It isn’t often that the quarterback position on a 4-9 football team in the middle of December is news. We’ve all moved on to the wild-card races in the NFC and the AFC and find ourselves tuning in to games that have meaning come Sunday.
But when that quarterback is the Raiders’ JaMarcus Russell — again — we should take notice.
Because if we see the former No. 1 overall pick benched — for the second time in ’09 — this week, possibly for third-string QB Charlie Frye, according to some reports, we have to start asking our own questions about what Russell has to offer.
And, more importantly, if we’ll see him in Oakland next season.
Sure, that’s all speculation, but if you read the report from the Contra Costa Times, coach Tom Cable doesn’t sound so sure about Russell after his performance on Sunday when he replaced the injured Bruce Gradkowski.
And I’m wondering how you can put Russell back in as your starting quarterback after this last performance: 74 yards passing, one INT, and he was sacked a shocking six times — all in a relief appearance.
Cable responded to the media about Russell’s performance, saying Monday, “You know after looking at it on film, I see some things that are the same. I think that there’s a couple things he did that were good. Again, I’ll look at all that here in the next 24 hours because if we’re heading towards a decision at the quarterback spot, then I pretty much do diligence in all those things and I’ll sit down and look through everything again.”
Reading between the lines, it sounds like Cable isn’t too hot on Russell and we might see a move made — if he hasn’t already made up his mind to do what we’re all thinking.
Because as much as we like to talk about teams that pack it in for the season at this time of year, Cable does owe it to the 52 other guys on the roster who are not only still playing to win football games, but most likely are playing for their jobs as members of this team in 2010. And they need a QB to do that, to run their offense, to not put their defense in adverse situations time and time again and to work within the game plan to win games on Sundays.
Cable has to give them a chance, and that chance isn’t going to happen with Russell — a player who comes off as almost delusional when asked about his performances. Because these players know what’s going on; every locker room in this league does when it comes to the quarterback. They know the struggles that JaMarcus is having, and they know they’ll have to play nearly mistake-free ball to compensate for his faults on game day.
As a player, that’s a very awkward situation to be in. You take the field knowing that your QB doesn’t give you the best chance to win — and you’ll have to find another way to grind out a victory.
That’s bad football in the NFL.
And that’s just it. Putting Russell back in a starting role will set this team back — a team that was playing football at a pretty high level with Gradkowski. They were efficient, they moved the ball through the air, and that game against the Steelers on the road, well, I just couldn’t see it happening with JaMarcus in the game. Because the Raiders do have talent on their roster — but it takes a QB to put it all together on game day.
Yes, he’s still very young, and we all know that. And, yes, he’s still adjusting to the pro game. But how much of a leash to you give a player before you have to pull him back? Because as much “talent” as we hear people say JaMarucs has, we don’t see it on Sundays. Two TD passes and 10 INTs on the season, along with a lowly QB rating of 47.7 tell us that. We don’t need to see the film, and we don’t need to be told that he’s starting to get it, because those numbers from a pro quarterback are what they are — unacceptable.
I understand that he’s one of Al Davis’ first-round picks, and I also understand that first-round picks are granted more chances than anyone when it comes to the NFL because of the big money invested in them. We all do. But you can also cut your loses and do what’s best for the franchise.
Time to move on, Oakland, and give the ball to someone who can direct this team to a win on Sunday and allow the rest of these players to finish strong down the stretch.
And then make a major decision about Russell’s future in a black and silver uniform.
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