As Contra Costa Times
beat writer Steve Corkran
reminded readers on Friday, JaMarcus Russell
started 25 of 26 games before he was benched by head coach Tom Cable
nine games into this season.
Corkran went on to suggest that makes the man with the million-dollar arm the subject of the million-dollar question: Will he ever reclaim his status as the Raiders' unquestioned starting quarterback?
According to Corkran, interviews with several players and people within the organization, none of whom would speak for attribution, put forth the following scenarios concerning Russell's Raiders future:
Managing general partner Al Davis will redouble his efforts to ensure Russell polishes his mechanics, improves his decision-making and works even harder than he did this past offseason, in preparation for reinstalling him as the unquestioned starter.
That process kicked into gear this past offseason, when Cable promoted Paul Hackett to quarterbacks coach, and the Raiders created a quarterback school.
Davis will sign a proven quarterback to guide the team until he feels Russell is ready to be the full-time starter.
The Raiders attempted that with Jeff Garcia this season, but Garcia never quite warmed to the idea of being the backup or Russell's mentor.
Bruce Gradkowski replaced Russell and has fared better in his two starts than Russell did in his nine this season. It's conceivable the Raiders will attempt to re-sign him and keep him as their starter as long as he plays well.
Davis will attempt to trade for a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback so that the Raiders have a better chance of making the playoffs next season. In turn, Russell will get more time to work on his shortcomings.
Corkran added: "There's almost no scenario that points to Russell's being jettisoned."
Davis made his feelings known about Russell the day he fired Lane Kiffin and named Cable the interim coach Sept. 30, 2008.
Davis displayed on an overhead projector a letter he wrote Kiffin in which he said: "I realize that you did not want to draft JaMarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it."
Corkran also suggests that Davis has noticed the rebirth of the 49ers' Alex Smith and the Tennessee Titans' Vince Young this season after many had written them off as first-round busts.
The Raiders signed Russell to a six-year contract that guaranteed him $32 million as the No. 1 pick of the 2007 NFL draft — he earned a base salary of $7.8 million this season.
The Raiders could cut Russell after this season and take just a modest salary-cap hit.
He is slated to earn base salaries of $9.45 million next season, $9.35 million in 2011 and $5.83 million in 2012.
The sticking point could come if the Raiders ask Russell to restructure his contract to better reflect his current status.
If Russell refuses, Corkran believes that might force the Raiders' hand once and for all.