On the bright side, Jason Campbell's first home game as an Oakland Raider was a real crowd-pleaser.
Before the first half of Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams was over, Campbell's new fans were not-so-kindly requesting the presence of his backup. Before the second half was over, they were hailing that backup, Bruce Gradkowski, as a folk hero.
"Of course it's disappointing," said Campbell, who was acquired from the Washington Redskins during the offseason for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. "But at the same time, I didn't want to be a distraction to the team. It's bigger than me. It's not about me, it's about the team."
That team looked sluggish in the first half, lugging a 7-3 deficit into the intermission. That team looked reborn in the second half, outscoring, outgaining, outplaying and outhitting the woebegone Rams en route to a 16-14 victory.
It would be simplistic to pin the turnaround solely on coach Tom Cable's decision to replace Campbell with Gradkowski. But you couldn't deny the difference in the bottom line.
Under Campbell, the Raiders gained 130 yards on five first-half possessions. Their first drive died on downs at the St. Louis 6-yard line. The second ended on a missed field goal attempt. The next ended with a punt. The fourth netted a field goal and the fifth ended when Campbell's overthrow of Louis Murphy was intercepted.
Campbell's afternoon ended as well.
"Yeah, I was surprised,"
Gradkowski led the Raiders to a field goal on their first drive of the second half, and a touchdown on their second. He finished 11 of 22 for 162 yards, one touchdown and one interception (on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage). He was more mobile, more fluid and seemed to have a better feel for when the pass rush was closing in.
"That's just him," Cable said. "That's his personality. That's the way he is every day. He just loves to get after it and go for it."
Campbell is going for a career rebirth in Oakland after four more-down-than-up seasons with the Redskins. Before Sunday, you had to like his chances. He was replacing JaMarcus Russell, the lowest bar that ever was. In training camp, team owner Al Davis compared him to Jim Plunkett.
Then there he was, watching the Raiders' merry second-half rally from a spot on the sideline. He couldn't be happy personally, but he couldn't openly display his displeasure.
"Like I told Bruce," he said, "I said, 'This is a business.' It's nothing personal."
Someone asked him if he thought he'd start next week's game at Arizona, but that can't possibly be a question. Gradkowski was too good Sunday, too dynamic. That's not to be confused with nominating a guy for the Hall of Fame, or even the Week 3 starter. And yes, the Rams now have lost 27 of their past 28 games.
Then again, this was the Raiders' first win in a home opener since 2004. They're in no position to mess with a winning streak, even if it is one in a row.
"I'll worry about all that tomorrow," Cable said, charitably, when asked about next week's starting quarterback. "Today was about winning this game."
"I don't know what decisions have been made," Campbell said quietly in a noisy postgame locker room. "My job is to come to work Monday and just work out and do what I have to do each and every week."
Don't worry, he gets it. He knows there's a great chance that Cable hasn't made his last quarterback switch of the season. Having been here a whole two months, he likely knows that Davis' voice will be heard at some point, and perhaps already has.
On the other hand, who expects to make a first impression in the new hometown by having a teammate become a hero your expense?
"It's not what he had planned," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "You do feel for him, but he's a fighter, he's a winner, and we don't know what's going to happen next. Just talking to him, he knows that it's a long season and anything can happen."
And already has.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.