JaMarcus Russell, Jef Tedford, Monte clark/Joe Thomas, Freddy Sanchez
by Glenn Dickey
Sep 23, 2009

HOW LONG will it take Al Davis to admit that JaMarcus Russell is a bust? Never is the likely answer.

Davis has never been good at picking the right quarterback, starting with his first successful one, Daryle Lamonica. He had to be talked into trading for Lamonica by then general manager Scotty Stirling and coach John Rauch. That year, 1967, was my first on the Raiders beat and I remember vividly how Davis tried to distance himself from that trade when Lamonica started slowly. He quit talking that way when Daryle came on strongly in the second half of the season.

Ron Wolf had to talk him into drafting Ken Stabler, but only after Davis had indulged himself by picking Eldridge Dickey in the first round. Eldridge was the kind of athletic player Davis loves; when he failed as a quarterback, he was shifted to wide receiver. After he dropped a pass in the end zone against Kansas City because he heard footsteps, he was cut.

Davis never liked Stabler, though the Snake won the first Super Bowl for the Raiders, and he traded him for Dan Pastorini, who was so bad, Raider fans cheered when he was injured and knocked out of a game. Fortunately, Davis had signed Jim Plunkett after he was released by the 49ers in what was undoubtedly the smartest quarterback move he made without prompting, and Plunkett stepped in to take the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins.

But, Davis wasnít satisfied, so he drafted Marc Wilson in the first round and pushed for him to replace Plunkett. Bad idea, but not so bad as his drafting of Todd Marinovich, who preferred smoking grass and hanging out on the beach.

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

In Oakland, Davis signed Jeff George as a free agent. George was as good a passer as Iíve ever seen, able to throw every type of pass accurately. But his teammates hated him because he was so self-absorbed. After a mini-camp session in his second year with the Raiders, I asked George if he were ready to step up and be a leader. ďI donít think the quarterback necessarily has to be the leader,Ē he said. Oh, boy.

Jon Gruden, who hated George as much as any of his teammates did, finally convinced Davis, in one of their profanity-laced sessions, to let George go and sign Rich Gannon as a free agent. Gannon was the antithesis of George, a terrific leader who was a totally unorthodox passer. I compared him to a basketball point guard because he had the ability to find passing lanes and open receivers and deliver a strange-looking throw which was always on target.He was a leader on the field. He meshed perfectly with Gruden, and when the clueless Bill Callahan took over, he ignored what Callahan and his equally clueless offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, wanted and audibled out of more than half the plays that were sent in.

And, the Raiders got to their last Super Bowl with Gannon. When his next season ended early with an injury, the Raiders went into the slide in which they set an NFL record for most consecutive seasons with double digit losses.

After the 2006 season, the Raiders had the No. 1 pick and chose Russell. To be honest, I thought it was a good pick at the time. The Raiders needed a quarterback and Russell had been an outstanding college quarterback.

But, his pro career has been a series of lowlights. He held out until midseason as a rookie, which put him far behind when he finally reported, badly out of shape. He was made the starter last season and finished strong in his last two games, but heís seriously retrogressed this season.

Heís been the same quarterback in the first two games of the season that heís been in practice, both spring and summer. Though he has a strong arm and has made big plays in both of the Raidersí two games, heís been wildly inaccurate most of the time.

Thereís not much hope heíll get better. His work ethic is nonexistent and he doesnít seem to have either the intelligence or the drive to do better.

Unfortunately, he wonít be pressed because heís Davisís kind of quarterback. Davis talks about winning, but the older he gets, the more obsessed he is with doing it his way, even though his way has been out of vogue in the NFL since Bill Walsh came to the 49ers 30 years ago.

When Jeff Garcia was signed, national writers thought he would compete for the starting job and also be a mentor for Russell. Neither was true. Garcia was in the Stabler-Gannon mode, which Davis hates. A mentor? Garcia made it plain that he was here to compete for the starting job, not mentor a younger quarterback. Thatís always the way it is. Do you think Brett Favre spent any time helping Aaron Rodgers, or that Joe Montana gave friendly advice to Steve Young?

Garcia realized what was happening with the Raiders, so he asked for his release so he would be available when a quarterback went down with an injury, as happened with the Philadelphia Eagles. The rest of us arenít so lucky. Weíre stuck with watching Davisís latest folly.

TROUBLE AHEAD: The Cal Bears are facing a three-week schedule that will determine their feat for the season, traveling to Eugene to face the Ducks Saturday, hosting USC the next week and gong to Los Angeles to play UCLA the third week.

Oregonís home stadium, Autzen, is considered the most hostile environment in the Pac-10, but Cal coach Jeff Tedford isnít awed by it. For one thing, the Bears won their last game there, in 2007. ďThat was huge,Ē he said.

For another, heís prepared his team for Oregon and other noisy home crowds by playing loud crowd noises at practice, to the point where players have sometimes complained.

