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Missing: #1 Overall Draft Pick JaMarcus Russell

On Monday I commented that I couldn't figure out why Daunte Culpepper was still starting for the Raiders.  He isn't playing well this season - a 56% completion rate, 817 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT in five games - and his performance the past two weeks have been especially poor.  Culpepper's totals of one touchdown and two interceptions turned a pair of possible (even likely) wins into a 12-10 and a 13-9 defeat.  At this rate, the Raiders are going to end up with the top pick in next year's draft where at least they can draft a franchise QB for the future.


So this brings up the question: Where is JaMarcus Russell?  Why isn't he playing?  Trent Edwards has played well for Buffalo this season and there are reports that the Dolphins are going to start their QB-of-the-Future, rookie John Beck, when the Dolphins return from their bye.  So why isn't the #1 QB - the #1 pick overall - ready and/or able to start his NFL career?

There seem to be two main reasons.  One, Russell missed all of training camp in a contract holdout and there's just no way to make up that kind of intense training playing against the practice squad.  Culpepper missed most of Raiders camp this season and he clearly doesn't get the offense yet, imagine a rookie trying to pick it up from scratch.  

The second reason seems to be that the Raiders are protecting Russell by not putting him out there in front of a terrible Raiders offensive line.

Kiffin said planning for the future was a consideration, "but there's also protecting the future because I also believe if you put someone in, especially at that position, and he's not prepared the way he should be prepared ... it can go the other way."

The way his offensive line played Sunday in the 13-9 loss to the Titans, maybe it's just as well that Russell isn't expected to play soon. Otherwise, he might be running for his life just as Culpepper was, and Russell also might have known the frustration of having some of his best passes erased by false starts (Oakland had six) or holding penalties (three).

Maybe that's the answer but I find it a little insulting that Russell is such a primadonna that he needs special protection that Edwards and Beck - not to mention poor old Gus Frerotte - don't deserve.

I think there might be a third reason though: Russell just isn't that good.  It may be that Russell's two years as a college starter wasn't enough to give him the background to be an NFL quarterback.  Some smart-ass people (not me of course, but some people) might point out the difference in "academic rigor" (shall we say?) between Trent Edwards's and John Beck's alma maters (Stanford and BYU, respectively) and Russell's (LSU).  

Whatever the reason, the entire thing gives me a bad vibe.  If the #1 draft pick in the NFL isn't ready to do his job by now, there's something wrong somewhere.