Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paul Hornung: Worst Kicker Ever

Paul Hornung. The Golden Boy. Heisman Trophy Winner. The NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1961. A key member of the 1960’s Packers Dynasty. A Hall-of-Famer. A degenerate gambler. An utterer of controversial racial comments. A man who drops his pants his public. And someone who hit on my mom at Gulfstream Park back in the early 1980’s. Since my mother was able to rebuff the Golden Boy’s unwanted lecherous advances, let’s concentrate on what’s really important to this website, his NFL career. Or at least one aspect of it.

Hornung was one of the great all-around players in NFL history. He ran, caught, passed, kicked and punted for Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. But it’s the placekicking I’m most interested in. Clearly Hornung was incredibly valuable if he could serve as both his team’s halfback and kicking specialist. But to make his saving of a roster spot worthwhile of course he had to be an effective kicker. Was he?

Well, Horning served at the Packers’ main placekicker from 1958 through 1961. Here are his field goal percentages for each season with his NFL rank in parenthesis

1958: 52.4 (2)
1959: 41.2 (9)
1960: 53.6 (8)
1961: 68.2 (2)

So half the time Hornung was excellent and the other half he was below average (the NFL only had 12-14 teams during this time). In 1962, Hornung connected on 6 out of 10 FG’s but missed much of the season due to a leg injury and right guard Jerry Kramer was pressed into service. Kramer was sensational, nailing 9 of 11 and then hitting 3 more in horrific weather conditions in the 1962 NFL Championship Game. The Pack won 16-7. Horning missed all of the 1963 season due to his infamous gambling problem so Kramer handled all the kicking that year. He fell back to earth, hitting only 16 of 34 field goals, so Lombardi handed the job back to Horning in 1964. And Horning responded with what I believe to be the single worst season any NFL kicker has ever had.

Check it out. If Lombardi thought Kramer was bad in ’63, what about the Golden Boy in 1964? That year Hornung set an NFL record that may never be broken. He missed 26 field goals. Yeah, 26!!!!!!! 12-of-38. How is that even possible? How could a coach as great as Vince Lombardi, how could any coach ever, keep sending out a guy that ineffective? Once a guy gets to, I don’t know, 20, wouldn’t that be time for some kicking tryouts?

Hornung did at least execute most of his extra points correctly, making 41 of 43 (but oh those two misses). The field goal stats are themselves bad enough, but I found an interesting piece about the Packers' 1964 season here at JS Online. Reading it ought to convince anybody Hornung's 1964 season was the worst season any kicker's ever had. It convinced me. Horning didn’t just miss a lot of kicks, he missed critical kicks that probably cost his team a shot at yet another NFL championship. Here's a list of Hornung's kicking "accomplishments" of 1964:

Week Two: Hornung misses an extra point against the Colts. Packers lose by one.

Week Four: Packers lose to Vikings 24-23. Hornung has an extra point try blocked allowing Vikings to win with a late FG.

Week Six: Hornung missed 5, count ‘em 5, field goals! Up 21-17 late, Hornung missed his final kick of the day, a 47-yarder that the Colts returned 36 yards. They scored a TD with just over a minute left to beat the Packers 24-21.

Week Seven: Hornung misses two FG's against the Rams. The Rams return the second miss 94 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and beat the Pack 27-17 after trailing 17-0. The loss drops Green Bay to 3-4, three games behind the Colts.

Week Ten: Hornung misses three field goals and has another blocked. The Packers and Rams tie 24-24.

Wow. The Packers wound up 8-5-1, their worst season since 1959, Lombardi's first year as coach. Hornung’s misses helped his team lose four times and tie once. The misses in those Colts games were particularly brutal as each head-to-head matchup represented a two-game swing in the standings. The Colts finished at 12-2 to take the Western Conference title and earn a spot in the 1964 NFL Championship Game (they lost). The Pack came in second but had they swept the Colts Green Bay would have won the conference by half a game and played for the title. Having had enough, Lombardi brought in a legitimate kicker, Don Chandler, to handle the job in 1965. It might not be a coincidence that Green Bay went on to win championships in 1965, 1966 and 1967 with Chandler.

If you brought Hornung in to try a field goal for you odds are he missed it; his career field goal percentage was a far from impressive 47.1%. You can’t take away his many contributions to a number of championship teams, but for at least one season the Golden Boy was the single worst kicker in NFL history.

By the way Paul, my mother’s available.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Schedule

When discussing the reasons for the turnaround of the Miami Dolphins this season, I was remiss in not mentioning the schedule. Yes, the Dolphins and the whole AFC East got lucky matching up against the pathetic the NFC and AFC West divisions this year. No doubt the fans of the Cardinals and the Denver/San Diego winner will feel their souls swell with pride when those “2008 Division Champion” banners are hoisted high next year. Still, Miami’s gone 4-1 in November and 3-0 in December so far. When was the last time this team played that well in down the stretch? Yeah, I know Kansas City’s only won two games all year but I’ve been watching the Dolphins for a long time and this is exactly the kind of game they always lose! You know what I'm talking about Fins fans. A cold-weather road game in December with playoff hopes on the line. A recipe for choking. And yet with everything on the line the Dolphins came from behind to win it! If I didn't before now I know there’s something special about this team and their improvement cannot just be chalked up to better luck, regression to the mean, etc.

I also want to note there that the “last-place schedule” played no role whatsoever in the turnaround. As a reward for 1-15, Miami played last year’s last-place finishers in the AFC North and AFC South. As it turned out, the Baltimore Ravens were a playoff contender and the Houston Texans weren’t half bad. Both teams thumped the Dolphins.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Turning Point

I'm back and I know all three of you missed me.

After the Miami Dolphins shocked the Patriots in Week 3 (the greatest upset in Dolphins history), one of the team’s radio announcers said we might look back on this game some day as the longed-for turning point for the franchise. Nodding in agreement (at least in spirit) and caught up in the hype of the huge win I was sorely tempted to write a subsequent post about “The Turning Point”. Then I remembered that, however impressive, it was just one win. There’s no law that said the Dolphins couldn’t go back-to-back 1-15. And I’d refrained from making any predictions after all of my 2007 ones bombed like The Love Guru. Remember? Miami’d go 8-8. Favre was washed up. So was Jamal Lewis. John Beck might be good. That didn’t happen? Actually I didn’t refrain from making predictions, I retired out of embarrassment. So no predicting a Turning Point. I needed definitive proof. When Miami followed up the big upset with a nice win over the Chargers, a preseason Super Bowl fave after all, I was on the verge of writing about “The Turning Point” but I decided to wait one more week first. After Miami came back late to take the lead on the road against the Texans my typing fingers were warming up but they let it slip away, blowing a chance for a third straight win and a winning record. Back into hibernation went The Turning Point. Still the team was at least competitive; two of their three losses had been close. However, the next loss wasn’t. Baltimore came to town and handed Miami their lunch. The Dolphins looked listless and overmatched against the lone team they beat one year earlier. Goodbye Turning Point.

And hello again Turning Point. Yes, after four straight wins and a 6-4 record we can safely say this Dolphins team is far better than it was last year and there’s no reason to think the improvement’s a fluke or that it can’t be built upon. Of course I’m so slow I couldn’t finish this post before Miami’s win streak ended at the hands of, who else, the Patriots. Still, the improvement is clearly real so what can we say accounts for this great leap forward? I’d go with these things:

1) New Talent: The passing game is by far the team’s best unit right now and most of the credit must go to Chad Pennington. What a huge upgrade he’s turned out to be over last year’s terrible trio of Green, Lemon and Beck. And he cost the team virtually nothing. The Dolphins are a run-first team this year but when Pennington drops back to pass he’s not throwing many interceptions and he’s averaging eight yards an attempt. Free-agent pickup Anthony Fasano and undrafted Davone Bess have been reliable weapons for Pennington. And number one pick Jake Long looks very good so far.

2) Old Talent. Specifically, getting more out of it. Joey Porter’s having a career year. Ted Ginn (who we feared a bust), Greg Camarillo (before he got hurt) and David Martin (who?) have all played much better this year, no doubt helped by better quarterbacking. The Dolphins now appear to have the makings of a solid receiving corps. Even Ricky Williams is contributing. Who knew? Ronnie Brown’s back to his pre-torn ACL self.

3) Coaching: Fasano’s brought the Wildcat back to the NFL! Need I say more? Ok, it’s not single-handedly responsible for all the wins but it gave the team a huge edge when first introduced, it helped instill confidence in the players that the coach has some idea what he’s doing (an element sorely lacking last year!) and it’s gotten more playmakers involved in the offense. The whole thing was brilliant. I also can’t recall any games this year where Fasano seemed overmatched or panicked or butchered the clock or made stupid replay challenges. And the great years Miami’s gotten from guys who’d been disappointments before (Porter, Ginn) is also to Fasano’s credit. Give him his due.

4) Management. Parcells. Someone in charge who knows what he’s doing. It’s been awhile. And it can’t hurt that everyone in the organization must fear the Tuna’s wrath. At least Huizenga’s last big decision before getting out of Dodge was a good one (finally).

Miami’s still got a good shot at making the playoffs, something nobody but the team’s most deluded fan could have expected. As 4 of the last 5 games are on the road I wouldn’t count on it but just finishing with 7 or 8 wins would be a huge accomplishment. Last year Miami looked on the way to becoming this decade’s Detroit Lions. Of course the Lions decided they were still this decade’s Detroit Lions leaving the Dolphins no choice but to make giant strides seemingly overnight. After the misery of last season, this year’s been a lot of fun so far.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jets' Streak In Jeopardy

For the first time in 6 years, the 2007 NFL season featured a team that won but a single game. Unfortunately, that team happened to be my team, the Miami Dolphins. But this post isn't about the Dolphins. First I need to update the list I previously created of every single one-loss NFL team of the modern era. In parenthesis are the teams that lost to the one-loss teams.

