By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

Re-signing Jeff George might be the sanest thing Al Davis has done in the last decade.

For those of you wondering why he did it, I ask you to look around NFL rosters and examine the backup quarterback situations of most NFL teams.

You think Jeff George has collected dust?

The Redskins' offseason acquisition, Todd Collins, threw 27 passes in eight seasons as the backup in Kansas City. In four of his eight K.C. seasons, Collins never launched a ball in anger or joy.

You know who's backing up David Carr in Houston? Sage Rosenfels, a QB who stunk at Iowa State. If Tom Brady goes down, New England fans will get a nice look at Matt Cassel, which is something USC fans never had to do. Kansas City's backup quarterback situation is in such bad shape that Chiefs fans long for Collins.

You laugh at Al Davis and Art Shell. You laugh because you can't fight your hypocritical nature.

If you were sitting in Davis' and Shell's shoes, you'd be tempted to do the exact same thing. The Raiders have the most lethal weapon in football -- Randy Moss -- and they're paying a fortune for it.

The weapon doesn't ignite without a strong-armed quarterback to pull the trigger. Say what you want about Jeff George's career won-loss record, his scraps with coaches, his toughness in the pocket and his long layoff from active duty, but no one can deny that Moss and George once shared a magical chemistry; no one can deny that George has played terrifically for stretches.

Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo, the Raiders' QB trio before George, would love to finish with George's résumé (27,000 yards, 154 TDs). George won Rookie of the Year in 1990 with the Colts. He threw for 4,100 yards and 24 TDs with the Falcons in 1995. He led the league in passing yards and had a 29-9 TD-to-INT ratio with the Raiders in 1997. And in 1999, he relieved an ineffective Randall Cunningham midway through the season and hooked up with Moss and Cris Carter, rallying the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs, where the Vikes beat the Cowboys.

You listen to everyone laugh at the Raiders for signing George and you get the impression that George stunk the whole time he was in the NFL. It's just not true. He was inconsistent and hamstrung by horrible defenses, bad environments and his own terrible decisions.

He gets viciously criticized because we all recognize he had the talent to be one of the league's all-time greats. He severely underachieved. But he was far from a bust. He's No. 40 on the NFL's all-time passing yardage list. No. 39 is Joe Namath. No. 42 is Steve McNair.

There's no reason Jeff George can't be a backup quarterback for the next couple of years.

I can guarantee you that he still has one of the three best arms in the league. He can throw every single pass with amazing accuracy and touch. He talked the Raiders into this tryout by sending them a workout tape of himself that his wife filmed. When you see George's arm at work, it's impossible not to fantasize about the possibilities.

Jeff is like the hottest girlfriend you ever had.

Oh, she might've been bat-spit crazy, slept with all of your boyz and is in need of medication, but two or three months after the breakup all you really remember is the great sex, the weekends in Vegas and the two-month, drama-free period when you thought you'd found your very own Halle Berry.

And you know what? Under the right conditions, you'd take her back, and you'd even bring her around your boyz again. But there would be no talk of a serious relationship, no public affection, no contact with your parents, very little kissing, and you'd eat out at Applebee's or maybe Red Lobster on a special occasion.

Don't act like you wouldn't. If you're over 25, don't act like you haven't. This is real talk.

If you go into it with your eyes open, you can milk two or three years of friends-with-benefits happiness out of it, and have the freedom to bag any of her friends without a bit of guilt.

And you're questioning Al Davis and the Raiders?

They can't lose. They signed the most talented backup QB available for very little money. They have all the leverage.

George has generally played his best football when his back is against the wall and he has something to prove. He had his big year in Atlanta when he was campaigning for a new contract. He was awesome his first year in Oakland, the season after Atlanta dumped him. He lit it up in Minnesota when he was on a one-year deal and had been run out of Oakland by Jon Gruden.

George could never get things rolling in Washington because neither Norv Turner nor Marty Schottenheimer wanted George. He was Daniel Snyder's idea.

Right now there's no guarantee George will even make the Raiders' roster. He could get cut after tonight's preseason finale against Seattle.

But it's foolish to blast Davis and Shell for doing what makes perfect sense to anyone with the brains to look beyond the easy jokes about George.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for The Kansas City Star. He can be reached by e-mail at ballstate68@aol.com. Sound off to Page 2 here.


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