"I watch guys warming up, and they all can throw and their fundamentals look good, and then they get in the game and fall apart. I watch a guy like Tony Banks of St. Louis warm up and I go, Wow! Then in the game he's a different person. Where's the guy I saw warming up?"
Jaworski agrees with Simms that the vertical passing game, the opportunity to throw deep on almost every pass play, is a rarity nowadays. "I worked with Sid Gillman in Philly," Jaws says. "I was taught to attack the whole field. I've talked to guys now who tell me that all their reads are just in one area. Sid would cry if he heard that. Quick hitches, slants, the long-handoff passing game—there's just too much of that."
Part of the problem is the quarterback rating system, to which many contracts are tied. The ratings place a lopsided premium on completion percentage. Complete enough dinks and your rating will be O.K. Average quarterbacks, such as Gannon, Green and the Chicago Bears' Erik Kramer, all carried numbers in the low 80s in 1998. How good is that? Well, better than the lifetime ratings of Hall of Famers John Unitas, Joe Namath, Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle and Norm Van Brocklin.
"The quarterbacks in the old days were bold," Simms says. "They went downfield. Now there's such negativity, the fear of the interception. A guy comes off the field and says, 'Well, at least I didn't throw an interception.' But he didn't complete any downfield, either.
"Scheme, system, horizontal passing, and so the defense says, 'O.K, you wanna be cute? We'll be cute, too,' and they come up with the zone blitz and all that exotic stuff. Now people apologize for the quarterbacks because they say the defenses are so complicated. Twenty years ago there wasn't all this take-what-the-defense-gives-you. It was attack. Make them take what you give them. And teams had the guys to do it."
The quarterbacks were simply better, too.
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