Okay, I caught some slack for not putting Colin Kaepernick on my list of five players that will go at pick 48 in the upcoming NFL draft. First, I want to say that I am certainly not anti-Kaepernick. I think he is a tremendously talented quarterback and will make his mark on some NFL team in the not too distant future. Ryan Mallet, on the other hand… well, that’s a different article for a different day. But since I’m not anti-Kaepernick, why didn’t I put him on the list of players that are most likely to land in Oakland?
First and foremost, the biggest reason why I think it’s a bad idea to take Kaepernick in the second round is because the Raiders ownership and coaching staff have already committed to quarterback Jason Campbell in 2011. This reminds me of 2006 when Andy Reid, head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, said that the team was committed to Donovan McNabb and to surrounding him with talent, but then turned around and selected Kevin Kolb with their first pick of that year’s draft – which just so happened to be a second round pick (36 overall). Following that head scratcher, they proceeded to select four defensive players in their next six draft picks. That move bit them in the butt, as it drew a vivid line between the coach and the quarterback, which ultimately culminated with the trading of McNabb to a divisional rival, the Washington Redskins, in 2010 -- almost one year ago today.
To this day, Andy Reid still cannot decide who he wants to play quarterback for his football team:
I know, awesome video, but you really don’t want this to be how the Hue Jackson era starts in Oakland, do you?
I certainly don’t.
Let’s talk about Jason Campbell for a second. What did we see from him last year?
Well, the Jason Campbell-as-a-Raider era did not start so smoothly. He was benched six quarters into the gig in favor of Bruce Gradkowski. Hue Jackson and Tom Cable said it was a mutual decision, but I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the fans at the Coliseum were chanting, “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” as the Raiders headed off the field and into the locker room at halftime against the St Louis Rams. That combined with the fact that he looked like he wasn’t ready to be the starter for the club in any way, shape, or form certainly weighed heavily in their decision making.
I will say that at first glance, I thought it looked as though Al Davis was going to be thankful that he only wasted a fourth round pick on the guy.
Jason Campbell came back into action for the second half of the week five game versus the San Diego Chargers and posted a 117.6 QB rating against a team that had won 13 straight games against the Raiders. He completed 13 of 18 passes and had 158 yards and a touchdown. That started to make people think that maybe he was not so bad after all. Then he followed that up with a stinker against the cross-Bay rival, the San Francisco 49ers. That game was lost almost solely on his shoulders, in my opinion, and I was not shy about blaming him for it either. At that time, I had seen enough of Jason Campbell. But it would not be the last I would see of him, as we discovered Bruce Gradkowski would once again miss significant playing time with a separated shoulder. To this day, I’m not sure that injury ever completely healed properly.
But it didn’t matter either, because over the next three weeks, following the San Francisco game, the Jason Campbell-led Raiders posted three straight victories. For the Raiders, it was their first three game win streak since week 14 of 2002. During those three games in 2010, Campbell threw for 743 passing yards with five touchdowns and only one interception. This was when Campbell broke out of the shackles and really started to gain chemistry with the guys around him; when he started to make me say, “Whoa, wait a minute. Perhaps I judged him too quickly.”
Then Pittsburgh happened. But that was explained away when the Raider coaches decided to start Bruce Gradkowski again the following week in Miami. Okay, a little background, for those of you who missed it. Raiders’ defensive lineman, Richard Seymour, smacked the taste out of Ben Roethlisberger’s mouth in that Pittsburgh game.
Seymour’s actions prompted the Steelers’ defensive players to start head hunting against the Raiders quarterback, Jason Campbell. During the second half of the Steelers’ game, Campbell was clearly getting rattled by their aggressiveness and the Raiders coaching staff made the right choice pulling him from the game in favor of Gradkowski. For the entire week following the Steelers game, the Raiders were telling everyone that Campbell would once again start against Miami. That is until Saturday of that same week, when it was revealed that Gradkowski would actually start the game against the Miami Dolphins. Underneath all the drama around this decision was the fact that Jason Campbell had actually suffered an injury late in the game prior to the bye week against the Kansas City Chiefs; that game was actually two weeks before the Pittsburgh game.
But alas, Bruce Gradkowski was once again injured late in that Miami Dolphins game. And Campbell would return the following week to take on the San Diego Chargers and proceed to lead the Raiders in a sweep of the season series. The Raiders would win three of their last five with Campbell at the helm. They failed to make the playoffs, but it was clear that the Jason Campbell who started the 2010 season was not the same Jason Campbell who finished the 2010 season.
Now, here we are, four months after the season, and two and a half months after we find out that Hue Jackson will take the helm for the team in 2011 – with Jason Campbell the unanimous starter for the 2011 season.
Here the Raiders stand, thinking that Jason Campbell is good enough to get the job done and become a Super Bowl winning quarterback. Still, the Raiders understand that they must build a better nucleus around Campbell to help him be more successful in 2011 than he was in 2010.
They have to find out if he can be the guy for them this year. They cannot throw him under the bus by selecting another quarterback with their first pick in the upcoming draft. They cannot drive a rift into the Jackson-Campbell relationship before the season even starts.
As much as I do like Colin Kaepernick, and as fond as Hue Jackson and Al Davis may be of him and his potential, he just cannot be the 48th pick of the draft this year. After all, what if Jason Campbell does come out and start winning this year – what if the Raiders do go to the playoffs or further with Jason Campbell as their quarterback? That would mean Colin Kaepernick would become a second round pick benchwarmer.
That would lead us into a completely different circumstance two or three seasons from now: Would the Kaepernick/Campbell dilemma turn into a similar situation as the Drew Brees/Phillip Rivers conundrum?
I say avoid all that mess and just draft Campbell some help early in this draft. Go get a project quarterback late in the draft if you must, but get Campbell some help in this draft. That is in the best interest of everybody involved, including Colin Kaepernick.