Pardon Raiders fans if they’re skeptical about new quarterback Matt Schaub.
They’ve seen this scene before, too many times. Without a quality quarterback on the roster, the Raiders – time and again over the past decade – have traded or signed a beleaguered veteran and hoped for the best, or drafted a college prospect and watched him flop.
It’s an endless loop of disaster, sort of like watching “Titanic” over and over again. In the end, the ship sinks. There’s just no getting around it. It’s in the script.
So when the Raiders introduced Schaub, the former longtime Houston Texans passer, as their new No. 1 quarterback Friday, they heard the Raiders tout Schaub as a guy who’s been successful in the past and just needs a change of scenery.
Even Schaub – coming off the worst season of his career – is looking at the Raiders as an opportunity for re-birth.
“A fresh start can do a lot of things for a player,” Schaub told the media. “Last year didn’t go as I had planned, and I am excited about the opportunity here and the players on this team.”
Said Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson: “At the end of the 2013 season, we made it our No. 1 priority to identify and acquire a proven, winning, starting quarterback. It became obvious early on … that Matt Schaub was a player that would meet that role.”
Yet as Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback points out, if Schaub starts in 2014 this will be the sixth consecutive season a non-homegrown quarterback will start for the Raiders. His list of ignobles: Charlie Frye (2009), Bruce Gradkowski (2009, 2010), Jason Campbell (2010, 2011), Carson Palmer (2011, 2012) and Matt Flynn (2013).
And he lays the blame for the quarterback shuffle and all the losing seasons at the feet of Raiders leadership and JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft who ranks among the biggest flops in NFL draft history.
“Football people sometimes say if you take a quarterback very high in Round 1 and he bombs, it could set the franchise back five years,” wrote King. “Well, Russell was the first pick of the 2007 draft, and that colossal mistake has set the Raiders back seven years – and we may not be done counting yet.”
Since that draft day the Raiders have finished at .500 twice and had five losing seasons, including consecutive 4-12 records in 2012 and 2013.
It’s possible the Raiders could still take a quarterback in the first or second round in May if there’s a player they like, and let him grow into the job while Schaub, 32, starts. That would help build a foundation.
Then again, in 2013 the Raiders drafted a quarterback in the fourth round they liked very much, Tyler Wilson, yet he couldn’t make the roster. That choice – plus the trade for Flynn last year – has caused many to wonder if the current Raiders braintrust has a clue about judging quarterback talent.
Sean Pendergast of the Houston Press watched the Raiders news conference introducing Schaub Friday and couldn’t believe his ears. His conclusion: This is why the Raiders are the Raiders.
“Another NFL tteam gave up something of worth for the right to pay Matt Schaub $10 million to quarterback their team in 2014,” wrote Pendergast. “Matty Pick-Six, Matty Ice Cold, Case Keenum’s backup. That Matt Schaub.
“MATT … SCHAUB.
“And they didn’t just trade a draft choice for him. They gave him a hero’s welcome, 2014 style, complete with self congratulatory tweets from the organization, pictures of Schaub proudly sporting the silver and black and a press conference which will live on YouTube forever. (You do realize, Raiders that … is forever, right?) Where words like ‘winner’ and ‘championship’ were used by and about Matt Schaub.”
For anyone in Houston who watched Schaub play in 2013, those words don’t add up to what Schaub did: lost his starting job, threw 14 interceptions vs. 10 TDs and saw his quarterback rating plummet to 73.0 after five straight seasons of being at 90 or more.
But the Raiders say Schaub’s 2013 season was an aberration. In fact, they hailed it as their good fortune.
“Had he not had the season he had last year in Houston, he wouldn’t be sitting next to me today,” said Olson. “I feel very fortunate.”
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, in fact, said he believes Schaub can be much like Kurt Warner, who struggled with the New York Giants later in his career, then was acquired by Arizona and led the Cardinals to a Super Bowl.
Schaub, too, is hopeful. Neither he nor the Raiders were talking about Russell, Campbell, Palmer, Flynn or Wilson at the news conference. They believe Schaub can be the quarterback to finally get the Raiders flowing in the right direction.
“I’m healthy, excited about this opportunity,” Schaub said. “I’m moving on. The past is the past. I can’t do anything but move on to bigger and better things and I’m excited for what the future holds here in Oakland.”