Page 2 staff

The Snap Judgment season is halfway over, but don't worry. We like to look at the past, present and future of our favorite quarterbacks, and that means three times the fun.

Who is still getting it done? Who is pretty much all done? Is Big Ben for real? Should the Saints try to replace Aaron Brooks with Adam Vinatieri in the offseason?

We'll leave all these questions and more up to the Page 2 QBs as they take a look at back (and forward) at the men who dare to do under center.

First down: Good Snaps

Who is your midseason Snap Judgment MVP, and why?

Aaron Schatz: Big Ben is the easy answer, but he has a defense that gives him good field position to win. Really, the most valuable quarterback of the year has been Peyton Manning, winning without a defense and with a clearly aging Marvin Harrison as his (not much longer) go to guy.

Alan Grant: If the criteria is the same old tired, predictable, "he's the best leader of the best team," then either Donovan McNabb or Ben Roethlisberger. But if "value" is based on pure athletic entertainment(which is for me, the most essential element of any sport) then of course it's the unflappable Jake Plummer, or the irrepressible Michael Vick.

Patrick Hruby: Drew Brees. I can't believe it myself. San Diego's surprise star entered the season as a lame duck incumbent -- think Clinton in the final days -- and was expected to do little more than toss off a few pardons until camp holdout Philip Rivers got his bearings. Heck, even Kyle Orton was generating more buzz (and deservedly so). But a funny thing happened en route to second string: the once-hapless Chargers started wining, and Brees became the triggerman for the league's top-ranked offense. Go ahead. Read that last part again. How in the name of early exit polls did this happen? Good question. On one hand, Brees has the luxury of handing off to LaDainian Tomlinson. On the other, he's blessed with unremarkable physical gifts, a no-name bunch of teammates (Keenan McCardell exempted) and an old school coach, Herr Schottenheimer, who isn't known for offensive pyrotechnics. Clearly, there's an element of providence at work, just as there was for the religious-minded Ohio voters who helped put President Bush back in office. If Brees can keep things up and shepherd his club to the playoffs, he deserves a second term in San Diego.

Eric Neel: Big Ben. Because the Steeler season dangled over the cliff like a runaway train car -- there were screaming passengers frantically waving their Terrible Towels, desperately reciting their Hail Terrys -- and there was no reason to think a rookie QB, with more syllables in his last name than NFL starts to his credit, could pull it back to safety. But he did. And not only did he save the train, he's driving it to the Promised Land, right through the heart of Donovan's territory and Tom's backyard.

Skip Bayless: My midseason QB MVP has to be little Drew Brees, the biggest reason the San Diego Chargers have gone from worst to first. Before, Brees shrank under the pressure to live up to the draft-pick trade that landed Michael Vick in Atlanta instead of San Diego. Before, every time Brees stunk it up, Chargers followers lamented that they could have had Vick. But once the Chargers committed the future to high pick Phillip Rivers, expectations dropped for Brees. He was only "keeping the job warm" until rookie Rivers got his bearings.

Brees was able to relax and start finding one of the NFL's biggest, most athletic security blankets in tight end Antonio Gates, who's really more of a wideout. Once the Chargers acquired another bona fide receiver in Keenan McCardell, they had enough weapons to win the AFC West. Rivers is still the future, but Brees has been the MVP present.

Who has been the most pleasant surprise at QB in 2004, and why?

Alan Grant: Drew Brees. Whenever a man, a good and decent man like Brees, is not only ignored but unjustly ridiculed, then suddenly raises his value and creates the possibility of getting paid a princely sum elsewhere, it just makes me feel, I don't know, all warm and stuff.

Patrick Hruby: Ben Roethlisberger. Put it this way: Five months ago, most of us not only couldn't spell his laborious last name, but also couldn't conceive of a scenario in which we would have to.

Eric Neel: After Ben, it's got to be Drew Brees. Why? Because the last time we expected to see bolts of lightning out of a Charger quarterback, he wore a beard and threw to a guy in goggles.

Skip Bayless: The most pleasant surprise is obviously Roethlisberger and not because he's "the next Marino" or "the next Elway." I haven't seen any of that, at least yet. What I have seen is that a very good team in search of some stability at quarterback finally found it. Terry Bradshaw was more talented than Roethlisberger but never more mature or poised. This kid acts as if he has been running this team for 10 years. What you like most is what he doesn't do -- he doesn't make hair-brained rookie decisions or fly apart under pressure. He realizes he has a devastating running game and, as a trio, three of the best receivers. He knows he can lean on a fast, physical defense. So he makes a play here or there and doesn't let his ego override the ultimate goal -- to win. This is an old soul.

Who has been the best friend of the QB in the first half?

