|Kirby Lee / US Presswire|
|JaMarcus Russell had an epic fall from top overall draft pick to one of the NFL's all-time biggest busts.|
The Oakland Raiders unceremoniously released JaMarcus Russell prior to last season, three years after making him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Despite many setbacks, is there still hope for Russell in the NFL?
Too young, talented to not get a second chanceIt's hard to say never with someone still just 25 years old. As much trouble as Russell has caused himself, and for all of the ridiculous things he has done in his brief career, I tend to think he will get another shot.
The talent is there. The size is there. One would think that, at this level of personal desperation football-wise, the will would be there. He plays a position that is always in demand. He would undoubtedly come very cheap and could be a developmental asset.
The purple drank, the work habits, weight, and meeting-room behavior ... it's deplorable. I get it. But this is a country and league of second chances, and he happened to be drafted by an organization in disarray at a time that, even for the Raiders, was probably at its nadir.
Without the weight of expectations and the limelight, and with a "prove it" contract rather than a front-loaded one, Russell could be worth the risk. He slips up even a little, and he's gone.
If Russell has the desire to play football and be a professional, then I think the chance could still come. He had a few workouts during the 2010 season, more could be ahead.
The timing of the lockout has worked against him, but eventually it will be resolved. And if Russell can show enough in some tryouts to open an eye or two, the NFL might not be entirely closed to him, at a bargain-basement price.
Russell gets to get his priorities in order firstThere's nothing to make me think that Russell wants to, or that teams are willing to give him a serious look right now. I know he worked out for some teams last season, but he clearly wasn't impressive since he didn't latch on in this time when teams are clamoring for quarterbacks. The most damning testament, though, was the report that his "life coach," John Lucas, stopped working with Russell. Lucas has done wonders for a lot of folks trying to get their lives in order. Him quitting on Russell is a bad message -- really bad.
Teams won't take chance on this train wreckNo, the train wreck that was Russell's brief NFL career cannot be fixed. For all of the considerable raw skill he possesses, he simply lacks too many of the essential qualities needed to merit another shot at being an NFL quarterback. Russell does not show an aptitude for reading complex coverages, nor does he display the desire to put forth the necessary time and effort to improve in that area. He doesn't seem to be a natural leader and doesn't appear to have the presence, command or sense of accountability that go with playing quarterback at the highest level.
Russell needs more motivation than moneyI don't see Russell ever playing in the NFL again. So many people believe that NFL players play mainly for the paycheck ... to an extent that is true, the same as most of us work for our paychecks. But, to truly play in the league, to put in the time, effort and make a team? There has to be more motivation, something intrinsic, and to date Russell has not demonstrated that he possesses that quality. I don't ever expect to see him on an NFL field again.
No team will take that chanceRussell will not play again in the NFL, and its' a shame all of that natural talent was not cultivated into an NFL QB. He's not the first guy to get the big first-round pay day and never make it. He is so far behind the quarterbacks in the league that it is unrealistic to think anyone will sign him.
Every player deserves a second chanceOh my, I think some team will give him a fair shake. Every player deserves a second opportunity. And let's face it, just like Russell carries the stigma of laziness and bad decision-making, he also carries a huge frame and a big arm. He's also played in some very big games (albeit college.) Tom Brady's mentor, Tom Martinez, felt the Raiders ruined Russell with a poor supporting cast, much less emotional support. Who knows how much of that is true, but if a fraction of it is, some club will give him a shot. The guy is only 25.
Being a QB changes Russell's second-chance dynamicThe NFL generally affords players like Russell, lavished with great physical ability, second and even third chances. The reason, to me, that this ex-Raider won't get those, like so many others have, is pretty simple -- he's a quarterback. And that makes the dynamic completely different.
At this point, there's plenty of reason not to bring Russell in as a backup quarterback. Those guys need to be versed in the offense, ready in a pinch to play, and self-motivated. Does that sound like it's a description of this former first pick? (Only on Opposite Day.)
That leaves the other reason to bring him in, which is to roll the dice that he'll develop into your starter eventually, and by extension become the face of your team. Playing that role in Oakland, Russell showed very clearly he was more interested in the trappings of being a star than actually justifying his fame. And he's got serious work-ethic issues, the kind that generally don't get solved with time, and a reported drug problem.
So, say you bring him in and he does ascend on the depth chart. Then what? Then, does the drug problem resurface? Can he sustain a work ethic?
The bottom line is that when clubs take quarterbacks, being able to trust them is a big deal, based on the responsibility they have within the framework of a team. Russell has proven you can trust him as far as you can throw him, which is something else that would've become tougher over time with this player.