Smart move is wait and see on Russell


Conventional wisdom seems to be the Raiders ought to rip the bandage off the wound and be done with it.

Dump JaMarcus Russell, as of yesterday, when he apparently arrived at the Palms in Las Vegas to begin serious preparation for an offseason of conditioning and work study.

Before even getting into the fact that what goes on in Vegas surely doesn’t stay in Vegas, here are some of the thoughts about why the Raiders should end it with Russell:

— It’s better to admit the mistake now than to carry it in to 2010.

— It would placate a dwindling fan base which boos at the very sight of him. Russell’s face showed up on the big screen as he sat courtside at the Celtics-Warriors game and was booed. Judging from a number of e-mails, there are some fans who have no intention of renewing their season tickets if he’s still on the team.

— It would send a message that slackers aren’t tolererated _ regardless of their status in the draft or what they’ve been paid.

It’s so sensible. So logical. It just feels right.

It’s also off-the-charts wrong.

Let’s get into the economics, the cold numbers which rule just about everything. If the figures presented by the National Football Post’s Andrew Brandt are correct, and being that he’s a former NFL exec I’m assuming he’s seen the contract and understands it better than I ever could, the Raiders have guaranteed $3 million of a $9.45 million salary for 2010.

They’re going to pay that amount if they cut him or not. Salaries are paid through 17 weeks of the season, starting in Week 1. The Raiders can wait all the way up to the final cut to determine whether they want to pay out the rest of the $6.45 million.

Keep in mind the financial future is a little cloudy with no collective bargaining agreement. There may or may not be a salary cap, and if there is not, there has been talk of penalties for teams that dump huge salaries.

Keeping Russell on the roster at present won’t cost them a dime. They’d simply be dumping him out of anger for his disinterest and lack of production.

The alternative is to put it in the most blunt terms possible to Russell that he is on notice. When Tom Cable benched Russell, it was with the blessing of Al Davis. Surely he sees his investment is in trouble. Davis should demand Russell hire a personal trainer and drop a significant amount of weight. He weighed in at the NFL scouting combine at 265 but was 256 at his LSU workout two weeks later. That’s a good place to start.

Hit the film room hard. Back away from the party scene and nightlife. In other words, grow up and be an NFL quarterback.

If Russell fails to heed the warning, he can always be cut before the regular season begins. And frankly, having him around with minimal reps and then dumping him right before the eyes of his teammates as the regular season approaches would send a better message throughout the locker room than doing it now when everyone has gone their separate ways.

The flip side is what if Russell finally gets it? As bad as those two turnovers were against the Ravens, didn’t anybody notice Russell looked better dropping back and throwing on target than at any time this season?

It’s not like Russell got any help from the running game or the Raiders inexperienced crew of wide receivers while he was the starter. It didn’t help that Chaz Schilens, the one wideout he connected with in camp, was lost with a broken foot and didn’t return to midseason.

Yes, the Vegas trip looks bad given that Russell was “excused” from the final team meeting. Richard Seymour was excused also, and if I remember correctly, neither Nnamdi Asomugha or Shane Lechler were around when the Raiders broke up after last season’s finale.

It’s a different perception with Russell because he’s not an established player and he doesn’t appear to have much support in the locker room. You’d rather have him upright and attentive, taking in everything there was to say about how the Raiders will attack next season.

But near as I can tell, he wasn’t actually in Vegas at the time of the meeting and he’s free to do as he wishes once the season is over. He’s an adult, if not exactly a mature adult. Rest assured Russell isn’t the only Raider or NFL player in Las Vegas at the moment.

This isn’t to be construed as a defense of Russell or a belief that he’ll attain the “greatness” Al Davis has predicted for him.

He looks to be cruising his Rolls Royce down the same road as Ryan Leaf, but not allowing him a chance to take one of the last exits with nothing financial at stake until September doesn’t make any sense.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • xja

    Thanks, Jerry, for a rational, eloquent analysis of the situation. Hard to find these days, either from the media or the fans.