The year was 2004, Robert Gallery had just finished his final year at Iowa. He was on top of the world. His team had just won their bowl game (the Outback Bowl, 37-17 vs. Florida) and he had a tremendous season as a left tackle for the team. How great was it? He was a Consensus All-American, a unanimous pick no less, and he had been awarded the Outland Trophy which is given to the “most outstanding interior lineman” in college football each year. Not only that, there was huge buzz about him being a “can’t miss” pick for whoever decided to pick him. That meant he would be going very high in the upcoming 2004 NFL Draft, which in turn meant a big payday.
The Oakland Raiders had the second pick in the draft. After the Chargers picked Eli Manning as the first overall selection (whom they traded to the Giants for Phillip Rivers) it was the Raider’s turn to pick. They didn’t hesitate to put all their chips in and pick Robert Gallery 2nd overall. Gallery would indeed get that big payday well deserved for such a prospect with so little downside. He signed a 7 year $60 million contract that included an $18 million signing bonus. I would say that qualifies as “big.”
The team had it’s newest, and biggest, investment and they were going to use him immediately to shore up their line. He started 15 games in 2004 and had just an average year. The team expected him to improve the next year, but he had another average to bad year, giving up 3.5 sacks.
The Raiders figured they would move Gallery over to right tackle to start the 2006 season, thinking he could only get better. That was a huge miscalculation on their part. According to Pro Football Weekly Gallery was credited with giving up 10.5 sacks that year. He was able to do this, despite playing in only 10 games after missing time due to a dislocated elbow that he suffered in the middle of the season.
This brings us to the 2007 season when the team finally got it right. They moved Gallery to the right guard position where he settled in and performed well. “Performing well” is not exactly what Al Davis had envisioned for his “can’t miss” lineman, but it would have to do.
Although Gallery was the Raider’s best lineman throughout his tenure with the team, it was far from the promise he showed coming out of college. It sure wasn’t deserving of the multi-million dollar contract he signed as a rookie. Gallery never made it to a Pro Bowl, he never made it on an All-Pro team. He would later take a pay cut, and he performed his job dutifully but he will always be considered a huge disappointment in the hearts and minds of the Raider Nation.
In 2011 Al Davis finally parted ways with Gallery, allowing him to follow his former line, and head coach Tom Cable to Seattle. The former Iowa Hawkeye injured his groin in preseason and ended up playing in just 12 games for the Seahawks and he did not make the impact Pete Carroll was hoping for. Gallery was cut at the end of the season.
Things were looking bleak, but just a few days after Seattle cut the 6’7″ 320lb. guard, the Patriots swooped in and signed him to a one year deal and brought him in to add depth to their offensive line. Things were looking up.
Today, just a few days into training camp his agent announced his retirement via Twitter (the Patriots later confirmed). “A great client and friend Robert Gallery retired today,” wrote Rich Smith, adding “His body said it was time. He is the consummate pro.”
And so ends a career that was destined for greatness, a career that may be labeled a disappointment by many, but a career that spanned 7 years and 103 starts. Although he wasn’t a “bust” in any sense of the word, and yes he may have been a disappointment when taking into account the expectations, his career can easily be branded a personal success story that Robert Gallery himself can be proud of.