Monday, December 21, 2009

Russell's Redemption?

One drive in a (reasonably) meaningless NFL game does not a career make.

But it may have halted the unraveling of one.

JaMarcus Russell's 4th-quarter efforts in Denver must have given Raiders brass (read: Al Davis) a vision of what they thought they were getting when they made the huge LSU quarterback the #1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and then lavished huge amounts of cash upon him.

Russell has, since then, been largely a bust. By the time of the Denver game, he'd essentially become the Raiders' 3rd-string QB (and might have been 4th-string had J.P. Losman been signed a little earlier so he could learn a few plays). But with Bruce Gradkowski unable to play and his replacement Charlie Frye knocked out with a concussion, the Raiders had what appeared to be two bad choices: Russell, or Losman, who'd had less than a week to learn the Raiders' offense.

The game was in the balance: 3:29 on the clock, trailing by 6. 62 yards from the end zone. Russell's only other action in the game had been a 3-and-out on Oakland's previous possession, and he started this drive by fumbling as he was sacked. The Raiders recovered for a 13-yard loss, and only the morbidly curious or truly rabid Raiders or Broncos fans were still watching.

Russell threw deep and the Raiders picked up 32 yards on a pass-interference call. Two more incompletions under heavy pressure, and Russell had to leave the game after taking a big hit. Losman threw an incompletion, and Russell came back on 3rd-and-10.

This is where it got amazing. He completed a pass for the first down and by the time we all realized what had happened, Russell had thrown a touchdown dart to Chaz Schillens. Improbably, Russell and the Raiders had a win.

What now? Published reports suggest Russell's heroics did little to convince head coach Tom Cable that he deserves another shot at starting. With only two games left in a lost season, the Raiders may have already seen enough of Russell.

But those few minutes in Denver might convince another team--and maybe even Russell himself--that he merits another shot, somewhere.

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