Jimmy Garoppolo And The Ghosts Of Raiders Past

By Peter Mann

The Raiders made the decision to move on from Derek Carr this offseason, instead bringing in Jimmy Garoppolo to lead their offense. ‘Jimmy G’ has experience working with head coach Josh McDaniels, and Raider Nation will be hoping he can help take this franchise back to relevance. As Peter Mann writes, to do that, he will be measured against some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL:

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“The most important number, for me, at that position, is ‘does he get wins on the board?’, and generally, he does that.” Raiders Head Coach, Josh McDaniels, on franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.

There’s a ghost floating over the AFC West, and the quarterbacks of Las Vegas Raiders past as owner Mark Davis, and head coach Josh McDaniels, continually look to restore the Silver & Black to former glories, and greatness – up steps Jimmy Garoppolo.

In replacing one veteran quarterback, Derek Carr (2014-2022), with eventually another, in two-time Super Bowl winner, Jimmy G, the Raider Nation will be hoping, praying that, despite his having a career slightly blighted by injury, the recent surgery not only puts that to bed, but cannons the Raiders back to the top.

Carr, who had nine seasons leading the rough and ready Raiders and  becoming a four-time Pro Bowl pick (2015-17, 2022) would only see two play-off appearances, losing Wild Card outings against the Houston Texans (21-14, January 2017) and the Cincinnati Bengals (26-19, January 2022).

He may have racked up the most starts of a Raiders quarterback (142), but his record is not only a losing one (63-79), he’s also been overshadowed by those ghosts of the Raiders’ illustrious past.

These are quarterbacks who have won divisional championships, conference championships, and even Super Bowl titles; the Raiders weren’t called ‘Team of the Decades’ for nothing. Now though, that weight of history is firmly on the shoulders of Garoppolo.

Head Coach McDaniels had his say when discussing Garoppolo’s integration into – and winning over the locker room – at the recent Raiders training camp:

“I’m excited for him to be out there, and I know he’s excited to be out there too. Jimmy gives a lot of time and effort into conversations, non-football related, and I think that would be same…..other people trying to get to know one another.”

“It’s how much you put into it, how much you care about where they come from, what their family situation is like, where they’re at in life, their career. And I think that’s important for anybody trying to create relationships, and especially at the position of quarterback in the NFL where you want to be a leader on your football team.”

“You have to be an elite communicator on the field, so to be able to try and do that and establish those relationships is important; I’ll let the players speak for that in terms of how they feel, what he has or hasn’t done, anything like that.”

“But, I feel comfortable with who he is and how he goes about that.”

Garoppolo is an Arlington Heights native who – despite being the understudy to the Tom Brady-inspired New England Patriots – is a two-time Super Bowl champion (XLIX and LI), whilst also having led the San Francisco 49ers to an appearance at Super Bowl LIV (lost 34-20 to the Raiders’ divisional rivals, Kansas City Chiefs).

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Now heading into his tenth season, Garoppolo has amassed a 40-17 winning record – his best season having been, unsurprisingly, the Niners’ run to the Super Bowl in what was the NFLs centenary season. It would be a season which saw him post a 13-3 record, passing for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

For the record, Carr’s best season, with the Raiders, was in 2021, posting a 10-7 record, passing for 4,804 yards, 23 TDs, and 14 INTs.

When alluding to the weight that’s now on Garoppolo’s shoulders – a weight Carr carried for his nine seasons with the franchise – some 19 starting quarterbacks have taken to the field since the season showpiece was last reached in 2002.

The list is impressive: Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham (2022), EJ Manuel (2017), Matt McGloin (2013 and 2016), Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller (2011), Jason Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter (2006 and 2008), Daunte Culpepper (2007), Josh McCown (2007), Aaron Brooks (2006), Marques Tuiasosopo (2003 and 2005), Kerry Collins, and Rick Mirer (2003).

That’s NINETEEN quarterbacks, in just two decades, dating back to the aftermath of the Super Bowl run of 2002, and from which beforehand the Raiders’ quarterback stable was seen to be a rich one indeed, one which had seen around 45 years of near greatness.

Including the (1999-2004) Rich Gannon-led Raiders of the late nineties, early noughties, just eight quarterbacks have played more than fifty times for the franchise since Tom Flores donned the jersey in the 1960s (1960-66), he being the Raider Nations’ first.

