On Sunday afternoon, the Denver Broncos defeated the Oakland Raiders 23-3 on their home field. For Raider Nation, the loss couldn't be more painful. For the first time in six years, the Raiders had a reason to be optimistic: The 2008 season ended with two back-to-back wins (in convincing fashion I might add) over teams that had playoff aspirations.
In the offseason the run defense, offensive line, and wide receiving core were all addressed in the draft and free agency.
To help coach JaMarcus Russell, Raiders hired not one, but two offensive gurus to help his mechanics. Ted Tollner, a disciple of "Air Coryell" and "The Greatest Show On Turf" was hired to be the passing game coordinator. Paul Hackett, whose coaching resume included quarterbacks Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, and Jeff Garcia, was also signed to aid and mentor Russell.
It all looked so perfect. So what happened? The answer to that question is in a timetable that started in OTAs and continues to last Sunday.
JaMarcus Russell showed up for camp early to workout at the facility. That was good news to Raider Nation, until OTAs started and he was missing for the better part of a week. When he did show up, he was once again overweight.
When he took the field his passes were described as "inaccurate," "wild," and "nowhere near the targeted receiver." Pictures surfaced of JaMarcus Russell partying it up in a nightclub. Although he didn't look as "compromised" as Matt Leinart or Vince Young, rumors began to circulate about his commitment.
Yet, Raider Nation stood behind him, after all, he was learning new footwork from the great Paul Hackett. It takes time.
Things quieted down after that, as he began to do much better.
When training camp started, Russell was described as being very streaky. Some good-looking throws followed by some horrible throws. Russell was also drawing criticism for not being approachable by the media.
Meanwhile Jeff Garcia was hitting the airwaves and making his case for the starting position by stating that the Raiders need to field the best quarterback.
And Raider Nation stood beside him.
During the preseason, Russell had good games against the Cowboys and 49ers, but fell to pieces in the third game against the Saints. After the game, Greg Ellis called out the team, without naming names, about their partying before a game.
We all assumed he was calling out the defense.
Opening night against the Chargers, Russell had a good night with modest numbers; he looked like he was ready to lead the Raiders offense. He drove the offense down the field making big passes when he had to including a fourth down touchdown pass to Louis Murphy.
However, since then Russell has been nothing short of putrid, only matched by his leadership skills.
After the Bronco game some tailgaters, who were parked by the road where the players come and go, said this was what they saw:
"Our tailgate happens next to the road the players drive in and out of the stadium. After the dismal game, some of the boys went back to do a bit more tailgating and eat...a white Rolls Royce is leaving the stadium with JaMarcus Russell driving...fans know this and are booing...the passenger side window rolls down and with JaMarcus driving one of his home boys on the passenger side yells out 'Well at least we are eating good, you guys are still broke'...and JaMarcus visibly chuckles in the driver's seat..."
Raider Nation has supported Russell, but it became crystal clear last Sunday that he hasn't been doing anything to improve his game.
Worse, he doesn't seem to have any remorse about his woeful performances. He apparently is oblivious to the fact that time is running out on his sorry career.
Is this what Jeff Garcia was trying to communicate in his interviews? Could this be why he wanted his release and didn't want any part of Russell?
Soon, Russell will join the ranks of Matt Leinart and Vince Young, who also let their wealth and need for social life overrule their responsibility to their teammates and fans.
Raider Nation deserves better than this, and to allow one player to scuttle a promising season is nauseating. It took six years to get Oakland's head above water and I for one do not want a self-centered player to push it back under.
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