DEVILLE: Can't blame Russell for leaving LSU

Isn't it amazing how things never really seem to change?

Doesn't it seem that ever since JaMarcus Russell became LSU's starting quarterback some other quarterback has managed to upstage him?


It has been a popular subject of discussion the last two-and-a-half years as to who should be the Tigers' starting quarterback. It is pretty obvious the player who has spent the last two seasons under center was the clear-cut choice.


Considering Russell was ranked among the top three in the nation in passing efficiency, led the Tigers to a 25-4 record as the starter, and threw for more than 6,000 yards in two and a half seasons, anyone with a brain knows Russell was the right choice.


But there are plenty of folks out there that feel Russell, who will likely be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft, wasn't even the best quarterback on this LSU team.


Over the past two seasons, especially after last season's Peach Bowl triumph, Matt Flynn was a popular choice to supersede Russell as quarterback, most notably after any Russell mistake.


However, do not misunderstand me. I am a big Flynn fan. Matt Flynn is a stand-up person, a classy athlete who would probably start on eight or nine of the 12 SEC teams right now. Unfortunately, he is on the same team as Russell, a quarterback who will go down as one of LSU's best ever. I'll bet if you were to ask Flynn, he would tell you the same. That is just the type of athlete and competitor Flynn truly is.


But like so many coaches have said in the past, the most popular guy on any football team is the backup quarterback.


In LSU's case, that would be backup "quarterbacks."


Not only did Russell have to constantly hear his critics call for Flynn, but also for third-team quarterback and former prep All-American Ryan Perrilloux. It didn't matter what sort of numbers Russell seemed to produce, he was always criticized for whichever mistakes he made and was vilified by some fans for instances like the last play of the Auburn game as well as the fumble in the second quarter at Florida.


Some folks refuse to take into account his knack for winning big games as well as his ability to strap the team on his back and get the job done when the heat was on. Russell led the Tigers to eight, fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks for victories.


It wasn't until what turned out to be Russell's final game as an LSU Tiger did some of his doubters wise up and say, "Maybe this guy is really good." Russell completed 21 of 34 passes for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns as he led the Tigers in a rout of No. 11 Notre Dame in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.


As Russell held up the Sugar Bowl MVP trophy, fans chanted "One more year! One more year!"


All I can say is, YEAH, RIGHT!


Not that this writer wouldn't love to see JaMarcus return for another season, destroy the LSU record books, and lead what would be the preseason No. 1 Tigers on a march to potentially win the national title, but I don't blame JaMarcus for moving on to the next level.


First and foremost, Russell has proven that he should be the first quarterback taken in this spring's draft. He outplayed and outclassed Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, a player many projected as the possible first pick in the draft. Plus, he is set up to be a high-round draft pick and make tons of money, allowing, as he said, his mom to quit her job, which would be every child's dream.


But above all of that, why in the world would JaMarcus Russell want to stay in Baton Rouge? Russell has too much class to state the obvious, but why would he want to come back and spend another season leading a team whose fans have criticized him from every angle and done nothing but scream for his backup to take over?


Also, it seems only all too familiar that on the day JaMarcus announced his plans to leave LSU that he was upstaged by one of his backups. It was to be a day all about JaMarcus Russell, a day for his family to be center stage as he celebrated his successful career as the Tigers' signal caller.


But instead, his day in the sun was overshadowed by third-string quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who is currently undergoing a federal investigation for undisclosed reasons. It was obvious by the number of television cameras and unfamiliar faces in the press room that folks were there for more than JaMarcus' announcement.


The eighth question of Russell's press conference was prefaced by "with all due respect to JaMarcus."


And that was that.


The Perrilloux question had been asked. And with that, LSU sports information director

Michael Bonnette stepped in and ended the press conference.


Again, Russell had been short-changed.


The 6-6, 260-pound NFL-great-to-be smiled, then stood up and walked through a door at the back of the stage officially ending his final appearance as the Tigers' quarterback.


Don't feel bad for JaMarcus, though. As everyone else clamors about over the wrongdoings of a third-team quarterback, Russell will be smiling all the way to the bank with LSU in his rearview mirror.


Enjoy retirement, Mrs. Russell.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at

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