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Monday, October 25, 2004
Updated: October 26, 11:53 AM ET
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Page 2 staff

Tom Brady knows how to win the big one.

But, hey, you knew that already.

But what about Chad Pennington? And what about the Seahawks and Matt Hasselbeck, who clunked one against the Cardinals?

And what, in the name of Bill Walsh and the West Coast offense, is wrong with Michael Vick?

As always, it's QBs and nothing but QBs here at Snap Judgment.

We start this week with some quick reads:

AUDIBLES FROM OUR QBS
 
Jeff
Merron

Patrick
Hruby

Alan
Grant

Skip
Bayless
Man or myth:
Kurt Warner
Man Quarterbacking man, grocery-stocking myth. (resurrected) Man A Man no more
Are Ravens a playoff team with Kyle Boller? Yes Yes. But Baltimore might as well switch to a wishbone offense Yes, because Ray Lewis is at LB Yes, somehow
Brees or Rivers? Brees this year. Rivers next year Brees, until he falters Brees is better now, but Brees is also a free agent. Answer: Rivers Rivers
QB who does most with least skills: Right now, Kurt Warner Jeff Garcia. Though Matt Hasselbeck does the the most with the least hair Jeff Garcia Jeff Garcia
QB who does least with most skills: Jon Kitna. Not his fault Ryan Leaf. Should be entering his prime Aaron Brooks Michael Vick
Without Priest Holmes, Trent Green would be ... Trent Green with Derrick Blaylock Still not handing off to Larry Johnson Trent Green, backup quarterback Backing up Brett Favre
Brady or Jeter? Hmmm. Who's won more championships the past four years? Brady. Hey, he's still playing, right? In terms of celebrity women? Brady Jeter
Give Byron Leftwich a nickname Bruiseman Byron Leftwich-Way-But-Lose New Old School Last-Minute
McNabb or Jaworski? Trick question? Ron's been to a Super Bowl, but McNabb is sooo much better Jaws. Can't get enough NFL Edge film breakdowns The one who works for ESPN Jaws, because he got to the Super Bowl

First down: After watching the Falcons put up only 10 points on the Chiefs' porous defense and their superstar QB go 7-for-21 for 119 yards with two INTs and four sacks, can we say that Mike Vick is ... gulp ... overrated? Or is Jim Mora Jr.'s West Coast Offense the problem? Or should Vick (six rushes, 62 yards) just be moved to running back?

Skip Bayless: Once again, Vick is mostly a video-game superhero creation. Once the Falcons fell behind at Kansas City, Vick looked clueless when reduced to a pocket passer. Yes, this has something to do with his new coordinator, Gregg "Take A" Knapp, whose only strength with the 49ers was being a good guy and best friend of Jimmy Mora, the defensive coordinator. (How, by the way, did Mora go from coaching one of the NFL's worst defenses to landing a head coaching job?) But as long as Vick remains a bolt-first quarterback with a powerful, but erratic arm, the Falcons will be hit and miss.

Patrick Hruby: Move Vick to running back? Great idea -- that is, so long as you're jonesing for the Matt Schaub Era to get under way. And if that's the case, well, recall that certain high-ranking government officials were slam-dunk sure that grateful Iraqis would greet American military forces with flowers and chocolates.

There's no overrating his talent, to be sure. Vick has the best arm and legs in football. As for his grasp of the game's chessboard aspects? Still a work in progress, particularly in a new offense that's quite unlike anything Vick has run before. Keep in mind: Virginia Tech rolled Vick out at every opportunity, basically cutting the field in half. And former Falcons coach Dan Reeves wasn't known for whiz-bang offensive game plans. So Vick has a learning curve ahead of him, and within an offensive philosophy that doesn't completely take advantage of his physical gifts, either. But give him a few seasons. He'll get it.

In the meantime, it doesn't help that Vick's two picks yesterday came on bobbled balls, or that the Falcons' defense gave up 36 first downs and EIGHT rushing touchdowns. West Coast master Joe Montana would have a hard time matching that.

Aaron Schatz: A wise man once said that you don't try to fit players into your system, you get players that already fit into your system, or you change your system. Clearly, Vick as "West Coast" quarterback looks like a bad casting choice along the lines of Tom Arnold and Mary-Kate Olsen in "CSI: Indianapolis."