1960: Washington Redskins (Dallas Cowboys)
1961: Washington Redskins (Dallas Cowboys)
1962: Oakland Raiders (Boston Patriots)
1962: Los Angeles Rams (San Francisco 49’ers)
1966: New York Giants (Washington Redskins)
1967: Atlanta Falcons (Minnesota Vikings)
1968: Buffalo Bills (New York Jets)
1969: Chicago Bears (Pittsburgh Steelers)
1969: Pittsburgh Steelers (Detroit Lions)
1971: Buffalo Bills (New England Patriots)
1972: Houston Oilers (New York Jets)
1973: Houston Oilers (Baltimore Colts)
1980: New Orleans Saints (New York Jets)
1982: Houston Oilers (Seattle Seahawks)
1989: Dallas Cowboys (Washington Redskins)
1990: New England Patriots (Indianapolis Colts)
1991: Indianapolis Colts (New York Jets)
1996: New York Jets (Arizona Cardinals)
2000: San Diego Chargers (Kansas City Chiefs)
2001: Carolina Panthers (Minnesota Vikings)
2007: Miami Dolphins (Baltimore Ravens)

The teams in parenthesis are the teams I'm interested on here; one in particular. Note that the New York Jets appear four times having been the lone victim of four of the worst teams in NFL history. And those four losses happened in 1968, 1972, 1980 and 1991. That's right, once in each of the last four decades! But the Jets' streak is now in real danger of ending. Heading into Week 9 of the 2009 season, just three teams have a chance of finishing the season with one loss. The Kansas City Chiefs have won only game so far, but the Jets weren't the team they beat. (They lost to the Jets in fact). The Detroit Lions haven't won a game but they don't get to play the Jets this year. And the winless Cincinatti Bengals. Oh the Bengals. This was it. This was the chance. And of course the Jets blew it! They played in Week 6 and wouldn't you know it, the Jets had to go and beat them. Damn it! So to extend their streak into a fifth decade the Jets must be somebody's only win in 2009. Or else it's all over. Please, please don't let it end.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Greatest Upset in Miami Dolphins History

On September 21, 2008, the Miami Dolphins traveled to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. Miami had lost 20 of their last 21 regular season games. New England had won 21 straight. Understandably, the oddsmakers made Miami a double-digit underdog. Final score: Miami 38 New England 13. A complete beatdown. I later read somebody online call it the Greatest Upset in Dolphins History. Now, normally I hate the knee-jerk reactions of fans unsteeped in sports history and, especially, the loud-mouth sports “journalists” who can’t wait to anoint a game, a team, a player, anything as the greatest ever before the dust settles and we can impartially weight what we’ve just seen. But the more I think about, the more I’m convinced Miami indeed pulled off the biggest upset in team history when they crushed the Pats.

The simple truth is Miami’s rarely pulled off any big upsets in their 42-plus year history. What other candidates exist? Well, we can quickly dispense with any big postseason upsets; Miami’s never had any (sad but true). They’ve never been a big home underdog in a playoff game. And they’ve won exactly three postseason road games ever: beating Kansas City in the 1971 divisional round, Pittsburgh in the 1972 AFC title game and Seattle in a 1999 wild card game. The first of those might be considered a surprise since KC was the established power at the time, but both teams were 10-3-1, and Miami the team on the rise, so the win was a mild upset at best. Certainly nobody was surprised by the time the game ended; you couldn’t have a more evenly played game (double overtime). Now I’ve read that the 1972 Dolphins were actually a slight underdog heading into Super Bowl VII. Even if that were true however, nobody could possibly have been shocked when the undefeated team came out on top that day.

A regular season upset needs to be pretty memorable if anybody’s going to remember it after the thrill of victory wears off. I can only recall exactly one huge and memorable upset sprung by the Dolphins in the regular season. One of the most famous games in NFL history in fact. In week 13 of the 1985 season, the Dolphins shocked the 12-0 Chicago Bears 38-24 on Monday Night. Da Bears were big favorites, winning their previous three games by a combined 104-3 score, but on that night they were no match for Dan Marino’s offense (IMO Marino’s finest moment). Miami halted the Bears’ march to an undefeated season but honestly nobody should have been that shocked. The 1985 Dolphins were defending conference champions, they were at home on Monday Night, and they were 8-4 at the time. Compare that team to the 2008 Dolphins--a winless joke (at the time). And they had to beat the defending conference champs on the road. The point spreads reflected the different circumstances. If I remember correctly, Miami was about an eight-point dog to the Bears while the 2008 squad were double digit underdogs.

There just aren’t any other contenders for the honor. 2008, Week Three: Miami 38 New England 13. The Greatest Upset in Miami Dolphins History.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How The Miami Dolphins Hit Rock Bottom

As you might suspect from some of my posts, I’m fascinated by how successful football teams are put together, like the most successful team ever: the 1972 Dolphins. Yet somehow, I'm almost equally fascinated by how truly terrible football teams are put together. And this decade’s Miami Dolphins have been one truly terrible football team. I’ve tackled the topic several times—the bad drafts, the bad trades, the bad free agent signings. I’ve leveled blame against Dave Wannstedt, Rick Spielman, and Nick Saban among others. But there’s one person who I haven’t talked about much because, until recently, I hadn’t realized just how much of the blame he deserves.

When Wayne Huizenga became the Miami Dolphins’ new owner back in 1990, he appeared to be a welcome change from previous owner Joe Robbie. Miami achieved great success under Robbie, but Robbie was a well-known cheapskate and, though he was shrewd enough to steal away Don Shula from the Colts to coach the Fins, the two men had a terrible personal relationship. After Huizenga entered the picture he upgraded the Dolphins’ facilities and I don’t know that he and Shula ever had words with each other (at least not until 1995). Miami stopped having ugly contract holdouts and when the free agency era dawned the Dolphins weren’t shy about splurging. Despite Huizenga’s freer-spending ways though Miami never reached the same heights they had when Robbie ran the show. Yeah the team consistently won but Super Bowl appearances were becoming a distant memory. Tiring of the embarrassing postseason losses to Buffalo, Huizenga forced Shula out and replaced him with Jimmy Johnson. When a burnt-out Johnson quit four years later, Huizenga inserted Johnson’s right-hand man, Dave Wannstedt.

Huizenga preferred to put all the power over the football side of things in the hands of one person. In turn Shula, Johnson, and then Wannstedt each called all the shots. Unfortunately, Wannstedt lacked both Shula’s coaching ability and Johnson’s personnel acumen. As the fortunes of the team crumbled Huizenga changed his philosophy of giving a single man the reins of power. Mike Tanier lays it all out beautifully in his essay on the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 Football Prospectus. As Miami began to crumble under Wannstedt’s “leadership”, the team underwent a succession of disastrous front-office moves as Huizenga frantically sought undo past errors and restore the team to greatness. Or at least goodness. First Rick Spielman was brought in to assist Wannstedt with personnel decisions. That didn’t work. Huizenga then brought in Dan Marino (?!?!) to oversee football operations but luckily for his reputation and his sanity Dan realized his enormous mistake and ran back to his CBS and HBO gigs before it was too late. Huizenga then promoted Spielman over Wannstedt. Then he fired Wannstedt. Then he brought in Nick Saban to coach while keeping Spielman. Then he fired Spielman and brought in Randy Mueller as the personnel guru to work with Saban. When Saban quit, Huizenga hired Cam Cameron to coach the team but he kept on Mueller. Finally, Huizenga brought in Bill Parcells to be his chief football guy and had Parcells just blow up the whole team. Parcells canned Mueller and Cameron and brought in his own coach and GM, men who’ve worked with him before and who answer to Parcells.

As Tanier points out, from the time Huizenga first brought in Rick Spielman, the team kept changing coaches and general managers but never at the same time. Every time somebody new came in he had to work with someone already there, somebody already partly responsible for the mess the team was in. Huizenga made it impossible for the team to start rebuilding as each new person he brought in was tasked with winning right away and each new person had their own idea of just how to make that happen. Unlike the long and successful Shula era no one person was ever fully in charge (except maybe Nick Satan for a year). What a disaster; a disaster lasting years. How did I miss this pattern? I’ve concentrated most of my fire over the years on the bad decisions by Wannstedt and the others but clearly, not only did Wayne H. hire a series of fools, he created a situation where nobody could possibly succeed regardless of their abilities. It’s Huizenga who deserves most of the blame! I think deep down I was rationalizing all the false starts and disappointments on the grounds that Huizenga was at least trying (the Dan Snyder syndrome). That at least he was willing to spend big bucks without morphing into your classic interfering owner a la Jerry Jones or George Steinbrenner. Huizenga was content to let his football people make all the personnel decisions. Huizenga’s only role was just to hire GM’s and coaches (and write the checks) but he screwed up those choices every single time and, while putting one incompetent in charge is never good, Huizenga kept compounding his mistakes by forcing multiple incompetents with different agendas to work together at the same time. The result: 1-15 in 2007, a play away from the worst single-season team performance in NFL history.

Hopefully, the hiring of Parcells and the imminent departure of Huizenga from the ranks of NFL owners at long last brings this pathetic era to a close.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Roger Staubach: Road Warrior

You know whose name never comes up in Greatest QB of All-Time conversations? Roger Staubach. But why shouldn’t he? He won two Super Bowls, played in two more, and retired as the NFL’s most accurate passer. Staubach clearly earned the “quarterback of the decade” honor for the 1970’s. His only other rivals for that title would be Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. And while Tarkenton’s career stats dwarf Staubach’s he never won a title and Bradshaw won twice as many Super Bowls as Staubach but he never came close to Staubach’s accuracy or consistency.

