JaMarcus Russell, otherwise known as football’s favorite punching bag, was arrested Monday after authorities raided his Alabama home and charged him with unlawful possession of a controlled substance – codeine syrup.
The ex-Raiders quarterback and former #1 overall draft pick has seen his career spiral out of control in the last few weeks, and now is being declared one of the NFL’s biggest busts.
Russell was a star in college for a powerhouse LSU team. In three years as a starter with the Tigers, the 6’6″ and 260-pound Russell was 21-4 and was named MVP of the 2007 Sugar Bowl. He thrilled scouts with a powerful arm and fast legs, and elicited Al Davis to compare him to John Elway (Davis is delusional, but still). He was the consensus top prospect in the 2007 NFL Draft and was selected by the Oakland Raiders and signed a 6-year contract for $68 million.
That, however, is where the gravy train stopped. Russell only played in four games his rookie year, but still managed to throw twice as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (2), all on the way to compiling an abysmal 55.9 QB rating.
He hasn’t been much better since, and many think he may have actually gotten worse. In three years with the Raiders, Russell managed to win only 7 of his 25 starts with a career QB rating of 65.2. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t that bad. Even Ryan Leaf isn’t that bad.
He was never a finished product coming out of college, just an enormous physical talent. According to ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson, Russell “needed to work on his accuracy, his footwork, his penchant for locking in on receivers, his vision, his work ethic and his body language.”
But what did Russell do? He showed up to Raiders mini-camp weighing 290 pounds and prompted NBC Sports to call him “annually and incredibly overweight”. Two months later the Raiders released him, with 3 years remaining on Russell’s bloated contract.
Russell’s downfall may not entirely be his fault. Famed quarterback coach Tom Martinez said that nobody in the Raiders organization really wanted Russell in the first place. It was Al Davis who brought him to Oakland.
The situation for Russell was not ideal, said Martinez, who cited a poor offensive line and “receivers who don’t know how to get open, who don’t know how to separate.”
That judgment may be fair, but Al Davis wasn’t the one spoon-feeding Russell hamburgers while top NFL quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady spent extra hours studying film. Russell never did anything to inspire confidence in his teammates, and he didn’t devote himself to making himself better. He chose to rely on his natural gifts, convinced that they were enough to keep him in the league.
With this latest incident it’s more apparent than ever where Russell’s priorities lie. Instead of working out and perfecting his technique, Russell was spending his free time downing “purple drank”. Now he has a court date to look forward to and a possible league suspension.
His crime was minor, but his image mismanagement through the years has been off the charts. He was put on this planet to throw a football, and for whatever reason he never wanted to take full advantage of his gifts. Instead, he made bad decision after bad decision and opted to enjoy the NFL lifestyle. Well, he won’t be enjoying it much longer.
JaMarcus, good luck to you. I hope I never have to suffer through watching you on a football field ever again.