Jason Campbell scrambled up the middle yesterday, and when he hit the ground, he broke his collarbone. Oakland went on to win the game, moving to 4-2 in the AFC, one-half game behind the Chargers in the AFC West, and tied with the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Buffalo for the final playoff spot at the moment. Now, though, they turn to Kyle Boller, at least temporarily.
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports writes that the Raiders are pushing hard for “retired”-disgruntled Carson Palmer in a trade with the Bengals. A few problems stand in the way of such a move. First, Mike Brown. As Cole says, “Brown has never been a guy to give in to demands, even when they are logical.” Add in that the Bengals are one of the contenders in the AFC for a playoff spot at 4-2 also, and a trade that would strengthen the Raiders would lower their chances. So, even if logic and avoiding emotional decisions such as punishing Palmer at the expense of adding value to the team isn’t Mike Brown’s strong suit, in this case a trade does not make sense for Cincinnati unless it gets superb value.
The other problem: the Raiders do not have a 2nd, 3rd or 4th round pick in next year’s draft, so they may not have the trade value necessary to make the move. Do they really want to part with next year’s first also? I don’t see Cincinnati being swayed by a future mid-round pick delayed for a few years, particularly when they aren’t inclined to trade him anyway.
If they don’t make a trade for Palmer, then the options are stick with Boller, or sign someone who comes free of charge, like David Garrard (where there are questions about how committed he is to continue to play) or–gulp–Brett Favre.
Let’s try to assess the decisions facing the Raiders. Here’s the research on what a starting quarterback is worth. Jason Campbell is the very definition of a league average starting quarterback at this point. His yards per attempt is 7.2, similar to the last several years, and his league adjusted numbers are pretty much right at average. Of course, an average starting quarterback is a good thing when the alternative is below replacement level starter.
Kyle Boller is almost perfectly the definition of a sub-replacement level starter or backup. He’s 30, hasn’t played much in recent years, but his career numbers suggest he’s going to be a dropoff across the board. The Raiders aren’t going to fall apart–Darren McFadden is still the key to the offense, and they’ve still got playmakers at the receiver positions who can be used in other ways such as reverses–but the team’s offense will be worse off. That research would suggest you can expect somewhere around one less win over the course of a season.
The problem for Oakland, though, is that any drop in average win expectancy has dramatic effect on the playoff chances for a team currently projected to win between 9 and 10 games with Jason Campbell. They are right at the cusp; before this week’s win, they were 57.7% to make the playoffs according to Football Outsiders, and 50% according to Advanced NFL Stats, with average win projections in the 9.5 range. Those odds would go up slightly after the Cleveland result, though it wasn’t unexpected and the likelihood already accounted for.
Teams that win 10 games usually make the playoffs. Teams that win 9 games can, often at the whim of tiebreakers, and teams that win 8, they rarely do unless in a weak division or a down conference. Even if we drop the Raiders down by 1 win on the average win projection, that lowers their chances of making the playoffs by 25-30%.
So Oakland must decide if Carson Palmer is worth staving off most of that playoff likelihood drop for one season, or whether someone else out there that can be had for free is worth the upgrade over Boller given the lack of familiarity and practice with the team.
[photo via Getty]