Quarterbacks from each decade's NFL All-Decade Team are candidates for greatest QB of all-time except for the 1970's. Baugh in the 40’s, Graham in the 50’s, Unitas and Starr in the 60’s, Montana in the 80’s, Favre in the 90’s. But no Staubach. Of course Staubach’s left out in the cold because of his relatively short career and because he “only” won two Super Bowls. As to the former, that happened because Roger the Dodger did not dodge military service in wartime and fulfilled his four-year commitment to the United States Navy after his college career ended. He’s got to get some credit for the stats he might have put up if wasn’t busy serving his country. Staubach was good enough to play until he was 38 and he was still playing at a very high level when he retired. As for winning just two championships, Staubach did make it to four total Super Bowls, as many as anybody ever has, but had the misfortune to twice face maybe the greatest team ever, and both games were four-point nailbiters.

Maybe he didn’t play as long as other great quarterbacks. Maybe other great quarterbacks won a few more championships. But Staubach did something no other great QB can match. Check out his 5-1 road playoff record!


Only three of the 19 men on this list even have winning road playoff records, and Starr and Brady are “only” 2-1 (and who knows if Brady finishes his career over .500). Staubach blows away everybody. Five and One! Incredible. Montana didn’t come close to Staubach. Neither did his Super Bowl nemesis Terry Bradshaw. Steve Young never won a playoff game on the road. No, Staubach’s the NFL’s greatest postseason road warrior. Two of those games were the very biggest road wins you could have: conference championship games.

On the downside, Staubach’s home playoff record appears a tad subpar compared to most of the other top QB’s of the past several decades. Staubach lost three playoff games at home and must take some blame for losing those games. The first was the 1973 NFC Title Game against Minnesota where Staubach’s four interceptions helped doom his team. In the other two, Roger’s Cowboys were knocked out by the Rams. Interestingly Staubach beat, crushed really, the Rams on the road in both the 1975 and 1978 NFC Championship Games, but each time the Rams got their revenge the following season by edging the Cowboys in their first-round matchups in 1976 and 1979. Staubach tossed three picks in the earlier matchup and one more in the latter one (his final postseason game). Dallas lost by two-point margins in both games so Staubach’s picks hurt his team badly. He probably cost himself a chance at one or two more Super Bowl appearances. And with one more big game win he’s probably in all the conversations about the best ever.

But he did what he did and if he wasn’t the best he’s in the Top 10 for me. Classic comebacks. An accurate arm. Great mobility. Consistent success. Multiple Championships. And deadly on the road. Roger Staubach—The Road Warrior.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Starr, Staubach, Elway, and Brady

The 19 QB's in the chart below are the greatest QB's of the Modern Era (post-1960). Of the former players on that list, all are in the Hall of Fame but Ken Anderson and Ken Stabler and both men have good cases for enshrinement (at least Anderson does in my opinion). Of the three active players, Favre, Manning and Brady will all be in the Hall one day.

Despite the collective greatness of these 19, we see how very difficult it is to win road playoff games. As a group these 19 QB's won barely a third of their road playoff games. Only four of the QB's have at least a .500 winning percentage in their road games: Starr, Staubach, Elway and Brady. And Starr has a unique accomplishment among QB's of the modern era: his two road wins both came in NFL Championship Games! Starr (my pick for the greatest QB of all-time) is the only QB of the modern era to win two championships on the road (at New York in 1962 and at Dallas in 1966).

Of course, no QB today could hope to match that accomplishment. Since 1970, all NFL Championship Games have been played on neutral sites. You may have heard of a little game known as the Super Bowl. So the next closest thing a QB can do to match (or better) Starr would be to win two conference championship games on the road. And strangely enough, the other three modern-era QB's with winning road playoff records have all done just that. Staubach beat the Rams in Los Angeles in both the 1975 and 1978 NFC Championship Games while Brady beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in both the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Games. It's interesting that each man's second road triumph came three years after his first with the same opponent serving as his repeat victim. Elway took a more unique path, beating Cleveland in 1986 (the Drive) and then beating Pittsburgh eleven years later. Pittsburgh sure seems to have lost an unusual number of AFC title games at home.

If we include QB's of the pre-modern era, we do find one other QB who matched Bart Starr's accomplishment. Chicago Bear great Sid Luckman won NFL titles in Washington in 1940 and in New York in 1946. Let's see Kyle Orton do that!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Great QB's in the Playoffs at Home and on the Road

Ever wonder how much home-field advantage in the playoffs means to a great quarterback? (You don't? What's wrong with you?). Wonder no more. Here's a list of the NFL's greatest post-merger QB's and their playoff home and road won-loss records, plus their won-loss records in the Super Bowl (played on neutral sites of course). Subsequent posts will analyze some of the fascinating info to be found in this table:


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Tuna's Approach

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske wonders “What is Parcells’ Approach in Miami?” The Dolphins and Parcells’ two biggest post-draft personnel moves have been the trade of star DE Jason Taylor and the signing of former Jets QB Chad Pennington, who now looks to be Miami’s starter for 2008. To Maske, these moves contradict each other--the Taylor trade seemingly exhibiting the desire to rebuild with youth while the more recent signing of Pennington, a veteran QB well past him prime, showing exactly the opposite. Yet to me what Parcells has done makes perfect sense--there's nothing confusing about it. Maske makes the mistake of looking at what Taylor and Pennington have in common, their age, while ignoring the things they don’t have in common, their trade value and the positions they play.

Concerning trade value, simply put Taylor has it and Pennington obviously doesn't. Taylor could start for any NFL franchise right now while Miami, with the worst QB situation this side of Chicago, might be the only place where Pennington has a shot at starting. Miami received a second-round pick for Taylor and, since Taylor likely plays two more years tops, if Miami hits on the pick they come out way ahead. Meanwhile, Pennington, a waiver-wire casualty of the Favre deal, costs the Dolphins virtually nothing. He comes cheap salary-wise plus he’s a clear upgrade over McCown as the starter. From every angle Parcells’ moves were coldly logical.

Now Maske admits Miami “at least got something” for Taylor but he implies the trade only became necessary because Parcells “alienated” Taylor. Now clearly Parcells wasn’t crazy about Taylor’s decision to dance with stars instead of reporting to camp but it was just as clear that Taylor wanted out of Miami badly, maybe even more than Parcells wanted him gone (for the right price). Taylor knows he’s near the end of his career and why would he, or anyone, want to spend one more minute playing for one of the worst teams of all-time? Plus Parcells already had cut loose his best friend on the team, Zach Thomas. As for Parcells, sure he could have said some nice things about Taylor but any long-time football fan ought to be familiar with Parcells’ mind games by now. The man loves messing with player’s heads but there’s always a method to the Tuna’s seeming madness. In this case, Parcells got to take a hard line with Taylor and more importantly sent a message to the rest of the team that no one’s expendable. Everyone knows who’s in charge now. If that alienated Taylor so what? Parcells held all the cards with Taylor under contract to Miami. If no team offered Parcells what he wanted for Taylor then no amount of bitterness between Taylor and Parcells was going to make Taylor sit out and forfeit millions of dollars in salary. In the end everybody won. Taylor wanted one more shot at the playoffs; Parcells wanted a high draft pick for Taylor. Parcells got his second-round pick and Taylor landed on a playoff contender. Well, everybody won except for Dolphin fans who’ve rooted for Jason Taylor his whole career. It’s tough to say goodbye to arguably the finest defensive player in Dolphins history but we all know the team has to be rebuilt from the ground up. The trade was necessary although I disagree with the snotty tone HERE. Taylor deserves more after all the years of tremendous effort he put forth. The man could play some ball. Nobody did anything wrong here. Taylor acted in his own best interests and Parcells acted in the long-term best interests of the team.

Maske says the team would be better off to “choose one of the team's young quarterbacks, John Beck or Chad Henne, to be the starter and give him a chance to develop in hopes that he'd be a capable quarterback by the time the club around him was ready to be a playoff contender” instead of bringing in “a 32-year-old quarterback with a history of arm troubles”. It sure looks to me like Miami is going to give Henne a chance to develop. He'll be taking over soon enough, that much is obvious. But quarterback isn’t like any other position. There's a huge learning curve and promising talents have been destroyed by being thrust into the starting lineup too soon, especially when surrounded by less than stellar talent (See: David Carr). Have you checked out Miami’s receiving corps lately? Even Dan Marino didn’t start until the 6th game of his rookie season and Henne probably isn’t going to be another Dan Marino. We all know the injury-prone noodle-armed Pennington will only start for one year at the most, but a has-been like Pennington is still an upgrade over a never-was like McCown (Josh or Luke). Rushing Henne into the lineup before he's ready could easily be counterproductive to his development. Letting him watch Pennington from the bench for awhile doesn't demonstrate a lack of commitment to rebuilding. It shows intelligence. Parcells will make the move to Henne when the time is right just like he pulled the trigger on the Taylor deal.

