A Parting Gift From Russell
This was a very fitting game for a season filled with many head scratching moments in the Raiders 2009 season. Going into this road game as 14 point underdogs, Head Coach Cable started 3rd string QB Charlie Frye over the $60M man.
In the mind of Cable, Frye deserved to start because (1) he is well prepared (2) is a gym rat (3) commands the respect of his teammates (4) is mobile (5) understands the entire playbook (6) JaMarcus is a bust or (7) all of the above.
During the first 3 quarters of action, a rusty Charlie Frye did a commendable job managing the game, avoiding sacks, and making enough plays to keep the game close at 16-13 Broncos. Aiding Charlie was a "bend but don't break D" (3 goal lines stands) and a stout rushing attack (241 rushing yards for the game).
At the 10:59 mark in the 4th quarter, Frye was KO'ed by a vicious hit. As Frye layed on the ground with a concussion, the Raider fans at the Stick N Stein in El Segundo let out a deafening collective groan and chants of "Oh No!", "Get up Charlie", "Not JaMarcus!"
It seemed like another bad case of deja vu similar to the game vs. the Skins where Gradkowski got injured and Russell came in to lay an egg. Russell came in and sure enough, 2 quick series of ineptitude.
Facing a last ditch drive, down 19-13 with 3:29 left, Russell started off this critical series with a sack/fumble (recovered by Carlisle) for a 13 yard loss. If Carlisle doesn't recover this fumble, is there any doubt about the hostile venom that would be spewed in Russell's direction? Somehow, some way, Russell rebounded on an unlikely 10 play, 62 yard game winning TD drive overcoming long odds;
* Facing a 2nd and 23, the Broncos committed a costly 32 yard penalty pass interference.
* Drilled in the ribs throwing an incomplete pass (sat out 1 play with JP Losman taking over for another incomplete)
* Coming back to convert a 4th and 10 to TE Stewart for 11 yards
* Hooking up with Stewart again for 9 yards
* Completing a 13 yarder to WR Schilens to the Denver 10 yard line
* On 2nd and 10 with :35 to go in the game, Russell finished the drive off with a pass to Schilens in stride for the game winning TD.
The reason that I'm hoping this is a parting Christmas gift from Russell to secure a thrilling come from behind victory over a hated rival is that in spite of the his late game heroics, Russell doesn't deserve to come back in 2010.
This game showcased all of Russell's warts in 1 quarter what we have witnessed in his previous 9 starts in 2009:
(1) The playcalling menu is stripped down to "QB Playcalling For Dummies" to accommodate Russell's skill set and poor understanding of the entire playbook. How many snaps was he in shotgun? 75% of the snaps?
(2) Russell's poor pocket awareness and lack of mobility. His inability to improvise and adapt when the pocket breaks down kills far too many drives.
(3) Russell's knack for fumbling (8 fumbles this season). I would venture to say that Russell fumbles at a higher rate per snap than any QB in the history of the NFL. It has come to the point where I'm truly shocked if he doesn't fumble at least once in a game.
(4) Calling a time out due to confusion. Russell's lack of fundamental football knowledge and formation recognition causes indecision and costly timeouts.
(5) Bouncing a pass well short of a wide open Murphy. Russell is unreliable to throw the ball accurately. Completing less than 50% of your passes simply is not acceptable.
Although the Nation can savor an enjoyable win, Russell is not, nor will he ever be, the solution to getting this team over the hump. Cable made the right call by starting Frye and Gradkowski earlier in the season.
The minimum baseline for a successful QB in the NFL is someone who commands respect, makes good decisions, is completely dedicated to his craft, and gives the team the best chance to win. Russell on occasion shows flashes of his talent but cannot be counted on to lead a team.