Paul Hackett is ruining JaMarcus Russell


The overrated genius of Paul Hackett.

It is far too easy to assign a large portion of the blame for the Raiders’ 1-4 start on the horrendous play of JaMarcus Russell. Through 5 games, Russell’s numbers are as terrible as you’ll ever see in the National Football League. With a completion percentage (42.1%) well below his QB rating (47.1), it is more than fair to criticize the young signal caller for failing to take the necessary steps in becoming the face of the franchise.

However, when you’re offense hasn’t gained more than 200-yards in a game since September. There is more than enough blame to go around.

At the conclusion of ’08, JaMarcus Russell was looking like he was on his way to becoming the player Al Davis envisioned when he selected the former LSU Tiger number one overall. Russell played three masterful games to conclude the 2008 season, completing 63% of his passes, throwing 6 TDs to just 2 INTs and most importantly leading the Raiders to consecutive victories.

What has changed since last season? Paul Hackett. That is the glaring difference between then and now.

Russell’s work ethic might not be legendary, but he was certainly doing something right last year.

Has JaMarcus mysteriously forgotten everything he’s ever learned in the game of football?

Could it be that Russell has an evil twin who has taken his place, wearing #2 on Sundays?

Is JaMarcus intentionally trying to throw games in hopes of being benched so he won’t have to take hits from 300-pound lineman any longer?

Or, is Paul Hackett simply doing what he does best – ruining good talent.

When looking at Hackett’s resume, it becomes clear that there is a consistent pattern of underachievement.

As a head coach, Hackett was never going to be confused with John Madden. In his three years as the big man on campus at the University of Pittsburgh, Hackett led the Panthers to a woeful record of 13-20-1. In 1998, Hackett took the reigns from his mentor, John Robinson, at USC. In each of his three years, the Trojans’ win totals decreased, finally bottoming out as Hackett led USC to a place the storied program had never been before – dead last in the Pacific 10 Conference.  

Hackett was replaced by Pete Carroll and the rest is modern college football history. Carroll quickly returned the Trojans to their glory days and Hackett was back to the NFL.

Interestingly enough, Hackett did not leave the cupboard empty for Carroll. All-Pros Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu were both Hackett recruits. Under the tutelage of Hackett, Palmer arrived at Southern Cal with a bounty of potential yet never seemed as if he’d progress any. When Carroll arrived with Norm Chow in tow, Palmer blossomed into a Heisman winner and eventual number one overall selection in the NFL draft.

Some can be attributed to Palmer’s injuries, but most can be traced to Hackett and his inability to either inspire or lead.

As an offensive coordinator, Hackett has been blessed with some standout NFL talent. He might not have been calling plays for the likes of Joe Montana and Marcus Allen in their prime, but his offense in Kansas City was sporadic at best, ranking as high as 5th in the league to as low as 24th. Not surprisingly, after his departure, the Chiefs’ offense was ranked in the top 10 for 6 of the next 8 seasons. Hackett’s parting gift to the Chiefs was to help develop Rich Gannon into a franchise quarterback for the Raiders. Perhaps his crowing achievement, though it would be hard to argue with the role Jon Gruden played in the growth of Gannon.  

The last time Hackett was an NFL play caller was in 2004 as a member of the New York Jets’ coaching staff. During his four years under Herm Edwards, Hackett’s offense never ranked higher than 17th and was as low as 23rd. His unit was below average despite having an All-Pro runner in Curtis Martin, talent out wide in Wayne Chrebet and Laveranues Coles, a dominating offensive line and a young quarterback named Chad Pennington.

Pennington’s progress, or lack thereof, is the most glaring example of what Raider fans can expect from JaMarcus Russell. All the things that Russell isn’t, Pennington was before Hackett ever coached him. Pennington arrived in New York as an accurate thrower who made good decisions and had excellent footwork. All the tools any coach could ask for from a young quarterback. Pennington showed flashes of brilliance, but never evolved into the “Joe Montana” prototype he was billed as.

