JaMarcus Russell told reporters on Thursday that he had a cold. “I got a cold, so watch out. I ain’t got no Swine Flu now. Don’t put that on me. Uh-uh. I don’t need that.” Russell might not have the Swine Flu, but his play has helped give the Raiders’ offense the football equivalent.
Obviously, there are 11 players on the offensive side of the ball, so you can’t lay all the blame of the Raiders’ 32nd ranked offense on Russell. Since it’s a quarterback league, it’s fair to say that at least half of the ills should be pinned squarely on him, and some might even say more.
Three straight games, the Raiders’ offense has failed to gain at least 200 yards. The last time a Raiders offense did that was…never. Think about that for a minute. ‘Never’ includes not only the Tom Walsh ‘bed and breakfast’ offense, but even the lean years prior to Al Davis joining the organization.Even the 2006 Raiders averaged 246.2 yards per game. These Raiders are averaging 208.5 yards per game and have scored only 42 points in four games–an average of 10.5 points per game. In order to find a similar offensive futility, you’d have to go back to the ’92 Seattle Seahawks who averaged 210.9 yards per game.
There is hope that Russell could be pulling out of his funk. Monday, head coach Tom Cable said, “[Russell] really did throw the ball well as compared to the three previous weeks,” when talking about the quarterback’s performance on Sunday in the loss against the Houston Texans.
Cable later went on to point out why he thought that was true. “He was on target all but really two throws. When you have that many drops – I think there were nine that I counted – if you put nine completions or at least the opportunity of nine completions on his deal, you’d say he might have been as good as anybody in pro football [Sunday].”
That’s really all the Raiders want right now–a quarterback who can play average. An average quarterback can make the completions he’s supposed to make, and when he’s able to do that the running game will find a few more holes. Once the running game finds those holes, Russell will find better protection. At least, that’s how the theory goes.
Right now, defenses are filling the box with seven and eight men, just daring Russell to beat them through the air. The problem is, even screen passes have been difficult for him to complete.
Russell does feel like he’s getting more comfortable, but he acknowledges that it’s time to turn that comfort into production. “I’m real comfortable being in there. I know where to go with the ball. We need guys, including myself, just to meet up at the end of the stick and become better than what we are right now.”
One of the issues with Russell is that he’s not a hard worker. During his NFL career, the Raiders’ top pick in the 2007 NFL Draft has dealt with accusations about his weight and work ethic. Last Sunday, both issues were spotlighted with more reports stating that there’s fire to that smoke.
On Sunday, CBS Sports’ Boomer Esiason made comments on the NFL pregame show about reports he was getting from insider’s regarding Russell being fined for being overweight and for missing meetings. Russell disputed those claims.
“I don’t really play into that and I don’t have any truth to missing a lot of meetings because I’m the guy that needs to be in there and know what it takes for the guys around, so I don’t really play into all of that,” said the third year quarterback. When point-blank asked if he’d been fined at all, Russell replied, “Not at all.”
When Russell’s head coach was asked on Monday if the starting quarterback had been late for meetings, Cable responded coldly, “I’m not gonna talk about our internal stuff that way,” which isn’t a direct denial that it didn’t happen.
With a 39.8 completion percentage, one touchdown and four interceptions for a 42.4 QB rating, and only 506 yards passing in four games played this season, Russell needs to get his problems fixed. If those problems relate to his work ethic, then the problem is for Tom Cable to fix by replacing the guy who says he’s the leader of the team.
Russell answered in the affirmative when asked if he was the leader of the Raiders, “Yes I feel that because if you look at it, the quarterback touches the ball every play. If I can do the smallest things to get guys in position to become successful, then that’s what I look at it as. If anything is not going right, I might get a two-yard gain or anything just to spark the guys to get going and move forward.”
Whatever it takes from here on out, the Raiders’ offense needs to move forward as well.