During the 2002 NFL Playoffs, the Oakland Raiders were eliminated by the New England Patriots in the infamous “Tuck Rule” game. The next year, the Raiders were one of the best teams in the league and made it all the way to the 2003 Super Bowl, only to be decimated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. Despite the loss in the Super Bowl, the Raiders had one of their best years ever. The team was the statistically best offensive team in the league and quarterback Rich Gannon was voted as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the 2002-03 season would be the team’s last season with a winning record. The team would have a pair of 8-8 seasons, but no seasons over .500, and no trips to the playoffs. When a team loses as much as the Raiders did, the team tends to go through a number of quarterbacks, and the Raiders were no exception.
A number of quarterbacks were given starting assignments with the Raiders, and ranking them from worst to first would seem to be a daunting task. However, it had to be done. So here, from worst to best, is a ranking of the Raiders’ starting quarterbacks since the team’s last winning season.
18 JaMarcus Russell (25 Starts)
JaMarcus Russell was selected first overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft. The season before, the Raiders finished at 2-14 and as the worst team in the league, while Russell had just come off of an MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl. In Russell, Raiders owner Al Davis saw a seemingly untackleable man with who could throw the ball further than any other quarterback at the Scouting Combine. However, the combines do not measure what is on the inside of a player.
Russell sat out training camp in a contract dispute and found himself third on the depth chart. Coach Lane Kiffin was in dispute with Davis because Kiffin would rather have drafted someone else, while Davis felt that he knew better than Kiffin, who had never held a head coaching position at any level. When Russell finally got his opportunities, at the behest of both Kiffin and his replacement Tom Cable, what was on the inside came out. Russell was not the player that Al Davis thought that he would become.
17 Matt Flynn (1 Start)
Matt Flynn is an interesting case. During the last game of the 2011 season, Flynn, a backup for the Packers, started in place of Aaron Rodgers. In that game, a victory for the Packers, Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, numbers which, if they had belonged to Rodgers, would have given Rodgers a 5,000 yard/50 touchdown season during Rodgers’ MVP season. However, Flynn parlayed that performance into a contract with the Seahawks, only to be beaten out on the depth chart by Russell Wilson and Tavaris Jackson.
Flynn would be traded to the Raiders, only to be beaten out by Terrelle Pryor. Flynn’s lone start for the Raiders would come as a result of Pryor being injured and though his numbers were reasonable, except for his three fumbles, Coach Dennis Allen would demote Flynn to third-string behind Pryor and Matt McGloin, and the Raiders would release Flynn several days later.
16 Kyle Boller (1 Start)
In 2011, Jason Campbell was the Raiders’ starting quarterback,and Kyle Boller was the backup. Campbell would start the first six games of the season before suffering an injury that would force him out of action. The Raiders would trade for Carson Palmer, but while Palmer was becoming acclimated with the team and Coach Hue Jackson’s system, Kyle Boller would be thrust into action for game seven of the 2011 season. In that game, Boller would make the lone start of his Raiders career.
Boller would start the game against the Chiefs, would throw three interceptions and would be replaced by Carson Palmer. Palmer would enter the game, would throw three more interceptions, and the Raiders would be shut out by the Chiefs 28-0. Palmer would start the rest of the season and Boller would leave the team following the season, and would be out of football a few months later.
15 Aaron Brooks (8 Starts)
Aaron Brooks came to the Raiders as the New Orleans Saints’ career leader in touchdown passes, but Brooks was benched at the end of the 2005 season, was released after the season, and picked up by the Raiders. Brooks started the 2006 season as the Raiders’ starter, but he would be sacked nine times in the first game and would be injured in the second. Andrew Walter would take Brooks’ place and would start the next seven games.
Brooks would return from injury and would start the next five games, but would be benched in favor of Walter. Walter and Brooks would alternate starts in the final two games and the Raiders would end the 2006 season with a dismal record of 2-14. After the season, Brooks would be released by the Raiders, and would retire from professional football. Though Brooks would hold the Saints season and career TD pass records at the time that he left New Orleans, with the Raiders, he would only garner three TD passes for the season and zero wins.
