by Michael Lombardi
November 19, 02009
QUOTE: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” -- Elie Wiesel
The Oakland Raiders coaches have finally seen enough of JaMarcus Russell to make a change at quarterback. Now, I’m confident they reached this decision long ago, but because the owner controls which players start, they were unable to make a change sooner. When the Raiders signed Jeff Garcia in the off season, many thought he would eventually be the starter because of Russell’s inability to demonstrate any consistency in his career. Garcia, however, asked for his release because he couldn’t tolerate the conditions in Oakland, and instead of him, the Raiders are about to enter the Bruce Gradkowski era. No wonder there’s indifference in the Raider Nation right now.
All season, Russell has looked bad -- with his accuracy, his decision-making and most of all his body language. He projects the image of a player who just doesn’t care whether he’s successful or not. There’s never a sense of urgency or sense of pride in his work. In fact, after a bad play, there’s just a shrug of the shoulders, and he looks for his baseball cap. He doesn’t put in the time off the field to be great and is immature in his approach toward preparation, which translates to a poor performance on the field. But no matter how poorly he plays, the next day he’s not motivated to improve. When there’s an absence of pride, there’s also an absence of willingness to improve.
Many people close to Russell feel that money has spoiled him and taken away his motivation to become a great player. This happens with some players, but it’s not limited to just players; it can happen to anyone. Don’t think it doesn’t happen to some coaches (Charlie Weis, for example) who are highly paid and become indifferent. Their prevailing feeling when facing obstacles becomes, so what if they fire me, they have to pay me a ton of money. I’m set for life.
Money can be rewarding, but it also takes away the hunger, the drive, the focus to be great. I have always believed that no matter how much money this great game provides that no one should get into football for that. It should be for the love of the game, for the chance to be a part of a winner. Money is a nice reward, but it’s not the reason for working 18-hour days. The will to be great is not in Russell’s DNA right now, no matter how much some in the organization want him to be successful. Until he wants to be successful, until he is willing to make the sacrifices, he will never be successful. As Bruce Springsteen once said, “Money can make life easier, but does not make living easier.”
The Raiders’ insistence to make Russell great is justifiable. They have invested a ton of money in him, and if he doesn’t pan out, they will have set back their franchise even further. The Raiders have lost seven games this year, and if they lose three more, they would become the first team in NFL history to lose double-digit games seven consecutive seasons. They’ve only won 26 games since the Super Bowl seven years ago, which is fewer than four wins a year. No team needs a quarterback to pan out more than the Raiders, so their stubbornness about Russell is understandable. But it’s hard to make someone successful when he couldn’t care less. And no matter what anyone might say, Russell looks like he just doesn’t care.
The one glimmer of hope for the Raiders is that Titans quarterback Vince Young had the same look at times last year when he was out of the game. Granted, Young has had a better start to his career than Russell, but Young not starting last year enabled him to re-evaluate how badly he wanted to be a successful NFL player. So far this year, after three starts, he looks to be a player with renewed spirit, a renewed will to be great and a sense of pride in his career. So there’s hope, and taking away Russell’s starting job might help him face the reality of his career: Does he want to be a successful player, or does he want to be a highly paid player who’s in all the “Bust of the Draft” videos? It’s really up to him.
Lost in the New England-Indy game was the incredible play of rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer. He did as good a job on Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney as anyone has done all season….
Levi Jones has become the starting left tackle on the Redskins, which allows them to move Stephon Heyer back to right tackle. Mike Williams was not effective when he had a chance to play, and Jones at least gives the ‘Skins an adequate player at left tackle. The main concern is how long he can play….
The Eagles will miss Brian Westbrook more for his pass protection than his running right now. LeSean McCoy can run, but his pass protection is rather weak.
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