Russell never had a chance


Let’s dispense with the obvious.

JaMarcus Russell bears much of the blame for his demise as an NFL quarterback. By most accounts, he didn’t work hard enough, didn’t care enough, didn’t love football, and had a schedule of extracurricular activities that would make even the young Charles Woodson envious.

He entered the realm of professionals without ever committing to be a professional.

If you want to get sanctimonious about it, Russell is what’s wrong with so many of today’s young athletes. A huge sense of entitlement. A me-first way of thinking. One wonders what he’s going to do with that diamond encrusted figurine of himself in a Raiders uniform with the words “The Chosen One.”

Change it to “The Released One,” perhaps?

Russell got $39 million from the Raiders, he doesn’t need our sympathy, nor does he deserve our scorn.

That belongs to the organization that decided to write the checks.

Let’s see if we can devise a diabolical plan to ruin the future of a No. 1 draft pick. (I choose the word diabolical because it’s an Al Davis favorite _ one he applied to the now defunct Oakland Football Marketing Association in the early days of Raiders blackouts):

— Make sure Russell holds out and misses the entire preseason, and in fact signs a contract after the regular season has already begun.

It’s an especially great idea for a guy who showed himself as a junior, had a minimal amount of college starts and really had only one lights-out game _ against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

Davis said the reason for the holdout wasn’t his fault, and there is some reason to believe him because the Raiders seldom have holdouts. But the reason he gave was “forfeiture” and making the pick accountable.

As it turned out, the contract was supposed to have a $30 to $32 million guarantee and Russell will walk away with $39 to $40 million for three years of sub-standard play. The whole contract impasse was a waste of time.

— Have Russell walk in to a budding firefight between the owner and coach.

Davis later made it public that Lane Kiffin didn’t want Russell. Those kinds of things go on all the time behind closed doors, but eventually a unified front is presented. You think Jon Gruden loved every draft pick Davis ever made? He hated some of them, but never said it in public. And some of those he hated he learned to love. It’s part of the game.

Russell’s holdout gave Kiffin a year to keep the quarterback on the bench, breaking him in gently at the end of the season. But Davis was upset after a 4-12 year, and wanted more of Russell. The animosity between coach and owner grew, and both of them were at fault for a rift which was destructive to the entire team _ and also served to stunt the development of the supposed franchise quarterback.

— Make sure Russell has plenty of different voices in his head.

First, there was Kiffin as play-caller, with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. When Kiffin was fired in part because he couldn’t “get over” Russell, Knapp became the play-caller. Tom Cable, with the offensive struggling, stripped Knapp of his duties and called plays himself _ with Russell leading the Raiders to a pair of wins at the end of the 2008 season.

The next season Cable again called plays, but with a new quarterbacks coach in Paul Hackett and a passing game coordinator in Ted Tollner.

Schizophrenics don’t hear as many voices as Russell did in his three years as a Raider.

— Give Russell no guidance in terms of dealing with all the outside issues that go with a being an NFL quarterback, such as dealing with the media.

Here’s how it’s done for any team with a clue in the NFL. Your quarterback stops by his locker to talk on Monday, even if he has a bad game. Especially if he has a bad game.

That way, he hashes over Sunday, takes responsibility, and the focus shifts to the following week. Instead, Russell, unlike Rich Gannon, Kerry Collins, Josh McCown and even Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter, went into hiding.

By doing that, Russell’s teammates were asked questions about Russell. Since Russell didn’t make himself available until Thursday, much of the week was spent dealing with what was wrong with Russell _ with the quarterback finally answering questions for Friday’s papers (Thursday on the Internet) and the storyline went on all week when it could have been over on Monday.

A team with a clue about how to deal with media relations understands this. Gannon, Collins and other veteran quarterbacks knew it through previous experience. Russell needed to be told. And no one was there to tell him.

There’s every possibility that if the Raiders had provided all the support Russell needed, he still would have been a washout. That he never would have cared enough or dedicated himself enough to succeed.

Yet there are coaches in his background in high school and at LSU that suggest otherwise. They think Russell was an immature talent in need of some guidance, hit a few bumps in the road and went horribly off course.

In that scenario, it would be up to the Raiders to get their investment back on track.

It didn’t happen, and the fact that Russell was cut Thursday was evidence Davis had finally gotten over the fact that it never would.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • snnyjcbs

    Give me a break, the kid was lazy, fat, stupid and did not care about becoming a good NFL QB. Nothing in him said leader of men, he slept in meetings had an attention span of a snail and moved like one.

    I will never forget watching the Raiders under one of the back up QB’s making a game out of playing a good team. They were fighting and looked like they could win the game. The QB goes down and they send Russell into the game. On the first play you could see the whole team take a dive and just fold. This came through the TV and I can only imagine what it felt like in person.

    There are very few like Seabiscuit. Very lazy early on and liked to sleep for long periods. He use to eat 3 times as much as other Horses. For years he was ran in and beaten by cheap claiming Horses only to one day wake up and become the great he became. That will not happen with Russell, he is not smart enough to play the QB position at a high level in the NFL. You add in the lazy no work ethic and his wanta be gangsta cool guy ways and you have a jerk.

    I found out that he was released by the Raiders by my young son coming running out of his room looking like it was Christmas morning yelling they kicked the bum to the curb, they kicked the fat $#@ to the curb. You would have thought that the Raiders just signed John Elway. How sad is that when a young kid that backed Jerry Porter to the very end and is young enough to never know Raider greatness but is die hard to the end wants this [pig run out of town on a rail.

    Last lets stop the Russell could go down as one of the biggest busts of all time. He is the biggest bust of all time and no one else even comes close. Besides destroying the Raiders he almost destroyed the Raider Nation as well. My son took the PUNKS Jersey and burned it in the back yard with a glow of hope on his face like I have never seen.

    If seeing Russell go has done this to my son imagine what the Raiders players must feel like, they have hope again.

  • ohioraider

    Einstein, well you ain’t moron. You’re a kool aid drinking Al acolyte with your head up his ass. F u.

  • Vinous

    Nothing the Raiders could do would have changed this outcome significantly. Russell, was not that talented nor did he have the desire and self motivation to become a NFL quality Quarterback.

  • ibcode3

    What going to be the reason for another failed season in 2010?? What was the problem before Russell, and now that he is gone what excuses will the players have for not executing thier assignments??
    I been a season ticket holder since they’ve moved back from L.A. and it’s been the same mental errors.

  • Russel never had chance-yeh that’s why so many teams are claiming him off waivers! Problem is this kid had way too many chances leading him to believe he’s the chosen one?

  • metalmike

    Hey Jerry, if this were so true, then how do you explain the success of Gradkowski? He was successful with the same exact players, and he is only an average QB.