Is Russell Ready to Take That Next Step?

Raiders head coach Tom Cable thinks his team is ready to take the next step towards becoming that playoff team that they want to be.

Trouble for him and his team is that the season is over, so they will have to wait until the 2010 to prove whatever it is he thinks they can prove.

It was troubling times in 2009 for the future of the franchise, quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He lost two people who were close to him in a matter of months. The losses of his loved ones were sandwiched right between coming off a great six game stretch at the end of the season in 2008 where his passer rating hit a whopping 92.5 with a completion percentage of 64.6…and the start of the 2009 offseason activities.

Yet, Russell was strapped with the burden of carrying forward trying to help a franchise turn around with their 5thhead coach in a seven year period. It was a franchise that had just succumbed to their sixth straight 11 or more losses season. A 24 year-old, three-year pro QB, who the fans were not about to cut any slack. To add to the pressure, his favorite wide receiver, Chaz Schilens was injured during the second week of training camp, sidelined with a broken foot.

Russell was not alone, but his hopes must have been dwindling when during a game against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, when offensive line leader Robert Gallery went down with a broken tibia. Now without his favorite wide receiver and best offensive lineman, with two starting rookie wide receivers and a banged up Johnny Lee Higgins (hurt opening night by a crushing Eric Weddle hit), the Raiders "Face of the Franchise" was really under pressure.

Sure it didn’t help that Russell reportedly came to spring drills overweight, showed up late for meetings, and was getting paid far more than most of us will see in our lifetime that year, but nevertheless, it surely was not fun to be in his shoes last year.

Ultimately, the year culminated with Russell being booed by his fans several different times, coupled with one of the worst passer ratings in the history of the Raiders, and a terrible turnover to touchdown ratio.

It was a year that nobody wants to forget more than the young quarterback who now has the pressure upon him to regain the confidence and trust of not only his teammates, but also one of the best fan bases in the history of the league.

I am confidant Russell can prove to us that he is worthy of our faith again, and I am convinced that Hue Jackson can help him do that. He certainly has the 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 is nowhere to be seen right now, when he should be doing like Bruce Gradkowski, who is in Alameda almost every day with his teammates working towards being a better quarterback next year. To be frank it disturbs me.

However, like anyone of us faced with the same situation, it is only fair that I expect the man to dig his own way out of this hole he has dug for himself by whatever means he deems necessary to do so. For, if he does not improve his image this year, that hole could end up leading him towards an early NFL gravestone with his short career engraved, and it would read, "Here lies the career of JaMarcus Russell, the most futile number 1 draft choice of all-time…but hey at least he got his money!"

People who say it is not fair to judge him based on one bad season are correct. But to say you cannot judge him on three bad years is not fair either, so it is truly now or never for the big guy from LSU via Mobile, Alabama.

But fittingly, because he is still on the roster, the first two picks for Oakland this year could come from the Alabama Crimson Tide (Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody), so at least he is still doing good things for the state he came from, even if he can’t do what the Raiders wanted from him.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to say, Good luck JaMarcus…we promise not to boo you if you do exactly what we want!