Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nostalgia no one cares about and is wrong

I am about to challenge you to solve the easiest mystery ever. Ready?

There's an article. It's about old quarterbacks.

Guess who's in it?

Here's a fogeyish thing to do. It's the sporting equivalent of babbling about those days when we all had to walk five miles to school through the snow, uphill, both ways.

Great way to start an article. "I am about the whine and complain about something that I remember as being great, but probably was just OK." I am riveted.

Still, here goes: Bob Griese wore glasses in Miami; Steve Grogan ran around like mad in New England; Richard Todd was getting booed in New York ... [massive fucking list of QBs and stupid anecdotes shortened at request of attorney general for causing dissociative disorder] Kenny Stabler was the Snake in Oakland; Steve Fuller was boring in Kansas City.

Now, as I mentioned, there is nothing that sounds more grumpy-old-man than rambling on and on about how quarterbacks used to be better. But that's not what I'm saying -- I doubt very seriously that quarterbacks used to be better. I just think they used to be more famous, more easily remembered, more beloved, more representative of their cities.

This is pretty pointless/silly/wrong/a bunch of other negative traits.

Joe Montana: who? Phil Simms: bum. Jim Kelly: worthless. John Elway: John Whoway?

And as far as modern QBs go, guess what? They're still creating memories. Brady has a bunch. Peyton too. Even little Eli. Big Ben should be pretty great for some time. Tony Romo is pretty much the prototypical definition of a quarterback. I could go on.

That has changed, I think. There are only a handful of quarterbacks these days who pierce the imagination --

"Imaginations pierced" is right under TDs (but above comp. %) on the list of important QB stats.

and with Tom Brady going down in New England and Peyton Manning looking just a wee ancient in Indianapolis, it's more like a carpool.

If Peyton is "a wee bit ancient," Favre is fucking Methuselah.

Let's not forget that Peyton's knee is bursa'ing all over and his first game this season was against a defense two years removed from the Super Bowl. He'll be fine.

Favre played the like 0-16 Dolphins and was one play away from losing to the guy his new team cut.

You have Eli Manning in New York, of course, though you get the sense that some Giants fans are waiting impatiently for the statute of limitations on the Super Bowl miracle to end so they can start booing again.* You have Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, though he has not started every game in a season since 2003.

You have Tony Romo in Dallas, though he might want to win a playoff game at some point.

McNabb is like tier 1.5 and Eli is like tier five.

Romo is fucking awesome. He's 27. Years old, not years of NFL service. His two seasons, combined:

55 TD/64.8 % comp./32 INT/team 19-7 with him starting.

But didn't. Win. A playoff. Game. Two years into his career as a starter. Trash.

You have Drew, Matt, Carson, Jay, Rivers, Roethlisberger -- good quarterbacks all, but they're probably not sweeping the nation.

Imagination piercing moments from each:

Drew (Brees?) - passed for 4400+ yards in '06, lifted post-Katrina New Orleans.

Matt (Leinart?) - ruled the campus at USC, beer bonged a bunch of co-eds.

Carson (Palmer?) - suffered one of the most egregious cheap shots ever, was awesome before - not so much now.

Rivers - whiny bastard, has LTD to mask shortcomings.

Jay (Cutler?) - started an NFL game, this is kind of a cherry pick, this is like his second full year.

Roethlisberger - won the damn Super Bowl.

Mixed bag? Sure. But all those guys are younger than 28 (some much younger) and have a lot of time to craft solid careers. So shut it, please.

Finally, there's Brett Favre. He is the last quarterback standing, the one guy out there who inspires some of the feelings of those old-time quarterbacks. This is in part because he IS an old-time quarterback; the guy was flinging passes in the NFL before the Soviet Union collapsed. But there's something else here too, something about the way Favre still plays the game, something in the way he flings footballs into double coverage, the way he seems indestructible, the way he throws TERRIBLE interceptions but then comes back and throws absurd touchdown passes.

Wow. This is a beautiful, beautiful mess of lovely writing.

What was just described there is "bad quarterbacking" and yet, Favre = God. Still, lovely prose.

Why the hell is Favre diefied for being both an idiot and a "genius" when other sports stars (Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn and their ilk come to mind) are ripped for the same "all or nothing" style? Or a basketball player who takes - and misses - a ton of shots, but scores at a prolific rate? (I am sure people don't/won't appreciate Iverson as much as they should).

This is foolish.

That's the way it used to be. It's stunning to go back 30 and 40 years and look at the statistics of the quarterback heroes. In 1979, Terry Bradshaw threw 25 interceptions, and he didn't even lead the NFL in that category (that would be my hero Brian Sipe with 26). The only guy to throw 25 or more interceptions in the last seven years ... yeah, that would be Brett Favre in 2005 when he threw 29 of them.

You know what else was different 30-40 years ago? Everything. In 2048 when A-Rod III leads the New York Yankees (sponsored by Viagra) to their fourth straight World Series (sponsored by Fox) title by hitting 90 homers and posting a .600 OBP (BA has been abolished for being dumb), no one will flinch because that will seem normal.

Go tell a baseball writer in 1968 that someday a certain large headed man will walk 232 times (!!!!!!!!) in a season and he will shoot you for being a stoned-out hippie talkin' jive.

Oh and 'grats to Favre for throwing nearly 30 picks.

That's what it used to mean to be a quarterback. That changed. Coaches took over the game. Geniuses started calling plays. Everyone started demanding more prudent football. Defenses got more sophisticated and specialized. Sackers got bigger and stronger and faster and more dangerous. Quarterbacks were told to "manage" the game rather than "win" the game. Passer rating became the in statistic.* Fantasy football became the rage so that now every David Garrard interception in Jacksonville infuriates some doctor in Ann Arbor, some insurance person in Toledo and some farmer in Kansas and some home builder in Orange County.

There's a lot here but I wanted to let it wash over you like a cool rain.

Coaches took over the game. Geniuses started calling plays.

Could that be because the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry and coaches get paid a shit load of money to succeed? And you're not really complaining that smarter play-calling is taking place, are you?

Everyone started demanding more prudent football.

The 2007 Patriots. The 2000-01 Rams. The Peyton-era Colts.

Those teams were/are the exact opposite of prudent.

Fantasy football became the rage so that now every David Garrard interception in Jacksonville infuriates some doctor in Ann Arbor, some insurance person in Toledo and some farmer in Kansas and some home builder in Orange County.

Out of all the ludicrous reasons why football sucks today compared to 1969, this is one of the dumbest. Football players could give two shits about said men in random places playing a game.

Garrard is a "game manager" because his defense is nuts, he has two above average RBs and not throwing to a quad-covered, mediocre receiver is considered (by brain possessing humans) a good idea. And he has to be.

"You know what's beautiful about the being an old quarterback?" Roman Gabriel once asked. Gabriel's a wonderful guy, he was the NFL MVP in 1969 and the comeback player of the year in 1973. He threw 200 touchdown passes, 150 interceptions, completed about 53 percent of his passes and fumbled 105 times in his career. Those were great numbers long ago.

Wonderful guy? Probably. Wonderful QB? Fuck no. 255 turnovers compared to 200 TDs? In no world are those "great numbers." Even "long ago." Those are "shitty numbers" "today."

Gabs played for 16 seasons and only threw more than 25 TDs - never. 25, 24, 23 are his three highest, followed by 19, 17, 16.

Peyton Manning (from the new era of pussy QBs) has thrown 25+ TDs 10 times in his 10 seasons. 49, 33, 31 (twice) are his three highest.

Things were so much better back when.

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