TOM CABLE has seen enough football to know Bruce Gradkowski can't and won't salvage this season, much less secure Cable's job or alter the Raiders' future at quarterback.
Surely the coach had a clear understanding of this when he approached team owner Al Davis seeking authorization to start Gradkowski ahead of JaMarcus Russell this Sunday against Cincinnati.
Davis approved the move, and Cable announced Wednesday that Gradkowski will start against the Bengals.
"(Davis) left this up to me; this is my decision," Cable said after practice. "We talked about it, and he supported it."
Asked if the move is temporary, Cable said: “This is where we're headed and what we're going to do, and (Gradkowski will) take this team and go with it.”
This is temporary, maybe very temporary.
No matter what the coach says, this is not even a tepid endorsement of Gradkowski, who will make his first start as a Raider. This is not about what he might be able to do against the Bengals or any other team.
This is, of course, about Russell, the overall No. 1 pick of the 2007 draft, the franchise quarterback, underperforming while pulling down an All-Pro paycheck. This is, above all, about Russell's complacency even in the face of obvious regression. Sending Russell to the bench is an attempt to crank up the volume on the wake-up call that has been ringing in his ears throughout spring and summer and well into autumn, whether in the form of stinging critiques from media or politely expressed disappointment from the coaching staff or roaring disapproval from fans. Russell's response has been, with few exceptions, to ignore the noise and keep snoozing, as if he can awaken when ready and light up the NFL. But no quarterback with the competitive goods to thrive in the league can sleep through this kind of message.
It's too loud, too persistent, cuts too deep. Nothing stabs at the ego quite like outright rejection.
The concept is foreign to Russell, a big-time high school star in Alabama and a spectacular performer at youth football camps. Whether at Williamson High-Mobile or at LSU, he had become accustomed to solving problems with his marvelous right arm.
Getting inside and keeping a job in the NFL also requires tremendous sweat and sacrifice, as well as a strong support structure and talent.
Becoming a star in the league requires everything coming together at the right time and place.
Though Russell is trapped within an organization where dysfunction crushes any chance at success - and his overall progress has been retarded by the conditions - there has been a lack of urgency to mine his own potential.
That's entirely on Russell, and it's one of the most insulting things that can be said of a quarterback. In today's specialized and cerebral NFL, no QB prospers without devotion to self and team, without squeezing the best from both.
That Russell still has not fully grasped this is evident in his fitness. Would he not be treated kinder by fans if it weren't so easy to link performance to perceived laziness? He has not done what real leaders do, which is hold himself to the highest standard.
"This is in no way giving up on the guy," Cable said.
"This is just trying to jumpstart the team and really break it down and make a decision based on what gives us the best chance to win."
The Raiders want Russell to succeed. Davis surely does, not only because of the $40 mil already invested but because Davis craves the vindication that would come with Russell leading Oakland to the Super Bowl. That day is inconceivable under these circumstances.
The Raiders would have to change, yes, but so would Russell. And no one in the building is in better position to effect it.
But it has to start with him, with his own makeover.
This is a shove toward that.
The longer he sits, the stronger the shove.
If there is anything we know about Russell it's his ability to project Pro Bowl swagger, no matter the evidence. He has been enabled for so long, by so many folks, that entitlement has become his comfort zone, giving him just enough room to fool himself into believing he is indispensable.
It's harder to buy into that when you've started 25 NFL games and your team is losing and your fans have turned against you and - because you're part of the problem and your coach is desperate - you're told to grab a clipboard and watch somebody else.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.