Nobody will bat an eye if you say JaMarcus Russell is one the biggest busts in NFL history. In fact, Ryan Leaf and other lesser failures will give you two thumbs up, as that will take the spotlight away from them. However, the Las Vegas (then Oakland) Raiders deserve a big chunk of the blame for drafting the former LSU Tiger first overall in 2007 in spite of the red flags.
Russell pulled no punches during an appearance on The Pivot Podcast and blasted the Raiders for his NFL career not taking off. Make no mistake though, he didn’t have the drive nor the discipline to succeed. Sure, he had the talent and even earned comparisons to Jonh Elway. However, potential without developing it won’t take you far.
Russell had the physical attributes to be an NFL quarterback but once he made it, he didn’t seem particularly interested in actually playing. To his credit, he doesn’t lack self-awareness when he talks about his failed stint with the Raiders:
I’ll say my [expletive] didn’t turn out how I wanted it to, or not they expected it to. But if you’re gonna call me a bust, put ‘the biggest’ on that [expletive]’… If you’re gonna say it, put the biggest on that [expletive]. But that s*** don’t bother me, man.
Here’s the unfiltered sit-down in case you want to hear Russell say how big of a bust he is.
The Raiders knew what they were getting in JaMarcus Russell
It’s quite telling that no other club would come near Russell when Oakland released him, treating him like radioactive waste instead. And it’s fair to wonder if the Raiders did perform their due diligence when they drafted him. Another possibility is that the organization thought they could change him. But if that’s the case, the decision is even worse in retrospect.
Maybe Russell fooled the Silver and Black during the draft process. If that’s the case, he deserves some sort of credit. After all, how can a young adult in his early 20s bamboozle an organization that had the resources to properly look for any potential causes for concern. Then, there’s the blank tape scandal. What did Oakland prove when they gave him empty DVDs to study besides feeling better about themselves?
You could argue that Russell robbed the Raiders but that wasn’t the case. What did they think was going to happen when they gave him a six-year contract worth $61 million with $39 guaranteed? That he was going to suddenly develop working habits? An old adage says that money changes people but that is simply not true. Your true colors will come out, for better or worse, if you get big bags of cash from one day to another. It won’t in any way make a better or worse person.
Russell deserves blame for his NFL failure. Having said that, nobody forced the Raiders to draft him. If they want to point the finger at anyone, they should take a look in the mirror.