A rare opportunity awaits Sunday at the Meadowlands, where each team will start a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
Starting for the Raiders is 2007 top pick JaMarcus Russell, whose weight and work habits have predictably come under the kind of microscope that comes with a losing record and horrendous statistics.
Common sense says his opponent will be David Carr, a 2002 No. 1 overall pick who knows exactly what Russell feels like after being proclaimed a bust with the Houston Texans and being dumped in favor of Matt Schaub.
In theory, New York could start Eli Manning, who ruffled some feathers by wanting no part of San Diego after being taken No. 1 in 2004 and maneuvering himself into a deal to the Giants, but the smart money says there’s no way they risk worsening a case of plantar fasciatis against a 16-point underdog.
All three players felt the barbs of critics, and only Manning emerged with a status befitting his draft selection.
At the moment, Russell can’t do anything right. Can’t pass, goes down too easy, can’t lead a team, doesn’t work hard enough, shows up late for everything but meal time.
Carr wasn’t enough of a leader, held the ball too long, resulting in sacks, and simply didn’t have what it took to lead an expansion franchise to something other than being an expansion franchise. He was decent enough guy, but not someone the organization go above and beyond what it took to be the face of an organization.
If there’s a moral to their story, it lies with Manning, who like both Russell and Carr had his leadership skills questioned _ even by former teammate Tiki Barber _ and ended up leading the Giants to a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots.
As a rookie, Manning replaced Kurt Warner for the final seven games of the season and lost his first six, getting mocked in the tabloids for being the Manning who wasn’t Peyton.
Without stats measuring up to his brother, the only way he could make it stop was to win a championship.
And Manning accomplished it without the same sort of in-your-face personality his brother exudes in Indianapolis, which is something he has in common with both Carr and Russell.
Of course, both men could learn from Manning in the the most important attribute a quarterback can have other than physical skill.
“He’s worked his tail off since the minute he got here,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “It takes a couple of years and you’re always learning. You never stop learning and Eli would be the first to tell you that.”
How the first 20 games of the careers of Eli Manning, David Carr and jaMarcus Russell compare:
Player (W-L) PA-PC-PCT-YDS-TD-HIT-Rating
Russell (6-14) 507-264-52.0-3,153-15-13-70.5
Manning (10-10) 648-334-51.5-4,105-27-24-69.9
Carr (6-14) 564-307-54.4-12-20-65.4
Next: How JaMarcus Russell compares with other highly-selected quarterbacks through the years after having 16 games of starting experience.