For Steve Beuerlein, the biggest sack of all appears to lie just ahead.
Raider Coach Mike Shanahan did everything but make it official Monday that Jay Schroeder will be his starting quarterback when the team takes the field in Denver next Monday night against the Broncos.
"I will talk to the players before I do anything," Shanahan said. "I will evaluate (Schroeder's) progress to determine if he does come into a starting role. I'll have a better feeling over the next couple of days how he's handling the system. I'm not going to put him in until he feels comfortable with the game plan. When he's ready, he'll be put into a starting role."
So, apparently, the only thing that would keep Beuerlein in the starting job would be Schroeder's inability to finish devouring the Raider playbook by game time. That seems pretty unlikely when you consider that the day of the Denver game will be the 22nd since the trade was made, bringing Schroeder from the Washington Redskins for offensive tackle Jim Lachey and several draft choices. People have devoured War and Peace in less time.
And it's not as if he's trying to learn a foreign language. The terminology may be different but not the mechanics. And Schroeder is a veteran in his fifth pro season, not some rookie.
Schroeder, of course, could not be blamed for taking his time on that playbook. Not after what he saw Sunday when Beuerlein was helpless behind an offensive line depleted by injuries and the Lachey trade. The result was 9 sacks by the Rams. Watching Gary Jeter and his friends tee off on the helpless Beuerlein might have caused the bravest of souls to slow his learning process.
And in case Schroeder was wondering, there are no reinforcements in sight.
Lachey is obviously not coming back. Don Mosebar, the anchor of the line, may also miss the Monday night game because of the ankle sprain he sustained a week earlier against the Houston Oilers.
"He's doubtful," Shanahan said. "There is a chance he'll play Monday night, but right now he's having a hard time putting any weight on that foot."
The report was a little more promising on center Bill Lewis. With Lachey, Mosebar and Brian Holloway--he has a separated shoulder--already gone or out, the Raiders needed another injury to that offensive line the way the Fridge needs an extra helping of French fries. But Lewis sprained an ankle against the Rams and left in the third quarter. Shanahan said Lewis is "probable" for the Bronco game. If not, John Gesek will start.
As for starting Schroeder, it's a tough call.
On the one hand, there is Beuerlein, who started the season without a down of regular-season experience in the National Football League.
Yet on a team with a history of big-play, bomb-throwing quarterbacks, Beuerlein, in just his third game, withstood that horrendous rush Sunday to complete 19 of 38 passes for 375 yards and 2 touchdowns, the third best day, in terms of yardage, in Raider history. Only Cotton Davidson with 419 yards in 1964, and Tom Flores with 407 in '63, have been better in the regular season. And they achieved their totals in the old, wide-open American Football League days.
So how do you tell this 23-year-old kid to please have a seat and we'll call you when we need you?
On the other hand, why make the trade if you're not going to use Schroeder?
He can certainly match statistics with Beuerlein and then some. In his first full year with Washington, Schroeder threw for a club-record 4,109 yards. In games he played, including the postseason, the Redskins were 27-8.
Shanahan said: "Like I said all along, Steve is an excellent quarterback, who, if the draft were held today, would be a No. 1 draft choice. At the same time, Jay has experience with a fine football team, an excellent won-lost record and he's been there before. Jay is the type of person we felt would fit well into our system with the type of people we have. Jay has had a number of those 300-yard games and he has had a few more games played than Steve.
"In this day and age in the NFL, you have to have two quarterbacks. Very seldom does a quarterback last through a 16-game season, not even talking about the playoffs."
That said, though, you have to believe that the Raiders would trade one of those two right now if they could get their hands on a top offensive lineman, no names mentioned.
When he talks to his team about the situation, Shanahan was asked, will his goal be to avoid a split over a quarterback controversy?
"I told the team from the start," he replied, "that Jay was brought in because he's the type of person who can make a difference in our football team.
"That's not to take anything away from Steve Beuerlein. Steve has been doing a great job. He's got the toughness you look for and he's very competitive. He comes up with the big plays.
"I knew Steve would make it tough on me. It's one of those tough decisions you have to make. It's always tough when a quarterback plays well to put one person in a situation that he will start over another, but that is the nature of the game."