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Why Has JaMarcus Russell Failed To Live Up To Expectations?

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A Raiders blogger closes the book on Jamarcus Russell considering why exactly Russell failed to live up to expectations.

From all accounts of JaMarcus Russell’s physical gifts and the fact that his accuracy and penchant for the deep ball fit perfectly into Al Davis’ vision for the Oakland Raiders one would be led to believe that JaMarcus Russell would be the perfect Oakland Raider Quarterback.  Perhaps, all he had to do was show up in Alameda, work hard and he would be one of the greatest Raider Quarterbacks of All-Time, not to mention, the highest paid.

Russell’s career completion percentage at LSU was a very respectable 61.7 percent, but it is nothing compared to his final Season as a Tiger when he completed 67.8 percent of his passes. To put that into perspective, Peyton Manning finished his career at Tennessee with a 62.7% completion percentage and he never exceeded 64.2%.

Some sports fans will recall how JaMarcus Russell passed the Tigers to a great victory over Brady Quinn’s Notre Dame team before declaring for the draft and eventually being selected #1 overall by a 2-14 Oakland Raider team that was in need of a fresh start. Once again, it seemed like a perfect fit for the organization and the cannon armed Russell.

Unfortunately, all of the dreams that were bantered about by Raider fans and Al Davis, himself, began to quickly unravel as JaMarcus Russell would miss the entire Training Camp and not be in a Raider uniform until the first game of the season, due to a contract dispute between the team and JaMarcus’ rookie negotiating team.

Making matters worse, then Head Coach, Lane "Quitter" Kiffin, despised JaMarcus Russell’s selection and seemed almost bent on his failure.

 It is safe to say that his rookie campaign was a disaster. Although the team finished in the basement of the AFC West there was hope that, under Russell, with a full off-season to prepare, the Oakland Raiders would be better in 2008. To Raider fans, there was very little knowledge of Kiffin’s distain for Russell or in the internal feuding with Al Davis in 2007. That changed after teh season when Lane Kiffin fired Robb Ryan in an attempt to bring his father Monte Kiffin aboard and was scolded by Al for not consulting him first and was thusly stripped of all power as Ryan was retained.

Unfortunately, for JaMarcus’ progress, due to the Kiffin/Ryan situation and many others,the Raiders Coaching staff fell apart in 2008. Not only did it fall apart, but, when Al davis brought out his overhead projector to fire Lane Kiffin, it was Kiffin’s distain for Russell that was brought into the spotlight and now Russell was square in the middle of the controversy. Surprisingly, JaMarcus has a decent season. He finished with 13 TDs and 8 INTs while leading an offense that was definitely tuned down. In fact, most teams called them, varsity level (A Reference to High School Football), on offense and even Nnamdi Asomugha, the team's soft spoken leader, called the defense too simple. Yet, Russell improved his QB Rating to a respectable, for a 22 year old, 77%.

There were whispers and rumors that the team had to simplify the play book because JaMarcus was not developing at a regular pace. In fact, the rumors were that he didn’t study, slept through meetings and was not intelligent enough to grasp an NFL playbook. But, there were reasons for hope.

By 2009, with his weight ballooning to over 300 pounds, it was apparent that JaMarcus Russell was 100% about JaMarcus and that he wasn’t studying or taking any responsibility for his team’s lack of success. His performance on the gridiron reflected his lifestyle.

Russell played like he was hung over and he breathed deeper than 350 pound linemen when he came out of games. Statistically, as the team was getting better, he regressed below his rookie numbers.

After hanging up a respectable 77% QB rating in his Sophomore year, Russell posted a 50% rating in 2009 (5 points below his rookie level). Russell threw 11 Interceptions and only 3 Touch Downs.

In short, by the time the season was over and the Oakland Raiders had sent a special chaperone (Spy), Eddie Anderson, with Russell on a trip to Vegas, it was clear that JaMarcus had become the biggest bust in NFL History.

Some believe that Ryan Leaf owned that title, but, in my opinion, Leaf never had anywhere near the talent and physical ability that JaMarcus did. So, Jamarcus was the biggest BUST of All-Time.

Now, the news breaks that JaMarcus Russell is hooked on Cough Syrup with Codein. This is a drug that is popular in the Deep South and it causes memory lapses and creates a heroin-type effect.

Could it be that the "Purple Sizzurp" is the cause of JaMarcus Russell’s steep decline and sense of disconnection with his teammates?

Up until this point, I have firmly believed that JaMarcus is a product of a young man being  given millions of dollars with no consequences. A young man with no direction and a terrible work ethic who has become self consumed and doesn’t have a real love for what he is/was paid to do.

Now, I have to rethink that.

The one person that stabilized young JaMarcus was his uncle Ray Russell. From the day that JaMarcus was drafted "Uncle Ray" was the one who was by his side and helping him deal with the NFL lifestyle. Unfortunately in April of 2009, Uncle Ray passed away. After losing his God Mother the year before, JaMarcus Russell was now, pretty much alone, with only his henchmen and entourage around. And I am sure there was a lot of pain as well.

The timeline of his failure in 2009 directly coincides with his Uncle’s death, so I am thinking that it did play a role in his decline.

This is the sort of abyss that has led MANY to drug use. Things like this have led many astray and I can see how the detachment and loss of touch with reality can be tied to drug use.

We’ve heard this story with many musicians who have holed up with bundles of money and drugs until they eventually self destructed.

The true greatness of a man shows itself in adversity. So, too, are the failures innate to one’s person most evident when they can’t handle the life that they have created.

I hope, for JaMarcus’ sake, if it is a downward spiral of depression,  that he can rise above this situation. If it truly is an ego driven detachment, then his spiral will continue downward and he deserves to reap what he has sewn.