Maybe Parcells' moves will work and maybe they won’t, but you can’t say they don’t make sense. For the first time in years the team finally has someone in charge with a straightforward clearheaded approach. It's been awhile.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Miami Dolphins and their Quarterbacks, Part Four

Since he already had Dan Marino, Jimmy Johnson didn't do much when it came to the quarterback position. But Dave Wannstedt didn't have Dan Marino. Marino retired. All Miami had left was Damon Huard and Wannstedt didn't see Huard as part of the team's future. So to address this desperate situation Wannstedt turned three decades of team history on its head. Previously, when the team needed a starting quarterback they used a number one pick to draft one. Wannstedt eschewed doing that in 2000. Miami didn’t do it in 2001 either. Or 2002. Or 2003. Or 2004. Or 2005. They didn’t spend any second-round picks on a QB either. Or any third-rounders. Or fourths. The team used just one draft pick on a QB from 2000 through 2005: a sixth-rounder on Josh Heupel, a never-was, in 2001. Rather than draft a QB, Wannstedt went the free-agent route. Now in previous years it was not uncommon for Miami to bring in free agents. Those free agent QB’s usually had two things in common: they were experienced older QB’s, brought in to back up the entrenched starter. (see Morrall, Jaworski, Kosar). By contrast, Wannstedt brought an INEXPERIENCED older QB, and he brought him in to START. Fiedler was 29 but he’d hardly ever played. As a group quarterbacks being to decline by age 32 so the move to Fiedler definitely went against the book. I don’t mean to rip Jay Fiedler here. I thought he handled the unenviable job of following Dan Marino rather well. And Fiedler wasn’t a bad quarterback (especially considering the garbage the team’s had since he left). He had an occasional flair for the dramatic, he was willing to sacrifice his body to make a play, and he worked hard. He just wasn’t accurate enough.

In case Fiedler proved not to be the answer, Miami brought in some other QB’s. As we’ve already seen, Miami used to bring in two kinds of QB’s to back up their Hall-of-Fame starters: (1) the aforementioned experienced older free agent QB’s; and (2) young draftees who could be groomed as the team’s QB of the future. Again, Miami jettisoned that strategy and used free agency and trades to obtain QB’s who were inexperienced and had already been rejected by other franchises as QB-of-the-future material. Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, and A.J. Feely were all brought in to back up Fiedler at various times. None of them had been top draft picks and none of them impressed (to say the least) when given their opportunity in Miami. Only Griese could remotely be said to have had some success prior to his Dolphins tenure yet Denver’s willingness to part with him while he was still in his prime was certainly a warning sign not to expect much. Griese's since become the very definition of a journeyman quarterback. Feeley was a far bigger debacle as he was not only terrible, but the Dolphins actually parted with a second-round pick to get him. (That was Rick Spielman’s brainstorm by the way). I admit to a soft spot for Ray Lucas though. I don’t know that in all my years watching professional football that I’ve ever seen a QB play as badly as Lucas did in his first three Dolphins starts. Just comically inept.

Even after Wannstedt’s departure and Nick Saban’s arrival, the organization continued to ignore what had once worked and instead kept following the same quick fix QB strategy that had repeatedly failed since Marino's retirement. Yet another failed QB, Gus Frerotte, was brought into start in 2005 and the team traded for the aptly named Cleo Lemon as well. Frerotte wasn’t half bad actually but clearly wasn’t the answer either. Still refusing to draft a QB, Saban at least recognized an upgrade was necessary and shopped for a star free agent to take over. He chose poorly. Duante Culpepper put up great number for Minnesota prior to his horrific knee injury but, post-injury and sans Randy Moss, Culpepper played just as badly as the other free agent bums Miami brought in after Dan Marino’s retirement and he was gone a year later. 2007 brought a new coaching change in Cam Cameron and he and Randy Mueller actually executed a partial return to the team’s old successful ways. Miami at last expended a high pick on a QB, a second-rounder for John Beck, the highest the team had taken a QB since, believe it or not, Marino in 1983. Still, Bob Griese and Dan Marino were blue-chip first rounders and Miami had a chance to take one in 2007, but they passed on Brady Quinn. Only time will tell if that was wise but I have to admit that from what we've seen so far I don’t have a good feeling about it. Camerson and Mueller did head down the free-agent route again for a short-term starter, and Trent Green had once been a very good QB, but his concussion problem reared its ugly head in scary fashion and after the injury he was lost to the team for the season.

As the 2008 season begins, the Miami Dolphins again turn to a new regime, this one headed by Bill Parcells, a man who certainly knows football and has a track record of success. For the second straight year the team spent a second-rounder on a quarterback, former Michigan star Chad Henne. Are either he or Beck the team’s future? Who knows? But given the team’s history, relying on one of them or spending a future top choice on a top quarterback prospect has to be preferable to relying yet again on another team’s castoffs to lead the team back to a Super Bowl.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Miami Dolphins and Their Quarterbacks, Part Three

From 1966 through 1995, three decades, the Miami Dolphins followed a three-pronged strategy to address their quarterback needs. First, and most important, when need and opportunity met, Miami used a top pick to draft a highly touted potential franchise quarterback (Griese, Marino). Second, they almost always backed up their starter with an experienced QB, usually a former starter elsewhere, who could step in and play should injury strike the starting QB (Morrall, Strock, Jaworski, DeBerg, Kosar). And third, the team would frequently spend a pick in the top half of the draft for a QB with the potential to become a starter (Norton, Theisman, Strock, Benjamin, Woodley, Mitchell). Interestingly, the only one of the latter group to actually become a starter for the Dolphins was Woodley who was the lowest pick of all of them (an 8th-rounder). Theisman and Mitchell did become NFL starting quarterbacks but not with Miami. Strock never became a starter but he did move into the second group as the quintessential backup once he’d been around long enough.

Not to make too much of this three-pronged strategy; the selections of Griese and Marino in the provided virtually all of Miami’s QB success for over 30 years. And neither selection was particularly controversial. Quite the opposite. But we do know that Miami almost certainly would not have achieved perfection in 1972 without the acquisition of Morrall, while Strock was an important security blanket for Miami for a decade. As for the young guns, Theisman, and maybe Mitchell, could well have become longtime starters for the Dolphins had the team needed one at the time those players chose to go elsewhere.

The important thing to note is that the team planned. They addressed their quarterback needs. If they didn’t have a high-quality starter they drafted one. If they didn’t have an experienced backup, they signed one. If the starter was getting old or if there was a young QB prospect they liked, they used a draft pick to get him.

When Jimmy Johnson took over for Don Shula, that calculus changed entirely. When Huizenga forced out Shula and hired Johnson it was understood Johnson was not in it for the long haul. Jimmy previously rebuilt the Cowboys from the ground up after that franchise had hit rock bottom, but he didn’t want to repeat that in his second stint as an NFL head coach. He only wanted to coach a team ready to contend right now, a team only in need of some “tweaking”. Johnson decided the team that best fit the bill was the Miami Dolphins. Miami had reached the playoffs in three of the previous four seasons and, perhaps more importantly for Johnson, they had Dan Marino at quarterback. Johnson simply had to add a few playmakers on offense and defense to help out Marino and then ride off into the sunset with one more championship. In it for the short term and determined to sink or swim with Marino, Johnson had no interest in using an important draft pick on a quarterback. He drafted only one during his four-year reign: 6th rounder John Dutton in 1998, who never played a down in the NFL. When Bernie Kosar retired after 1996, Miami had no experienced backup either.

Johnson quickly beefed up Miami’s defense but he had no luck at upgrading the running back or wide receiver positions. A parade of busts. And due to age, injuries, and the lack of weapons, Dan Marino’s effectiveness declined rapidly. When Dan missed a number of games in 1999, Johnson had to go with his only available quarterback, undrafted free agent Damon Huard. Surprisingly, despite his complete lack of experience, Huard performed well, well enough that Johnson might have preferred to keep playing him when Marino was ready to return. By the end of the 1999 season though it was obvious to everyone including Dan Marino that Marino had reached the end of the line. Marino retired and a burned-out Johnson resigned, leaving Miami’s quarterback cupboard completely bare except for the now slightly-more-experienced Damon Huard. The team had never been so weak at the QB position since their inaugural season.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Miami Dolphins and Their Quarterbacks, Part Two

From the team’s very beginning the Dolphins’ original brain trust showed the importance the team placed on the quarterback position. In their first two drafts Miami spent its top pick on a QB: Rick Norton in 1966 and Bob Griese in 1967. For some inexplicable reason, Coach George Wilson decided to make George Wilson, Jr. his quarterback in the Dolphins’ inaugural season (a real mystery). But upon drafting Griese, the time for comedy was over and Miami immediately installed the talented Griese as their starter. He had the usual growing pains you expect of a rookie QB starting for an atrocious expansion team. Norton was beyond ineffective as Griese’s backup for three years (7 career TD’s and 30 career INT’s says it all), so Miami acquired two failed starters still in their twenties, John Stofa and George Mira, to back up not-always-so-durable Griese in 1970 and 1971. As long as Miami was terrible it never mattered who backed up Griese, but when the team turned the coaching reigns over to Don Shula in 1970 and became a contender, the lack of a quality backup suddenly looked like a real weakness. Seeing the clear need for an upgrade at the position, in 1971 the Dolphins drafted Joe Theisman in the 4th round and in 1972 Shula acquired his former QB Earl Morrall off of waivers. The latter move turned out to be maybe the single most brilliant personnel decision of Shula’s entire career. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. A leg injury knocked Griese out of action in the Dolphins’ fifth game of the 1972 season but Miami never missed a beat as Morrall led Miami to 10 straight regular season wins en route to a perfect season. Miami now had tremendous experience at the backup quarterback position for the next five years but, 38-years-old in 1972, Morrall obviously was no quarterback of the future. Neither was Theisman unfortunately. Joey T decided he didn’t want to wait around playing second fiddle to Griese so he tried his luck in Canada. A few year later Miami traded away his rights to the Washington Redskins.

In 1973, Miami selected another possible heir to Griese in the 5th round, a tall, big-armed QB out of Virginia Tech named Don Strock. After Morrall’s retirement Strock moved into the backup role where he would remain comfortably ensconced until 1987. At some point Shula must have decided Strock wasn’t starting quarterback material and in truth Strock usually did play better coming into a game in relief. Shula’s doubts about Strock and Griese’s age-related decline led to Miami drafting Guy Benjamin in the 2nd round in 1978 and David Woodley in the 8th round in 1980. Woodley wound up winning the battle to succeed Griese and became the team’s starter following Griese’s career-ending injury in 1980.

