Jewish Journal


May 9, 2010

Al Davis’ Big(ger) Bust



As a Bears fan I know all about bad quarterbacks. In 1997 the Bears traded the 7th overall pick for an unproven Rick Mirer. In 1999 we had the unfortunate experience of drafting Cade McNown. We also experimented with Kordell Stewart and Henry Burris. But none of this compares to Al Davis’ failure to make the right picks. Last year’s pick of Darrius Heyward-Bay over Michael Crabtree looks to be just another pick in a long line of blunders.

But the biggest bust of Al Davis’ ownership and maybe in the history of the NFL is JaMarcus Russell. With the number one pick in 2007 the Raiders thought they had found the future of their franchise. But once again Davis blew it. Russell has started 25 games over 3 years. Last year his job was taken away by nobodies after throwing 11 picks and only 3 TDs. Yikes.

Last week the Raiders let him go. The Raiders decided to part ways with the top pick in the 2007 draft a move that had to be done if the Raiders ever want to get back on track.

And now my bold statement.

I have been watching ESPN and reading online about who is the biggest bust of all time. Most, if not all, have chosen Ryan Leaf. And while the hype around Leaf was greater, I believe Russell is a bigger bust. I know Russell could still make it. He could sign on with another team and turn his fortune around. And if he does, props to him. But as of right now Russell is a bigger bust than Leaf. Why you ask? Well, on the surface Leaf went #2 and Russell went #1. The Chargers did not have a chance to take Peyton Manning. The Chargers took what fell to them. The Raiders chose Russell over everyone else. Over Calvin Johnson, over Adrian Peterson, and over Patrick Willis. Yes, the quarterback choices were horrible in 2007 (Trent Edwards, Brady Quinn, Tyler Thigpen and Kevin Kolb are the top QBs of that draft).

Since 1998 the list of number one draft picks include Peyton Manning, Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Mario Williams, Jake Long, Matt Stafford, and Sam Bradford. The only players not to make a pro bowl are Couch, Brown, Carr, Smith, Stafford, and Bradford. Take Stafford and Bradford out of the equation because they are too young. Carr and Smith are still in the league and have lasted longer than Leaf and Russell. Brown got injured was forced to retire early so its hard to place him in same category. That leaves Couch, who by no standards had a successful career, as the only player left. Couch had one solid season in 2002. And that one season removes him from the conversation of BIGGEST bust.

Here is the list of number 2 picks since 1999 (‘98 was Leaf). Donavon McNabb, LaVarr Arrington, Leonard Davis, Julius Peppers, Charles Rogers, Robert Gallery, Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, and Jason Smith. Just the sight of Rogers and Gallery make me cringe. Gallery is still in the league, but like Rogers really never lived up to his potential. Both are in the conversation of BIGGEST BUST.

The point of the comparison is that since 1998 far more number 1s have had real success than the number twos. 16 pro bowls for the #2s and 19 for the #1s.

The Leaf to Russell comparison does not stop at where they were picked. As I noted before in Russell’s last season (Russell’s most important season) he threw 3 TDs and 11INTs. Leaf, while he had more picks, threw for 11 TDs in his best season. He also got to play for a second team, a fate that Russell may or may not have. Even if he signs with another NFL team, what is the likelihood he sees the field?

I will give the Leaf supporters this much. Leaf, even though years away from the game, continues to sink further and further. Making negative headlines all the time.

I suggest that unless Russell wants to remain in such an elite category of failures, he get his act together and figure out how to win. And for Al Davis, its time to hire people who can scout talent. Stop taking risks. Stop betting on potential. Take the best player available.

And Let Us Say…Amen.
-Jeremy Fine
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