(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


Not much to tell.

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NFL Angst

I still wonder whether the NFL makes any sense. It's pretty sad for such a strong business to have a flagship franchise limp markedly a few minutes into the first game of the season because a key player got hurt. Now that key player is out for the year, and the pundits are scurrying to rewrite their predictions as to who will win the AFC and the Super Bowl because superstar QB Tom Brady is out for the year.

Worse yet, his back-up, Matt Cassel, was a back-up in college who has hardly taken any snaps in the pros. To New England's credit, the front office and head coach excel at finding talent. So, Cassel could prove to be the second coming of Earl Morrall, the career back-up who helped engineer the Dolphins perfect season in 1972 after starting QB Bob Griese went down with an injury early in the season. More modern day examples are Kurt Warner, when Trent Green went down with a season-ending injury in St. Louis roughly 10 years ago, and Brady himself, who got his chance as a lowly sixth-round pick when starter Drew Bledsoe went down with a season-ending injury a few years later.

The odds, though, aren't great. Seasons past are littered with the broken bones and torn sinew of many a good quarterback. For every Warner, Brady and Morrall there are dozens of no names, never wases and retreads that further tortured the landscape, even if some of those back-ups shined temporarily. New England and Cassell are in a tough spot, and everyone will gun for the green quarterback.

Of course, those who believe Bill Belichick is a genius will say that he knows what he's doing and that Cassell now has a chance to become, well, another Tom Brady. Then again, the more pragmatic will question Cassell's tenure and experience (even though reports are that he prepares well) and wonder why such a stalwart franchise didn't pony up bigger bucks to have a better QB backing up their starter. That's a good question, but few teams have, say, a Jeff Garcia standing by when a Donovan McNabb goes down. That's the exception, not the rule, and many a QB makes his bones (at least to become a 10-year back-up, which is what A.J. Feeley will be when he's done in Philadelphia) by stepping in to replace a seasoned veteran.

Yet those fill-in roles can be misleading. Even if the back-up acquits himself well, he normally does so in a more protective environment than his predecessor's and with a watered-down version of his team's offense. Feeley's example is telling, in that about 5 years ago he filled in for McNabb and won 5 straight after both McNabb and back-up Koy Detmer got hurt. Thereafter, Feeley reverted to his back-up role, was traded for a second-rounder to woeful Miami where he couldn't hold the starter's job, and then ended up back in Philadelphia as a caddy for McNabb. All that said, Feeley, like Cassel, was a back-up in college. At some point, the talent does separate, and it remains to be seen whether New England's (must be) high hopes for Cassell are misplaced and, if so, whether they've been misplaced from the get go.

But back to the main issue. The NFL plays with fire each and every season, doesn't it? The odds are against its 10 biggest jersey sellers all going down with season-ending injuries by the end of the first game. That's true, but is it acceptable for the league and New England fans that their season gets dramatically altered before the end of the first game?

Since I don't have an alternative other than touch football, I suppose it is.


Anonymous 3foot1 said...

"Football isn't a contact sport - it's a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport." Vince Lombardi

11:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home