The JaMarcus Russell era in Oakland is officially over. The Raiders released the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 draft earlier today, cutting ties with one of the biggest busts in the history of the NFL.
The 2007 draft and this pick were especially relevant to the Lions because Calvin Johnson was still on the board to select with the No. 2 overall pick thanks to Russell going to the Raiders. Because Oakland decided to draft Russell, Johnson ended up in Detroit and is arguably the most talented player on the Lions. Had Al Davis and company decided to select the athletic wide receiver we now call Megatron instead of someone who they thought would be their new franchise quarterback, history would be quite different. I'm just glad it worked out the way it did.
While the Lions' draft picks in the 2000s have produced quite a few busts, especially near the top of the draft, I don't think any compare to Russell, not only because of how little he did during his time in Oakland, but also because of how much money he got paid for that lack of productivity.
Russell won only seven of his 25 starts as the Raiders extended an NFL-worst streak to seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses. He completed just 52.1 percent of his passes in his career with 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 15 lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.2.
That means Russell has been paid more than $5 million per win, more than $2 million per touchdown pass and more than $100,000 per completion.
If that doesn't sum up why the NFL needs a rookie wage scale, I don't know what does. Russell held out until after the beginning of his rookie season, finally got paid, and then did absolutely nothing good for Oakland. The Raiders obviously deserve some blame for drafting him in the first place, but this is why unproven rookies shouldn't be getting paid so much money in the first place. All of the Lions' high-paid busts set the franchise back, and although it's tough to feel sorry for the Raiders considering they bring so much of this on themselves, it's still ridiculous that Russell will end up with close to $40 million for his time in Oakland.
The interesting thing about this whole story now is to see if Russell gets a shot with another team. Russell is in no shape to be a starting quarterback in the NFL right now, but perhaps a different locker room could turn his career around. Already polls are being taken on ESPN about whether or not Russell will be on a team by the time the 2010 season starts, and I'm sure it's only a matter of time until we get some NFL odds on this as well. Personally I'd be pretty surprised if he makes any team just given how out of shape he supposedly is. A comeback of this magnitude will take some time, and unless being released by the Raiders suddenly gives Russell a new outlook on life and an energized work ethic, I don't see him getting into shape anytime soon.