Consider the following two lists of quarterbacks' names for a second: On one hand, you have Jeff Garcia, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller and J.P. Losman. On the other, you have J.T. O'Sullivan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dan Orlovsky. If I walked down the street and asked any casual fan which list of signal callers were on NFL rosters and which weren't, I bet they would get it wrong nine out of 10 times.
That' s because the accomplished Garcia and his gang of former first-round picks are still looking for work while the three relative no-names already have secure gigs as backup passers. But why?
Are the household names snubbing their nose at being backups and holding out hope for a starting gig? Or are teams reluctant to sign a former anointed one for fear that they will be unable to function effectively in their new role?
My guess is it has a lot more to do with the latter than the former. There is a certain dynamic and chemistry in a locker room and a positional meeting room, a pecking order if you will. Maybe a team like Buffalo or even Houston doesn't want to sign a guy who anybody in the locker room could even perceive to be a threat to the starter. Maybe they just don't know if those guys can emotionally handle being No. 2 when deep down they still think they are a No. 1. Guys like O'Sullivan and Orlovsky are likely thankful and appreciative for the opportunity they have been given. Losman and Grossman may not feel the same way.
Either way, it is an interesting dynamic that bears watching as we head into the draft. My guess is at least a couple of them will be signed shortly after the draft by the teams that wanted to add another quality arm but didn't get the rookie they were hoping for.
Your e-mails were good for the second week in a row. Keep them coming, this will be a staple for you reading pleasure every Friday ...
I can't believe there is no platform in the NFLPA player rep voting process and they make it a popularity contest. This tells me one thing -- players make enough money not to care. Come to one of our teacher's union meetings. It's ferocious. Not just fighting for us, but for students. We fight because they are the reason we are there. You'd think NFLPA would realize they are there because of the players who laid the path for them.
Then again, when you have been told you are a God since grade 8, why would you need healthcare later?--Dominic Lepage, Leduc, Alberta Canada
I was consistently disappointed by the general apathy I felt among a lot of the players as it relates to the union. The reason is really pretty simple and a big reason the NFLPA has historically not been as strong as some of the player's unions in the other sports. It all stems, in my opinion, from the length of NFL careers. Most of the guys don't really get in-depth into the business of being an NFL player until they have been in the league for five or six years and are either thinking about or have already started a family. But by then, more often than not, they are on their way out of the league. It isn't like baseball or basketball, where a lot of guys play double-digit seasons. Plus, the sheer number of players makes it very difficult to hold productive meetings.
I think you are on to something in terms of guys making too much money to care. Or at least thinking they are making enough at a young age not to have to worry about their future. But that is terribly shortsighted, especially given the lifestyle that a lot of players desire to live. To most 24-year-olds, talk of 401(k)s and health insurance is dull and boring. They are living for the moment, not for cash they may get when they turn 59½. They don't worry about serious issues like post-playing career health insurance until their career is over, and by then it is too late for them to have taken a stand to improve the situation while they were still an active player.
You seem to have a pretty good handle on the issues for the NFLPA, how about you running for the executive director spot?--Jason, San Diego
I appreciate the vote of confidence, Jason, but I am not even close to being qualified. Trace Armstrong and Troy Vincent are intelligent men who have been a huge part of the NFLPA for years and are qualified to lead the organization going forward. I was never even a player rep. I would be more than happy to lend my support or be a part of the cause because it is something that I am extremely passionate about, but sometimes you need to be smart enough to know what you don't know.
Are you losing it? Some NFL teams are stuck with QBs like Tarvaris Jackson, and you think the Cowboys should ax Tony Romo? This doesn't even bring up the financial issues of axing a QB w/ guaranteed money. Go too far out on a limb with us readers and you lose our attention. This comment was silly or dumb by you. You decide.--Jebb Dykstra, Los Angeles
I got a boatload of e-mails like this and I figured my take would ruffle the feathers of some of the fans of America's Team. Most people pointed out how long it took Peyton Manning, John Elway and others to win playoff games while also noting that Romo has only been a starter for 2.5 seasons with generally stellar statistics.
That's all well and good but at some point Jerry Jones will decide Romo is not capable of delivering when it matters the most. Romo is going into his seventh season in the NFL, so I don't really buy into the inexperience factor. His numbers during the regular season are, for the most part, outstanding, but things change when the pressure is ratcheted up a level.
At this point, it is probably going to be a severe mental hurdle for him. What is he going to be thinking in the fourth quarter of a late-season or playoff contest when the fate of the franchise is at stake? His performances last season against Baltimore and Philadelphia were extremely poor and all the Cowboys needed to do was win one of them to make the postseason and have a shot. He made some ridiculously poor throws that really hurt his team.
Romo has been the guy behind center for one of the two or three most talented teams the last couple of seasons and has come up empty. My guess is if it happens again this year, Wade Phillips will be the fall guy. But unless Romo can turn the tide, he will be trade bait in a year or two.
Ross, You were talking in your column today about what it'd be like if everyone knew what their coworkers' compensation was. Not sure if you know this or not, but Norway actually does this. A friend of mine grew up there, and it SHOCKED me when he showed me how you can look up how much anyone there made, how much they paid in taxes and the like.
Good point about Romo, I'm a huge fan of his and the Cowboys. Yet now there can be no excuses, and it's either put up or go home time now for everyone on the team.--James Schee, Silsbee, TX
That is an interesting tidbit on Norway, I never knew that. Can't imagine what that is like. Then you really could know what the guy with the big house down the street is really bringing home. Must add a whole new component to online dating, at the very least.
It is hard to believe the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since the 1990s. It just doesn't seem possible. If you think about it, it really puts the onus on Jerry Jones. Too bad you can't fire owners I guess if you are a Cowboys fan.
If you compare your salary to others, whether publicly or privately, you are doomed to unhappiness, because someone will always make more than you. Are NFL players really that unhappy?--Curmudgeon, Aliquippa, PA
Must be a lot of unhappy people in Norway I guess.
NFL players are in general a lot unhappier than you would guess, given the fact they are playing a kid's game for a king's ransom. The problem is they are usually in pain, perpetually concerned about their job security, and the job is much more demanding than they envisioned as a little kid with a dream. It is a long way from going to fancy parties all week than playing on Sunday. Plus the purity of the sport that made it so fun growing up is lost on a lot of guys once they start getting paid. At the end of the day, it is still a job.
What is the state of the athletic supporter in the NFL these days? I played Division Three football and nary a gent wore the cup. Do players wear it in the NFL?--Doug Smith, Marilla, New York
I don't think so. At least I can't recall a guy ever wearing a cup though I wasn't exactly looking for one either. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time anyone even talked about wearing one. Must be a bad time for the cup manufacturers of the world.