Earlier this season I wrote about quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. I took his side and called anyone blaming him for the Seahawks' 0-2 start "amateurish." Now I know this may have been a little heavy-handed and some commenters and colleagues of mine got a little sensitive over it.
Ahhh, I'm sorry.
But I'm not going to trash anyone who ever asked to see Charlie Whitehurst under center and my inclination is to defend him, too. That was just one game and he's just one player. I understand that he's the most important player but the rest of the Seahawks offense didn't do Whitehurst any favors on Sunday.
Besides, he IS a backup quarterback. A backup quarterback playing on the road, in the Eastern time zone and in the early 10 a.m. game, against the No. 4 pass defense without his starting center, tight end and running back.
Oh, and he had to take on the referees, too.
It's not a zero-sum game. Complimenting or defending one quarterback does not take anything away from the other. I'm hopeful that Jackson can continue on his path to improvement once he's healthy and I believe it's clear that he is the starter.
I have Whitehurst scored as a 50-50 backup. He played poorly in his first start against the Giants last season and on Sunday against the Browns. He played a winning half of football against the Giants two weeks ago and helped the Hawks make the playoffs with a win over the Rams last year. Former Cardinals coach Dennis Green might say that these two "are who we thought they were."
Besides, whether you prefer T-Jack or Whitehurst, both are being paid nothing in the world of NFL quarterbacks. A paltry $4 million is a value considering you could be forced to stomach Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb's $63 million contract. Kolb has thrown just as many interceptions as touchdowns and is the 25th ranked passer in the NFL.
Whitehurst certainly did not play well – I think we can all agree on that. But now some are asking for third-string quarterback Josh Portis. That's Josh Portis, undrafted rookie free agent from Division II California University in Pennsylvania. I always say that the most popular player on any NFL team is the backup quarterback. But it's a never ending cycle when you jump on that bandwagon. Makes me wonder how many quarterbacks there would have to be on the team before people stopped asking to "get the next guy in there."
Browns tight end Alex Smith: a whistle-to-snap player
No one feels worse about Red Bryant's ejection from Sunday's game than Big Red. Having sat down and talked with him on a number of occasions, I've learned that although Red is an imposing and nasty force on the field, he's a gentle giant off of it.
But Red learned a valuable lesson on Sunday about how far some players will go to take you out of your game. Red came up against what I call a "whistle-to-snap" player. Alex Smith, the tight end for the Browns, is a perfect example of such a player who can't win during the play and resorts to taunting and cheap shots after the play is over.
"I feel like when a man can't block you that's what he resorts to. And he did a great job of getting me out of my composure. So that's on me," Bryant said after the game.
Big Red is a snap-to-whistle player and that's just as it should be. During the course of the game, when it mattered, Bryant absolutely destroyed Smith, who was trying to block him, and often did so with just one arm. In addition to blocking two field goals, he set the edge on a defense that fought hard all day and allowed just six points.
But Smith won the extra-curricular battle by making Bryant angry with a push after the play, a taunt here and there and all sorts of punk moves that have nothing to do with the game of football.
Of course, we all teach our kids that two wrongs don't make a right and ultimately Red was wrong to retaliate against Smith and put his team in a bad position. But I just want to point out that players like Smith don't usually last long when they have to resort to that sort of crap in order to succeed. I hope he's proud of himself.
No wonder the Lions sucked for all those years
I'm curious if anyone else caught this during ABC's broadcast of the Stanford-Washington game. At one point, they showed a video montage of Stanford students sitting in the stadium studying before the game started. One student had a book titled "Infinite Reality".
The color commentary for the game was provided by Matt Millen, the former NFL linebacker from Penn State and much maligned general manager of the Detroit Lions. Millen's commentary during this segment was, "Did you see that book? I don't even know what infinite reality is!" Only he pronounced it "infineetay", as if it were Italian.
This was the guy with his hands on the purse strings for the Ford family in Detroit? Oh, the humanity. Or should I say ... humaneetay.
But seriously, say what you will about Millen and his career as an NFL executive, he was a hero of mine ever since he showed up at my high school all-star game practice in Reno, Nev. back in 1982. We all got to shake his hand, and what a thrill it was to be coached by a real NFL linebacker!
Six years later I found myself in my first Monday Night Football game lined up across from him on a field-goal rush. He was playing the up-back position and I was across from him as a rusher.
During an extended TV timeout I took that opportunity to admire him with the awe that a younger player has for a grizzled old linebacker. He stood there with his hands on his hips wearing old Riddell grass shoes with rubber cleats he had filed down for the AstroTurf of the Kingdome, an old fashioned "horse collar" neck role and had his jersey cut up and taped down to his pads in the fashion of a savvy 12-year veteran.
By the time my awe-struck gaze drifted up to his face, I noticed that he was watching me, and at that moment, I got an embarrassing glimpse of how I must have looked – like the little kid in the Coke commercial waiting for Mean Joe Green to throw him his jersey.
Before I could avert my eyes, he did the most emasculating thing I can think of. He winked at me. The wink said, "Yeah, that's right, kid. Take it in."
I felt like I was back at my high school all-star game. But hey, at least I can pronounce the word infinite!