Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, Colt McCoy and the Great QB Stories of 2011

Mark OristanoContributor IIDecember 13, 2011

Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, Colt McCoy and the Great QB Stories of 2011

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    Face it, every year is the “Year of the Quarterback.” You may not be crazy about that if you’re a defensive end, but the truth of the matter is that the NFL game starts with the guy under center. 

    And this season, thus far, from pinpoint passers with computer brains, to gunslingers with a lot more guts than talent, the QBs have been fascinating us all over again. You couldn’t have a more diverse batch if  you tried. 

    As 50 passes a game becomes the norm, you’d think the arm and the accuracy would be all important… and you’d be wrong. As evidenced by our first witness (so to speak)…

Tim Tebow and the Mile High Miracle

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    Love him or hate him. Worship him or disparage him. Listen to all the talk radioheads go on and on and on about how lousy his stats are. All the kid does is win games, and in the National Football League, that’s the only stat that matters. 

    Troy Aikman is No. 42 on the all time passer rating list. He’s behind the likes of David Garrard and Trent Green. But Troy’s got three rings and a bust in Canton, Ohio. Troy won games. And yes, he’s a much better passer than Tebow. So, another story. 

    Many years back I was having a chat with then-Cowboys scout John Wooten, who was an offensive lineman for the great Cleveland Browns teams blocking for Jim Brown. Wooten said that his Browns coach, Blanton Collier, always told them, “You can accomplish anything you want to, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” 

    I thought a moment and then added, “Yes, and as long as you have Jimmy Brown running the ball for you.”

    Smart aleck? Of course. It’s who I am. But Collier’s quote applies beautifully to Tebow. Lots of people think Tebow Mania is about Tebow. Except Tebow. He’s about his teammates, and winning. He probably won’t keep it up, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. 

    Of course, he may also be the greatest hustler since Fast Eddie Felson, faking ineptitude for three quarters to lull the other team to sleep. And he got huge help from Bears RB Marion Barber in the last win. But it’s fun to watch, and he’s winning, and that’s what pays off.

    What he is NOT is what a friend of mine called him yesterday, the greatest fourth quarter quarterback in NFL history. The 49ers alone had guys ahead of Tebow. But just to toss out names: Unitas, Staubach, Brady, Peyton Manning, Montana, Young, etc. 

    Tebow may never get to that level, but at least he’s giving it a shot.

Tony Romo: the Great Quarterback Tease

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    Remember that one girl in high school who, even if undeserved, had a “bad reputation.” She’d tease and taunt, but when it came time to go the distance… uh uh! Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is kind of like that. 

    Tony’s a gunslinger, who likes to take chances. But the thing about being a gunslinger is you better make sure you kill the other guy with your first shot. And sometimes, Tony misses badly. 

    In the Sunday night loss to the Giants, nursing a five-point lead with 2:25 to go, he had a chance to put the game away with a wide open Miles Austin downfield ahead of everybody in blue. Badly overthrown.

    When Romo gets time to pass and his receivers run the proper routes, he can be devastating. This season, though, only one of his wins has been a huge passing day, in Week 2 versus the 49’ers. 

    Since the blossoming of DeMarco Murray, Romo has not had to be the whole offense. But Murray is out for the season with a bad wheel, and the load falls back to Romo.

    There is a whole undercurrent with the Cowboys about how the entire organization is structured. It’s thought that superstars have too much direct access to Jerry Jones and that tends to undermine the coach’s authority. Whether that figures into Romo’s hot and cold situation, who knows. Safe to say, the dynamics of the Cowboys are a lot murkier than the public or the media can accurately determine.

    In his first playoff game, in Seattle after the 2006 season, Romo botched a hold on a fourth quarter field goal that would have won the game. I thought then that this is a bad sign for the future of the Cowboys, because great players make great plays a lot of the time, but they make ordinary plays all the time.  If what is past is prologue, then what’s happened since should not surprise anybody.

    In the end, in Dallas, in the land of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, quarterbacks are judged on only one thing: Did they add to the trophy case?

The Team Name Should Be "Tom Brady's New England Patriots"

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    Has one quarterback ever meant more to a team than Tom Brady to New England? We all know the story. Every team in the league had five chances to draft the skinny kid from Michigan, and nobody did. 

    The Pats took him in the sixth round.  And it wasn’t until Drew Bledsoe got hurt that he even got to play.  And in that 2001 season, Brady took the Pats to his first Super Bowl, the epic matchup with the Rams, and he did what Romo didn’t. He came through under the most intense pressure, leading the Pats to the winning field goal with a surgical march as the clock ran down.

    Last Sunday, in Washington, we saw another side of Brady, the emotional side. After he threw an interception, he came to the sidelines where he and his offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, really got into it, and the cameras caught it all. 

