The Oakland Raiders have always gone after guys that run a 4.3 in the 40 even if they can’t play and quarterbacks who fit the modern prototype of big, with a strong arm.
In 2007, they chose JaMarcus Russell, a big, strong-armed quarterback from LSU who’d just led the Tigers to the national championship. When the Raiders drafted Russell, the belief was that he would lead the franchise for the next 10-12 years.
Blessed with elite physical attributes — 6 feet 6, 255 pounds and a cannon for an arm — owner Al Davis saw Russell throwing touchdowns to all those fast wideouts he was known for drafting, even against then-head coach Lane Kiffin’s wishes. That never came to fruition, as Russell’s lack of work ethic and passion had him out of the league in three seasons.
After passing for a measly 4,803 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions over his career and completing just 52 percent of his passes, Russell is considered one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
In a recent interview with The Players Tribune, Russell recounted his short and very disappointing career.
“They saw all the jewelry, the way I talked, the way I dressed, my grammar — and they only saw one thing. To them, I was always just a n***a.”
“The coaches didn’t give a damn about me — not as a player, and damn sure not as a person. All they cared about was winning. And I wasn’t winning.”
Did Raiders Have A Reason For Not Believing In Russell?
Russell missed all of training camp his rookie season as he negotiated a $68 million deal with $31 million guaranteed. That was the beginning of the end.
In his first season, he tossed 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a 53 percent completion percentage. Coaches believed he wasn’t watching game film or preparing for games, so to find out just how egregious his work habits were, they sent Russell home with blank game tapes.
He told coaches the videos had blitz packages, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. A clear sign that he didn’t take his job as an NFL quarterback seriously.
David Diehl just told a great story on the FAN. Coaches didn’t think Jamarcus Russell wasn’t studying tapes so they gave him blank cassettes. Next day, he said he watched the blitz packages. The tapes were blank.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) November 4, 2018
Russell’s Lack Of Discipline Cost Him Dearly
During his short three-year career, the former LSU Tigers gun-slinger showed a lack of discipline on numerous occasions. One of those instances came in the summer of 2010 when he was arrested for not possessing a valid prescription for codeine syrup.
Rappers like Lil Wayne used to have that in red cups while they performed, so for an athlete like Russell to be taking that is a true sign of lack of self-discipline.
“I shouldn’t have been sippin’ like that in the NFL. I should have been in better shape. I should have been more of a student of the game. I got to live with my mistakes,” Russell continued.
“I never liked painkillers. In college and the NFL, they were handing that s*** out like skittles. But I didn’t like the way it made me feel. So I handled it my way. … You know what’s crazy to me? If I had three of four pills in my pocket, nobody would have bat an eye.”
Russell isn’t the first player to talk about painkillers being given out like candy. The NFL is all about doing whatever it takes to play on Sunday.
The problem is players become addicted like Brett Favre did, who said he took eight pills a day and that wasn’t enough. Those painkilling opioids he used heavily from 1994 to ’97 helped him win three consecutive league MVPs.
Russell is a true case of squandered talent, but he is also a victim of NFL culture, to a large extent. And maybe even some prejudice, if you let him tell it.