Cable: Russell the QB but change may come

A day after JaMarcus Russell had one of the worst performances of his career in the Raiders' loss to Denver, head coach Tom Cable continued to back the third-year QB as his starter but for the first time said a change might happen if things don't turn around.

During Monday's press conference following the ugly 23-3 loss to the Broncos, Raiders head coach Tom Cable spent much of his time talking about the team's dreadful performance on offense. Specifically, the issues surrounding quarterback JaMarcus Russell and his ongoing struggles were a main topic.

Cable, who has defended and supported Russell since taking over for Lane Kiffin four games into the 2008 season, continued to stand by the quarterback and said Oakland has more problems than just Russell.

But for the first time this season, Cable didn't slam the door when questioned about potentially making a change at quarterback.

"You know, I haven't thought about that yet," Cable said. "I know it's on everyone's mind. I think right now, the big picture is for this team to clean up a lot of areas. I think if that was the only area that I thought really needed to be changed, then it's easy, but it's not. For me, as the head coach, it's to stay the course, continue to clean it up. The second part of your question there, if the time comes--will it? Everything can be fixed and if it's not, has to be changed."

Talking about all the issues that hobbled Oakland during the loss to Denver – from a poor run defense to an offense that has managed just one touchdown and three field goals in the last eight quarters – Cable made an interesting comment in reference to his players and what percentage of them seem to "get it."

"My feeling is right now, we're about a 90/10 team," Cable said. "We have 90 percent of our guys really got it, and they're doing it, and we got 10 percent that we got to get there as coaches. We've got to improve them. We've got to get them to a point where they can go in and perform like the other 90 percent."

Asked if Russell was part of the 10 percent of players who aren't getting it, Cable was blunt.

"It's easy to say that but when you sit down and look at the film now, he's actually better. He started out, what, 6-of-7, I think (wrong). The interceptions, obviously, we don't want interceptions. Those aren't acceptable but in terms of reading the field and making some throws early, he went the right place with the ball, he was on time. Was he able to do that the entire game? No, he wasn't. But, for us to succeed, yeah, he's part of that 10 percent that we got to bring up to that level."

Russell was booed heavily by the home crowd in Oakland on Sunday and it only got worse as the game went on. The frustrated fan base, expecting more from their franchise quarterback than 61 yards passing and two interceptions, has wanted to embrace Russell as the savior he was tabbed to be but so far it's been anything but a lovely relationship.

Questions about Russell's work ethic have been raised, though Cable quickly shot down any criticism in the regard.

"His growth in the last year has been extreme in regard to his work ethic," Cable said. "I want everyone to work harder and do more. I don't think he's any different that way than anybody else. I would say this to you, if he was where he was a year ago or even two years ago, I would be pretty darn disappointed right now. But he has brought himself to a whole other level that way.

"What I want to see is continued progress. I want to see it continually day to day, week to week, stay on course that way. My belief is that when you do that and you stay the course, then you have your breakthrough and you become what everyone wants you to become."

Cable said Russell's biggest issue has been a lack of consistency – no shocking secret there – but added it's part of the growing pains a young quarterback often goes through.

"It's just been inconsistent, you know?" Cable said. "I think there's been some times you say, 'Wow, that's way better than it was in his first two years.' And then there's times you say, Man we got a long way to go. That's got to improve, because that doesn't look any better.' I think it has translated to the field, I just don't see it at a point where it's consistent yet, and I think that everybody would agree with that.

"You can talk about the Matt Ryans and people like that who get it right away, but by and large at that position it does take a little more time. Obviously more time than any coach wants it to take. But you have to live with some of those growing pains. My goal is for him to become more consistent, because you do see the flashes, you do get excited about some of those things.

"Where he is has grown so much, I think, is his poise and his presence. He's proved that the first two games at the end of the game. But series in, series out, down in, down out, that's where I want to see it come. And I think we're getting closer. But until it happens, until the numbers come up, until the consistency comes up, where we can have the higher completion rate and more touchdown throws and things like that, everybody'll want to question him. It's part of the position."

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