Russell is everything Pennington never could be. He is a natural talent with instincts that can’t be coached and an arm the likes of which has never been seen.

Hackett’s conservative approach to coaching Russell has stunted his growth. When watching JaMarcus play, you can see him thinking instead of reacting. Quarterbacks must do what comes naturally by relying on their instincts; this is the essence of the position. Coaches must find ways to rely on the talent of their players while helping to refine their skills; this is the essence of the job. If Hackett coached Brett Favre, you’d better believe that you’d never see him even attempt the type of throw he made to beat the San Francisco 49ers just a few weeks ago. Sometimes, making the right decision must be ignored when a QB believes that making a play is possible. 

Hackett is no longer an NFL play caller and might not ever be again unless Tom Cable is relieved of his duties this year. Of course, Hackett would have to leap frog the “passing game coordinator” Ted Tollner first.

Given his track record, the decline of JaMarcus Russell should have seemed inevitable under Hackett.

Russell is playing worse than ever and Hackett cannot be excused from that. There is no progress being made. Nothing changes from week to week. If Russell is following instructions, then he is getting horrible coaching. If Russell is ignoring instructions, then Hackett needs to be more vocal in his displeasure with his pupil. These are the traits of a leader. These are the tools Hackett does not have in his arsenal.

The worst part is that should Cable be excused from his head coaching duties for any reason, Hackett could very well become the man in charge.

Unable to inspire; incapable of getting the most of his talent; Paul Hackett could be the worst thing to happen to the Oakland Raiders in 2009.


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Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Brett Favre Carson Palmer Chad Pennington Curtis Martin Herm Edwards JaMarcus Russell Joe Montana John Madden John Robinson Jon Gruden Laveranues Coles Marcus Allen Norm Chow Paul Hackett Pete Carroll Rich Gannon Ted Tollner Tom Cable Troy Polamalu Wayne Chrebet

  • http://arrowheadaddict charles williams

    It is really hard to believe people are still hiring him for offense. The Chiefs stank with him and i was unaware of anything like that record of his. If you are what your record says you are how is anybody justifying this. I am a Chiefs fan but I can sympathize with the person in Jmar, but this guy is poison to a team. Somebody man up and tell him there is no shame in being a helper. We cant all be leaders.

  • Al’s Wingman

    you have no insight into practices other than what you read by beat writers. It could be that Jamrcus isn’t smart enough to learn or he has always had an easy path in the lcassroom being a footbally player.

    Your articles are crap based on conjecture and emotion and failed humor. You need a woman in your life Chris or at least one that is not overweight.

  • Slam

    Chris’ article about Hackett, grounded in actual win-loss records of past teams, speaks for itself. I don’t see conjecture.

    Hackett is a typical Al Davis retread, unemployable anywhere else, so he does what he’s told and doesn’t rock the boat.

    Because remember kids, its’ not “Just Win Baby”; it’s “You’re right, Al !”

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  • cwoodsraider21

    Interesting that Russell has such a terrible coach. Maybe instead of big time free agents or draft picks we should try and spend money on GOOD COACHES. To the best of my knowledge, our last 3 or 4 head coaches have had no previous success… If Al Davis cares about the franchise, he should pay big money to get coaches that have proven success at other teams. Head Coach, Quarterback coach, everything…

  • Joe Raider

    You are an idiot! WTF does his head coaching and offensive coach record have to to with his ability to be a great qb coach? Plus he isn’t the god damn offensive coordinator or the head coach. Jesus Christ you blubbering retard get a clue. JaMarcus didn’t look good at the end of last year. Watch the film and look at who they played.

    Week 17 – The Bucs who had half there starting defense out of the game with injuries and had lost 6 of there last 7 games.

    Week 16 – The Texans who were in the bottom 5 in the league for pass defense and gained a draft spot if they lost the game.

    Week 15 – They lost 49 – 26. You really think New England gave a crap about JaMarcus.

    Then look at the percentage of his completions that were on screens and to HB’s. More than 60% of them through that 3 game stretch.

    You blind ignorant fool!

