Leadership can come from many places in the game of football. Ownership takes the lead for the entire organization. The head coach gives the team direction Monday thru Saturday. He puts in the game plan and coaches his assistants. He deals with the media.
But on Sunday afternoon the players can only look to themselves for direction, focus, and leadership. The veterans of the team are usually looked to for this type of leadership. In the case of the Raiders this role must fall upon on one man, JaMarcus Russell.
After having been taken by the Raiders as the number one overall pick two years ago Russell has been brought along very slowly. This was not helped by the fact that Russell had to be held out of training camp as contract negotiations dragged on right up to the beginning of his rookie campaign. Once the contract was completed Russell’s development was further slowed by the fact that Lane Kiffin was not willing to put the young quarterback into game situations until JaMarcus had complete command of the playbook.
Where this leaves JaMarcus Russell as he enters his third year in the NFL is that it is his responsibility to step up and become the leader of this football team. During this off season the Raiders have been very systematic in upgrading their roster by resigning their own free agent players, and bringing in new players that may not become stars but will certainly bring depth and competition to a team that has lack both over the last few years.
Leaders come in many shapes and sizes. They can be vocal or they can be soft spoken that does not matter. What is important is that when the 4th quarter comes and you are down by four with only one time out and the clock in ticking down, your teammates must be able to look you in the eyes and know that you are in command of the situation and that through you the job is going to get done.
Yes, JaMarcus is going to need to get protection from his offensive line but he must be the one to inspire his teammates to lay it on the line for him in order to get that done. He must know the playbook and not only know his own responsibilities but also those of his teammates. He must show courage in the face of adversity.
He must play when others would not be willing to play. When you step on the field your contract does not matter. What does matter is that you are playing for each other. On a football team if you cannot count on the guy that lines up next to you than you are lost. This especially applies to the position of quarterback.
Leadership is not something that can be taught by a coach. It is something that a parent passes on to a child by personal example.
The Raiders have now given this team tools that it can work with to became successful. The coach has given this team a direction a focus and a unity.
It is now time for JaMarcus Russell to step out of the shadows and into the light. This is his team and his time. Let us hope that he is ready but most of all willing to become the leader of this football team as we enter into the 2009 football season.