Alan Grant: Of course in a league-wide sense, the stringent enforcement of the no contact rule ensures free releases and sustained timing between quarterbacks and receivers. But more specifically, and this at the risk of offending our homoerotically sensitive fans in middle America: Detroit's Joey Harrington owes that one-hand-catching, making-up-for-the-absence-of- Charles Rogers, rookie phenom, Roy Williams, some big time manly affection. stringent enforcement of the no contact rule ensures free releases and sustained timing between quarterbacks and receivers. But more specifically, and this at the risk of offending our homoerotically sensitive fans in middle America: Detroit's Joey Harrington owes that one-hand-catching, making-up-for-the-absence-of- Charles Rogers, rookie phenom, Roy Williams, some big time manly affection.

Patrick Hruby: Same thing as always: a solid running game. When Priest Holmes rushes for four touchdowns in an afternoon, no-receivers Trent Green looks good. When Willis McGahee busts off 100-yard games, 'Canes-style, creaky Drew Bledsoe looks good. When Jamal Lewis bulls through the line, Kyle Boller ... still looks like Kyle Boller. Which just goes to show that there's an exception to every rule.

Eric Neel: LaDainian Tomlinson

What was your favorite play or game by a QB in the first half?

Alan Grant: Byron Leftwich in the first game against the Colts. On fourth and one, trailing by eight, he hauled off and tossed it deep and true to Jimmy Smith for six.

Patrick Hruby: Give me any and all of Mike Vick's broken-field scampers, which actually manage to be more entertaining than his clever Nike commercial.

Eric Neel: I really liked Mike Vick's pin-point toss to Peerless Price in the end zone a couple weeks back, because he stood right there in the pocket and said, "Uh-huh, I can do that too."

Second down: Bad Snaps

Who has been the most disappointing QB thus far, and why?

Alan Grant: Kerry Collins. Simply because he was hired for one reason-to throw the deep ball. But the Raiders actually threw the deep ball more successfully while Gannon was playing. Which QB was put in the worst situation in the first half of 2004, and why? Kerry Collins. After Gannon got hurt, Collins' mates pretty much shut it down.

Patrick Hruby: Mark Brunell. The former Jacksonville icon is a class act whose effort, attitude and preparation remain first rate. That said, he's put Washington into an unusual position: namely, that of a Joe Gibbs-coached squad relying on its defense to win games. Brunell's arm strength and mobility are greatly diminished vis--vis his Jaguar glory days; without a playmaking threat under center, the Redskins have been unable to establish any sort of offensive rhythm. Gibbs has never needed an MVP signal-caller to move the ball -- Jay Schroder, anyone? -- but he needs more than he's gotten from Brunell.

Eric Neel: He's a warrior, and the spirit is willing, but if you're not disappointed with and for Steve McNair, you're not a fan of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Did Steve McNair age in dog years over the offseason? Tennesee hasn't seen a local celebrity plummet this quickly since Arrested Development put out their second album.

Which QB was put in the worst situation in the first half of 2004, and why?

Patrick Hruby: Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley. If Darth Vader decided to hang up his lightsaber in order to smoke greenleaf on Dagobah, where would the unstraight-shootin' stormtroopers of the Galactic Empire be? Losing to the Arizona Cardinals, that's where. (On the bright side, at least Fiedler and Feeley aren't living out of a tent somewhere).

Eric Neel: The two-headed monster in Miami. Because being without an all-pro tailback wasn't enough, Wannstedt thought he' d throw the Sybil-is-my-copilot approach to coaching decisions at 'em. I feel for the guys, I really do.

Aaron Schatz: I realize that the Miami guys are an easy answer to this question but I really have sympathy for Jake Delhomme. The guy clearly put it all together in the playoffs last year and was ready for a huge breakout season, only to lose his best receiver in the first game and both his running backs for weeks at a time. The Panthers have also been wrecked by defensive injuries, meaning Delhomme is always playing from behind and in bad field position.

What was the worst play registered by a QB in the first half?

Alan Grant: Aaron Brooks (in what can only be deemed football's version of Georgetown's Fred Brown tossing the ball to Carolina's James Worthy in the '81 NCAA Final) throwing the ball in desperation to a dumfounded Wayne Gandy.

Patrick Hruby: Jake Plummer. Being tackled. Switching to his off-hand. Tossing a pick. Returned for six. Enough details for you?

Eric Neel: My memory isn't what it once was, but I can't think of a ball worse than the one Aaron Brooks threw to the back judge Sunday against the Chargers.

