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Sports by Bruce Penton
It’s all about the quarterback in the National Football League. If you’ve got one, you’ve got a chance. If you don’t, it’s going to be a long year. In the case of the QB-challenged Cleveland Browns, it’s more like a long decade, or two.
New England Patriots have had the best quarterback in the NFL for the past 17 years in Tom Brady and, not surprisingly, they have been the best team, by far, over that period of time. The Green Bay Packers have contended over the past 10 years thanks in large part to the play of QB stars Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Retirements (Favre) and injuries (Rodgers) have levelled the playing field and turned a top team into a mid-level squad.
Teams’ fortunes rise and fall on the status of their quarterbacks. Philadelphia Eagles, who had the good sense to draft QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota State in the summer of 2016, are the No. 1 team in the league, thanks to the almost instant success of Wentz. Jared Goff, who was the No. 1 pick in the same draft in which Wentz went No 2, took a year to find his bearings but now with a new coach (Sean McVay) in Los Angeles, Goff and the Rams are suddenly a playoff contender. Houston Texans were one of the surprise teams of the current season, averaging a league-high 30-plus points per game, and quarterback Deshaun Watson was a virtual lock to win rookie-of-the-year award. Then he tore his ACL in a non-contact play in a practice Nov. 2, and the Texans’ future fortunes were suddenly suspect, if not doomed.
Coaches wish they could put their quarterbacks in a safety deposit box, bring them out on Sundays to perform, and then put them back in their steel cage. Alas, the quarterback is usually fairly fragile, and teams are fortunate if their starter stays healthy for a full season.
Cleveland, San Francisco, Arizona and Miami are, for a variety of reasons, weak at quarterback. Cleveland seemingly drafts a quarterback every year, only to watch him fail. San Francisco dumped the controversial Colin Kaepernick and recently picked up former New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo to give them what they think will be stability at the position. Arizona lost veteran Carson Palmer to an arm injury and doesn’t have a capable backup; Miami was so desperate for a quarterback after Ryan Tannehill suffered a pre-season knee injury that they signed the lamentable ex-Bear Jay Cutler, who had retired and was planning a broadcasting career.
If injuries stay away, watch for a Philly-New England Super Bowl in February. The reason is simple: They have the best two quarterbacks in the league this season.
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Aston Martin is selling a Tom Brady-edition automobile for $360,000. It is preprogrammed to drive straight to the Super Bowl.” Added Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: And the car will feature “self-deflating tires.”
• Headline at “Study: Youth participation in football dropping as more parents fear their sons could develop into Browns QBs.”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “If we had replay review in 1776, the American revolution might still be ongoing.”
• RJ Currie of “The Winnipeg Jets said Brendan Lemieux will add sandpaper to their team. If he’s like his dad, Claude, he’ll certainly rub opponents the wrong way.”
• Norman Chad again, on Twitter: “I’ve said it for years: If a pitcher hits four batters in one game, he should have to sit in the penalty box for two full innings.”
• Ostler again: “Whatever happened to baseball’s unwritten code of conduct? Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hits a home run and his trot turns into a Broadway musical.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “A new beer from Samuel Adams will be sold for $200 a bottle. The idea is to give everyone the experience of what it’s like to have a cold brew at Yankee Stadium.”
• RJ Currie again: “Carey Price, the consensus world’s best goalie, is averaging 3.77 goals against with an .877 save percentage. You don’t need to be Drew Carey to know this Price isn’t right.”
• Another one from Currie: “At the Grand Slam curling event in Lloydminster, Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg had a 7-ender go against her. Or as my old curling team used to call that — the usual.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “There was an awkward moment at the parade for the Houston Astros when they told Jose Altuve he wasn’t tall enough to ride on the float.”
• Kaseberg again, on the NFL trying to pinpoint the cause of its flagging TV ratings: “We will bring you the rest of this joke following another penalty, a coach challenge, an injury timeout and a long commercial break.”
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