Former Oakland Raiders quarterback and 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon offers insight on today’s most pressing NFL headlines. The following interview took place on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Carroll News: Being a CBS broadcaster who has covered the Browns at times this season, what do you make of Cleveland fans who are joining the “Suck for Luck” campaign? Is Colt McCoy going to be “the guy” for this team?
Rich Gannon: I think the next eight weeks are certainly going to be important for him, in terms of the evaluation process and where the Browns go from here. I will say this; I had concerns coming into the season that they weren’t going to be talented enough on the perimeter. The receiver position for them is not a position of strength. I think the absence of Peyton Hillis with his injuries and the situation with his contract have hurt them too, and right now they’re struggling. So has he [McCoy] taken a step back? Yeah, no question. But when you look at the fact that he’s in a completely different system from the one he ran a year ago, going from [offensive coordinator] Brian Daboll to head coach Pat Shurmur, and the fact that he didn’t have an offseason program at all or mini-camps, I think you have to expect him to take that step back.
CN: Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is another QB whose name is almost always in the media. Will Tebow eventually develop into a successful starting quarterback in the NFL? Should he consider changing positions?
RG: No, I don’t think he should play another position. I think he’s a guy that is in a similar situation to Colt McCoy. Both teams changed staffs, he didn’t have an offseason, didn’t get a ton of reps in the pre-season and now all of the sudden, he’s out there playing. These next eight weeks will certainly determine what the Broncos do and there’s a good chance that none of the quarterbacks currently on the Denver roster will be the starting quarterback in 2012. This is a good opportunity for Tebow to play well and to get better each week. I think you just want to see progress each week from him because there are some things that he does really well. He’s a tremendous competitor, he’s athletic, he can run around and he can make plays. Where he has to improve is with his throwing. His accuracy is a problem, his footwork, operating as a quarterback under center is a problem for this guy. But, look at Steve Young. When he came out of college, he was a better passer [than Tebow] but still struggled initially, so it took a while for him but eventually he turned out to be a pretty good player.
CN: Many teams in the NFL are off to unexpected, yet impressive, starts this season including the 49ers, Lions, Bills and Bengals. Which “underdog” team has surprised and impressed you the most this season and why?
RG: There are a couple of them. Buffalo, to me, I didn’t give them much of a chance in that tough AFC East division and they’ve been really outstanding. They’ve gotten better on defense, the quarterback play has been good and Fred Jackson is having one of those MVP-type seasons, so that’s been a team that’s really surprised me. As far as a unit that has really surprised me, the Houston Texans defense has really done that. They’re the most improved defense in all of football. They were awful last year as they finished 30th in total defense, 32nd against the pass and now they’re the number one defense in football. It’s amazing what Wade Philips has come in and done as he added some new players, went from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4, so that to me is impressive. I think San Francisco is another great example of a team that was awful a year ago; they fired their coach, brought in a new coaching staff that didn’t have any time with the players in the offseason and after being criticized for bringing back Alex Smith, they’re 7-1 and that one loss came in overtime to the Cowboys.
CN: Former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis passed away last month on Oct. 8, obviously a significant loss for the entire football world. Having played for Davis in Oakland for six years, what was your reaction upon hearing the news and what kind of impact did he have on you?
RG: I was saddened by the news and I think the same is said for anybody that knew him. I was fortunate, as he was a guy that gave me an opportunity to play for the Raiders for six years. He was a controversial figure and I don’t know if there will ever be another owner like him who was as involved as he was in day-to-day operations. He was involved with finalizing the 53-man roster, player selection, the draft, free agency and all that. He would go down on the field and spend time with the defensive coaches, he would be out on the practice field and he basically did it all so I don’t know if there will ever be another owner like him. He had a real passion, football was his passion. All he had was his family and football. He didn’t really have any other hobbies like golf, fishing or anything like that. Football was what he did. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to play for him for six years and I certainly will always be appreciative of the time I spent with the Raiders.
CN: Staying on the topic of the Raiders, your former team jumped out to an impressive 4-2 start this season and is now 5-4 with a big win over San Diego recently. What do you like about head coach Hue Jackson and what he’s done with this team so far?
RG: He’s not afraid to take risks. You watch him and between going for it on fourth down, fake punts and fake field goals, he’s done whatever he’s had to do to win football games. He’s made some bold moves too with his decision to go out and get Carson Palmer and give up what they did, only time will tell [if it pays off]. He saw a need at the quarterback position and he had a relationship with Carson going back to their days together at USC where he recruited him out of high school. This is a guy that’s in control. I think it’s clear that he’s the one making the decisions out there. For the first time in 49 years, someone other than Al Davis is making personnel decisions. He’s taking the bull by the horns and he’s doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the team going forward.
CN: Which team is winning Superbowl 46 this season and why?
RG: Well, I’m not going to deviate from what I said in the preseason. Last year, I picked the Packers and I picked them again this year. I think they’re the one team that benefitted from the lack of an offseason. They played into February and they needed some time away from the game. It’s a veteran team and they have essentially the same exact coaching staff, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and playcallers. It’s a veteran group and they’ve done a great job developing their talent. They’re still, I think, the best team in football.