  • Chris Shellcroft

    Joe Raider,

    Let’s just state the facts here.

    Fact: Hackett has been demoted from Head Coach, to Offensive Coordinator to QB Coach over the years. That ain’t exactly the sign of a “great coach”

    Fact: The Pats, Texans and Bucs were all in the hunt for the playoffs when they played the Raiders. A win is a win and its not like all three of those teams had nothing to play for lasy year.

    Fact: This year, that same Houston team had the worst “D” in the NFL when Russell and Co. rolled into town. What happened?

    Also, if all Russell was doing was dumping the ball off and that gave the Raiders the best chance to win then why is that such a bad thing? Why hasn’t the staff done anything similar if it had success?

    And just cause he’s not calling the plays doesn’t mean Hackett is not a HUGE part of this horrible offense. He’s the coach who spends the most time with JaMarcus and thus is the man who is most responsible for helping to correct the problem.

    This is the big boy leagues, not college where coaches get a pass. If your team is not playing well it falls on the players and coaches alike. Everyone is at fault.

    But what do I know? I’m just some fool who thinks that a coach with a proven history of under achievement in every job he’s ever had in football should be called out.

    Russell is the problem for sure, but Hackett sure as hell ain’t the solution.

    Maybe Russell didn’t look to good to you at the end of last season, but I’ll sure take his horrible performance at the end of last year over how he’s looked this year.

    But I’m just an idiot so please, educate us all, oh great god of football.

  • RaiderFan

    It’s in the culture of some of our upcoming, modern day athletes. The pattern is pretty obvious. JaMarcus sits out the first part of last year over contract disputes, like so many more of our diva rookies, i.e. Crabtree

    Secondly, you can see that Russell is very much out of shape. He looks like Dante Culpepper in his later years, but moves much worse in the pocket. It’s almost as if he is overwhelmed with information, but STUDY HARDER, so it comes naturally. What ever happened to hard work and work ethic?

    He’s constantly throwing too hard, too short, behind and above our receivers. While his arm-strength is impressive and definitely in the caliber of an Elway, his ability to adapt his throw to the situation is non-existent. Touch passes on screens, leading the receiver over the proper shoulder, etc… One piece of advice for JaMarcus—>>> STOP STARING DOWN THE RECEIVER YOU ARE THROWING TO!!! JR is way too easy to read from a defensive perspective.

    There is also the curious offensive line issue. Are they really that confused when it comes to basic pass blocking that we cannot give JaMarcus more than 2 or 3 seconds in the pocket? Seems like a compounded problem with being rushed and thinking about how the play is supposed to evolve in his head.

    I don’t doubt that Hackett may be part of the blame here, but letting the accountability fall solely on the QB coach or Head Coach, is not the only problem. Al Davis won’t let his coaches coach, or so it seems. This has been a rumor for quite a while, but other than conjecture, no one has really proven it. The problem is he is an OBVIOUS common denominator.

    Raiders seem to be getting demoralized and losing their gumption to play after they encounter their first sign of trouble, no matter where they are in the game. You cannot blame them, but it is pretty embarrassing and frustrating, all the same.

    I wish I knew a recipe for success, but it looks like another good draft year for the Raiders…Not what I would consider the best alternative.

    Time for all of the team to pull their heads out of their you-know-whats and start playing like a team.

  • Slam

    Rich Gannon, when asked about the success of the Raiders early-2000′s “West Coast” offense, said you HAVE TO hit your running backs PERFECTLY in stride; he said he threw a hundred extra swing passes a day to Charlie Garner. He said if the RB has to slow down/speed up to adjust to the pass, that means 5-10 less yards on a reception.

    Contrast that with Jamarcus…he makes 4 yard passes unbelievably hard to catch.

    Good thing we got rid of that punk Jon Gruden

  • Kate

    Hackett may indeed stink out loud, but how does one really coach a lazy, entitled fatty?

  • George

    I believe Hackett was the 49ers QB coach from 1983 through 1985 — which includes the Super Bowl victory in the 1984 season.

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