The Woodley experiment lasted three seasons but the debacle of Super Bowl XVII established once and for all that the Woodley era had to come to a close. With Strock now on the wrong side of 30 (and having already failed his audition to become the team’s starter anyway) and with Benjamin traded away years earlier, Miami once again turned to the draft to find its new starter. And that turned out to be child’s play when Dan Marino dropped into their laps in 1983, leaving the team set at quarterback for the next 17 years! Marino was a true phenomenon. Not just arguably the greatest pure passer of all-time, but somebody capable of playing like an established veteran while still a rookie. Marino also was incredibly durable, not missing a single start in his first decade as a player. Strock remained as the experienced backup and unofficial assistant offensive coordinator and, with Marino in his prime, the team had no need to groom a QB of the future any time soon.

When Strock and the Dolphins finally parted ways after 1987, Miami grabbed another old veteran, Ron Jaworski, to backup Marino. For the next few years Miami really tempted fate by backing up Marino with nothing but Scott Secules. Luckily Miami never needed him to save the day but something clearly would have to be done. What Shula did was draft a young gun in 1990: Scott Mitchell. Mitchell, a 4th-rounder, finally got his chance to shine when Marino suffered a torn Achilles in 1993. And Mitchell played great (hard to believe but it's true). At any other time he would have been installed as Miami’s backup and designated the team’s QB of the future. However, in the new free agency era that was no longer possible. Based on Mitchell’s short but impressive run of games somebody desperate for a starting QB was bound to throw a pile of money in front of him and the Dolphins couldn’t possibly afford to pay a backup that kind of cash. Nobody was unseating Marino. So Mitchell left for the Detroit Lions who were soon to be disappointed by their would-be savior. Meanwhile, Miami continued with their habit of bringing in experienced backups who were starters elsewhere, first Steve Deberg, then Bernie Kosar, but the team now had no quarterback of the future as Marino entered the final years of his career.

No doubt Shula would soon look to draft another young QB with potential, but he never got the chance. At the end of the 1995 season, Shula resigned as head coach. And when it came to quarterbacks, his replacement had other ideas.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jason Taylor: Addition by Subtraction, My Ass

I try to avoid knee-jerk reactions, but Miami Herald "sportswriter" Armando Salguero's moronic comments about yesterday's newest Dolphin fiasco needs to be hit and hit hard. And now.

Here's how the big A sets the tone for his column-length brain spasm: "The Dolphins rid themselves of their biggest offseason headache and what promised to be training camp's most uncomfortable drama."

No jerk with a keyboard has business using the word "rid" when talking about a player of Jason Taylor's personal caliber. The way I see it, this guy kicked total ass for our team during its crappiest years since it was still in training pants. He has never flipped off his fans, or (I believe) the other teams'. He has been great to the South Florida community as well. We aren't talking Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson here. Next, what DOES constitute an "offseason headache" to this yutz? NOT the hangover of going 1-15? NOT having to draft another QB way high just in case the one we drafted way high last year isn't good enough after all? NOT the rest of our roster? No, the biggest headache for Salguero is that our best player was on a TV show in the offseason, and our cranky-but-legendary new GM got his bloomers in a twist about it. Big. Freakin'. Deal.

Here's another nugget of sportswriting brilliance from the Herald's Dolphin pundit extraordinaire:

"So the Dolphins are diminished on the field. But think of it as addition by subtraction, because Sunday's trade also eased Miami of all that baggage Taylor recently was carrying."

Nurse! Scalpel, STAT! First, the humble sportswriter tells (doesn't ask) us how to think of "it." Could he realize, through his own drool, that we might think differently without his genius to direct us? Second, if there were ever a LESS appropriate occasion to trot out the dread "addition by subtraction" cliche, this is it. Third, WHAT BAGGAGE are we really talking about?

Yeah, I'm gonna pick at the second and third incisions to make they bleed as much as they deserve to. WHAT does Miami "add" by losing Jason Taylor? Is it too soon to note that we are apparently retaining and praising RICKY WILLIAMS for what--showing up to mini-camp? All he did was quit on us a few times because the man loves weed more than football. But losing one of our all-time greats, great even when most of his 44 teammates aspired to mediocrity, is a plus to this jackass (Armando, not Ricky)? Does the big A recall Miami's record last year? Or that Eli Manning and David Tyree (!) are the only reason Miami is still alone in the (Perfect) record book? That the last few years have been a nightmare from which true Dolfans have yet to awaken? What is gained by yanking away the only security blankets left to us in the long, cold night? (Yep, blankets. Don't think I forgot that the powers-that-be cast out bro-in-law Zack Thomas.) I thought the Dolphin helmet was already the universal NFL symbol for "rock bottom" circa 2006-2008. Apparently Armando S. is not done digging yet.

NEXT! Exactly what godawful "distraction" would Jason Taylor's continued employ by the Dolphins cause? Fans could be distracted by Taylor's name while scanning the roster for a name they actually recognize, but probably not. Could other players be distracted by JT's proximity? "Duh, sorry coach, but I missed my assignment because that guy from Dancing With the Stars was in my line of sight." Uh, no. How about the coaches? "How can we lead our men into battle while the GM is in a tiff with one of the players?" Imagine how they'd freak if we ever found ourselves in, say, overtime, or trailing, or if a player is unexpectedly injured (thank God these are only hypotheticals)? How about Parcells himself? "Sorry, ladies and gents of the press, I'd love to bare my fangs at you and be pissy and nasty to you like I was with all my other teams, but this Taylor thing--wait, I SWORE to myself this morning I wouldn't cry--OH GOD SOMEONE GET ME A TISSUE..." It's like looking into a crystal ball, isn't it? An atom bomb wouldn't keep Bill Parcells from telling anyone in sight to shove it up their ass.

Now. To the bright tomorrow Armando foresees now that Miami's "rid" of JT: "The petty stuff like trade rumors will defer to more important theater like a quarterback competition. We will be rightfully absorbed by the twin returns of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. We will be scrutinizing whether rookie Jake Long is worth the paycheck that makes him the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman. We will be measuring the progress of Ted Ginn Jr. from Year One to Year Two..."

If you are as stupid as Armando hopes you are, you will buy that with Jason Taylor on the roster, all that...(Hold it. Did he really write "important theater"? And I almost let that slip by unmocked?...would go completely unnoticed. The Herald would have no room for all of JT's hateful "distraction". How are Ronnie and Ricky recovering? Can't tell ya; only got room for news about Jason. The Herald and all South Florida media outlets would be forced into 24/7 Jason Taylor coverage. Marlin and Heat fans would no doubt be turned away newsless as well. WTF??!!

This isn't a guy who retired in March only to unretire and (allegedly) scheme to play for our enemies in July. This isn't a guy who pre-announced his retirement during the regular season to aggravate all concerned through the rest of the year. This isn't even a training camp holdout! What the hell did Jason Taylor do to inspire the disrespectful scrawling of that ungrateful hack writer? Dance on a TV show? Would it have been better if he was caught in a hot tub with a buncha babes? What is going on here?

Maybe Salguero felt putting this kind of "spin" on this ultimate debacle would ensure his schnozz a regular home up Bill Parcells' Fruit of the Looms for the foreseeable future. Me, I'd welcome the "distraction" of Pro Bowl players who conduct themselves with class and grace on and off the field (and in some cases, the dance floor). I am really struggling for ways to love my team when it 1) sucks AND 2) dumps its best players like trash. When it was one of those at a time, it was a lot easier. Hey, Miami Herald: "think" how you can achieve some "addition by subtraction" in your very own sports bureau...

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Miami Dolphins and Their Quarterbacks, Part One

The Miami Dolphins, one of the NFL’s most successful franchises, become the NFL’s worst team, became the NFL’s worst team last year. The Dolphins were one play away from the worst season any NFL team has ever had. How did that happen? Well, it took years to turn a playoff team into a hollow shell, an embarrassment of a team utterly devoid of talent on both sides of the ball. Bad draft picks. Bad trades. Bad decisions. No one move alone could be responsible for the team’s embarrassing state, it’s death-by-a-thousand-cuts here, but one draft pick encapsulates all of this team’s questionable personnel moves this decade. In 2001, the Miami Dolphins used their 6th-round pick to select Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel. Heupel was your classic example of a college QB surrounded by superior personnel who leads his team to a national title, but is not any kind of NFL prospect due to limited athletic ability. In Heupel’s case, his arm strength and mobility weren’t NFL caliber (hence his lasting to the 6th round). Not only did Heupel fail to make the team, but it turned out he had a wrist injury when drafted and Miami actually filed a grievance to try to get some of their money back. Anyway, Heupel never caught on with Miami or any other team and was quickly out of football. Whatever. Heupel only cost the team the 6th round pick. It’s the symbolism that matters here. Josh remains the ONLY QB drafted by Miami between the years 2000 and 2005. That’s right. For the six years following the retirement of Dan Marino, the greatest player in franchise history, Miami’s brain trust chose not to expend a single valuable draft pick on finding his successor. Not only did that decision prove disastrous on its face, it ran contrary to the quarterback philosophy the team had followed successfully for three decades.

If you look at the quarterback moves made by the Miami Dolphins from 1967 through the end of Don Shula’s reign as the Dolphins’ head man, you would have to say the team followed a simple consistent three-pronged strategy for dealing with the quarterback position:

1) Use a top pick to draft a franchise QB;
2) Have an experienced backup ready at all times;
3) When it’s time, groom a QB of the future.

