NEVER HAS A Raider been so fortunate to be in Kansas City, Mo., the heart of enemy territory, surrounded by 70,000 fans wishing him the worst.

Safe in the confines of Arrowhead Stadium, JaMarcus Russell last Sunday was oblivious to the unrest his play provoked within the Raider Nation. He could not see the anger or hear the tantrums or feel the heat of rising displeasure.

He should know, though, that it's getting hot.

Many in the Bay Area and elsewhere so breathlessly awaited Russell's arrival and were so supportive through two years of contractual glitches, coaching instability and receiver turnover. They even tolerated his apparent indifference to fitness.

But now they are losing confidence in the belief he can return the Raiders to prosperity. Can they be blamed? Two games into the season, Russell has been one of the worst passers in the NFL, missing receivers in every way imaginable. For each show of goodness there are three displays of horror.

Russell is in danger of turning down the path traveled by such Raiders quarterbacks past as Jay Schroeder, Marc Wilson and Dan Pastorini. All three were blessed with cannon arms but cursed with loose accuracy.

All three combined towering height with miniature production.

All three become synonymous with futility.

Yet they all were pets of a man as captivated by a 60-yard spiral as he is by a 4.2 40-yard sprint at the scouting combine. Raiders boss Al Davis maintained faith in each one, certainly staying with Wilson and Schroeder long after coaches and teammates and fans gave up.

More to the point, all three became acquainted with the sound of booing from their own fans. Schroeder heard it in Los Angeles, Wilson in L.A. and Oakland. Pastorini, in a shameful act of public cruelty, was unloaded upon by Raiders fans as he lay injured at the Oakland Coliseum in 1980.

Raiders fans can be obsessively loyal and defiantly faithful, sometimes defying logic to defend the indefensible. They can love as hard as they hate.

But when their quarterback stinks, they're the first to hold their noses and wonder if he has the gifts and guts required to win in the NFL.

That Russell still is young is technically true but ignores the presence and generalship shown by such fellow youngsters as Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Baltimore's Joe Flacco.

That Russell's receiving corps is mostly unaccomplished also is true, but it doesn't explain throws too high or too low or too wide.

Though scouts may differ on what is the most valuable asset of a quarterback, they are unanimous in conceding that accuracy is a strong contender.

Can you imagine the kind of noise assault that would have blasted Russell's eardrums if last Sunday's game, in which he missed on 15 of his first 18 throws, were in Oakland? He was spared because he was on the road.

He did, however, cope with a sprinkling of boos after missing open receivers during Oakland's opener against San Diego. And you can bet profanity was directed at TV screens as Russell labored through the first 571/2 minutes last Sunday.

Though it's much too soon to give up on him, to cast Russell aside as another in a long line of physical marvels unable to convert their assets into efficient quarterbacking, it's not too soon to consider the possibility.

The quarterback who looks mightiest, big and strong, flicking the ball downfield as easily as he breathes — offering visions of the sensational — has the steepest fall. Ask Jeff George, a phenomenal arm who had little else to offer.

George ran out of chances before he ran out of confidence or arm strength. That's because there is so much more to being a great quarterback.

Russell's confidence is as unshakable as an armored car. After two games in which he usually failed his teammates, his veneer of self-assurance remains intact.

Even as Russell shows little dissatisfaction with himself, we're getting wisps of it elsewhere, from the pointed hints dropped by coach Tom Cable to the agitation among fans.

Davis surely is committed to Russell, and Russell is acutely aware of that. But Davis once was committed to Pastorini or Wilson or Schroeder, each of whom watched the team win Super Bowls behind such lesser arms as Kenny Stabler and Jim Plunkett.

Russell's comeback against the Chiefs spared him what would have been an interesting reception upon facing the Denver Broncos here Sunday. But as the discontent rises, he ought to realize that only he can keep it from coming at him in waves.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.