Since the Raiders didn’t make the playoffs, we here at the Ramble have been looking for other things to write about. Mario, our fearless leader, put together a list of article ideas, and my eyes lit up when I saw this one. Why?
Firstly, because it’s easy. Secondly, because I think it gives us a rare opportunity to reflect on the last couple decades of Raiders football. Because while I’m personally frustrated with Derek Carr’s plateauing act, he’s far from the worst quarterback the team has had.
Because after all, the worst quarterback in NFL history is also the worst first round pick in Raiders history. I don’t have to tell anyone who wears Silver and Black who I’m talking about. We all know this article is about JaMarcus Russell.
The Worst First Round Pick in Raiders History
The year is 2007, and the Oakland Raiders have the first overall pick in the draft. Lane Kiffin is the new head coach, Rob Ryan is the defensive coordinator, Greg Knapp is the offensive coordinator, and some guy named Tom Cable is the offensive line coach. In hindsight, we know the 2007 draft class is one of the best ever.
Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, is arguably the best wide receiver prospect of all time. Adrian Peterson is a sure-fire Hall-of-Fame tailback, Marshawn Lynch is one of the most popular players in NFL history, and despite never making a postseason appearance, Joe Thomas might be the best left tackle we’ve ever seen. Darrelle Revis and Patrick Willis were All-Pro caliber defenders, Greg Olsen is still terrorizing the seams as one of football’s most underrated tight ends, and these are all just first rounders. The Raiders had their choice of all of them!
But with the first overall pick, they took LSU’s starting quarterback, JaMarcus Russell, who was called “the most physically talented quarterback prospect since John Elway” and could throw a football 70 yards from his knees. He led the Tigers to the National Championship, and even though people knew he was a risky prospect in college, he was easily the best quarterback in the class. Al Davis, forever mourning the vertical offenses he ran in his younger days, fell in love with the strong-armed quarterback. Kiffin begged Davis to take Calvin Johnson instead, but surprise, surprise, he couldn’t be swayed, so the Raiders took Russell.
Almost immediately, it was a disaster.
Back in 2007, rookie contracts weren’t pre-slated by pick like they are today. Back then, first-year players were negotiating deals with teams, and JaMarcus Russell was not going to take anything less than the best possible deal. He and the Raiders failed to reach an agreement before training camp, so the rookie quarterback held out. He missed training camp, the entire preseason, and the first week of the regular season before signing a six-year, $68 million contract, with $31.5 million guaranteed. In that week, Megatron caught four passes for 70 yards and a score, and Adrian Peterson accounted for 163 total yards and one touchdown.
He wouldn’t see playing time until December second, Week 13, against the Denver Broncos. He completed four of his seven passes for 56 yards. However, Josh McCown‘s three passing touchdowns, along with Justin Fargas‘ 146 yards, were enough to guarantee the Raiders a victory and beat the Broncos 34-20. Unfortunately, Russell’s Raiders wouldn’t win many games.
Russell ended up making nearly four million dollars per touchdown, seven million dollars per win, and two million dollars per start. For a monster rookie contract that took six months to negotiate, Russell never even approached average. He lost control of his weight, neglected to study his game-plan or his playbook, and ultimately lost his job to Bruce Gradkowski. There’s a story that’s become rather infamous where the Raider coaches gave Russell a blank DVD, saying it was their gameplan, and asked him to watch it in his spare time. He came back to practice, claiming he had, and that it had looked good.
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When it was all said and done, Russell played in 31 games for the Oakland Raiders. He threw for 4,083 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. He rushed for 175 yards and a single score, losing 15 fumbles along the way. The quarterback had a 9-22 record, and is considered by many to not only be the biggest draft bust in NFL history, but arguably the worst quarterback to ever play. So while we don’t love Derek Carr throwing it away on fourth down, we wish he had a little less Steeple and a little more Stabler, we can’t forget about JaMarcus Russell, the worst first round pick in Raiders history.
But hey, at least he won in Arrowhead.