From day one, Jamarcus Russell’s career has gone horribly wrong.
The Oakland Raiders’ much-maligned quarterback entered the NFL as a heralded prospect from LSU, with great size and a cannon for an arm. When he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2007 draft, he was going to be the face of the franchise.
But he sat out all of training camp, the preseason, and the first week of the regular season due to a contract dispute. He eventually signed a six-year, $61 million dollar contact, but his first season was essentially lost since he missed so much time.
He became a starter in 2008 and has struggled mightily ever since. He’s been accused of being lazy, selfish and not willing to do what is necessary to be an NFL quarterback. There have been reports that this offseason, he’s ballooned to 300 pounds.
WATCH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE OF RUSSELL AND MORE…
Now there are rumors that the Raiders may cut him, putting his career at a crossroads. At this stage of his career, Russell needs to look in the mirror and decide if he really wants to be an NFL player. He’s headed for “Biggest Bust in NFL History” territory, if he hasn’t reached it already. His name is brought up in the same sentences with guys like Ryan Leaf and Tim Couch.
He needs some advice. Here are five things Russell must do if he hopes to salvage his career:
1) Get a Mentor
Russell needs someone to help guide him in the right direction. He’s playing for the most dysfunctional organization in football (maybe in all of sports). Before training camp last season, he lost his uncle and father-figure Ray Ray Russell. He desperately needs a new role model to lean on.
Someone like a Tony Dungy may be just the person needed to help resurrect Russell’s career. We’ve already seen what Dungy can do with Michael Vick and he still commands respect in NFL circles. Dungy needs to work his magic again with Russell.
2) Dedicate Himself to Film Study
There have been plenty of reports saying Russell does not prepare well enough to be a successful quarterback. If that’s true, it needs to change immediately.
Russell needs to be the first player at practice in the morning and last to leave. He should be sleeping at McAfee Coliseum. He needs to show Raiders’ ownership, the coaching staff, and most importantly, his teammates, that he’s committed to becoming a great quarterback.
3) Become More Accessible
We’ve heard plenty from writers, coaches and fans about Russell. Have we ever heard anything from him? He hasn’t been particularly open with the media since he got in the league.
That has to change. He needs to start speaking more to the media and talk about everything that has happened to him. Show that he’s human just like everyone else. Then speak about how he has re-dedicated himself to the game and he’s going to do everything he can to help his team.
We’ve heard from all of Russell’s detractors. It’s up to him to defend himself.
4) Sit the Bench
Russell has proven he’s not good enough to be an NFL starter. At this point in his career, it’s best he takes a seat and watch for a while. With Jason Campbell being brought in, it’s clear Russell won’t start this season. While sitting the bench, he needs to learn from Campbell, and dedicate himself to becoming a student of the game.
We’ve seen this happen before. Vince Young, a No. 3 overall pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2006, started most of his rookie season, showed flashes of greatness, won The Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and was a Pro Bowler. In 2007, he led them to the playoffs.
Even with his performance, there were still questions about whether he was actually getting better as a quarterback. He got injured in 2008, and Kerry Collins took over for the rest of the season. Like Russell, Young had some off-the-field problems. That year there were reports that Young was suicidal and he briefly disappeared.
Last year Collins started, and after an 0-6 start, Young took over and led the Titans to an 8-2 record. Young sat for nearly a season and a half; and I think it made him better. It humbled him, and made him treasure the position he was in. There were reports that he was studying more film and showing dedication to his teammates. He made the Pro Bowl again in 2010 and it looks like Young is on track to become an elite player.
Russell needs to take a page from Young’s book and sit.
5) Leave Oakland
Getting cut by Oakland might be the best thing that can happen to Russell. Sometimes players need a fresh start, and at this point he’s never going to be able to succeed in that city.
His relationship with Oakland is beyond repair. He needs to get to an organization that can bring him along slowly, let him lick his wounds, and start preparing himself for the second phase of his career. If the new team already has an established quarterback in place, even better.
Russell’s career is currently on life-support, and realistically, it’s a longshot for him to make it in the NFL. But he’ll have a chance if he makes some fundamental changes.
Time will tell whether he’s willing to make them.