Raiders managing general partner Al Davis never has wavered in his belief that Jason Campbell should be the team's No. 1 quarterback. His belief in Campbell was so strong that he extended Campbell's contract and compared him to Jim Plunkett before Campbell played his first game with the Raiders.
Winning over coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson took Campbell quite a bit longer. But he appears to have done so with back-to-back impressive games.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride," Campbell said recently. "Not just for me but for a lot of guys on this team."
Campbell has spent time in both the lead and last car of the roller coaster that has been his past three months.
He began the season as the unquestioned starter but was benched at halftime of the second game. He guided the Raiders to three straight victories in October, then was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski during a 35-3 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 21. He sat out a 33-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins the following week, a game in which Gradkowski suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Campbell has started the past two games and seems to have regained the starting job for good.
Campbell said earlier this season that he was confused by how the quarterback situation was being handled. Gradkowski's injury clarified matters.
"It's a different mind-set," Campbell said. "It's a totally different mentality just knowing that this is your team. But
Campbell has put his best foot forward the past two games, completing 31 of 46 passes for 441 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 21 for 30 for 324 yards and two TDs in a 38-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
"(Sunday) was Jason's finest day," Cable said "There's no question. How he played, what he did with his feet. He made three audibles in that game. One of them was the long run that Darren (McFadden) had for the touchdown. He made two others in the passing game. He was on point. "... Definitely it was his finest moment as a Raider."
Such high praise has been a long time coming. Cable and Jackson benched Campbell six quarters into the season, citing Campbell's inability to inspire the offense as much as Gradkowski.
Jackson said he always believed in Campbell. The two huddled together a day or so after Campbell arrived in Oakland via a trade with the Washington Redskins and talked about the process of learning a new system, taking on a leadership role and winning over the players, Jackson said.
"Time. It's just time. Everybody wants everything to happen overnight," Jackson said. "We all want that, don't get me wrong, but things do take time. As he has gotten to know me, I have gotten to know him. He has gotten to know his teammates, he understands what's expected and he's done a great job, obviously, over the last two weeks."
Campbell agrees with Jackson's assessment and admitted that he tried too hard to gain acceptance and play mistake-free, high-level football every play.
"A lot of that comes with time and a lot of that is learned with time," Campbell said. "A lot of times, people want things to happen instantly. Things in the NFL don't happen instantly. It takes time to build together and grow together. I just feel like over the weeks we have grown together. "... You've got to be ready for all obstacles."
Right offensive tackle Langston Walker said the early struggles Campbell endured aren't uncommon for a player in his situation.
"Like everybody, when learning a new system, you got to get comfortable with it. All the idiosyncrasies that come with it," Walker said. "I guess he's finding his groove, which is good for us."
Through it all, Cable said he has noticed a team that may have been divided become united in its belief in Campbell as the leader of their offense.
"Jason's come in and been a pro about everything," Cable said. "When he was in there, when he was out, when he's back, how he handles himself, prepares himself, all those things. It's good for all of us. This is more of a team thing. There's been a dynamic change in the whole group."