Why is Vick throwing twice on second- and third-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of running? How is he spending so much time in the pocket that he gets sacked four times by the CHIEFS?

Two years ago Vick basically dragged the Falcons into the playoffs on his own, so I don't think he's suddenly turned into Akili Smith. I say let Vick be Vick, accept the fact he's going to get hurt sometimes, and invest a little extra money in a very good medical staff and a backup you can trust.

Alan Grant: Well, this strictly reactionary format aside, my particular perspective will not allow me to assess any player's ability on just one game. Sunday, football's version of the human highlight film was less than ordinary. And next week, against Denver, and a mildly improving defense, Vick might once again struggle. But after a bye week, the Falcons take on Tampa Bay -- a unit which spells relief for any struggling offense. I think then, we shall not even entertain thoughts of him being overrated.

Second down: After watching the Jets-Pats contest, how far is Chad Pennington behind Tom Brady?

Patrick Hruby: Pete Sampras was once asked about the difference between him and one-time rival Pat Rafter. His reply? "About 10 Grand Slams." So there's my answer on Pennington-Brady: About two Super Bowls.

Skip Bayless: As we saw Sunday, Pennington isn't Brady because he still can't improvise and go to the more advantageous option with the game on the line. With two late chances to pull out the game, he locked onto his first option no matter how covered it was. Justin McCareins had to make a sensational play to break up an interception in the end zone. Surely somebody else was open, but Pennington pumped right and threw left no matter what the defense was doing.

Then on the final fourth-down play, it appeared New England's defense knew where Pennington was going before he did -- down the seam to slot receiver Wayne Chrebet, who was triple-covered. That left Santana Moss alone in single coverage. Moss could have made a streak-ending play they'd have been talking about for decades.

Brady would have found him.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if he has quite as much experience with the fourth-quarter comebacks, and he seemed to miss an open Santana Moss on the fourth down at the end of the game this week. But Pennington is a very good quarterback and he's good enough to lead the Jets to the playoffs. The main difference between the Patriots and Jets isn't Pennington and Brady, it's defense.

Jeff Merron: The short answer is, Pennington is far behind. But the good news for Jets fans like myself is that Pennington is one of the NFL's best QBs, he's getting better all the time, and he could lead the Jets to a Super Bowl victory. (That won't happen this year, unfortunately.)

The two seem to have many career parallels -- both in their fifth year; both about the same age, both playing under the more intense scrutiny of the Northeast media. But the advantage Brady has had is crystal clear: he's been playing for a better team all along. Eventually the Pats will regress to the mean, and the Jets will take a big run at the title. And then we'll all be talking about Pennington as MVP.

But let me make one thing perfectly clear: Brady is the best QB in the NFL and on his way to Canton. Pennington? Not.

WEEK 7 RANKINGS:
I live in Boston, where nobody is even talking about the 6-0 Patriots because they're obsessed with the World Series. When the Sox fell behind 0-3 to the Yankees, it had me thinking of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl and have been to just one. Their last championship was in 1960, six years before the Super Bowl began. The only season they made the Super Bowl, 1980, they lost to an Oakland Raiders team that was the first wild-card entry to ever win and probably stands as the worst Super Bowl winner in history. Of course, they've made the NFC Championship Game for three straight seasons and lost each time.

And yet nobody ever talks about some ridiculous "Curse of Norm Van Brocklin." Some people, I guess, think Philly teams don't win because the city put up a statue to honor a fake athlete, Rocky Balboa, instead of a real one, but I'm not sure what that has to do with a football team. Philadelphia writers write about the Eagles need to do to win, not about some ridiculous curse that makes it impossible for football players to tackle DeShaun Foster. I think it's healthier for the fans and for the city.

With so much World Series on the brain, let's have some fun and have each quarterback connected to a player on the Red Sox or Cardinals. --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; Peyton Manning tops Week 7 with a performance which was 17.4 points better than a replacement-level QB.)

WEEK 7: TOP THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
1. Peyton Manning
27/39, 368 yards
2 TDs, 0 INTs
No other player combines so much natural talent with such a deep understanding of the game, and yet no matter how impressive his statistics he's got one team he just cannot beat. Since the Patriots are Peyton's daddy, that makes him Pedro Martinez.

