Russell’s work ethic called into question again

According to a report by the National Football Post’s Michael Lombardi, Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell’s work ethic continues to be called into question.

2. The work ethic of quarterback JaMarcus Russell is still being questioned by many who have worked with him in the past and are working with him now. After he issued a call to his teammates to practice and finish the OTA days strong, he then disappeared and was AWOL on the last day. Russell must learn that talent alone is not going to make him successful. Dedication to becoming a better player is what he needs.

Assuming this report is true (I’m not at Oakland’s practice facility everyday), Russell is in for a wake up call soon enough. I guarantee you if Russell isn’t busting his ass, Jeff Garcia (who the Raiders signed in the offseason) is. Garcia might be an aging vet and limited on the field in terms of arm strength, but he’s incredibly feisty and wants to play.

Russell isn’t long for the NFL if he won’t work. It’ll be interesting to see if more reports like Lombardi’s come to light over the summer once training camp begins.

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Garcia believes he gives Raiders best chance of winning

Jeff Garcia recently told Chris Myers in a radio interview that he believes he gives the Raiders the best chance of winning.

Garcia remained diplomatic, but there was a subtle shift in his stance during the radio interview with Chris Myers, particularly in this passage:

“Well, I’m not going to say that things can’t change and I understand that the role I have basically assumes going into Oakland knowing that JaMarcus was drafted to be the starting quarterback there. But I think there has to be some realization at some point as to putting the best players on the field that are you going to give you the best chance to win.

“Now, if JaMarcus is that guy, then he definitely deserves to be on the field and should be on the field. But if for some reason with what I bring as a player, from a competitive nature, and just the intensity and emotion that I bring to the field, and the knowledge of the game that I have – if that gives us a better chance to win football games, then that decision is going to have to be left up to the coach and hopefully he can make the right decision for the team.

“Because that’s really what it’s all about – it’s about the team, it’s not about protecting egos, or protecting investment dollars, it’s about what’s going to give this team a chance to win football games. And honestly, if JaMarcus can be that guy, then more power to him, because that’s what he was drafted to do for the team. But it doesn’t always seem to work out that way.”

Even though he’s limited as a passer, I don’t necessarily disagree with Garcia saying he gives the Raiders a better chance to win than Russell. Garcia does have more experience and even though he only has one full season under his belt, Russell has only shown vague flashes of potential so far.

Then again, it’s not like Russell has had Fort Knox protecting him and he’s also had to endure the changing of a couple offensive coordinators and one head coach. Those aren’t favorable conditions for any quarterback, nevertheless one that has only played in 19 games.

Garcia needs to relax. I know he’s a competitive guy and he did get the Eagles and Bucs to the playoffs two of the last three seasons, but it’s not like he set the world on fire when he was given the opportunity to be a starter in Cleveland and Detroit before then. If he’s better than Russell, then I’m sure he’ll get the opportunity to play at some point. But the Raiders didn’t invest a number one overall pick and $61 million dollars to not give Russell every chance to prove he can succeed.

Bucs tell Jeff Garcia that they’re moving on

The Buccaneers told free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia that they’re heading in another direction and won’t re-sign him this offseason.

Jeff GarciaGarcia, who turns 39 before the start of free agency Feb. 27, said Sunday night Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik has informed his agent, Steve Baker, that the team did not want him to return for a third season.

“My time in Tampa has come to an end,” Garcia said.

The Bucs signed quarterback Luke McCown to a two-year, $7.5-million contract last week, preventing him from becoming a free agent.

“I’m not under contract and I’m about to hit free agency and that means it’s time again for me to just move on,” Garcia said. “It is disappointing because I enjoyed the atmosphere and the team environment in that locker room…Change is needed at times. Sometimes it’s how you tweak it, not change it. With a new head coach, they want somebody pulling the trigger that they can mold. Beyond that, I don’t know why they’re making the move.”

Garcia went 14-10 in 24 starts during the regular season with the Bucs the past two seasons, leading Tampa Bay to a playoff appearance in 2007 and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl while throwing 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.

But last season, a calf injury he sustained in training camp led to his benching after a season-opening loss at New Orleans. Garcia regained the job the second quarter of the season and finished with an 8-5 record.

Garcia was a solid quarterback in Jon Gruden’s offense, but he can’t throw outside of the hash marks or beyond 15 yards on a consistent basis so he limits what an offense can do in the passing game. Rumors started to circulate that he could join the Bears, but that would be a bad fit given the weather conditions and type of offense Chicago runs (i.e. they like to throw downfield, which isn’t one of Garcia’s strong suits).

One team that might give him a shot is Minnesota, who runs a similar ball-control offense that Tampa did. Although, the Vikes already have a crusty old vet who played pretty well last year in Gus Frerotte, so signing Garcia seems unlikely. He’ll probably be relegated to a backup role, although some team might still promise him the opportunity to start if he performs well in training camp and preseason.

Offseason Blueprint: Detroit Lions

Notable Free Agents: Dan Orlovsky, QB, Rudi Johnson, RB; Jason Hanson, K; Shaun Cody, DT; Paris Lenon, LB.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $26,000,000

Draft Order: 1

Top Needs: A team doesn’t go 0-16 by accident. The Lions have major holes to fill at every position although offensive line, quarterback and secondary are arguably their biggest needs.

