Here's a fogeyish thing to do. It's the sporting equivalent of babbling about those days when we all had to walk five miles to school through the snow, uphill, both ways.
Still, here goes:
That would be a list of every starting quarterback in the AFC in 1979. I was 12 then and didn't have to look up any of them. Twenty-nine years later and their names all come back as easily as the number nine multiplication table. I could do the NFC real quick too, if you want. I'm guessing that you don't want that.*
Now, as I mentioned, there is nothing that sounds more grumpy-old-man than rambling on and on about how quarterbacks used to be better. But that's not what I'm saying -- I doubt very seriously that quarterbacks used to be better. I just think they used to be more famous, more easily remembered, more beloved, more representative of their cities.
That has changed, I think. There are only a handful of quarterbacks these days who pierce the imagination -- and with
That's the way it used to be. It's stunning to go back 30 and 40 years and look at the statistics of the quarterback heroes. In 1979,
In 1979 Grogan led the NFL in touchdown passes, but he completed only 48.7 percent of his passes. You know how unthinkable it would be now to have an every week starting quarterback who completed fewer than half his passes? And he wasn't the only one. Williams completed 41.8 percent of his passes that year (a quarterback should be able to hit that many passes at night with the lights out) and took Tampa Bay to the NFC Championship Game.
In 1979 quarterbacks threw deep. The yards per completion numbers were significantly higher then (12.7 yards) than now (11.3). That meant quarterbacks dropped back deeper, got sacked more, and they turned the ball over like crazy. That's probably why America loves Favre so much, he's the last of the throw-hicans, he's up at the top of nearly every quarterback category, good and bad, most touchdowns, most interceptions, third most fumbles, seventh-most sacked, he's been thrilling fans and driving them crazy for 17 years now.
That's what it used to mean to be a quarterback. That changed. Coaches took over the game. Geniuses started calling plays. Everyone started demanding more prudent football. Defenses got more sophisticated and specialized. Sackers got bigger and stronger and faster and more dangerous. Quarterbacks were told to "manage" the game rather than "win" the game. Passer rating became the in statistic.* Fantasy football became the rage so that now every
And with all that, the quarterback persona has been stripped bare. I have little doubt that quarterbacks are not so different now, that
"You know what's beautiful about the being an old quarterback?"
"What's the beautiful thing about being an old quarterback?" I asked back.
"You get better every year," he said.