Every once in a while the Bleacher Report writing staff will actually come up with something insightful and intelligent regarding the Raiders, sort of like the 50/50 gamble you get with the RealFootball365 guys. Today's article from Bleacher Report is an excellent one:
If one word came to mind to describe JaMarcus Russell's physical attributes, it would be "wow." However, he has a way to go in terms of getting to that next level that last years rookies Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco didn't take long getting too (both of them did have better players around them, however).
The Raiders, the franchise that drafted JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall in the 2007 NFL draft, have decided to give him a coach to take him to that next level.
Paul Hackett, who was hired prior to last season to run special projects for Oakland coaching staff, has been promoted to quarterbacks coach for the Raiders.
A great offensive mind, Hackett has had success working with quarterbacks, as well as NFL offenses during his lustrous coaching career. He has been known not only as a great offensive mind, but as a great preparation coach.
Before Hackett came aboard in Oakland, he helped progress Bruce Gradkowski (recently signed by Oakland), Chris Simms, and Jeff Garcia for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers working as their quarterbacks coach from 2005-'07.
Before that he worked as offensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2001-2004. He helped guide the Jets to the playoffs three out of the four seasons he was with them.
There, he tutored Chad Pennington, who currently holds the best completion percentage (66.0) rating in NFL history, besting even Steve Young (64.3) and Kurt Warner (65.4).
Some of Hackett's most memorable work was when he worked with the Kansas City Chiefs as their offensive coordinator from 1993-1997, helping them win 57 games during that span.
The Chiefs made the playoffs four out of the five seasons he was there, winning two AFC West Championships (1995, 1997).
Hackett tutored former Raiders MVP quarterback Rich Gannon during that time when they both were in Kansas City, before he later signed with and soon became a star in Oakland.
Former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden took Hackett's advice on Gannon before signing him, "Paul Hackett was a great resource for me and I leaned on his input," Gruden said to the St. Petersburg times (2005).
"Kansas City went with Elvis Garbac, Gannon was free to look elsewhere and Paul Hackett's advice and his reference to Gannon was very strong in my opinion. He was dead on."
Gannon had this to say back in 2002 when he and the Raiders faced the Jets on Monday Night Football on Hackett, "Paul Hackett had a tremendous impact on my career," Gannon told the NY Daily News. "He really taught me the system of football. He really molded me. I feel like he made me into the quarterback I am today."
Hackett was also a part of the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XIX 18-1 football team. He spent three seasons there (1983-85) working as their quarterback, wide receiver, and tight ends coach.
In 2000, when Joe Montana was giving his Hall of Fame Enshrinement speech, he made a note to thank all that helped him in his historical career:
"Paul, if anyone knows Paul Hackett, a workaholic. Work you to death and prepare you to death so that when you got in the game you didn’t say 'God, I didn’t know about that.'"
Another bit from Montana, "Over the years I've been fortunate to have had some great individual coaches, and Paul is one of the best," Montana said to the St. Petersburg times (2005).
"He is one of the hardest workers and a perfectionist in everything he does. Paul is easy to work with as a quarterback, and he understands the little parts of the game because he has been there."
Russell started to show significant progress last year during the last few games, as he threw six touchdowns to two interceptions. He started to look off receivers, felt comfortable stepping into the pocket, as well as having better touch and scrambling when needed.
Russell started to progress most noticeably when former Raiders starting left tackle Kwame Harris was benched, as he was often beat in pass protection if not called for a penalty.
When Harris was indeed benched, second year player Mario Henderson stepped in nicely and kept Russell clean, allowing progress to begin.
Russell's biggest problem last year was his accuracy issues and touch on the football. He often had overthrown or under thrown his receivers, also putting too much power into his passes at times making it difficult for receivers to hold on.
Hackett brings invaluable experience to the table for the Oakland Raiders. He has been watching Russell for a year now, so he probably has a good idea what to work on and where to go with Russell from here on out.
Last year the Raiders quarterback threw thirteen touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a passer rating of 77.1 and a 53.8 percent completion rating. Look for Hackett to improve those numbers significantly.
If you look at what Russell has to work with going into the 2009 regular season, it's not too shabby. The running game should be better with a healthy Darren McFadden, and will also include third year player Michael Bush and veteran back Justin Fargas.
Young receivers Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schillens seemed to catch on late last year with Russell, and Javon Walker will be back to prove people wrong that say he's done.
Don't forget Russell's favorite target Zach Miller, who looks like he may be close to a pro bowl if he won't have to stay in on pass protection as much.
The talent and coaching is there for Russell, and with the NFL Draft coming up in less then a month he should have another young receiver to work with, maybe even a talent like Texas Tech's receiver Michael Crabtree if he's available when the Raiders pick seventh overall.
Russell seems poised and ready to get to work as its been reported he has shown up for the offseason workout program. Getting to know and work with his new quarterback coach should be priority, as well as staying in shape and letting everyone know you are the leader of this football team.
Consistency is key here too, as Russell needs to keep up that groove he started with the young receivers last year.
JaMarcus Russell is going to have one of the best coaches in the league at his side from here on out, and it's going to show through his play. Paul Hackett has helped guide quarterbacks such as Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, and Chad Pennington in his coaching career, and they both speak highly of him.
Paul Hackett will not only clean up Russell's game and make him a better quarterback, but will provide great insight to the offensive game-plan, as well as Ted Tollner (Raiders passing game coordinator).
Raiders should get everything they hope they will get out of promoting Hackett to be Russell's quarterback coach, and probably more.
Come September, JaMarcus Russell will be the most prepared player on the field for the Oakland Raiders, who hope he will be he best player on the field, too.
We can only hope that JaMarcus Russell, Ted Tollner, and Paul Hackett create an excellent rapport that continues Russell's development to properly utilize the young offensive weapons we are trying to put around him.
Completely unrelated to that issue, I also wanted to introduce you to my newest late round draft sleeper:
Eastern Michigan LB Daniel Holtzclaw.
Unlike Jasper Brinkley, I can't take credit for being out in front of this one, as evidenced by our AFC West rival Chiefs and Broncos boards already catching on to this guy. All the same, Holtzclaw's athletic ability and production in college cannot be ignored, and he would be an absolute steal for a team late in the draft.
Notes from his Pro Day:
Holtzclaw measured 6006/242-pounds, posted a 32-inch vertical jump, 9'6'' broad jump and completed 33-reps on the bench. His forty times were slightly disappointing at 4.81-to-4.88 but Holtzclaw's shuttle times were terrific.
His short shuttle was timed at 4.31-seconds, 60-yard shuttle at 11.48-seconds and 3-cone 6.86-seconds. This surprised many on hand as Holtzclaw is considered a downhill linebacker and lateral movement is not his forte'.
He looked terrific in position drills and had a frame which was described by one scout as iron clad. The New York Jets, Houston Texans and New York Giants sent scouts to watch Holtzclaw.
Apparently playing for Eastern Michigan isn't doing him any favors with his draft stock; he is ranked dead last on DraftCountdown for inside linebackers. I don't see it though, because in 47 games the guy racked up 456 tackles...that's right, not a typo...456 tackles. Furthermore, if he had been invited to the Combine he would have been in the top 5 of all linebackers in most of the categories, including bench press, 3-cone drill, short shuttle, etc. Though the Raiders lack 5th or 6th round picks, if this guy is still there in the 7th by some miracle, how do you not pick him up?