|09-24-2006, 01:05 AM||#1|
\m/ >< \m/
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Los Angeles
Quarterback controversies are brewing
QBs face prospect of being benched earlier than ever
by Don Banks
A quick check of my scorecard at home reveals that the Redskins are sticking with Mark Brunell, the Bucs with Chris Simms, the Titans with Kerry Collins, the Broncos with Jake Plummer, the Packers with Brett Favre, the Dolphins with Daunte Culpepper, and the Raiders with Aaron Brooks (once he's healthy again). Oh, and let's not forget that way back last week Bill Parcells felt compelled to unequivocally state that he's sticking with Drew Bledsoe. For now, at least. Until he decides exactly when to get Tony Romo into the action.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Things are getting pretty sticky in the NFL these days when it comes to the quarterback position.
Two weeks into the regular season and already seven teams have had to listen to the most oft-played tune in the NFL: Are you going to make a quarterback change? That only stands to reason, I suppose, since the predominant story line of the offseason was the many quarterback questions that dotted the league's landscape.
We had rehabbing quarterbacks (Culpepper, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Chad Pennington, Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger, twice). Thrown-into-the-deep-end quarterbacks (Philip Rivers, J.P. Losman, Charlie Frye, Billy Volek and Rex Grossman). Relocated quarterbacks (Brooks and Jon Kitna). Renaissance quarterbacks (Steve McNair and Brad Johnson). Rookie quarterbacks (Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler). And at least one rather well-known close-to-retiring quarterback (Favre).
All of it made for a great cauldron of debate, which has spilled over into September. The end result is you get a rash of coaches feeling the early need to publicly stand by their man, with everything but strains of Tammy Wynette playing in the background.
"It's ridiculous, really,'' said former Cincinnati star quarterback Boomer Esiason, now an NFL analyst with CBS. "When you've got a quarterback controversy going on, it's definitely crisis mode central in those cities."
Nothing in the NFL drives the conversational engine like a quarterback controversy. But has the chatter level about the quarterback position ever been higher? It probably hasn't helped that there are QB questions to bandy about in such traditional NFL hotbeds such as Washington, Dallas, Green Bay, Denver and Miami. Discussion about Favre's status alone -- Will he or won't he retire? Should he still be starting? -- threatens to consume nearly 50 percent of the oxygen in Wisconsin and only slightly less than that in the other 47 contiguous states.
"What it points out is that right now, those guys in those markets aren't perceived as the guy,'' said Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who played in Dallas, where some still debate the Roger Staubach-Craig Morton competition. "Ben Roethlisberger struggled Monday night, but I don't think Bill Cowher has to come out and say, 'Hey, Ben's my guy.' They won a Super Bowl with him last year. When Peyton Manning has a poor game, if he ever has a poor game, Tony Dungy won't have to come out and say 'We're sticking with him.'
"I think Bledsoe had a good season last year," added Aikman. "But there's a love affair right now with Romo. Everybody from the first game on was clamoring for Tony Romo. He played well in the preseason, but Bledsoe still outplayed him. I've said several times, 'What actually has Tony Romo done for everybody to say he should be the guy?' But in Dallas, when the team struggles, they look at the quarterback and want change for the sake of change.''
Perhaps the biggest surprise so far? There haven't been any quarterback changes for the sake of change, just plenty of speculation, conjecture and debate. Three teams already have used two quarterbacks for significant amounts of time, but in each case it was due to injury: Pittsburgh, with Charlie Batch and Roethlisberger; Kansas City with Trent Green and Damon Huard; and Oakland with Brooks and Andrew Walter. A fourth team, Tennessee, has alternated starter Collins and backup Young during games, and this week traded the quarterback (Volek) who was expected to be the Titans' No. 1.
But rest assured, as certainly as the leaves will begin to turn colors and fall in the coming weeks, the quarterback changes will come. In 2005, 58 quarterbacks started at least one game, with 20 of 32 teams starting more than one. In 2004 the corresponding numbers were 57 and 20 of 32 once again.
"A lot of these same coaches who say, 'This is our guy this week,' I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are going with another guy next week,'' Aikman said. "That's just what happens in this league. Until they make a change, coaches are going to continue to say, 'This is my guy.' They have to stand by him.''
Favre, Bledsoe and Brunell all have come under scrutiny as critics have tried to tie their on-field struggles to their advancing years. Plummer, Culpepper, Brooks and Simms have left themselves vulnerable to debate in the wake of their painfully slow starts. And Collins has been thrust into a stop-gap caretaker role in Tennessee until Young is ready to assume the franchise-quarterback role he was drafted to fill.
Even by recent standards, in a league where N(ot) F(or) L(ong) is the most apt mantra imaginable, the level of impatience at the quarterback position seems at an all-time high to many, longtime agent Leigh Steinberg among them. There's more movement, more weekly debate and more demand for new options at the game's most critical position.
"The need for continuity and stability at that position has been replaced by a need for instant results and production,'' said Steinberg, who has always focused on quarterbacks as the centerpiece of his clientele. "In some cases this year you have debates where no quarterback controversy or change was ever anticipated.