14 Charlie Frye (3 Starts)
As JaMarcus Russell struggled through the 2009 season, he would be replaced as the starter by Bruce Gradkowski. An injury to Gradkowski would see Russell return to the lineup against the Redskins. In that game, a loss by the Raiders, Russell was sacked six times and was generally ineffective. After that game, Coach Tom Cable would elect to have Charlie Frye, who started the season third on the depth chart, start the remaining three games of the season.
Frye would be injured in his first start, to be replaced by Russell, but would recover in order to be able to start the final two games. Though his work over the next two weeks were not enough to guarantee Frye a move up the depth chart, he would be signed by the team the next year, only to suffer a career-ending injury during the preseason. Frye would never play another snap in the NFL.
13 Andrew Walter (9 Starts)
The year that Andrew Walter arrived in Oakland, Kerry Collins was the starting quarterback and Collins started 15 of 16 games with Marques Tuiasosopo starting the other. After the 2005 season, Collins was let go in order to clear cap space to make room for the arriving Aaron Brooks. Brooks would start the 2006 season as the starter, but before too long, Andrew Walter was the starting quarterback for the Raiders.
Walter would split time with Brooks as the starter, with each man starting eight if the sixteen games that season. The Raiders would finish the season at 2-14 and after the season, Brooks would be gone. Unfortunately for Walter, the Raiders would sign Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper, while also drafting JaMarcus Russell. The moves would relegate Walter to fourth on the QB depth chart. In 2008, McCown and Culpepper would be gone and Walter would be second behind Russell, but he would be released after the end of the season.
12 Daunte Culpepper (6 Starts)
Daunte Culpepper was signed by the Raiders in 2007, but only after being rejected by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Culpepper was signed as an insurance policy while the Raiders waited for draft pick JaMarcus Russell to sign his rookie contract. Josh McCown would be selected as the starter that season, but due to injury, McCown and Culpepper would trade starts throughout most of the season.
Culpepper would start six games in 2007, including two against his former teams, the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings. Against the Dolphins, Culpepper would throw for two touchdowns and would run for three others. Unfortunately, Culpepper would suffer injuries twice during the season. He would suffer a hamstring injury after a footrace with a teammate in practice that would end his season. He would also suffer due to owner Al Davis’ insistence on playing JaMarcus Russell. Despite his somewhat resurgent play, the Raiders would elect not to re-sign Culpepper and he would soon be out of football.
11 Rick Mirer (8 Starts)
At the start of the 2003 season, the Raiders were the defending AFC Champions and were returning the NFL MVP in quarterback Rich Gannon, so a lot was expected of this team. Gannon would be injured in week seven, but by the end of that game, the Raiders would be 2-5. Backup QB Marques Tuiasosopo would be injured and ineffective in week 9, which would put the ball in third-string QB Rick Mirer’s hands for the rest of the season.
Mirer was the second overall pick in the 1993 draft, behind Drew Bledsoe, but by the time Mirer got to Oakland, he was on his fifth different franchise. Mirer would go 2-6 as the starter for the Raiders and would only amass three touchdown passes, despite having Hall of Famers Tim Brown and Jerry Rice as teammates. Mirer would be gone from the Raiders after the season and this would be the first of a run of seasons where the Raiders would not make the playoffs.
10 Marques Tuiasosopo (2 Starts)
Marques Tuiasosopo was the fourth quarterback taken in the 2001 draft, behind Michael Vick and Drew Brees, and he would start his career as the backup behind Rich Gannon. Marques would be on the roster of the team that went to the Super Bowl, but he would not get his first start until the following season, due to injury to Gannon. Tuiasosopo would be ineffective in his start and would also suffer an injury, which would force the coaching staff to turn to Rick Mirer for the rest of the 2003 season.
Tuiasosopo’s only other start would come during the 2005 season, but he would once again be ineffective and the team would lose the game. Marques would be on the roster for one more season with the Raiders, but would not see very much action. He would leave for the New York Jets in 2007, but would return to Oakland in 2008, which would be his last season in the NFL.
