Quarterbacks Talking Smack

Jeff RobbinsContributor IOctober 6, 2011

This just in: NFL quarterbacks are an egotistical lot.

I mean, they almost have to be. Billion-dollar businesses depend on them. They are largely responsible for the livelihood of numerous coaches and players and their families. They are heroes of many when they succeed and targets of unrelenting venom and hatred when they fail.

But no matter how their job performance, they are sickeningly wealthy and have sickeningly easy access to practically any woman they choose.
No wonder they think a lot of themselves.

And no wonder most of them can’t shut up, even after retirement.

Many feed the vanity beast by becoming a TV analyst or color commentator, where even the worst, like NFL Network’s Joe Theismann (he joined the network after getting the ax from ESPN’s Monday Night Football), is paid to talk endlessly about whatever he wants to.

But sometimes, even Theismann is interesting. Or, scary enough, right.

This week he opened up about the Minnesota Vikings and Donovan McNabb, I guess presumably because they both played for the Redskins, albeit only one successfully. (Hint: The successful Washington QB wasn’t McNabb.)

“I think Donovan McNabb is a great person,” Theismann said. “But he can’t throw the football accurately. His mechanics are horrible.”

While rightly pointing out that the offensive line is partly to blame, Theismann’s words ring true to anyone who’s watched any Viking football this year. McNabb, though hampered by a pedestrian group of receivers and a coaching staff that seem intent on not letting Adrian Peterson break a sweat, has stunk.

Theismann assumes that Christian Ponder will get the starting nod soon, not because the rookie can bring victories, but because Vikings management need to know whether they can stick with him in 2012 or try to draft Andrew Luck should the Stanford quarterback enter next year’s NFL draft.

It’s hard times in Minnesota: The Gophers just got beat 58-0 in their Big Ten opener, the Twins fell off the cliff in losing 99 games in 2011, and the Vikings don’t in any way resemble the team that just two years ago went to the NFC Championship Game.

Of course Green Bay fans would like to blame the Vikings’ current struggles on their successful wooing of ex-Packer Brett Favre, who led them to that almost-championship season in 2009-2010.

Had Favre not been available, the argument goes, perhaps the Vikings would have invested in a young quarterback that could have by now been paying large dividends. It’s an argument that is easy to accept, especially this year, as the Panthers and Bengals are reaping the benefits of the immediate success that rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are having.

Of course, knowing the Vikings, they might still be playing Tavaris Jackson.

It could also be argued that the Vikings front office wrongly assumed that since the Favre pickup went so well (at least for one year), that the pickup of McNabb had an equal chance of success. This is boneheaded logic, of course, not only because the talent level around McNabb is not as good as it was around Favre two years ago, but also because a 34-year-old Donovan McNabb is nowhere near as talented as a 39-year-old Brett Favre.

Favre proved in 2009 that he could still play. He proved in 2010 that even he could not play forever.
He’s proving in 2011 that he can still be a pain in the butt.

This week he told an Atlanta radio station that he was not surprised that Aaron Rodgers won a Super Bowl in only his third year as a starter, but rather that “the biggest surprise to me would be that he didn’t do it sooner.”


You could argue that in his rambling way, Favre meant to compliment Rodgers, implying that his successor was so good that he was championship-worthy from the moment he was named the starter.

But come on. This is Favre. He wasn’t being complimentary.

Favre went on to say that Rodgers “fell into a good situation” and that the “talent around him is even better than when I was there.”

Meaning, exactly, “What took you so long, boy?”

The story reminded me of a brief conversation I had with my father-in-law last Sunday as we watched Aaron Rodgers completely destroy the Denver Broncos defense, just as Rodgers destroys almost all defenses he faces.

“He’s better than Favre ever was,” my father-in-law said.

Although I reluctantly agree with Favre that Rodgers has a better all-around team than Favre probably ever did, I couldn’t immediately disagree with my father-in-law.

But oddly enough I still can’t say I like Rodgers as much as I liked Favre. What made Favre so fascinating, and of course, so fascinatingly frustrating for Packers fans, was his fallibility. You never knew when Favre was going to make that errant pass or that costly mistake.

For better or worse (and yes, many times it was worse), Favre was high drama. On the field and off.

For better or worse (and yes, it’s hard to argue for the worse side of that equation), there’s no drama with Rodgers: He’s a machine. He even says all the right things.

Rodgers could have made fun of Favre’s inability to win a championship with the 2009-2010 Minnesota Vikings team, of which Favre said, “Physically, and from a talent level, this is the best team I’ve ever been on.”

But no. He simply said, “It takes 53 guys to win a championship and we had the right recipe last year and we’re trying to do the same thing this season.”

Besides carrying himself impressively and handling the media expertly, Rodgers is, most importantly, the best quarterback playing in the NFL right now. He’s so good he seems to be redefining what a quarterback can do.

Favre, like Theismann, comes from more of the old school of NFL quarterbacks.

Which means, in part, that he doesn’t know when to shut up.

On the field, Favre usually acted first and thought about it second.

Off the field and in retirement, Favre usually speaks first and thinks about it second.

To the delight of his players, coaches, and surely his fans, Rodgers isn’t like that at all.

But sometimes – sometimes – I miss that.