JaMarcus Russell has had his share of detractors since he was the starting quarterback for the LSU Tigers during his college days. Through all of the criticism that he’s had to endure, the Raiders’ top pick of the 2007 NFL Draft has appeared to not let it bother him–at least that’s what he’s said.
“I’m all right,” said the third-year quarterback on Thursday about criticism he’s been getting about his weight. “I don’t play into what he or she said. That’s never been me to play into that.”
While most of the criticism has been levied at his desire to play the game, work ethic, rotund figure, chances are that if he wasn’t ranked 35th in QB rating, none of that would matter. But he IS ranked 35th in QB rating.
Russell’s harshest criticism, or the toughest for the young quarterback to take, has been from his team’s own fans. Despite his poor showing thus far in his career, he’s bearing the brunt of six consecutive double-digit loss seasons. It’s an understatement to say that Raider Nation’s patience has worn awfully thin and Russell has made himself out to be the perfect scapegoat.
“By being fans, you wish they could be more supportive,” said the struggling quarterback about being booed mercilessly in a 23-3 loss to the Denver Broncos Sept. 27. “[being booed] was crazy for me. I had never really been in that situation before you just have to pull out of it. A lot of people are fed up over the course of a year but the only thing we can do this week is make some plays and hopefully it will go the other way.”
Former NFL quarterback and now head coach of the Houston Texans, Gary Kubiak, knows a little something about developing quarterbacks. Prior to facing the Raiders, Kubiak spoke of Russell and of being a young quarterback in the NFL. “He’s a young quarterback in this league and this is a tough, tough league as far as raising quarterbacks.”
There’s no doubt that other quarterbacks have spoken with the Raiders’ franchise player, and this Sunday another quarterback will get in Russell’s ear. Donovan McNabb said via phone that he’s looking forward to speaking with Russell since the two have never met.
McNabb, playing for Philadelphia his entire career has dealt with home fans booing him or chanting for his backup. When asked what wisdom he’d impart on Russell, McNabb explained, “keep your head up, stay positive, understand that every quarterback in this league has been through some sort of struggle, but believe that you can pull yourself out of it and first, the guys around you have to make plays, and that comes from you having confidence in them and them having confidence in you.”
“It may be one good catch, it may be one big block, whatever it may be, that’s got to happen, and it happens as a team. Not all the negative aspects of what’s been going on should fall on JaMarcus because it’s a team game.”
Team game or not, Russell needs to play better if the ire of Raider Nation is going to be drawn away elsewhere. McNabb explained that the booing goes away after you begin to make plays. “The thing about it is the boos can turn to cheers instantly with a couple of completions or a touchdown throw, or the offense comes back out and picks up positive yards, pick up a first down,” said the veteran who’s had his own share of struggles throughout his career.
“You have to know that as a player in this league. I think, you get tired of it, yes, but you can still, you can do something about it and that’s just by going out and playing your game.”
Russell will get that chance on Sunday, but he’ll need the rest of the team to play well before people stop talking about his abilities. Until Russell can lead the Raiders to victory, he’ll have to continue to answer the questions that have continued to haunt him.
- Sunday’s game has been confirmed as a blackout. It’s the team’s second consecutive blackout this season. Instead of watching the Raiders play, the Bay Area will see the Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks on Fox.
- Chaz Schilens and Greg Ellis were limited on Thursday. Ellis is a near certainty to play on Sunday, while Schilens is looking questionable. Javon Walker being active for Sunday’s game is a good indication that Schilens will not see any action this week.
- Robert Gallery, Luke Lawton, Darren McFadden, Cornell Green, Nick Miller, and Ricky Brown did not practice Thursday. None of them will suit up for the Eagles game.
- Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey will start at receiver with Gary Russell getting rep’s at fullback.
- Jonathan Holland will be the kick returner this week with Johnnie Lee Higgins returning punts.