Why Has JaMarcus Russell Struggled?

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 28, 2010

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback JaMarcus Russell #2 celebrates following the Oakland Raiders' victory over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 20-19.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    In case you have been in a cave since the 2007 draft, I'll let you in on a secret...JaMarcus Russell has not led the Raiders out of the Raider Nation recession.  The Raiders are still a below average team, but with some very good players.  The Raiders had a need for a franchise QB when they drafted Russell, they still have a need for a franchise QB.  Coming out of college, Russell was a great quarterback.  His college finale was a Sugar Bowl massacre of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and I was praying that the Raiders would draft this kid.  Sure enough, they did.  JaMarcus Russell spins twice & slings it 53 yards

     But the bigger they come, the harder they fall.  And Russell's 6'6" 260+pounds fell hard.  It all started when Al Davis and JaMarcus Russell clashed over how much to pay Russell.  After a holdout that kept Russell out of training camp, pre-season and the 1st week of the regular season...Russell had signed a contract of 6 years, $32M guarnteed.  Then it was time for Lane Kiffin, Greg Knapp and Jon DeFillipo (QB coach 2007-08) to work with the top pick in the draft. 

     Lane Kiffin did not want to rush Russell into the NFL game, and Russell sat behind a weekly contest between Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper for most of the season.  Then, Kiffin said it was time to play Russell.  Russel got 1 start in 4 games in 2007. His stats:  36/66 --373 yards-- 2 TDs and 4 INTs.  But under Kiffin, the Raiders established the NFL's 6th ranked rushing offense, so Russell didn't need to be an instant superstar.  But then, another bump in the road.

     September 30, 2008:  Al Davis officially fired Lane Kiffin after weeks of speculation on the topic.  Tom Cable was named interim head coach, and Greg Knapp would be calling the plays.  But it wasn't the end of the world for Russell.  Cable had been the O-line coach since Russell was drafted, and Knapp was the offensive coordinator.  The Raiders struggled and it appeared that Al Davis would change coaches again, but then the Raiders won 3 of their last 6 with Russell guiding the Raiders to victories against the Texans and Bucs to knock them out of the playoffs, avenging Super Bowl 37.  Russell's stats for '08:  198/368--2,423 yards--13TDs--8INTs. 

     JaMarcus Russell Highlights #2 Oakland Raiders

     Then, 2009.  I have never seen so much promise turn to so much disappointment.  With the leadership of Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner, Russell was expected to lead the Raiders back to respectability.  Instead, Russell was benched in the 2nd quarter of the Jets-Raiders game on October 25, 2009.  He was still the starter though.  Then on November 15, Russel was benched in the 3rd quarter against the Chiefs and Gradkowski nearly led a comeback at the end.  Russell did not return unless there was injury.  2009 stats:  120/246--1,287 yards--3 TDs--11INTs, and several more lost fumbles, and 2 4th quarter comebacks:  Broncos and Chiefs (week 2).

      So, Why has Russell struggled?  Is it the coaching changes or the clash with the owner, causing him to miss his rookie training camp?  Or is it on the field?

     Russell has had Zach Miller and Chaz Schilens to throw to, and now he has Louis Murphy.  But neither of those guys are as good as Marques Colston or Reggie Wayne.  And when the Raiders had a chance to get Russell someone like Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin with the 7th pick of the '09 draft...they picked Darious Heyward-Bey...who made 9 catches in 2009 as a starter for 12 weeks. 

     Could it be the offensive line?  Anchored by Robert Gallery, this line has been very inconsistent.  It is safe to say that Cornell Green is gone.  He was the worse of the bunch and his contract is over, making him an unrestricted free agent.  Bye Bye Green!  Mario Henderson has the potential to be a good left tackle.  Samson Satele is still young.  Then there is the aging veteran Cooper Carlisle who signed a 5 year contract in 2009.  Guard or tackle should be Oakland's top pick in this years draft, but with Al Davis...who knows? 

     So what has held Russell back in Oakland?  I think all of these factors play into it.  What do you think?