Each Tuesday, NFL Network reporter Albert Breer will share his thoughts on topics around the league as teams transition from the previous Sunday's game to the next encounter on the schedule. Today, he begins with a look at the trade heard 'round the AFC.
There's much to process in regards to the Carson Palmer trade. Let's do it in pieces ...
1. Is this an upgrade for the 4-2 Raiders?
Fairest way to examine it, in my mind, is to take a look at how Palmer started in 2010, and juxtapose it with Jason Campbell's six-game start to 2011. Not perfect, by any means, but might give you an idea of where the 31-year-old Palmer and 29-year-old Campbell stand:
Campbell (2011 first 6 games): 100-165 (60.6), 1,170 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT, 84.2 rating.
Palmer (2010 first 6 games): 151-244 (61.9), 1,699 yards, 10 TD, 6 INT, 86.1 rating
Aside from the fact that Palmer was in a far more pass-happy offense, the numbers are comparable. Campbell even had a higher yards per attempt (7.09) than Palmer (6.96). And all that screams what's already obvious -- the Raiders are banking on a better Palmer than the 2010 version.
2. What does this mean for the future of the Raiders?
The general manager position in Oakland -- and whoever gets the job will be paired with Hue Jackson -- was seen by a lot of personnel folks as very intriguing last week, one that a young exec could really put his own stamp on.
How attractive that spot looks in the coming weeks, and how hard it might be for Oakland to land the man they want, will be based heavily on how well Palmer plays. If Palmer has success, the GM job can lure very good candidates. If Palmer bombs, then the Raiders are going to pay a high price (now worth a maximum of $43 million and expires in 2014) and will be without a pick in the first four rounds of next year's draft (see box, right), and without a second-rounder (again, if he bombs, the trigger for the first-rounder likely won't be hit) in 2013.
You can bet some prospective GM types are going to be keeping an eye on this one.
3. No question the Bengals made out well.
Maybe Mike Brown didn't stick to his old principles of contracts being honored, but considering the club has already replaced Palmer with Andy Dalton and stands at 4-2, to be able to get the windfall Cincinnati did is huge.
In that sense, Brown's approach worked. In most cases, when other teams know a franchise has a player that won't play for them, it kills that team's leverage. But since the owner has proven in the past that he'd stand his ground, Cincinnati maintained its bargaining position. Not bad.
Final word on this -- if Jackson really believes Palmer is capable of regaining something close to his 2005 form, then this was a good trade for the Raiders. Most believed Oakland got fleeced. But it's incumbent on the Raiders to trust their own evaluation, and if it showed a player still capable of being a franchise quarterback, this was the right move.
Same ol' story in Dallas
Bradie James pointed out Sunday, after his Cowboys lost a game they should've won for the third time this season, that the team he captains isn't so young anymore. And that could be what's most troubling about the way the end of that crushing loss in New England unfolded.
The team's new coach, Jason Garrett, really isn't new at all. This is his fifth year on the Cowboys staff, and he wore the star on the side of his helmet for a number of years, so he knows the ropes at Valley Ranch.
Garrett also should know all that went wrong in the Wade Phillips Era, since he was there for it. Yet the same late-game problems that came up then are resurfacing now.
Against the Jets, there were false start and delay penalties that preceded a blocked punt, which tied the game at 24 in the fourth quarter. Then an embarrassing mistake by Tony Romo in throwing at the best corner on the planet, Darrelle Revis, in crunch time, a decision that set up New York's winning field goal.
Against the Lions, it was, again, interceptions from Romo. But it was also a defensive holding penalty that gave Detroit a fresh set of downs on third-and-3 from the Cowboys' 3, setting up the go-ahead touchdown for Detroit, and a sack yielded with 35 seconds left to kill Dallas' final chance.
So should Garrett have gone for the throat with 3:37 left, playing a vulnerable Patriots defense and with the chance to keep Tom Brady on ice for the rest of the game? Yes. Is it understandable that he didn't? Based on the above, sure it is. And that was further reinforced when a Tyron Smith false start turned third-and-13 with 2:47 left into third-and-18.
Smith's a rookie. He's got time to learn. The trouble is, these problems have been at epidemic levels in Dallas since Bill Parcells departed in 2006.
Romo is now 31. James and Jay Ratliff are 30. DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten are 29. Terence Newman is 33. Even Miles Austin, 27, isn't exactly a kid anymore. Other members of the old core (Andre Gurode, Flozell Adams, Marion Barber, Terrell Owens) are long gone.