17.4
2. Joey Harrington
18/22, 230 yards
2 TDs, 0 INTs
Filled with such promise when he entered the league, he's never quite put it together to be a star, much like former Minor League Player of the Year Gabe Kapler. A few more games like yesterday, though, and he gets raised to Trot Nixon status. 13.4
3. Trent Green
20/27, 269 yards
0 TDs, 0 INTs
How can he have such a high rating with no TDs? Easy, all his passing put Holmes and Blaylock in position to score. So, that makes him the setup man, just like Mike Timlin. 12.1

WEEK 7: BOTTOM THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
25. Matt Hasselbeck
14/41, 195 yards
1 TD, 4 INTs
Well, he's not Johnny Damon. He's had amazing numbers in the past but was abysmal Sunday, which also describes Cards' pitcher Matt Morris. -11.5
26. Drew Bledsoe
20/36, 203 yards
0 TDs, 4 INTs
Immobile. Just like Kevin Millar. -12.2
27. Billy Volek
17/36, 190 yards
0 TDs, 3 INTs
The last-minute replacement for another player who got injured. He's Al Reyes. -12.5

Third down: Two minutes left, score tied. How many QBs would you rather have under center than Byron Leftwich? Or is Leftwich the NFL's newest king of the two-minute drive? Who does he remind you of?

Patrick Hruby: I'll take Tom Brady, and ... hmmm. Good question. Fact is, Leftwich looks pretty darn good in late-game situations. Definitely better than a second-year QB should. He doesn't panic, doesn't rush, seems to know just how much calculated risk to take (two-minute drives are like the stock market, all about risk vs. reward). His teammates seem to believe in him. So I will, too. Brady is the reigning King, the seeming heir to Montana. Call Leftwich the Duke.

Aaron Schatz: Wait, didn't yesterday's drive start with about four minutes left, and the one against Tennessee with about 5:30 left? I think Tom Brady still reigns as current kind of the two-minute drive until Leftwich runs one to win a Super Bowl. Or two.

Speaking of New England quarterbacks, Leftwich actually reminds me a bit of the early days of Drew Bledsoe. He's tall, he's got a strong arm, he's immobile, and people forget some of those Bledsoe comebacks like the 1994 win over Minnesota, and the games where he led fourth-quarter comebacks with a broken finger against Buffalo and Miami in 1998. The difference is that when he's under pressure, Leftwich doesn't make the same kind of "fans bang their heads against the wall screaming 'why us?'" interceptions and fumbles.

Jeff Merron: I'd rather have Brady. I'd rather have Favre. I'd rather have the Mc's Nabb and Nair. Daunte, too. He's the prince this half of this season. His clutch cool isn't going away. But he's not king. Yet.

Alan Grant: If I recall, it was around his second season when a cat named Elway began to put together a string of comeback victories. But that's not why Leftwich reminds me of the Duke. He reminds me of Elway because he escapes the instant label. He's not particularly graceful, nor explosive, nor exciting in and of himself. But he's athletic enough, and elusive enough to get the job done. Also, what's supposed to be seen as debilitating "pressure," is just a means of making the game a little more fun.

Skip Bayless: Right now, you'd be hard pressed to go with any quarterback but Leftwich in the final minute of a tight game -- if he could have his Jaguars. In a vacuum, you wouldn't choose him over Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or even an aging Brett Favre. But right now, the Jaguars believe that no matter how hot/cold Leftwich has been for the game, he will magically get hot if he's trailing in the final two minutes. Before he was drafted, Leftwich was knocked for having two left feet, for having to wind up before he threw and for sometimes failing to display much football savvy.

But as he did at Marshall, Leftwich has been at his best when it matters most, throwing one sweet, accurate spiral after another in crunch time. No one manages the game more cooly than Leftwich does in the final 45 seconds, when he has pulled out four wins. To the Jags, he might as well be Montana.

Fourth down: You are Jeff Garcia and you bump into Terrell Owens leaving the field. What do you say to your former teammate?

