Oakland Raiders: The Franchise and Quarterback

Ben RaiderfanCorrespondent IMay 3, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders walks off the field against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Did the Oakland Raiders release Kerry Collins too soon? Kerry Collins compiled a 7-21 record as a quarterback with the Raiders in 2004/2005. He and JaMarcus Russell are the only QBs to start more than 10 games since the Super Bowl. JaMarcus Russell has compiled a 7-18 record which is 3 games shy of Collins' number of starts. Collins subsequently led Tennessee to a 13-3 record before performing his customary implosion which led to an 0-6 start the next year.

Facetiousness aside, the purpose of asking the question was to place Russell's "franchise" status in a proper perspective. Collins suffered a losing record that was consistent with Russell. The impending release of Collins did not reverberate throughout the Nation. It was accepted by most in the Nation as a need to improve at the quarterback position. The same might be argued for the Aaron Brooks, Rick Mirer, Andrew Walter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Josh McClown and Daunte Culpepper experiments. Fans were disappointed with the play at QB by all of these individuals. Please note that none of those I named, outside of Collins and Russell, ever started more than 10 games. The idea that a proper quarterback evaluation takes seasons upon seasons seems to be a recent phenomenon.

The franchise designation, by mediots and some fans, is critical in terms of evaluating Russell. Without the franchise designation, it's a no-brainer. You don't keep QBs who are 7-18 on your roster (See Kerry Collins). Even potential is not enough. Potential is reserved for franchise projects not for losing quarterbacks. However, even a franchise designation is not necessarily enough to keep a losing quarterback. Cleveland recently exiled Russell's draft competitor Brady Quinn to the donkeys. It should be noted that Quinn did not have nearly as many starts as Russell. 

So how do we assess whether or not a quarterback is a franchise quarterback. Or more importantly, when do we know that a quarterback is no longer worthy of the franchise designation if we're not a Cleveland GM. Because that is the key. Everyone makes mistakes. There's a reason we have 4 first rounders on our quarterback roster. Teams decided to move on. If Baltimore showed the tenacity that some JaMarcus supporters have shown, Boller would still be a starter for the Ravens. 

I have a simple evaluation. Before going into it, I would like to point out that the rules governing quarterbacks and football in general have changed over the years. Applying 1980 standards to 2010 football doesn't work. So I've looked at the last decade for what I consider to be franchise quarterbacks and have identified that all have met one of three criteria.

The criteria are simple.

1) They have thrown for at least 300 yards twice or over 400 yards once in their first 25 starts.

2) They have completed a 3000 yard season within 25 starts or

3) They have at least a .500 season record within 25 starts


The purpose was not to establish a criteria for what makes a good franchise quarterback. Let me repeat myself. This is not a method of determining who will be a good franchise quarterback. This is a method of eliminating who will not be a good franchise quarterback because all good franchise quarterbacks have accomplished at least one of these. All quarterbacks currently under franchise consideration have accomplished at least one of these with one exception. Leinart threw for 405 in his game 12 of his rookie season for a 5-11 Arizona team. Stafford threw for 411 in his 11th game for a 2-8 Detroit team. Ryan led the Falcons to a winning season.Alex Smith, another franchise QB, under fire did not meet any of the 3 criteria.

The criteria I developed as a matter of assessing "potential" which may be hidden in problems such as poor offensive line, poor teams, poor receivers, etc... It focuses on the quarterback play and eliminates speculation on the rest of the team. The expectation is that there would be some kind of statistical evidence other than an occasional win which helps the fans and coaches determine if their quarterback has potential.

JaMarcus Russell doesn't meet any of the 3 criteria I have identified. More significant, he has never thrown for 300 yards even once. Why significant? Because both Charlie Frye and Bruce Gradkowski have thrown for 300 yards as Raiders. When you consider their number of starts combined is equivalent to Russell's total number of wins, it's very disheartening indeed. Obviously, we have not had a winning season and he has not thrown for 3,000 yards in a single season. 

I think the debate on whether or not Russell should carry the franchise label is over. The signing of Campbell heralded a new chapter in Raider history. We have committed to moving on and I believe it's the right thing. The evidence suggests that there is no debate as to whether or not at this point, Russell is a good quarterback. The answer is simply no. Stripped of the franchise label, Russell is now evaluated as any other 7-18 quarterback in the league. There are many that have had semi-productive careers. By the way, how did Jason Campbell do on the criteria? He hit it out of the park - 3 for 3.