Big Cat: Considering JaMarcus Russell

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JaMarcus Russell is down from 315 pounds to 281 in hopes of making an NFL comeback.

(Photo: Chris Schneider, AP)

In the football doldrums of late May, a small snippet of a headline caught the eyes of Bengals’ vigilant.  Apparently the iconic bust, JaMarcus Russell is attempting a return to the NFL;

"According to’s Ian Rapoport, there is now “significant” interest from more than one team, according to a source.  Rapoport said on “NFL Total Access” that Russell — who has hired high-powered agent Eugene Parker — would like to sign with a team where he can sit on the bench and learn behind a respected leader at quarterback."

The gut response from almost any fan of the game was resounding – no.  However, if teams, even if only a handful, are interested, then so must we.  Indeed, greater Bengaldom should wonder, are the Bengals one of the attentive parties looking to enlist the services of the former #1 overall draft pick of 2007?  Five reasons not only suggest they could be, but also cause to give pause and reconsider our instincts.

Familiarity   For the past several years, the Bengals and Raiders have maintained a bit of a crosswalk.  From our side, Pat Sims, Carson Palmer and nearly Terrance Newman have fallen into the Black Hole.  From their camp, Bruce Gradkowski and Coach Hue Jackson have found their way to the Queen City.  For these two individuals, Russell may get his foot in the door because of second-hand acquaintances and familiarities.  Gradkowski served as an excellent back-up quarterback and mentor to Andy Dalton in his first two seasons in the NFL, and further, he served under Coach Jackson as an Offensive Coordinator in Oakland in 2010 as well as alongside Russell in 2009.  While Coach Jackson never formally coached Russell as he was signed to the Raiders in January of 2010 and Russell was released in May of the same year, Coach Jackson is not only familiar with what sort of player Russell was, but also what sort of offense and ‘franchise atmosphere’ that he departed the NFL with.