Los Angeles Raiders fans always knew crafty Al Davis had a quarterback move up his sleeve, although they might have hoped for more than the Branch Rickey adage, "Sometimes it's addition by subtraction."
But that's what they got.The Raiders had seemingly committed themselves to Marc Wilson for another season. Their wheeling and dealing went in other directions, dispatching two starters for additional No. 1 picks in a draft that offered no quarterbacks. They thought about, then decided against, Kelly Stouffer and Jay Schroeder.
And then they let Wilson take a walk to Green Bay. No one is exactly leaping to his feet to explain this one.
The new coach, Mike Shanahan, described as a private Wilson admirer, looks stung. "Marc made the decision he didn't want to be part of this football team," Shanahan said. "I want to talk about the people who are here."
That would be Vince Evans and Steve Beuerlein, the contenders for the top spot. Evans is 33 and was out of the National Football League for 21/2 years before the Raiders signed him for their strike team. Beuerlein hasn't taken his first pro snap, so the Raiders are doing an unprecedented amount of hoping.
Was it just business? Not exactly.
A source close to Al Davis said the Raiders and Wilson substantially agreed on a one-year contract, disagreeing only on whether it would be guaranteed.
Was it a matter of principle then? Not exactly.
Sources agree that Davis had offered to guarantee the first $200,000. Well, what happened?
The sources agree: Davis had had it with Wilson. Maybe he was just embarrassed to have paid all that money to a famous non-producer. Maybe he considered himself badly used by Howard Slusher and Donald Trump in the negotiations that kept Wilson out of the United States Football League at a cost of $4 million. Maybe it has gotten personal between Davis and Slusher, who has two more Raiders holding out.
Letting Marc Wilson go isn't quite the same as, say, trading Magic Johnson. Wilson was as unpopular with Los Angeles fans as any recent local athlete. His tenure coincided with the Raider decline. Respected members of the Raiders' front office had prayed for his exit for years.
"He's a jerk," one official said. "If the guy says he wants to be here, why'd he sign there?"