Bring on Weekend (cont.)
Posted: Thursday April 5, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Thursday April 5, 2007 5:36PM
Let me give you a partial list of current NFL quarterbacks who, as far as I know, can't make the butt throw or sling a ball 70 yards to the opposite side of the field while rolling out: Peyton Manning. Drew Brees. Tom Brady. As the latter player's father, Tom Sr., told me on Wednesday, "I don't think Tommy could throw 70 yards if he threw the ball and ran backwards for 20."
Now here's a partial list of former quarterbacks who couldn't pull off those feats: Montana. Johnny Unitas. Otto Graham.
This doesn't mean that Russell, a 6-6, 260-pound specimen who is the favorite to be picked first overall by the Raiders on April 28, is destined to be a bust. Some physically gifted freaks -- John Elway, Young, Brett Favre -- go on to accomplish big things in the pros.
Still, I'm skeptical enough to wonder whether Russell, who doesn't have great mobility, isn't this decade's version of Druckenmiller. And since I'm realistic enough to know that I'm not qualified to supply the answer, I spoke recently to four experts who are. All are respected NFL scouts or personnel men who preferred to remain anonymous.
What they told me, essentially, was this: Yeah, we hear you about the workout-wonder thing, and drafting a quarterback is always a risky proposition. But as far as we and everyone else in our business can tell, this guy is for real real.
"His workout dazzled everybody, but I don't think it's a novelty act," said a veteran scout for an NFC team. "He is f----- legit."
Said another NFC scout: "Every single guy in our organization who evaluated him gave a monster grade. I've never seen a guy with such a consistent mark across the board like that. He's got so much talent. He can roll away from pressure, he's accurate and he's just phenomenal throwing the ball."
When I asked specifically about Druckenmiller, this scout cut me off and said, "No, no, no, no, no! He is nowhere near a Druckenmiller, who could throw the ball through a building but was a big stiff, like a linebacker playing quarterback. And don't give me the (Byron) Leftwich comparisons; this guy's a much more accurate passer, and he can move much better.
"He should be a star, a guy who can carry a team on his back. For Al Davis, who's obsessed with throwing deep, this is the guy he's been dreaming about all these years."
Maybe so, but something tells me Russell to the Raiders isn't as certain as most people are portraying it to be. Sure, the franchise needs a quarterback the way some folks in the Oakland Hills neighborhood in which I used to live need Xanax, but I'm hearing from people in the know that Davis is locking in on Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson.
The thinking is that Davis, who is 77 and said to be in poor health, is desperate to win now, and he understands how hard it is to do so with even the most talented of rookie quarterbacks. Davis also is well aware of the glaringly low success rate of quarterbacks drafted in the first round over the past 15 years. Remarkably, he still has faith in incumbent quarterback Andrew Walter, and Johnson is the closest thing to a sure bet -- and, potentially, an instant impact player -- that the draft has to offer.
Inside at least one rival team's pre-draft meeting on Wednesday, the talk was that Johnson to the Raiders is a done deal. If these plugged-in personnel people are right about that, it would certainly shake up the top of the draft.
I can't presume to decree with any semblance of certainty what Davis will do three weeks from now, but I can tell you what happened to Druckenmiller. He played in eight games for the 49ers in 1997 and '98, completing 21 of 52 passes (40.4 percent) for 239 yards, with one interception and four touchdowns. In '99 the team traded him to Miami for a seventh-round draft pick, but he never played a game for the Dolphins.
Two years later he became a starter -- for the Memphis Maniax of the late, great XFL.
Let's put it this way: Remember that scandal a couple of years ago caused by a politically incorrect media-training video, the one that led to then-public relations director Kirk Reynolds being told, in a figurative sense, to make the butt throw for the foreseeable future? Well, that wasn't the most damaging tape in franchise history.
In fact, it wasn't even close.
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