By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 at 2:17 pm in Oakland Raiders.
We can all agree a 35.2 percent completion percentage is off-the-charts awful no matter the circumstances.
Whether it’s rookie receivers, poor-play calling, pass protection or any excuse you want to name, if you’re two games into the season and need to complete your next 16 consecutive passes just to get to 50 percent, it’s a crisis.
That much became clear today during an on-line chat which predictably became a breakdown and a beatdown of the Raiders No. 1 overall draft pick. Wise columnists from the beginning of time urge, “When in doubt, write about the quarterback,” because it’s always a point of interest among readers.
Especially so when it’s your guy who may as well be launching SCUD missiles at mosquitos.
We’ve seen this act before to varying degrees. Russell has a 10-for-28, a 6-for-19 and a 13-for-35 on his resume from last season and went 7-for-23 as a rookie. So going 19-for-54 to start 2008 isn’t exactly “Dog bites Vick” in terms of a storyline. During the mandatory minicamp and OTA sessions open to the media, I wrote daily of Russell’s struggles with even the most basic pass plays, often against no defense.
It’s also true he seemed to pull out of it toward the end of training camp, as he did last season with his last seven games at 61.1 percent (93-for-152, including the 10-for-28 game against San Diego).
Russell will either get better or he’ll be out of the league.
He got lucky against Kansas City in that a potential pick or three was dropped, including one which could have been a backbreaking touchdown.
However, in the last two weeks, Russell has been the quarterback of a team that was behind, and then put them back in the lead with a touchdown drive with less than three minutes to play in the game.
Curious to see how often that’s happened with the Raiders of late, I searched through the game books on NFL.com, which are available on-line back to the 2001 season.
The situation I described above _ a touchdown drive to put the trailing Raiders ahead with less than three minutes to play _ happened exactly once in 128 games from 2001 through 2008. Russell has done it in back-to-back weeks.
The quarterback was Kerry Collins, who capped an 84-yard, 14-play drive with a 7-yard pass to Randy Moss with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Raiders a 23-20 lead against the Chiefs at Arrowhead on Nov. 6, 2005.
The Raiders lost anyway, with Larry Johnson scoring from the 1 as time expired moments after running 37 yards to the 1 with a middle screen against a Raiders blitz.
There were other Raiders come-from behind games decided in the last three minutes. Some were by Collins, a handful by Rich Gannon, but all involved field goals and tie scores, a with a few games decided in overtime.
Although it may not be anything more than a statistical fluke in the long run _ which it certainly will be if Russell’s accuracy doesn’t improve _ he has somehow discovered through two weeks to be on target when it matters most and only a touchdown will suffice. And it’s not like the final drive against the Chiefs was without adversity, with false starts on Zach Miller, Louis Murphy and Cornell Green.
Bottom line is if Russell doesn’t get a lot better, the Raiders won’t be close enough most weeks to put themselves in position to win. If he does improve, there’s at least some evidence he’s got what it takes on the last drive.