Al Davis got over it Thursday and released quarterback JaMarcus Russell, marking the end of an error.
Russell’s departure appeared imminent after his appearance at the team’s mandatory minicamp, when he had a decent first day and then saw both is snaps and effectiveness drop off considerably on Saturday and Sunday.
Due $9.45 million this season, Russell’s deal will still pay him $3 million in 2010, money he will keep whether he signs with another team or not.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft, Russell immediately takes his place alongside Ryan Leaf _ if not above him _ as the biggest bust in the history of the NFL draft. Leaf was a No. 2 overall pick behind Peyton Manning in 1998.
Frankly, that’s the best the Raiders can hope for at this point. Because if Russell doesn’t go down in history as the biggest bust, it will mean he’s resurrected his career somewhere else _ and then the Raiders would have blundered for both drafting and releasing him.
Other than writing checks for some $40 million and getting almost nothing return, the most grating thing for Davis has to be the oft-repeated paragraph included in the infamous overhead projector letter.
“I do realize that you did not want us to draft JaMarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field, that is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team,” Davis wrote in the sixth paragraph of a letter which was shown to the media present on Sept. 30 and circulated to the national media.
Later, Davis would tell reporters that Kiffin didnt’ want Russell and would change his mind almost daily about who he wanted to draft, and also talked about the possibility of trading the pick.
There are a lot of reasons why Kiffin got the exit he deserved. He made his feud with Davis more important than the team, selling a team concept to 53 men and then operating in such a way that he could maneuver his way out of the building.
But where Russell was concerned, Thursday’s news is evidence Kiffin was right.
Not only that, but once Davis drafted Russell anyway, Kiffin built a solid relationship with him. When Kiffin was fired, Russell seemed sincere in his regret and even said the two had talked on the phone afterward.
It surely didn’t help Russell that he walked into the middle of the Davis-Kiffin feud, a subject I’ll address later . . .