That plan, whether put into practice by design or accident, worked. Coincidence or not, once the team departed from that plan in this decade they began to fall apart.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cold Hard Corroboration

Not so long ago, I posted a silly little series of posts concerning who, in my opinion, was he greatest quarterback in NFL history. One of the QB’s whose career I examined was one John Albert Elway. In my post on him, I took what I thought was a reasonable and rational approach, logically weighing all the pros and cons for his case as he greatest ever. The man certainly has a lot of pros: the wins, two rings, five Super Bowl appearances, the comebacks, and lots of yards and TD’s. The two big cons for him were: (1) overall poor performances in Super Bowls; and (2) finding in the course of researching my piece that when compared to his best contemporaries Elway was the least accurate passer. Based on those two things I concluded that Elway could not be the best ever, which incidentally I do not consider to be an insult to the man. He’s got some stiff competition for the title and he had a great career after all. Yet, as you can see in the comments to my Elway post, two of Past Interference’s untold legions of fans actually took exception to my dispassionate, unbiased findings. And while what they had to say hasn’t changed my ultimate conclusion, those commentors certainly made some very good points on Elway’s behalf.

Here at Past Interference we have no illusions about our role. Past Interference is but a deer tick in the vast ecosystem that is the football blogosphere. But in their fashion the King Kong of the internet’s football world has recently weighed in on the Elway matter. Of course where Past Interference makes its case (as always) with polite, sober, clearheaded precision, The Cold Hard Football Facts, as is their wont, prefers the no-bull, politically incorrect, possibly alcohol-fueled screed. But however you want to wrap up the package, the facts are what matters and the numbers don’t lie.

CHFF picks Elway as one of the Five Most Overrated Quarterbacks Ever. On that specific issue, I’ll abstain. My only point was that Elway wasn’t THE greatest ever. CHFF notes Elway’s relatively low passer rating, his unimpressive TD:INT ratio for the Live-Ball (post-1978) era), and his unimpressive production for at least the first decade of his career. Those numbers are the very types of things I pointed to in my own post and while you might not be able to put any stock in what this website offers it’s always good to be on the side of the Cold Hard Football Facts.


The Cold Hard Football Facts also selected its Five Most Underrated Quarterback Ever. Number three on their list is Earl Morrall, a man with a most curious career that Past Interference has previously written about at length.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Favre Go Round

Man, I am loving this Brett Favre story. For a few months it actually looked Favre was really retired this time. Suckers! Ever since word broke that Favre had the “itch” to play again sportswriters and sports media types, not to mention fans, are all expressing their opinion on what Favre and the Packers should do. Should he stay retired or come back? Do they welcome him back, trade him, what? Is Favre damaging his legacy? Is he just a drama queen who needs the attention? Why can’t he stay retired already?

Well, I’m not going to offer any opinions on what Favre should do. I mean, it’s his career not mine. Only he knows how he feels. Who am I to tell somebody else what to do with their life? That’s just not who I am. (For example, see this post I wrote last year called "Brett Favre, Retire Already”. Want an extra helping of stupidity? Try Part II here.)

Ok, ok. I had an ulterior motive. I hoped Favre would call it quits after 2006 so he wouldn’t break the all-time passing marks of my all-time favorite player Dan Marino. And you have to admit; since Favre’s stats clearly seemed to show he was obviously declining it was hardly sporting for the broken-down old vet to come back and play out the string just to break some records would it? But Favre didn’t do that. Dude cut way back on the picks, had his best season in years, and led his team all the way to the NFC Championship Game and the very cusp of the Super Bowl (before the predictable playoff meltdown). Favre broke Marino’s records while playing like one of the best QB’s in the game. He earned it (and I don’t like having to admit that. Damn you Fav-ra!).

So now what? Well, clearly Favre still wants to play. And surprisingly, it also seems clear that Packers management doesn’t want him back. They’re set to move forward with Aaron Rodgers. [And spare me "It's Just Rumors" talk. The lack of a definitive statement by Favre plus Peter King's reporting that the above is true (and everyone knows Favre and King are friendly so Favre's his direct source here) mean we're well past the rumor stage]. Now if Green Bay was rebuilding I could understand the Packers hoping Favre really meant it when he said he was retired. Or if Favre was obviously washed up. Or if it was a given that Rodgers was going to be a great quarterback. But as far as we know none of those things are true! Green Bay was a Super Bowl caliber team last year. Favre might well have another great year left in him. And Rodgers hasn’t done anything yet (except piss Packers fans off by telling them to get on his bandwagon).

Looks the Pack have four options:

1) Welcome Favre back, pay him $12 mil, and bench Rodgers.
2) Welcome Favre back, pay him $12 mil, and bench Favre.
3) Release Favre, save $12 mil, and hope he doesn’t get picked up by a division rival.
4) Trade Favre, save $12 mil, and try to get something for him.

Favre’s probably the most beloved player in Packers history. He proved he could still play at a high level. His team nearly made the Super Bowl. And even if management wants Favre to stay retired, there’s no way the players would prefer Rodgers to start over Favre. No way. Rodgers hasn’t earned their confidence and trust the way Favre has. If the team goes ahead, gets rid of Favre and Rodgers plays poorly, that ain’t gonna look good. If Favre plays well for another team, that’s gonna make it worse. And if he does it for Chicago or Minnesota, the two most likely Favre suitors out there, while his old team flops, that will probably get current Packers management canned. The fans would demand to see some heads roll. Now I can see how bringing back Favre and relegating Rodgers to the bench again would cause some serious problems for Rodgers. He’s waited patiently for his shot and was promised the job this year. Out of bitterness he might be lost to the organization if it’s yanked away from him like this. But, the goal is to win a championship. Who gives the Pack the best shot at winning it right this second? It sure seems like Favre. Of course if the Pack think Favre wants his old job or nothing, they might call his bluff and release him or trade him hoping he just retires (again!). The only thing the Pack gets out of that though is peace-of-mind for Rodgers and some really bad publicity and hurt feelings for pushing a legend out the door. If Rodgers should get hurt again, as he's had a bit of a penchant for doing, Green Bay's season goes down the drain and the fans would always wonder what might have been. Actually, they'll wonder anyway if Rodgers plays and doesn't come close to what Favre did in 2007.

I can’t wait to see how this one plays out. Can anyone really picture Favre returning to Green Bay as a backup? And you thought Rodgers was feeling pressure before.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley, Part Four

Would the Miami Dolphins have been better off had they kept Benjamin instead of Woodley in 1980?

When it comes to the franchise’s other more recent quarterback decisions (Brees/Culpepper, Fiedler/Huard) we can freely venture some educated guesses. But here we simply have nothing to go on. Benjamin threw exactly 63 passes in his professional career. That’s not any kind of meaningful sample. The one thing we can definitively say is that he lacked Woodley’s speed and in 1980 Don Shula wanted a mobile quarterback. We’ll never ever know what kind of player Benjamin might have been. We do know what kind of player Woodley was and while you can’t consider his NFL career a huge success he did lead his team to the playoffs twice, win three postseason games, and start a Super Bowl at the age of 22. That isn’t nothing. And Guy Benjamin may not have been able to come close to those achievements let alone better them.

But on a human level surely it would have been better for Woodley’s psyche had he never been anointed the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Yes, as a loner and the son of an alcoholic it’s quite possible he would have died alone and broke from alcohol-induced liver disease had he never even put on an Miami Dolphins uniform. But the media spotlight and his on-field failures had to have taken their toll on the poor guy. He tried his best but was just not equipped to cope with the incredible pressures of the modern-day NFL.

David Woodley’s life lends itself to being written about (here’s Dave Hyde’s award-winning column for example). It’s got an arc. You can hit all the obvious chapters easily enough: The Late Round Draft Pick; The Surprise Starter; “The Youngest QB To Ever Start A Super Bowl”; Failure; The Bottle; Throwing It All Away; The Downward Spiral; The End. If it hadn’t all really happened it’d be your classic cliché, a bad made-for-TV movie.

Guy Benjamin’s life and career on the other hand isn’t so pithily summarized. Benjamin’s career lasted as long as David Woodley’s, six years. But where Woodley inexplicably walked away from an opportunity to keep playing and possibly start, Benjamin left the game without ever once getting that chance he kept hoping for year after year. On the field at least Woodley got the breaks that never seemed to come Guy Benjamin’s way. Benjamin just couldn’t catch a break. Three different teams gave up on him. Because he wasn’t good enough? Maybe. But as we’ve seen Benjamin kept getting stuck in bad situations beyond his control. Not once, not twice, but three times trapped behind star quarterbacks.

If Benjamin was drafted today he’d have an entirely different career. An All-American quarterback drafted in the second round today would without question get a chance to start. His salary (not to mention the fans) would practically force his team to give him a shot. If the team refused then that QB would be on the free agent market soon enough. But unfortunately Benjamin came into the league a decade before NFL players could exercise their right to free agency.

Guy Benjamin never started an NFL game. He made no headlines as an NFL player. He never earned any off-the-field notoriety either; no arrests, no feuds, no fights, no scandals, no stints in rehab. Nobody’s written any award-winning columns about him. If he’s bitter about his NFL days I don’t know it (though he’d be only human to sometimes wonder what might have been). What I have been able to find out is this: Guy Emory Benjamin’s led one hell of an exemplary life.

While still a young man Benjamin showed his civic-minded side early serving as executive director of Athletes United For Peace, a nonprofit organization that, according to their mission statement, is "committed to promoting peace, education and friendship through programs and events for young people." In 1987, after earning a master's of arts degree in higher education administration and policy analysis at Stanford, Benjamin served as a teaching assistant there before moving on to not just teach at New College in California in San Francisco, but to found the Sports In Society Institute there, directing the school’s degree completion program for former collegiate student-athletes.

