And so ends the sad professional career of JaMarcus Russell, the biggest draft bust in NFL.
John Lucas, JaMarcus Russell's life coach,has publicly broken ties with his charge. Lucas had hoped to rehabilitate JaMarcus' image and get him back on the right track and playing in the NFL again. After the NFL showed less than no interest in JaMarcus, he apparently lost all motivation and discipline to get back into playing shape. "Draft bust" will now by required to precede Russell's name in any story for the rest of eternity.
The gold standard for draft busts has been Ryan Leaf, who is a living reminder that there was a time we doubted how good Peyton Manning was. Leaf played poorly, fought with the media, displayed little interest in improving his play, and generally alienated every person he came into contact with.
Russell followed closely to the Ryan Leaf career arc, but has the extra ignominy of actually being the #1 overall pick. #1 overall picks have failed before. Ki-Jana Carter and Steve Entman anyone? But the failure of JaMarcus was so spectacular, and so, well, preventable.
The shame of a draft bust is that we tend to forget that these guys were great in college. Take Ryan Leaf. There was a reason people thought he might be better than Peyton. Leaf not only had all the physical tools, but he carried a marginally-talented Washington St. squad to the Rose Bowl and within a play of the national title. Make no mistake, Ryan Leaf was awesome in college.
No one is going to remember JaMarcus' spectacular college career now, except for a few LSU fans. Even LSU fans have rewritten the history book, as many fans choose to remember JaMarcus as a guy who fell short of winning a title, which is grossly unfair. But that's life, and he's got several millions dollars with which to dry his tears.
What amazes me is that JaMarcus never got a second chance. Hell, even Ryan Leaf got signed by a second team. John Lucas couldn't even get Ozzie Newsome to meet with JaMarcus, much less sign him.
This doesn't absolve JaMarcus of the blame for how his career turned out. He's the guy who put on all of that weight. He's the guy who displayed a terrible work ethic. He's the guy who sipped the purple drank. At the end of the day, he's responsible.
That doesn't mean he didn't get help along the way. The Raiders were a hopelessly inept team that fed all of JaMarcus' worst instincts (Hey! Just chuck it deep!) His media portrayal was sometimes unfair - there wasn't a big statistical difference between his rookie year and Mark Sanchez's, yet Sanchez is not only still in the league, he's a borderline star. And really, would have killed Ozzie Newsome to at least meet with the guy? The way every front office turned their back on JaMarcus was surprising. No one was willing to give the guy a shot? Isn't there a quarterback shortage?
No one was patient with JaMarcus. No one gave the guy a second chance in the League. That truly sucks, but it's the bed JaMarcus made for himself. Now he has to lie in it.
Biggest bust ever.
It's sad. He'll now live on as an example of a terrible player and even worse, as a terrible person. Which is completely contrary to my memories of him. He is the greatest LSU quarterback since Bert Jones. No one in this town holds professional failures against Tommy Hodson and Rohan Davey. It's a shame that's what JaMarcus is destined to be remembered for. He deserves better from LSU fans, at least.
I'll choose to remember that he was great once. Almost as great as Ryan Leaf.