side of the field. He doesn't read the whole field. He's still a young quarterback, though. He has a lot of talent. He has a tremendous arm."
Russell benched again in loss to KC
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