Unabated to the QB, Week 5: How Bad Is JaMarcus Russell?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

—Albert Einstein

It’s difficult to pinpoint who in Oakland fits Einstein’s definition of insanity the best: Al Davis, for continuing to run the Raiders into the ground; Tom Cable, for continuing to run JaMarcus Russell out under center every week; or Russell himself, for continuing to forget that defenders possess the ability to knock the ball out of his hands and force what is colloquially known as a fumble.

Seeing Russell play on Sunday was one of those things you could never prepare for. You know, I had heard that JaMarcus Russell was a really bad quarterback—easily the worst in the NFL. I had heard that Russell routinely missed open receivers and didn’t have a pocket presence. But I had seen plenty of bad quarterbacks in my time. I lived through Dave Brown and Danny Kanell and Kent Graham and Jesse Palmer and a young Eli Manning. I’d looked across the way at Browning Nagle and Glenn Foley and Rick Mirer for the Jets.

I could distinctly remember the two worst quarterback performances I’d ever witnessed: 1. Giants’ backup Tommy Maddox going 6-for-23 for 49 yards with three interceptions in a 17-14 loss to the Eagles in 1995 (a performance so bad that it started in me a lifelong hatred of Tommy Maddox AND kept Maddox out of professional football for six years); 2. Duke backup Zack Asack going 2-for-9 for 15 yards with four interceptions against Virginia Tech last season.

And then came Sunday. Like Thomas seeing Jesus in the flesh, I was left more or less speechless. How could a quarterback, drafted first overall, be this bad?

You see, Maddox and Asack were backups. Maddox entered the game in relief and at that time, had started (and lost) a total of four NFL games. Asack would be converted into a safety at Duke, and let’s be honest, that wasn’t a fair fight to begin with in Blacksburg (we only lost by 11, and Asack ran for 87 yards. Moral victories!).

But Russell. Russell was picked first overall. This was his 22nd career start. He’s supposed to be learning things by now. How bad is JaMarcus Russell? JaMarcus Russell is so bad that he couldn’t escape the generally affable announcing duo of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf! I didn’t write down all of what Dierdorf said about him for CBS on Sunday, but here’s a paraphrased sampling:

“How did he not see him? He’s coming from his front side.”

“That’s just another case where JaMarcus Russell doesn’t have any sense whatsoever of the pocket.”

“Under no circumstances could the Raiders have made the argument that that was an incomplete forward pass.”

Okay, the last one is more on Tom Cable’s ludicrous challenge. But this is Dan Dierdorf we’re talking about here. He’s not exactly out to get anyone. I can’t remember the last time I heard Dan Dierdorf criticize a player with any kind of regularity. I mean, that goes against what Dan Dierdorf is.

JaMarcus Russell is so bad that he had the worst performance by an NFL quarterback on a day when Derek Anderson went 2-for-17 (based on Football Outsiders’ “Yards above Replacement, or football’s version of VORP).

JaMarcus Russell is so bad that he managed to have a worse day than Derek 2-for-17 Anderson even though it was his best day of the season. Do you understand this? JaMarcus Russell’s best game was worse than Derek Anderson’s 2-for-17 day.

JaMarcus Russell is so bad, that if we redid the 2006 NFL Draft, he would almost certainly be taken behind Brady Quinn. Brady Quinn was benched in favor of the guy who went 2-for-17!

JaMarcus Russell is so bad, that if me, 20 friends, and JaMarcus Russell were playing pickup touch football, I don’t think we can be 100% sure in saying he would deserve the top pick.

I mean, how many times can a quarterback not see a pass rusher on his front side? Russell’s three fumbles were all caused by guys coming from his right; NONE were from the blind side. He missed receivers by comically large distances. How did this team win even five games last season? How did they beat the Chiefs?

Sadly, I can’t yet make the case that Russell is the worst starting quarterback in NFL history; it is difficult indeed to top (or, in this case, bottom) both Ryan Leaf and Chris Weinke. Leaf’s career record was 4-17. He completed 48.4% of his passes, threw 36 interceptions to 14 touchdowns, and lost 18 fumbles. Ryan Leaf turned the ball over 2.5 times per game. Conceptualize that.

Chris Weinke won his first NFL start and is 1-18 since, despite okay numbers. Russell is better than them right now, but it’s hard to envision him ever becoming even a serviceable NFL quarterback. How bad is JaMarcus Russell?

He’s so bad that he only looks good in conversation with Ryan Leaf and Chris Weinke.


  • The solution to Oakland’s problems is quite clear: A swift punch to JaMarcus Russell’s jaw by Tom Cable.
  • Actual brief conversation during third quarter of Jets-Dolphins game:

ME: You know it really bothers me how so many people call the Wildcat a “gimmicky” offense? If you do it well, it works.

FRIEND (let’s call him JOHN S): That’s true of anything, though.

