Pace and presence also are demanded of an NFL quarterback today. Without them, he's, well, Marc Wilson. It's not that Wilson (19 of 28 for 314 yards) is a bad quarterback; it's that he's bad by comparison. Any self-respecting contender or team of the future has a quarterback named Elway or Schroeder or McMahon or Archer or O'Brien or Kelly—a big, thick guy who can throw it through that brick wall from 25 yards and then throw the next three through the hole he just made. By comparison, Wilson often throws changeups.
The other knock on Wilson is that, in the words of one former NFL All-Pro, "He can't play with pain." He sat out against the Giants with a slightly separated shoulder, and, when asked how the protection was against the Chargers, said, "It was O.K.... at times." He was sacked on eight plays and fumbled once. Half the sacks could be blamed on Wilson's inability to get the ball off quickly. Says Plunkett, now a 39-year-old backup to Wilson, "The way it is now you have to throw quickly sometimes. You have to against blitzes or you'll go through two or three quarterbacks a year."
With the Raiders' step back from the brink, maybe Sunday was indeed not an end but a beginning. Williams awakened Wilson with eight catches for 143 yards, and Hester atoned for early-season drops at Denver. An NFL center once said that potential is a French word meaning you aren't worth a damn yet. And if the Raiders don't realize their potential soon, they may end up with Plunkett at quarterback again. No offense to Marc Wilson. In fact, hardly any offense at all.