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Monday, February 7, 2005
Updated: February 8, 1:41 PM ET
Patriot Act, Version 3.0

Page 2 staff

In the final installment of Snap Judgment, we take a page from the NFL's halftime theme -- "Building Bridges."

And yes, you didn't actually change the channel -- that was Charlie Daniels singing "Devil Went Down to Georgia." We know ... we'll get through it together.

The Snap crew covers everything from Sir Paul McCartney and Earth, Wind and Fire to Black Eyed Peas and the 2015 Super Bowl.

So pull up a monitor and tune in for the last time ...


AUDIBLES FROM OUR QBS
 
Patrick
Hruby

Alan
Grant

Jeff
Merron

Eric
Neel

Aaron
Schatz

Skip
Bayless
You really have to choose now. Brady the Young Icon (Y.I.), or Montana the Timeless Legend (T.L.)? Montana. Better comic actor Montana. No contest Brady the Young. Bednarik soured me on Timeless Legends for a while Brady Montana still did it longer Montana on last-minute magic
Black Eyed Peas (Y.I.) or Earth, Wind and Fire (T.L.)? EWF. Not even close Earth, Wind, and Fire. No contest You. Must. Be. Joking. Without EWF, there are no Peas Longhaired guy from Peas gives me nightmares Peas on "Where is the Love"
Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme or Donovan McNabb? Delhomme McNabb The Mickey. Almost overcame Bednarik curse. Jake Delhomme Delhomme: no INTs McNabb's most memorable
Gretchen Wilson (Y.I.) or Charlie Daniels (T.L.)? Charlie Daniels? That wasn't Santa? Hmm ... Ritz or Saltines ... oh wait ... Daniels Glen Campbell Charlie Daniels --"Timeless Legend"? Jack Daniels! Charlie Daniels
First-half only: Brady or McNabb? Brady. McNabb had what, 15 near-INTs? McNabb Brady McNabb, on the strength of the strong-armed throw to Westbrook Brady Brady
"Drive My Car" or "Live and Let Die"? "Live and Let Die," the G'N'R cover. "Live and Let Die" "Live and Let Die." On vinyl. Thirty years ago Maybe if "Live and Let Die" hadn't been in a Bond movie "Drive" Too close to call
McNabb's last TD pass (to Greg Lewis) or Brady's first TD pass (to David Givens)? McNabb's last. More video game-like McNabb's McNabb to Lewis McNabb's Lewis should be T.O.'s 2005 partner Brady's first
What is the proper title for the Ruler of a Football Dynasty (Note: "Quarterback" is not eligible) Supreme Commander Football Man with impeccable timing. And luck Sultan of Fling King Belichick Mr. Kraft The One
Nickname for the Eagles' two-minute attack? The Jog N' Wheeze   Nap attack Attack of the Killer Tomatoes The Longest Yards Slow Death
Give me one name: Who gets the blame Philly's clock gaffes? Donavandy McReid   The buck stops ... at Andy Reid It all falls to Andy Reid Brad Childress Head coach


THE QUESTION: Look into the future for us. Based on what you saw from Tom Brady and Donovan McNabb in the Super Bowl, describe the state of quarterbacking in the NFL 10 years from now. Will it still be a precision, controlled, system-oriented position, the way Brady played it to near-perfection this season and against the Eagles? In other words, will Tom Brady the Timeless Legend still be winning Super Bowls in 2015 the way Tom Brady the Young Icon is winning them now?

Alan Grant: First, Tom Brady ain't winning them. Corey Dillon, the linebackers, Richard Seymour, and Rodney Harrison won that game. But from what I saw, winning the game didn't really matter that much to the Patriots. From the looks of it, all that mattered was Terrell Owens. Really. Mike Vrabel, after catching a touchdown pass, mimicked T.O.s flapping-wing, Eagle dance. Later on, both Deion Branch and Rodney Harrison did it too. Makes me think that the Patriots are suffering from some serious T.O. envy. If you're gonna celebrate after a big play, be creative and do your own thing, don't bite another man's style -- that makes you look silly. The Patriots may have won their third title, but they were too consumed with T.O. to really enjoy it. Hell, as I see it, since so many Patriots are thinking about him, Terrell Owens must really be the man.

Brady made a few good throws-- specifically the one crossing route in the fourth quarter in which Eagles DB Sheldon Brown, in masterful underneath coverage, somehow missed the ball. Brady, for all his positives -- and there are many, specifically his poise -- is merely a cog in this machine.

