Quarterback U?

College Football, Sports history, Uncategorized

Here’s the thing.  My very astute son, a sports fan whose grasp of sports facts is encyclopedic, was not able to respond to what I thought was a simple question.  “Since Ohio State football has been among the four or five most dominant programs over the course of the last fifty years, which of the many Buckeye quarerbacks have gone on to find significant success in the NFL?”

A quick romp through the rosters reveals the sad truth that Buckeyes might clog the top ten draft choices and the Hall of Fame, but not at quarterback.  Here goes, ranked by fans as the OSU Bluebloods, the ten best of all time:

Troy Smith, Duane Haskins, Braxton Miller, J.T. Barret, Justin Fields, Rex Kern, Craig Krenzel, Joe Germaine, Art Schlicter, Cardale Jones.

I know, there must be stars the fans have overlooked, and there are some names to conjure with:  Kirk Herbstreit (#16), Tom Tupa (QB AND punter), and Tom Matte. Matte’s career in the NFL should put him on the top of the list.  Primarily a running back, Matte led the NFL in total rushing yards in 1969, was named to the Pro Bowl twice, and in 1965 stepped in as quarterback for the Baltimore Colts when Johnny Unitas was injured at the end of a season that took the Colts to a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.  Matte still holds the record for the highest per-carry rushing average in a Super Bowl game (10.5), and ended his career with 4,464 yards and 45 touchdowns.

Still … in the pantheon of quarterbacks, OSU not really in the mix.

The NFL’s top 50 quarterbacks of all time spring from a plethora of college programs, only a few of which can claim superiority as a breeding ground of superior QBs.

Brady (Michigan), Brees (Purdue), Manning (Tennessee), Marino (Pittsburgh), Montana (Notre Dame), Young (Brigham Young), Rodgers (Cal), Favre (Southern Mississippi), Graham (Northwestern), Roethlisberger (Miami University), Wilson (North Carolina State), Rivers (North Carolina State), Starr (Alabama), Unitas (Louisville), Elway (Stanford), Tarkenton (Georgia), Baugh (Texas Christian), Warner (Northern Iowa), Staubach (Annapolis), Jurgensen (Duke), Moon (Washington), Kelly (Miami), Bradshaw (Louisiana Tech), Luckman (Columbia), Aikman (UCLA), Fouts (Oregon), Tittle (LSU), Van Brocklin (Oregon), Blanda (Kentucky), Dawson (Purdue),  Griese (Purdue), Layne (Texas), Stabler (Alabama), Waterfield (UCLA).

QB Central?  Purdue (Brees, Dawson, Grese), North Carolina State (Wilson, Rivers), Alabama (Starr, Stabler), UCLA (Aikman, Waterfield), and Oregon (Fouts, Van Brockin).  Yeah, but … QB conference? Pac 12 (Cal, Stanford, Washington, UCLA x 2, Oregon x2). Highest SATs? Columbia.  

The NFL is all about quarterbacks.  A franchise without a franchise quarterback has very little chance of climbing to the top; college football looks very different.  Champions since 2000 include Oklahoma, Miami, Ohio State, LSU, USC, Texas, Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Alabama, Alabama, Florida State,  Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Alabama, Clemson. No Purdue there. No North Carolina State. No UCLA. No Oregon.

Changing offenses in the NFL seem to favor quarterbacks arriving from systems that develop skills necessary to operating in a pass-happy league.  It’s still a big-boy league in which the average defensive tackle is 6’5 and weighs 309 pounds. Daunting enough, but that tackle also runs the 40 in about 5.2 seconds.  There are some speedy and shifty quarterbacks, of course, virtually all of whom end up on injured reserve by the end of their second year in the league. 

Oklahoma has provided two first draft pick quarterbacks in the last two years.  The hope, clearly, is that their skill sets will animate a high speed offense. They come from the offense-loaded Big 12.  The ideal prospect, however, may be more likely to come from a team that has faced a speedy and enormous defensive line and speedy and athletic safeties.  Even the best scout can’t measure immeasurable abilities – judgment, poise, resilience – but accuracy under pressure, quickness of release, recovery from broken pays, number of interceptions can be measured.  

The bottom line is that Hall of Fame quarterbacks reveal themselves somewhere in their second or third season; they have to survive the physical beating that comes in their first starting season with original skills intact and with the capacity to read a defense. 

Quarterback U?  The NFL.

 

 

 

 

What’s In A Name?

Uncategorized

For a brief moment, before my wife snapped me back to reality, I thought it might be a great advantage to name our newly born son “Senator” or “General”, figuring most people don’t pay close attention to much beyond the name, so what the heck, why not start at the top? As I have said with regret on numerous occasions, “seemed like a good idea”, and yet, so not.