ME: Yeah, but all these teams throw it in for like three plays a game, and you can tell they barely practice it. The Dolphins made the playoffs because of the Wildcat. They do it right.

  • I’ll elaborate on the Wildcat next week perhaps (if the Dolphins play well). This is long enough as is.
  • Untenable Jets’ Bash of the Week: What happened, Jets? You haven’t won since I instituted the Untenable Jets’ Bash of the Week! You just got beat by the gimmicky Wildcat! What happened to your precious defense? And did Mark Sanchez just get outplayed by Chad Henne? (P.S. Kudos on your fake punts. I’ve always wanted to see a team try a second fake because no defense ever expects a team to try it twice.)
  • Speaking of NYJ, there was a guy in the bar watching the game, rooting loudly for the Jets in a Chad Pennington jersey. Did he not realize the irony? Also, a guy called WFAN last night claiming the game had to be fixed. Had to. The NFL fixing a Week 5 game between the Jets and Dolphins was more plausible to him than Chad Henne scoring 31 points on Rex Ryan’s defense.
  • Indefensible Chiefs’ Plug of the Week: Against Tony Romo and Monmouth Univ. product Miles Austin, what can you say? You were beaten by the best.
  • It sounds ridiculous, I know, but the more the Broncos keep winning, the more they solidify their hold as the “Worst whatever-and-0 team ever.” All the other bad 2-0 teams that could have conceivably been worse than this year’s Broncos certainly didn’t go to 5-0. So we can still say, the Broncos are the worst 5-0 team in NFL history. (The only team in contention that I can remember is the 2003 Vikings, who started 6-0 and went 9-7. But they had a good Daunte Culpepper and a great Randy Moss.)
  • As much as I’ve bashed Denver, I was always in support of the Jay Cutler deal. Did you know that Kyle Orton is now 26-12 as a starting quarterback? Did you know that that’s the fourth-best record among current starters, behind Brady, Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan? Did you know Brady also started his career 26-12, Roethlisberger always had an awesome running game, and Matt Ryan has only started 20 games?
  • Rate the following on The Scale of Improbability: A. Two undefeated teams are quarterbacked by alums of Purdue University—the same school that produced the only quarterback to ever go undefeated. B. Two of the league’s best pass rushers attended Troy University (Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware). C. The Bengals have been able to reform individuals such as Cedric Benson and Chris Henry. D. JaMarcus Russell is this bad. I think I put them in the order of “Least Improbable” to “Most Improbable.”
  • The Redskins are scheduled to face their sixth consecutive winless team on Sunday. That is ridiculous.
  • Mike Francesa, on the Colts: “You know, a lot of people weren’t picking the Colts to win that division. I never understood that. That’s something you have to see first before you pick it. You have to see them not win it.”

Putting aside Francesa’s retroactive take on predictions—apparently you can’t predict something until it happens—it’s important to point out that football, unlike other sports, has a lot of turnover in division champions. In the six seasons since the NFL realigned to eight divisions, 17 of the 48 division champions have repeated. That’s 35.4%. In the same span in baseball, 16 of 36 (or 44.4% of) division champions have repeated. So in fact, if the Colts had won the AFC South last season, it would seem unlikely that they would repeat.

And of course, it’s if the Colts had won the AFC South last season because the Colts did NOT win the AFC South last season, and so we did see them not win the division, and thus picked them to not win the division again. If anything, your logic argues for people like me to pick Tennessee to win the division, because you can’t pick against the Titans until you see them not win it. Right, Mike?

  • Speaking of, the Titans already have the five losses I predicted for them. They weren’t as quick to prove me wrong as the Broncos, who have exceeded my 4-12 expectations.
  • I think we can officially dub the Jaguars this year’s Schizo Team of the Year.
  • Bigger Vengeance Game this week: Torry Holt vs. the Rams or Jeremy Shockey vs. the Giants?

Prior to the Snap, Week 6

Last Week: 8-6

Season: 26-35

The climb to respectability begins!

Kansas City (+6.5) over WASHINGTON

CINCINNATI (-5) over Houston

PITTSBURGH (-14) over Cleveland

Baltimore (+3) over MINNESOTA (outright)

JACKSONVILLE (-10) over St. Louis

NY Giants (+3) over NEW ORLEANS

Carolina (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY

Detroit (+13.5) over GREEN BAY

Philadelphia (-14) over OAKLAND

SEATTLE (-2.5) over Arizona

NY JETS (-10) over Buffalo

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Tennessee

Chicago (+3) over ATLANTA (outright)

Denver (+4) over SAN DIEGO

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Phil on October 13, 2009 at 8:10 PM



  2. Posted by John S on November 27, 2009 at 12:27 AM

    I’m sorry, but I think, six weeks later, that we can definitively say that the Giants were actually the worst 5-0 team in history.


  3. […] case you forget, JaMarcus Russell is pretty bad, and Jason Campbell is borderline competent as a starting quarterback. Remember, this team beat […]


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