JaMarcus Russell bashing is the flavor of the week

Broncos Raiders Football

And so it came to pass that the final week of March, in 2009, was spent lampooning Raider quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

With each passing day, another website would publish a diatribe against the former number one overall selection in the 2007 draft.

One site explained why Matt Cassel was better than Russell and yet another one twisted the words of his head coach into an assault on Russell’s absence from the first week of voluntary workouts.

Let it be known that a retraction, of sorts, was issued as word came out that Russell was excused from the first week to be with his mother as she was undergoing surgery.

While he was not a rookie in 2008, Russell was a first year starter having played in just 4 games in 2007 and starting just one.

None the less, the desire to see the Raider quarterback fail is the impetus behind most of the published reports and articles. For the majority of the sports world outside of Oakland, there is a fascination with seeing a number one pick go “bust”. Until he wins and is a proven leader, Russell is not a story unless there is evidence that he’s heading down the Ryan Leaf path.

The following quotes were spoken by Tom Cable at the owners’ meetings this week:

 “If (Russell) can accept the responsibility of being an NFL quarterback, I think that’s working more, working harder, working longer than everybody else, accepting the responsibility that his teammates look to him as the face of the organization, that he has to go above and beyond almost on a daily basis, I think comes with that position, whether that’s right or wrong, that’s what it is. If he can accept that, he will be fine.”

Many took Cable’s words and ran with them. Making it seem as if the head coach was disappointed with Russell and, in some Phil Jackson type manner, was using the media to send a message to his young quarterback. Since the end of the season, Russell has been a fixture at the Raider facility in Alameda. His absence has been only to undergo ankle surgery and to be with his mother.

It is obvious that much is expected of Russell in 2009. Cable’s words were not meant to distance him from his quarterback – don’t mistake this for a Jay Cutler/Josh McDaniels scenario. Instead, Cable is merely trying to keep the NFL’s youngest starting quarterback hungry and humble. Asking more of your players is what every great coach does. If you think that Bill Belichick isn’t constantly challenging Tom Brady to be better and work harder, then you know nothing of the business of professional sports and must work for Donald Sterling.

Lost in all the infatuation with rookies Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco leading their teams to the playoffs was a string of three games that put the NFL on alert to what Russell is capable of. JaMarcus threw for 626 yards, completed 63% of his passes and tossed 6 touchdowns to just two interceptions. More importantly, the Raiders won two of those final three games.

JaMarcus has room for improvement, this is clear. He has proven very little at this point. Aside from that amazing arm – one that Phil Simms referred to as legendary – JaMarcus has proven to be smart with the football. Throwing just 8 interceptions all year long says Russell is more likely to throw the ball away or is putting it in areas where no defensive player has a chance to make a play on it. Some can be attributed to his inaccuracies in the passing game. However, it cannot be dismissed as simply being a result of wild throws. His decision making is much better than he is credited for.sp_raiders03_084pc

His growth throughout 2008 was impressive when one considers that he had to adjust to two different head coaches and two different play callers. The receiving core was shuffled each week and Zach Miller was the lone constant. Injuries to Justin Fargas and first round selection Darren McFadden meant he had little support from the running game on any given week.

Still, there is work to be done, none can argue that.

Russell is fumble prone and must prove he can be relied on for taking care of the football when under pressure. There is, after all, an art to knowing how to take a sack (see Ben Roethlisberger). This is the NFL, no matter how great your offensive line is, as a QB, you’re going to be under constant pressure. JaMarcus is going to have to read and react much quicker as well. Getting the ball out of your hands in a timely matter, making quick reads and being calm under pressure is what separates the Dan Marinos from the Kerry Collins of the NFL.

There are great expectations on JaMarcus. A man known for his kind demeanor is going to have to find a voice that garners respect in addition to likeability.

Don’t mistake “room for improvement” with “failure”. Any pro that does not have room for improvement is on their way out the door whether via retirement or lack of skill. 

Those who expect an instant return on investment are living in a video game world. The NFL becomes more complex with each passing year. Success, for quarterbacks, comes over the length of a career and not in one excused absence from a week of voluntary workouts. Troy Aikman was 0-11 as a rookie, John Elway floated balls all over the field in route to completing just 47% of his passes in his first year and Peyton Manning tossed 28 interceptions as a first year starter while winning just 3 of 16 starts.

Those who are looking for an early sign of failure have tunnel vision and cannot examine the big picture. Matt Cassel was not a rookie; he studied under Tom Brady and played with a team one year removed from going 16-0 before being given the keys to Kansas City. Matt Ryan had the NFL’s second best rusher behind him and Joe Flacco was backed by a defense capable of washing away rookie mistakes.

Every quarterback receives criticism and therefore walks alone, but no successful quarterback does it by themselves and therefore cannot win alone.