Alan Grant: That whole homosexual reference is never discussed because both men know about success with the ladies. The discussion, therefore, takes place on a purely existential level:

"OK, it's just you and me, T.O. Now that there's no one else around, tell me, man-to-man, what's wrong? This is me, Jeff, so there's no pressure to play this petulant role you've created for everyone slse. Hey, we both know it's hard to get the love you deserve -- especially with the 49ers. You think I don't know how that feels? But this is the wrong way to get it. Besides, we both know this mean, cold image isn't even you. That works for Keyshawn Johnson, but it doesn't work for you."

Patrick Hruby: "T.O, baby, let's put aside our differences and go have a drink. I'll buy the first round. I know a local bar that serves great hemlock."

Skip Bayless: If I were Garcia, I would say nothing to Owens. Garcia has no respect for Owens off the field because Owens has been on a media campaign to blame Garcia for everything that went wrong in San Francisco. Trust me, Owens dropped as many on-target passes as Garcia threw interceptions. Owens is off to a nice start because McNabb has been so much more comfortable and accurate than he was last season. But just wait until the Eagles lose and Owens deflects blame by pointing fingers. Garcia knows.

Aaron Schatz: Garcia: "Well, Lee Suggs is scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man's here. We need a live rooster to take the curse off Phil Dawson's shoe and nobody seems to know what to get Antonio Bryant for a housewarming present."

T.O.: "Well, candlesticks make a nice gift."

Best Throw of The Week:

In what proved to be the game-winner for New England, Tom Brady's slide-right-and-fire that was snagged in the back of the end zone by David Patten near the end of the first half.

First runner-up: Daunte Culpepper's flailing pitch to Jermaine Wiggins. As a blitzing Tennessee cornerback dragged him to the turf, a spinning, near-prone Culpepper used his left hand to pitch the ball to Wiggins. Similar to last week's in-the-grasp toss from Trent Green to Priest Holmes, and far more successful than Jake Plummer's myriad attempts at the same.

Second runner-up:On first-and-10 at the Miami 44, WR Marty Booker completed a 48-yarder down the right side to Chris Chambers, setting up an 8-yard Sammy Morris TD run. Booker's completed three passes in his NFL career: one for 34 yards, one for 44, and this one for 48.


Worst Throw of The Week:

Drew Bledsoe -- and honestly, this is getting to be a habit -- throwing off his back foot into double coverage, looking for Lee Evans but finding 53-year-old Deion Sanders for Sanders' second pick of the day. A drive-killing, score-squandering blunder from 19 yards out, and one of four Bledsoe INTs in the game.

Runner-up: Kurt Warner, on the Lions' 37, scrambles with one hand on ball -- like he's tryng to throw -- and fumbles. Does that count? How about Warner's INT in the end zone. That definitely counts.


Overtime

Will Dan Marino's single-season record of 48 TDs fall this season? If so, who will break it?

Jeff Merron: Yes. Daunte Culpepper, in the final game of the season.

Skip Bayless: Manning has a better chance to break it than Culpepper because Culpepper is much more comfortable running the ball if the situation dictates. Sunday, without Randy Moss, the Vikings ran 27 times and threw 30. Manning, who's basically his own coordinator, will throw and throw deep. But after Sunday's clash with receiver Reggie Wayne, you wonder about the Colts' togetherness. Manning can be a condescending know-it-all -- kid brother Eli has much better rapport with teammates -- and Wayne shoved Peyton when Wayne thought the criticism had gone too far. I, for one, won't root for Manning if he approaches the record, and I wonder if his teammates will.

Alan Grant: Manning and Culpepper will toss it to the house a-plenty, but 48 is a desperate number. It's the mark of a team that probably lacks a real solid plan. That said, I think Culpepper will top out in the high thirties. And Manning may get closer than that simply because the Colts, with their defense, tend to be rather desperate in all areas of their execution.

Patrick Hruby: No. Most seasons, defense starts ahead of offense. This year, with the emphasis on enforcing chuck rules, passing offenses have started out ahead of defenses. But don't worry: they'll adjust, the weather will turn chilly and Marino's mark will hold up.

That said, I expect Manning and Culpepper to make runs at it, in part because they're that good, in part because they both play in domes.

Aaron Schatz: Probably not, and here's why: One. That's the number of rushing TDs this season by Minnesota running backs Moe Williams, Michael Bennett, Mwelde Moore, and Onterrio Smith COMBINED. There is no way that a rushing attack as potent as Minnesota's goes through an entire season letting the passing game hog all the touchdowns.