Ever since being taken with the top pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, Raiders and NFL fans alike have praised JaMarcus Russell simply based on hype.
Russell missed most of his rookie season due to contract negotiations which may have hurt his transition from the college game, but even that is no excuse for some of Russell's performances in his first year as the full-time starter.
It seemed fairly consistent that Russell would finish games with stat lines like the one in a shutout loss to the Atlanta Falcons where he went 6-for-19, 31 yards and an interception—with a passer rating of 19.
In six of 15 starts last season, Russell had a completion percentage below 50—four times it was less than 40 percent.
Oakland's 5-11 record isn't completely Russell's fault, but when a team has the 10th highest yards per game on the ground and the lowest average through the air there is something wrong with the passing game.
The Raiders don't have one of the best receiving corps in the league, but there is enough talent there for Russell to work with as shown in the team's final three games of 2008—three games where Russell performed exceptionally well.
The team went 2-1 in these games, and Russell had six touchdowns with only two picks, completion percentages above 50 (which should be expected from a starting NFL quarterback) and a passer rating of roughly 104. In the team's largest win during the three-game stretch, a 27-16 victory over Houston, Russell had two touchdowns with no picks, a passer rating of 128.1, and a completion percentage of 72.
He had performed well in other games during the season as was the case in a 31-10 victory in Denver where he was 9-for-10, but it was a good rushing game and solid day on defense that ultimately won Oakland the game.
This was the case in the final game of the season, when Oakland kept Tampa Bay out of the playoffs with a 31-24 win. Russell had one of his better games of the season going 14-for-21 with two touchdowns, but again it was the rushing game of Michael Bush that was key to this victory.
Yes, Russell was solid in the final few games of 2008, but he also had good games earlier on in the season only to be followed by games where he couldn't seem to find his receivers.
2009 will be an important season for Russell and reports suggest that he is starting out the year well as he is supposedly getting the receivers together for private practices to develop a rapport with his targets.
If Russell continues with his inconsistent performance, Jeff Garcia will take over this season, and Russell won't be an Oakland Raider for too much longer.