Game Time: JaMarcus Russell -- The Raiders' "Purple Drank"
His Wikipedia profile merely describes JaMarcus Russell as follows:
JaMarcus Russell is an American football quarterback who is currently a free agent.
Right about now, the only items that are true in that statement are Russell's first and last names, because as of Monday morning he's a better known "American codeine enthusiast" than he is "American football quarterback. Additionally, the Radiers would argue that he has been anything but "free," with Russell having figuratively pilfered roughly $36 million of Al Davis' money over the last three years.
The news that Russell was arrested for possession of prescription codeine (for which he had no prescription) at his home in Mobile on Monday by an undercover narcotics sting was neither surprising nor all that funny; sadly, it was just the next logical step into the abyss for a player who epitomized the saying "million-dollar arm, ten-cent brain."
The easy thing to do is call JaMarcus Russell the biggest bust in NFL history, and he is. So allow me to get the easy part of the way.
In three seasons in Oakland, JaMarcus Russell compiled a 7-18 record as the starting quarterback. Despite being the number one overall pick in the 2007 Draft, he spent portions of his three seasons behind Josh McCown, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski, and Charlie Frye. He repeatedly showed up at training camp every season out of shape, topping out at nearly 300 pounds during mini-camp this past April. So desensitized to first-round failures were the Raiders that other teams' first-round busts such as Jason Campbell (Redskins) and Kyle Boller (Ravens) looked like viable alternatives, officially making them the only two teammates that JaMarcus Russell ever made "look good."
In his final season in Oakland (2009), in the ultimate "Mr. Blutarski...Zero, point, ZERO..." moment, Russell finished dead last in the NFL for qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage, QB rating, touchdown passes, and passing yards.
For the huge accomplishment-free crater that was Russell's NFL career, he was paid around $36 million. Fat, dumb and stupid is no way to go through life, but I would imagine millions of Al Davis' money removes some of the sting.
Which brings me to the part of the JaMarcus Russell Story I find most fascinating -- the perfect storm that was the 2007 NFL Draft, where dysfunctional force met lethargic, genetically gifted object.
Many times marquee athletes are married to organizations and eventually the two morph into a mirror image of each other; that relationship is especially true for quarterbacks. It typically takes years. The Colts have evolved into a judicious, workmanlike, cerebral organization alongside the ascnesion of Peyton Manning. The Patriots' heartless, businesslike mode is part Brady, part Belichick. The Saints' prolific, fun-loving vibe is partially the culture of the city, but taken to another level by Drew Brees.
Those symbiotic relationships all grew over a period of time. Rarely has there been a more ready made relationship where the lunacy of a team and its owner was the perfect lubricant for all of the imperfections of a severely flawed quarterback. In 2007, a franchise who measures a quarterback's entire worth by height, weight, and how far he can throw the ball was picking first in a draft where the top quarterback was the size of a tight end and could throw the ball 80 yards from his knees -- and, as it turned out, that was pretty much all he could do.
Perfect storm? For cataclysm enthusiasts, eHarmony could not have come up with a more perfect match than Russell and the Raiders. This is Willie Nelson sitting outside the Jack Daniel's distillery the second prohibition is abolished. This is the football gods showing a sense of humor that would roll through this season of Last Comic Standing like...well, like pretty much any NFL team rolled through the Raiders the last three years.
In the end, JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders were the perfect match, and this played out the only way it could have -- finished after three years, Russell unemployed, the Raiders feverishly trying to recoup "salary advances" they reportedly paid Russell (because apparently $32 million guaranteed can only get you so far), and with Russell getting a perp knock on the door because he was apparently running a "purple drank" lab of some sort, which as best I can guess has empty bottles of cough syrup and 7-Up strewn about with strainers covered in
crushed Jolly Rancher dust residue on the table.
(The sad sidebar for Houstonians is a concoction that was reportedly invented in our hip hop community is getting national publicity outside of Houston yet again. Just exasperating! I mean, "purple drank" is one of our key exports and we'll get no credit for it. Now I know how people with Czech roots feel when they drive by a Kolache Factory.)
Ironically, when Russell was cut by the Raiders in May, Bengals wide receiver and resident mouth Chad Ochocinco made intimations on his Twitter account that Russell would soon be on his way to Cincinnati, or as I like to call it, East Oakland. In that sense, Russell's "purple drank" arrest could be viewed as the first step in his Bengals audition.
Despite his rights being held by the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the CFL -- "Ok, throw it the length of OUR field!" scream Canadians -- and rumors of interest from the UFL, Russell has said he has no plans to play in either of those leagues. He wants to play in the NFL.
You see, here's the thing -- to play in the CFL and UFL would require JaMarcus Russell to do the one thing he's never really liked doing -- working. Now we'll find out just how far $36 million can go (or whatever's left of it), because I have a feeling the other 31 teams are onto you, JaMarcus.
Fortunately, you got drafted by the one team that is addicted to guys like you. You are the Raiders' "purple drank." Now they'll go find another hard-throwing, overweight bottle of codeine. They always do.
But I think the rest of the teams will hold off on partying with you, JaMarcus. The punishment is too steep.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.