Jamarcus Russell: Misunderstood?

jeremy barilCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 02: JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders reacts after throwing an interception in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL game on November 2, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)


Jamarcus Russell is a QB who is easily the most misunderstood QB in the NFL. He’s 6’6” 270 lbs, has a cannon for an arm, and is nearly as big as some of the defensive tackles he faces each week.

Because of his attributes and the fact he can launch a ball 80 yards on one knee, people forget to think about what are the best qualities Russell shows as a QB. People think because of his physical abilities automatically he’s a perfect Oakland Raider. However, they fail to account for the fact he was part of over 20 wins in two seasons at LSU.

Some of Russell’s knocks are actually his strengths. How about calm under pressure? In the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay, Russell knew the Raiders would win and wasn’t worried about the clock and told his teammates to “just chill.”

They question his accuracy, question his commitment, and question his desire to lead the team to greatness.

He is growing as a QB but slower than some folks hope for. Part of it is because he basically took his rookie year off so now that’s he’s in his third year everyone is saying he’s going to be a bust.

He’s going to improve each year. He improved over the course of last season and this should only continue into this upcoming season.

I actually believe Russell's holding out was actually a blessing in disguise because it allowed him to not be fed to the wolves behind a new offensive line and new scheme with Tom Cable. Since Russell didn’t sign his contract until after the season started he was able to avoid starting, ensuring everyone including the media wouldn’t be asking when Russell is going to start because they knew he wasn’t ready.

That has been the biggest aid to Russell’s development that no one really thinks about. Instead of getting the David Carr treatment he was able to sit for most of the year until the O-line was capable of giving him a little bit of time to throw.

People think he’s another dumb, lazy, “thug” dressing black QB from the south that fails in his leadership skills because he’s soft-spoken and doesn’t speak for large quantities of time.

People fail to realize the talent he brings to the field. They fail to look at his past and the fact he always has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. They fail to see his progress from a part-time freshman starter to a rock solid junior leading his team to an 11-2 record and a butt-whooping of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

By taking a look at his progression in the SEC by starting part-time during his freshman season, starting his sophomore year, and then on to his junior season the numbers clearly improve each year.

One thing to remember when discussing Russell then and now is that people at the same time doubted Russell when he was LSU. They questioned his leadership. They questioned his work ethic. They failed to account for his will and desire to do well and improve each year as he progressed in the system.

His freshman season he was a part time starter and completed 50 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns, four interceptions, and threw for for over 1000 yards. They lost in the bowl game, but not because of Russell. If it wasn't for Russell’s second half heroics in bringing the team back from a deficit they would've lost by several points. And to top it off the game was lost by a freak last play of the game.

His sophomore year he started 13 games, winning several games, but was injured for their bowl game win. His stats for that year: 60 percent pass completion, 15 TD’s, nine interceptions, throwing for 2400 yards.

His junior year he completed 68 percent of his passes, 28 TD’s, eight interceptions, and threw for over 3000 yards.

Each year he progressed. That’s important and people fail to account how he improved at LSU. It’s not like he didn’t have to work for the improvement and just showed up. He worked in a Pro Style offense for which his offensive coordinator raved about Russell’s ability to learn the offense without repeated questions.

It takes time for a QB to improve on a bad team that is growing up too. If he gets decent pass protection and some consistency out of his wide receivers this year, he should be able to complete 60 percent of his passes. It’s a near guarantee he’ll have a good TD to INT ratio something he’s never had an issue with at any time in his career.

There is plenty of potential and past experiences to believe Russell has what it takes to bring this team back. He’s a different player than what we traditionally think of a QB. Because he's not a rah, rah, go way overboard QB people are going to question his desire until the team wins. 

If he only has one offensive coordinator, solid play from his O-line, and gains some chemistry with his receivers, Russell could easily improve on last year’s numbers this upcoming season. 

Instead of ripping the organization for having to work through three offensive coordinators, two head coaches, and now the new aspects of the offensive scheme Ted Tollner is bringing into the fold, Russell keeps working without saying a word. That’s a man who doesn’t complain, he just keeps working.

The last six games should provide a glimpse into the future of Russell. Add some more protection from the offensive line and chemistry with his receivers and history repeats itself, he keeps improving and so does the team.