9 Terrelle Pryor (10 Starts)
Terrelle Pryor was selected in the 2011 Supplemental Draft by owner Al Davis, making Pryor the last player selected by Davis before Davis’ passing. Pryor would start his career as the fourth-string quarterback behind Carson Palmer, Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller, and Pryor would get his first start in 2012, and though his athleticism was evident, his passing ability was less than stellar. The following season, Pryor would beat out free agent signee Matt Flynn for the starting position and Pryor would get his opportunity to take ownership of the position.
Pryor would be the starter to begin the 2013 season and in one game he would set a Raider record for the most rushing yards by a QB and, in another, he would set a Raider record for the longest run from scrimmage, breaking a record set by Bo Jackson. However, his passing and team leadership were not what the Raider coaches were looking for, and Pryor would be benched in favor of Matt McGloin.
Pryor would be traded following the 2013 season and he would bounce around the league before catching on as a wide receiver with the Cleveland Browns in 2016.
8 Josh McCown (9 Starts)
Josh McCown joined the Raiders in 2007 and benefitted immediately from the contract holdout by JaMarcus Russell, as it made McCown the opening game starter. However, McCown would be the starting quarterback for Raiders’ coach Lane Kiffin, who not only was the youngest head coach in the league, but who came to the Raiders with no head coaching experience at any level.
McCown would start nine games for the Raiders in 2007, as injuries would force him to split time with Daunte Culpepper. Between McCown and Culpepper, the Raiders would go 4-11, and Coach Kiffin, at the insistence of owner Al Davis, would start JaMarcus Russell in the season’s finale.
McCown would become a free agent after the season, and like many of the Raider quarterbacks in this era, would move on after his sole season in Oakland as the Raiders would move all of the veteran quarterbacks to allow Russell to have a clear path to the starting job.
7 Kerry Collins (28 Starts)
Kerry Collins would join the Raiders in 2004 with the expectation of being the backup to former league MVP Rich Gannon, but injuries would shorten Gannon’s season. Gannon would suffer a neck injury in week three that would end his career and Collins would be the starter for the remainder of the 2004 season. The Raiders would start the season with a 2-1 record under Gannon, but would lose five straight games and 10 out of their last 13 under Collins.
Collins would start all but one game in 2005, but even with the addition of wide receiver Randy Moss, the Raiders record would drop to 4-12 after a 5-11 record in 2004. After the 2005 season, the Raiders would cut Collins, who would join the Tennessee Titans and would be one of the few former Raiders quarterbacks during this era would who have a seemingly lengthy career after leaving Oakland.
6 Matt McGloin (6 Starts and Counting)
Matt McGloin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Raiders in 2013 and started the season as third on the depth chart behind Terrelle Pryor and backup Matt Flynn. An injury to Pryor would thrust Flynn into the starting lineup, but Flynn’s poor play would allow McGloin to move past Flynn on the depth chart and become the Raiders’ starting quarterback in the absence of Pryor.
Matt McGloin would start six games during the 2013 season before surrendering the starting job back to Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders would suffer through another 4-12 record and following the season, Pryor and Flynn would be let go, leaving McGloin as the presumed second-string quarterback behind newly arrived Matt Schaub and ahead of rookie Derek Carr. However, Carr would win the starting job during preseason and McGloin would outperform Schaub to become Carr’s backup. Schaub would be released the following season, and McGloin, though not yet receiving another start, would remain as the immediate backup to Derek Carr.
5 Bruce Gradkowski (8 Starts)
Bruce Gradkowski was signed by the Raiders in 2009, after serving as the fourth-string quarterback with the Cleveland Browns during the previous season. Gradkowski would find himself third on the depth chart behind starter JaMarcus Russell and veteran Charlie Frye. However, injuries and ineffective play from all three quarterbacks would lead to each of them starting at least three games during the season.
