Disaster In Oakland: The Carson Palmer Era Starts, Sputters, Stops

At home against the Kansas City Chiefs. With a win, the Oakland Raiders would be alone atop the AFC West. Instead the silver and black found themselves sucked into a nightmare of their own creation: the abyss that is the Black Hole.

The Black Hole in Oakland, historically reserved for the intimidation of opponents on Sunday, found itself the home for bad football. Though not slated to start, Carson Palmer’s first game as a Raider was supposed to mark a turning point for the team. The trade for Palmer energized a team and a fan base and even sparked discussion of the Raiders as a team that would battle for the AFC crown.

The Raiders entered week 7 at 4-2, mere percentage points behind San Diego for the division lead. By the time the game kicked off, the Chargers had already lost, paving the way for Oakland. And with everything that had transpired the previous week, the Chiefs were sure to be walking into a buzz saw. Right?

What happened next, well… Simply put, Hue Jackson’s “greatest trade in football” couldn’t have blown up in his any worse than this.

A Bad Start, A Worse Finish

Kyle Boller got the start and he should have. It was the Chiefs, mild underachievers at best, and Carson Palmer was in no shape to come into a game with just three days of preparation after not playing for almost a year.  Plans, oh how they can change in a hurry. At times the coach makes that decision… other times the decision is made for him. This was one of those other times.

With Darren McFadden in the backfield, Jackson thought he could afford to wait another week before turning the offense over to Palmer. That idea lasted all of two carries and one reception before McFadden left with a heel injury. Now what happened next I imagine had to be one of the most difficult things Hue Jackson has had to do in his coaching career. Put the game into the hands of Kyle Boller, and ask him to win it through the air.

Al Davis is already spinning in his freshly-turned grave at the notion. Boller dropped back on Oakland’s first series and threw a pass to the left sideline that Kendrick Lewis intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Forced into action by the failure of a quarterback that is Kyle Boller, Palmer took off the ball cap and did nothing to ease the tension of Raider fans. Palmer even matched Boller with an ugly pick-six of his own.

After all the talk this week about who would start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, it didn’t much matter. Boller and Palmer were equally bad. Any thoughts of a grand unveiling of their new quarterback took a back seat to the thought, “Did we make the right trade?”

Boller and Palmer each threw three interceptions and the Kansas City Chiefs took advantage to win their third straight game, 28-0. It was their most lopsided road win ever against the Raiders.

A Division Still Up For Grabs

The Raiders didn’t seem ready to play against the Chiefs, and they got beat down by a team that’s suddenly feeling much better about itself. Guess who else does too: the Denver Broncos, the next challenger on the Oakland schedule. Yes it is only one game but the Raiders now find themselves asking questions they already assumed had been answered.

Suddenly the AFC West is the most intriguing division in the NFL. The Chargers are loosely holding on to the lead, and there have been quarterback changes in Oakland and Denver that have attracted a lot of attention. Then there are the Chiefs, winners of three in a row, whose coach Todd Haley was rumored to be on the chopping block just a few weeks ago.

Where do the Raiders go from here? Does this and the complete lack of a 2012 draft doom the team? Kyle Boller is a known quantity of suck, but did Carson show anything at all that might make you think he could still lead this team? With Oakland heading into the bye week, we’ll have to wait two long weeks to find out.

New collective bargaining agreement rules require that players be given four consecutive days off during the bye, so Palmer will have to convince some of his new teammates to give up some of their free time to help him. If those players are truly about the cause of winning, they’ll train with Palmer for the team’s best interests.