Three years do not a career make.
That's one lesson JaMarcus Russell can draw from the inglorious end to his three years with the Raiders.
We noted the Vinny Testaverde ascendancy elsewhere today. After three years in the NFL, Vinny T was a capital D Disaster. In fact, of all the quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl Era, he easily challenged Russell for the worst of the bunch. However, he was able to steady the ship and enjoy 18 more years as an NFL quarterback and, though hardly a Hall of Famer, stands among the all-time leaders in several major passing categories.
It's a nice story. But there is another comparison that provides even more striking evidence that three years do not a career make.
And that's the comparison between Jeff George, a bona fide underachiever, and Troy Aikman, a bona fide Hall of Famer.
Aikman was taken with the very first pick in the 1989 draft. George was taken with the very first pick in the 1990 draft. And after three years each in the NFL, there was virtually nothing, statistically speaking, to separate the Hall of Famer from the dud (see all the numbers here).
Through three NFL seasons:
  • Aikman had completed 58.6 percent of his passes; George had completed 56.9 percent of his passes
  • Aikman had completed a total of 618 passes; George had completed a total of 640 passes
  • Aikman had passed for 7,082 yards; George had passed for 7,025 yards
  • Aikman had thrown 31 TD passes with 46 picks; George, a bit better, with 33 TD passes and 40 picks
  • Aikman was 14-24 in his 38 NFL starts; George was 12-26 in his 38 NFL starts
  • Aikman produced a below-average 70.5 passer rating; George produced a below average 70.5 passer rating.
Both quarterbacks, meanwhile, suffered through 1-15 seasons, Aikman as a rookie with the Cowboys in 1989, George in his second year with the Colts in 1991. Both enjoyed their first winning campaigns in their third NFL seasons.
The difference between the Hall of Famer and the underachiever came in year four.
George's fourth year marked the beginning of the end his reputation as a young talent waiting for his breakout season. The Colts went just 4-12. They were 2-9 with George at the helm, 2-3 with the legendary Jack Trudeau at the helm. George threw just 8 TDs in his 11 starts and posted a 76.3 passer rating – a career best, but still his fourth straight year without reaching even 80, the mark of an average passer in the NFL.
He was shipped off to Atlanta at the end of the season, but not before flipping off the scant few pre-Peyton Indy faithful.
Aikman's fourth season, meanwhile, marked the rise of a legend. The Cowboys went 13-3 in 1992 and humiliated the Bills, 52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII. Aikman was named the Super Bowl MVP in the wake of a breakout season in which he posted an 89.5 passer rating, one of the best marks of his career.
He was put on the fast track to Canton by the end of the season.
What's this curious three-year parallel between Aikman and George say about JaMarcus Russell's inglorious three-year hitch with the Raiders?
We don't know.
But we do know this: there was virtually nothing to distinguish the legendary Hall of Famer Aikman and the legendarily underachieving George after they had each played three NFL seasons.
Three years, it turns out, do not a career make, at least for former No. 1-pick quarterbacks.