It seems to be a popular sentiment amongst fans of the San Diego Chargers that JaMarcus Russell is comparable to their goat to end all goats, Ryan Leaf.
Clearly, Charger fans are anxious to move away from the stigma of Leaf, but the reality is, Leaf is their goat from now until the end of time.
Leaf is an incomparable joke that resonates throughout time. When the Chargers selected Leaf, they traded a three time Pro Bowler, two first round picks, and a second round pick to move-up one spot in order to select him.
That second round pick could have been used to select offensive tackle Flozell Adams or corner back Patrick Surtain, amongst other star-players.
Leaf belongs in the same category "draft day blunders " along with Joe Barry Carroll and Sam Bowie of the NBA, not JaMarcus Russell. The legacy of Leaf is not purely in his statistics. His negative impact was from what the Chargers gave-up and passed on to get him.
Moreover, had Leaf had an even temperament, he probably would have remained on the team and may have been able to rectify his career. The Chargers cut him, largely because he was a cancer in the locker room, while the public caught on to his disruptive influence.
In the case of JaMarcus Russell, Russell is a laidback slacker who has angered fans with his lackluster play, but has not done anything for Raider fans to think less of him as a person.
Sure, like any football player, Russell has thrown money around on indulgences, but the line that says "do not cross" with fans and players is when you throw a temper tantrum because you think that everyone on the team sucks, except you.
What Raider fans have seen with the quarterback situation in 2009, is that the Raiders can win, when the quarterback is in it to win it, as terribly cliche as that is.
Clearly though, Russell wanted to prove himself against the Broncos in Denver by coming back onto the field after an injury. As unpretty as the drive was, Russell would return to lead the Raiders to victory.
Leaf would have thrown his helmet at coaches in frustration that the offensive line allowed him to get hurt.
Another big difference between Russell and Leaf is that the Chargers mortgaged part of their future to get Leaf, while the Raiders traded nothing to get Russell.
Ironically however, then Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and outgoing personnel director Michael Lombardi would collude to trade Randy Moss and acquire QB Josh McCown and Kiffin's friend from USC, WR Mike Williams.
One reason that Russell has struggled (not the only reason) is because Kiffin refused to work with him and even colluded with Lombardi to orchestrate trades to subvert Russell's chances. All the while fans have pointed the finger at Russell, whom is only 24.
Read my investigative articles on that matter for more information.
Nevertheless, the Raiders have improved greatly in the draft ever since they canned the five-time loser Michael Lombardi, as opposed to the Chargers who would blow draft picks left and right after 1998 until 2004.
One of whom was Drew Brees, whom the Chargers selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, only to let walk for nothing in exchange to the New Orleans Saints. Another was halfback Michael Turner, whom the Chargers let walk for nothing in exchange to the Atlanta Falcons.
The Chargers got lucky in the 2001 and 2004 Drafts and with a few undrafted free-agents. In 2001, they selected LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 after trading-down, and Philip Rivers in 2004 after trading down.
Other than that, the Chargers have been the same inept bumblers that squander talent, and have continued to show he same time of arrogant incompetence that led them to draft Ryan Leaf in 1998. At this point, they've been running on fumes from 2001 and 2004.
The Chargers also passed on Randy Moss, Alan Faneca, and Charles Woodson, amongst other star players.
Despite the negative hype around wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009), the Raiders have developed several very promising receivers since 2007 in Louis Murphy (2009), Zach Miller (2007), Johnnie Lee Higgins (2007), and Chaz Schilens (2008).
I realize that the Raiders passed on running back Adrian Peterson and WR Calvin Johnson in 2007, but would also select RB Michael Bush, Miller, and Higgins in 2007. Aside from the top pick, the Raiders have clearly done well in building a foundation that is able to win, when the quarterback is in it to win it.
This by no means however is to say that Bush will be the next Peterson, but Bush has clearly shown he can be the lead runner and potentially a Pro Bowler who was able to burn future Hall of Famers in Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey last Sunday at Denver.
Russell probably still has a future in Oakland because he has talent that Al Davis covets. I personally hope that the Raiders either restructure the contract or trade him, but down the line I do believe that Russell can succeed with the Raiders or in the NFL, while Leaf is now and will forever be the ultimate NFL burnout.