Five months after acquiring Jason Campbell to be their starting quarterback, the Oakland Raiders benched him in favor of Bruce Gradkowski beginning with this week’s game at Arizona.
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Coach Tom Cable announced the switch after practice Wednesday, hoping the spark Gradkowski provided in the second half of last week’s 16-14 win over St. Louis can carry over for the rest of the season.
”The reasons are pretty simple,” Cable said. ”First and foremost is the energy and the level of intensity that was brought into the huddle when he came into the game. They way the guys responded around him. And obviously scoring points. … That’s what we’re about. If we can get this thing to where we can score 24 points a game, I think we’ll be very tough to beat.”
The Raiders (1-1) acquired Campbell from Washington during the draft for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. He already had a $3.14 million contract for this season and was given a $4.5 million extension for 2011 after the trade.
Oakland released draft bust JaMarcus Russell shortly after the deal and officially pronounced Campbell the starter before training camp opened in July. He lasted just six quarters as starter, getting benched at halftime last week.
Campbell has completed 30 of 52 passes for 267 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions this season. He has also been sacked six times.
The Raiders players were unavailable for comment after the decision was made. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said he wasn’t concerned about hurting Campbell’s confidence with the change.
”We’re all grown men,” Jackson said. ”We’re all big boys here. Obviously, people get discouraged, get disappointed. I understand that. I get discouraged and disappointed, too, but the bottom line is, there’s a job to be done. There’s a job to be done and the job has to be done to the best of our ability.”
Jackson said he went to Cable at halftime last week with the Raiders trailing 7-3, suggesting the switch at quarterback. Cable said the staff had talked earlier in the week about needing better quarterback play. He went ahead with it and Gradkowski rallied Oakland to the win.
After consulting with his coaches this week, Cable announced the switch Wednesday.
”When we did it, obviously it was the right decision, it worked, and then as we talked about it here the last couple of days and came to a decision this morning,” Cable said. ”Again, we’ve made it and there’s no issues or controversies or anything like that. The decision’s been made.”
Cable said owner Al Davis was not involved in the decision.
Gradkowski never had a chance to compete for the job, missing the offseason program with a torn pectoral muscle. He missed the first two preseason games with a groin injury. But Gradkowski played well in the final two exhibition games and was clearly the people’s choice, with fans chanting ”Bruuuuce!” before the switch was made in the home opener.
Gradkowski led the Raiders to 13 points in his first four drives, finishing 11 for 22 for 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
”The thing that stood out to me, is the same people, same day, same defense, same opponent, same people in the huddle with you, didn’t change the plan, and yet we were able to go out and move the ball and score some points,” Cable said. ”He’ll go in there and do the job. It’s his now. Where we go from here, obviously, will be decided by how well he plays.”
Gradkowski replaced Russell midway through last season and won two of his first three starts, beating Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. He was hurt late in the first half of his fourth start and missed the rest of the season with knee injuries.
Gradkowski has shown the ability to avoid sacks and to get the ball to the wide receivers in his short time in Oakland. He completed five passes each to starting receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey for 138 yards and a touchdown. The duo had just seven catches for 72 yards in three halves with Campbell.
Despite not having as strong an arm as Campbell, Gradkowski was better able to get the ball down field. He completed four of eight passes that went more than 10 yards downfield, for 79 yards, according to STATS LLC. Campbell was just 3 for 14 for 69 yards on those throws.
NOTES: DT Richard Seymour, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, said he will be ready to play this week. … RB Michael Bush (broken left thumb) did everything at practice and could return this week. … OL Robert Gallery is still sidelined by his hamstring injury that forced him to sit out last week. … The Raiders re-signed OL Eric Pears to fill the roster spot of S Stevie Brown, who was released Tuesday but could come back on the practice squad.