For the last couple days I’ve been debating with myself whether it was a bad idea that the Oakland Raiders took JaMarcus Russell out of last Sunday’s game so early. The game was still winnable, and Russell was struggling, but a part of me still thinks he should have been left in to play the entire quarter. It shouldn’t matter what occurs before or after Russell enters the game, because his time on the field needs to be looked at under its own microscope. It seems to me like Head Coach Lane Kiffin wants to win with Russell now, instead of teaching him how to win.
Well, I guess Kiffin doesn’t really know much about winning in the NFL either (ouch- the painful truth), but that really doesn’t matter. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana taught each other how to win NFL games. They were both successful in college, were clueless together in 1979, yet champions together in 81′.
No one will give Kiffin any flack for losing with Russell on the field. Everyone’s going to understand that he’s going to make mistakes; he just needs to play. It would be one thing if he played in every preseason game like Carson Palmer did during his rookie season, but he didn’t. And now you have to make up for at least that time.
Kiffin can still save Russell’s season with the last game of the season, but from the comments he’s made so far,
"“We’re not just going to go in and start playing solely based on the future because this team needs to learn how to win and it needs to understand how to be competitive.”"
I’m not sure he’s going to give Russell the majority of any game left on the schedule. There was no reason to believe three weeks ago that the San Diego Chargers would have rapped up the AFC West by now, and that now will (probably) be sitting most their starters week 17 in Oakland. I was expecting Kiffin to start Russell, and play him the entire final game of the season, but now I don’t know what Kiffin’s going to do.
I was concerned last week about the rumor that Russell wasn’t going to see much playing time against the visiting Indianapolis Colts. And when that rumor came true, my concerns only grew. But after thinking about it more, this is what came to mind that eased my worries. If Russell would have played during the preseason, he probably would’ve played like this: a couple series in the opener (aka Dec 2nd), a couple more series in the second preseason game (last Sunday against the Colts), a little under a quarter in the third game (next Sunday in Jacksonville), and the entire last game of the preseason (aka week 17 against the Chargers). Hope you’re able to stay with me.
Now there are a couple reasons why I believe Russell’s playing time would’ve been delegated in such a way. First of all, there is a lot of competition for a head coach to focus on in training camp, and worrying about a rookie quarterback that everyone knows isn’t going to be the starter, shouldn’t be a priority to a new head coach while trying to build a roster of 53 men out of 100. When the rosters were settled (after game 3), then Kiffin and his offensive staff could’ve moved their attention solely on preparing Russell to play the entire last game of the preseason. Just like the way the Chargers will be resting (or will replace early) most of their starters, so does any team in their final preseason game. A team one game from entering the regular season or playoffs has very little to compete for, and with the next season only a week a way, why risk any injury- starter or backup. If Kiffin ends up starting Russell, and playing him for the most part of the last game of this year, then he gives Russell a chance to catch up to what I consider the minimum amount of time he should have logged by the end of his rookie season.