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This Too Shall Pass, But This Two Won't

In the beginning, there was a first overall selection, then a hold out, then an astronomical check was scratched, then weight was gained, then ear rings were purchased, and Raider fans know what comes next. The Era of the Deuce.

But, then came a benching.

The team was given a burst of energy by the putting first round selection JaMarcuss Russell on the bench. A quarterback who, in his three years with Oakland has done nothing to demonstrate improvement, and more importantly done nothing to show a Commitment to Excellence. He’s a cancer on this team. In Sunday's game against the Redskins, the Raiders were given excellent field position throughout the second half and The Deuce could do nothing with it. The Raiders moved backwards. Nearly all of his passes went to tight end Zach Miller and most of them were caught at, or just beyond the line of scrimmage. Miller was hung out to dry all afternoon and wound up leaving the game with a stinger. Where is the big arm? Where is the big play? Where is our quarterback?

I’m a short guy, husky too. Russell’s effect on the Raiders is similar to the effect I would have on an NBA team that always trusted me with the game winning shot. In short, bad things would happen.

The Deuce’s replacement, Bruce Gradkowski, electrified this team. He led two fourth quarter comebacks in three starts for the Raiders. Including a homecoming game in Pittsburgh where it took three passing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win in a shootout against an elite offense and the league's most reputable door-closing defense. Bruce, Raider fans will never forget your performance against the Steelers in that game. It was brilliant and a thrill to see. Gradkowski showed the fans how good the Raiders can be with a competent quarterback. He made Murphy and McFadden better. He made the O-Line better. He made things happen with his legs and felt pressure around him. The Raiders were 2-1 with Gradkowski as a starter and were looking like a viable and competitive professional team.

Gradkowski’s homecoming in Oakland on Sunday, was one of the most anticipated Raider home games in recent memory. The Raiders fell behind late in the first half and as time expired in the second quarter, Oakland entered the locker room trailing the Redskins by seven points. A spread insurmountable by The Deuce, but The Deuce is not the starting quarterback. Gradkowski was in control of the offense and there was no doubt that game was not only far from over, but it was well within the Raider’s capability to come out and pulverize the Redskins in the second half. As we’ve seen, Gradkowski’s best work is often saved for the fourth quarter.

Gradkowski however, seems to be hurt and limping at the end of the half, and he finished the possession clearly in pain. Curtain.

He suffered two MCL sprains. One in the right knee, and one in the left knee.

I’ll argue that this injury is the most devastating Raider injury since Bo Jackson. Not because Bruce Gradkowski was even close to the realm of superstar that Bo was, but because of the alternative, the time, the era in which he plays. The Raiders looked like winners for the first time in seven years after the Pittsburgh game earlier in the month. Raider fans had a quarterback that cared and worked, and most importantly, won football games. Watching Bruce leave and JaMarcuss enter the game was the perfect image of two ends of the quarterback spectrum. You could see it on the faces of the fans in the crowd. You could see it in the play of the team. Disgust.

When The Deuce came onto the field in the second half, the team was noticeably deflated. The fire and intensity was gone on both sides of the ball and Russell was completely manhandled. Boos rained down upon him from the moment his cleat touched the turf. He threw for 79 yards and had one interception in two quarters of play, bringing his season totals to an awful two touchdowns to ten interceptions.

“I just kinda let the game come to me,” Russell said in a post game interview. “It’s hard when you’re not starting.” Maybe true, but Russell has done nothing to prove that consistent starts improve his play, so that excuse doesn’t fly. Let the game come to him? It did, six times in the form of a sack, once in the form of an interception, and another in the form of a forced fumble. What a monumental bust.

Nnamdi Asomugha left the game due to injury early in the third quarter. When the game was effectively over and the score was 31-17 late in the fourth quarter, he ran on the field for substitution and made an end over end tackle for a loss. When he got up, he looked at the fans with intensity in his eyes as if to say, “I’m not quitting. I’m here to play. I want to win. I’m angry too.” The fans are beyond angry. It’s time to revisit the old “Network” line, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more.”

This Sunday, the Raiders battle the Broncos. Charlie Frye will be the starting quarterback. There is no reason The Deuce shouldn’t start these last three games, unless he has no future in Oakland. The Era of the Deuce is over, apparently. With its end, let’s hope for a new beginning. Charlie Frye started out the season as number four on the QB depth chart. What a difference 14 weeks makes. Russell will be cheering for his team and patting guys on the back all day from the sidelines. Thus, making him the most expensive and unattractive Raiderette the team has ever employed.

Jake Simmons