To some, it makes perfect sense. An athletic, swashbuckling, polarizing, authority-challenging, swagger-filled, human highlight film of a quarterback would define the Raiders, right? A figure who truly embodies the history and tradition of this rebel franchise, right?
Al Davis is smiling from above. Johnny Football would be a rock star in the Black Hole -- the perfect modern-day Raider.
Except for the fact that it would make no sense.
And except for the fact that it would fly in the face of the solid work that general manager Reggie McKenzie has done of late, after a brutal start to free agency.
Make no mistake: This isn't the typical anti-John Football column. While I don't believe there is a legit franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft, I do believe Manziel is the best of the bunch. But there are questions about his focus, commitment, durability and size. There's potential reward, but you have to understand the risk.
McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are on the hot seat. They should be, with the team stumbling through a pair of 4-12 seasons on their watch. Thus, they cannot afford to take a chance with the fifth overall pick, especially when better players will be available.
I'm going to assume defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be gone by the time the Raiders go on the clock, but plenty of enticing options will remain. Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins or one of the top two offensive tackles (Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews) would make more sense. Any one of those players would make an instant impact at a major area of need. If you follow your draft board and stay true to overall player rankings, you can't draft a quarterback at No. 5, especially when you have gaping holes elsewhere and higher-ranked players to fill them.
I am very much in favor of the Raiders drafting a young quarterback, just not with that initial selection. Perhaps Derek Carr (Fresno State), AJ McCarron (Alabama) or Zach Mettenberger (LSU) would make sense in the second round. Perhaps, as I hypothesized last week, Louisville product Teddy Bridgewater will experience a major slide out of Round 1. Perhaps Oakland likes Tom Savage, the rising prospect out of Pittsburgh. Perhaps the Raiders think there will be an eventual starter available in Round 3.
Really. They did.
I like Matt Schaub. Always have. Last season was horrendous, marred by pick-six gaffes and general underachievement. A Houston Texans team that was hyped up by many (yes, particularly me) as a potential Super Bowl contender flamed out disastrously, posting the worst record in the NFL. Blame Schaub. It's fair. But I would argue that now ex-head coach Gary Kubiak deserves more blame for his game plan, play selection and in-game management.
Schaub had a solid run in Houston, helping the Texans rise to unprecedented heights and win a pair of division titles. This is a major QB upgrade from what the Raiders had last season. Schaub's a true professional, a great leader who's always accountable. I think Oakland will see the Schaub Houston saw in 2012.
And if you don't believe me, ask the Raiders' new running back, Maurice Jones-Drew. Actually, when Jones-Drew recently came on my Sirius XM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," I did just that.
By now, you've seen the quotes: MJD believes Oakland can "definitely" get to the Super Bowl with Schaub under center. To give you some context as to how Jones-Drew came to make this statement, I should explain that I asked a prior question about the veterans Oakland has brought in this offseason, and the running back gushed about Schaub's upside. I felt compelled to ask a pointed follow-up question about the 32-year-old's viability as a championship-caliber quarterback, and MJD provided his decisive judgment.
I've known Jones-Drew for a while now. He isn't one for hyperbole. The former Jaguars back had an up-close view of Schaub for years as a division rival in the AFC South. He knows this is a good player. Nobody batted an eye last offseason when many of us media folks (and fans) picked a Schaub-quarterbacked team to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Obviously, that didn't work out. But consequently, as Jones-Drew pointed out in our chat, Schaub "has something to prove this year. ... I know Matt Schaub is a guy who can lead us."
The Raiders' start to free agency was comical, embarrassing and sad. As I wrote at the time, the Rodger Saffold mess was sloppy, exhibiting franchise chaos. And I still cannot figure out why Oakland let Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston walk without using the franchise tag -- especially when it comes to Veldheer. He's a young stud tackle that the Arizona Cardinals pounced on, stunned that McKenzie didn't protect his investment. McKenzie claims "the kid didn't want to play for the Raiders anymore," but this feels like spin to me. (And it's a claim Veldheer promptly refuted.)
Since this initial comedy of errors, though, the Raiders have saved face and recovered. They've added talent. They've added true-blue leaders who won't tolerate constant penalties or the losing culture that has plagued Oakland for years.
Jones-Drew had other options, but he wanted to go back home. The Bay Area native grew up a Raiders fan. He mowed John Madden's lawn as a kid. Yes, Oakland offered him a chance to compete for a starting job (with Darren McFadden, a brittle player I never would've re-upped in the first place). But Jones-Drew has been through enough long seasons and coaching changes in his NFL career -- he wouldn't have signed with the Raiders if he didn't believe they could win.
I think James Jones is a very good receiver. It's nuts that he was available for so long. There will be teams -- like the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants -- that will regret not signing this guy. He is reliable, scores touchdowns and is a Super Bowl winner. Jones, like Schaub and Jones-Drew, makes the Raiders better and more professional.
I'm skeptical as to how much LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck have left in the tank, but they are also experienced big-game players and Super Bowl winners. Tuck won't put up with nonsense; he knows what it takes to succeed. And though neither guy is the same player he used to be, both upgrade the talent base on a defense that gave up the most points in the AFC last season.
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Johnny Football doesn't fit in.
An instant-impact starter at another position, someone who can shine in Silver and Black for years to come, does.