At the completion of JaMarcus Russell's first full season as quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, his fans and detractors finally had some numbers to work with.
Some used those numbers to label him a "bust," while others called them "progress," but none of it was definitive. As a Raiders fan, I wanted new analysis, which would prove that Russell was headed for greatness.
So I sat down today to do a little research, selecting three of the current era's most successful quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Peyton Manning) and three contemporary "busts" (Vince Young, David Carr, and Alex Smith) for comparison.
This analysis differs from ones I have seen previously, however, in that it is based on the early pass attempts of each quarterback, rather than their first full season or first 16 games as a starter.
Through 434 pass attempts (the number Russell has as of today), or through the game in which each player crossed that threshold, the six quarterbacks ranked, in various categories, as follows.
Roethlisberger, 64.7 percent; Brady, 64.3 percent; Smith, 57.6 percent; Manning, 55.7 percent; Russell, 53.9 percent; Young, 53.8 percent; Carr, 52.5 percent
Hopefully Russell will improve on this soon.
Roethlisberger, 3937; Brady, 3137; Manning, 2810; Russell, 2796; Young, 2782; Smith, 2699; Carr, 2552
Though I did not list it here, Russell came in third in average yards per attempt (6.4), behind only Roethlisberger (8.9) and Brady (6.9).
Touchdowns/Interceptions (in order of +/-)
Roethlisberger, 29/15; Brady, 21/12; Russell, 15/12; Young, 12/13; Manning, 19/23; Carr, 9/15; Smith, 11/18
Russell's 6/2 performance over his last three games is cause for optimism.
Carr, 76; Smith, 51; Roethlisberger, 44; Brady, 43; Russell, 37; Young, 29; Manning, 15
I was shocked by this statistic. I was sure Russell was sacked far more than the others, with the possible exception of David Carr. That said, 37 is still too many.
Manning, 2/1; Roethlisberger, 3/3; Brady, 12/3; Young, 14/3; Smith 17/7; Carr, 21/7; Russell, 16/9
Russell is the winner of losing fumbles.
Quarterback Passer Rating
Roethlisberger, 100; Brady, 88.7; Young, 78.9; Russell, 73.9; Manning, 67.3; Smith, 67; Carr, 62.8
Not bad. Again, he showed dramatic improvement during his last three games. This stat is a pain in the you-know-what to calculate, by the way.
Overall, Roethlisberger and Brady stand out from the crowd. David Carr is the clear loser.
Here are two additional stats: Pittsburgh's scoring defense was ranked first during Big Ben's first season as a starter, and their offense ranked second in rushing. The same stats for the Texans during Carr's first year: No. 27 and No. 31, respectively. (For the record, the Raiders finished 24th and 10th in these categories last year).
So what does it mean?
Maybe that the success of a quarterback is impacted by the ability of his team to run the ball and play defense. Maybe it means the ability of a team to run the ball and play defense is impacted by the success of its quarterback. It probably means both.
But do any of the above statistics indicate that JaMarcus Russell deserves the "bust" label, or do they suggest he deserves a pat on the back? One thing's for sure—this analysis did not shed the all-absolving, greatness-guaranteeing light on Russell for which I had hoped. I guess I'll just have to form my opinion of him the hard way—by watching him play.
Or maybe I just need to try another form of analysis. How about a touchdowns-to-interceptions-to-who-can-throw-the-farthest ratio? I'll be giving three-to-one odds on JaMarcus Russell.