JaMarcus Russell Arrested: Where Did His Career Go Wrong?
Just when it seemed that the NFL may be ready to hand JaMarcus Russell a second chance, the opportunity was squandered.
The former NFL Draft No. 1 pick was arrested Monday in Mobile, Ala., for drug possession. Russell had a codeine syrup that was not prescribed. The arrest was made as part of an ongoing investigation.
The Jets, Vikings, Bengals, and Saints had all been rumored to be interested in bringing in Russell to try out for a backup job.
That interest has dried up, just the latest in a string of self-inflicted wounds by Russell. Very little has gone right for the man who Mel Kiper once said could throw 50 yards from his knees.
The history of mistakes and missteps is staggering.
High School Days in Mobile
This is the one unblemished part of Russell's record.
He started every game for four years at Lillie B. Williamson High School in Mobile. He led his team to the state title game as a freshman and the state semifinals as a sophomore.
He was a Parade All-American honorable mention as a senior and finished with 10,774 yards, a state career yardage record that still stands today.
Beginnings at LSU
Russell redshirted his freshman year in 2003 and was the backup through much of 2004.
He was the team's starting QB heading into the 2005 season and led the Tigers to a 10-1 record and a run to the SEC Championship Game.
His First Injury
Russell injured his shoulder in a loss to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.
There was much chatter during the weeks leading up to the team's Peach Bowl game. Rumors from LSU insiders said that Russell was not working hard enough while rehabbing his shoulder.
Coaches backed up Russell's efforts, but still decided to start Matt Flynn in a 40-3 win over Miami.
Russell rebounded in 2006 to lead the Tigers to a 10-2 record and had the biggest game of his career in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. He threw for 350 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 41-14 rout of Notre Dame.
His draft stock soared after the game. A first-team selection to the All-SEC team didn't hurt either.
Russell decided to enter the 2007 NFL Draft and wowed scouts at his pro day leading up to the draft.
Still, there were plenty of scouts that pointed out sizable flaws in his game. They pointed to his inability to read defenses and his tendency to overtrust his big arm. That led him to bad decisions where he threw the ball into impossible spots.
The positives far outnumbered the negatives though, as teams fell in love with his 6'6" frame. The Raiders decided to make Russell the No. 1 pick of the draft.
Raiders execs felt that the pre-draft criticisms would motivate Russell to get into training camp immediately to work on his flaws.
Instead, Russell held out of training camp in head coach Lane Kiffin's first season as coach. He and his agent felt the Raiders were trying to use the critiques to lowball Russell's contract.
His holdout continued into the start of the regular season. Russell signed a six-year, $68 million deal on Sept. 12, 2007.
Russell was in Kiffin's doghouse because of the holdout. Facts were facts: he missed a ton of crucial bonding time with his receivers and appeared to be very rusty with the team's playbook out of the gate.
He made his first pro appearance on Dec. 2, 2007 as a second-half sub for Josh McCown and completed four of seven passes in two series.
He threw his first touchdown pass on Dec. 23 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Russell made his first start in the final game of the 2007 season against the San Diego Chargers. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. He was injured after his second injury. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 224 yards.
Russell was named the starter to begin the 2008 season despite continued rumblings from Raiders insiders that Kiffin was thoroughly disappointed with Russell's progress.
He had a great beginning with two touchdowns, 180 yards passing, and 65 percent completion percentage.
His next four games were far from spectacular, including three straight losses where he threw two total TDs.
The losing continued and grew to a seven-game streak with a loss to Miami.
All the issues that scouts pointed to were still prevalent. Russell looked baffled by defenses and constantly forced passes into bad spots.
Still, his supporters pointed to the fact that he finished the last six games of the year with a higher passer rating than fellow phenoms Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco.
The Bottom Drops Out
Russell reported to training camp in 2009 looking bloated. Still, new head coach Tom Cable named him the starter once more to begin the year.
The QB rewarded Cable's confidence by starting the season in historically bad form. His passer rater through three games was the worst since Ryan Leaf in 2000.
His completion percentage was the fourth worst over the last 25 years, outdone by only John Fourcade, Akili Smith, and David Carr. Definitely not the class of QBs you want to be compared to.
Cable benched Russell indefinitely on Nov. 15. He made two more substitute appearances for Oakland.
Russell reported to 2010 minicamp on April 30 and was reportedly pushing 300 pounds, 40 pounds heavier than his LSU days.
Six days later, the Raiders decided to cut Russell. In all, he was paid $36.4 million of the $60 million contract.
He finished his Raiders career with 4,083 yards passing, 18 TDs, and 23 INTs, and was 7-18 as a starter.
His tenure in Oakland was the shortest for an overall No. 1 draft pick since Steve Emtman's three seasons in Indy after being drafted in 1992.
The Issues Continue
The Raiders filed a grievance on May 27, asking for more than $9 million in base salary advances be returned.
At the time, the move was seen as typical Al Davis trying to take back bad contracts. Insiders saw the Raiders' chances as weak at best and more of a preemptive move to be paid any salary Russell receives from a team in 2010.
But his July 5 arrest may change all that. There is talk that any potential NFL suspensions that come from the arrest may void guaranteed monies in the contract.
Russell has already made many top 10 all-time draft bust lists. I had him in the mid-teens of my list earlier this year, but he's likely to climb into Ryan Leaf territory with each year we get to reflect on his pathetic performance and continued bad decisions.