Young guns

JaMarcus Russell has shown very little improvement since the Raiders drafted him in 2007. Kyle Terada/US Presswire

This column appears in the Nov. 30 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Brady Quinn had to have wondered what he needed to do to get a break. As a rookie, his contract holdout gave Derek Anderson the chance to snag the Browns' starting quarterback job. When Quinn finally got his shot a year later in 2008, he lasted only three games before missing the rest of the season with a broken finger. And this season he was benched after three starts, not getting back in the lineup until Week 10, even though Anderson's QB rating roughly matched his waist size.

Meanwhile, Oakland fans are wondering what anyone needs to do to break
JaMarcus Russell. Now in his third season, he has shown not the slightest sign of being even a passable NFL QB. Sure, his arm is as strong as advertised -- you see it every time he overthrows his receivers by five yards. He tossed just two touchdowns against nine interceptions in his first eight games this season. And yet the Raiders trot him out, week after week after week.

These two examples raise a critical question: When is it time to give up on your young QB?