OAKLAND -- Josh McCown isn't going to get it done, not while Tom Brady is choreographing fourth-quarter comebacks, clusters of empty seats at McAfee Coliseum ensure another television blackout, the Raiders absorb another pummeling, the boo birds are dropping hints all over the place ... and JaMarcus Russell is in the building.
He's big, he's strong, he's young.
He's being paid the big bucks.
He's probably not ready, but hey, neither are the Raiders.
After this latest less-than-virtuoso performance, and specifically the effort of the journeyman quarterback Lane Kiffin undeniably prefers over former All-Pro veteran Daunte Culpepper (1-3 in his four starts), even the hyper-cautious rookie coach is finally, admittedly, tempted to make the much-discussed, long-awaited move.
"I think about playing JaMarcus all the time," a surprisingly candid Kiffin revealed after McCown tossed three interceptions in Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Houston Texans. "I thought about playing him when we were down 14."
The vibe around here definitely is changing. You can hear it in the interview room and from the fans. Everyone is getting restless. The question Raiders fans have asked since the 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound Russell ended his holdout and joined his teammates shortly into the regular season -- When will the NFL's No. 1 draft pick make his professional debut? -- appears on the verge of being answered, for several reasons.
The Raiders are 2-6, which suggests they remain firmly ensconced in rebuilding mode, not leaping toward respectability. The quarterback shuttle between McCown and Culpepper has resulted in more boos than applause and, while minimizing the pressure on the unproven but highly regarded rookie, only delays the inevitable. At this point, leaving Russell on the sideline is pretty much a waste of everyone's time and an immense squandering of Al Davis' money.
Kiffin's torn, he's tempted.
He's thinking about Russell.
"You've got to make sure JaMarcus is ready to play," the coach continued, thoughtfully. "This is our franchise. "