Payback can be a real………

By Allen Wilson
Updated: May 7, 2010

BUFFALO — JaMarcus Russell sure fit the NFL prototype for a quarterback.

Great size, arm like a howitzer, mobile and athletic. He was too good to be true.

Of course, you know what they say about something being too good to be true.

The Oakland Raiders released Russell on Thursday, ending an embarrassing three-year reign of error.

With Jason Campbell on board via a trade with the Washington Redskins, the Raiders didn’t need Russell anymore. But even if Campbell never came to Oakland, it was time for Russell to go.

It usually takes three years to find out if a player has it or not, so Russell had ample time to prove he could play. Guess what? He can’t play.

So it’s now official. Russell is one of the biggest busts in NFL history.

That is hardly an exclusive group. If I had a dollar for every college prospect deemed the next big thing that ended up being an NFL flop, I’d be as rich as Russell, who stole $39 million during his three-year, seven-win tenure with the Raiders.

NFL teams just never learn. They keep getting hung up on the measurables of a man instead of the intangibles in the man.

I watched a lot of Russell’s games at LSU, and believe me when I tell you that he did nothing to suggest that he would make anyone forget about Peyton Manning. Or Eli Manning, for that matter.

Russell, a cousin of Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch, wasn’t even a serious pro prospect until his junior year when he earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference.

But he catapulted to the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft after a MVP performance in the Sugar Bowl, where he gained 350 yards passing and rushing with three touchdowns in a 41-14 beatdown of an overrated Notre Dame squad.

Everybody knows Raiders owner Al Davis develops a man crush on anyone who can throw the ball 70 yards or run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. He was convinced Russell would give the Raiders the potent vertical passing game that Davis loves.

So Davis signed Russell to a six-year, $68 million contract ($31.5 million guaranteed), proving once again that a fool and his money are soon parted.

Russell is the poster child for why the NFL and the players union need to agree to a rookie wage scale whenever the two sides get around to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

Russell’s meteoric rise up the draft board was similar to when Ryan Leaf shot up the charts and was picked second overall by the San Diego Chargers in 1998. We all know how that turned out.

Looking back on that disaster of a pick, I’m reminded of all those knowledgeable NFL people who thought at the time that Leaf should have been drafted No. 1 overall instead of Peyton Manning.

Leaf’s size and arm strength overshadowed his lack of maturity, which the San Diego Chargers obviously didn’t realize despite their extensive research.

If the Raiders did their due diligence perhaps they would have realized Russell loved money more than playing football and giving him a boatload of cash would kill his incentive to put the time in to get better.

When you draft someone first or second overall, you expect him to be great. But that player also has to want to be great. Russell is an overweight underachiever who lacks passion for the game and a burning desire to be the best.

According to reports out of Oakland, Russell actually showed up at a recent minicamp in good shape for once. Is it a sign that he has turned over a new leaf (obvious pun not intended)?

The bigger question is whether a team out there is brave enough to find out.