NEW YORK -- This was a slam-dunk. This was a no-brainer. This was the sensible decision once all of the nonsensical speculation finally stopped.
The Oakland Raiders could not pass on a quarterback. Not after saying no to Matt Leinart a year ago. Not while lacking a legitimate starting quarterback this year. Not with Lane Kiffin, their rookie head coach, needing a centerpiece to the explosive, quick-striking offense he is looking to build.
Furthermore, the Raiders could not pass on one of the most talented passers to emerge from the college ranks in many years. They could not pass on a quarterback with JaMarcus Russell's ultra-powerful arm or his extraordinary athleticism for someone with a towering, 6-foot-5-plus, 256-pound frame.
What about Calvin Johnson? What about him? He is an incredibly talented wide receiver, but what good would that be with no one to throw him the ball.
What about Brady Quinn? What about him? He had an outstanding collegiate career, but he does not possess the same pure talent as Russell. No other quarterback in the 2007 college crop does. No quarterback currently in the league can match his arm strength.
Russell was the choice. Russell always was the choice.
Yes, he has some rough spots that were evident even during his most dominant moments at LSU. All rookies do. Kiffin and the rest of the Raiders' coaching staff are capable of smoothing them out.
Taking JaMarcus Russell became an easy decision for the Raiders.
It also helps when you have the tremendous foundation that Russell provides. He still will be able to do good things even before he learns what he needs to learn to become a consistently effective NFL quarterback.
It helps that the Raiders have a humble player who is ready and eager to learn.
"You have to prove yourself once and for all," Russell said during a news conference following his selection at Radio City Music Hall.
He described his biggest challenge as "just starting all over again" and "just letting the guys know that you come there to work, you'll do anything and everything possible to try to help them out and just put (yourself) in a position to make plays as a quarterback."
I've heard the criticism that the importance of Russell's arm strength is overrated. It isn't.
No, he won't be throwing long passes on every down or on most downs. But the mere fact he poses a deep-ball threat is going to allow him to make an impact that Quinn and other rookie quarterbacks with less powerful arms aren't able to make. The respect opposing defenses must show Russell for his ability to make a game-breaking play with one flick of the wrist alters their coverage in ways that should allow the Raiders to run more effectively and/or make plays with short and intermediate passes.
I've heard criticism that the importance of Russell's standout performance in the Sugar Bowl is overrated. It isn't. Russell gave his best performance in the biggest game of his career, and that says plenty about him as a competitor and about what he can do at the next level. The fact he clearly overshadowed Quinn is equally important, because Quinn once held the distinction of being the best quarterback in the draft. Russell went a long way toward making him second best.
Russell isn't defined solely by his immense physical skills. He also has exceptional awareness in the pocket and his instincts are superb.
Ask Vic! Have a question for Vic on anything NFL related? Don't just sit there -- send it to AskVic@nfl.com, and the best questions will be answered throughout the season right here on NFL.com! "Most people don't know how much our offense (at LSU) brings to the table as far as checking out the line and switching plays from side to side or from run to pass, pass to run," Russell said.
He has everything necessary to deliver in a big way for the Raiders.
As the top overall pick of the draft, he must deliver in a big way. Every bit as big as his talent and physique says he can.
"Whether it's other people or myself, I set my standards very high and for the expectations that everybody has," Russell said. "But you know, you can only do what God has set for you to do. I'll be very pleased to go out there and work as hard as I can to make everything possible for the Raiders."