QB failures in NFL add context to Sam's success

BY JEFF GORDON
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is one of the lucky ones. So is Falcons coach Mike Smith.

They have young quarterbacks possessing all the physical, mental and emotional ability to become perennial Pro Bowl performers.

Many NFL coaches – including those in Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco in the woeful NFC West -- would love to have a Sam Bradford or a Matt Ryan to build around.

“This is a quarterback-driven league, there is no doubt about that,” Smith told reporters after Sunday’s victory over the Rams.

And many quarterbacks are driving their teams down the drain this season.

Vince Young imploded in Tennessee again after suffering a thumb injury, widening his rift with coach Jeff Fisher. It appears one of those two will have to depart – and Titans owner Bud Adams is especially fond of Young, the former University of Texas star from his native Houston.

Brett Favre broke down in Minnesota, where coach Brad Childress just got canned for losing command of his squad. He finally paid the price for allowing Favre’s diva act to demolish the whole concept of “team” with the Vikings.

Earlier, the Mike Shanahan/Donovan McNabb rift in Washington made headlines. Shanahan briefly benched McNabb, then Redskins owner Daniel Snyder gave McNabb an odd contract “extension” -- which could have more PR value for the franchise than actual financial value to McNabb.

About a third of the starting NFL quarterbacks are proven commodities. Another third of the starters are emerging talents. And the rest . . . well, they are former stars, fill-in journeymen types or iffy prospects.

Rookie Rusty Smith is starting for Tennessee, a team with playoff hopes. Troy Smith came off the scrap pile to start for the *****, a team many picked to win the NFC West.

If Vikings coach Leslie Frazier ever decides to bench Favre, his alternative is the unpolished Tarvaris Jackson. Hence his decision to stick with Favre for now.

Arizona has alternated between scattershot Derek Anderson and undrafted rookie Max Hall after dumping Matt Leinart. Seattle has alternated between battered veteran Matt Hasselbeck and untested Charlie Whitehurst.

Rookie Jimmy Clausen and the immortal Matt Moore have taken turns losing in Carolina. Injuries forced Tyler Thigpen to take over in Miami and 900-year-old Jon Kitna to start in Dallas.

Carson Palmer appeared destined for stardom in Cincinnati, but injuries took a big toll. Matthew Stafford’s promising career in Detroit may be cut short by chronic shoulder trouble.

Matt Cassel got big money in Kansas City, but he hasn’t consistently posted big numbers. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Rams and Bengals back-up, is scrambling to lead Buffalo out of the NFL cellar. But he is just a guy.

On the plus side, Josh Freeman is developing nicely in Tampa Bay and Colt McCoy has come on in Cleveland. Big 12 fans must be proud of these conference graduates.

“There is a group of quarterbacks making a name for themselves quickly,” Smith observed.

The key, observes FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, is to follow the lead of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and eschew the course of Young and Favre.

“Playing isn’t enough in the NFL, especially at the prices the league pays starting quarterbacks,” Whitlock wrote. “True competitors prepare. Preparation is a superior, mature way to compete.”

Ryan gets that, as does Bradford. Both won over older teammates with the mature approach.

“I know first hand it’s not an easy transition to come from college into the NFL and play from day one,” Ryan told reporters after Sunday’s game. “(Sam's) done a great job with that and that’s pretty much what I told him afterwards.”

Bradford set an NFL rookie record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception. How did that feel?

“Great,” he said, swatting away the question during his post-game news conference.

Wasn’t he moved by this accomplishment?

“Yeah, that’s awesome,” he sniffed.

Bradford doesn’t like to lose. He hasn’t lost much in his life and he doesn’t want to get used to it. That disastrous shovel-pass interception at the Atlanta goal line haunts him.

“Any time you lose, it doesn’t feel very good,” he said. “Especially having the opportunity to cut it to a one-possession game with a couple minutes to go and turning the ball over down there, that hurts. That’s going to stick with me for a while.”

At least Bradford has a bright future. At least his career is heading in the right direction.

That is more than many, many NFL quarterbacks can say today.