You ask about the future. The future is Donovan McNabb. He's also the past. See, there was a time when black quarterbacks, in order to get love from the game, had to mimic their white counterparts. Timeless legends like James Harris and Doug WIlliams had to be one-dimensional drop-back passers who made minimal mistakes in their reads. And, as few of their white counterparts were capable runners, they dared not take to the athletic jaunt lest they be considered something less than quarterbacks. And of greater significance, they dared not do anything that might show up their white counterparts.

Well, McNabb is the total package. He's already a drop-back passer. He can go three, five, or seven steps deep and make all the reads and subsequent throws. But then he does more. Remember that play in the second quarter, the deep ball to Pinkston down the seam? Facing a rush from both sides and the middle, McNabb sidestepped one guy, then sidestepped the other, then stepped up in the pocket and fired a strike. It was equal parts footwork, vision, and guts that made that possible.

As defenses get complicated quarterbacks have to do more and be more. McNabb, like Brady, is also part of a system. It just happens to be a different system -- a more limited scheme. McNabb, given four receivers, rather than the one and a half he has now, will play the most significant role in the most dynamic system there is. You want to scheme against McNabb and three receivers who mimic his heart and skill?

Ten years from now, all the coaches, GMs, and personel types will flock to the combine to find that do-it-all quarterback who somehow fuses all those talents into a miraculously "cerebral package." Now, this quarterback may not be black. He may be white, or (according to some folks in Hawaii) perhaps even Asian. But black quarterbacks will be greeted most enthusiastically. That's because such players are "safe." I'm serious. Quarterbacks like McNabb and Culpepper, and the marvelous Michael Vick, are safe investments because as long as they prove courageous against scary obstacles like rushing linebackers or defensive linemen, the suits will feel less pressure to put black men in football's truly frightening places, like the sidelines or -- gasp! -- the front office. But these black field leaders will be shiny examples of "progress" In many ways, perhaps they are. As long as they win.

Eric Neel: I really don't think you can generalize. As good as he is individually, Brady is also a function of a pretty unique collection of players, who, to a man, seem willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole. There are other quarterbacks now who do things well that Brady does well (Chad Pennington, Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, and Peyton Manning come to mind), but they don't have three rings. And there are guys now who play styles completely unlike Brady's (Michael Vick, Jake Plummer, and Daunte Culpepper come to mind), and they don't have rings either.

The question 10 years from now isn't how are you going to make your quarterback more like Brady is now. Nor is it a matter of how you are going to refine the brave new world of quarterbacking in some post-Brady way. The question 10 years from now is, will the approach of the Patriot team, of Brady and all the other players, take hold and inspire.

Jeff Merron: In 10 years, we're going to see more quarterbacking styles and schemes than now, and we've got a decent variety already. We've got Brady and the conservatives, we've got Vick, who's stands alone in the "watch out" party, we've got McNabb, who can do it all, and we've got Peyton Manning, who stands alone in the QB-as-maestro category.

Or, more simply:
1) Conservative system
2) Fleet college-style option
3) Big, fast, strong, smart, great passer. (That's McNabb. Hard to imagine many who'll be able to follow his footsteps.)
4) QB runs the show, lots of audibles.

There's at least two more possibilities, both distant memories at this point:
1) No huddle (Jim Kelly)
2) Platoon (Rams, circa 1950. Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin.

Platoon -- not in the next 10 years.

No huddle -- boy, more teams should use it, a lot more often. And the Eagles should have used it yesterday. How else do you beat ultra-sophisticated defenses?

I'll only make a few predictions: We're going to see more QBs doing their own play calling. Not all QBs. Not even half. But more than a few. We're going to see our first 300-pound quarterback, but we won't notice, because he'll be playing behind five 400-pound linemen. Tom Brady won't be winning Super Bowls, but in 10 years we'll all be impressed when, despite his age and his separation from Belichik, he leads the Chiefs into the conference semis.

Patrick Hruby: The players will be bigger, faster, stronger, especially if genetic doping comes to pass. Whip-smart coordinators will add new wrinkles on both sides of the ball, making the game even more complex from a signal-caller's point of view. But the elements that make for an effective quarterback -- touch, accuracy, a quick arm and a quicker mind that can process everything and make the right decision in an instant (snap judgments, if you will) -- will remain be the same. Unless we go back to the single wing or something. For that reason, I think smart quarterbacks who can deliver the ball to the playmaking talent around them will still be in vogue.

Which means Brady and his ilk (McNabb, for instance) will still be winning, so long as they have players like T.O. and Deion Branch catching passes. As we said in the very first Snap Judgment, the quarterback is a leader, a player who can elevate his peers. But he's also the ultimate sports symbiote, someone who depends on everyone else to look good. Brady can't throw a touchdown if David Givens doesn't get free in the corner of the end zone. And McNabb doesn't rally the Eagles if his teammates fail to keep him upright. Such is the paradox of the position, and half the fun in dissecting it.

