In honor of Russell's release, SI.com has cataloged the Jam-Jam commentary from all corners of the internet in the weeks and months leading up to the 2007 draft. It's mostly laudatory (and, frankly, that makes sense given Russell's drop-dropping physical skills), but there were still a few voices wary of JaMarcus' work ethic.
"JaMarcus Russell is going to immediately energize that fanbase, that football team -- on the practice field, in that locker room," ESPN's Mel Kiper said at the time. "Three years from now you could be looking at a guy that's certainly one of the elite top five quarterbacks in this league. ...You're talking about a 2-3 year period once he's under center. Look out because the skill level that he has is certainly John Elway-like."
I actually felt bad for Kiper until I read ESPN's Todd McShay's comments:
"I can't remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days. Russell's passing session was the most impressive of all the pro days I've been to. His footwork for such a big quarterback was surprising. He was nimble in his dropbacks, rolling out and throwing on the run. The ball just explodes out of his hands."
NFL Network's Mike Mayock was more measured in his praise ("The only thing that's going to keep [Russell] from being great is him. What it comes down to is you've got to figure out whether or not this kid wants to be the best quarterback in football"), as was ESPN's Merril Hoge ("Both [Russell and Brady Quinn] have strengths and glaring weaknesses. It goes down to which guy is most coachable...").
And Lane Kiffin, perhaps the biggest laughingstock in college football last season after Al Davis fired him from the Raiders head coaching gig for, among other things, not wanting to draft Russell (in 2008, after canning Kiffin, Davis said in a letter that, "I realized that you did not want to draft JaMarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it..."), diplomatically voiced his pre-draft concerns: "He's like a video game. There's not a throw he can't make and there's some he can make I'm not sure anyone else can make. That's exciting. But how many times does that happen in a game, making those long throws. Maybe twice in 16 games. I know seeing someone do that is a scout's dream, but it doesn't happen much."
For now, Kiper and McShay couldn't have been wronger. And if Russell can't be motivated by the inevitable comparisons to Leaf that won't change anytime soon.
via Football Outsiders