In the offseason between '76 and '77 I got a phone call from
"What can you tell me about
"He can't play, Don," I told him. Not that I was super-intelligent. Any of the other beat guys covering the Jets could have told him the same thing.
"Well," he said, "We've got a guy at their practices," which in itself was a pretty good story, "and he said Joe Willie's throwing as well as he ever did."
"He'll always look like that in practice because his arm is still OK, but he can't face a rush," I said. Namath was going to be 34 the next season, not terribly old as quarterbacks go, but his legs were used up, shot.
"The guy said he can still throw the hell out of the ball," Klosterman insisted.
"Fine," I said. "Sign him." Which he did. For free. There was a weird loophole in the bargaining agreement in those days and the Jets, under the stewardship of
I covered Namath's debut for the Rams, a 17-6 loss to the Falcons in Fulton County Stadium.
Namath in a Rams' uniform? It looked odd, like a picture of an attractive woman with one blue eye and one brown one. It wasn't right. I'm sure he thought he could play, and so does
Gets boring down there in Hattiesburg, doesn't it, Brett? Is it fun to stare out at those acres of land? Who is there to talk football with, I mean real football? Not like the thrill of the arena, is it? The locker room. Body feels a little better now, so maybe, just maybe ... ah hell, why not? But the club is trying to move on, get a young QB ready, trying to reach the playoffs once again. No organization can progress on a maybe-I-will, maybe-I-won't commitment.
People say the numbers were outstanding last year, when you reached 38. Rating points, passes vs. picks, all that textbook stuff -- looked pretty good, didn't it? But not so good in the fourth quarter against the Giants, right? Or in overtime. It all started falling apart then, didn't it? And at age 38 going on 39, it's not going to get any better. God has a strange way of letting the years pile up on you. They don't get easier.
But someone will bite for the win-it-now, quick fix. Gosh, we're right on the brink, only one veteran quarterback away from the Super Bowl. The future? We'll worry about it later. History has a few sad lessons on this score.
In New York, his old Colts coach,
If Unitas was not the greatest ever, well, maybe
A tap dance was what it was, and off went Montana, his heart full of hatred -- to Kansas City. Pretty good team. The Montana Chiefs made the playoffs two years under Joe. But they were thinking Super Bowl, and, well, he was OK, but not the guy to take them all the way. Did I say "OK?" Joe Montana. We're talking in legends here.
The Joe Montana Chiefs. What a weird phrase. Sounds wrong. A handsome jersey that's two sizes too tight. Uh-uh.
The sad litany.
He smiled. "Why couldn't it have happened when I was good?" he said.
I know, you're begging for a success story, for some historical indication that maybe the Favre thing will somehow find a rainbow somewhere. Well, I can't match those years of his. That's too big a burden. But the story of the Dutchman might give you hope.
Shaw, the Silver Fox, a West Coast guy who had coached Santa Clara and the 49ers, now was in his first year with the Eagles. The Dutchman on the market? Hell yes, I want him. Perfect, said Rozelle. Philly was the doggiest team in the NFL, with the worst record in football over the last three years. So L.A. traded Van Brocklin for defensive back
Three years later the Dutchman and Shaw were drinking champagne in the Franklin Field locker room after defeating
"I think I'll join the idiots and be a sportswriter," he said.
Actually he joined the idiots on the sidelines and became the first coach of the Vikings. But I don't think Favre is ready for that.