In 1996, Benjamin moved to Hawaii to become the offensive coordinator for the University of Hawaii football team while also serving as an academic advisor to the athletes at the school. After that he taught special education at Campbell High School while again assisting with the football team. Benjamin also found time to do some head coaching at the professional level in the Indoor Professional Football League (winning a championship) and in the Arena Football League’s minor league. While coaching in Hawaii he became impressed with his stepdaughter’s development at Hawaii Business College and, clearly not content to teach only football skills to young men and women, Benjamin decided to become part of the Hawaii Business College community. Starting as the job placement director, he soon became the executive director, improving the school’s "retention, graduation and job-placement rates." As HBC then floundered under new ownership Benjamin made his greatest accomplishment in teaching to date. Along with two partners he established an entirely new school, Hawaii Medical Institute. HMI specializes in national healthcare certifications and Benjamin and his partners have made the programs at the school both practical and affordable while assisting the students at the school in finding jobs.

Denied the chance to contribute on an NFL field Guy Benjamin’s contributed far more to society than most professional athletes. We could use more human beings like him.

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Friday, June 27, 2008

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley, Part Three

Stuck backing up two entrenched veterans on two different teams, Guy Benjamin never had an NFL regime committed to developing him as his team’s quarterback of the future. Now, on his third team in four years, Benjamin was finally teamed with a coach who was well aware of his abilities. A coach who knew exactly how to build an offense around the talents of Guy Benjamin. Yes, the 1981 trade reunited Guy Benjamin with his old college coach Bill Walsh. And now Walsh was building an NFL dynasty in San Francisco. But as we all know, Joe Montana would be the man leading the Forty Niners to greatness and four Super Bowl titles. Benjamin couldn’t have been thrust into a worse situation. At least Griese and Manning were aging veterans soon-to-be-gone when Benjamin came aboard. In San Francisco by contrast, Montana was younger than Benjamin and just beginning his legend. Benjamin never had a chance.

Meanwhile, David Woodley couldn’t have been thrust into a better situation. The AFC’s best scoring defense, a sturdy running game, a great home field advantage, and a coach committed to him. If a game did get out of hand Don Shula didn’t hesitate to remove Woodley and insert his experienced backup Don Strock but nobody seemed to mind “Woodstrock” too much. Unfortunately, despite these advantages Woodley’s game didn’t improve in 1981 and 1982. In his three seasons as the team’s primary starter Woodley’s QB rating never topped 69.8 At least the team improved. In 1981 Miami won their division but Woodley got off to such a slow start in the divisional playoff game against San Diego that Shula made the move to Strock and Strock damn near pulled off one of the great comebacks in NFL history.

No need for Strock in the 1982 playoffs. Woodley played about as well as a quarterback can play in the first two playoff rounds. Miami dominated New England and San Diego. The AFC Championship Game was a different story as Woodley tossed three interceptions, but Jets QB Richard Todd topped that with five picks and Woodley couldn’t really be blamed too much given the torrential rain and muddy field conditions. Miami rolled to a 14-0 win. Only 22 years old, Woodley had captained the Dolphins to three straight playoff wins.

Then Super Bowl XVII happened.

Suffice it to say, Woodley played poorly and was probably the single biggest reason Miami lost. He started out strongly with a spectacular 76-yard TD pass to Jimmy Cefalo that gave the Dolphins the early lead. Two more big plays--a kickoff return TD and another big return setting up a field goal--put Miami up at the half. Usually big plays early in a Super Bowl lead to victory but not here. After the big strike to Cefalo, Woodley completed only three more passes for 21 yards in the first half. In the second half Woodley misfired on every single pass he threw. 0 for 8. By the time Shula yanked him for Strock it was too late. The complete absence of an offense doomed Miami as John Riggins and the Redskins wore down the defense in the 4th quarter and a winnable game was lost. And Woodley’s meltdown in the big game along with his inability to develop in three years as a starter forced the Dolphins to find another solution at quarterback. When Dan Marino fell into their laps in the 1983 draft, Woodley’s days as a Dolphin were numbered.

As we found out years later, it was never in the cards for Woodley to succeed as an NFL starting quarterback. He had the physical tools. He may have had the love for the game. But he absolutely hated, and could not thrive under, the pressures and demands of the modern game. According to his former wife, Woodley hated the boos, hated the attention, and actually dreamed of playing in an empty stadium. Clearly, tragically, it just wasn’t in his psychological makeup to be a starting NFL quarterback. It’s painful enough to read about how as a Dolphin Woodley would hole up in his hotel room alone, drinking, chain-smoking, and taking Nyquil to help himself sleep before a game. It’s even worse reading about Woodley’s downward spiral after he left the NFL. And he left the NFL abruptly. Miami traded him to Pittsburgh after the 1983 season and for the next two seasons he split time with Mark Malone as the Steelers searched for the successor to Terry Bradshaw. Pittsburgh wanted Woodley back in 1986, and he would have been the team’s highest paid player, but David Woodley walked away for good. He’d had enough.

Meanwhile Guy Benjamin could only watch from the sidelines as Joe Montana earned him a Super Bowl ring in 1981. Walsh brought in Benjamin knowing he could be a capable quarterback. But Walsh would only need to call on Benjamin if Joe Montana got hurt. And we don't think of him this way now but in the early part of his career Montana was an iron man who never got hurt. He didn't miss one game in the three years he and Benjamin were teammates. Truly, Guy Benjamin could not catch a break. Think about it. After waiting patiently for two years backing up Bob Griese and Don Strock, Benjamin gets traded away just weeks before Griese suffers a career-ending injury. And Don Shula had already decided Strock wasn’t the man to take over. Had Shula kept Benjamin for just one more year Benjamin would have at least gotten a chance to play, to prove if he could be the guy. Instead, now in New Orleans, he got stuck behind another aging vet, Archie Manning. As the Saints struggle through a lost season the GM orders the new interim coach to play Benjamin but the coach flat-out refuses! The next year, Manning gets hurt and misses a lot of playing time but Benjamin’s no longer there to take over. The GM resigned before the season and Benjamin isn’t a part of the new regime’s plans. Had the interim coach just followed orders or if the GM had stayed on for another year, Benjamin would had to have gotten a shot. Instead he’s dealt away, reunited with his old college coach back on the West Coast, seemingly a great turn of events but in actuality the worst possible place in the world for a young quarterback: backing up Joe Montana in his prime.

Both Guy Benjamin and David Woodley played six seasons in the NFL. In terms of opportunity, Woodley got all the breaks and Benjamin got none. But what if that was reversed? Would the Miami Dolphins have been better off had they kept Benjamin instead of Woodley in 1980?

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Monday, June 23, 2008

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley, Part Two

To everyone’s surprise, Don Shula decided to keep his unheralded eight-round pick David Woodley and, when he did so, Guy Benjamin suddenly became expendable. I wish I knew exactly how Shula came to his decision. Benjamin barely played in his first two seasons and the statistics he did put up are far from grievously inadequate. Benjamin only threw one pick and his other stats aren’t bad. But 12 passes aren’t exactly a useful sample size. What we do know is that Woodley favorably impressed Shula in the 1980 preseason. Woodley was the kind of quarterback we stereotypically refer to as “athletic”, meaning he could run and had a big arm. And apparently Shula really wanted a QB who could run. He was certainly intrigued by the possibilities of Woodley’s skills anyway. At one time Bob Griese possessed some mobility and he was very good at scrambling behind the line to keep a play alive but those days were long gone. And Don Strock, the heir apparent, was about as immobile as any QB ever. But Woodley could run. So Shula kept Woodley and he, Griese, and Strock all took turns starting games early in the 1980 season. With Griese’s game in decline, everybody got a shot at playing but bizarrely nobody played well unless they were coming off the bench. Benjamin almost surely would have gotten a chance to play had he been around but he wasn’t.

Griese suffered a season-ending (career-ending as it turned out) shoulder injury in game five and the time had now come for Don Shula to decide who would be the new starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, maybe the biggest personnel decision of his Dolphins’ coaching career so far. After seven years Don Strock had started a number of games but he never did enough to make Shula confident Strock was starter material. Strock was also 30 now and unlikely to improve. Woodley on the other hand was only 22-years-old. So Shula went with the kid. Woodley didn’t exactly play well but he was just a rookie and showed some flashes here and there while chipping in 214 yards on the ground in 11 starts. And Shula enjoyed installing plays to take advantage of Woodley’s skillz. I recall Miami trying the option a few times as well having Woodley catch some passes a la Kordell Stewart. How much all that actually helped the team is questionable though. Miami declined to 8-8 as the rookie struggled. Meanwhile, what of Guy Benjamin?

In terms of opportunity, Benjamin seemingly had moved to a much better situation. Miami was a playoff team looking to get back to the Super Bowl. The 1980 New Orleans Saints were one of the worst teams in National Football League history. And that sort of team is almost always looking to rebuild with young players. The Saints didn’t have a young player at QB though. The venerable Archie Manning had been starting for New Orleans since 1972 and at the age of 31 he was having one his best seasons ever. Unfortunately, his passing didn’t translate into any victories and after an 0-12 start the team fired its head coach Dick Nolan and made Mike Stanfel the interim coach the rest of the way. Saints General Manager Steve Rosenbloom then ordered Stanfel to bench Manning and play Benjamin. At long last, Benjamin’s time had arrived. Or. Had. It? Turns out Stanfel, Nolan’s best friend, didn’t really even want the job and out of continuing loyalty to his friend Nolan (and Manning), Stanfel refused the GM’s direct order and kept playing Manning! Manning did manage to lead New Orleans to a victory before the end of the year to avoid a historic 0-16 mark, but by the start of the 1981 season the Saints said goodbye to both their interim coach and their GM. Former Oilers’ coach Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips was brought in to revive the franchise and Bum decided that Guy Benjamin was not in his future plans for the team. For the second time in his three-year career, Guy Benjamin was traded away before ever getting a single chance to start for the team that gave up on him. Would the third time be the charm?

