Every so often here at the Toy Department, two Baltimore Sun staffers will engage in a segment we like to call The Conversation, where they'll swap e-mails with one another and debate something that is in the news. Today, Kevin Van Valkenburg and Brent Jones discuss the state of quarterbacking in the NFL, whether you'd rather have Manning or Brady, whether Brady Quinn is good at anything other than cheap shots, and why Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn't quite made The Leap yet.
There is nothing in sports that can touch Kobe's fake intensity and you know I'm a Kobe guy. I swear he practiced it in front of the mirror for two weeks before he busted it out in the finals. It was so contrived I'll almost laughed out loud. Mostly, it just looked like he had to use the bathroom.
I hear what you're saying about no one being the true heirs to Manning and Brady. But I'm pretty certain we felt that way about Joe Montana and Dan Marino and John Elway when they were suddenly in the autumn of their careers. I suspect someone will emerge, but it may take a few years. I've never been a Philip Rivers fan, but I have to concede he gets it done for the most part. I think Roethlisberger will probably go down as one of the truly under appreciated quarterbacks ever. Never mind the fact that he probably weighs 280 pounds, the guy can flat out play. He reminds me a little of Phil Simms, to be honest. They don't always ask him to make plays, but he certainly can. He throws on the run and moves in the pocket as well as any quarterback since Elway. And he's the size of a defensive lineman. Seriously, I bet if you stood Roethlisberger next to Howie Long in their primes, Roethlisberger would dwarf Howie Long.
I still don't know what to think about Joe Flacco. I really thought he was going to take a huge step forward this year, and all I've seen lately is a passive guy who stares blankly ahead. We've played a lot of competitive sports together and you know how much I believe emotion and intensity need to be channeled into performance in order to achieve success -- looking at that last sentence, I feel like I just wrote an inspirational slogan for a calendar -- so let me ask you this question: Does it matter that Flacco is a low-key, shrug-your-shoulders kind of leader? It shouldn't bother me, but sometimes I'll be honest, it does. The thing I love about Manning and Brady is that everyone knows they're running the show out there. If a guy drops a pass, they're up in his face immediately, and I think that sets a very high standard for the offense. Flacco just isn't that kind of quarterback. Joe Montana wasn't either, but I feel like he's the exception to the rule. I hear a lot of people defend Flacco by saying "That's what makes him a good player; he never gets too up or too down." But every time I see the Ravens have an awful first quarter (which has happened a lot lately) I feel like I want to see him get up in Derrick Mason's face and tell Mason to get his head right and start getting open and catching the ball. (The Bengals game was a perfect example of this. Mason played through a fog the entire day.)
It does seem like they're are more awful quarterbacks than ever right now, although Vince Young's career might not be dead yet, if the last few games are an indication. As a life-longBears fan, let me say I'm beginning to see the light as to why Josh McDaniels was so quick to give away Jay Cutler.
Let me close by asking this: You have to play one game with the fate of the world on the line, whom to you want as your quarterback, Manning or Brady?
Still dodging Brady Quinn's awful misfires,
That Jeff Blake story is epic. I'm always fascinated by athletes who have a totally unrealistic perception of their abilities. Jeff Blake is like the golfer who shots 86 in the first round of the U.S. Open, but can't stop talking about the fact that he hit an 8-iron 200 yards off a cart path to save double bogey.
Flacco's stance on getting up in guys' faces seems to be that it would come across as phony, and so it's better if he handles those kind of things in private and doesn't get caught up in the silly theatrics of it all. To some extent, I respect that.(Though I'd contend that Tom Brady was like Flacco early in his career, and he evolved into someone who was more inclined to take charge when he started playing his best seasons.) On the flip side, I do think we make too much of reading the facial expressions and body language of professional athletes a lot of the time. I think the explosion of sports blogging has contributed to this. I don't mean to take a backhanded swipe at sports bloggers, because many of them are as insightful, sometimes even more so, than old school mainstream journalists.
(However, let's come up with a different meme than "blogging from your mother's basement" to zing them with, since Tommy Craggs of Deadspin pointed out this week how tired that is. How about "blogging from a Starbucks while wearing your hipster glasses and ironic t-shirt, and getting shut down by the cute publicist two tables over who responds to your to advances with, 'Get a job.' "
But the less you actual have to talk to athletes, I think the more likely you are to project your own feelings onto every scratch of the chin or nod of the head. Sometimes, it is actually beneficial to ask an athlete why he is the way he is if you want to understand him, as opposed to ranting with a laptop about someone you only see in soundbites.
You make a fair point about Lewis too. This is still his team, and you have to have a ying to that yang. And on top of that, I think we both grasp the fact that plenty of players view his Fidel Castro-esq pre-game speeches as little more than great theater. I always laugh when I hear some media person ask Ray if he is going to "get in guys faces and motivate them for this week." Ray Lewis can yell all he wants, it isn't going to add ten pounds of muscle to the cornerbacks on this team.
It's interesting you bring up Unitas, because I think it's almost impossible for us to gauge how good he was compared to today's stars, but I always try to remember that in Unitas' day, you could basically assault a guy downfield and still not get flagged for it. The rules are so heavily weighted toward offense in this era, it's almost laughable. In 1959, Unitas threw for 32 touchdowns and the next best was 16. That's almost like throwing for 60 touchdowns today.
This is going to sound like heresy, but I'm surprised at how quick some people are to concede the fact that Manning is the better quarterback than Brady. I don't feel that way at all. ESPN polled all the living Hall of Fame quarterbacks and asked them to pick whom they'd rather have, and it was something like 11.5 to 2.5 in favor of Manning. (Joe Montana, apparently getting advice from Sen. John Kerry, decided to split his vote.) Manning is a great player, and yeah, he probably reads defenses as well as anyone ever, but if the outcome of a game determined whether I'd live or die, there is no way I'm picking Manning over Brady. Manning is still prone to those goof-ball floating ducks and dumb decisions that I don't ever remember Joe Montana making in his prime. If Kevin Faulk catches that fourth down pass from Brady cleanly, I think we're talking about how Peyton threw two awful interceptions in the second half to lose to Brady in a big game yet again.
Brady just has "IT" -- that innate confidence in the clutch that some athletes have -- and I think that tends to get get discounted or downplayed because of his personal life sometimes, and because Bill Belichick's alleged defensive genius. If you flip-flop Manning and Brady for their entire careers, I don't think Peyton has three Super Bowls. Indianapolis' bad defense has given him an out for some really bad decisions over his career in big games. His comeback win over the Pats in 2006, when Brady was playing with a group of receivers who would even have been the best players in a lot of flag football leagues, does not entirely erase past failures.
Conceding that Manning is the better Saturday Night Live Host,
Baby is due at any minute. It's a race to see who will give birth first, my wife or Gisele. Thanks for asking.
As for the question of where to rank Manning and Brady all-time, I think sometimes the media is much too quick to anoint the stars of today into the category of all time greats, but I think with Brady and Manning it's justified. I'd still put Joe Montana at No. 1, easily. I just don't know that we'll ever see another quarterback like him. Brady might have come close, but David Tyree's helmet catch ruined that debate for all of us. Montana will always be undefeated in Super Bowls and Brady will not. So he's No. 1. (This is all post-1980, because I don't either of us can truly put Unitas' career in proper context, so let's not even fake it.) Brady would be my No. 2, with Elway, Manning and Brett Favre battling for the third spot. Amazing we didn't even mention Favre's name until just now, isn't it? Also, I would put JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn in a tie for 4,676.
Kind of weirded out by how much Flacco looks like Zachary Quinto from Star Trek,