So why now? Who knows? At this point, the season is already lost. Other non-competitive teams are now in the mode where they're switching to their younger quarterbacks so they can evaluate them for the future. The Raiders are doing the opposite. Bruce Gradkowski(notes) is the older, more experienced guy and clearly is not the future of the franchise, while Russell, some believe, still might be.
It made sense to make the move in Week 4 or 5, when there might have been a season to salvage. It makes less sense now, but still, I guess there's never a bad time to bench the worst starting quarterback in the league.
My theory on the timing is that owner Al Davis calls most of the shots in Oakland, he's in love with Russell's size, strong arm and athleticism, and it took this long for him to finally say, "Okay, maybe we should try something else." I do not believe that Tom Cable -- or any other NFL head coach who is allowed to make decisions for himself -- would've stuck with Russell for this long, had it been his call.
Cable says that's not the case, and it's been up to him all along. I don't buy it. I think he's a better coach than that. I also think that he sees it as part of his job to cover for the owner in public. It's the only scenario that makes sense. No quarterback with Russell's numbers survives as a starter for that long unless it's someone other than a coach making the decision.
What does it mean for the long-term future of JaMarcus Russell? There's some speculation that it means the Raiders are done with Russell, and are finally ready to give up on him. I doubt that's the case. All along, he's been Al Davis' pet project, and really, there's no reason for that to change now. Russell is still young and still gifted. Guys like that seem to have an endless string of second chances.
It might mean, though, that his days of being handed playing time are over. From now on, he's going to have to earn it by being the better quarterback, and that should have been the case a long, long time ago.
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- JaMarcus Russell