Oakland Raiders Trimming the Fat: Why JaMarcus Russell was Released

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Oakland Raiders Trimming the Fat: Why JaMarcus Russell was Released
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

I am not naive enough to believe that the debate surrounding JaMarcus Russell will simply go away now that he has been released. There will be some who will continue to maintain that Russell was the victim during his tenure as an Oakland Raider.

His release does nothing to disprove their contention that Russell was a victim of a poor offense, hostile mediots, and a disloyal fan base. The problem with charges, such as those levied by his supporters, are that they can never be proved or disproved. Like many allegations, founded upon opinion, they will simply live on in perpetuity. 

Thankfully, for the Raiders, it was never incumbent on Al or Raiders management to demonstrate in a court of law the reasons for it's decision to release JaMarcus Russell. It was only necessary that a decision be rendered and carried out.

As I pointed out in another article , Russell's performance (7-18) was very similar to that of Kerry Collins (7-21). Collins, of course, was released following the conclusion of his second season with the Oakland Raiders. It should be noted that Collins had successfully demonstrated that he was a much more prolific passer than Russell was at the time of his release. 

One of the arguments advanced by Russell supporters was the fact that the Raiders have been losing for the last seven years and Russell was being blamed for all of the losses. In other words, Russell was, at most, responsible for two losing seasons out of seven losing seasons.

I would concur with this argument. I would also point out that Russell was never blamed for the losses that occurred prior to his becoming a Raider. He was blamed for the losses that occurred during his tenure. 

Russell's selection as a No. 1 draft pick was indicative of some of the erroneous thinking that went into the seven-year losing streak. His supporters have argued that he was raw and needed to sit behind a veteran quarterback until he learned the system.

Yet a review of all No. 1 quarterback draft picks indicates that they are normally thrown into the lion's den in a manner similar to Russell. Both Mannings underwent the same type of treatment. Leinart and Stafford also started playing right away.

Fiscal responsibility negates the ability to let a No. 1 pick sit on the pine and collect $10 million a year until he is ready to play. The only recent example of a player sitting on the bench, as a franchise QB, is Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers signed a $7.7 million, five-year contract that had escalators up to $24.5 million. Put another way, Rodgers agreed to be paid over five years what Russell was to be paid in a single year.

The point is that Russell was not a No. 1 draft pick who could come out off the bench firing. He obviously needed some time to develop, if he were to develop at all. This is consistent with the other decisions made by the Raiders such as taking D'Angelo Hall and putting him into man coverage.

Both experiments prove that selecting talent is not enough, you have to be sure the player fits your system and that the most money does not ensure that you will be successful.

The other problem with the selection of JaMarcus Russell was the team's sad history of developing quarterbacks within the organization. Only Ken Stabler has succeeded as a quarterback who was drafted by the Raiders. The others have followed a course that was similar to Russell's including Marc Wilson and Todd Marinovich.

The help and assistance that Russell's supporters clamored for was not something that was in the Raiders' DNA when it came to developing quarterbacks. It is clear that the Raiders did not view JaMarcus Russell as a project but as a talented quarterback who could lead the team.

Again, this erroneous thinking could be found in the selection of other quarterbacks such as Aaron Brooks, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, and Kerry Collins.

The concerns regarding work ethic and conditioning contributed greatly to a negative public perception of Russell. Some have even accused the mediots of wagering a negative campaign against Russell. That may be possible. However, those individuals directly responsible for evaluating Russell would, most likely, not be swayed by these outside opinions.

I doubt that Cable would be able to fine Russell based upon his weight as reported by the mediots. He would only be able to do so if Russell was in fact overweight. I doubt that Cable used ESPN as his guide for player conditioning either. I'm sure he, like most coaches, prefers to evaluate the player in person.

Therefore, regardless of mediot perception, it does appear that there were problems between Russell and the organization.

The numbers supported releasing Russell. As I reported in recent articles, if Russell was paid $1 for the next two seasons and went 16-0 for the next two seasons, he would still have received $1 million per win. As it was, his compensation per win was about $5.5 million at this point.

The No. 1 rebuttal, by supporters, is so what? Well there is an opportunity cost in doing anything. Anytime you pursue a particular course of action, you deny yourself opportunities for a different course of action. That much money on the bankroll has to translate into production because you are limiting yourself in other areas.

You don't get to sign the All-Pro offensive tackle or wide receiver when you're paying your QB $5 million a win. You're also generating animosity among teammates when someone is being compensated at a higher rate than their production. 

Whether JaMarcus Russell succeeds in the NFL or not is irrelevant for Raider fans. JaMarcus Russell needed to be released by the Raiders. Russell had clearly demonstrated that he was going to be a project if he was ever to be successful in the NFL. His rate of compensation was not in keeping with such a project. His conditioning, work ethic and projected demeanor did not endear him to teammates and fans alike. 

The release of JaMarcus Russell was the latest step in addressing the misguided thinking of the past seven years.

It began with the quiet offseason acquisitions which was a departure from the more gaudy purchases of the past. It continued with the outstanding and needs-based draft. It rose to a crescendo as we traded for Jason Campbell. It has finally culminated in the release of one of the largest reminders of the failed thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

No, JaMarcus Russell was not responsible for the last seven years. But in many ways, he has come to epitomize all that went wrong in the last seven years. Au Revoir Russell and seven losing seasons.

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