Ryan Leaf vs. JaMarcus Russell: The Tale of the Tape

Has Leaf finally met his match? (Photo: YardBarker.com)

It’s a heavyweight fight of JaMarcus Russell proportions. When the Oakland Raiders finally pulled JaMarcus away from the buffet by giving him his outright release just three years after being the number one pick in the draft, the debate for biggest bust went from a crawl to ludicrous speed.

Finally, Ryan Leaf has a worthy adversary. But like the Highlander, there can only be one!

Without further ado, I give you the tale of the tape on Russell vs. Leaf with the prize of biggest bust in NFL history on the line.

Try to imagine Michael Buffer reading the vitals. It will help to heighten the drama!


Leaf: 3,666 yards, 14 TDs, 36 INTs, 24 fumbles, 48.4% completions, 50.0 QB rating

Russell: 4,083 yards, 18 TDs, 23 INTs, 25 fumbles, 52.1% completions, 65.2 QB rating

Advantage: Leaf (Leaf leads, 1-0)

While Russell was never in the same zip code of the hype that preceded him, Leaf wasn’t even in the same country. The numbers are eerily similar until you get to the touchdown to interception ratio and the QB rating. If Russell’s numbers are embarrassing in a “we should never discuss this” kind of way then Leaf’s are an abomination in the “we should just lock this kid up in the basement like Sloth from the Goonies due to his wretched appearance and God awful smell” kind of way.

 Wins and Losses

Leaf: 21 career starts, 4 wins, 17 losses, .190 win percentage

 Russell: 25 career starts, 7 wins, 18 losses, .280 win percentage

Advantage: Leaf (Leaf leads, 2-0)

This is like picking the Hustler centerfold that is the biggest train wreck. Pretty much an impossible task but in the end Leaf was a one man losing machine. On occasion, Russell had moments of madness where he performed at his best when his team needed him most. Believe it or not, JaMarcus actually led the Raiders on three drives that either won the game or put his team in the lead with less than one minute on the clock in 2009. As for Leaf, well consider the fact that when he missed all of 1999 season due to injury his team finished 8-8 and when he returned to the field in 2000 the Chargers finished 1-15. That is Andrew Walter-esque.

 Best career performance

Leaf: November 19th, 2000 vs. Denver Broncos – 13/27, 311 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, Chargers lose 37-38

 Russell: December 21st, 2008 vs. Houston Texans – 18/25, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, Raiders win 27-16

Advantage: Leaf (Leafs leads, 2-1)

This is a tough call. Leaf broke the 300-yard barrier (which Russell never did) in a close loss while JaMarcus actually led his team to win against a playoff contender. In the end, it is hard to ignore the fact that a man with one of the best arms in the history of the game couldn’t accomplish a feat even Ryan Leaf was able to do. Leaf gets the win in this category which equates to a loss for Russell.

Worst career performance

Leaf: September 20th, 1998 vs. Kansas City Chiefs – 1/15, 4 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, Chargers lose 23-7

Russell: November 15th, 2009 vs. Kansas City Chiefs – 8/23, 64 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, Raiders lose 16-10

Advantage: Push (Leaf leads, 2-1-1)

Leaf might have put together the worst performance in the history of the quarterback position but Russell was so inaccurate that he couldn’t even throw and interception. What is it about the Chiefs that brings out the worst in QBs? Good luck with that, Matt Cassel.


Leaf: 4 years, $31-million, $11.25-million signing bonus

Russell: 6 years, $68-million, $31-million guaranteed

 Advantage: Russell (even, 2-2-1)

Poor JaMarcus only saw $39-million of the 68 he was promised or roughly $1.23-million per turnover. Even if Leaf collected every last cent of his contract, the Chargers got more bang their buck which equates to $1.95-million per turnover. So far we’re tied up at two a piece, which means we’re going to sudden death to decide the winner.


Leaf: Epic locker room meltdown in front of the media, cussing out the head coach and GM and was on the lamb until April 14th, 2010, when he plead guilty for seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of delivery of a controlled subsantce.

Russell: Engaged in a lengthy contract holdout before ever taking a snap, never once was in shape during his three years in Oakland and skipped the final team meeting of the year to go to Las Vegas.

Advantage: Leaf (Leaf win2 3-2-1)

Yes, we barely even scratched the surface on Russell’s horrendous work ethic but it’s hard to ignore Leaf being a bust not just on the field but also in life.

So there you have. Leaf still edges JaMarcus by a nose at the finish line to hold onto his title. Many will scream that Russell was the top pick in the draft whereas Leaf went second. The one flaw with this argument is that Russell had no other measuring stick by which to compare his miserable career. Leaf, on the other hand, will forever be in the long shadow of Peyton Manning.

However, the book isn’t closed just yet on Russell. Unless he pulls a Leaf and starts shaking down JUCO football players for prescription pills, JaMarcus is likely going to get another shot. Even Leaf got another chance in Dallas.

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Tags: JaMarcus Russell Ryan Leaf

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