Former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin reveals he wanted Calvin Johnson instead of JaMarcus Russell
JaMarcus Russell is one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. The Oakland Raiders picked the LSU quarterback first overall in the 2007 NFL Draft.
However, if it were up to Lane Kiffin, the Raiders head coach at the time, Oakland would have gone with Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson instead.
According to a Wednesday interview with Dan LeBatard, Kiffin knew that drafting Russell would be a mistake, but Raiders owner Al Davis insisted on drafting the 6-foot-6, 265-pound quarterback.
“This is nothing against JaMarcus,” Kiffin said. “It was midnight the night before the draft. I said, ‘We’re going to pay this guy $63 million and he’s not ready for it.’ I said I wouldn’t be ready for it at 21. He’s not ready for that and hasn’t played very much. And Mr. Davis is obsessed with the Sugar Bowl game when he beat Notre Dame. He watched that game on TV so he was just obsessed with that.”
Kiffin would be out in Oakland after just two seasons, and the play of Russell was likely a big part of that. In three seasons, Russell completed only 52.1 percent of his passes while totaling 18 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions.
Meanwhile, Johnson would become one of the best receivers of his era. Before retiring in 2015, Johnson recorded 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in nine seasons for the Detroit Lions. The No. 2 overall pick would be named to six Pro Bowls and First-Team All-Pro three times.
“Calvin Johnson was there. I said, Calvin Johnson is the best receiver I’ve ever seen, ever, work out in my life. This guy is going to be one of the best ever. But he was just set in his mind, and obviously it was his franchise, so that’s the direction we went,” Kiffin said.