An Open Letter to JaMarcus Russell: Do You Care?

Justin Smith@smittstylesCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders points to the sky in celebration during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Dear JaMarcus,

I have been an Oakland Raiders fan for nearly 20 years now.

From the moment I saw Bo Jackson on a football field, I was hooked. There have been some good times, some great times, and, especially recently, some bag-over-the-head, crying in your Sunday beer times.

Like a good fan, I have stuck by the team during these times, pushing for victory even when everyone thought I was insane. The Oakland Raiders mean a great deal to me, and to a lot of other members of the Raider Nation.

We live and die with every single snap of every single season.

My question to you is this: Do the Oakland Raiders mean anything to you?

I do not want the obvious answers such as "yes, they mean big money" or "yes, because I'm in the NFL." No, I want to hear answers like "yes, I'm proud to be a Raider and look forward to restoring the glory and tradition to the franchise."

Many of us in the "Nation" have given you benefit after benefit of doubt after doubt. All we want to see is that you appreciate the support, that you're doing your best, and that you care about being a successful NFL quarterback.

However, what I've seen this season is a spoiled child who blames everyone else for his own failings, spends money immaturely, and simply does not get razzed, upset, or even care that they just played two of the worst back-to-back games by a quarterback in NFL history.

Your physical talent is prodigious but no longer enough to get you by. You were great in college because you were a man amongst boys. But this season you look like a lost child amongst men.

Why do you do this to us?

Why entice us with such solid performances at the end of last season when you were going to regress this badly this season? And how does that happen with Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner teaching you the position? Something is going on here, and I can't put my finger on it, but I would point to your apparent lack of interest as main factor.

If your rookie wide receivers are the problem, take lots of extra time and throw with them.

There's this guy—you might have heard of him? He's pretty decent; his name is Peyton Manning. He spends as much time away from practice as he does in practice with his receivers, trying to get on the same page.

It seems to work for him.

You held a passing camp this summer, which was a great step in the right direction. But you had practice squad players and people who weren't going to see the field show up. That's not your fault. Really, the effort was there; you're trying.

But since then, I've heard nothing of you staying after practice or taking the rookies to the side and working on timing. Nothing. In fact, I've heard and read you are frequently one of the last people in and one of the first to leave.

Show me a single NFL quarterback—even a second stringer—that approaches work this way.

You have shown leadership in one area: crunch time. Remember, though, that a leader leads always, and that as a leader, everything is always your fault. Not your receivers, the referees, or the descent of Saturn into Mercury.

No, it's on your shoulders, even if it's not. This is one of the many aspects of playing NFL quarterback that you haven't seemed to grasp.

I know the story: You were drafted, held out, missed training camp, have had two different coaches and three different play-callers, have rookie wide receivers, and many other negative factors that have influenced your first three seasons. I get all that, and I am empathetic to your plight.

It must not be easy to succeed when seemingly all factors for quarterback success are working against you.

We in the Nation want you to succeed. We've seen your talent on full display, and are ravenous to see it more consistently. You tease us with the ability to fire a dart into double-coverage where only your receiver can get it, only to follow it up with a four-yard screen at your running back's feet.

You are culpable in this. You can take charge, slap some guys around, take some initiative, stay after practice, break down film.

You can care. Please.

Because we all do, so very much.

I have to say that right now, through your words, actions, demeanor, wardrobe, and acumen, you certainly seem like you don't.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.