2011 NFL Week 5 Remix by Lloyd Vance

Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson was overcome with emotion as his team, “Just Won One” for the late Al Davis.  The Raiders defeated the Houston Texans 25-20 in a bittersweet win

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The 2nd quarter of the NFL season began with a wild weekend filled with upsets, furious finishes, unbelievable comebacks, teams rising, teams falling toward the “parity” packed middle, downtrodden teams (1 or fewer wins) slipping toward preparing for the 2012 NFL Draft and further distinctions between contenders and pretenders.  As hard as it is to believe the NFL season is moving closer to being half over.  But the important thing for everyone is to enjoy the wackiest and quickest league around while it is lasts.  Week 5 of the 2011 NFL Season should have been titled, “Moving Week”.  Because this is the time of an NFL season where teams start to distinguish themselves as they move towards season-defining November and December games.

I love this time of the year, because separation starts between the good teams, middle of the road teams, bad teams, and wretched teams, that are “Believing in Later”, looking towards the draft in April.  As we get closer to the mid-point of the NFL season boundaries will become clearly defined between these different levels of teams.  That is not to say though that there will be some games where a surprise upset unfolds.  One of the bigger parts of this time in the NFL schedule is that byes (weeks 4-10) are crucial for resting injured players, making personnel moves, and overall reflection for teams to see where they stand post training camp/early season as they prepare for a playoff run or the draft. Continue reading

Who Would Play Al Davis In A Motion Picture? by Barry Barnes

With the recent passing of NFL icon Al Davis, writer Barry Barnes  speculates on who would play the legendary man on the big screen
 
Al Davis was a man who walked to the tune of his own beat, the ultimate trailblazer.  When word hit about the death of Davis on Saturday, it was a sad day for the NFL and its fans, especially for Raider Nation. 

The cause of Davis’ death is unknown.  However, what is known, no matter what caused Davis to transition, the circumstances were not strong enough to stop the legendary Raider from accomplishing the foundation and standards he laid for the NFL today.  Whether it was father time or a fatal disease that sent Davis home, it was too late.   

Therefore, let’s not be too late to honor the man who changed the Raiders’ team color from gold and black to silver and black and added the famous Raider logo helmet that the world loves. 

Hollywood style, on the big screen.

It is inevitable that all individuals will die, whether by force or naturally, as flesh will not stand forever. 

Davis’ legacy will live forever and his death was not a tragedy.  The deaths of such legendary public figures, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and Donny Hathaway, to name a few, were tragic due unexpected, unnecessary causes.

For an individual such as Davis, who was 82, his death should be more of a celebration.  Yes, Davis’ family should mourn and cry for days.  Nevertheless, as distant fans and close friends or acquaintances should, the Davis family should be shouting to the mountain tops as Big Al lived the life that millions would dream of and the impact he had on countless individuals and associations. Continue reading

AFC South and AFC West Preview by Jason King

 

The AFC South and AFC West are looking for their first team, other than the Indianapolis Colts, to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl — last time Oakland Raiders in XXXVII.  Right now, you would have to think both divisions are up-for-grabs in 2011, especially with Peyton Manning iffy (neck) for the start of  the 2011 NFL regular season.

AFC South Preview

 The AFC South belongs to the Indianapolis Colts.  Since the division was created in 2002, the Colts have won 7 division titles (2 straight) and the Titans won the other two.  The Colts have been in the playoffs for 9 straight years.  Could the Houston Texans win their first AFC South division title?  Could the Colts be in for their first losing season in 9 years?  Is Chris Johnson the best player in the division?  There are a lot of questions to be answered in the AFC South this season. Continue reading

The Oakland Raiders Select Terrelle Pryor in NFL Supplemental Draft by Lloyd Vance

The Oakland Raiders are giving another renegade speedster an opportunity as Al Davis added another weapon to his team by selecting former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft

One of the bigger non-events on the NFL Calendar, the Supplemental Draft, is in the books for another year.  However this year’s rendition of the Supplemental Draft was probably talked about more than any other since its inception in 1977.

The reason for the hoopla around this year’s event was the emergence of former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (6’5, 232, 4.38).  After a checkered past in Columbus, Ohio, causing many to wonder if Pryor would even be selected at all on Monday.  Well everyone’s wait ended when the NFL’s largest conference call gave us the news that Pryor had been picked in the 3rd round by Oakland Raiders with the 18th pick of that round. Continue reading

Russell caught sipping the Sizzurp

Former high draft pick QB JaMarcus Russell’s life away from the gridiron got even worse after his recent arrest for the “Sizzurp”

Those thinking that any day the NY Jets or some other team might soon be calling former NFL quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s representatives, may have a longer wait than expected.  The bizarre case of one of the NFL Draft’s biggest busts just got worse as the former first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft was arrested in Alabama for possession of Codeine Cough Syrup aka “The Sizzurp”.

Surprisingly, Russell had lingered on the sidelines for months after the Oakland Raiders released back in April and he was supposedly in Arizona while “Getting in Shape”.  But several reports had placed him around his hometown of Mobile, Alabama and I guess the only shape he was getting into was an “Unconscious” one. 

For years, people on Oakland’s staff had labeled their former anointed franchise starter as lazy, aloof, and sometimes semi-conscious and maybe they finally found the reason why.  “The Sizzurup” like marijuana and painkillers – drugs that have been around NFL teams way before Russell was born — is just another escape mechanism. 

