"We're working through trying to get a confidence level with everybody involved from routes, from his footwork, his decision-making, the protection and all of it right has left us all extremely disappointed because it's very easy to pick one guy," Tollner said of Russell, the Raiders' third-year quarterback and a former No. 1 overall draft pick who completed only 7 of 24 passes for 109 yards in a Week 2, 13-10 victory at Kansas City.
"It never is quite that way. It's a package of things. For his position, when you're playing as poorly as we did last week, a lot of it falls on the quarterback. That's what happens in the game."
Although Russell engineered a game-winning, 69-yard scoring drive late, he became only the second quarterback since the start of the 1997 season to attempt 20 or more passes in a game and complete fewer than 30 percent of them and still win.
In two starts, Russell has completed 19 of 54 passes for 317 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He has the worst completion percentage (35.2) in the NFL, and his passer rating of 46.6 ranks 30th in the NFL.
Russell has had moderate success finding tight end Zach Miller but clearly is struggling with the injury loss of favorite wideout Chaz Schilens (broken foot). Schilens is improving, but the Raiders don't expect him to play in Sunday's AFC West home game against the hated Denver Broncos.
"[Russell's] numbers are not impressive," said Tollner, speaking to media at the Raiders' Alameda training headquarters. "We don't like 'em, he doesn't like 'em, and we've got to do something about it. All we can try to do is clean up all the areas around that support him to be more productive and then he's got to make the play at that point. So at some point there's a play to be made and we're not making it just because it wasn't accurate.
"But there are a lot of other factors that lead to that that we can't say that's the only reason. That's why we try to look at it as a whole, not one individual. And we try to evaluate ourselves. The package of plays that we have in these situations, is it enough to defeat the defenses that we're going against? Do we have people open? Is it a sound structure for the defensive structure? So we're examining ourselves, too."
Tollner said it's true that much of the progress Russell seemed to make during the Raiders' organized team activities and mini-camps has screeched to a halt.
"That's an accurate assessment because we really felt like we were making some real strides and the area was anticipation and turning the ball loose and trusting," Tollner said. "Are [the passes] going to be where they belong? Can I turn it loose when the coaches want me, or do I have to wait and use my big arm? We were making some real strides along those lines because you have to at this level."
Russell has been criticized for holding onto the ball too long, waiting for receivers to break free. That also leaves him vulnerable to sacks, although the Raiders' offensive line this season has been solid in pass protection, limiting Russell to three sacks.
"You can't wait till people are open," Tollner said of Russell's passing targets. "We made strides and last week we fell back in all those areas. That's disappointing to all of us and we've got to get back on track. The answer? I don't have the answer other than what I just said. It's a number of things that happen and there has been a major emphasis on him, on JaMarcus, we've got to give [him] a foot rhythm that allows [him] to turn the ball loose on time and [he needs] to buy into that.'
"And he has, to repeat myself -- we were making strides and -- bam -- we stepped back, and I don't have the answer other than what I already said."
Former Raiders quarterback and NFL MVP Rich Gannon said Wednesday on his Sirius NFL Radio show that -- after breaking down every one of Russell's pass plays in his first two games -- he sees fundamental flaws in the quarterback's mechanics that may be a result of too many coaching changes and/or a lack of experienced receiving targets.
"A couple of things are very glaring," Gannon said. "I think, you see a lot of times he falls away from throws. He seems to bail. I think a rush up inside bothers him. He needs to get more bend in his knees when he throws. He's very upright and not a lot of bend in his knees.
"It may have something to do with his weight. He seems to be more comfortable operating out of shotgun than he does under center. He doesn't do a very good job seeing out in front of throws, and I think that comes with experience, really understanding and anticipating coverages. So that's not something he does.
"When you look at the offensive game plan, the passing game, I think they've condensed the plan. It's not very complicated. Fundamentally, right now, he is not very sound. His mechanics, his footwork, it's inconsistent."
Gannon delved further into Russell's mechanics:
"I think sometimes he predetermines where he's going to go with the ball. You can see that he makes up his mind very early in his drop," Gannon said. "And the other thing is he misses a number of throws, almost a majority of his throws if you go back and look at it, they're high, which tells you that more of that weight is not on the front foot, that he's leaning back, he's throwing off of his back foot. These are some things that really jump out at me."