Dickey: It’s Russell and nobody else

The Raiders got the quarterback they need, JaMarcus Russell. Now, they should start him. Immediately. What choice do they have? Their other quarterbacks are stiffs. Andrew Walter is a less talented Jeff George. Josh McCown, obtained in a weekend trade, is with his third team — for a good reason. He couldn’t beat out Jon Kitna in Detroit last year.

Russell has enormous talent. He’s played in top-level collegiate competition and had some big games there, most notably in this year’s Sugar Bowl.

Sure, he’ll make mistakes, but he’ll learn as he’s making them, and he’s a quarterback the Raiders can build around. If they start either Walter or McCown, they’ll just be treading water.

They should look at the 49ers’ example. Taking over a 2-14 team, Mike Nolan realized early that he had to go with rookie Alex Smith, and he traded away an experienced quarterback, Tim Rattay, to make room for him.

Smith was not as advanced as Russell. He had played only two years at a lower collegiate level than Russell and in the spread formation, which is not good preparation for running a pro offense. Predictably, he looked terrible that first year, but he improved considerably last year. Now, the 49ers are in good position to make a playoff run.

In fact, the Raiders should also look at the 49ers if they want to learn how to rebuild a team. Nolan and personnel chief Scot McCloughan have put together solid drafts and did an excellent job in free agency this year.

They got a solid player with their first round pick at No. 11 overall, linebacker Patrick Willis. They made the trade the Raiders should have made, to move up to take offensive tackle Joe Staley late in the first round. And they traded for Seattle wide receiver Darrell Jackson.

Meanwhile, the best non-Russell move the Raiders made was to finally get rid of Randy Moss, the talented but temperamental Moss going to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick.

The Raiders had to get rid of Moss. New coach Lane Kiffin has enough problems without having to deal with Moss. He’s poison. Football is the ultimate team game, and it destroys a team when a star player decides he’s too unhappy to give his best effort.

The Raiders will get back Jerry Porter, virtually sidelined last season because Art Shell couldn’t get over his anger when Porter missed a “voluntary” preseason workout. Porter is ego-driven but he plays and practices hard, which cannot be said for Moss. Ron Curry, another under-utilized receiver who played well when he finally got into the starting lineup, will also be there.

The Raiders also drafted a pass- catching tight end, Zach Miller, who was sorely needed.

Otherwise, the Raiders’ draft was as mystifying as ever. They took a flier on running back Michael Bush, who could be a steal if he recovers from two leg operations, but who could also be a total washout. As usual, they drafted two players whose chief asset seems to be the speed they showed as collegiate track champions, cornerback John Bowie and wide receiver Johnathan Holland.

At this point, it seems the only thing the Raiders have to brag about with this draft is Russell, which is all the more reason to make him a starter immediately.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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