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Thursday, May 6, 2010
Cutting Russell was the right move

By Bill Williamson

JaMarcus Russell
Russell won only seven games in three seasons with the Raiders.
The clouds have lifted over Oakland.

JaMarcus Russell was cut Thursday, three years after being the No. 1 overall pick.

The Oakland Raiders can finally move on from what must be considered the biggest all-time draft whiff. The team took their first step in the recovery when they traded for former Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell during the draft weekend in April. Thursday, the process was completed.

Russell was holding Oakland back. His mere presence was a painful reminder to his teammates and fans that the Raiders were clinging to the impossible hope that Russell was going to be successful.

Owner Al Davis must be given some credit for making this decision. Davis gets a lot of heat for not owning up to his errors, and many league observers thought he would keep Russell just because he wouldn’t admit the mistake. But the real mistake would have been to keep Russell. Good for you, Al.

Clearly, it wasn’t an easy move for Davis. He liked Russell and believed in him. The Raiders gave Russell one last chance at their mandatory minicamp last week. After performing well in the first practice, Russell reverted to his old ways for the rest of the camp.

Russell has a rocket arm but lacks all the fundamentals of an NFL quarterback. His work ethic and conditioning were a major problem. Although he looked to be in decent shape last week, he played way too heavy for much of his career in Oakland. The Raiders were not pleased when Russell did not show up at 260 pounds for the offseason conditioning program in March.

He also reportedly had issues paying attention. In an ESPN Outsides the Lines segment on Sunday, former Oakland teammates told tales of Russell sleeping through meetings.

Quarterbacks are supposed to lead and Russell rarely commanded his team. The Oakland offense suddenly came alive when fiery Bruce Gradkowski replaced Russell in November.

Russell ends his Oakland career with a 7-18 record. It is the worst record by any quarterback who was a former No. 1 pick. With the $3 million Oakland owes him this year, the Raiders will have paid Russell $39 million for seven wins.

There is no doubt this pick has hurt this franchise. Oakland could have taken receiver Calvin Johnson with the top pick in 2007 and addressed the quarterback position elsewhere.

But it’s finally over.

Oakland did the right thing by going to Campbell. He will make this team competitive.

Now that Russell is gone, the Raiders can continue to try to get better without the stink of the Russell failure.