Talent has never been the issue in Dallas. Annually, they stack up with everyone in that department.
It's the rest of the equation that's been the problem. My belief is that Garrett is the right man for this job, and the above core, with a smattering of good young talent worked in, still has time.
But after seeing the same ol' story play out again last Sunday, and for the third time this year, it's easy for those beliefs to be shaken.
The Luck factor
Hate to rain on everyone's "Suck for Luck" parade, but there is an under-the-radar storyline regarding the heralded Stanford quarterback that will soon be out there.
Think all your team has to do is finish 1-15 to get Andrew Luck? It might not be that easy. The presence of Luck's father, Oliver, is something league executives will be watching closely as we get closer to April. This well could be Eli Manning in 2004, or John Elway in 1983, if the Stanford quarterback's camp doesn't like the situation the highest picking team presents.
"Absolutely. I've heard that for the last two years," said one college scout, who's on the road and paid to ferret this stuff out. "There's no question that it could be a Manning thing all over again."
The Manning comparison, of course, arises because Archie Manning drove the bus on youngest son Eli forcing a trade from San Diego to New York. And don't get this twisted -- this isn't a criticism of Luck or his father, who is also the athletics director at West Virginia. They have the leverage, the next 10-15 years of Luck's life could be in the balance, and so it makes sense to use that power to find the right spot.
It's just that, based on the way Oliver and Andrew Luck have carefully orchestrated their decisions in the past, teams are expecting this circumstance to arise if the wrong team is sitting at No. 1.
"We talked about this before (Luck's sophomore) season started," said the scout. "Some people know the dad well, and the hands-on approach he has. In Andrew's defense, he seems pretty in control of everything. So I could see it being a mutual decision. And if he can control it, why play behind a (crappy) offensive line, or in a bad situation? He's gonna have that control. If he doesn't like the team there, all he has to do is voice that, and there'll be teams looking to trade up.
"The Luck camp has a ton of firepower here. More than anyone I can remember."
Gore powers through
I'll admit this: I thought Frank Gore's career was riding off into the sunset. He's 28, which for a running back is more like 38, and this renaissance is particularly remarkable when you consider his injury history. He tore both his ACLs in college at Miami, and he's dealt with ailments that have held him to just one 16-game season in his seven-year career. He ended last year on injured reserve with a fractured hip.
Yet, Gore's still ticking.
Last year, the 217-pounder had his lowest totals in carries, yards, yards per carry and touchdowns since his rookie year of 2005. That combined with the injury issues made it easy to think he was cooked.
But as the Lions prepared for last Sunday's showdown with the Niners, the defense had one priority -- stop Gore. "Our biggest issue is going to be Gore," Detroit's Cliff Avril told me. "They don't ask Alex (Smith) to do too much. Frank's the horse. We have to stop him." And then, with that emphasis on stopping him, Gore went for 141 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Gore's on pace for 1,443 yards and 11 touchdowns on 291 carries. That'd be the second most carries and yards of his career, and the most touchdowns. More than just that, he's been the jackhammer for one of the league's most physical teams. And with the miles on his body, that's no small feat.
Dalton's effect on draft
While we're on the subject of Cincinnati quarterbacks, it'll be interesting to see the impact that Andy Dalton has on teams' draft strategies going forward.
The reason the 2011 quarterback class was considered the most overdrafted in recent memory was because the group lacked a complete prospect. Each player had a serious hole or two in his game. And for Dalton, the hole was in physical ability. One scout told me he was considered a "third- or fourth-round talent to us."
Dalton has proven to be the most ready to play and the most ready to win. Whether or not his shortcomings cost him in the long run remains to be seen. But it'll be interesting, in an age when Drew Brees and Tom Brady are elite, to see whether or not evaluators are more receptive to players who might be a little too short (Brees) or not have the arm strength (Brady) that'd ideally be desired.
1. What I'm most interested in going to London this week: The amount of folks rooting for the Buccaneers, the first team to make a second trip there and the corporate brother of Manchester United.
2. The parity we've seen early on, with the rise of teams like San Francisco, Detroit and Buffalo, is great and all, but Green Bay has maintained the status quo on top, and no one's a close second.
3. Character win for the Eagles on Sunday, and perhaps the biggest thing Philly has going for it now is that this is the worst the NFC East has been in a decade.
5. This is the first time since his rookie year of 1999 that Donovan McNabb will be a true backup, and it'll be interesting to see how he handles it.
Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer