Out of the Shotgun Offense: JaMarcus Russell is a Fraud
Draft Day 2007. Some think that this may be the biggest day of the year in the NFL – save the Super Bowl- and I think they may be right. Draft day has everything that a fan could want: excitement, unpredictably, disappointment, and satisfaction. The young men who will be called on stage today will invariably impact a team’s success for the years to come. If the player succeeds at the next level, their impact is obvious. If they flounder, their impact will be felt financially, as a team struggles to work around the salary of a sunk cost player. A first day pick is important, so teams must choose wisely.
Most of the attention centres on the first overall pick. Last year, many were surprised that in the lead-up to the draft, the Houston Texans signed Mario Williams to a deal, thus relegating the pick to a mere formality. This year it appears as though a similar incident will not occur, but with the Oakland Raiders extending offers to all three of the top talents in the draft (JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, and Calvin Johnson) history may soon repeat itself.
At this point even the casual football fan has been inundated with analysis, player biographies, draft guru theories, and above all, mock drafts. I have included a mock draft at the bottom, and if that is all you care to see, you are welcome to scroll to the bottom, but I warn you that I will most likely be wrong, because even the slightest variation in an early pick, whether it be a trade or a sudden change of heart will throw a wrench in the entire enterprise.
This leads me to my first observation of the NFL draft, one that never ceases to perplex me. How is it that after months of scouting and for most teams four months of continuously mulling over their offseason needs that a single variation in the hypothesized order of the draft can set a draft war room into bedlam?
Take the Lions for instance. Assuming they are unable to trade down in the draft, which at this point looks like their preferred option, the only thing that affects their decision is the Raider’s first pick. The Raiders have the ability to remove one player from the board, which means that the if the Lions covet two players, one of them has to be available. At this very moment, the Lions should theoretically have the name of two players written down on two separate cards. If the Raiders take one, they take the other. It’s that simple. I know that the Lions will be attempting to trade the pick and that most teams exhaust the entire fifteen minute time limit to see if any last minute deals come in, but typically there are no eleventh hour deals.
Why are there rarely deals at the draft? Because the high picks are tremendously overvalued. That is not to say that the players are always overvalued, but the pick is overvalued. The whole idea of valuing draft picks began when Jimmy Johnson had a chart system designed to give a value to the various picks. The chart assigns a value to each and every pick. The idea is that any trade would necessitate teams swapping draft picks that have a sum of equal values. While it may seem logical, the chart wildly overestimates the value of the first five picks. For instance, to equal the value of the first overall pick, a team would have to create a value of 3,000 points, which is equal value to the combined value of the sixth an eighth pick. Which means Mario Williams could be traded for Vernon Davis and Donte Whitner straight up.
Or take this example: Based on the chart, the Cleveland Browns would have been under compensated if they had accepted the (9,19,30) overall picks in 2002 for their overall number one. That trade translates into trading Courtney Brown for Brian Urlacher, Shaun Alexander, and Keith Bulluck. Admittedly Brown is a bust, but even when the number one pick is an absolute hit, the chart makes little or no sense.
Peyton Manning (3000) for Keith Brooking, Takeo Spikes, Jeremiah Trotter, Ahman Green, Matt Hasselbeck (Sum: 2806.6)
I know what you are thinking; I am cherry picking sleepers, and for the record I am, but isn’t that the point? If you have a good scouting system, shouldn’t you be able to make even late picks count?
Take this last scenario into consideration. A team with the number one overall pick is usually awful, and has many holes to fill, so if you are the team’s General Manger would you rather have the number one overall pick, or the last five picks in the first round? They are of equal value.
We know the Raiders will not take my advice and will use the first pick to draft a player, most likely a Quarterback, so in the spirit of generosity, here is my one piece of information that I am willing to divulge to the Raider’s top brass:
JaMarcus Russell is a fraud! He is not the better Quarterback; Quinn is Peyton Manning, Russell is Ryan Leaf.
Six months ago if I had told you that the Raiders were going to take Russell, you would disregard everything else I wrote. No one thought Russell should go in the first round when the season began, or even half way through the season. Russell shot up the draft boards after the Sugar Bowl when LSU went head-to-head with Notre Dame and won.
This raises the question of why was Russell not considered a first round talent in October or November? The answer is that he wasn’t worthy of such lofty status, and he still isn’t. Russell finished the season throwing 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, rendering him less productive than Quinn in either of his last two seasons. Quinn threw 37 touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a Senior and 32 Touchdowns and 7 interceptions as a Junior.
Russell’s big selling point is not his stats, it is his physical attributes. By now everyone knows that Russell has a cannon of an arm, maybe the best that anyone has ever seen, but how useful is his cannon? How much is just overkill? Apparently Russell can throw inhuman lengths on his knees and posterior, and I will be the first to say that those are impressive feats of strength, but when are they utilized in a game?
If Russell is on his knees, chances are he is being sacked and can therefore not throw, but let’s say he slips and he is on his butt, do you want him to attempt to hit a receiver forty yards down the field? One that he cannot see because of the linemen in the way. Even if you just want to take these accomplishments as a sign of his strength, and not a practical tool, at a certain point arm strength is irrelevant. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger cannot throw as far of Russell, but they are Pro Bowl Quarterbacks. Brady Quinn can throw the ball 70-80 yards from his feet – the only time you should throw a ball that far- so arm strength is irrelevant in the comparison between the two Quarterbacks. There is no throw that Russell can make that Quinn cannot. Russell’s ability to throw a ball threw a brick wall is useless in every facet of the game; it just makes for a good publicity stunt.
The real physical attributes belong to Quinn who is a muscular 231, and stands 6’3.5″. Russell is two inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, but is best described as doughy. Quinn has always been the one with the good mechanics, as oppose to Russell who has an unorthodox delivery. The biggest complaint about Quinn’s passes is that they are thrown too hard or that he forces them into coverage, which is also an accurate way of describing three time NFL MVP Brett Favre. Russell occasionally misses his passes high and poorly places balls to open receivers.
But the knock on Quinn has never been his statistics or his skill; it is that he has never won the ‘big game’. Quinn is 2-8 in games against Michigan, USC, and in Bowl games. We have all heard it, but have you ever thought about it?
In 2003, Quinn lost to both USC and Michigan. Never mind that Quinn was only a Freshman at the time, USC won the National Championship. Does anyone expect a Freshman quarterback to beat the National Champions? No. And who did USC play in the Rose Bowl of that year? Michigan!
In Quinn’s Freshman season as a starter, he lost to the two teams that played for the National Championship; no one expected him to win, and he didn’t. Why do these two losses haunt him to this day?
In Quinn’s sophomore season, he beat Michigan and lost to USC, who went on to win their second straight national championship. In the Insight Bowl, Quinn’s Notre Dame team lost to a better Oregon State team, which scored 38 points to Notre Dame’s 21. Quinn threw 2 Td’s and a single pick, but was outdone by OSU’s Derek Anderson who tore apart the Irish defence for four Td’s.
Quinn’s Junior campaign saw him beat Michigan at Michigan Stadium. Quinn then went home and faced the two-time defending National Champion USC Trojans who were ranked number one in the country and had the two front-runners for the Heisman Trophy (Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush). Notre Dame won the game when Reggie Bush illegally pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone, but the play stood, and is now the infamous “Bush-Push”. Even as a loss, Quinn forced the second best team in the country to make two unbelievable plays in the closing seconds to win the game; hardly a disappointing performance. The Fiesta Bowl then selected the Irish to play the third best team in the country, Ohio State University, continuing a long trend of bowl games where the Irish are paired up against much superior opponents. The Irish got trounced, but Quinn threw for 286 yards and completed 64% of his passes.
Quinn’s Senior year saw him lead the Irish to a 2-0 start and then into a game against Michigan, where Quinn made a single bad throw and had a catchable ball bounce off his tight end’s hand and into the waiting hands of a Michigan defender who ran it back for a touchdown. Quinn certainly did not have his best game, but he did manage to throw three touchdowns in the loss. Quinn would finish out his rivalry with USC by losing in Los Angeles. During his final meeting with the Trojans, Quinn threw 3 TD’s and 0 interceptions for a total of 274 yards- a solid game, but one that was decided by a bad Irish defence or a good Trojans offence- take your pick.
Quinn’s final game would be against the LSU Tigers, but before we get there, let us examine JaMarcus Russell’s play in big games in his final year.
September 16th 2006- LSU vs. Auburn: LSU fails to score a single touchdown and loses 7-3.
October 7th 2006- LSU vs. Florida: Russell throws three interceptions and a single touchdown in a loss to the Florida Gators, who go on to win the National Championship.
November 4th 2006- LSU vs. Tennessee: Russell throws 3 interceptions and 3 touchdowns in a win against the Volunteers who finish 9-4 on the season.
Russell was by no means spectacular in these three games, but that is overlooked, because of the Sugar Bowl win against Notre Dame. That was his coming out party; so let me explain why…
Russell led his heavily favoured LSU Tigers into the Louisiana Superdome to play the drastically over-hyped Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Notre Dame had a poor defence that had been scorched by every good team it had faced, and LSU won a game that no one expected them to lose.
Why again is this so significant? The Number four LSU Tigers played the number eleven Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a bowl game that many predicted would be over by halftime, and won handily. JaMarcus Russell threw two touchdowns and an interception against a defence that allowed John David Booty and Chad Henne to torch them for over 40 points and let Michigan State score 37. Is it really a big accomplishment to pass on a safety whom Sport Illustrated describes as a player that “[s]hows minimal awareness and ball skills in coverage. Not efficient, and takes incorrect angles to the action. Poor open-field tackler. Lacks the quick break to the throw”? If torching Notre Dame’s defence was such a remarkable feat than Drew Stanton would be getting a great deal more attention.
LSU was a far superior team to Notre Dame, which is why they won the Sugar Bowl. To say that Russell beat Quinn is quite simply fallacious.
JaMarcus Russell is a product of media hype. A comparison between him and John Elway, which several NFL scouts have been quoted as saying is laughable. Russell has all the makings of a bust. He comes from a strong program and had the fortune of playing with a tremendous cast of players- LSU has three players who will go in the first round. Russell has impressed with physical attributes that do not translate directly to the football field and he lacks the fundamentals (good throwing motion and pass placement). Russell will not have the luxury of playing on a team that is better than their opponents; he will have to win his team games on his own, something that he never did in college. Most importantly, Russell has show that he lacks Quinn’s discipline and desire to play football at the highest level. The NFL combine is the stage for young players. Russell showed up overweight, Quinn showed up in prime condition.
Quinn knows what it takes to lead a team. He was the one who put the points on the board to compensate for the Irish defence. Quinn played behind a line that gave him minimal time in the pocket – he was sacked 31 times in his Senior year-, and had only two viable offensive targets for most of the season (Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight). Quinn, having played under Charlie Weiss is ready to be put into an NFL game immediately and will thrive. Russell will be Jeff George, the raw talent is their, but it does not translate to the field.
Quinn is the more polished NFL ready Quarterback; he is the one that should be taken first overall.
JaMarcus Russell will be a bust; you can hold me to it.
Oakland Raiders: JaMarcus Russell
Detroit Lions (Pick traded to Atlanta): Calvin Johnson
Cleveland Browns: Brady Quinn
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gaines Adams
Arizona Cardinals: Joe Thomas
Washington Redskins: Amobi Akoye
Minnesota Vikings: Laron Landry
Atlanta Falcons (pick traded to Detroit): Patrick Willis
Miami Dolphin: Levi Brown
Houston Texans: Leon Hall
San Francisco 49ers: Adam Carriker
Buffalo Bills: Adrian Peterson
St. Louis Rams: Lawrence Simmons
Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jamal Anderson
Green Bay Packers: Marshawn Lynch
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jarvis Moss
Cinncinatti Bengals: Darelle Revis
Tennessee Titans: Ted Ginn Jr.
New York Giants: Joe Staley
Denver Broncos: Robert Meacham
Dallas Cowboys: Dwayne Bowe
Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Blalock
New England Patriots: Reggie Nelson
New York Jets: Paul Posluszny
Philadelphia Eagles: Brandon Meriweather
New Orleans Saints: Dwayne Jarrett
New England Patriots: Aaron Ross
Baltimore Ravens: John Beason
San Diego Chargers: Sidney Rice
Chicago Bears: Alan Branch
Indianapolis Colts: Justin Harrell
Questions? Comments? Concerns? E-mail me at [email protected]