As quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, Donovan McNabb knows a thing or two about dealing with tough situations. He was booed by the hometown crowd when Philadelphia made him its first-round pick in 1999 and has had an up-and-down, love-hate relationship with the Eagles fans ever since.
He's also gone through his share of struggles on the field as well, which is why McNabb feels qualified enough to offer some advice to another quarterback going through rough times, Russell.
Talking to reporters on conference call Wednesday, McNabb said that's exactly what he plans to do when the Eagles play the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday.
"I think if there's something I'll be able to tell him, and I look forward to talking to him before the game, it's just to keep your head up, stay positive, understand that every quarterback in this league has been through some sort of struggle, but believe that you can pull yourself out of it," McNabb said in defense of his fellow quarterback. "The guys around you have to make plays, and that comes from you having confidence in them and them having confidence in you. It may be one good catch, it may be one big block, whatever it may be, that's got to happen, and it happens as a team. Not all the negative aspects of what's been going on should fall on JaMarcus because it's a team game."
But it's been Russell who's been taking the majority of heat from disgruntled fans and critics, who have hammered away at the former LSU star on a weekly basis. His 42.1 completion percentage is the lowest in the league and he has thrown just one touchdown pass through Oakland's first five games.
Russell has had a particularly tough time at the Coliseum. He was booed almost every time he walked on the field during the Sept. 27 loss to Denver, and several fans have been clamoring for the team to make a change at quarterback.
"The thing about it is the boos can turn to cheers instantly with a couple of completions or a touchdown throw, or the offense comes back out and picks up positive yards, pick up a first down," McNabb said. "That easily can change to cheers. You have to know that as a player in this league. I think, you get tired of it, yes, but you can still, you can do something about it and that's just by going out and playing your game."
"The thing that changed for me is after my first year, going through my second year, I had a better understanding of what I needed to do in order to be successful in this league, and going to my third year, I began to get stronger and the progressions started to get stronger where I felt like I could just do what I was capable of doing, and pretty much play my style of play in the third year on. It takes time. It goes into your third year as a starter, where, you've been through the ups and downs. You've won big games. You've lost games that you should have lost, and teams know your players, but you can see the work ethic you put forth in order to lead this team to great wins and possibly a Super Bowl."
McNabb agrees with those who say Russell's development has been hurt by the Raiders' constant changing of coaches and coordinators, not to having to throw to a pair of rookie wide receivers.
"It's important when you have a young guy starting at a key role, a key position, that you have veterans around him to get him back on track if you begin to fear," McNabb said. "It's not just the quarterback position, it's at every position. If you're changing your offensive linemen, and you're changing your receivers, the experience at the wide receiver position is, I believe, two years of the guys who are starting, and then you look at their roster where they have guys like Javon Walker and some other receivers who are rotating in there, who may not have a strong voice because they're not getting on the field to help them out. It's a tough situation for him I'm sure that he's going to do what he has to do in order to pull himself out of it, and just make sure the guys understand that he's putting in the effort as well."
Oakland head coach Tom Cable welcomed McNabb's input.
"Especially at that position, I think it's always good to seek out those guys who have been through those same issues, as well as listen to 'em when they seek you out," Cable said. "So I don't think something like that can do anything but be a positive."
McNabb to reach out to Russell
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