There is one mindset -- and one concept -- that every fan of every NFL team has in common. It can be summed up this way:
The 2012 season doesn't matter. The 2013 season, even less. The next three months? They are the most important three months in the history of the universe. Ever.
In that respect, then, the Raiders made a fabulous transaction Tuesday. They acquired quarterback Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals, purely on credit. They don't have to pay for him until next spring (when the Raiders will forfeit their first-round draft pick) and in the year after that (when they must forfeit either a first- or second-round pick).
"Probably the greatest trade in football, in my opinion," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said at the media conference Tuesday afternoon.
Hmmmm. Guess whose job is based on whether he wins now instead of in 2013?
The Raiders took a huge risk in picking up Palmer. Bully for them. Too many NFL teams never go out on a limb like this.
And the great part is, we are going to know almost immediately whether the limb snaps. The trade, implicitly, will be judged on whether Palmer takes the Raiders to the playoffs in 2011. Which means that the limb will be only as strong or as weak as Palmer's questionable throwing elbow that suffered ligament damage in 2008.
To his credit, Palmer isn't being defensive at all about it. He said he is "fully recovered" and is in good shape, though he admitted he has thrown "not enough" footballs in the last seven months.
"It's my job to prove I can do it," he said. "It's my job to answer that question."
The quick opinion here: If Palmer is good to go, the Raiders didn't do a totally stupid thing. And with that first-round pick next spring, there's no guarantee they wouldn't have drafted the next JaMarcus Russell, anyway. The Raiders, after nearly a decade of missing the playoffs, did not want to send a message (especially to their own players but also to the paying customers) that the team was giving up on 2011. Only if Palmer struggles will the fans in 2013 remember 2011.
So it's all on the table. Analysts can analyze. Cable network foghorns can foghorn. But there's no way we'll know if this was even close to being a good deal until Palmer straps on his pads and -- after a suitable period to shake off the rust -- starts running the Raiders offense.
There are doubters. In Cincinnati, where Palmer soared and then struggled before demanding a trade out of town, you will find plenty of people who say that the former USC quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner was done as an effective quarterback in 2008 after the elbow injury, which followed a horrible knee injury about three years earlier.
Palmer, in other words, has much to prove. But he still was the best option out there for the Raiders after starting quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone last Sunday. At the same time, Palmer at age 31 seems to surely realize that the Raiders as coached by Jackson are probably his best option to show he's still got some high-test gasoline in his arm. He also should find a comfort zone in his native California. Palmer is from Fresno. His wife is from Los Gatos. This won't be a culture clash for him.
Would the trade still have happened if Al Davis were still with us? That's possible. Davis lusted after big names and Heisman winners. But in a bigger sense, the most interesting part of Tuesday's deal is what it taught us about who is now running the Raiders after Davis' passing. Without question, it is Jackson. He is the one who telephoned Cincinnati and negotiated with general manager Mike Brown.
"I had relationships in Cincinnati," Jackson explained. "I know Mike."
This is true. Jackson worked there as an assistant coach for three seasons. They were among the best seasons of Palmer's career. No doubt, to close the deal, Jackson had to gain permission from new Raiders owner Mark Davis and longtime chief executive Amy Trask. But the heavy lifting, the meat and potatoes talks with the Bengals, were clearly conducted by Jackson.
Just listen to the way he answered a question about whether the Raiders gave up too much for Palmer. "I never hesitated," Jackson said. "I knew exactly what we're getting."
Also, when asked what he considered the second greatest trade in football, Jackson retorted: "I'll let you know when we make it."
So he's in charge of all Raiders football. Nothing wrong with that. If it works. We'll learn if it does over the next three months, too, as Palmer keeps taking snaps. Strangely, Jackson kept backing off Tuesday whenever reporters suggested he was pulling all the levers. We don't really know Mark Davis yet. But he doesn't seem the type to have an easily bruised ego.
Jackson ought to own this bold move. It puts his own career on the line, right alongside Palmer's. What's wrong with that? This is the best kind of sports story: Lots at stake and lots to watch between now and January, with no solid clues yet to forecast the outcome. Keep an eye on Palmer's right elbow. It officially becomes the most interesting elbow in Bay Area sports.
Now, not in 2012 or 2013.
Contact Mark Purdy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5092.