When Al Davis and Co. drafted Darren McFadden to play behind JaMarcus Russell, they envisioned the duo to be equivalent in talent and success to John Elway and Terrell Davis or any other great and successful QB-RB duo. While McFadden has the speed, agility and strength to run his way to Canton, Russell most likely will follow the path of Ryan Leaf. Ok, I admit that statement may be unduly harsh. JaMarcus didn't exactly throw fifteen interceptions to go along with his two touchdown passes as Leaf did in his rookie season. Let me try to compare the quarterback to another major bust: Tim Couch. Couch, the former number one pick by the Cleavland Browns, had a 73.2 quarterback rating, just under twenty points better than that of Russell's during his rookie campaign. No, that comparison doesn't work either since Couch didn't have the strength, size and mobility which Russell exhibits, making Russell more likely to be a successful quarterback. I'll give this one more shot: Daunte Culpepper. Yup, I think that is a perfect comparison. Daunte and JaMarcus are equals when it comes to strength, size, mobility, accuracy and decision-making. While the first three qualities are positives, the latter two are negatives. If you are wondering how Daunte managed to be successful without accuracy and decision-making skills I have a two-word answer for you: Randy Moss. And unfortunately for JaMarcus, Moss slacked his way out of town. So unless you have one of the all-time greatest wide receivers catching your mistakes, those are qualities needed to succeed as a quarterback. If you don't believe me just look at how well Culpepper did in Miami and Oakland (and don't give me the injury excuse because he has had three years to heal).
Judging from Russell's performance last year, he lacks the accuracy and decision-making skills to measure up to the league's elite quarterbacks, two qualities Culpepper yearned for but never obtained. I understand that Russell began practicing late into the season due to the contract dispute so he lost precious time to learn the game. Decision-making skills will improve with experience. Though, how much can he really improve an aspect of his game which is so awful. Russell has a strong tendency to throw into double coverage and lock onto his primary target. As for Russell's accuracy, it has suffered due to Russell's preference to use solely his wrist when throwing the ball as opposed to also using his feet to step into his throws. Both of these problems were major issues during his collegiate days at LSU and during the NFL Combine. His decision-making ability and accuracy have not improved much since then, so I don't see a major jump in the professional level where his competition level is much greater. These deficiencies are fixable but it will take strong work ethic which, quite frankly, I don't believe he possesses.
Though, it is possible and if it does occur, expect a player superior to Culpepper during his Minnesota days (the last time we saw a healthy Culpepper). So, cross your fingers Raiders' fans and pray to your eye-patch wearing Gods that he works his butt off in order to turn his weaknesses into strengths. Until then, McFadden must put the offense on his back and find a way to carry them into the playoffs.