We live in a results oriented world. People often forget what led to the results. Tom Brady is arguably the greatest QB ever. So is Joe Montana. And Johnny Unitas. We saw those guys do amazing things in the NFL. They set records and won titles.
Brady had to fight at Michigan just to keep his job. He went 20-5 as a starter, despite being there for 4 years. The staff kept trying to give the job to prep phenom Drew Henson. Brady won out and his reward was a 6th round selection by the Patriots, where Brady sat behind Drew Bledsoe. Once Brady got on the field, he wasn’t about to let anyone take that job away.
Montana was a backup for his first 2 years of high school football. He started the final couple of seasons and earned a scholarship to Notre Dame. Montana was the #3 QB on the depth chart at the beginning of his Junior year. Think about that for a second. The starter got benched. The backup got hurt. The starter got another chance and then they turned to Montana. He led ND to a great season as he started the final 9 games and they went 11-1. He then started as a Senior. Montana was drafted by SF in the 3rd round. He sat on the bench for a year and a half before getting the starting gig. Football history hasn’t been the same since he took over.
Unitas had an up and down college career at Louisville. They had a terrible program at the time and the QB position was very different back then. He threw for less than 600 yards in his Junior and Senior seasons. That’s just mind-blowing. Injuries were a big factor. Unitas was a 2-way player, seeing time at S and LB as well as QB. He missed games due to the beating he took. Unitas was drafted by the Steelers in the 9th round and then cut. He played semi-pro football and worked construction in 1955. The Colts gave him a tryout in 1956 and he made the team. He was the regular starter by 1957 and football history hasn’t been the same since then.
Donovan McNabb was a 4-year starter at Syracuse after redshirting his Freshman season. He was drafted by the Eagles and sat for the first few games. He then was the starting QB for the next decade. Donovan didn’t have to worry about being the starting QB from 1995 until draft day in 2007 when Kevin Kolb was taken in the early 2nd round.
Michael Vick had a similar situation to McNabb. Vick only played 2 years at Va Tech, but the team was built around him, the star QB. He got drafted and sat for part of the season before getting mixed in on a regular basis. Vick then was handed the keys to the franchise.
It is interesting that his best year as an NFL QB came in 2010, when Vick was projected to be Kolb’s backup. Did he play better because teams weren’t prepared for him or was it because he played with an edge?
Even highly drafted QBs can benefit from struggle.
Terry Bradshaw had to battle for the Steelers job over the course of a couple of years. Jimmy Johnson spent the #1 pick of the 1989 draft on QB Troy Aikman. A few months later he spent the #1 pick of the Supplemental Draft on QB Steve Walsh, his old QB from Miami. Jimmy wanted them to battle it out and figured he would trade the other guy and get something back.
Phil Simms had to battle to win the Giants QB job. Steve Young had to battle Joe Montana to get the Niners QB job. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t start at QB until he was a Senior in high school because the coach’s son had the job. Is there any wonder he is so willing to play hurt? He doesn’t want to lose his job. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t get a college offer so he had to go to junior college and then Cal. He got to GB and then sat behind Brett Favre for 3 years.
Chip Kelly wants a QB competition. I honestly don’t think he cares who wins it. He just wants someone to actually win it. He wants Nick Foles and Michael Vick to battle and show that one of them deserves the job.
Struggle can help a QB. It can help a coach. As Alec Baldwin said in Glengarry Glen Ross. “You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you *&%#? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?”
If a QB can’t win a battle for his job, how the hell is he supposed to win in Green Bay on a cold day? How is he supposed to deal with Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith? How is he supposed to win a shootout with Drew Brees?
Great QBs need to fear failure more than desire victory. They need to be so scared to fail that they will themselves to do whatever it takes to be successful.
I don’t know if Vick will be the 2013 starter. I don’t know if Foles can be the long term solution. I do know that Chip Kelly will make someone earn the QB job. He loves competition. Just last summer a Redshirt Freshman beat out a more experienced player for the Oregon QB job. And let’s not forget that Johnny Manziel was originally supposed to be there as part of that competition. He de-committed from Oregon.
Andy Reid loved to talk about competition, but not so much with his QBs. He was very patient with QBs. He let them play their way out of a slump. Donovan McNabb was only benched once that I recall…the infamous game at Baltimore in 2008. I don’t think Kolb or Vick was ever benched in a game. The one time Andy did make a shocking QB decision is when he let Vick keep the QB job in 2010. Last year Foles stayed on the field when Vick came back, but that was due to the awful season and circumstances. If the team was close to .500, Vick would have gotten that job back.
Chip won’t have guys coming and going due to a bad pass or a bad game. No smart coach would operate like that. The point is that QBs won’t be given a lifetime pass. They have to earn the job and then earn the right to keep the job.
Some QBs are self-motivated. Peyton Manning is that way more than anyone else I can think of. Others use their past to drive them. Every summer Tom Brady looks in the mirror and says “Remember, you’re just a 6th round pick.” That keeps him wired tight, despite tens of millions of dollars in the bank and a supermodel wife.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Vick and Foles handle the competition. And I’ll admit I’m curious about Dennis Dixon. Trent Edwards and GJ Kinne…be sure to pick up a parting gift on the way out.
* * * * *
Jason dug up a great nugget over at BGN. This involves Chip Kelly and the 2007 Sun Bowl. Oregon has put up big points and won a bowl game with a statue at QB. Is this proof that Foles can handle the system?
* * * * *
I am a busy beaver these days. I’m working on an offseason plan that will be posted this week. I spent the weekend researching and studying free agents. Ever try watching a Steelers game to check out their backup NT, only to find that he barely played? Torture. Death to the Steelers.
I’m also working on lots of draft stuff. I’ll be posting a Top 50 soon and a mock draft. Had to focus on FA this weekend since that semi-starts on Saturday and definitely gets underway on next Tuesday. I don’t just talk about FAs. I go watch them play. Stats can be deceiving.
Please save the FA questions for now. I’ll be posting on them in the next couple of days. Lots of guys to like…if the Eagles are interested. That’s the biggest question of them all…will we be active?