Paul Just Can’t Hackett

Paul Hackett is/was the wizard savior of a quarterbacks coach whose tutelage of JaMarcus Russell was supposed to propel the Raiders into respectability. By many league accounts Russell is already a bust. It is difficult to argue with what everyone has seen so far this season.

I firmly believe the Raiders need to give Russell a full 30 starts before deciding what he is. At 1-4, the league doesn’t have any respect for the lowly Raiders, so there is really nothing to lose. The gain could be a play-making quarterback. He may or may not always be prone to fumbles. That wouldn’t make him a whole lot different than Dante Culpepper’s younger years.

Hackett always was the key to the Raiders season. If you have been reading my blog, you probably remember a post about Hackett’s credentials as a QB coach. That was because I felt like he was the singular most important coach on the team.

Even Tom Cable’s playcalling couldn’t have the same effect on this offense as Hackett and his work with Russell.

Russell may or may not lack in the area of maturity, but whatever he lacks he makes up in ability.

So, why has Hackett’s coaching in the areas of maturity, mechanics and decision making not paid of for Russell?

Allow me to highlight an article from 2002, written by New York Daily News reporter Rich Cimini about Paul Hackett. Read it yourself, I’ll highlight some key points here.

“If football were music, the game would’ve been called Mr. Hackett’s Opus.”

How poetic.

“Hackett molded the talented but raw Gannon into viable NFL quarterback.”

Never heard that description of Gannon before.

“Gannon…galvanized the Raiders with his precision passing and leadership. At 36, he’s playing the best ball of his career.”

Gannon was in his mid-thirties before he was any good! Who is he to criticize the 24 year-old Russell? He obviously didn’t get it together in his early 20s.

Gannon on Pennington:

“He has developed into a very accurate passer. He’s a very good decision-maker. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and he doesn’t get his team in a lot of bad situations. Those are the type of qualities you need if you’re going to play for Paul Hackett in that style of offense.”

Gannon seems to think you have the qualities you don’t. Hackett has nothing to do with it if that is the case.

“…Herman Edwards hired Hackett.”

That is just funny right there.

“Hackett took a lot of criticism for the first 1 1/2 seasons of his tenure, as the offense underachieved.”

Sounds familiar. Did he coach at USC too? Who was the QB during these times? Oh, big armed Vinny Testaverde in New York and Carson Palmer at USC. Hmm.

“Pennington also has been aided by an improved running game, which had been malfunctioning under Testaverde.”

Maybe the chicken came before the egg? Could offensive lines be the real key here?

“Pennington doesn’t have Testaverde’s arm strength, but he makes quick reads, throws accurately and slides in the pocket.”

Trying to make Russell into Pennington isn’t going to work. If he was a failure with Testaverde and Palmer, he is likely to fail with Russell.

“Different delivery, different throws, different athletic ability,” said Hackett, sizing up his pupils, past and present. “But the work ethic, intelligence and understanding of the offense is the same. They’ve been able to absorb it and get in the groove very quickly. That’s very similar.”

So in Hackett’s mind, he was aided by the fact that these quarterbacks had work-ethic, intelligence and absorbed the offense quickly. Hackett has no control of these things with Russell. Work-ethic is about the only thing that can be achieved of those three qualities.

Raider Nation has watched Russell do some impressive things on the football field, but since Hackett came along, Russell has turned into mush. So who should we blame here? Russell for not developing or Hackett for trying to mold Russell into something he is not?

QB development is a process. For example: creating an ice sculpture. I am going to dive into an entirely too long analogy here. Hackett is the master sculptor, but before he can sculpt, he needs a block of ice.
Russell = Clay
Gannon = Block of Ice
Pennington = Ceramic Mold for Ice Block

All at different stages along the process to become what Hackett wants them to be. The expensive ice sculptures everyone wants, but few people get.

Hackett has tried to mold a lump of clay straight into an ice sculpture. You can imagine how ugly that sculpture would be and now you can picture Russell in his current state.

It worked for Hackett when he had Gannon. Gannon had long since been a frozen block of ice on the bench. It worked to a lesser extent for Pennington, because he was a vessel that was ready to be filled with water and frozen. He was simply further along in the process than Russell.

In Russell’s case he should be trying to figure out how to make that clay into into an object that holds water. Once that is done the water can be frozen into his ice block.

However, the more water you add to clay, the less clay there is to mold, which means a smaller ice block and a less impressive sculpture. If he keeps trying to sculp the clay, pretty soon there will be nothing left, if it isn’t entirely gone already.

End analogy.

What I am attempted to get at here is that Hackett and Cable must change something. People are calling for a QB change, but how about a change in approach? Along the way, how about changing up the playcalling? What happened to all that creativity from last season?

So far that doesn’t seem likely, with Cable preaching, stay the course. At 1-4 and Al Davis getting grumpy, you have to wonder if Cable and company are considering some type of change, because not changing could cost them their job.

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