Raiders lose patience with Russell
ALAMEDA – As JaMarcus Russell struggled through the worst statistical season for an NFL quarterback in more than a decade, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis preached patience.
It appears that even Davis may have finally given up on his young quarterback.
With last weekend’s trade for Jason Campbell, the Raiders seem ready to close the door on the exorbitantly expensive and unproductive Russell era in Oakland.
The only remaining question looks to be if they cut ties with the former No. 1 overall pick before this weekend’s mandatory minicamp begins, wait until training camp, drag it out until final roster cuts or even keep Russell on the roster for another season as a backup. But his days as a starter are likely over.
After acquiring Campbell over the weekend from Washington for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick, coach Tom Cable didn’t want to get into what the future held for Russell. Cable said he expected Russell to be at minicamp Friday.
“There will be some decisions to be made here in the next month or so, whatever that is,” Cable said. “We’ll just leave it at that until we get through some of those decisions. Right now we felt like adding Jason to this football team was very important.”
The Raiders showed their confidence in Campbell by extending his contract through 2011, giving him a $4.5 million deal that season on top of the $3.14 million he is owed this season.
If the Raiders do cut ties with Russell as expected, it will be an especially difficult decision for Davis. Davis believed Russell was the big-armed franchise quarterback he had been seeking to lead his team back to the Super Bowl when he took him first overall in 2007.
Davis made it clear when he fired Lane Kiffin in 2008 that drafting Russell was his idea, despite Kiffin’s protests.
“He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field,” Davis read from a letter he sent Kiffin before the firing. “That is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team.”
But the Raiders were unable to win with Russell at the helm and Davis allowed Cable to bench Russell midway through last season. The move was popular in the locker room and gave the team a spark on the field as Bruce Gradkowski led comeback wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Davis was not satisfied with Gradkowski as his standard bearer and the Raiders were linked to possible offseason deals for Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger. While the Raiders downplayed how serious those talks ever got, they did make the move for another quarterback when they acquired Campbell from Washington.
A former first-round pick in 2005, Campbell was unwanted in Washington after new coach Mike Shanahan acquired McNabb. Campbell started 52 games for Washington since being drafted. He has thrown for 55 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and has a passer rating of 82.3 in his career despite playing in three different offenses in five seasons.
“He’s a guy in need of a fresh start himself,” Cable said. “He’s proven that he can do some things and have some success in the NFL. We’re all familiar enough with Jason to know that we’re getting a guy who has proven he can play in the NFL.”
All Russell has proven in his three seasons is that he will supplant Ryan Leaf as the NFL’s biggest draft bust in history. If the Raiders cut Russell before the start of the season, he will have been paid $39.45 million in three seasons.
Russell won only seven of his 25 starts as the Raiders extended an NFL-worst streak to seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. He has completed just 52.1 percent of his passes in his career with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 15 lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.2.
That means Russell has been paid more than $5 million per win, more than $2 million per touchdown pass and more than $100,000 per completion.
While Russell’s numbers are superior to Leaf’s, he was paid considerably more money to do it and was picked first instead of second. Leaf’s rookie contract guaranteed him only $11.25 million.
Russell’s tenure in Oakland got off to a rough start and never got much better. He held out his first season, not signing a contract until after the first game of the regular season. That made his rookie season almost a complete loss, as he started only one game.
He showed some signs of progress in his second season, especially in winning the final two games of the year against Houston and Tampa Bay. But the problems of work ethic and his weight never disappeared and his third season was an utter disaster.
He was fined for being overweight when he showed up at training camp. He then put together one of the worst seasons in recent memory for an NFL quarterback. He completed 48.8 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 50.0 passer rating that was the lowest since Leaf, Bobby Hoying and Craig Whelihan all finished below 50 in 1998.
Leaf played only four games after leaving San Diego before retiring in July 2002.
Russell still has a chance to resurrect his career – although it might not be in Oakland.
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