Let’s Talk Football

With teams getting ready to report to training camp, the heat of summer will soon give way to the lively leaves of autumn and America’s true national pastime will push streaming English mysteries off our television sets for the next six months.

Let’s get down to basics. The most important players on any team are the quarterbacks and the safeties. The quarterbacks because they get points quickly and the safeties because they prevent points from being gotten quickly.

More games are won or lost at those two positions than any other combination on the field. Sure, you hear the old adage that the running game sets up the passing game. It doesn’t. The opposite is true. Seldom is there a drive longer than forty yards. Fumbles, penalties, sacks, missed blocking assignments and dropped passes all negate long scoring drives with predictable accuracy.

The skill positions make the most money because they thrill the fans more. That wasn’t always the case but 1978 changed all that. Rule changes favoring the offense turned the NFL into a Barnum and Bailey circus and put a premium of throwing the ball towards and into the end zone. Fans loved it and the networks now are able to charge forty times more for a Super Bowl commercial than they did back in the day.

Joe Namath was a quarterback who was fearless standing in the pocket. I was at Shea Stadium at a Jets-Oakland game back in the late 1960s when he got sacked mercilessly by two huge tackles who broke straight at him because of poor protection. The sack wasn’t the kind where a rusher gets a piece of the jersey and turns the quarterback around and down. They don’t hurt. The two guys who got Broadway Joe must have stretched ten-foot high, totally blocking his downfield vision.

He got clobbered, clawed, chewed up and spit out with five-hundred pounds of Oakland smothering him.

The very next play, same formation, higher down and longer distance, Namath once again took a snap under center, faded back into the same pocket and held the ball perhaps just a nano-second less than before. He released the ball a fraction of an inch higher and threw a sixty-yard touchdown pass to a streaking receiver. As soon as the ball cleared the rushers’ fingers, they clobbered him with the same ferocity as the last play. As the crowd cheered, such was the respect the Oakland players had for Namath, they helped him up and shook his hand.

The Jets went on from there to win the Super Bowl.

When Brett Favre retired, nobody had thrown more touchdown passes and had more interceptions than he. That’s why he was called “The Gunslinger.” A three time NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner, he played with a gusto and fervor seldom seen in a quarterback. Teammates and opponents loved playing with and against him. He would’ve switched positions and played pulling guard to lead the famed Green Bay sweep if it would have helped his team. Lombardi would’ve loved coaching him.

In 2001, the Giants were playing the Packers in a season ending game with New York defensive end Michael Strahan, a team player if ever there was one, needing one sack to break an NFL record held by a show boat named Mark Gastineau, who danced and pranced after every sack.

In the game’s final series, with Green Bay comfortably ahead and assured of a playoff spot, Farve rolled out and fell down at the feet of Strahan, giving the end the record. Only Favre could have gotten away with that. In the celebration, the veteran Strahan walked over to Favre leaving the field and shook his hand.

Purists may find fault with that scenario. Players clearly understand the respect shown to worthy opponents.

13 responses to “Let’s Talk Football

  1. Robert Chambers

    Hey Coach, this post is a must read for anyone thinking, playing, or dreaming about sports. As you I am a huge fan of what the persons you have mentioned in this post were and stood for in this game of football. Thank you.

  2. Paul Larkin

    I always thought that that Strahan/Favre sack thing was BS and I still do. Bush league all the way…….by both of them, shame all around. Gastineau was difficult to like but HE set the record legit. I agree, a show boat of the first order but no falling down for him. That record is thus tainted in my opinion. As a counter point, say you liked Gastineau and he was not a showboat, would you feel differently?

    • I felt as Favre did in that he (Favre) shared the same respect for the game as Strahan.
      If Gastineau had been as team oriented as they were, I probably would feel differently.
      Conversely, I would also feel cheated if a
      team sat out its starters once a playoff spot had been secured and that allowed an opponent to set an individual record against second stringers. No doubt there is a
      personal bias in my thoughts on Favre. If
      one played and didn’t like Favre,
      they played a different sport than I did.

      • Paul Larkin

        Thats my point, Coach, they both wound up disrespecting the game in a vain attempt to, in Favre’s mind, to respect it. I don’t follow football anywhere close to the way you do, but I do understand bush when I see it, Gastineau was also bush but who are we to say he was not team oriented…..simply because he made an ass of himself after sacks? BTW, I am also not 100% in agreement with your “conversely” sentence above, I mean why blame the scorer? This actually happened incidentally when Bill Bradley (one of the great team players of all time in hoops) set an Olympic scoring record against second stringers and had no regrets about doing it.

  3. Here is a twist on your Bradley reference.
    He got Princeton to the Final Four where
    he got beat by Michigan before beating
    Wichita State in the consolation game.
    Bradley was the pen-ultimate team player,
    so much so that his coach, Butch Van Breda
    Kolff, commanded the team to throw
    right back to Bradley any pass they
    received from him in the second half
    against Wichita State so “Dollar Bill” could show everybody how great a scorer he might have been had he been a non-team player.
    He ended up with 58.
    I have no problem with what that coach was trying to prove.

  4. Paul Larkin

    I stand corrected, not the Olympics, the consolation game, that was actually the game I meant, memory issue…the point remains the same, I think, as Bradley, team player that he was, also had no problem doing it, as I recall.

  5. Barbara slloum

    Loved the football talk. Joe Namath and Brett farve were great. Joe montano was right up there too. Keep up the football talk. Love it!

  6. Speaking of how important the quarterback position is to the team, Oakland Raider Derek Carr just signed a 5-year, $125 million contract, the going rate for a star quarterback.

    Jameis Winston will be due to re-sign his first big contract in another few years. Assuming he brings the Bucs to the playoffs before that happens, it’ll be interesting to see what this kid gets paid.

    I’d say it’s in that same ballpark if not a little more.

    • Carr is coming off a 12-4 season. Winston is 15-17 career wise. He has a way to go, not yet even throwing for 60%. The guy with a legit claim to be the top paid QB is Russell Wilson. Two straight 10 win seasons with a Super Bowl win and another negated by the dumbest call in NFL history. Winston lags far behind Carr, Wilson and Mariota in career quarterback ratings as well. Only a year or two ago, Joe Flacco was the first 20 mil quarterback. Joe who? Let’s see what 2017 brings🏈🏈🏈🏈🏈

  7. Paul Larkin

    For those of you who might be interested in the whys and wherefores of crazy pro athlete pay, I suggest reading the book “Players” by Mathew Futterman.

  8. Great article Coach,but. I’m gonna need more from you, like the jets final record Namath’s passing totals & all stats…..πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