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The signing of QB Kyle Boller should be a motivational tool for Russell by Lloyd Vance

You have to wonder if the Raiders are trying to send a message to “underachiever” JaMarcus Russell with the signing of experienced backup QB Kyle Boller

After a season where quarterback JaMarcus Russell produced numbers of 120-246, 48.8%, 1287 yards, 3 TDs, and 11 INTs in 9 games started (2-7 record), the Raiders are looking for anything to motivate their “underachieving” passer.  Possibly with motivating Russell in mind, Oakland recently announced that they had signed another “big arm” passer in quarterback Kyle Boller — career numbers 844-1487, 56.8%, 8745 yards, 48 TDs, and 50 INTs. 

The signing of the former Ravens first rounder (19th overall) from back in 2003 was partly necessary because backup Bruce Gradkowski tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights.  But clearly Raiders owner Al Davis wants to ensure that Russell has more competition than journeyman backup Charlie Frye.  Boller (28) appeared in seven games for the St. Louis Rams last season, making four starts while throwing 3 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, finishing with a passer rating of 61.2. 

However much like Russell, the former Cal star quarterback is known for his extremely strong arm – some scouts still talk about his throws through the goalpost from 50 yards out while kneeling – but he also has been highly inconsistent throughout his 7-year career.  Boller has started 46 of 60 games in his NFL career – record of (20-26) — with his best season in 2004, when he started every game in leading the Ravens to a 9-7 record while passing for 2,559 yards with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.   

You would think that Russell, the  former first overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, would already be motivated by his contract — signed in September 2007 for six-years with a contract worth up to $68 million which includes $31.5 million guaranteed – but according to “insiders” that is not the case. There have been rampant league rumors that Russell is the first to leave practice, doesn’t study enough film, and would rather “eat” than put in the work to fulfill his boundless potential.   

The whole Raiders organization has tried to put a lid on any negative Russell talk, but you can tell that head coach Tom Cable is not his quarterback’s biggest fan. Cable recently said of Russell, “He’s here. He’s working. He’s doing everything that everybody else is doing. … That’s all I can tell you”… Wow that is some glowing praise from your team’s head coach. 

However a new revelation in Oakland is that after 3 years of waiting, including a rookie year holdout that went into the regular season, surprisingly Raiders owner and patriarch Al Davis seems to be reaching his limits with his overpriced star.  Which is a far cry from the man in the black jumpsuit constantly sticking by his hefty quarterback to the point that he would rather chide coaches — fired Lane Kiffin and has repeatedly told a reluctant Cable that he has to work with Russell – than criticize his handpicked franchise quarterback.  But after a season where the Raiders offense only scored 197 points (31st in NFL) and 17 touchdowns (tied for 32nd), maybe enough is enough.

The Raiders went out and brought-in former Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson to fill the dual role of offensive coordinator and Russell tutor.  And just maybe Russell might finally be “Getting It” that 2010 is a make or break season for him. The former LSU star has been working out this offseason in Arizona in hopes of shedding weight (reportedly down to 290) and changing people’s minds that he is the biggest bust in NFL Draft history. 

We will see what the Raiders will do with the 8th overall pick in the upcoming draft — who knows what Davis will do maybe OL, WR, QB.  And the 2010 regular season is an even bigger mystery as Oakland will be attempting to have a winning season for the first time since 2002, which is also their last playoff appearance. 

Luckily for Russell — career starting record of 7-18 with numbers 354-680, 52.1%, 4083 yards, 18 TDs, and 23 INTs – and the rest of the Raiders,  there is no place to go but up from here.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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