I saw firsthand how incompetent and unmotivated Russell was as an NFL quarterback. I remember the holdout, the stopping of practice to find his earring, and the Tony Siragusa-like belly. One cannot even utter the name JaMarcus Russell to members of the Raider Nation without getting a look of disgust and anguish.
When the Raiders drafted Terrelle Pryor, they would not give Pryor his beloved No. 2 jersey because they did not want fans to think of JaMarcus Russell. Even though Russell had a disastrous start to his career, he is only 27-years-old and he still has potential to be an NFL quarterback.
When Jim Plunkett left the San Francisco 49ers after his seventh dreadful season in the NFL, it looked like he would go down as a monumental bust. Plunkett was considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to come out of college when he was drafted first overall by the New England Patriots in the 1971 NFL draft. He would go onto be mediocre for the Patriots during his five seasons with the team.
Plunkett would then be traded to the 49ers, where he was cut after two uneventful seasons. When he signed with the Raiders in 1978, it seemed as though he would be a big-name bench warmer for the silver and black.
It was not until the 1980 season at the ripe age of 33 that Plunkett got playing time for the Raiders, and that was because of an injury to the starting quarterback. Plunkett would eventually lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl during his first year as a starter and ended up winning one more Super Bowl a few seasons later.
From the outside looking in, Russell seems to have turned a corner in his life and he is finally motivated to live up to his lofty potential. Under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia, Russell has been training hard to lose weight and get his football form back. Russell has actually lost 40 pounds to get to his 270-pound goal.
We all know the aura around Russell’s arm strength (He can throw 70 yards from his knees, etc.) so if Russell has gotten his mind right, he has all the capabilities to be an NFL quarterback. Russell is actually younger than the Cleveland Browns‘ 2012 first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden, which shows he still has time to get his career together.
An ideal situation for Russell would be to sign with a team that has a great quarterback. I can see Russell being a third–string quarterback for the Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, or Baltimore Ravens. Russell would be able to learn the traits of becoming a successful quarterback and pick up the nuances of an NFL playbook.
If Russell shows promise as an NFL player, the team that signs him would have a hard-to-find talented backup quarterback on their roster; if he were to fail, they could cut him with no cost to the team.
There are some terrible quarterbacks in the NFL who constantly get their third, fourth and fifth chances (Trent Edwards, Derek Anderson, David Carr, Josh McCown and Luke McCown. Even Ryan Leaf got four chances), so why can’t Russell get his second chance?
I know NFL teams can use a cannon arm like Russell’s off the bench and who knows, maybe he can become an NFL starter in a few years. Former Raiders quarterback Plunkett was also considered a bust by 30-years-old, but still managed to find success.
Russell is still six years younger than Plunkett was when he began his run as the Raiders’ starting quarterback. Plunkett’s meteoric rise to becoming an NFL great shows that the possibility of a Russell comeback is not unprecedented.
Jorge Contreras is an Oakland Raiders writer for RantSports.com. Follow Jorge on Twitter @jraycontreras