Raiders will look to learn from Indy

As the Raiders gradually move into the JaMarcus Russell era, they are confronted with the gold standard when it comes to drafting and developing a quarterback selected as the No. 1 overall pick.

The Indianapolis Colts took Peyton Manning with the No. 1 pick in 1998, three picks before the Raiders took Charles Woodson.

In his 10th season, Manning already has 302 touchdown passes -- more than John Elway.

Rather than make the mistake of taking a quarterback and then attempting to make him conform to the new team, the Colts instead built their team around Manning.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin, with the No. 1 pick of his own to develop in Russell, has studied the Colts closely.

"I think they've done it perfectly as far as getting star players around him, and for the most part, they've been able to keep those guys in place," Kiffin said. "He has the same guys who they continue to develop, and as soon as they need something else, they go out and get it."

Indianapolis has made sure its offensive line stayed strong, got Manning a star-quality running back in Edgerrin James early in his career, then turned to Joseph Addai when James left in free agency.

Marvin Harrison was in Indianapolis two years before Manning arrived, and the draft later added Reggie Wayne, and this year, rookie Anthony Gonzalez.

"You look at their wideouts, they're all first-round picks and playing well," Kiffin said. "They've had to make decisions in terms of players lost to free agency, but for the most part they've kept the stars and players around him."

Another key factor has been the continuity of the offensive system. Executive Bill Polian and former coach Jim Mora brought in Tom Moore as offensive coordinator and Howard Mudd as the offensive line coach.

The assistants have remained on the Colts staff since 1998. As a result, Manning has never had to junk one system for another. Instead, he continues to strive to perfect the one he has.

Raiders quarterback Josh McCown, who played in Arizona when Dennis Green changed coordinators the way he changed socks, is a little envious of Manning's stability.

"The more consistent you keep things around a guy, the better chance he'll have to be successful," McCown said. "If you don't keep your system, you're always learning something new instead of working on the nuances and little things of playing quarterback -- trust me, I've played in a new system every year."

Russell's situation differs from Manning's other than the fact that both were Southeastern Conference quarterbacks, Russell at LSU and Manning at Tennessee.

Russell came out after his junior season and had less than two full seasons as a starter. He missed all of training camp and the preseason waiting for a contract to be agreed upon.

Manning, on the other hand, was a four-year starter at Tennessee in a pro-style passing offense who was in camp on time and played extensively in the preseason.

As Kiffin works Russell into the mix gradually, the quarterback's chances of success increase greatly if Kiffin, as well as offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and offensive line coach Tom Cable stay so the team can grow together with a clear vision of the future.

"Sometimes what happens with the No. 1 pick is like it's a dog chasing its tail," McCown said. "An owner or a GM drafts a No. 1 pick, he struggles, and they fire the coach. Then it never stops because there's no consistency around him.

"I think you have to weather the storm through guys. I remember growing up in Texas and the Dallas Cowboys letting Troy Aikman be 1-15 and the team getting through that, and look what they got from it. Indianapolis stuck with Peyton after he struggled early."

Kiffin has been criticized for handling Russell with kid gloves, treating him as if he would break like a crystal vase both physically and mentally if things go awry. He held Russell out of the Green Bay game because the quarterback had never played in extreme cold and because the Raiders were struggling.

Russell has been agreeable to Kiffin's strategy, eager to play but at the same time patient enough to not make an issue out of it. He has watched Manning's career closely because of his connection with Tee Martin, who attended the same Mobile, Ala., high school as Russell and was a college teammate of Manning at Tennessee.

"I kind of watched Peyton growing up as a kid," Russell said.

He got a different look at Manning the last two years.

"I actually got a chance to meet him, worked at his (youth) camp the past two years," Russell said. "He's a good guy, has a good personality, good to be around and he does well with people. He handles himself in a decent way."

Most of their discussions, Russell said, were casual.

"He just talked to me about life, period, instead of football," Russell said. "He said he wanted to try and get away and go out there and teach kids (at camp). He said when the time gets right for him, we'll get together and go over some things."


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