JaMarcus Russell: One and Done, But is He a Draft Bust?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders looks on against the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 15, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

"With the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select JaMarcus Russell, quarterback, Louisiana State."

Ah, the memories, who could forget 2007? 

It was a year to remember in the NFL.  Brett Favre went on to throw another overtime interception for the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants finally achieved Super Bowl perfection, and poor, old Tom Brady's Patriots went all too close to achieving a perfect season.

It's like flicking through an old photo album isn't it?  Looking back fondly and realizing that two or three years ago you really were in shape, and in fact, those numerous boxes of Oreo cookies probably weren't the smartest of purchases.

Well, perhaps I generalize a bit, but I am 100 percent sure that's how Russell is feeling right now. 

Three years ago, almost to this date, we were all speculating just how Russell would do in an Oakland Raiders uniform.  Trusty, old Mel Kiper Jr. had made the ludicrous statement that Russell was the next John Elway, and finally it seemed Oakland and Al Davis had found a quarterback that could really turn their franchise into a passing machine.

But before we could truly see Russell shine in the NFL, things quickly went south in Oakland, and we found ourselves once again reliving the predictable and all too recognizable signs of a team in turmoil.

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Looking back, all of these factors are irrelevant right now. Russell has been released and now joins the long list of unemployed quarterbacks. The Oakland Raiders are placing their faith and future on Jason Campbell's seemingly steady shoulders.

Some may argue with this move, as Oakland has had a tendancy of making irrational decisions in the past, but I think I speak for the majority of people in saying that it is about time the Raiders make a "cut-throat" decision such as this one.

However, before I go all out and offer my total opinion on the Raiders as a team, one intriguing point was brought to my attention simply by browsing through NFL.com.  It was a simple question, yet one that I struggled to find a real answer to at first.

Is JaMarcus Russell a draft bust?  Now I know what your thinking, Russell did have a handful of solid games in the NFL, and although it looks like he has ultimately failed, there is the off-chance that he does make a comeback in the NFL.

Trust me, these are all factors I have considered long and hard.  But did Russell really do enough in the NFL to be labelled a moderate success, rather than a total failure? 

Well, looking at it year by year, an obvious story is told.


The debut year of Russell didn't start out all too well. 

Failing to reach the starting position until the final week of the season, Russell suffered long and hard as he waited out his time on the wooden bench along with the dozens of other NFL hopefuls.

Finally, his day came—and although Russell didn't start—we finally got to see him on an NFL field.  Unfortunately, things didn't go all too well, and at the end of the day Russell wound up with 56 overall yards.

As the weeks rolled on, not much changed.  After not appearing at all in Week 14, Russell went on to make the odd appearance here and there until finally starting in Week 17 against the San Diego Chargers.

With 224 yards, one touchdown, and one interception achieved, it's safe to say that Russell didn't have the same effect on the Oakland Raiders that Matt Ryan would go on to have for the Atlanta Falcons a year later.


In 2008, it was Russell's year to shine.  After being named the starter weeks before the opening game, it appeared that we would finally see a fresh, rejuvenated, and energized Oakland Raiders side.

In Week One the Raiders failed to show up, and although the Raiders went on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs a week later, the win definitely wasn't due to Russell's efforts.  Completing six of 17 passes, Russell looked rather foolish in the early stages of 2008.

The Raiders kept up a steady losing pace in the coming weeks, losing to Buffalo, New Orleans, and San Diego.  Questions were of course surrounding, and Russell was already going down the draft bust path.

Russell continued on his unsteady path, and when he set up Sebastian Janikowski's game-winning kick against the New York Jets, things appeared to be veering on the right track once again.

All in all, another dismal season in Raiders history, and nothing to really show for Russell's lack of effort. Of course, I didn't really need to refresh your memory of this, but Russell wound up with only 13 touchdowns and 31 interceptions.

Ryan Leaf-like?  Most certainly.


Not much was expected in 2009, especially given a dismal 2008 season.  Once again Russell was named starter a month before the regular season in August, and head coach Tom Cable seemed to have the utmost faith in the inexperienced and questionably talented player.

Finally though, on Nov. 15th Russell was benched, and for the better. Bruce Gradkowski stepped in to replace Russell, and even though the quarterback position was far from solid, it appeared that Gradkowski was at least capable of placing some points on the board. 

Russell turned in another dismal season with three touchdowns and 11 interceptions, along with a stomach the size of the grand canyon. Out of shape, and out of a starting role, the Oakland Raiders had moved on from Russell.

So is JaMarcus Russell a Draft Bust?

I expect a few Raiders fans to disagree here, but the answer to this question is a big, fat yes.  Russell's stats were poor, his performance was poor, and his overall conditioning was poor.

Despite my statement earlier, I would not go as far as labelling Russell as bigger bust than Leaf.  However, there is of course plenty of time for that later on.

The biggest issue in deciding this matter is if Russell is picked up by another willing and ready team.  If Russell sits on the free agency list until September, then the label of "draft bust" is sure to arise.

Right now, people are more or less laughing at this situation.  Campbell in, Russell out was seemingly inevitable from the get-go.  But I don't think anyone expected Russell to be totally dropped from the team.

Now Russell must find a job, and find one quick.  His status as a trustworthy quarterback is already tarnished, so it's important he takes what he gets, and doesn't try his hand at Terrell Owens bargain hunting.

Therefore, Russell is a draft bust like no other.  But the chance to redeem himself is the slightest bit present.  A light at the end of the tunnel perhaps? 

Maybe—but it's fading oh, so fast.

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