Jeff George and Carson Palmer. Two number one draft choices. Two quarterbacks known for their strong arms who put up solid numbers for medicore Raiders teams, fifteen years apart. The summer of 1997 brought us the first Men in Black. Whether or not we needed or wanted it, Men in Black 3 came out fifteen years later. The worst Batman movie, Batman and Robin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj2KcFj1jbE) came out in 1997 and 2012 saw the end to a much more acclaimed superhero retelling. In 1997 and 2012, the Raiders endured miserable seasons while their number one draft picks from other teams made their money and gained their yards through the air.
The Raiders went 4-12 in 1997, George’s first year as signal caller. The mercurial hired gun passed for 3,917 yards, the second highest single-season mark in his 12 year career. The 1990 top pick threw 29 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. He threw it, threw it, and threw it some more to a receiving corps headlined by the great Tim Brown.
This year, Palmer did not have a stellar number one receiver to throw it to. He barely bested George’s passing yardage total, accumulating 4,018 yards. His receivers dropped passes at an alarming rate. Temple product Rod Streeter was the guilty culprit on many missed opportunities in the red zone. Acquired on October 18, 2011, Palmer will miss the regular season finale for the Raiders. If the silver and black lose to the San Diego Chargers, the 2012 team too will be 4-12; the same mark the team “attained” fifteen years earlier. George had some interesting guys with neat names as skill position players; Joe Aska, Rickey Dudley, and James Jett. Pretty awesome names if you ask me. Palmer also had some nifty-sounding names on his side; Darius Heyward-Bey, Rod Streeter, and Juron Criner among others. Those guys won’t be mistaken for the “three deep” wideout trio of the Minnesota Vikings circa 1998, but their names sound pretty cool at least.
George was not the long-term answer at quarterback for Oakland. Jon Gruden signed Rich Gannon, a much better fit for his West Coast offensive scheme. George briefly salvaged his NFL career in 1999 when he relieved an ineffective and disinterested Randall Cunningham to quarterback the Vikings to the playoffs. Palmer is due a hefty salary and it is anyone’s guess whether or not he will quarterback the Raiders in 2013.
The Raiders lost their last game to the Carolina Panthers. While it was not a marquee matchup by any generous stretch of the imagination, it was significant in that it was the first game that featured three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks to take a snap during the same game; Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Cam Newton.
In an interesting footnote to seasons that meant nothing in the grand scheme of professional football lore, George’s primary backup on that 1997 team was ex-Cincinnati Bengals bust David Klinger. Klinger was the beneficiary of a wide-open, run and shoot attack at the University of Houston that vaunted him into the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft. One of Palmer’s backups this year is Matt Leinart, former top-ten pick bust/flameout of the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. Klingler and Leinart’s number during the 1997 and 2012 seasons was 7. Coincidence? Probably. Five years ago, I saw a program on the NFL network about the top ten biggest draft busts in NFL history. Klingler made the list and Leinart did not because the jury was still out on whether or not he was an NFL caliber quarterback. The verdict has been read and I am sure he will make the list on future broadcasts.