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley, Part One

In 1978, the Miami Dolphins used their second-round pick, the draft’s 51st overall selection, on Stanford quarterback Guy Benjamin. Since drafting Bob Griese over a decade earlier, Miami hadn’t used anything more than a 4th-rounder to grab a QB. In fact, even since taking Benjamin, Miami has only twice used a higher pick on a quarterback, Dan Marino (1st-round/27th overall) in 1983 and John Beck (2nd-round/40th overall) in 2006. Since the Dolphins previously traded away their 1978 first-rounder, that second-rounder was their top pick that year so clearly the team made a heavy investment in Guy Benjamin. Why?

Well, Miami’s near-legendary backup QB Earl Morrall retired after the 1976 season, leaving Miami with only two quarterbacks, Griese and 1975 draftee Don Strock. And Griese, while coming off possibly his best season in 1977, was now 33 years old. Guy Benjamin, an All-American quarterback who led the NCAA in passing in 1977, seemed a logical choice for grooming as Miami’s next star QB.

While at Stanford, Guy Emory Benjamin struggled for playing time in his first two seasons. Benjamin was locked in a quarterback controversy with a guy named Guy Cordova. Head coach Jack Christiansen clearly preferred Cordova but every time Benjamin would get in the game he’d keep proving to be the superior QB. Even after Benjamin led Stanford to a last-second comeback win over their big rival Cal in the 1974 finale, Christiansen again tabbed Cordova to lead the team in 1975. Fan outrage and Benjamin’s superior play while splitting time with Cordova finally forced Christiansen’s hand in 1976 and Benjamin won the starting job and kept it. Thankfully for Benjamin, no controversies existed in his final collegiate season. By 1977 both Christiansen and Cordova were gone and Benjamin’s new coach, Bill Walsh, knew exactly how to use him. The Genius, for the first time as a head coach, installed what we'd later come to know (if not love) as the West Coast Offense and Benjamin ran it beautifully, winning the Sammy Baugh award as the country’s top passer and leading Stanford to its best season in years and a rare bowl game appearance. In the Sun Bowl, his final college game, Benjamin passed for 269 yards and threw three TD passes in leading Stanford to an upset 24-14 win over LSU. Foreshadowing: Watching the game from the LSU sidelines--Tigers backup quarterback David Woodley.

Just months later, Benjamin was headed south to a perennial playoff team looking for their quarterback of the future. I distinctly recall a quote from Don Shula back then saying something to the effect of his team having the perfect quarterback situation. The team had Griese, their All-Pro starter, Don Strock, the experienced backup, and now Benjamin, the promising young gun. Griese began to show some signs of slipping in 1978 and 1979. He played well in 1978 but tore some knee ligaments in the preseason and only started nine games that year. Benjamin pretty much watched that season from the bench as Shula used Strock in place of Griese. The next year, Griese pulled a hamstring, and subsequently played poorly enough that Shula actually benched him for a time in favor of Strock. Ultimately Griese won back the starting job from Strock with Benjamin again but a spectator. However, it was starting to become clear that the now injury-prone and aging Griese couldn’t last much longer and Miami would soon need to decide on its quarterback of the future. Shula saw that Strock played much better coming off of the bench than he did as the team's actual starter. Benjamin had only gotten to throw 13 passes combined in his first two seasons but at least he wasn’t making any disastrous mistakes. Would he get his chance?

When Griese suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the fifth game of the 1980 season, Shula and the Dolphins finally had to make a decision on who would succeed Griese. The only thing everybody knew was this: it wouldn’t be Benjamin. You see, in the 1980 draft Miami took a flyer on that former LSU quarterback David Woodley, an eighth-round draft pick. And Miami stunned everyone when they decided to keep the unheralded rookie and just before the season traded away former All-American Guy Benjamin to the New Orleans Saints for a fourth-round pick! How would that work out?

Guy Benjamin and David Woodley
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Friday, June 13, 2008

Are We Are Saying Is Give Culpepper A Chance

In retrospect, Dave Wannstedt’s decision to make Jay Fiedler, rather than Damon Huard, the Miami Dolphins’ starting quarterback in 2000 may have been a disaster. Personally, I’ll always believe it was but we’ll never really know. Huard never earned an NFL start during Fiedler’s “reign” so we can’t know for sure Huard would have outplayed Fiedler from 2000-2004. But there’s another more recent personnel decision we can all agree was a gigantic mistake with disastrous consequences. And surprise! Wannstedt didn’t make it. No, this was Nick Saban’s crowning botch job. In 2006 Saban had his choice of signing Drew Brees or trading for Daunte Culpepper to be the Dolphins’s new QB. Both quarterbacks were recovering from injuries—Bress a torn meniscus in his shoulder, Culpepper a completely-blown out knee. Saban passed on the guy with the busted wing and went with the guy with the busted leg and the rest is history. Brees received MVP-consideration and the everlasting thanks of a grateful city following a brilliant season resuscitating the New Orleans Saints in 2006, while Culpepper received nothing but paychecks “earned” while sitting his ass on the bench after putting up a few disastrous starts. Turns out he was nowhere near ready to return to action despite all his assurances to the contrary. Wannstedt passed on Brees in the 2001 draft and Saban compounded the error by making sure bad history repeated itself. Realizing his blunder set the team back for years and not willing to put the work in to atone, Saban classlessly quit after the season while making sure to blame everyone but himself for the giant eff-up.

Alright, why did I just rehash all that? Damn you Saban! The worst QB move in team history. But we knew that. What made me relive those painful memories was this June 13th, 2008 article.’s Bucky Brooks wonders why a big-name QB like Daunte Culpepper is “on the sideline with training camp only a month away?” After all, Culpepper “had one of the most productive years in NFL history with the Vikings in 2004” and though Daunte “has failed to reach that level of play in subsequent years, his career completion percentage (63.8) and passer rating (89.9) rivals those of perennial Pro Bowlers Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer.” Uh, ok. McNabb? Palmer? Right. Now I’m sure Brooks isn’t being willfully clueless here. He surely knows like everyone else with eyes that Culpepper’s played like crap for years now even if Brooks prefers to deploy massive understatement to sugarcoat that truth (“failed to reach that level of play in subsequent years”?!?! No shit Sherlock). And I suppose it might a little unusual for a one-time star like Culpepper (or Byron Leftwich) to draw no interest whatsoever still being relatively young.

No the real insanity in that article is this:

“[Culpepper] was one of the best quarterbacks in the league at one point, but he can't get a job in this league?" said an AFC scout. "Sure, he's been injured, but his arm strength and ability to play the game hasn't changed."

Scan those words again Dolphin fans. Someone please tell that AFC scout isn’t working for the Miami Dolphins. ‘Cause if he is, and if the rest of our scouting department is that stupid, the future doesn’t look good for this team. Arm strength? Ability to play the game? At his peak, Culpepper’s game revolved around two things: Mobility and Moss. The knee injury robbed Culpepper of the first and the trade to Miami robbed him of the second. Culpepper proved not much of a traditional pocket passer when he could no longer avoid a rush nor could he longer just throw it up there knowing Randy Moss would come down with it. Experts and fans once debated who was the key player in the Culpepper to Moss connection but Culpepper’s poor play since 2004 combined with Moss producing his greatest season ever when paired with an even better QB emphatically ends that debate. So what exactly is that scout smoking? Hey, maybe I should take that back. You know what I’m really hoping? That the scout does work for Miami and that this is just one of Bill Parcells’ classic psy-ops strategies. Culpepper really helped screw up our team. What better way to get both revenge and a competitive advantage than by talking him up to everyone and letting some other sucker of a GM waste precious time and resources on the guy. Why not? At least he won’t be wearing aqua and orange again. So just repeat after me fans of the NFL’s other 31 teams, Culpepper “had one of the most productive years in NFL history with the Vikings in 2004” and though Daunte “has failed to reach that level of play in subsequent years, his career completion percentage (63.8) and passer rating (89.9) rivals those of perennial Pro Bowlers Donovan McNabb and Carson Palmer.” Pass up this opportunity at your peril. You have found him, now go and get him!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sneeze Achiu

As an obsessive NFL fan, I often find myself idly leafing through my pro football encyclopedia looking for something interesting. Well, one day I came across the entry of this player: Sneeze Achiu. Obviously no detective work is needed to determine how Mr. Achiu came to be known as “Sneeze”. His full given name was Walter Tin Kit Achiu and he briefly played for the NFL’s now-defunct Dayton Triangles in 1927 and 1928. Intrigued by this heretofore unknown-to-me player, subsequent research on him revealed two things: (1) Everything I’ve written here so far has been completely lacking in originality; and (2) Sneeze Achiu holds a unique place in NFL history. His on-field contributions weren’t much--in 11 games he rushed for 27 yards on 27 carries, caught two balls for 17 yards, missed a field goal and threw an incomplete pass—but he made history just by stepping onto the field. It turns out that Walter Tin Kit Achiu was the first player of Chinese descent to play in the National Football League. Unfortunately it’s not quite the inspirational story we might like it to be. Not only was Sneeze not much of a player, to this day he remains the NFL’s only player of Chinese descent. Yes, almost eight decades have passed since the heyday of Sneeze Achiu and the world’s most populous nation has yet to produce another professional football player. And while all of the above facts were easy enough to find on the internet, all of the web pages I found discussing Walter Achiu (perhaps understandably) failed to mention one other fact about him—Sneeze wasn’t his only nickname. Total Football II lists his other nickname as “Chink”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say if we do ever see another Chinese player, nobody’s gonna be calling him “Chink”. Progress.