Monday, October 13, 2008

JaMarcus Russell-Handle With Care

By Rick Richardson

Fans who suffered through another Raider game got pretty much what they expected. An offensive line coach managing a game, but not playing the role of “head coach”. It is no insult to Tom Cable; he is just better suited to be an offensive line coach, where he excels. Joe Bugel was in the same boat, and there is really no shame in having your own niche. However, the necessity of handing the reigns of the Raiders and in turn JaMarcus Russell over to someone more suited to be an offensive line coach makes me a little squeamish to say the least.

Russell’s short career has been mishandled badly already. So far everyone in his professional career, including himself has set him up to be a bust. The reason he is not, and still has great potential is a testimony to his God given skill set. He is coachable, likeable, and smart, not to mention blessed with the strongest arm to ever grace the hash marks. His height gives him an impeccable view and release point, enabling him to get the ball in the air, minimizing the need for finding throwing lanes.

The poor management of his career began with his agent and Russell himself. Holding out was a horrible gamble, that could end up potentially costing him more in the long run, if he falls into the scrap heap of good quarterbacks gone bad. The Raiders do not want him to join Vince Young, whom is teetering on the precipice of football failure. Lane Kiffin can be credited with teaching Russell the importance of minimizing mistakes, and easing him into the position by protecting him with the running game, but certainly should have given Russell more game experience last year instead of sticking with Josh McNown through a lost season. That decision has made this season essentially Russell’s rookie campaign. A rookie season that has witnessed an abrupt coaching change, a very thin wideout class, and shaky protection. Lastly, the Raider organization is at fault. Moreover, when you say the organization, you mean Al Davis. The mistake of hiring Lane Kiffin has forced Davis to pull his offensive line coach away from his forte’, and distracted him from his real job by forcing him to “manage” the football game, and thereby weakening an already suspect offensive line.

In the latest rendition of the “suffering”, JaMarcus looked inaccurate, indecisive, and absolutely WILL NOT RUN, even with nothing but open real estate in front of him. At one point Russell had at the very least a potential easy 10-yard gain with no one in front of him, but instead threw into double coverage. He completed only 13 out of 35 attempts for a paltry 159 yards, with zero touchdowns and remarkably only one interception, as many of his rocket attempts bounced off defenders bodies. Russell’s inaccuracies mirrored the turmoil that has surrounded him the last two weeks. It was expected as too many were calling for an “opening up of the offense” to show the new regime’s offensive philosophy is decidedly different from Kiffin’s conservative approach. This takes away from the Raider’s strength, which is by far the run and play action pass, and puts JaMarcus into situations he is not ready to handle.

If the Raiders are going to turn the ship around, then they are going to have to give Russell the support he needs. Upgrading the roster with pass protecting offensive lineman and game breaking wide receiver’s is not an option this season, but making sure he has the proper coaching is not only doable but a must. For as JaMarcus Russell progresses, so will the Raiders. There is too much invested in this pick to be careless, so Raiders please, handle JaMarcus Russell with care.


* Too bad Rich Gannon would never work for the Raiders in a head coaching capacity, or at the very least quarterbacks coach. With his recent comments denigrating the situation in Oakland as being unprofessional and backwards, it is safe to say he will never want to coach the Raiders, or be wanted by management. This leaves one to wonder what a “tight ship” would do for turning this leaky vessel around in a hurry.

* Jay Cutler recently gave lip service in his first print interview about having the strongest arm in football….ever. Sorry Jay, but you don’t even have the strongest arm in the AFC West….this year. Cutler’s “cannon” looks like a pop gun compared to Russell’s hand held nuke. Right now Cutler leads Russell in accuracy, experience and smugness, but can’t compare in physical skills.


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