Ok, this really isn’t about Brett Favre so much as the Bears. Really, despite being a Bear’s fan, or maybe because I’m a Bears fan, I respect the hell out of Brett. Sure, the media coverage is a bit overdone, but you can’t blame him for that. He just goes out and competes at a very high level. He’s done it for a long time, and it’s been at such a high level that no matter his teammates and no matter his opponent he ALWAYS has a chance to win. So, basically in that statement all my fustration as a Bears’ fan should be obvious.
Really, I mean how hard can it be to play quarterback in the NFL. On second thought, it’s probably pretty hard, and really I guess I shouldn’t be too angry at Rex and Brian. A better question should probably be, “how hard is it to find a guy to play quarterback that won’t KILL your team?” I’m not even saying you should expect to find a great quarterback every time you go out looking for one. I’m sure lots of teams passed on some hillbilly from Southern Mississippi with a strong arm. A lot of times stumbling into a franchise quarterback is how it’s going to be done. Sure you can look at Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer as franchise type guys that were drafted high with good pedigrees. But last time I checked Ryan Leaf had a pretty decent college career. So why are franchise killing quarterbacks out there? I have the answer, and it’s easier than you might think.
The simple answer is that IT’S ALL IN THE HEAD STUPID. People can talk about arm strength, height, vision, timing and anything else that you can think of to describe what makes a good quarterback and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of that is irrelevant. Ok, that isn’t fair, it’s not that it’s irrelevant, it’s more the fact that there are plenty of guys out there that are 6 foot 4, can throw the ball 75 yards in the air and can see the field. But why are some successful and others aren’t? The truth of it is that not many human beings have the right makeup to play the most demanding spot in all of pro sports.
Let’s look at some examples why don’t we. Vince Young, well he has bad mechanics and bad footwork, but on the other hand he just wins ball games. Why is that, because he seems to have a knack for making big plays when it matters most. But more than that, he has an ability to make others around him better. Unless he emits steroid gas from his ass, it has to be something else. That something is confidence. It doesn’t have to be rah-rah in your face stuff, but he feels like at any moment he can make the play that will change the game, and his teammates feel that. They feed of his confidence and they play looser, and we all know when you’re more relaxed you preform at a higher level.
Vince Young is just the latest quarterback to exhibit this behavior, and for every one that is similar to Vince there are probably 10 that are closer to my best buddy Rex. You see, everyone in the media has been telling us all year that Rex has the same gunslinger attitude that Brett Favre has. Sure he’ll throw some interceptions but he’ll make up for it with big plays. The problem is, Rex is NOTHING like Brett Favre. He doesn’t have that it that Brett has, and no matter how much posturing he does on the field or in the media he never will. Now that doesn’t mean he can’t be a serviceable NFL quarterback, because most don’t have the ability to make their teammates better. But the real point is that he is the complete opposite of Brett Favre, the end of the spectrum where you make your teammates WORSE.
You see when Rex is throwing off his back foot its not because he is confident in his arm strength, its because he’s afraid to step up into the rush. You also see that while a lot of his interceptions have been terrible throws, there have been a number of picks that a receiver could have at least broken up. Why didn’t they you ask? Well, they do not get the feeling that Rex is confident that he’ll put the ball where he needs to, and when you don’t feel like the ball is going to be remotely catch-able its hard to get motivated to expose yourself to a big hit just to see the ball go the other way regardless of your effort. How many times have we had to endure Thomas Jones dancing in the backfield trying to make something out of nothing? Well, when the running back gets the impression that the QB has no confidence in completing that six yard route on third and five that RB isn’t going to settle for the one yard gain. Instead he dances around desperately trying to find a hole and pop it for a first down. The real result, well the dancing leads to a 2 yard loss, and all because the team doesn’t feel any confidence coming from the QB position.
Obviously, any QB that comes in and has success is going to get confidant. The problem in that theory is that do you want to rely on chance that the QB is going to come in and be successful to create that confidence. Look at Jay Cutler. He comes in has a terrible first start, and a mediocre second start while his team was struggling for a playoff spot. At any point did it look like he doubted his own ability to pick up that first down, or throw that 65 yard rope off the bootleg? Absolutely not. That is why I think he’ll end up being a well above average QB in this league for a long time. This is also why after backing him for a whole season, I feel like Rex Grossman will never be more than a league average QB. (Then again at this point I would take that from Rex)
You can put every NFL QB on a continuum in my opinion. At one end (the low end) you have quarterbacks that actually make their team worse. In the middle are guys that can’t win games on their own, but on the other hand they don’t lose games on their own a whole lot. Then at the top you have the guys that can change the game by their mere presence. Obviously there are a lot of middle ground in between those three spots, but as examples think Ryan Leaf-Trent Dilfer-Brett Favre. You can use a lot of other guys but I think those examples illustrate my point. Right now, Rex is occupying the Ryan Leaf wing of the continuum.
That’s why he is single handily killing the Bears’ playoff hopes. Its officially gotten to the point where the defense is suffering from the bad karma Rex Grossman is spreading around. Even though they are on record talking about how they support they are obviously trying to make too many big plays by going for picks and strips rather than just tackling. They don’t truly believe that the offense is going to score a damn point so they not only have to stop the opponents they have to generate points. Aside from the inevitable Devin Hester return they know without a score on defense they have no shot at winning. Kind of sad for a 13-3 team with the best record in their conference.
So what does this tell us about quarterbacks? Well, primarily, you can take the guys with the prototypical build and stats and I’ll take the guys that have that something that makes the people around them better. Let the Lions take Brady Quinn with the second pick and if I’m the Bears’ front office I’m probably taking a chance on Brian Brohm. He’s got pretty good stats, but more importantly he played at a program that he was a huge part of elevating from nothing more than a basketball school into a player in the national championship race. And don’t give me some line about Quinn playing much better competition or anything, because we all know that Notre Dame’s schedule is full of cupcakes. They play a number of tough games, but how did Brady do against Michigan or USC? Probably not as good as he fared against UCLA or some service academy.