Jamarcus Russell can now officially be recognized as the biggest draft bust in history, after compiling a 7-18 record in Oakland. Russell, for all his natural ability never seemed properly motivated nor did he seem willing to put in the work necessary to become a top-tier NFL quarterback.
With his release, he arguably supplants Ryan Leaf as the worst pick ever. Leaf, if you remember, was once favorably compared to Peyton Manning, he of the four MVP awards.
For all of his shortcomings, Russell is still only 25-years old and no one argues that he has an NFL caliber arm, but is his time up? Few teams are going to want to take a flyer on him as he is an obvious “project” and wasn’t ready to start when he was drafted but was thrust into the role by Al Davis, an owner notorious for outsmarting himself.
Russell is not ready to lead a team, which makes QB-hungry clubs like Cleveland and Buffalo unlikely destinations.
So, where could Russell end up? Various Internet rumor mills have him landing in New Orleans—where he played his college ball and could learn from Drew Brees and Sean Peyton—or in Washington D.C. behind McNabb and coached by Shanahan. But one place that seems to be the best fit and has not been discussed is Indianapolis.
To me, Indy is a great fit. Russell can comfortably and quietly slide into the third-string QB position and if anyone in the league is going to instill a sense of discipline and pride in their work to this guy, it’s Peyton. This is also a team filled with veterans and no-nonsense guys that will not tolerate poor conditioning, sleeping in meetings or forgetting plays.
Manning is a notoriously hard worker who lives in the film room. He has arguably the highest football IQ in the game and is admired by most, if not all of his peers. This is the perfect environment for Russell.
Regardless of all that Manning has accomplished and his freakish ability to stay healthy, he is still 34 years old and he doesn’t much strike me as they type of guy to retire, then un-retire, retire, etc., though I fully expect him to play at least through the age of 40.
Russell is still only 25 years old, and has to be suffering from the mental effects of such a horrendous start to his career. If Russell was to join the Colts, he is an automatic upgrade over Indianapolis’ current back-ups. Outside of Manning, the most experienced member of the rotation is 24-year-old Curtis Painter with 28 NFL attempts, completing eight of them and tossing two INTs.
The current third and fourth string QBs are the undrafted Drew Willy and Chris Crane. This is an environment where expectations will be low as no one is expecting Russell to save the franchise or supplant Manning. There will be no QB controversy, just a quiet environment where Russell can learn, if he wants to.
Pairing Russell with the tandem of Manning and QB coach Frank Reich as well as a veteran receiving corp may be just the ticket to helping Russell realize his potential. Russell has to realize where he currently stands and if he is unwilling to put the work in and can’t or won’t work with Manning then he has no business in the NFL.