Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders is known for the extensive verbiage and complexity contained in his playbooks — when he was with the Washington Redskins, word got out about 700-page playbooks, and while any playbook has a lot of different iterations of the same basic concept, it's also true that no matter how you slice it, Saunders likes to have a lot of concepts on the field.
That's why it was a bit surprising that Raiders head coach Hue Jackson had Carson Palmer going in to replace quarterback Kyle Boller in the Raiders' 28-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs just days after he had been traded from the Cincinnati Bengals the previous Tuesday. The move was made to shore up the team's quarterback position after Jason Campbell broke his collarbone.
Boller threw three interceptions in one half of football and looked like his usual horrible self, but it was still kind of a shock to see Palmer in there so soon. One would assume that the only way that would happen is if the Raiders somehow adapted their offensive concepts to what Palmer was used to — after all, Jackson was the Bengals' receivers coach from 2004 through 2006.
No dice. According to Palmer, he went into the game about as cold as could possibly be. On Wednesday, he told Bay Area radio station 95.7 The Game that he knew just a handful of plays.
"I was told I was not going to play," Palmer said. "I didn't know the offense, I also hadn't been training and working out. So it was a complete shock to me at halftime when [Coach Jackson] told me, 'Hey, you know we're going to get you in, in the third quarter.'
"I knew like about 15 plays and we ran the same 15 plays over and over again," he said. "I just said, 'All right, well that's what I'm here to do, I'm here to play football.' I was very uncomfortable and obviously not ready or prepared, but it's a game of unknowns, it's a game of having game plans when you go in and things change. My game plan was not to play but I ended up playing."
The confusion showed up in Palmer's stat line — he completed just 8 of 21 passes for 116 yards and threw three picks of his own. Having been sent from Cincinnati for one first-round draft pick and a second pick that could turn into another first on a conditional basis, Palmer didn't exactly begin his Raiders career with a value perspective.
Talking to San Francisco station KNBR on Thursday, Palmer went a bit more into the thought process behind his insistence that if the Bengals didn't trade or release him, he'd rather retire than play another down for the team. First, he gave a bit more insight into the level of confusion behind his spot start.
"There's not a word to describe what was going on," Palmer said. "I had only been there a couple of days, and I knew my center's name and my right tackle's name and Darren McFadden's name, but other than that, everyone comes up and says, 'Hey,' and you just kind of go 'Hey, what's up man?' You don't know their names, and you feel bad about not knowing their names. Because of that it was a weird, weird day, but it was great to be back playing football again."
But the nagging question remains: Why should Raiders fans believe in a quarterback who walked away from a commitment to his team?
"Well, it's been a long eight years," the first overall pick of the 2003 NFL draft said. "I've been through a lot, seen a lot within that organization, and just decided. I definitely realized it was a selfish decision that I was making. I talked about it a lot with my family and decided that I'd like to continue to play, but it was time to move on. And it was time for them to move on.
"I'm just excited and happy and blessed to be in the situation I'm in now playing for coach Jackson and with this organization. I'm excited where this one is headed, and it's also good where the Bengals organization is headed — they're headed in a great direction, they've got a good young nucleus of players, they're playing really well, and I think it worked out well for both organizations."
The good news is that the Raiders now have a bye week to get Palmer up to speed. Palmer's training wheels will have to come off quickly, and it will be time for him to earn the trust of the Raiders … and to validate one very expensive trade.
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