The 2010 season would be the Raiders’ best season record-wise since the Super Bowl year, as the team would finish at 8-8 and Gradkowski would find himself playing behind new starter Jason Campbell. Gradkowski would start four games that season, as Campbell would fall out of favor with Coach Tom Cable, but his season would be ended by an injury. Owner Al Davis’s preference of Campbell would see Cable relieved of his duties as coach and Gradkowski would be released at the end of the 2010 season.
4 Carson Palmer (24 Starts)
Carson Palmer was the 2002 Heisman Trophy Winner and spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before retiring due to his dissatisfaction with the Bengals organization. With his rights still held by the Bengals, the team would trade Palmer to the Raiders one month into the 2011 season, as the Raiders were in need of a QB due to the injury to starter Jason Campbell. The Raiders would finish the season with an 8-8 record, which would match their record from the previous season, but the Denver Broncos, with an equal 8-8 record, would win the tie-breaker over the Raiders, and would be crowned as Champions of the AFC West, ending the Raiders best chance at making the playoffs. However, it wasn't really thanks to Palmer that they finished 8-8, as he ended the year with an 4-5 record, throwing 13 touchdowns to 16 interceptions.
Palmer would start the 2012 season as the starter with Terrelle Pryor as his backup, but through 15 games, the Raiders would drop to 4-11 and an injury would end Palmer’s season, with Pryor talking the start in the final game. Palmer would leave after the season and would return to the level of the Pro Bowl quarterback that he was prior to his Raider years.
3 Jason Campbell (18 Starts)
Jason Campbell was traded for by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis because, according to reports, Campbell reminded Davis of former Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett. The inability for Campbell to co-exist with Redskins coach Jim Zorn would see him fall out of favor in Washington, costing Zorn his job, and opening the door for the Raiders to acquire him. However, Campbell would not be a favorite of Raiders’ coach Tom Cable and Cable’s insistence on playing Gradkowski over Campbell would cost Cable his job with the Raiders.
With both Cable and Gradkowski gone in 2011, Campbell would have a chance with Coach Hue Jackson, who the season before was the Raiders’ Offensive Coordinator. Campbell would start the first six games of the season and the Raiders would have a 4-2 record under Campbell, but a season-ending injury would derail his season. The Raiders would sign Carson Palmer, who would finish the season as the Raiders’ starting quarterback, and Campbell would become expendable. He's the only quarterback on this list with a winning record in Oakland over the time span and many believe that if he wasn't injured in 2011, the Raiders would've made the playoffs.
2 Rich Gannon (10 Starts)
Rich Gannon was the 2002 NFL Most Valuable Player and led the Raiders to the Super Bowl XXXVII. That season would be the last season to date in which the Raiders would qualify for the playoffs. Following the 2002 season, Gannon’s body would start to break down and, as a result, he would only start seven games during the season. Through Gannon’s seven starts, the Raiders’ record would be 2-5 and the team would only win two more games the rest of the way to finish at 4-12.
Gannon would beat out Kerry Collins for the starting job under new coach Norv Turner and the Raiders would go 2-1 with Gannon as quarterback. Unfortunately, Gannon would see his second consecutive season ended with an injury and the Raiders would finish the season at 5-11. Gannon would retire at the end of the 2005 season and would leave the team as the last QB to lead the team to the playoffs, until the next time that the team qualifies.
1 Derek Carr (35 Starts and Counting)
Derek Carr was the fourth quarterback taken in the 2014 NFL draft, but because of his play during the preseason, Carr would beat out Matt McGloin and Matt Schaub and be named the opening day starter for the Raiders. Carr would be the first rookie QB in Raiders history, and the only QB from his draft class, to open the season as the starter. Carr and the Raiders would lose their first 10 games before notching a win against the Chiefs in week 12. After losing the first ten games, Carr would go 3-3 as the starter to close out the season and Carr would be the first Raider QB to start all 16 games since Rich Gannon in 2002.
The following season, Carr would again start all 16 games and the Raiders would improve to 7-9. Carr would be selected to the Pro Bowl as a replacement for Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and Carr would be the first Raider quarterback named to the Pro Bowl since Gannon’s MVP season in 2002. With Carr at the helm, the Raiders’ future looks bright.
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