Believe it or not, but the Raiders are on the brink of making one of the most brilliant personnel decisions in club history - whether it's intentional or not.
By dragging their feet on signing No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell, the mammoth, strong-armed quarterback from LSU, they have granted Daunte Culpepper a window of opportunity - albeit brief - to become Oakland's franchise signal-caller for who knows how long. After all, Culpepper is only three seasons removed from an all-world performance with the Vikings in 2004: 4,717 yards passing, 39 TD passes and a stunning 69.2 percent completion rate, and he says he's finally recovered from knee surgery.
When Culpepper became a free agent before training camps opened last month, every club presumably had a shot to sign him. After 20 or so days of shopping, with only one firm offer in hand (reportedly from Jacksonville), Culpepper surprised many by inking a one-year pact with the Raiders - who were seemingly set at quarterback with Andrew Walter and Josh McCown as temporary holdovers until the Russell era officially began. But with Russell's camp still holding out, Culpepper may have stumbled onto the most unlikely second-chance-at-stardom since John Travolta played "Vincent Vega" in the 1994 cult classic, Pulp Fiction.
In the Raiders' illustrious past - which includes at least one Super Bowl appearance in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 2000s - they have had five distinguished quarterbacks: Daryle Lamonica (1967-74), George Blanda (1967-75), Ken Stabler (1970-79), Jim Plunkett (1979-86) and Rich Gannon (1999-2004). Among this quintet, not one achieved stardom with the franchise (or anywhere else, really) earlier than their 26th birthday, respectively.
Daryle Lamonica - Led the Raiders to Super Bowl II at age 26 in 1967
Ken Stabler - Won Super Bowl XI at 31
Jim Plunkett - Won two Super Bowls (XV and XVIII) at 33 and 36, respectively
Rich Gannon - Won league MVP and led his team to Super Bowl XXXVII at 37
George Blanda - Won the Bert Bell Award at 43 in 1970 (also as the team's kicker)
Culpepper, who turned 30 on Jan. 28, is in the prime age to be a Raiders legend. He also possesses the physical traits that owner Al Davis covets: Great size (6-foot-4, 265 pounds), a go-for-broke attitude during crunch-time moments and a rocket arm tailor-made for the vertical passing game. Russell, by the way, has these same qualities; but in the last 35 years - from Marc Davis and Jeb Blount to Andrew Walter, Billy Joe Hobert and Todd Marinovich - the Raiders have had a porous track record with homegrown quarterbacks. Stabler aside, they've always been better off with another team's castoff.
As for the maniacal Raider Nation, squeaky-clean head coach Lane Kiffin (just 32 years old) or the larger-than-life Davis, neither has any pre-existing loyalties to Culpepper or Russell. I wouldn't be surprised if Culpepper became Oakland's present-day starter and led the franchise to a Super Bowl or two in his 30s - like all great Raider quarterbacks before him.
And eight years from now, a battle-tested Russell (who will turn 30 in 2015) could begin his own run of Raider dominance.