I guess Russell was using the substance to get away from the pain of being the punchline to so many draft bust jokes.  And let’s face it, the jokes were aplenty considering Russell accepted close to $37 Million from the Raiders while producing disappointing numbers — career starting record of 7-18 with numbers 354-680, 52.1%, 4083 yards, 18 TDs, and 23 INTs

Right now much like former NFL high-priced substance abusers – Jason Peter, Quincy Carter, Joe Gilliam, Cris Carter, and many others — Russell is at a career crossroads.  He can either look internally in order to get the help he needs to clean is act up to start the long road back to resume his once bright career or fall off into the Sports / Drugs Abyss that has claimed many an athlete. 

However I am not just ready to give-up on the very talented former LSU star.  Russell’s biggest problem had always been a lack of effort in terms of practice and reading his playbook and this is the first incident where he had been linked to off-the-field misconduct. 

The hefty high-RPM throwing passer still is young enough at 24 years old that his NFL career and life still has many unwritten chapters — still has the legal system and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to answer to.  Though it it is not the same cirmcumstances, he may want to contact soon to be Hall of Famer Kurt Warner to talk with a quarterback who was once at bottom of football’s Quarterback Scrap Heap only to make it back to the top.

Here’s hoping that Russell can get some help and get a football career back on track that once had pro personnel evaluators drooling at his famed Pro Day workout.

 

 

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)

Former Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell at a Crossroads

It is either time to work or assume his spot next to Ryan Leaf as the NFL Draft’s “Biggest Bust Ever” for former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell

After the Oakland Raiders’ Draft Day trade for former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, it was only a matter of time before “Too Much, Too Soon” poster player JaMarcus Russell was going to be cut. 

The inevitable finally came last week as the Raiders — only scored 197 points (31st in NFL) and 17 touchdowns (tied for 32nd) in 2009 — decided to part ways with Russell.  Parting seemed to be mutual, but the worst part for the Raiders of getting rid of their former franchise quarterback was that the team had paid the kingly ransom of $39 Million Dollars over three inglorious years to Russell — roughly $100,000 per completion or $5.6 million per win. 

Hard to believe, Russell in only 3 years in the NFL sank quickly from a Pro Day performance that many called the best ever to “Ryan Leaf” comparisons.  Back at his Pro Day, former Oakland Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin — who some say Russell got fired – was smitten with his future first rounder. 

The one-year Raiders’ coach said, “Obviously, I’m very impressed. We were very impressed. He had a great day. He seems very first class, very easy to get along with. No doubt he was a great leader here. That’s why everybody wants him now.”  The Raiders drafted Russell with the first pick of the 2007 NFL Draft and then signed their perceived future star to a six-year contract worth up to $68 million which included $31.5 million guaranteed at the time.

However as great of a fall that Russell has had in his short time in the NFL, I am not ready to brand him the “Biggest Draft Bust Ever” and say he has no chance.  “Not So Fast My Friends”…as the NFL, especially at the quarterback position, is all about second and sometimes third chances. There are numerous examples of former one-time flameout quarterbacks that became Super Bowl champions later in their careers — Trent Dilfer (Ravens), Kurt Warner (Rams), Jim Plunkett (Raiders), Brad Johnson (Bucs), and Doug Williams (Redskins). 

Astonishingly, even arguably the greatest quarterback ever, Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas, was once left on the NFL’s scrap heap by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1955.  The Steelers cut their former 9th-round draft pick, leaving him to play sandlot football, before he later found greatness with the Baltimore Colts, starting in 1956.

In each and every case,  every single one of the quarterbacks received a second opportunity to show the world that they still had what it took to succeed in the National Football League. I am not saying that Russell – 2009 numbers of 120-246, 48.8%, 1287 yards, 3 TDs, and 11 INTs in 9 games started (2-7 record) —  is the next Unitas , Williams, or even David Carr (still earning a check with the Niners), but he does deserve is another chance away from Al Davis. 

There is a fork in the road and Russell, who some Raiders’ fans have derisively called “Fat Albert” (300-pound QB), can either take the money and run (Leaf) or write a few more successful chapters in his NFL career (Warner), but it is all up to him. The former first overall pick has been blessed with all of the talent in the world, including a rifle of a right arm and there is no denying that Russell — career starting record of 7-18 with numbers 354-680, 52.1%, 4083 yards, 18 TDs, and 23 INTs – has “potential” but that can be a dirty word in NFL circles and it can only take you so far. 

There are apparently more than five NFL teams contemplating signing Russell to a training camp “Make Good” contract.  Some of the teams rumored to have interest in the former Alabama native are the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals – Ochocinco already Tweeting about it – and surprisingly the Indianapolis Colts.  

No matter which team signs Russell, it is now time for the hefty thrower to go to work.  In the past, he has been his own biggest obstacle. As he was notably many times the first Raiders’ player leave practice and film study after many time being the last one in the door.  The former LSU star needs to show the NFL that he is not indifferent or the lazy “Fat Cat” that some have labeled him after his much-publicized underachievement. 

Plain and simple, if he doesn’t want to be the star of the NFL Network’s “Top 10 Draft Busts Ever” show, Russell has to now look in the mirror and commit himself to bouncing back.  He has to get in shape and commit to being an NFL quarterback or he will be out of the league quicker than you can say, “Cade McNown”.

Russell’s “Redemption Road” is a long one, but there are plenty of examples to show him how to pick himself up and succeed.  If I were Russell’s agent, I would work hard to place him with the Colts or Redskins as working with Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb maybe the best motivator to save the former high draft pick from a regretful path headed for Arena Football or worse yet the local Arby’s. 

 

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)

Hopefully the signing of QB Kyle Boller will be a motivational tool for Russell

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)