"It's part of a trend away from what used to be a forbearance of patience at the position," he said. "This offseason you saw an almost unprecedented shifting of quarterbacks who were reasonably productive with one team, and they ended up with another. Guys like Daunte Culpepper, Drew Brees, Steve McNair, even Aaron Brooks. That started a few years ago with quarterbacks who looked to be safe and in good situations with their team, but were still let go. It happened to Kerry Collins in New York and Jeff Garcia in San Francisco. We're in an era where there's a need for constant productivity, and there's a shorter trigger.''
Steinberg cites the realities of the salary-cap era, in which quarterback contracts tend to be loaded up in ways that force pressurized roster decisions to be made earlier than they might if only on-field results mattered. And he believes that as NFL defenders have grown faster and more athletically gifted than the corresponding offensive linemen, quarterback hits and injuries have both climbed, creating instability at the position.
But like many others, Steinberg believes that the drumbeat of constant quarterback debate has its origins in the media echo chamber that offers saturation coverage of the NFL in 2006.
"With the explosion of the amount of media covering the NFL, newspapers, Internet and the electronic media, there's just that much more analysis and criticism that creates controversy and scrutiny at that position,'' Steinberg said. "If you have 20 shows that analyze football on TV instead of three, and you have hundreds of Internet outlets and radio stations, the reality is they need fresh subject matter. And nothing's easier to analyze than the quarterback position in football. Everybody has an opinion about the quarterback, and it creates a climate of intense, hype scrutiny on every aspect of their performance.
"Whereas once there was a reasonable and balanced public acceptance that quarterbacks are human and even the best ones have some ups and downs, now the downs are accompanied by frenzied alarms that are seen as indicative of a major need of replacement, and often as a symptom that a quarterback is past his prime.''
Esiason has to critique quarterbacks in his analyst role with CBS, but he detests the knee-jerk mentality that prevails at the position he played. And he does it in vivid language. "I've always said the sports-talk-radio era is the death knell for a professional athlete,'' he said. "Everybody's so accessible and everybody has so many opinions to offer. You've got morons talking on the radio, laying opinions out, and fans are buying into that. Then the media has to respond to what the fans are talking about with what they write or say. It all goes back to [the fact that] anything the morons say on radio gets turned into a legitimate topic.
"We don't have necessarily the most informed people who are setting the agenda. The truth is people don't understand how difficult it is to play quarterback in the NFL and how many different variables are involved. If you don't have the players around you or the offense you can succeed in, it's hard to look good.''
Brunell's early-season struggles in Washington are a case in point, Esiason said. The critics and pundits have totally overlooked the fact that Brunell's lack of production and comfort level so far might have everything to do with him learning a new offense under first-year associate head coach Al Saunders.
"People want playmakers at quarterback because it's the highest-paid position on the field, but if you're not comfortable in a new offense, you're going to be cautious until you are,'' Esiason said. "And don't forget, Washington is notorious for its love of quarterback controversies. I think they actually salivate over those in D.C.''
In 2000, the final season of Aikman's Hall of Fame career, his three Super Bowl rings didn't spare him from being in the crosshairs of a quarterback controversy in Dallas.
"Randall Cunningham was my backup that year, and the talk-radio thing got going, and then the mainstream media joined in, and I remember telling my wife before the San Francisco game at home, 'If this game starts badly for me, it could get real ugly at the stadium today, so be prepared for that,'" Aikman said. "And that's the way it went. Maybe it was lucky for me that that was also the Terrell Owens-stomping-on-the-star game, so some of the focus shifted off the quarterback situation.''
As Aikman proved, if you play quarterback in the NFL and you hang around long enough, your worthiness to start is going to be questioned at some point, perhaps prompting your head coach to come out and announce he's sticking with you. For now. Or not.
"Eventually it just happens to everybody,'' Aikman said. "Even if you're one of the guys in the league who are a little more solidified right now, at some point if you don't play well, you're not going to be in there. The more times you play well, the more leniency you get when you do struggle.
"The guys who are under the gun now, there's been enough inconsistency that they're leaving themselves open to those questions. Even Brett Favre -- he's a three-time MVP, and nobody's ever done that but him. But right now there's a sentiment among some that it's time for him to move on and he can't do it anymore. That's just the way it goes in this league. That's why you have to build up as much credibility as you can while you can.''
|09-24-2006, 01:11 AM||#2|
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: San Diego CA
The Quarter back controversy in denver SOLVED!!......Jake Plummer Straight across for Brett Favre!!!....KA-LAWD-Have mercy!! its a miracle!!
|09-24-2006, 03:31 AM||#3|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
And nothing's easier to analyze than the quarterback position in football. Everybody has an opinion about the quarterback
|09-24-2006, 09:43 AM||#6|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2005
I think there is more QB scrutiny these days also because there are a lot more crappy QBs playing the game. 10 years ago, there were a lot more skilled qbs on the field than there are today. There was a long spell of mediocre qbs coming out of the draft, and this is the result. The ones that were supposed to be great ended up being busts, leaving more teams wishing they had a better QB.
When he picked up Jake, he was the "best available" qb at the time. And that's kind of sad. We accepted him because really we had no choice. At the time, I was like "oh crap.. ok, I'll support you Jake, but man, I wish we could do better."
Maybe qbs are going to get better in the NFL. Little manning, Cutler and others, maybe the NFL will get a new rash of skilled qbs , who knows.
But yea, when a lot more qbs are sucking it up on the field, you are going to hear more criticism.
|09-24-2006, 03:21 PM||#7|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2006