JaMarcus Russell is the starter. Jeff Garica is Russell’s backup.
End of discussion.
No matter what you might hear discussed by Disney sportscasters. Despite the blurbs in Sports Illustrated, one thing remains as clear as the glass case housing three Lombardi trophies in Oakland: This is JaMarcus Russell’s job to lose.
Tom Cable assumed the coaching reigns in Oakland with an old school mentality. He’s building his roster through competition. Somehow his philosophy of competition has been confused with controversy.
Russell was the youngest starter in the NFL during the 2008 season. As the number one overall pick in the 2007 draft, JaMarcus was promised to be the face of the franchise and the arm with which the Raiders will attempt to pull themselves from the basement of the AFC West.
After a string of inconsistent performances, Russell hit his stride late in the season helping the Raiders to win three of their final six games. There was a sense of accomplishment and a foundation to build upon was laid.
Then, the Raiders made a shrewd move to acquire a veteran backup. All of a sudden Jeff Garcia’s one-year contract and a couple of unimpressive off-season performances by Russell had the football world talking of a burgeoning war in Alameda with the job of calling signals for the Oakland Raiders on the line.
Lost in all the faulty headlines and knee jerk reactions are the facts that it is only June, Garcia is in town for just one year and Russell is still learning on the job.
By all accounts, JaMarcus had his best off-season performance in Wednesday’s OTA and he continues to improve while showing more and more emotion on the field. Meanwhile, Jeff Garcia – who was openly campaigning for his job after one workout – was absent from the Alameda facility for the second time in as many weeks. While the reports are Garcia’s absence was excused, it does not change the fact that Russell has attended every OTA and is growing even without his mentor looking over his broad shoulders.
JaMarcus has been a fixture around the team facility this off-season. After Cable’s comments at the owner’s meetings were again confused with controversy, Russell chose to listen to his coach, ignore the media and instead just show up and continue to work.
Young JaMarcus is growing up before the eyes of Raider Nation. He is rising to the challenge issued by his coach.
Jeff Garcia appears unwilling to embrace his role of mentor in June. Come September, when JaMarcus is calling signals and Jeff is on the sidelines wearing a hat and not a helmet, the roles will be obvious to the world. When Russell has a bad moment, the flames will be rekindled and perhaps Garcia will get a chance to play. Just keep in mind that Garcia is living out his final days and Russell is taking his first steps.
Garcia is not a threat, he’s an insurance policy. What he insures is that JaMarcus Russell will have the starting job by proving it instead of simply being promised it.