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Gannon finds comfort zone under center in Oakland
Posted: Wednesday December 13, 2000 1:17 PM
By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com
Leading Oakland's first postseason drive since 1993 is journeyman Rich Gannon, playing for his fourth team in the last nine seasons.
A fourth-round choice by New England in the 1987 NFL Draft, Gannon was the 98th player selected, as a quarterback/running back out of Delaware. He was traded in May '87 to Minnesota.
Gannon saw limited action his first two seasons, then took a majority of the snaps in 1990-92. Still, he never felt secure under head coaches Jerry Burns and Dennis Green. "It is not what they said to me. It's what they didn't say to me," says Gannon. "You need a [head coach] who is going to let you go to war and battle week-in and week-out to be supportive of you, stand behind you. And I feel like, you know, I had that feeling in high school, I had it in college, but I never had it in the National Football League until I got here to Oakland."
After five seasons in Minnesota, Gannon was traded to Washington in 1993, then sat out the '94 season. "I had shoulder surgery and I was out of football," he says. "Obviously, I continued to rehab and work out and stay very active that way, and was ready to play in the fall, but there just wasn't really very many opportunities with the injuries and so on and so forth."
To keep himself busy away from the field, Gannon literally hit the rails. "I built a train layout in my basement, a toy train layout. That's basically what I did. So, I just a spent a lot of time with my wife ... shoveled some snow ... that was about it. I live in Minnesota in the offseason, so that's what I did."
In 1995, Gannon signed with Kansas City, where he backed up Steve Bono for two seasons and played second fiddle to Elvis Grbac in '97. Gannon shared the starter's job with Grbac in '98, playing in 12 games -- his most action since '92.
The Raiders signed Gannon as a free agent in 1999. He earned a Pro Bowl spot by compiling a career-best 3,840 yards and 24 touchdown passes. This season, he has continued to elevate his game, posting a career-best 91.4 QB rating (minimum eight games) and is on pace to eclipse his '99 TD-pass total.
Oakland head coach Jon Gruden describes his 12th-year QB as someone who is never satisfied. It's a label Gannon doesn't discount. "In this business, I think that the minute that you start to feel comfortable about what you've done and what your team has done that you are apt to put yourself in a pretty bad situation," says Gannon. "I was told a long time ago, when I first got in this business, that the minute that you think that you've finally arrived, they are already looking for someone to replace you.
"That has always been my philosophy, maybe my edge, if you will, and so I've always tried to approach the game that way, and I just try and stay focused on the next task at hand. And I think that that has kind of helped keep me grounded a little bit and that's kind of been my philosophy and approach."
With 11 victories, the Raiders have posted their highest win total since 1990 (12). And to the victor go the spoils, hence there is a ground swell of support for Gannon as league MVP. "Oh, it's very flattering," he says. "But I'll be honest with you, I'm a little uncomfortable even discussing, only because I've never really focused on individual accomplishments. I've always tried to focus on team goals. And so while that would be quite on honor. I just assume, at this point in the season, to focus on what I can do to help the Raiders be successful every Sunday."
| Biding their time |
Even with six playoff spots decided, the races have been so close this year that not one division title has been clinched yet -- the first time in 20 years (Week 15 of 1980) that there are no division winners this late in a season.
| Be like Mike |
Denver is the hottest team in the NFL right now with six wins in a row, fueled by 27-year-old rookie RB Mike Anderson's 769 yards rushing and nine touchdowns (1,353 yards, 13 TDs for the season).
| Bear hunting |
Baltimore is on pace (158 points) to break the NFL record of the 1986 Chicago Bears (187) for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season. The Ravens last week clinched the first playoff berth in their five-year existence.
| Marching in |
New Orleans will capture its first division crown since 1991 with a win against Atlanta and a St. Louis loss. The Saints clinch their first playoff berth since '92 with a win and either a Detroit loss or tie or a Tampa Bay loss.
| Flattery -- Baltimore's Brian Billick and Philadelphia's Andy Reid have earned the first postseason berths among the seven-member freshman Class of 1999 head coaches. |
| Flag -- Washington owner Daniel Snyder has asked the NFL to waive a $50 million payment toward his team's nearly half-billion dollars of debt. Should have thought about that before signing the 1991 Pro Bowl team last offseason.
| Flattery -- Dallas RB Emmitt Smith had 150 yards rushing, tying Barry Sanders' record by surpassing 1,000 yards for the 10th consecutive season, and became the third player in NFL history with 15,000 career yards. |
| Flag -- Rookie WRs Ron Dixon and R. Jay Soward were suspended for the Giants' and Jaguars' game, respectively, for disciplinary actions. Remember, first impressions are lasting. |
| New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks rushed for 108 yards in Week 15 against San Francisco to become the first player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 400 yards in the same season (threw for 441 vs. Denver in Week 14). || |
| Sunday against Detroit, N.Y. Jets play for their second 10-win season in past three seasons (12-4 in 1998), and aim for fifth consecutive win against NFC and first four-game season sweep of NFC since '82.
| Minnesota DE John Randle has 8.0 quarterback sacks and needs 2.0 to tie Carolina's Reggie White (1985-93) for most consecutive 10-sack seasons with nine. |
| Cincinnati is averaging 173.4 rushing yards in its past 11 games (1,907 yards). The Bengals boast the NFL's best rushing attack (150.4), and lead the AFC with 4.8 yards/carry average. |
| Washington at Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. EST Saturday) -- The final game at Three Rivers Stadium, home to four Super Bowl champions -- which is as close to a Lombardi Trophy as the Skins will get to this season.
| Green Bay at Minnesota (1 p.m. EST) -- Decimated by injuries, it's remarkable the Packers are still in the playoff race. If Green Bay hopes to remain a contender, winning in the Metrodome (2-8 in past 10) is paramount. |
| Tennessee at Cleveland (1 p.m. EST) -- How many QBs will Browns head coach Chris Palmer deploy this week? It's pathetic that such a once-proud organization has fallen to gimmicks under center. Dog o' the day, no doubt. |
| Indianapolis at Miami (4:15 p.m. EST) -- The Dolphins can clinch a playoff spot with a victory. The Colts, coming off a huge emotional win Monday night, need a victory to keep their hopes alive; a loss gives the Jets a berth. |
| St. Louis at Tampa Bay (9 p.m. EST Monday) -- A tale of two teams -- or would it be four? Bottom line: Depending on which Rams team shows up to play which Bucs team will be deciding factor. |
| If Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis rushes for 114 yards in the next two weeks, he will join the Denver Broncos' Mike Anderson (1,353) as only the second set of rookies in history to rush for 1,300 yards in their first season. The Los Angeles Rams' Eric Dickerson (1,808) and Seattle's Curt Warner (1,449) did it in 1983.
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