Aaron Schatz: The Brooks backwards pass to nobody was from another planet. In Boston we call this the "Drew Bledsoe special." If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out a tape of the 2001 AFC Championship Game. I'm also a big fan of Jay Fiedler's 13-yard backward scramble followed by a screen pass directly into the arms of Buffalo linebacker Takeo Spikes from Week 6.


AUDIBLES FROM OUR QBS
 
Eric
Neel

Patrick
Hruby

Alan
Grant

Skip
Bayless
Man or myth, Joey Harrington? Myth Somehow, the answer is Roy Williams. Manly teenager Becoming a Man.
QB who just does the best job of "managing" a game? Peyton Manning "Managing" is one of those overrated terms used to praise guys that don't do anything particularly well. Peyton Manning. If managing means controlling. Tom Brady
QB most capable of winning the game on his own? Michael Vick Mike Vick. Opposite question? Jake Plummer. If such a thing were possible? Vick, of course. Michael Vick, which he tries to do too often.
Bradshaw or Staubach? Bradshaw, because raring back is more fun than sizing up. Bradshaw, for the hard-hitting interviews. Bradshaw. The game really was just a game. Bradshaw, four rings to two.
Best coach ever for developing a QB? Don Coryell Whoever caught passes in Joe Montana's backyard. Bill Walsh Bill Walsh, by far.
Best coach currently for developing a QB? Could it be Bill Cowher? Norm Chow Bill Belichick Paul Hackett, though you wouldn't want him calling your plays.
Best number for a QB to wear? 7: Elway, Vick, and, of course, Bert Jones. 13.2. If it was up to me. Single digits speak of longevity. And 7 is just solid. 12


Third down: Snapping Ahead

Which QB is most poised for a breakout second half, and why?

Aaron Schatz: Bad defenses can make a good quarterback look great and a mediocre quarterback look good. Take a look at the defenses that Craig Krenzel is going to face over the next eight games. Colts, Vikings, Texans, Titans, and Cowboys. Whoo-hah. Bobby Wade might ACTUALLY CATCH A TOUCHDOWN!

Alan Grant: Carson Palmer. After having been tossed into the fire and allowed to burn, and withering a Monday Night Football baptism, Palmer finds himself on a 3-6 team with no playoff expectations. Thus, he isn't under any real pressure and can only get better.

Patrick Hruby: Boller. The heck with the interceptions: I figure the guy has at least one 3-TD, 300-yard game in him. And given his career so far, that would pretty much qualify as a "breakout second half."

Eric Neel: David Carr. Why? Because the hair gives him strength, and because he gets to tee off on the Colts defense not once but twice in the second half.

Skip Bayless: Not sure either of these guys quality for "breakout." Maybe rebirth. Two who will regain glory in the second half are 1) Kerry Collins and 2) Drew Bledsoe. No QB can get as crazy hot or drive-you-crazy cold as Collins can, and Sunday at Carolina he showed signs of getting crazy hot again. Bledsoe is starting to look like at least a poor man's Bledsoe because Buffalo is supporting him with a terrific running game that features Willis McGahee and the NFL's most underrated defense.

Which QB is most likely to crash back to earth after a strong first half, and why?

Aaron Schatz: Kurt Warner has a six game stretch beginning Week 11 that goes Falcons, Eagles, Redskins, Ravens, Steelers, First Ever NFL Start by Eli Manning.

Alan Grant: Roethlisberger. Simply because any legendary beginning is most prone to a mortal conclusion.

Patrick Hruby: Brees. The Chargers can't be for real. Can they?

Eric Neel: Brian Griese (is he high enough yet to qualify as a crasher?), because he is, after all, Brian Griese.

Skip Bayless: Look for Donovan McNabb to keep flapping his wings faster and faster but fall slowly back to Earth. McNabb got his first glimpse Sunday of the real Terrell Owens -- the blame-deflecting front runner who, when things go south, will play to the sideline cameras and try to send a message to fans and media that it's the quarterback's or coordinator's fault. That's what he was trying to do as he followed McNabb up and down the sideline after the Eagles had fallen hopelessly behind at Pittsburgh. It will be a long second half of the season for McNabb.

Fourth down: Keystone State Showdown

What is the biggest single factor behind Ben Roethlisberger's perfect start to his career?

Aaron Schatz: Pocket presence and field awareness, the things you can't measure at the scouting combine. People who say these things can't be measured by stats, however, should take a look at Big Ben's stats. Those are some nice stats.

Alan Grant: Timing. A rested Jerome Bettis, a ruthlessly violent offensive line, a refocused Plaxico Burress, and the no longer unappreciated Hines Ward, provide a recipe for perfection. Of course, maturity and a really strong arm don't hurt.

