Friday, March 16, 2007

The Will To Win

Each Super Bowl quarterback for the Raiders had his own special quality.

Lamonica had a rifle for an arm. Powerful and accurate. He earned the name, "The Mad Bomber." Opposing defenses weren't safe no matter where the Raiders began a drive on the field. If the Raiders were down by a touchdown or less, and the Raiders had the ball at midfield with only a couple of ticks on the clock, one always expected that Lamonica was about to make the game winning play by throwing a strike into the end zone.

Stabler, who earned the name "Snake" from his scrambling high school years, was a crafty leader and a born winner. He was deadly accurate on short to intermediate passes, often completing over 70% of his throws. While not accurate deep, he still had the mental acuity to throw the deep ball in such a way as to position the ball so that the receiver was always between the ball and the defender. Ultimately, with Stabler, the game always hinged on his will to win. Even on his worst days, he would intelligently probe the defense for the key to success.

Plunkett, known affectionately as "Plunk," was a supreme field leader. He was soft spoken with a deep ball arm. He had surprising escapability. But the most amazing thing about Plunkett was his ability to know, at all times, where every player was on the field. No Raider quarterback was better at finding the open man and hitting him in stride.

Gannon was the consummate perfectionist. He insisted that receivers run their routs to perfection, and was always aware of the percentage play. Lacking a deep ball arm he was the perfect quarterback for the Gruden philosophy that "three things can happen when you throw the ball deep, and two of them are bad." The best description of Gannon is "demanding leader."

Of this quartet, I used to waiver between Stabler and Plunkett as my favorites. Plunkett, because he was the classic underdog. So many times he had been counted out and left for dead, only to come back and win two Super Bowls. Stabler, for his ability to find a way to win. I loved them both, but I think Stabler stands slightly above.

I remember a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Raiders were down by four touchdowns late in the 2nd quarter. Stabler dropped back to pass and was brutally swarmed over and sacked. He got up slowly, and the camera focused on his face. "Dandy Don" Meredith, in the MNF booth said something along the lines of, "Oh, oh. I've seen that look in Stabler's eyes before. He's going to make some trouble for the Saints before this game is over." Stabler led the team back to a 35-28 victory. At the time, it was the biggest comeback victory in MNF history.

In San Diego, needing a touchdown to win with only time and downs for one more play and Stabler half way to the ground on a sack, Stabler fumbled the ball forward. His teammates directed the fumble to the end zone where it was covered by Dave Casper. (The Holy Roller Play) In Oakland during the '73 playoffs against the world champion Miami Dolphins - The Sea of Hands play! In Oakland, against the NE Patriots in 1976, same situation again, but this time Stabler ran on shaky knees and dove head first into the end zone.

"Down two touchdowns or up two touchdowns, he's the same quarterback.... he is convinced that his next play will be his best play. Soaking up a record-setting day or suffering through a forgettable day, he still wants the ball at the end.

"I've always believed that you measure a quarterback on his bad days, not his good days. When you're not having your best day, how do you respond? Can you stay into it and manage the game? ...if something went wrong or if he messed something up...he would usually get another chance. If he got that ball at the end of the game, he was going to beat your tail -- and he knew it."

The above would be an excellent comment in regards to Stabler, if it were, in fact, about him. But it is about someone else who was not, and is not a Raider. At least not yet. The quote is from Jimbo Fisher, the former offensive coordinator from LSU. He is talking, of course, about JaMarcus Russell.

From all I have seen on film clips and television, from all that I've heard from his coaches, his teammates, and his fans, JaMarcus Russell is Ken Stabler with Lamonica's arm and the blossoming bud of Plunkett leadership. He has successfully undertaken every instruction from every coach he's had. He listens and he learns, so Gannon's perfectionism may well be on the horizon.

Al Davis... Lane Kiffin... Do you want more Super Bowls? We need to draft this quarterback.


Anonymous Heartland Raider Fan said...

Let's see Rusell's party history in college and his bent towards taking risks.If the comparison to Stabler is even going to be close I need to see the rebellion towards authority in his youth too. These are the character flaws or strengths (depending on your poit of view) that made Stabler what he was. I'm one of the biggest Stabler fans to walk the earth and I just don't see the simularities in Russell.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. Gannon did have a strong arm, but was never put in a system to use it, with the exception of Minnesota and Oakland, under Norv Turner. He did exceptionally well with throwing the deep ball, and surprised the likes of ESPN, but not the people that knew him. Until he went down against Tampa, he was making everyone look silly who said he didn't have a strong arm; and that was coming off a torn labrum. I shiver at that thought.
I've been beating this drum for a long time now, the only negatives people are finding with JRuss, are fixable with coaching. My concern is he puts the ball on the turf a little too much for my liking, but that is fixed by coaching him to tuck the ball. What makes this work is that JRuss has the attitude and persona that he is not above coaching; and is very coachable. That attitude has got him where he is today.
-Raider Nate 75

1:41 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...


If Russell had a "party history" in the current NFL climate, we wouldn't need to worry about having to use a first round pick on him. He'd drop probably to about rounds 3 to 5. Would you like him better then?

1:56 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

BR - I really enjoyed "The Will to Win". It was very interesting how you captured the essence of each Raider SB QB. I think you know where I stand on JRuss.

If I was going to make any comparisons of JRuss to the illustrious SB QBs you named, it would be the following;

JRuss has a naturally strong arm and touch for the deep ball just like the Mad Bomber.

JRuss' easy going disposition and southern country roots are similar to the Snake.

JRuss' has a quiet confidence, even keel & poise like Plunk.

JRuss does not seem to share any noticeable qualities as the Philly cab drive Gannon but that is ok.

The other underlying theme of your post is the fact that all of these QBs had their own unique way of achieving success.

Keep on rocking the blog, BR!

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The guy hasn't played a down in the NFL and has yet to be drafted, (maybe by the Raiders) and you mention him in the same light (and breathe)as Stabler? ….That's rich ! or should I say minty fresh B S.

6:19 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Anon 6:19 - I'm not sure if your comment was directed to me or BlandaRocked (and frankly it doesen't really matter).

I think you might be getting bent out of shape over some harmless, basic comparisons and similarites. Of course it is very difficult to project the success of a QB draftee. I have to ask it really so bad for fans like BR and myself to dream about the possibilities of JRuss under center for the Raiders?

I think you are taking BR's post way too seriously instead of the intended spirit and fun of comparing JRuss to past Raider QBs.

1:11 PM  
Blogger BlandaRocked said...

Anon 6:19 - Lamonica, Stabler, Plunkett, and Gannon were all rookies once too.

The draft is always about speculation, and comparisons to players who succeeded. Would you suggest that we take a pass on the draft every year, and only sign free agents who have proved themselves in the NFL?

Speculation is all part of the fun. Just think of the big laugh you'll have at my expense if the Raiders (or anybody else) draft JRuss and he's a bust. Think of the big laugh I'll have at your expense if JRuss proves to be all that's advertised. But, then, I won't be laughing if JRuss turns out to be all that's advertised for somebody else.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would then suggest you read Plunkett and Stabler's biographies to see how ridiculous (funny????) your comparisons are.
If you’re going to compare an unknown NFL commodity to NFL legends, compare their lives at the same stage of development (early 20’s) and tell me the similarities. See ridiculous to try isn’t it? Besides being meaningless.

9:38 AM  

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