Russell came out of college as a junior and had never taken a snap from under center while in college. Add in the wasted Lane Kiffin year during Russell's rookie season, and it was clear that Russell would have his work cut out for him.
During the 2008 year, once coach Tom Cable started to settle in, Russell started to show why the Oakland Raiders drafted him with the first pick overall.
I am going to take a look at the last six regular season games that he played in 2008 to see how he stacked up against other starting quarterbacks around the NFL.
Russell went 3-3 over the last six games that he played and finished the last two games of the season with wins against the Texans and Tampa Bay. Russell had a completion percentage of 64.6 percent over these six games.
Matt Cassel (61.3 percent), Ben Roethlisberger (57.1), Tony Romo (58.5), Brett Favre (60), Drew Brees (63), Eli Manning (60), Kurt Warner (58), Joe Flacco (56.7), Matt Ryan (62), and Jay Cutler (62) are a few of the quarterbacks to have lower completion percentages then Russell during this six-game period.
Russell, during this time, threw seven touchdowns and four picks. Cutler, during his last six games, threw six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Of all the quarterbacks listed above, only four threw for more touchdowns, and six threw more picks.
Russell's quarterback rating over his last six games was a 92.5. It was higher than Roethlisberger (79.5), Cutler (78.1), Favre (63.4), Ryan (86), Flacco (85), Eli Manning (84), and Warner (79.9). Cassel's quarterback rating over his last six games was 94.5, not much better than Russell's.
I know that the NFL is all about wins, and Russell went 3-3 during his last six games. Cutler went 2-4, Romo 3-3, Favre 2-4, Brees 3-3, Eli Manning 3-3, and Warner 2-4 during their last six games.
Time will tell just how good Russell can become as a starting quarterback in the NFL. All I know is that the FACTS show that Russell, at the end of last season, showed great improvement, and he played as well as or better than most quarterbacks in the NFL.
With Russell coming out as a junior, never having taken a snap under center, and all that he has been through with the Raiders until Coach Cable, this young man is anything but a bust. The few misguided (and so-called) experts that implied that he is a bust should be looking for another line of work.
As the Raiders start to put the players in place around this young man, I am looking to see great things. Russell has everything he needs to become not just a good quarterback, but a great quarterback in the NFL.
I, for one, am looking forward to watching this young man next year as he leads the 2009 Oakland Raiders.