Quite often the worth of a person is not fully realized until they are no longer there. In the case of the Raiders in recent seasons, it is never been more evident than in the case of Robert Gallery.
During the past couple seasons, the fans have taken for granted that the Raiders were a top ten rushing team. Usually the credit went to the zone blocking scheme or the running backs. And with a group of five Olineman up front working in sync, who is to say who is the most important part of that machine?
Here are a few facts to consider when attempting to theorize who might be the guy who brings it all together.
Last year the Raiders were tenth in the NFL in rushing--Gallery
started all 16 games at guard. In 2007 they were ranked sixth-- Gallery started all 16 games at guard. In 2006 the Raiders were ranked 29 in rushing-- Gallery didn't play guard and started 10 games at tackle. It doesn't exactly take a degree in quantum physics to figure out the connecting fibers there.
To add to the evidence, this season the Raiders have slipped to 28 in the league in rushing with less than 89 total rushing yards per game with Gallery having gotten hurt in the second game of the season. Their best game was in week one in which the Raiders rushed for 148 yards. Which, not coincidentally, was the only full game that Gallery played this season. Take that game away and the Raiders would rank 30 in the NFL with 69 rushing yards per game. But really it would be dead last because the two teams with lower rushing yards are the Cardinals and Chargers-- because they are both primarily passing offenses.
So as you can see, It has suddenly become fairly obvious that Gallery is the cog that makes the line function. In the past two seasons of running success, he was a stallwart and never missed a game. It took a while for anyone to give him any credit because the rest of the league was so busy calling him a bust and Raider fans were disappointed in him not being the can't-miss left tackle that he was advertised to be.
It is officially time to get over it. He is the starting left guard for this team and likely will be for a long time to come.
Besides, the Raiders did eventually find that left tackle they were looking for in Mario Henderson. Finding a winning formula doesn't always happen the way you had hoped or expected. But when it works, you don't question how it came together.
Gallery was drafted for his pass blocking skills but his intelligence and run blocking skill wasn't something anyone talked much about. He performs his zone blocking duties flawlessly and has his way with defensive tackles consistently. At this point, he is far too valuable clearing holes for the running backs to be playing tackle.
It is indeed time to get past all of the talk of "bust" and realize that, complete with the same number (76), the Raiders have the next Steve Wisniewski playing at left guard. Being put in that company is no small accomplishment considering that "Wiz" was an 8 time Pro Bowler, 2 time All-Pro and has been on the Hall of Fame ballot ever since he was elligable.
So if you want to use the word "bust" in reference to Robert Gallery from now on, how about we talk about the possibilities of his "bust" in Canton Ohio after his career is over.
Oh and by the way, I mentioned that the Raiders were ranked tenth and sixth in the NFL in rushing in ‘07 and ‘08. But do you know when the last time they were ranked in the top ten? 2000 (1) and 1999 (3). And who started every game at left guard in ‘99 and ‘00? Steve Wisniewski.
You know, in case you needed more proof.