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Tags: Ben Roethlisberger Bill Belichick Dan Marino Darren McFadden Donald Sterling JaMarcus Russell Jay Cutler Joe Flacco John Elway Josh McDaniels Justin Fargas Kerry Collins Matt Cassel Matt Ryan Peyton Manning Phil Jackson Phil Simms Ryan Leaf Tom Brady Tom Cable Troy Aikman Zach Miller

  • Raider21

    That is a great blog. I read the same articles you refrenced and was ready to comment. But it is a nine step process before you can leave a comment.

    Russell has a ton of potential and played really well last year (for his rookie season). Not to mention he had to deal with three diffrent play callers and a protection issues. If he can keep it up and we protect him a little better there will be a major improvement.

  • Chris Shellcroft

    Thanks for the comment, Raider 21!

    I think JaMarcus has shown that he is willing to work to become better and Cable knows he has to continue to push him and never rest on where he is.

    Hopefully the line will continue to improve and Russell will have some weapons in Higgins, Schilens, Miller and McFadden who will be healthy.

  • KeyWestRaider

    To be honest I didn’t even read the entire article, I just skimmed it. This is the first comment I have ever left anywhere, but I read this past weeks articles about Russel and thought “a bunch of free time on their hands”. If anyone remembers the Ismail brothers (Quardy and Rahib – sorry about spelling) they came from my hometown and would regularly miss the voluntary camps, I know because my father worked on their cars. Just because then don’t come to a voluntary gym session does not mean they didn’t work out. Gyms are everywhere in America people, but your family is not. I’m sorry but I look up to Russel a little more because he stayed with his mom for her surgery

  • Dylan

    The biggest problem with those stories was the lack of effort to get the facts. I read in an artical before camp started that Russell had be at the facility for a month and would be gone for a week.How do these “reporters” research their articals? It’s like they look for anything about the Raiders that can be spun into some negitive light, then trip all over each other to print the same crap over and over. I saw more articals about Russell not being in camp that the pick-ups we’ve made or the players that restructured to help out the organization. Way to go “reporters”. Great artical Chris wish there were more people like you writing about the Raiders.

  • Carlie

    Well said!

    Trying to label a QB who in his first year as a starter had a 13-8 TD/INT ratio, is absurd.

    Note that Russell had three different play-callers (Kiffin, Knapp and Cable) in ’08.

    I’d add that there were parts of the season were the tackle protection was so awful, that passing well simply wasn’t possible.

  • Roger

    Thx for this I read the actual quote by Cable and in no way thought he was ripping Russell. During the offseason i read how after his surgery on his ankle he was at the Raider facility why dont they report on that instead of turning something postive cable said into something negitive. They simply cant stand it when the Raiders are on the right road the lions went 0-16 and their not saying a word about it except who their going to pick they act like we went 0-16 and were the worst in the leauge starting to remind me of politics cant belive anything

  • JSpicoli

    I completely agree. The mediots are so hard up for a negative Raider story this off-season that they germinated this one. Russell has actually been a good surpirse for me so far. Despite the poor line play, and the clanking drops by WR’s, he has shown definate flashes of brilliance. Whoever invented this “inaccurate passer” thing does not watch the games. by and large, he is on target, and especially when he can get 2 seconds to throw. Why does it not surprise me that the mediot maggots have it wrong?

  • Sonny

    I can see Fans of other Teams trying to knock the kid. It kills them deep down that we have J. Russell and they sit up nights in prayer that he will not turn out.

    But the pounding that he gets by sites that claim to be Raider sites like Raider Beat is just lame. The kid shows all the traits of what it takes to be a great Quarterback. He does not get to high after a good game and he does not get to low after a bad game. He always looks calm out there no matter how bad things may be going.

    If this kid can hook up the way he does with Justin Miller on a regular basis the way other Teams know he is J. Russells main and for a long time only target. This kid will one day eat defences up once given consistent protection and wide receivers that show up on a regular basis.

    It is one thing to jump the kid baised on fact but to have all these articles baised in fiction is a joke. Great article my friend and it is nice to see someone with some common sence.

  • Big Raid From B/R

    Great article…
    I agree I think many were aware of the fact that Russell has been at Raider HQ more than the rats in the trash outside. Most sights SF require a 1st born and 5 surveys just to leave a comment. I’m just a UNIX guy in from D.C. but even I knew he would be gone for the Ankle and the there was an undisclosed week he would also be gone.
    What has really shown me what we’re working with is the fact that Cable, JRoc, Bush, JMac, all of those guys read this stuff. Maybe not everything, but I would just to watch the monkeys dance. To not fire back something at the media shows a greater level of discipline. The fact Cable didn’t boo hoo about you mistook my words means he’s not worried about explaining himself to the world. I’m sure AL and Tom were well aware of where JRoc was what he was doing and there was no set time frame for him to be back because that was cables way of saying. You’ve been earning it anyway..

    Reporters are the Lawyers of Media. Full of @#$

  • erik

    Two things:
    First) JR played exceptionally considering playing behind two of the worst tackles in the game!

    Second) Imagine if JR were to come into camp a leaner QB in terms of achieving a better mobility and scrambling ability.

