Too big to hide and too slow to get out of the way, he was an easy target.
Too indifferent to respond, he was the convenient explanation.
With so many bad habits, on and off the field, JaMarcus Russell embodied the ills of the Raiders. Losing him would open the door to success.
By that logic, then, dumping the big bust means winning time has arrived.
As atrocious as Russell was, though, the Raiders won't do much winning if their only appreciable upgrade is swapping him for Jason Campbell at quarterback.
When the Raiders take the field today for their first training-camp practice, they do so as Campbell's team. The new quarterback enters a honeymoon period that should last at least 45 days, until the regular-season opener.
More reliably, though, this honeymoon will last as long as his new teammates perform considerably better than they have the past few years.
That's because trading for Campbell doesn't fix a defective offensive line, doesn't make young receivers more reliable and doesn't repair a run defense that has been soft for years.
Coach Tom Cable acknowledged as much Wednesday during his initial camp news conference in Napa, saying the Raiders have to "get better at every position." While Cable may consider this a challenge to his team, it's also a candid message to his boss and fair warning to the fans. It reminds everyone that this team has to improve across the board before it can distance
Turning this thing around is a monumental undertaking requiring far more than simply changing passers. Campbell's presence implies only that the Raiders will throw the ball better and be stronger in the often underappreciated area of leadership.
Oakland's recent struggles landed at mostly at Russell's feet. He was drafted to be a great QB and over three years proved to be a colossal waste of money and time. He was 7-18 as a starter, 9-22 in games in which he took the field at all.
The more relevant numbers, for a properly sober view, are these: 5-12 and 11-37. The 5-12 is Oakland's record in games Russell missed, while 11-37 is its record in the three years before Russell showed up.
What the numbers mean is that the results were roughly the same whether JaMarcus was in the huddle or glued to the bench, and that the Raiders were better in the standings (14-34) in the three-year Russell Era than in the three years before he was drafted out of LSU.
That's why Campbell is only one of six most significant men in training camp who will dictate the direction of this season. None of Significant Six is more pivotal than new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
Oakland's offense has been among the league's bottom 10 in scoring six of the past seven years, among the bottom five in three of the past four. There can be no renaissance without rediscovering the end zone.
Jackson has to team up with Campbell to distance his unit from one of the truly dreadful extended runs in NFL history. That means erasing the memories of Tom Walsh, the innkeeper summoned from Idaho to be Art Shell's OC, and finding creative ways to utilize Darren McFadden's best assets, which seem most apparent when he catches the ball in space.
Meanwhile, Darrius Heyward-Bey, another of the Significant Six, must become a productive NFL receiver. Not a decoy or a fast guy, but an actual factor.
Now that guard Robert Gallery has moved from mediocre to solid, it's crunch time for Mario Henderson, the next man on our list. It's time he finally grows into the left tackle that Raiders boss Al Davis thought he was drafting in 2007.
And that brings us to the defense, which has undergone a dramatic makeover since the end of the 2008 season.
John Marshall replaced Rob Ryan as coordinator. Quality veteran Richard Seymour, the fifth of our significant six, was acquired to anchor the line. Rookie Rolando McClain, the last of our six, moves in at middle linebacker for mainstay Kirk Morrison.
The defense has long been a more proficient unit than the offense, though mostly because the "O" was so bad. If Seymour is as primed as he seems and McClain is ready to provide some thump, those two, along with tackle John Henderson have the potential to form a defense that can contend for the postseason.
The potential, that is.
Russell was easy to identify as The Problem. Truth told, though, he was only part of the problem. Many more must be solved before there can be any winning.
That's worth remembering when Campbell throws his first interception.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.