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Anatomy of a Bust: The JaMarcus Russell Saga

Ryne E. HancockCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2016

For 16 years, I have been a fan of LSU football, mainly because as a boy, I would pick up LSU games on my old Radio Shack transistor radio from WWL in New Orleans.

When my 9-year-old brain was indoctrinated into LSU Tigers football, Jamie Howard was making the art of passing look like Precious at a track meet while Curley Hallman was doing his best Tommy West impersonation.

In the 16 years between Jamie Howard and Jordan Jefferson, there have been quarterbacks who have made me stand up and cheer and those who have made me shake my head.

JaMarcus Russell was a quarterback in the mold of Byron Leftwich, blessed with a strong arm as well as the other intangibles.

In 2007, when LSU defeated Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, Russell showed the LSU faithful that he was indeed ready for the NFL, throwing for 363 yards in a 41-17 rout of the Fighting Irish.

And it seemed that way.

When he was drafted No. 1 by the Raiders, it seemed the team had found its quarterback of the future.

Instead, Russell, who is older than me by two months and 40 times richer than I, turned out to be the Raiders' 21st century version of Todd Marinovich.

Although it's not typical for rookie quarterbacks to stumble in their first season (see Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman for proof), Russell did improve in his second year.

In 2008, with a solid running back in Darren McFadden (who scared me with his postgame interview after the "Battle for the Golden Boot" in 2007), Russell threw for 2,000-plus yards, 13 touchdowns and only got picked off eight times.

Last season, Russell regressed, throwing 11 interception and only three touchdown passes for Oakland.

In contrast, Jordan Jefferson last year threw for 2,166 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, good for a QB rating of 137.18 for the Bayou Bengals in 2009.

Russell's was 50.0.

On Thursday, when Russell was quietly released by the Raiders, I felt a tinge of sadness for him.

You hate to see a guy with endless talent, a guy that provided so many memories for you as a fan, waste it all away by simply not giving a damn.

That's the bad part.

In order for Russell to get another look from the NFL, he has to find within himself the same passion that he had under the lights at Tiger Stadium.

Deep down, that passion is there.

Just needs the right coach to get it out.

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