I think I'm one of the few Oakland Raider fans that still has faith in JaMarcus Russell. The ranks have thinned, and rightly so.
With so much invested and his physical gifts, I simply can't write him off and stop hoping that one day the light will go on and he'll start to show why we all thought so highly of him as recently as this offseason.
However, I'm not a stupid man, and his words and actions more than his play on the field are causing me to lose that hope not in tiny slivers, but in giant slabs.
It's safe to say that after years of futility, I was willing to dial in some patience this season, and hope that the team would play well enough to retain the coaching staff and finally get a little organizational continuity. We all know that constant ch-ch-ch-changes have heavily contributed to our failings as a team.
The Cable-Hanson incident threatened that possibility, but has now faded to background noise and will not now play a factor into whether the Coach is retained after the season.
What will play a factor is this team's utter inability to bring the pain each and every week. As prepared as they look when they play well, they are that unprepared and then leaps and bounds when they don't play well.
But leadership on the field needs to come from the quarterback position. His statistics are horrendous, but where Russell has failed the most is as a leader of this football team.
Is it right to demonize a 24-year-old for not being able to show the maturity and poise required to lead a franchise? When he's making more money than almost all his teammates combined, it certainly is.
When Matt Ryan has gone on record saying he's going to work as hard as he can to be one of the best to play the game, it certainly is.
When Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, and others as young or younger than Russell seem equal to the task and hold themselves accountable, you're damned right it is.
Leaders get paid accordingly, because leaders are supposed to be the ones that step up, take responsibility for mistakes (whether their own or not), and motivate the team to move forward in a positive direction.
Leaders do not question why they are benched after effectively scoring more points for the other team than they have for their own in weeks.
Russell has shown his immaturity in myriad ways since he arrived in Oakland, from his holdout to his poor conditioning to coming in last and leaving first to avoiding the media to wearing ridiculously expensive gear while playing for a team in a bankrupt state, to now finally blaming everyone but himself for his own issues.
The thing is, when you play well, you can get away with a certain amount of criticism of your teammates and coaches. And Russell honestly seems to think he's playing well, or at least passably. It frosts me to no end, and makes as much sense as him continually blaming everyone else for his mistakes. To wit:
FUMBLE : He didn't fumble that ball; he didn't have time to check down. Translation: not my fault, my O-Line sucks. Nice message.
INT No. 1: A defender crossed my face, so I threw it directly to a Jet when there was no Raider within five yards. Translation : I don't even know WHAT to make of that other than : it's not my fault, a defender distracted me. WTF is that?
INT No. 2: I threw it up for the receiver to make a play. Translation : not my fault, I put it right there and Watkins boned it up. Once again, nice message. Revis made a great play, and there is something to the fact that our receivers simply never, ever make plays even when they could at times, as Russell so consistently reminds us when he is questioned about his poor play.
I wonder how badly Richard Seymour wants to hit Russell when he hears him say things like that. Or the rest of his teammates, for that matter. I know I want to slap him in the head and ask why he doesn't seem to care as much as a dude that lives in Ontario, Canada. Of course, he'd probably slap me back, knock me unconscious, and eat me.
Do you really think that he isn't going to lose this team if he keeps it up? That's assuming, and a big assumption at that, that he hasn't lost them already. The defense played really well Sunday until INT No. 2. After that, after seeing what Russell had to offer in the way of leadership and poise, they gave up. Who can blame them?
As a major contrast, Mark Sanchez, with tears in his eyes after blowing it against Buffalo with five interceptions, straight up said that he lost the game for his team. No excuses. No "they ran poor routes" or "I didn't have time in the pocket" or "I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night."
Nope. Simply poise, leadership, and accountability.
Three words that are nowhere near Russell's vocabulary right now. Until you start earning your money and outplaying anyone on the roster, you have no right to point the finger at anyone but big No. 2 in the mirror. Grow up.