With JaMarcus Russell Done, Bust Watch Turns To Tim Tebow

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IMay 7, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 03:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on January 3, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

In this cursory review, I will traverse through a series of topics that I believe to be facets of the success or failure of NFL quarterbacks in general, and JaMarcus Russell in particular.

Now that the Oakland Raiders have officially made JaMarcus Russell an all-time bust by releasing him, Denver's Tim Tebow is now on the clock of the "Bust Watch."

Remember that the Broncos traded three draft picks for Tebow; the most for one player in the NFL Draft since Ryan Leaf.

Meaning that, if Tebow turns into a bust, Tebow will be a shoo-in to surpass Leaf.  The heat is now on Tebow.

Here though I will discuss the similarities between Tebow and Russell, but in fact, I think Tebow is likely to succeed because fans support him unconditionally and that he has a coach that is willing to work with him.  And that, if Russell had the same situation, I think Russell would have succeeded.


Was Lane Kiffin a Prophet of Doom or Spewer of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?

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The Raiders traded nothing to acquire Russell with the first pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, unlike Denver did in 2010 to acquire Tebow . 

People like to joke about Al Davis calling JaMarcus Russell a "great player" after Mr. Davis fired coach Lane Kiffin for insubordination. 

The revisionists have attempted to make Kiffin into some kind of prophet for seeing something in Russell that Mr. Davis did not see. 

Yet, the case of Russell resembles some present issues with Tebow but also has some stark differences.  Tebow like Russell was a project to begin with. 

Tebow like Russell has—or had—plenty of raw talent that needed to be coached.  

Yet, many fans and pundits alike were quick to side with an inexperienced coach, Kiffin, with no experience has a head coach, either in college or the NFL.

Is Russell a slacker or depressed?

Is this the behavior of a slacker or someone that had been depressed and alienated by fans and media?

Reports of late have been that Russell lacked the winning mentality. Russell would fall asleep in meetings or wander off on breaks, only to be found asleep.  Russell has also been described as lethargic and unable to focus and that he is a binge eater.

Personally, I'm more inclined to think he was or is depressed.

Surely, you'd say: how could Russell be depressed when he's so rich?  Well, you know, Terry Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings and is clinically depressed.  Depression defies reason.

Events such as the destruction within Russell's hometown of Mobile, Alabama from Hurricane Katrina are other reasonable possibilities as factors in any depression,

I wonder if his mind was merely stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.

A common complaint by Russell haters was that Russell did not have the "brains" to succeed, which is just another hypocritical absurdity.  At least according to the NFL's measure of intelligence, the Wonderlic, JaMarcus Russell scored a 24 on the Wonderlic.

Random Thought: Is intelligence a social construct?

Russell was well above Vince Young's score of 10, Bruce Gradkowski's score of 19, Tebow's and Brett Favre's score of 22, Jason Campbell's score of 23, Dan Marino's score of 16, and Donovan McNabb's score of 14.

He was only a point below Ben Roethlisberger's score of 25, two below Jay Cutler's score of 26, and four points below Peyton Manning's and Drew Brees' score of 28.

Clearly, Russell had the "brains" to compete with current starters or NFL greats, even his backup, Gradkowski, and Russell's replacement, Campbell.

By the way, Ryan Leaf scored a 27 on the Wonderlic.  Leaf, however, was just a hot-head with substance problems.

Moreover, quarterbacks with high scores on the Wonderlic don't always pan out either.  Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Bills had a near perfect score on the Wonderlic of 48, and yet, Fitzpatrick has only been a serviceable backup.

I do see the tone of racism, when people made absurd claims that Russell didn't have the "brains" to succeed and that he was "too stupid," when the facts clearly contradict the idea that a QB must be intelligent.

If the quarterback is smart, that's just circumstance. Not a requirement.

Meanwhile, an age old cry of bigots is that black people are too dumb. Thus, in the absence of any rational explanation for the churlish cries of Russell being "too dumb," I'm left to believe that those critics are centered around bigotry.

So how do you like them apples?

