Gannon's injury fatal to Raiders' chances
Updated: Monday January 15, 2001 2:53 AM
Gannon orchestrated three come-from-behind victories this season, but Baltimore's pumped-up playoff defense was too much and Oakland lost the AFC title game 16-3 to the Ravens on Sunday.
Tony Siragusa knocked Gannon on his right shoulder early in the second quarter and he was never quite the same.
"I don't know if it would have made a difference if I had been 100 percent healthy," Gannon said. "They were a better football team [Sunday]."
Gannon brought the Raiders back against Indianapolis and Kansas City, and led the drive that beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime. Overall, he threw for 29 touchdown passes and ran for four more in the regular season.
All the while, he remained the Raiders' stoic leader, methodically marching them into their first postseason since 1994. He was picked for the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro Team.
"It's hard to look back on a season's success when you just got slapped in the face on your home court," Gannon said.
He also stayed miraculously healthy for such a mobile, 35-year-old quarterback -- until Siragusa's hit. The 340-pound tackle hit Gannon and fell on him, driving his shoulder into the ground.
"They say he's 340, but he's more like 360," Oakland center Barret Robbins said. "Obviously that's going to hurt you."
The Raider Nation was stunned. The crowd of more than 60,000 was silent as their hero was ushered slowly off the field and into the locker room.
Gannon said he was first hurt on the first series in the game, when he was hit after a Raiders' false start penalty. Siragusa's hit insured he wouldn't be his usual self.
But at the half, Gannon convinced head coach Jon Gruden he could return.
"I went with Rich Gannon," Gruden said. "I don't regret it, but I also know he wasn't the same after the injury.
"We have a relationship of trust and he felt he could throw the ball without being inhibited at all, and that's why we went with him."
Gannon started the second half but the damage had been done. Down 10-0, he took the Raiders to Baltimore's 2-yard line but underthrew his pass to Randy Jordan. Oakland settled for rookie kicker Sebastian Janikowski's field goal.
It would be the Raiders' only scoring for the game.
"It was a pretty humbling experience," Gannon said.
But the Raiders should have been able to get it done without his arm, Gannon said.
The Raiders had led the league in rushing this season, with 154.4 yards a game. Gannon and "The Committee," as the Raiders called their tight-knit corps of backs, usually found a way to get it done.
"I've always felt we could move the ball on the ground," Gannon said. "We didn't do that [Sunday], right from the very first play."
Leading rusher Tyrone Wheatley had 12 carries for only seven yards, and overall the Raiders had just 24 yards in rushing offense for the game.
As the clock wound down, Gannon knew when his time was up.
"I went to Jon and I said, 'You might as well put Bobby in,'" Gannon said.
Bobby Hoying replaced Gannon midway through the fourth quarter. The backup, who was just 0-for-2 in the regular season, took the Raiders down to the Baltimore 5, but Andre Rison was called for offensive pass interference, nullifying his catch in the end zone.
Baltimore linebacker Jamie Sharper ended the drive with an interception.
"I really felt that if we could have gotten something going when I was in there, we had a chance to turn things around," Hoying said. "But we didn't get it done.
"This is the most disappointed I've been in my short career."
It got so bad at times that even Oakland's rabid silver-and-black clad fans booed.
The Raiders figured their fans would be a little more supportive, providing that crucial home-field edge. They applauded wildly in pregame warmups.
But in the end, Baltimore prevailed and the Raider Nation headed home.
"The bottom line is that the Ravens had a lot to what happened [Sunday]," Gruden said.
"I really felt that if we could have gotten something going when I was in there, we had a chance to turn things around," Hoying said. "But we didn't get it done."
And it was over. The Raiders were headed home, just like that.
"This is the type of thing where all night long we'll be tossing and turning trying to figure out what we should have done differently," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "In the end, we didn't get it done. We didn't get the ultimate accomplishment."