Before the millennium, those ghosts in which a talented, experience Jimmy Garoppolo has to contend with are the aforementioned Flores, as well as Ken ‘the snake’ Stabler (1970-79) and Jim Plunkett (1988-96), as well as Jeff Hostetler, Jay Schroeder, Marc Wilson, and Daryle Larmonica, longevity a thing of the Raiders franchise.

For Garoppolo, to look at what quarterback success and the Raider Nation means, he need look no further than the three, benchmarks of Flores, Stabler, and Plunkett.

Flores was the first in Silver and Black. The California-born former player and coach was actually an undrafted player in 1958 and, after several, failed attempts to turn professional, would join the Raiders in 1960, going on to start 63 games.

It would be with their divisional rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, in Super Bowl IV, that Flores would win his only title as a player. But as a coach, the former quarterback would with the Raiders bring home three Lombardi trophies.

Firstly as an assistant to the legendary John Madden, Flores helped the Raiders defeat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 (XI), And later, he would add another two as defeats were inflicted on the Philadelphia Eagles (27-10, XV), and the Washington Redskins (38-9, XVIII) – it was a Raider-dominated eighties.

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Stabler is a name which is synonymous with the history of the franchise, and rightly so; the record of a stunning seventies is phenomenal. And following a quiet first three seasons in Oakland, ‘The Snake’ racked up seven straight winning seasons, eventually registering a 69-26-1 record, and bagging 16+ TDs for six, straight seasons.

Those seventies Raiders would claim six AFC West titles (1970, 1972-76), one AFC Conference (1976) and Super Bowl XI, as the Oakland Coliseum became a daunting fortress for visiting franchises.

Now, if Ken Stabler set the bar, then Jim Plunkett raised it during those heady eighties. Plunkett’s career actually being akin to that of Garoppolo’s in that he started with New England (1971-75), before moving to the Niners (1976-77), ahead of joining the Raiders for what was the best spell of his career.

As with Stabler, it was to be a non-plus start in the Silver and Black for Plunkett. A mixed seven seasons (four winning, three losing), putting together a 38-19 overall winning record, collecting 80 TDs along the way. And, like Stabler before him, Plunkett’s eighties would see five play-off appearances, two division titles, (1983 and 1985), two conference titles (1980 and 1983) and two Super Bowls – XV and XVIII – with the 1983 title bringing in his most successful campaign.

En-route to the 1983 title, and with a 12-4 regular season marker to take the AFC West, the Raiders would then be seen to topple the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers 38-10, and take the conference game against theSeattle Seahawks 30-14 – both games held at the Raiders’ Coliseum fortress. That year, Plunkett passed for 2,935 yards, 20TDs, and 18 INTs.

More than half of Plunkett’s career was spent with the Raiders, his tenure encompassing the move from the Oakland Coliseum (1966-1981) to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (1982-1994), as well as finding himself as being part of an historical footnote which nobody aspires to have on their resume. The Raiders’ last campaign at the Oakland Coliseum (1981) also saw them post a 7-9 losing record, finishing bottom of the West. It snapped a winning streak which was some sixteen seasons in the making, dating back to the mid-1960s (164-57; 1964-1980)

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Adding to Garoppolo’s integration, Raiders HC McDaniels said of Jimmy, the player:

“There’s a lot of things a quarterback is responsible for.”

“Jimmy’s always taking care of the football, he’s been a player that’s performed well under pressure, he’s played in some significant games, some big situations; he’s done what some weeks, throwing a little more, and some weeks it wasn’t.”

“He’s had some responsibility to get in and out of some plays, which quarterbacks do, and he’s generally done a decent job of that; he’s a good thrower of the football and there’s a lot of things.”

“Any quarterback that wins is going to do a lot of things well, and there’s a lot of guys in the NFL that have done it, Jimmy’s done it as well and I know we’ll see if we can’t try to replicate some of the success he’s had.”

“That’s obviously why we have him, and we’re excited about the things he does well. I know he’s eager to try to improve on some things he maybe didn’t feel he was ready to do at a high level and we’ll try to address, identify those as we go.”

“But he’s generally giving his football team the opportunity to win.”

When Garoppolo pulls on that famous silver and black jersey, Raider Nation will, without question, be clamouring for him to produce the form of 2019, 13-3, and a run to the Super Bowl.

A strong link-up on the field with six-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams will help Jimmy G deliver early success to Las Vegas. Are playoffs a legitimate goal for this franchise behind the arm of their new quarterback? Eventually, only the ultimate success enjoyed by his successors will lead to immortalising Garoppolo into Raiders folklore.

Feature Image: John Locher / ASSOCIATED PRESS