Reunion in Oakland: All eyes on Jackson's gamble with Palmer
The news, and my opinion, about Carson Palmer in the wake of my conversation with going-for-broke Oakland coach Hue Jackson Thursday night:
• No comment about whether Palmer will start Sunday against Kansas City. I'd be surprised if Jackson -- who recruited Palmer to USC, who coached Palmer at USC, who was an assistant at Cincinnati for three years during Palmer's prime -- somehow, some way, finds a reason to start Kyle Boller instead of Palmer on Sunday. "I have great respect for our backup quarterbacks,'' Jackson told me. "But they're backups."
On Friday afternoon, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it was unlikely Palmer would start. And in his afternoon news conference, Jackson was still noncommital. It could be that Palmer has not been totally comfortable with the mental part of the game and could choose to use the bye week to get more at ease with the speed and the Xs and Os. Jackson seems to enjoy playing the cards close to his vest, but I have to think that if Palmer doesn't start Sunday, then everything didn't go as smoothly in his three days at practices as the team was letting on.
• I asked Jackson about what I'd heard, that the deal for Palmer hit a wall late Monday night and was in danger of not happening. Jackson steadfastly refused to discuss details of his negotiations with Bengals owner Mike Brown -- and Brown chose Thursday not to be interviewed for this story. But when I asked Jackson about the state of the negotiations when he went to bed Monday night, he said: "I was probably 30-70 it wasn't going to happen.''
• First phone call from Jackson to Brown Tuesday morning: "I would say about 3:30 my time [6:30 a.m. in Cincinnati],'' Jackson said. "I knew time was very short.''
• The hangup that got solved? No one's saying. But my feeling is it came down to the 2013 pick. There was never a question the Raiders' 2012 first-round pick would be part of the compensation. But there was a question about the 2013 part of the deal -- would it be a 2013 second-round pick that went to a one if the Raiders made the playoffs in either of the next two years? Or would it be a second- that went to a first-rounder if the Raiders advanced to the AFC Championship Game in either of the next two years? It ended up being the latter.
• Speaking of getting no sleep, that was part of the human side of this thing. When Jackson found out Sunday night that the injury to starter Jason Campbell was a broken collarbone that would require surgery, he began putting the bug in Raider execs' ears about Palmer. Within hours, Campbell had gone from being the quarterback on a 4-2 playoff contender to having to seek a new job in a new city, most likely, after the season because his contract expires after the year.
"The human part of this business is that there's sometimes a brutal reality to it,'' Jackson said. "I feel awful for Jason. We all do. I wouldn't wish what happened to him on anyone. He's done everything we've asked of him, and been a very good player for us. But I chose to do this job. Situations like this are part of the seat I sit in. Jason's in surgery, and we've got to figure out the best thing for this football team.''
• After two days of practice, Palmer is looking good, and gaining knowledge of his receivers, according to Jackson. "I see the same guy I saw in Cincinnati [in 2004-06, when he was receivers coach],'' Jackson said. "He's got a very strong arm. He hasn't fumbled a snap. He's been laughing and talking with his receivers, all his new teammates. Here's what I noticed: He's been here 16 hours, and [in Wednesday's practice], I give him a play, he calls it, he executes it flawlessly.''
The honeymoon is on.
Jackson has heard the criticism of the Raiders' trade for Palmer. They paid waaaaaay too much. He's processed it. He's considered it. He's dismissed it.
"It comes down to winning,'' Jackson said. "And you can't put a pricetag on that. I understood the magnitude of the picks, the fact that high picks in 2012 and 2013 were involved. But tomorrow's not promised to us. We've still got a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick next year in the draft, and I'm pretty sure we'll get a compensatory pick or two for free agents we lost. We'll be able to get players in different ways. There are more creative ways to get players too.''
True, but the Raiders' first pick next year won't be until about number 97 overall, if they get a third-round compensatory pick for losing Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles in free agency. This Palmer deal is an all-in deal, which is what Jackson's been preaching to his players.
"I tell everyone on this team that I'm going to do everything we can to win right now. So here's a crisis. And the guys are looking around, looking at me, thinking, 'Well, coach, what are you going to do?' If what I say has validity, I have to put my money where my mouth is. And if there's anyway we can acquire an outstanding quarterback, we have to do that.''
I had a veteran general manager, a conservative one, tell me this week this was a deal he never would have done -- but he understood exactly why the Raiders did it. The GM said the Raiders have a good team, with some important veterans who might not have much time left. (Richard Seymour, for instance.) They've been losers for eight years. They're good now, and might have a chance to be very good. But with Boller? The Raiders couldn't see it. I agree on that.
And the deal won't be stupid if Palmer leads them to a title, or to the verge of one. It's like what Ernie Accorsi once said about sending a huge package to San Diego for Eli Manning. It'll be worth it if they won a Super Bowl with Manning. If he didn't, then the writers and the public could have a field day. Manning won it, and no one's questioning the deal now. It'll be the same with Palmer. And if Jackson's right, no one will be questioning his personnel acumen. Right now it's a big if, but Palmer has this thing in his hands. He wanted to play for a contender, and now he's got it.
Fun podcast this week with San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, with Albert Breer of
Smith on growing up with parents who thought education was more important than football: "Education was something that was strongly pushed in my family. And I had done well enough in high school grades-wise and testing that I did have an opportunity to go to the Ivy Leagues. ... I [visited] Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn, Harvard ... [But with] football, you put so much in, you sacrifice so much you want to see it come to fruition, you want to get that opportunity to see what you're made of and I didn't necessarily feel like I was going to get that chance going [to an Ivy League school]."
Smith, who played early in his rookie year at San Francisco after being the first pick in 2005, on sitting versus playing as a rookie: "Ideally ... any young quarterback coming in would want a chance to sit and watch a veteran in front of him play and prepare so that you could learn from the sidelines, watch defense, continue to develop before you got put on the field. ... But not every situation is the same, not all people can be afforded that.''
And, I might add, that has plagued Smith for years.
Fourteen catches in six games. Wonderful. Just another reason for Mark Sanchez to feel more pressure to get the ball somewhere it hasn't naturally been fitting Sunday against San Diego in the Meadowlands. Add the fact that Burress said this week the chemistry couldn't be any worse between he and Sanchez. Yikes. It never ends. And speaking of the Meadowlands ...