  • Raider67

    You are missing the point. The issue is WORK ETHIC. None of these QB’s you mentioned have had their work ethic questioned. Al Davis gave him a pass on the subject, stating that Ken Stabler had a bad work ethic and look he how he turned out. Of course, that was the 70′s.

    Tom Cable is simply looking for accountability. We were last in passing in the NFL and last in 3rd down coversions. Cable can’t succeed without a credible passing attack and JaMarcus is a big part of that. And who cares about the 8 int’s when the passing offense is anemic.

    The falcons ranked #2 in the NFL in rushing. We were #10. They averaged 4.4 yards per carry and we averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Atlanta’s running game was not much different than ours, they just had a better passing attack because of Ryan and a better run defense.

    By the way, Marino took a team that ranked 27th out of 28 teams in passing and in two years had them ranked #1. Collins took a team to the NFC Championship in his 2nd season and also made the pro bowl. Manning was 13-3 in his 2nd season. Elway took his team to the playoffs that rookie season and in 4 of the first 5 seasons. My hope is that Russell turns out to be as good as Collins. I know that he is not Marino or Manning or Elway.

  • Dee

    Lost in the hoopla over Ryan, and Flacco was this. Flacco was not asked to do much. early in the season when he was throwing more he threw quite a few ints. the defense of the Ravens won most of those game. Now as for Ryan, he had very good talent around him. Protection, great running game, and very good receivers. Jamarcus had little of this.

  • New Mexico Raider

    Let’s be honest only the Bay Area media wants evrything and anything that wears the Silver and Black to fail. There is something special brewing in Oaktown. And all us die hards are going to have a great time this year.

    Go Raiders!!!!

  • Dark Knight

    first of all “Raider67″ your an idiot if you want J-Russ to turn out like Collins. Nobody should want their team QB to turn into a Collins. He was and still is a choke artist. It was his O-line and defense that made him look better then he is. And those our parts of our team still in developement. For going through 3 different play callers, an O-line that couldn’t block and a defense that couldn’t stop teams from running the ball down our throats. I have to say J-Russ did played well for his (real) rookie season. He did show flashes of brilliance. I have to say for the first time in along time I really feel good about our team. I think the RAIDERS are truly back on the rise back to excellence! If the end of last season showed anything. It’s that under coach Cables leadership, it’s all starting to come together! Will have a better picture after the draft, when we adress some needs on the team. Also I think our biggest need in the draft should be a DT like Bj Raji. But not at the expense of passing by Crabtree! In short he’s just a big time playmaker! But if he’s not there at 7. Then we got to go after Raji.

  • Raider67

    The excuses keep pouring in. This was the “real rookie” season for JaMarcus. Or he needs an offensive line. Or he needs playmakers. Or he has had three different play callers. If you put enough good players around him, along with a good defense, a good offensive line and consistent coaching, he can be good. Which would equate him to Collins.

    Tyler Thigpen had a better season on a 2-14 chief team than JaMarcus did for us. In his “real rookie” season. Thigpen is being dumped for Cassel.
    That will never happen to JaMarcus because of the money he is paid ($16.8 million last season). No matter how hard he works.

  • SR_Raider

    Jamarcus needs to practice accuracy every night and every day between now and season. It was a problem last year (though better at the end).

  • Dark Knight

    Having good players doesn’t make a great team. It would make them the yankees of the nfl. Good players alone won’t take a team to the promise land unless there all buying into the product being sold and they play for eachother. Chemistry is what can make a good team great. Like the Clevend Cavaliers, the next NBA champions. Also no matter how many good players collins has around him, he is still a choke artist. I think J-Russ is going to be way better maybe even great. Time will tell….Go Raiderz!!!!

  • samiam2112

    I liked what Russell showed late in the season once Cable started calling plays. I think Kiffen had this team pretty messed up. The other points missed is that Baltimore has an awesome defense! Oh yeah Jonathan Ogden is a pretty good tackle… How would Russell have looked in Purple pretty good!

    Matt Ryan played really well no mistake about it. I also feel he had the benefit of knowing he was the guy day 1.

    This year we will know what we have in Russell I am hopeful. You see the gifts he has and to see everything come together would be amazing!

    It’s all about the Silver and Black!!

  • Abdullah

    Great article Chris! I especially agree with you about his accuracy. In the Kiffin era, it seemed JaMarcus was basically taught safety before anything. No turnovers, don’t lose the game for the team. Watching him play all year it seemed like that was his mentality — it was better to one hop the ball the put it anywhere near a CB and things like that. On top of that, there was a ridiculous amount of drops by Oakland receivers. At one point I did the math regarding the drops and his percentage went up a fair amount. It still wasn’t great but it wasn’t as scary. Now, I’m not saying he’s perfect or even “good” at this point but too many people are oversimplifying his situation. He was seen as a 3 year prospect out of college and that’s what it looks like he’ll be. I’m rooting for him.