The Raiders lost their starting quarterback because of the shoulder injury to Bruce Gradkowski. At the same time, they just might have gained something lacking at times this season.
Jason Campbell will make his eighth start at quarterback Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, perhaps providing the kind of stability the Raiders had during their three-game win streak. During that spell, Campbell was allowed to play without worry of Gradkowski replacing him at some point.
"Offense is all about chemistry and continuity and getting a feel for each other and learning each other, especially when you don't have a lot of years together," Campbell said of sharing the position with Gradkowski. "You try to make the best of it until you can get to the point where you want to be. It's all a work in progress. You can't get down, can't get frustrated."
Gradkowski has started four games and replaced Campbell in the second half of two others. Campbell relieved Gradkowski after he suffered a separated shoulder against the Chargers on Oct. 10.
The back-and-forth has forced the rest of the offensive players to adjust to the different styles of both quarterbacks. Three times they've had to do it in the middle of a game.
"It's frustrating because you don't get that much time in with the quarterback because we changed," wide receiver Louis Murphy said. "But at the end of the day, we still have to go out and perform with whoever is back there."
This wasn't the original plan. Coach Tom Cable named Campbell the unquestioned starter on the eve of training camp, citing the fact Gradkowski missed all of the offseason workouts while recovering from a torn pectoral muscle.
Campbell struggled in Oakland's regular-season opener, and he was benched at halftime of the second game. Gradkowski guided the Raiders to a come-from-behind victory against the St. Louis Rams that day, and he started the next three games.
Campbell started five straight games while Gradkowski recovered from his first bout with a separated shoulder. But he was replaced by Gradkowski late in the third quarter of the last of those starts, a 35-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 21.
"Sometimes, a coach has a feel, and things need to change," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. "We don't like to play musical chairs at quarterback, but sometimes you do whatever you think you have to do to win."
Cable said Campbell "earned the right" to start against the Steelers, even though Gradkowski was, in the coach's words, "100 percent," and had promised the job to Gradkowski once he reached that point.
From Cable's standpoint, Campbell lost the right to start against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday because Gradkowski finally had reached full health.
"I didn't understand the whole thing," Campbell said. "(Cable) explained to me that when Bruce is healthy, fully healthy, he goes back in as the starter. My thing was, in the Pittsburgh game, I was like, 'Well, he was healthy.' "
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said he and his teammates try to prevent the lingering issue from becoming a teamwide distraction.
"They share reps a lot of times during practice, so you might have guys wondering who's going to be the starter, but, at the end of the day, we just hope that the offense is going to put up points," Asomugha said.
Perhaps coincidentally, the Raiders played their best offensively when Gradkowski and Campbell were the unquestioned starters.
Cable said who plays quarterback shouldn't matter because the skill sets of both are comparable in terms of what they are asked to do within the scheme.
"The routes, the depth of them didn't change, the drop of the quarterback didn't change," Cable said. "No, I wouldn't say that's an issue."
Cable concedes that Campbell and Gradkowski have different personalities.
"Jason is a strong, quiet type, Bruce is a little more outgoing, but that's just who they are," Cable said. "In terms of the systems and what we ask the quarterback to do, it's about execution."
Murphy agrees it's on him and his teammates to make the necessary adjustment.
"They have different styles, we have different hookups with them," Murphy said. "Certain passes, each one throws differently. But we've played with both of them for a fair time, and it's really no excuse. We just got to keep going out and making plays."