    Now, anybody who has ever been on an NFL sideline knows that that kind of stuff goes on all the time.  But we’d never really seen Tom Terrific take off like that. He’s kind of Landry-like. (Tom Landry, not Greg.) 

    Is the upcoming Brady-Tebow matchup a “changing of the guard?” Well, if you’ve seen Brady age any, I wish you’d let me know. His face may look a little older, but the rest of him is still in its prime.

Rookies Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Play Like Veterans

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    Truth in advertising requires that I admit I attended Texas Christian University, so I’m obviously a fan of Andy Dalton. It also requires me to admit that when I watched Cam Newton in preseason, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance of this kid making it in the NFL. 

    He threw off his back foot. He threw wobbly passes. He forced balls into places he shouldn’t have. Then, like a thoroughbred who finally gets to answer the bell, Newton exploded into the regular season.

    Newton has racked up the yardage, but Dalton has the better TD/INT ratio, and he also has more wins.  Chalk that up to supporting cast, of course. Both these kids are really good, and it’s going to a lot of fun watching them over the next few seasons to see which, if either, becomes Brady-esque. 

    One NFL scout-type actually said, before last year's draft, that his team was worried about Dalton because they couldn't think of a great red-haired quarterback. Um... Sonny Jurgensen leaps to mind.

    Neither franchise has ever really distinguished itself as a serious dynasty, though they both have Super Bowl appearances. Whatever else they may lack, both Cincy and Carolina have QBs who can take them where they’ve never been before. It may be a matter of front office commitment more than anything else.

Big Ben Roethlisberger: Tough as Steel

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    I saw a lot of incredibly tough quarterbacks in my broadcast career. Roger Staubach was as tough as they come, fighting through anything to keep on playing. (Except for the time he got knocked out, left the game, and then came back in and started calling Naval Academy plays in the Dallas Cowboys huddle.) 

    With the Oilers in the late 70’s I watched Dan Pastorini take everything anybody could dish out. Before one game, with fractured ribs on each side of his chest, Pastorini got Novocain injections between each rib on each side of his body. And then he got the same injections again at halftime. The Oilers won the game.

    I sat and watched the Browns-Steelers game last Thursday, and when Ben Roethlisberger got sacked, and his left ankle buckled underneath him, I turned to my wife and said the Steelers season was over.  Shows what I know. 

    Start of the third quarter, and there he was, hobbled for sure, barely making handoffs and eschewing reverse spins to make sure he could make those handoffs, Ben came back to lead the team, the way a leader is supposed to.

    Ben is probably still working on gaining back the full trust of his team after last season’s legal problems and four-game suspension. A locker room is a tricky place, and the code usually says that you can do all the stupid stuff you want as long as you don’t hurt your team. 

    Whether he can finish out the season and lead the Steelers back to the playoffs, his toughness can not be debated.

Colt McCoy Takes a Shot, His Father Takes More

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    In the BCS title game in the Rose Bowl in 2010, University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was injured and had to head to the locker room. His father, Brad, who coached Colt through junior high and high school, came out of the stands and went with him. More than a few of us found this a little odd—a major college quarterback having Daddy look after him.

    Flash forward to last Thursday, when now Browns QB McCoy took a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from the Steelers James Harrison. Leave aside all the arguments about Harrison’s overly aggressive play. 

    Assume that the Browns should be heavily fined for letting McCoy back in the game. The day after the game, McCoy’s father was again front-and-center in the media, taking the Browns to task for the way they handled the situation.

    Now, I’m a parent, and I’m proud of my kids, too. My daughter Stacey is a cast member of "Friday Night Lights," the NBC show about Dillon, Texas. (See how proud I am.) But my kids are also not kids anymore. 

    If they call me for advice, I give the advice I think I’m capable of giving. But I don’t run to their side to smother them with guidance, money or anything unless they ask first. Because they’re not kids anymore.

    I would have to think that Colt came in for some severe ribbing from teammates after the whole thing happened. And, as quarterback, he has to take it.

    But life has been tough enough for him since he came to the NFL, trying to establish himself with a franchise that doesn’t have much to offer. A lot of NFL types thought Colt was too small, although there is Drew Brees to counter that theory. But without Brees’ supporting cast and coaching staff, McCoy is floundering. He is the anti-Tebow. I just hope his head has cleared up.

    What I really think is that, once you sign the big NFL contract, it’s time for the parents to fade into the background. (I know… Archie Manning.Hey, he played in the NFL.  That’s different.)

    It’s been a fascinating year, and it’s not over yet. We’ve yet to discover which passer will hold the Lombardi Trophy up in Indy next February. Will it be one of the favorites, one of those who has hoisted it in the past? Will it be a newbie? I can’t wait to find out.