Is JaMarcus Russell a Bust or Not?

Aron OchsnerContributor IJanuary 13, 2009

Now I have heard many Raider fans and others talk about how JaMarcus Russell is a bust and how we wasted $60 million on him and yada yada yada...

No, he is not, and I am tired of hearing about it.

Yes, I can admit that early to mid-season he had very erratic play, and he was on the verge of being called a bust even by me. I no longer say he is, and in fact I look to see him much improved and confident next year. He needs much more development, but I think he can be very good, maybe among the elite one day.

First, he had not one, not two, but THREE play callers this year alone. All of them had different offensive philosophies. Lane Kiffin wanted to run the ball as much as possible and not put the game on Russell's shoulders, and so they limited the play calling and the plays he had to make. Remember Lane Kiffin was a QB coach at USC, which was always very successful.

Next for one game was Gregg Knapp...which turned into the whomping 24-0 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons. It was in fact Russell's worst game, and the only one where he threw more than one interception.

The last was Tom Cable, who was more of a mix between the two, but he didn't have all the healthy personnel and was new as a head coach. His knowledge showed through his fake field goal against Kansas City, but he got better also. Russell, after an allowed adjustment period, worked well under Cable, and his last two games of the year showed that.

Let's take a second look at a QB that is now considered top tier, Eli Manning. He was also on the verge of being called a bust and was a very mistake-prone and erratic QB for the New York Giants.

How did he get to where he is now? He got a viable dual running threat in Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, an upgraded offensive line to give him time to throw, a go-to WR, and yes, a new STABLE offensive coordinator who had previous QB coaching experience named Kevin Gilbride. He now is a Pro Bowl kind of QB.

My third point is this...if not Russell, who else? We don't have the money to go after someone else, so Raider Nation, stay patient but don't give up on our team.

My best proof is the last game against Tampa Bay. Late in the game the Raiders are driving and down by three, and Russell throws an interception that set up a Bucs TD. Now down by 10, Russell goes into the huddle like a seasoned vet and supposedly says with a smile on his face, "We got this game."

I don't know if it is true or not, but he finished the game like a pro, and he definitely should have said it because he led that team to an impressive victory against a playoff contender.