Raiders coach gets nasty

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

TORONTO - At this point in his career, Kyle Boller is nobody’s idea of a No. 1 quarterback.

But he certainly didn’t deserve the total lack of respect, hatchet job pulled on him by Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders, either.

Last Sunday, Boller came on in relief for injured starter Jason Campbell (broken collarbone) in the Raiders’ home game against the Cleveland Browns and turned in a backup-like performance, completing eight of 14 passes for 100 yards in helping guide the Raiders to a 24-17 victory. He didn’t toss any touchdown passes, but he didn’t turn the ball over, either.

A No. 1 draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2003, Boller has never lived up to his initial promise and, at 30 years of age, he is what he is — a competent backup quarterback on a team that many feel was without a legitimate No. 1 quarterback in Campbell.

Given the fact they were off to a 4-2 start and now believe they are in contention in the AFC West, the Raiders decided to go all in and obtained Carson Palmer in a trade with Cincinnati. Good for them as Palmer, once he sheds a little of the rust from having not played this season and once he gets familiar with the playbook, should provide the Raiders with an uptick at the position.

But that still doesn’t excuse Saunders for the slap in the face he gave to Boller in his glee and giddiness over obtaining Palmer. When a local Oakland radio station asked Saunders what Palmer needs to do to be the Raiders starter on Sunday in their game against Kansas City, Saunders replied: “As long as he’s breathing.”

He then described the feeling he had watching Palmer in his first workout.

“He walked out on the field yesterday and everybody kind of looked at everybody and said: ‘You know what? This is a real quarterback.’”

“That was the comment made by a couple of people as they watched him throw. It just depends on how quickly he feels comfortable in what we’re doing and that shouldn’t take too long.”

• • •

There is plenty enough hysteria and hyperbole surrounding Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who is viewed as a franchise saviour for whatever team lands him in next spring’s draft.

It has reached the point where the fans in the cities of this year’s bottom-feeders — such as Miami, Denver and Indianapolis — are praying their teams will not win another game, thereby gaining the No. 1 pick.

The race for the bottom and the ‘Suck For Luck’ sweepstakes have taken flight in those locales.

Against that backdrop now comes word that the Luck’s may be contemplating a proactive power-play move of their own.

Pro Football Talk reports there are those in the NFL who are concerned that and his father, Oliver Luck, who is the athletics director at West Virginia University, could pull an Eli Manning move and declare he doesn’t want to play for certain teams and attempt to force a trade to a franchise the Lucks favour.

In 2004, The San Diego Chargers had the top pick but Manning in no way wanted to play for them. So the Chargers drafted him then traded him to the New York Giants who had drafted Philip Rivers with the fourth pick.

The question that has to be determined is do the Lucks have a similar plan and do they have certain organizations and ownership that they want to avoid?

If so, it would ruin a lot of Suck For Luck campaigns.

• • •

Well, the Brandon Lloyd era is over in Denver, the wide receiver being shuffled off to St. Louis.

The question they are asking in Denver — other than how will Tim Tebow fare Sunday in Miami — is when will the Demaryius Thomas era begin?

Thomas, who is already burdened with the cross of being chosen ahead of Dez Bryant in the 2010 draft, is still the No. 1 wide receiver-in-waiting for the Broncos.

Limited to 22 receptions for 283 yards in his rookie season, Thomas is about to make his season’s debut on Sunday after a variety of injuries, the most serious being one to his Achilles tendon in February.

At 6-foot-3, 230-pounds the former Georgia Tech star figures on providing Tebow with a go-to receiver, a guy who can make plays in a crowd. But first he has to prove he can stay healthy.

In an interview with the Denver Post, Thomas said he was concerned about that tag to the point where he was worried that the Broncos would cut him free.

“I’ve been stressing, really, feeling that frustration, that I could have been cut,” Thomas told the Post. “I was worried about that, actually. I don’t want to be that guy they say that’s injury-prone. I’ve already had three injuries since I’ve been in the league that set me back. I don’t want to get here and be that bust. I told my mother this and I told my family this. I told them I was going to be the guy who had success. I just want to stick to what I say.”

As for replacing Lloyd, of being Tebow’s primary target, Thomas believes he’s up for the job.

“I still want to be that guy,” Thomas said. “I think I’m ready to be that guy. I’ve been saying this, but this is the healthiest I’ve been, right now, since I’ve been in the league.”

Now it’s time for Thomas to show the Broncos and their fans that he wasn’t a wasted pick.

• • •

There are certain truths that no head coach can make seven weeks into the season.

They can’t say the season is over, that all is lost and that they have already gone into a ‘We’re looking head to the 2012 season’ mold.

So when Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier confirmed Wednesday that rookie Christian Ponder is taking over from veteran Donovan McNabb at the quarterback position, he stressed it wasn’t a case of building for the future, even though at 1-5, all is lost for the Vikings this season.

“He is our starting quarterback,” Frazier said Wednesday about the switch to Ponder. “There is no wavering. I told our team we’re counting on him to lead us over the remainder of the season.

“It does not mean that I’m giving up on the season or our coaching staff. We’re not giving up on the 2011 season. The decision was made purely based on what would give us the best chance to win on Sunday (a home game against the Green Bay Packers). I didn’t feel or sense that staying status quo was going to get us a win on Sunday.”

It may be true that going with Ponder offers the Vikings a better chance at winning, but that is due to the fact that McNabb has been so terrible. Going with the rookie from Florida State now just makes so much sense for 2012 and beyond.

It would be refreshing if just once a coach told it like it is.


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