As my first thought is almost always entirely off base, cheerfully acknowledging my questionable judgement, I surrendered. Not one to let a challenge slip away, however, I have been keeping track of equally presumptuous names over the course of the last thirty years or so and now offer my observation that in the sports world, some names are strikingly more predictive than others.

The world of sports is wide and filled with wonderfully evocative names. Let’s cut to the chase (we’ll return to that name before we’re done) and begin by assuming that some of the most striking names were received rather than given. Did Mother Berra look at a squalling child and say, “That’s my little Yogi?” Probably not. Similarly, we can be assured that Rabbit Maranvill, Dizzy Dean, and Hacksaw Reynolds did not spring from the womb with the names by which they came to be known. More contrived nicknames such as Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith and Charlie “Piano Legs” Hickman arrive on a yearly basis, but my interest is in the actual given names that seem to predict a particular sort of career in sport, in football to be precise, and as quarterback to be particular.

Let us return to Chase, shall we, a name that demands superior athletic ability; pity the sluggard named Chase. What hope has he if not at the deep end of the athletic pool. Yes, a banker named Chase could probably skim by, but your attorney? Your masseur? Your psychic? No, Chase is an athlete’s name, and widely applicable across several sports. Baseball has a few Chases (Utley, Headley, Whitley and, in a stunning departure from the “ley” tag, Anderson and Wright), football (Daniel, Blackburn, Coffman); boxing and wrestling (Stevens, Beebe, Tatum) and auto racing (Elliott, Austin) have their share. Chase is fairly evenly distributed across several sports and, in an odd crossover, seems to be ok for Country musicians as well. Not neutral; the stakes are still high for anyone walking around as “Chase”, but there is some range of opportunity. Less obviously annointed athletes, such as the McCaffreys, Christian and Dylan, could be running backs, point guards, folk singers, or corporate executives.

You name a kid “Colt”, however, or “Troy”, or “Peyton”, or “Brett”, or “Cam”, or “Ty”, or “Kellen”, or “Carson”, or “Landry”, or “Kirk”, or “Gage”, or “Cole”, or “Shea”, or “Bryce”, or “Brock”, and the world will expect that kid to be calling a snap count in his sleep before the first day of school. These are not interior linemen; these are quarterbacks. Of course there are quarterbacks of some quality who have climbed to the top with ordinary, more pedestrian names. “Tom” has done well. “Aaron” and “Matt”, “Russell”, “Philip”, “Patrick”, all earn a hefty paycheck, but they could as easily have ended up as running backs, wide receivers, or even grunts digging their paws into the turf at the line of scrimmage.

“Shea” is not a hard-nosed brawling tackle with a penchant for grabbing runners by their nether bits. “Colt” isn’t spitting teeth while jamming his knuckles into kidneys and ribs.

Another obvious difference between quarterbacks and the rest of the universe, I am shallow enough to admit, is that quarterbacks with a few notable exceptions, are handsome. Other positions have a claim on good looks as well; J.J. Watt is a god, Clay Matthews does Thor, Reggie Bush looks great on the field and off, but … most of the shakiest of Division I or II quarterbacks and almost any NFL quarterback is poster child material.

Let’s just do the not-Tom Brady – not Aaron Rogers – not Russell Wilson quarterback sweep and see what turns up.

Mat Leinart? Come on! Jesse Palmer? Whoah! Case Keenum? Teddy Bridgewater? Nick Mullens? Ryan Tannehill? Drew Lock? Brett Hundley? Matt Barkley? Chase Daniel? A.J. McCarron? Blake Bortels?

I was on a roll there, and then … alright, there are some goofy looking quarterbacks as well. I have to admit that after watching this season’s Hard Knocks, Mike Glennon’s improbably long neck remains an uncomfortable memory. Similarly, Ryan Fitzgerald’s beard is off-putting; just too much. Josh Rosen deserves a better deal that he’s had with the Dolphins, but, ok, maybe not a poster. There’s something about Trevor Siemian’s eyes. Too close together? Moving in opposite directions? On the Trevor track, Trevor Lawrence? Am I the only one to see an Afghan hound?

Look, I’m a balding short guy with no chiselled features and a decidedly uninspiring midsection; I have no room to cavil. At least, and perhaps this is the weakest of defences, I am not matriculating down the field as a Chip, Chase, or Colt.

That would be a lot to live up to, and I suspect my wife’s excellent instinct has saved our children considerable grief. Good thing I can’t name my grandkids.