Breaking Down Why JaMarcus Russell Can Succeed in the NFL

Baily DeeterSenior Writer IIIJune 3, 2013

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 celebrates following the Oakland Raiders' victory over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 20-19.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It’s safe to say JaMarcus Russell blew his first chance in the NFL.

Russell, who was thought of as a safe, blue-chip prospect entering the 2007 NFL draft, ended up shocking everyone by doing nothing right in Oakland. Russell threw 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 680 pass attempts with the Raiders, and he posted a repulsive 65.2 passer rating.

The former LSU star made mental gaffes and was inaccurate. Russell, who owns one of the strongest arms of all time, wasn’t able to complete enough passes, as evidenced by his miserable completion percentage (52.1 percent).

When he completed passes, not a lot happened. Russell averaged six yards per attempt in his three years, which is, well, horrible. His stats were terrible, and the Raiders were bad because of him. Russell’s record as a starter was an atrocious 7-18.

So, Russell could have done better in his first stint in the NFL. However, he may be getting a chance to redeem himself.

According to, Russell has garnered interest from a lot of teams. Russell went through a rigorous training program this offseason, and he simmered down to 265 pounds as a result. While Russell is still heavy, he’s not 315 pounds anymore.

Russell wants to sit behind a respected leader and learn at quarterback, and there are places where he can do that. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots appear to be good fits, and places like Pittsburgh, New York and San Diego don’t seem like bad destinations either.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are game-changing quarterbacks, and neither will lose their job to Russell. However, Manning is 37 years old, and Brady is approaching the end of his career as well.

Having Russell ready as a backup and potentially a future starter wouldn’t be a bad plan of action.

For a team like San Diego, Russell could see the field without injury forcing him into action. Phillip Rivers, San Diego's starting quarterback, isn’t anything special, and Russell sure seemed like a special player when he was picked first in the NFL draft.

Russell completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,129 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final year at LSU, and his weight now and his weight at that time, when he caught everyone's eye at the NFL Combine, are about identical.

There are a handful of teams in need of a quarterback, and Russell could fill a need for one of those teams. While Russell says he would be fine with signing with a CFL team if he can’t reach an agreement with an NFL team soon, the NFL is certainly a better option than the CFL.

Russell knows this, and it’s likely that he will try to sign a contract quickly. It’s also likely that teams try to get deals done with him quickly, as teams like the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans could use a quarterback.

If Russell can prove that he isn’t washed up and that he can revive his college magic, he will have a successful return. The Jaguars and Titans are two teams that have low-quality third-year quarterbacks (Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker), and both could use an upgrade.

While he didn’t do well with the Raiders, the revamped Russell can be an upgrade.

Russell realizes that he may not get handed the reins right away, and he knows that being mentored on the bench may be best for him. Russell was arrested for drug possession in 2010, and having someone like Manning guide him through football and life for a couple of years would benefit Russell tremendously.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers watched from the sidelines as Brett Favre piloted the Packers' offense, but he has proven to be a better quarterback because of it. Rodgers took over in 2008 and hasn’t looked back since, and he has captured a Super Bowl crown and MVP award along the way.

While that might not happen to the 28-year-old Russell, learning under arguably the smartest signal-caller of all time in Manning or one of the most successful players in Brady would be great for the long run.

If front offices realize the benefits of signing Russell to a cheap, low-risk deal, they will likely benefit. Because he hasn’t played for three years, it’s extremely unlikely that Russell signs for more than $5 million annually, so no team would have to worry too much about money.

Giving Russell a short-term deal worth a small amount of money would bring potential long-term benefits with a paucity of risks. Russell has matured, and he proved that he is motivated by shedding 50 pounds.

As a result, Russell will be more determined to succeed. With his talent, success is definitely a reachable goal.

NFL teams are taking notice, and they are interested in seeing whether the hype is worthy. Russell was thought of as a potential star when he entered the league, and he still has the ability to blossom into one.

With so many teams needing a quarterback and looking into Russell, it would be shocking if Russell isn’t on a team soon.

And, it wouldn't be too wild to suggest that Russell could end up seeing the field as a significant contributor this season and in the future.