Offseason Outlook: Where do I start? This team is such an utter mess that it’s going to take new GM Martin Mayhew at least 2-3 years to rebuild the roster. And that’s assuming most of his moves pan out.

Even though it would be a long, slow process, Mayhew’s best approach would be to blow up the entire roster and start over. The two biggest problems with the Matt Millen era is that it lacked direction and he couldn’t spot talent if it fell from the sky and dropped in his lap. What Mayhew needs to do is build from the inside out and it all starts with the offensive line.

Many will argue that the Lions need a franchise starting quarterback first and foremost, but without an offensive line it won’t matter who they have under center. That’s why drafting Virginia’s Eugene Monroe with the first overall pick might be Detroit’s best move. Monroe is the type of player that could anchor the Lions’ offensive line for years to come and considering the team has a decent amount of cap space, Detroit could get a piece or two in free agency to help rebuild the offensive line as well. (Although the top available linemen – Matt Birk, Mike Goff, Mark Tauscher – are all over the age of 30.)

Even though it would pain most Lion fans to watch either Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton take another snap under center, the fact is that the other options aren’t that great either. The Patriots seem content to hang onto Matt Cassel and even if they weren’t, it would take multiple draft picks (multiple draft picks the Lions need to help rebuild the roster) and mucho dinero to acquire him from New England. And unless Jeff Garcia (already a failed experiment in Detroit), Rex Grossman or Kyle Boller gets your motor running, the unrestricted free agent market isn’t too promising either. In fact, the Lions’ best option at quarterback next year might still be on the roster in Jon Kitna. He was too happy with the way the team placed him on IR with a back injury midway through the season last year, but the coaching regime that made that decision isn’t in Detroit anymore. He could essentially be a solid stopgap at quarterback so the Lions could address the offensive line and defense this offseason.


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2008 Year-End Sports Review: What We Think Might Happen

It’s time to look ahead to 2009 and play a little Nostradamus.

Last year, we predicted that God would anoint the “Devil-free” Rays World Series Champions (ding!), that Brett Favre would play another year or two (ding! – sort of), that Isiah Thomas would be canned (ding!), and that Kobe would be playing for a new team by the trade deadline…

Granted, that last one didn’t come true, but how were we supposed to know that the Grizzlies would trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an unproven rookie and a bag of peanuts? Our occasional inaccuracy isn’t going to keep us from rolling out another set of predictions – some serious and some farcical – for 2009 and beyond, including President Obama’s plan for a college football playoff, Donovan McNabb’s new home and the baseball club most likely to be 2009’s version of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Read on, and in a year, we guarantee* you’ll be amazed.

*This is not an actual guarantee, mind you.

Don’t miss the other two parts of our 2008 Year-End Sports Review: “What We Learned” and “What We Already Knew.”

Michael Vick will play for the Oakland Raiders next season.

Once NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows suspended quarterback Michael Vick to re-enter the league, let’s be honest, there’s really only one team that will take a shot on the convict: the Oakland Raiders. Sure, the Raiders would have to possibly give up a draft pick because Vick will still technically be property of the Falcons, but with Matt Ryan on board, Atlanta would probably be willing to give Mikey up for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos…snack size. With Vick on board, JaMarcus Russell could shift to tight end or full back or offensive tackle or something. Or, Vick could play wide receiver! Or running back! Think of the possibilities! The Oakland Raiders will be the most unstoppable team in the league! That is, of course, until Vick gets the itch for his old hobby. – Anthony Stalter

The Nationals and Pirates become the official AAAA teams of their respective divisions.

After finishing at or near the bottom of the division since the franchise’s move from Montreal, Major League Baseball executives analyze the entire Washington Nationals player system and conclude that they have no chance of fielding a competitive team in the near future. In the boldest decision of his tenure, Commissioner Bud Selig demotes the team’s Major League roster to AAAA status, a phrase long used by baseball personnel to describe players that are too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors. In an added twist, Selig designates that the team’s assets are fair game for all four remaining teams in the National League East, as a means of creating parity. In order to keep the number of teams even in each league, Selig also downgrades the Pittsburgh Pirates, losers of 94 or more games since 2005, to AAAA status as well. It will be six weeks into the regular season before an NL East team claims any of these former Pirates or Nationals. – David Medsker

Barack Obama will have a plan in place for a college football playoff by 2016.

He has already spoken out twice in favor of an eight-team playoff format for college football. Granted, there are more pressing concerns for the President-elect – the economy, the war in Iraq and a forward-thinking energy policy, just to name a few – but there’s no reason that Obama can’t appoint a “Playoff Czar” to get the conference presidents and the bowl organizers together to hash out a system that works for everyone. Are the bowls worried about losing money? Rotate the semifinals and the final amongst the four bowl cities. Are the conferences worried about losing money? They shouldn’t be – the ratings for an eight-team playoff would dwarf the ratings the current system is getting. And better ratings means more money. This is something that 85%-90% of the population can agree on, and that doesn’t happen often. Mark our words – President Obama will make it happen, especially if he gets a second term. – John Paulsen


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