The Bears also played in a similar environment at Minneapolis last week, against the Gophers in their beautiful new, oncampus stadium. The Minnesota fans kept up a steady din throughout and got louder when their team tied the game in the third quarter. ďIt was really big that we were able to come back in the fourth quarter there,Ē said Tedford. ďMinnesota is a good team. I think theyíre going to do well this season, but we were able to maintain our composure to win the game.Ē

Still, thereís nothing like Autzen, as Tedford knows from his time there as offensive coordinator, before he came to Cal. ďWe had a tremendous home field advantage,Ē he said. ďI think the biggest thing about Autzen is that the noise is continuou. At other stadiums, there will be an ebb and flow, but at Autzen, itís just constant. The fans are very knowledgeable there. When I was there, Iíd see players from other teams make gestures to ĎBring it on.Ē You really donít want to do that because then, they really come after you.Ē

You can expect the Bears to just play their game on Saturday, which should be enough to win. Iíll write more on that for Fridayís Examiner.

STANFORDíS CHANCES: Weíll know much more about both Stanford and Washington after Saturday nightís game at Stanford. Iíve expected Stanford to be improved this season but Washingtonís upset of USC was a shocker. Still, Tyrone Willingham recruited some good talent while he was coaching the Huskies and they may be better than expected. Quarterback Jake Locker, who is a special talent, is back after a broken thumb in the fourth game (against Stanford) sidelined him last season.

It would also be nice if Stanford sold out the game, but I donít expect that because Stanford sellouts usually happen only when the visiting team brings a lot of fans, which means USC, Notre Dame and Cal.

Much has changed at Stanford since I came to The Chronicle in 1963. Stanford had a big time program then, with 60,000 pretty much the low in the old stadium, with big games drawing 80,000 and even 90,000.

The Stanford administration has been part of the reason for the change. Thereís been a strong attempt to bring in international students, who donít stay in the area after they graduate, so the alumni base in the Bay Area is miniscule compared to the Cal alumni base. Admissions standards, always the highest in the Pac-10, have been pushed even higher.

Coach Jim Harbaugh recruited well this year but Iím told he lost a couple of battles with the admissions office. I think Harbaugh will remain a college coach because his handson style (like Tedfordís) is much better suited to the college game. But unlike Tedford, who should have a long run at Cal, I think Harbaugh will find a better opportunity elsewhere in the near future.

Another problem for Stanford is the television contracts the NCAA and Pac-10 have signed. In the Ď60s, I saw a lot of Stanford games because they were always played at 12:30. You could go to a pre-game tailgate, watch the game and then continue the tailgate after.

No more. Now, games are played on TVís schedule, whether itís 11 a.m. (the starting time in Minneapolis for the Cal game last Saturday) or late afternoon or evening. NFL fans can plan their fall schedule knowing that their team will play almost all its games on Sunday afternoon, but college fans donít even know during the season; at this point, there is only one of Calís last seven games which has a listed starting time, the last one in Seattle at 3:30 p.m.

Given that most college football fans are alumni, who are being asked for contributions by their schools, this is a suicidal policy.

The problem is the window ABC has in the middle of the day. The NCAA should have told ABC it could pick the best national game or the best games in all regions, but that the cable networks could then televise other games in that time slot. But thatís logical, and it seems that nothing in sports is logical these days.

MONTE CLARK: When Joe Thomas was hired as general manager when the DeBartolos bought the 49ers in 1977, Clark promptly quit as coach. Later, he told me why.

Clark had been an assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins when Thomas was the personnel director there. The coaches all hated Thomas, so they decided to play a joke on him. Before a pre-draft meeting, they put up the name of a fictitious player. That didnít faze Thomas, who proceeded to talk about the supposed strengths and weaknesses of the fictitious player.

Thomas was an amazing man. That is not a compliment. A month after his hiring, I went down to the teamís Redwood City headquarters to interview Thomas. I was there for four hours and said perhaps 12 words in all that time as Thomas talked and talked and talked about his favorite topic Ė himself. I thought I knew ego because Charlie Finley and Al Davis owned Oakland teams at the time, but they werenít in a class with Thomas.

FIELD OF DREAMS: The field, at 45th between Telegraph and Webster in Oakland, is being renamed for Rickey Henderson in a 10 a.m. ceremony on Oct. 3. Gates open at 9:30. For additional information, call Matthew Gabel at (510) 506-8805 or e-mail him at matthew.gabel@mindspring.com.

GIANTS COMBINATION: Isnít it going to be fun next year watching the Giants double play combination of Freddy Sanchez and Edgar Renteria sitting out games because of injuries?

These two represent everything that is wrong with Brian Sabeanís operation. Renteria is a shadow of his former self but Sabean signed him to a two-year contract for $18.5 million, so the Giants are stuck for another year. Sanchez has a club option for $8 million next year, which Sabean has said that he will pick up, though Sanchez wonít even play 120 games this season because of injuries. His all out style has banged up his body and heíll be spending a lot of time on the DL next season.

But, Sabean will probably be rewarded with a contract extension. Go figure.

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