Patrick Hruby: Literally? Jerome Bettis. Really, though, it's the Steelers' strength as a team -- good ground game, solid receivers, nasty, hard-hitting defense -- that has made Roethisberger's debut as hot as "Desperate Housewives." (Note to editors: do I get a little extra in my freelance check for cross-promoting the mother network?) (Editor's note: No).

Eric Neel: Credit the Steelers receivers, and their defense, too, but most of all, credit Roethlisberger himself for stepping up and not freaking out at the prospect of running the show a good two years before anyone thought he'd even have to think about it.

Skip Bayless: The biggest single factor is his mature perspective on how his team is so solidly talented that it doesn't need him to take over anything but the huddle.

If you were Donovan McNabb, what would you have said to Terrell Owens when he was squawking in the first half of the Eagles' dismal effort at Pittsburgh?

Aaron Schatz: "Look, moron, am I supposed to go out there and tackle Bettis? You want me to play linebacker now as well as quarterback? What does this look like, the Patriots?"

Alan Grant: Depends. Am I someone whose actually played in the league, or someone who hasn't? If the former, then I know how this is how some people express themselves in a game founded on violence and emotion. Therefore, I'd probably respond with some variation of "yeah, yeah, whatever, man." But if the latter, I would hold forth with something like, "Listen, Terrell. I'm trying really hard out here, you know? This is really difficult work. I mean, I knew this little honeymoon would eventually come to an end. But I really didn't expect it to end with such acrimony. Now stop it, everyone's watching and it makes me really uncomfortable."

Patrick Hruby: "Dude, just remember: you could be yelling at Kyle Boller right now."

Eric Neel: Sit down and eat your Chunky Soup.

Skip Bayless: McNabb, who has been Owens' biggest PR man so far, was desperately trying to maintain his cool and ignore the guy. McNabb cares most about the team, while Owens cares only about Owens. For the team's sake, the media-savvy McNabb was trying to restrain himself so he wouldn't be caught on camera screaming at Owens and start a media fire that the media would fuel all week. Shrewd move. But at some point when this happens again -- and it will -- McNabb will reach the breaking point and have to tell him -- and I'll delete the scatalogical emphasis -- that "I'm the quarterback and I'm telling you to go sit down and shut up."


WEEK 9 RANKINGS:
By Aaron Schatz, footballoutsiders.com

Click here for Aaron's complete rankings for all the QBs.

The QB rankings now include adjustments for the quality of defense faced. (DPAR = Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement that each QB was responsible for.)

WEEK 9: TOP THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
1. Trent Green
32/42, 369 yards
3 TDs, 2 INTs
Being ranked No. 1 on a day Manning and Culpepper didn't play is a bit like winning the NBA title the year after they broke up the Bulls. 13.7
2. Brian Griese
22/34, 296 yards
2 TDs, 0 INTs
Hey! I'm back! Too bad Drew Brees already stole my storyline. 12.9
3. Jake Plummer
16/24, 234 yards
4 TDs, 0 INTs
Denver ditched Griese because he was maddeningly inconsistent and couldn't get past the first round of the playoffs. As they say in Montreal, "Plus ca change, plus ce la meme ... " 11.3

WEEK 9: BOTTOM THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
25. Donovan McNabb
15/24, 109 yards
0 TDs, 1 INT
There will be enough dissection of this performance. My question: Does McNabb have the fullest beard in the NFL? -1.6
26. Vinny Testaverde
18/30, 207 yards
0 TDs, 3 INTs
Not bad for a 200-year old man, really. -5.6
27. Kurt Warner
18/36, 195 yards
1 TD, 2 INTs
Hey New York sports radio -- prepare to meet Brenda Warner. -7.9


Best Throw of The Week:
Alan Grant: Matt Hasslebeck, throwing over the corner and hitting Darrell Jackson on a seam route for 25 yards.

Patrick Hruby: Clinton Portis' leaping halfback option toss to Laveranues Coles. Might have been Washington's best deep ball of the season. Just kidding. Or are we?

Eric Neel: Roethlisberger to Riemersma ... I just like the sound of it


Worst Throw of The Week:
Aaron Schatz: Aaron Brooks' backward bullet to ... uh, we're not sure, offensive tackle Wayne Gandy maybe. The backward pass was eventually scooped up by Duce McAllister for a big loss.

Aaron notes: In Boston we call this the "Drew Bledsoe special." If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out a tape of the 2001 AFC Championship Game.

Patrick Hruby: Wrapped by two defenders, clobbered by a third, Donovan McNabb attempted a short-armed flick that James Farrior ran back 41 yards. No matter how elusive you are, sometimes it's better to take the sack.

Eric Neel: Once again, I have to go with the ball Aaron Brooks threw to the back judge Sunday against the Chargers.