Arms comparison (cont.)
Edge: 2008. No contest. Interim QB vs. super star.
New York Giants
Edge: 1988. Simms was 33 and between Super Bowl seasons. More accurate than Eli, who can get wild in spots, sharper on his reads, although slowly but surely, Eli is learning how to play in the NFL.
Edge: 2008. McNabb is back in his seat near the top of the league. Tremendous courage and accurate when he has time. Cunningham was an exciting, long striding galloper in the Vince Young mold.
Edge: EVEN. Williams was a great long ball thrower who had accuracy problems. Rypien was in his rookie season of a highly productive career. The jury's still out on Campbell, so call it even.
Edge: 1988. McMahon was one of the stars of the game, also one of its leading personalities. You hear that, men of the 2008 era? Personality! Yes, they had it then. And they called their plays, too.
Edge: 2008. Is everyone aware of what a fair shake I'm trying to give to the moderns? Hilger was just OK, Kitna at least is a battler.
Green Bay Packers
Edge: 1988. The Majik Man got hurt a few years later and the Brett Favre era was born. Majik could do a lot of things, though. Made it exciting, a good active guy, and people forget how good he was. Rodgers will be good, I feel, but he's not there yet.
Edge: 1988. Wilson was accurate and smart. Very good, running the show. Frerotte came in to alleviate the Tarvaris Jackson disaster. Wilson was 29, Frerotte is 37.
Edge: 1988. Miller had talent but his career was cut short by head injuries. This was his second year, Ryan's first.
New Orleans Saints
Edge: 2008. Hebert, the Saints' Cajun kid, brought them into the playoffs for the first time, but on sheer talent, he wasn't in Brees' class.
Tampa Bay Bucs
Edge: 1988. This was Vinny's third year of a career that has washed up onto the very shores of today... well, at least last year, but I have a feeling that we have not seen the last of him. Griese is another early-season switcheroo, this time for Jeff Garcia.
Edge: 1988. Can you remember what promise Lomax showed, only to have to retire at 29 with an arthritic hip? He had a brilliant nine-year run, with two Pro Bowls. If this were the Warner of the Greatest Show days in St. Louis, I'd pick him in a minute, but many things, most notably the hand injury, have toned down his game.
L.A./St. Louis Rams
Edge: 1988. Everett could fling it. He had many big-number afternoons. And oh my, are the Rams ever asking for it, putting 38-year old Green, with his history of concussions, behind that line. I felt sorry for Marc Bulger, a guy who showed real talent at one time, getting benched. Now, maybe he's better off.
San Francisco 49ers
Edge: 1988. Montana was backed up by Steve Young, don't forget. Two Hall of Famers, and if you want to see what an accurate QB really looks like, find some footage of the Niners in that era. They'd snap the ball off in 1.5 seconds, and it looked as if it were attached to the receiver by a wire. No hesitation on the pattern, no adjustment. It was zzzzip! And a quick slant to Jerry Rice would break for 50.
Edge: 1988. Very sorry, but I'm a Krieg man. The way he worked a game, that meticulous style of his, the accuracy ... people forget how accurate he was. I don't forget. I don't forget anything, actually.
NFC CONSENSUS: 10-4-1 in favor of 1988.
OVERALL CONSENSUS: 18-9-1 for 1988.
And they didn't have coaches in the press box pumping information into their headsets every second. Most of them called their own game, although the era was going through a change. One could say techniques were better in those days, and that might explain the discrepancy, but I think that one big factor was that they were more free to run their own show. Things were more spontaneous. The game, I believe, and that includes the quarterback position, is overcoached these days.
Or maybe there's a simpler explanation. Maybe they were just better then, more competitive, tougher. Ah, no, scratch that one. Now I just sound old. There are plenty of tough guys now ... Kitna, Garcia, McNabb. There are no tougher warriors than those three. But here's the thing that strikes me just as a fan.
Almost every quarterback seemed to have his own personality then, his own way of doing things. Sure, you have some great individuals now, but you also have a great grey mass in the middle that was lacking then. Throw the checkdown, don't gamble, don't take a chance, we can always punt and get a new set of downs. Yeah, but you might be down by seven when it comes along.
What I saw toward the end of the Jets-Chargers Monday nighter got me as depressed as anything I'd seen this year. Favre, trying to lead a catch-up offense, throwing nothing but little in-cuts out of an empty backfield set, dink, dink, dink. And San Diego sitting there and letting them take it, keeping the gains minimal, which seemed to suit the Jets just fine. Play after play like that, down the field.
When I die and go to Hell, that's what football will look like. With the Devil booking all bets.