JaMarcus Russell is finally getting a taste of what it means to play quarterback in the NFL.
Every quarterback in pro football receives criticism for their on field performance. Mondays are filled with armchair quarterbacks across the United States taking shots at every signal caller from Peyton Manning on down to Sage Rosenfels.
However, when you’re expected to be the face of the franchise – as JaMarcus is – criticism is not limited to what occurs between the lines alone.
In the modern age dominated by the media, nothing goes unnoticed.
JaMarcus shows up in a few pictures snapped at a party donning a diamond clad chair bearing his #2 Raider jersey and an unlit cigar, instantly his work ethic is questioned.
Never mind when the photos were taken. After all, it’s not like he blew off a scheduled workout in order to show his face at a social function. The fact is that when you’re a quarterback taken number one overall everything is magnified.
When Russell’s demeanor is demure and solemn during off-season workouts he is perceived as uncaring and indifferent to his performance.
Never mind that he’s learning yet another offense from yet another coaching staff and adjusting to yet another group of receivers. Perhaps he’s just as frustrated as Raider fans are.
When his physique appears not to be up to the standards expected of a professional athlete he’s called fat and lazy.
Russell’s resume qualifies him for entry level work, yet he’s expected to be the CEO within three years of employment.
Such is the life of a young quarterback who has been given the keys to the franchise. Some of the criticism is fair. Some of it is unjust and borders on stereotyping. No matter the case, this is what comes with his position.
Even if Russell continues the impressive form he showed at the end of 2008 he will be ridiculed for not progressing. Should the Raiders actually have a winning season in 2009, he will either be praised for his performance or scrutinized for being a hindrance to a team that could have been better. There is no middle ground for young millionaire quarterbacks.
He truly cannot win for losing.
JaMarcus has no room for error. After a couple of less than stellar practices in May, many members of Raider Nation are already calling for Jeff Garcia to take the wheel. Garica himself has begun to openly campaign for Russell’s job. One might assume that Jeff has no designs on being a mentor in any way.
Russell might feel as if that #2 on his jersey is looking more like a bullseye these days but he is to blame for all this criticism. After all, had he played like Ryan Leaf in ’08 then there would be no hopes placed on him at all. Quite the opposite, Russell showed some flashes of brilliance hence the expectations have grown.
Raider fans have decided that one year of being a starter is more than enough and Russell should show and prove immediately. He might not show it, but rest assured JaMarcus feels the pressure.
Tom Cable must be careful in handling the arm the franchise is currently resting on. Consider Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett as the Two Bobs from Office Space. They’re in Oakland to ensure that Russell is including the cover sheet on his TPS Reports.
Cable understands that the honeymoon is over for JaMarcus, but this marriage is just beginning. No matter the opinions that loom, Russell is going to be given every opportunity to prove himself, for better or for worse.