Monday, December 8, 2008
Junior O'Daniel: "A lot of people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some."
Pappy O"Daniel: "I'll reform you, you soft-headed son of a bitch. How we gonna run reform when we're the damn incumbent?" - O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The average length of an NFL player's career is three and one-half years. It takes years - often more than four - to develop a team into a perennial Championship caliber program. You do the math. That means that out of all of the hot shots who come out of college to make their names of a more nationally household variety, very few make the long-term impact necessary to warrant such star-studded attention.
Many of them are nearly retarded, anyway.
But perhaps the depleted intellect of professional footballers isn't the barometer we should be using in determining the pedigree of a good football team; maybe age is more than just a number.
Out of all of the teams having success this year, one of the more dominant headlines has been that of winning teams doing so with veteran quarterbacks that many had left for senile, if not for dead. Many of these old fogies have been replacing - either by injury or but ineptitude - players who had been drafted as the new hotness, as the cornerstone upon which a franchise would build, as the new platform from which they could holla holla.
Yet, they disappointed. And while the collective groan could be heard from the talking heads nationwide when these wily codgers began running the huddle, the old cream has risen to the top and many of these young upstarts now find themselves on the pine. Now, college All-stars becoming professional busts is nothing new. But never have we seen such parity in age between those who may be over-hyped and those who may have been hyped over in the previous decade.
Just look at some of the best quarterbacks in the nation right now:
Brett Favre: Okay, Favre is overrated and definitely valued himself more than his beloved Packers this summer. But give Peter Pan his due: at 37, he still plays like a kid out in the rain. And not only is he playing, but playing well. The formerly retired graybeard has revamped the formerly ailing New York Jets and made them not only into AFC East contenders, but playoff contenders overall.
There are several plausible objections: the Jets had nowhere to go but up, the Jets aren't doing so hot down the stretch, Joe Namath is and always will be better based on game-spitting alone, and he's always been this good so how is he special now? All of these are valid points, but stand as contrary to the results; the Jets are good. The Jets can ball. And the Jets are being led by Brett Farve and Thomas Jones - a running back who is as underrated as he is baller - both of which are veterans in both tenure and age.
But Favre didn't take over for anybody who was worth anything. These next two quarterbacks may be keeping rookie studs on their toes, fearing a dangerous new trend on the horizon.
Kurt Warner: The Greatest Show on Turf seems like both a distant memory and the only thing that makes Kurt Warner noteworthy. Until 2008. Heisman trophy winner, multiple national champion, first round pick and all-around cocknuckle Matt Leinart was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals as someone who is to be the face of the franchise. The pro-style quarterback had been trained by actually-good-quarterback and USC alumnus Carson Palmer, won nearly every college game he had played, and seemed to be one of the only people fit to guide the yearly fledgling program in Glendale.
But then Leinart had to play football, and unfortunately at this level, those skills evaded him long ago.
Rewind a year or two and go back to the war room that drafted the California kid. They're also the ones who decided to take a chance on an old man who was as removed from success as he was from not getting up thrice daily in the middle of the night to squeeze a leak. Fresh from getting beat out by Eli "Power Rangers are my favorite" Manning, Warner had nowhere else to go. Sure to be spit out the bottom of the NFL's shredder, many had penned this as the last act of a desperate man and an expected move of a desperate franchise.
Then Kurt found some gloves.
And two ridiculous receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan "RoboFace" Boldin, a head coach who is who they thought they were and not Denny Green, and a passer rating that is one of the best in the league. Warner is expected to be an MVP candidate at the season's close, and is looking more and more like his old self every game. And of course, he always gives props to his main man, JC. Warner's success is almost the No. 1 best geezer story of the year, as he didn't have to let his predecessor be injured to ball. He did it by being better. Unfortunately, his NFC West clinching effort is overshadowed by an AFC South clinching effort in Nashville.
Kerry Collins: No one saw this one coming. If you say you saw this one coming, I say I saw a liar and his or her name was you. Whereas Matt Leinart is a gooch in cleats, Vince Young can actually play. VY led the Titans to the playoffs, several years removed from the Steve McNair era. And Vince is a player who lives up to his hype. Mr. Texas is the type of wildcard player who frustrates defensive coordinators everywhere and uses his legs to make plays. He is a proven winner, save that he could stand to work on his passes. But an injury (and maybe some suicidal tendencies, although that's all gossip and hearsay) put Vince Young on the sidelines and the oft-dejected Kerry Collins in the huddle.
Collins was expected to merely manage the game until the injured favored son could rehab and return. Instead, he has shouldered a team into having tangible expectations of not just playoff victories, but perhaps a Super Bowl berth. And for those of you who may want to pat that tremendously trenchant Titans defense before you give Kerry the time of day, listen to this: In total defense, the Titans rank No. 5 in the entire NFL. The Titans rank No. 4 in passing. I don't see Albert Haynesworth making any downfield reads or whipping any tight spirals. That's all Collins and it's all gravy.
So what does all this mean? It means that while contracts for rookies and the expectations of first year players may be sky high, they may be undeservedly so. These veterans are proving that nothing accounts for good, ole fashioned experience. There are always exceptions. No one here would dare say that Old Man Brad Johnson is better than Tony Romo. And Matt Ryan is doing wonders for a Falcons team that was on the brink of disaster less than a year ago, all at the ripe age of 15.
But look at Jeff Garcia. He may be the grandfather of this grandfatherly trend, making his penultimate comeback in Philadelphia for an injured Donovan McNabb, and now has the Bucs in contention for the NFC South. Hell, look at Donovan himself. He's no old fogey, but he's no spring chicken either. Just bench him for a half and he puts out veteran numbers. Peyton is back to his old form and the youngin' JaMarcus Russell is playing like the child he is. All I'm saying here is maybe 'longevity' is a word that needs to be tossed around a little more than the words 'washed up.'
These three are certainly making a strong point, anyway.