With the Raider season fleeing on little skunks' feet, Coach Tom Flores turned Monday to a new and different set of questions.
If the Raiders (8-7) are eliminated by game time next Sunday--a distinct possibility with the Seattle Seahawks playing Saturday and the two 9-6 teams, Kansas City and Cincinnati playing Sunday in the Eastern time zone--might he take the opportunity to give No. 3 quarterback Rusty Hilger a start against the Indianapolis Colts?
"I haven't thought about it," Flores said.
Translation: Probably not. A half may not be out of the question.
Would elimination mean a chance to play other young prospects?
"I don't know yet," Flores said. "That's something we have to decide. The one thing we have to do is prepare to win. I'd like to win this game and at least get that feeling back into this club. . . . We have to come up with a way to get that fight back, to get that life back, to get that confidence back."
What does the Colts' two-game winning streak mean for any Raider hopes of trading for the rights to Vinny Testaverde?
They'd be dealing with Tampa Bay rather than Indianapolis, which might be a problem. Tampa owner Hugh Culverhouse is an old friend of Ram owner Georgia Frontiere and may be loath to deal with the Raiders.
Unless the Buccaneers do something foolhardy, like winning at St. Louis, they'll have the first pick once more, as a result of having gone 2-14 against an easier schedule than the one the Colts played.
The Raider front office is now rife with speculation that they'll go for Testaverde. Of course, the decision will be made by one man, Al Davis, with scant regard for what his employees, other than the coaches and the personnel people, are talking about.
At this point, the speculation may mean little more than wishful thinking among the Raiders. A year ago, they were panting hard at the thought of landing Jim Kelly, and Davis never made a run at him, did he? Did he?
Would Tampa trade the pick? It's not impossible.
For all the criticism quarterback Steve Young took, he improved as the season went on. His arm, once sneered at, is now considered strong enough and his mobility was handy. He was named the Buccaneers' most valuable player by writers covering the team.
"Of course," a Tampa writer said, "they had nothing else."
The Buccaneers would be looking for help in the defensive line--they once went eight games without a sack--in the secondary and possibly at running back. The Raiders, as anyone who has seen their recent games knows, don't have extra defensive backs to give up. They do have defensive linemen, though. Would they be willing to part with Howie Long? Marcus Allen's name has already popped into the trade rumors as part of a package with Jessie Hester.
There is going to be plenty of competition in this derby.
From Atlanta comes a report that the Falcons would give up Tony Casillas, Gerald Riggs and their No. 1 pick.
From Seattle comes a report that the Seahawks would give up Jacob Green and Kenny Easley.
The Buccaneers probably won't figure out what they'll do until they decide who their coach will be. Leeman Bennett has said he wouldn't be looking for a quarterback in this draft, but he isn't expected to be the coach by draft day, either, or by Christmas for that matter.
"I'll bet you we don't do anything," a Raider player said. "Every year, they talk that trash and then they don't do anything."
Most years, they make the playoffs, though.
The Raider interest in Canadian League star Mervyn Fernandez, whose NFL rights they hold, continues.
Fernandez is a young wide receiver who left school in the United States early and has been a CFL most valuable player. He isn't a long-ball threat of the Hester-Rod Barksdale variety but is a bigger player with some ability to go deep, too.
The scouting report says he has great hands. Barksdale caught a 34-yard touchdown pass Sunday, but he also had two more drops. Drops are part of the game but between Hester and Barksdale, they have averaged easily one a week this season.
One possibility is that Fernandez would become the Raiders' right-side wide receiver, who is their possession man, with Dokie Williams moving to the left side, where their home run guy lines up.
Fernandez is said to have moved from Vancouver. The Raiders can't contact him until his contract expires March 1.