I also seldom hear claims that white quarterbacks are too dumb to play quarterback. In fact, Gradkowski is less intelligent that Russell (according to the Wonderlic) and yet, the same fans that called Russell too dumb were quick to support Gradkowski.

How did Gradkowski succeed if he's less intelligent than Russell?  Fans and coaches supported him, that's how.

The Wonderlic issue also begs the question as to what "brains" really mean in the National Football League.  If you ask me, it's not about "brains" but rather about team structure and desire.

The Catch-22 of Desire and Structure

Desire is psychological. 

People have desire when they are supported in their efforts, and conversely, people will lack desire when irrationally criticized. 

Tebow receives unconditional support from fans because he shows desire.  Russell, in my opinionn, received unconditional hate from fans and sports media.

Fans saw Russell as just another overpaid bust, while writers used Russell as a case study in the quixotic decisions of Al Davis.

Structure meanwhile comes from the coach and players around the quarterback. 

Young had Norm Chow and Jeff Fisher; Gradkowski had Jon Gruden; Brett Favre had Mike Holmgren; Jason Campbell had Joe Gibbs; Dan Marino had Don Shula; Donovan McNabb had Andy Reid; Ben Roethlisberger had Ken Whisenhunt and Bill Cowher; Jay Cutler had Mike Shanahan; Peyton Manning had his dad Archie Manning and Jim Mora; and Drew Brees had Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego and Sean Payton in New Orleans.

I imagine that it's akin to learning to ride a bike.  Once you learn, you never forget.

Cult of the Quarterback

Many like to pretend that the quarterback is the equal of the coach, when really, the quarterback is just another product of a good or great coach, like any other player. 

But that quarterback has no chance when the coach is unwilling to do his job.

These days, the Cult of Tim Tebow all say that Tebow will be fine once coached. 

It seems strange that fans are eager to believe in the promise of Tebow once coached, yet conversely, fans were quick to disregard the promise that Russell could have shown once coached.

Simultaneously, many would trash Russell as the sole reason for the Raiders woes, because the popular myth of quarterbacks is that the quarterback will cure all ills for a team, or at least enough to make the team respectable.

Will Denver fans do the same thing to Josh McDaniels and Tim Tebow? Or will they give both every excuse needed in order to succeed?

Tim Tebow, unlike Russell and Leaf, has the demeanor of a motivational speaker, whereas Russell and Leaf came across as aloof or anti-social, thus, easy targets for knee-jerk fans.

Some fans just never learn

To any Raiders reading this...

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)."

And I'll say it.

Russell is just the product of psychological warfare from irrational fans and unscrupulous reporters (more willing to sell gossip than report) that had no interest in seeing a black quarterback succeed or for Mr. Davis to disprove his critics.

At least according to the Wonderlic, Russell had plenty of "brains" to learn, yet did not have a coach willing to teach.  Strangely, fans were more willing to toke the side of an insubordinate liar than to show Tebow-like support to Russell.

Then again, some Raider "fans" would also claim in blogs that they'd rather lose with Bruce Gradkowski than win with JaMarcus Russell.

At least in the case of some "fans," the issue was clearly about race.

I'm just the messenger. I bet that it's easy to feel good about yourself when people think more highly of you than you do.

Chargers fans meanwhile are salivating over the prospect that someone has surpassed Ryan Leaf as the biggest bust. But, I know how Bolt fans (at least some) feel about black people. 

I say that, because a popular Charger blogger sent me a video called, "Why I Have a Gun," which promotes violence or imagined self-defense against black people, and claims that "most black churches around the US" promote the type of ideas that are *provoking* white people to *justified* self-defense.


I hope that you in the media remember than the next time you visit "classy" San Diego.  You're probably surrounded by gun-toting bigots.  Just wolves in sheep's clothing.

"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened (1 Peter, 3:14)."

(I should note however that I criticized "some" Raider fans as much as "some" Charger fans.  I don't believe that every Charger fan thinks that way, but the fact that a popular blogger would, is scary).