I am not a JaMarcus Russell apologist.
His performance on the field and demeanor off it all expressed a lethargy that has cost the Raiders $39 million over three seasons, and many profanities in my home.
Time and time again, myself and other fans felt the tangible disgust that came with every Russell interception, sack, and poor play.
So, when I heard the news that Russell was officially released by the Raiders, my reaction should have been a jump for joy, loud cheering, and a celebration beer. Instead, it was a blank stare, an indifferent look that would even make Russell wonder what was going on in my head.
With a few hours to digest things, now I feel a bit of pity for him.
Although it was only three years into the enigma that was Russell, most people would say this move was long overdue. The first overall pick in the 2007 draft, Russell was widely considered to be the top quarterback prospect.
Comparisons to Elway came regularly because of his amazing arm.
A firm believer of creating a team from the inside out, I wanted the Raiders to draft Joe Thomas. Now Russell is a free agent and a two-week food binge away from being of comparable size to Thomas.
For a moment, let's play the blame game.
Blame It on Russell
Russell made his first impression on the Raiders and fans by holding out for more than six weeks to get a six-year, $61 million contract. Due to the hold-out, he was vastly behind the learning curve and was never effective his first year.
His second year essentially became his rookie year and was filled with inconsistent play. His work ethic became the main topic of discussion, and Russell's play seemed to confirm all the questions. He looked noticeably larger, and not in a good way that could fit a supposedly 260-pound frame.
His third year, with a new full-time head coach and new QB coach, Russell looked even bigger, and it was reflected in his lumbering play. Eventually, he was benched for both Charlie Frye and the energetic Bruce Gradkowski.
Russell did have some late-game heroics, but calls for his release were already on the tongue of every Raiders fan. The Raiders made a trade for former Redskins QB Jason Campbell, and "Cut Russell" watch began.
Blame It on the Raiders/Al Davis
Being the No. 1 overall pick has enough pressure.
Being that pick means you're going to a bad team. Couple that with a head coach that implied he didn't want to pick you, and you're asking for little success.
If there wasn't talk about Russell's work ethic, there was plenty of talk about the feud between Lane Kiffin and Al Davis. Kiffin was fired in the middle of the season, but the damage to the team was done.
Davis drafted Darren McFadden to add a weapon for Russell, but McFadden's presence did little to help.
More weapons were given to Russell with questionable first-round wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey was out-performed by fourth-round receiver Louis Murphy.
Throughout the three years, little was done to fortify the line for Russell.
Quite frankly, this investment was a complete bust, but the Raiders didn't give Russell much to work with.
Their development of highly drafted players has been unstable due to the organization being unstable. Things seem to be changing, but Russell won't be a part of it.
The question of where Russell will go starts today.
Russell has youth on his side and will turn 25 in August. He will undoubtedly get a second shot somewhere, if he so chooses. I think all Raiders fans should wish him the best. Not because of his game play, but because he was a Raider.
It's amazingly difficult to succeed in the NFL. It's even more difficult and pressure-filled to be the No. 1 pick of a team. It's damn near impossible when your organization has been lost since 2003 with a revolving door of coaches.
Today is the earliest a No. 1 pick has been cut from the team that drafted him. Russell got the accelerated “win now or forever be hated” treatment and stoically crumbled in the spotlight.
Maybe he'll find his passion again as a third-stringer.
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