The open competition in Oakland for the quarterback position is likely going to end with the best man for the job on the bench. It's sad but true; perhaps Raider Nation's biggest fears could be realized. Raiders beat writer Patrick A. Patterson is reporting that the Raiders organization is still coddling JaMarcus Russell. Even after all they have gone through with heartaches, humiliation, and low attendance with those who are at the games consistently booing the former number one pick, the Raiders organization refuses to believe that the guy could be a bust.
Therefore I am declaring the "open competition" unfair already at this ridiculously early part of the season. After all, the Raiders never appointed a babysitter for Bruce Gradkowski or Charlie Frye. They did for JaMarcus though; Eddie Anderson has been following JaMarcus Russell around for three months and counting now.
In his article, Patterson reports that the Raiders have sent "new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to Alabama to meet with Russell and his close family to rebuild trust...The need to have an assistant coach travel to meet with him and his family like he was a high school prospect being recruited by a college program is indicative of his lack of leadership."
I do say that Patterson is absolutely correct. It is ridiculous that a 24 year old man, who has been in the league for going on four years now, needs to have tabs kept on him. According to AOL Fanhouse writers, the reason for the meeting between Jackson and Russell's family is to get the family on the Raiders side regarding the former number one pick. The Raiders organization feels it is vital to the success of JaMarcus that the family makes a concerted effort to bring JaMarcus' career back to life in Oakland.
That being said, I am still confidant Russell could prove to us that he is worthy of our faith again, and I am convinced that Hue Jackson could help him do that; and it is being reported by AOL Fanhouse that Russell and Jackson have formed an "instant chemistry". Russell has made some throws at the NFL level that others could not make. He has the physical tools to be a top ten quarterback in the league. He certainly has the developing talent around him to get the job done, minus an offensive lineman or two. The biggest problem I have with the man behind the winter Raiders cap is that he appears not to give a crap. There are reports out there that he showed up at offseason workouts at 271 pounds and also reports that he showed up at 291 pounds. Believe what you want, but either way, it is still far too big to be the kind of mobile quarterback that Oakland needs when it has poor offensive line play. To be frank it disturbs me and it is not a way to achieve success.
Many fans of the team are disgruntled, thinking that when head coach Tom Cable said they would have an open competition for the QB position that meant Al Davis would decide the choice based on paychecks. But, Bruce Gradkowski welcomes the challenge, saying, "Competition just makes you better, and the best person should be out there for the job...I'd love to get it from the start and see what we can do with it."
Well, at least somebody in the huddle is looking for more than just a paycheck. It makes you wonder why Radkowski couldn't have been a part of this team in 2006, the year before JaMarcus Russell was taken number one overall in the draft. Oh yeah, that's right, Bruce can't make those long passes that Davis likes; the ones that have gotten this team so far since the 1980's. Like when they went to the AFC Championship game in 2001 and the Super Bowl in 2002...when they were a short passing/west coast style offense under Gruden and Callahan...wait, what did I just say again?
In a recent interview with KNRB 680/1050 AM's The Razor and Mr. T Show, Radkowski was asked what the difference is between a guy like him who plays mostly on heart versus a guy like JaMarcus Russell who appears to have natural skills, but is widely known to have a bad work ethic, "If you can find a way to win, that's all that matters, it doesn't matter about how much skill you really have, it's about ‘Does your team rally around you?' ‘Do you get the job done?' ‘Are you smart?' and the leadership role and I think that's one of the most important parts about being the quarterback."
Let's make a checklist for JaMarcus Russell:
- Find a way to win? No
- Does your team rally around you? No
- Do you get the job done? No
- Are you smart? No
- Are you a leader? No
In his three years with the Raiders, Russell played in 31 pro games and almost all of his stats are dismal. His 2009 stats included only three touchdowns versus 11 interceptions, a QB rating of 50.0 out of a possible 158.3, and a completion percentage of a mere 48.8 percent. Not to mention that he fumbled 16 times and lost nine of them.
Compared to Bruce Gradkowski, who has only played one year with the Raiders and started in four games, Russell's stats make him look like you wouldn't want him running your third team offense in practice. To be quite honest, I wouldn't even want the guy on my scout team at this point.
In Gradkowski's four starts last year he had a 300 yard passing game with three touchdowns against the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers that earned him AFC Player of the Week honors, a QB rating of 89.3, and threw for six touchdowns and only one interception with the exact same offense as Russell had. While his completion percentage wasn't all that to brag about, Bruce was smart and protective with the football and he got first downs. He helped keep the defense fresh by giving the offense more time of possession, the scoring average per game went from nine points per game to 16 points per game, and the team respected the leadership he brought to the table.
Evidently, this all flies under Al Davis' radar. I don't think it is about the money for Al Davis, it is just this incessant need he has to prove everyone else wrong. You can't make a bad judgment about him for it. It is exactly what he has always done, and Raider Nation loves and respects him for a lot of what he has done.
JaMarcus Russell has always been bursting with potential, and I don't think anybody in Oakland or around the Raiders has ever doubted that he has the skills. My hope moving forward is that Hue Jackson and Paul Hackett can somehow get him to focus on the right "F"; that being Football over Finances. Cable is not dumb and he realizes this year will be his last if the Raiders don't at the very least make a run at a wild card spot. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and going against the boss' wishes of playing the higher paid quarterback would be desperate, but perhaps a necessary measure for Cable's future with the organization. Let's all just hope that it doesn't take nine games this year before Al Davis gets the message.
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