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Monday, 13 January, 2003, 15:38 GMT
Gannon's late bid for glory
It's taken him a while to get there, but Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon is finally on the verge of greatness.
Gannon was instrumental in the Raiders' 30-10 play-off win over New York, completing 20 out of 30 passes for 283 yards with two touchdowns.
Along the way he saw off the challenge of the Jets' young gun QB Chad Pennington, his main rival for this season's NFL Most Valuable Player prize.
Gannon showed why he took that title in Sunday's victory, but if the 37-year-old is savouring his most successful season, he isn't letting on.
The veteran is more comfortable discussing team matters, such as the Raiders' chances of winning their first Super Bowl since 1984.
"I'm just not comfortable talking about individual accomplishments when really the focus of any good football team is the team goals," he said.
"I just want to be able to put out team in a position to win."
Oakland now face the Tennessee Titans, who edged a 34-31 overtime win against Pittsburgh, for the AFC crown.
"I know the opportunities are few and far between," he said.
"I know that it's time to seize the moment and take the opportunity."
Gannon could be forgiven for thinking his chance would never come, given his unspectacular progress prior to joining the Raiders in 1999.
Since then he has led them to three straight AFC West titles.
His numbers this season have been phenomenal:
It's all far removed from the inauspicious early days of Gannon's 15-year NFL career.
He was drafted in 1987 out of the University of Delaware in the fourth round by New England.
Gannon wound up at Minnesota and, in 1991, led the Vikings to an 8-3 start but was later benched in favour of Sean Salisbury.
In 1994, he had shoulder surgery and wondered whether his NFL career was over.
But Gannon is no quitter and, after regaining fitness, joined Kansas City, leading them to the divisional title in 1997.
Grbac got the starting nod in 1998, so when Gannon was given the chance to go to Oakland, he took it.
"You need opportunities in this business," he said.
"Up until 1999, I didn't feel like I had a whole lot of opportunities.
It wasn't until the Raiders brought me here and gave me a chance to be an everyday starter that I had the opportunity to flourish."
Rice, one of the giants of the modern game, has no doubt Gannon deserved his league MVP honour.
"Week in, week out, this offence goes with him," he said.
"This is his baby, and that's why he takes the time to do everything possible to make it work."
02 Jan 03 | US Sport
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