Amidst the transactions wire in the NFL this week, we discover that the Oakland Raiders did something right. They signed QB J.P. Losman, a former Bills first-round pick who played under Jim Fassel for the UFL’s Las Vegas team this season. Oakland inked Losman for the final three games of 2009.
Losman never performed consistently in Buffalo, but he has good skills including the kind of strong arm that Raiders boss Al Davis has always coveted. Plus, unlike most late-season signees, Losman has gotten plenty of snaps this season (if at an inferior level of competition), and he also interned under a renowned quarterback guru in Fassel. None of those factors guarantee success, but they do fall on the plus side of the ledger.
That makes this low-cost look-see a nice gamble for the Raiders. At the least, the Losman signing lets bonus baby JaMarcus Russell know that the team isn’t happy with his performance. That message apparently hasn’t gotten through, as neither the Jeff Garcia preseason experiment nor the Bruce Gradkowski ascension seemed to enhance Russell’s performance or work ethic. And since Gradkowski is out with a knee injury, most likely for the rest of the season, the Raiders’ choices were to give Russell a free ride over the rest of the season or start Charlie Frye, which is all but a death wish. So if all this signing does is tell Russell that he needs to light a fire under his own behind, it’s worth it.
But this three-week flier could pay off even bigger. If Losman truly has grown as a quarterback in his time in the NFL, he has the pure talent to start in the NFL. Talent is far from the only determinant of a quarterback’s success, but it does matter. There’s a chance that Losman could emerge as a starter, much like Jim Plunkett did a couple of generations ago. That’s a gamble that some team with quarterback quandaries – teams like Carolina, St. Louis, Cleveland, or even Seattle (which has an aging quarterback and no heir apparent) – needed to take. So credit to the Raiders for taking this chance. Even if it doesn’t pan out, it’s a smart move.