Tom Cable, Raiders coach apparent, said there will be ?open competition? at quarterback. He said this the final day of the NFL combine.

Asked who will be eligible for the open competition, he said, ?All these guys, so long as we can get them re-signed and see if we can add anybody to the mix.?

His use of language is interesting and instructive. He referred to his quarterbacks as ?all these guys.? No one ever referred to Joe Montana and Steve Young as ?these guys.? Montana and Young were discussed with more respectful language because they were anything but mere guys. They were the essence of players.

But the Raiders do not have players at quarterback if by players you mean stars who can win games on their own. They have guys in search of being players. It?s actually much worse than that. They have two guys in search of being players ? Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. And they have one zilch in search of being a guy.

The zilch would be JaMarcus Russell.

Cable has reduced Russell to the guy level, although in Russell?s case ?guy? is giving him too much credit. Cable deserves praise for benching Russell and for throwing him in the ?mix? with the other two candidates and any other stragglers he can round up before training camp.

When the Raiders drafted Russell, they anointed him the team?s savior. Some savior. He held out and when he finally played he was a dud with a bad attitude and a bad body and bad work habits and, from what we hear, a bad sense of time as in constantly showing up late. He was just plain bad.

So we applaud Cable for showing Russell he is an aspirant quarterback just like the other aspirants, just like guys the Raiders haven?t yet signed ? not special, not unique, not lauded, one guy among many guys.

I want to tell you what?s wrong with Russell. He does not have the pride of an athlete. He is a multi-millionaire, has gorged out on money and seems satisfied to be a gorger. He had everything handed to him and look what he gave back ? nothing. A real athlete has pride no matter the dollar amount.

Rich Gannon never had anything handed to him and this made him competitive and obsessed and a bit of a pain to those around him. But for a few glorious seasons, he was one hell of a quarterback. He can?t stand Russell because Gannon worked for what he got and Russell just doesn?t work.

I want to go further. I want to say Russell is not a man when it comes to playing football ? and perhaps when it comes to life. This wasn?t originally my idea. A former NFL player told me the issue with Russell is more than being a player, it?s manhood. It takes a certain kind of maturity and guts and character to play quarterback in the NFL, and in this sense, Russell is not a man.

Montana had to beat out Steve DeBerg and did it, and Young had to beat out Montana and finally did it. These were men with pride who loved what they did.

Russell does not appear to love football, if by love you mean doing what?s hard and necessary.

Cable said he would look for other players to compete in the quarterback mix. I humbly offer a few names from the Raiders past. I believe Cable should contact Ken Stabler, George Blanda, Jim Plunkett and Daryle Lamonica ASAP. It?s true these men are way past their playing days and might need a few weeks to round into shape. But even in old age each is tougher than Russell, could beat him in hand-to-hand combat and certainly could lead the Raiders better than he ever did.

If none of these men is available because of prior commitments, Cable should turn to Johnny Unitas. It?s true Johnny U. never was a Raider so Cable would be going outside the Raider tradition for this old timer. But Unitas was one tough cookie in the former Raider mold ? now broken. Johnny has been dead eight years now and I admit that?s a drawback. Even dead, Unitas is more alive than Russell, who is the walking dead.

I leave you with one final question and answer.

Q: After being thrown into the mix, after being made to understand he?s just another guy, after realizing his career is in trouble, will Russell find the courage to compete and be a significant NFL quarterback?

A: I say no way. I say he flops. I say he?s out of the league within two seasons.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at blog.pressdemocrat.com/cohn. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.