Aaron Schatz: Brady isn't a "system" quarterback anymore. There isn't any system to stick to. Brady can beat you any way except by using his feet to scramble. But he won't beat you with what he wants to beat you with. He'll beat you with what you are willing to give him. If you give him long, that's how he wins -- he's become one of the most accurate long passers in football. If you give him screens, that's how he wins -- it may seem like it doesn't take skills to throw the screen, but Brady excels at looking the other way while the screen develops, and then getting it to the running back so that the running back can immediately make the right first move without worrying about catching the ball first.

If you give him a soft defensive line, he'll hand it off to Dillon and Faulk, and let them take the credit. The Patriots don't have to prove anything by doing things their way. That's why they beat three teams as different as the Colts, Steelers and Eagles. I don't really see Brady playing any differently in 10 years, and I don't see why this strategy won't win Super Bowls from now until the end of time. Build a balanced team with no particular strength, and then just play to beat whatever is your opponent's weakness.

Skip Bayless: Tom Brady isn't representative of today's or tomorrow's NFL quarterback. Brady is a unique talent who fell into an extremely unique situation. He'll still be winning in 10 years if -- and only if -- he remains on a uniquely talented and coached team.

Make Brady the quarterback of, say, the 2004 Cleveland Browns or New York Giants, and he would start looking pretty average. He doesn't have the raw talent or energy to hoist a team on his shoulder pads the way Favre often has brought the Packers back from the brink. Brady has led two fairly short drives setting up long field goals that won two Super Bowls. But Montana shouldn't have to share a sentence with Brady because Brady has yet to prove he can rally a team in the waning moments the way Montana so often did.

Yet no other quarterback today would be quite as effective with the Patriots as Brady is. His ego is a perfect fit for this offense because he doesn't have one. He rarely tries the kind of high-risk, high-reward passes that sometimes get Favre in trouble. His one mistake in the Super Bowl -- a botched play fake -- seemed like a freak accident.

There is nothing individually great about Brady's team -- Brady might wind up the only Hall of Famer -- but he is surrounded by very good. The collective receivers, the running game, the kicking game, the defense -- especially Bill Belichick's defense makes life so much easier for Brady. Brady is the Patriots and they are he. But this blueprint cannot be duplicated.


Favorite Pass in the Super Bowl
Alan Grant: The aforementioned one from McNabb to Pinkston.

Eric Neel: That ball Branch took away from Sheldon Brown was awfully nice.

Jeff Merron: McNabb to Westbrook, in the third quarter, for the second Eagles' TD. Like he threw the football through a keyhole.

Patrick Hruby: McNabb's second TD to Westbrook. Leaping backward, between two defenders. One of those "Noooo ... yessss!" plays for Eagles fans. What sort of opening did McNabb see?

Aaron Schatz: My favorite pass wasn't my favorite pass because of the pass. It was my favorite pass because of the run. All game long, Terrell Owens was a factor, but not for the usual reasons. He wasn't really getting yards after the catch, because it was clear he had absolutely no ability to cut left off his right ankle. Everything was basically an out pattern so he wouldn't have to make a move on anyone. So in the fourth quarter, second-and-8, and McNabb throws to Owens who is over on the left side -- and he dukes Randall Gay, cuts LEFT and goes up the sideline 36 yards. How on earth did he do that? When they showed the replay, it showed that Owens didn't cut left, he spun on his left ankle, the good ankle, to get away from Gay and go left. Owens was smart enough to know that he couldn't make a normal left cut, so he made the move he was able to make given his health. An amazing catch and run by an amazing player. I said in my Super Bowl preview on Football Outsiders that the Patriots would win, "unless Terrell Owens comes out with a red spot on his sock and jersey number 38." The Eagles didn't win, but that was about as close to a Schilling-esque performance as you could ask from a wide receiver. I don't think I'll be making fun of T.O.'s antics anymore.

Skip Bayless: McNabb's needle-threader between the converging fingertips of Mike Vrabel and Dexter Reed that somehow wound up in Brian Westbrook's hands for the 14-all touchdown.


Least-Favorite Pass in the Super Bowl
Alan Grant: Brady's touchdown to Mike Vrabel in which Vrabel beat up the ball before catching it. Just ugly.

Eric Neel: McNabb's sorry little floater to Rodney Harrison in the first quarter.

Jeff Merron: The Tedy Bruschi pickoff in the fourth quarter, which came right after McNabb's pretty toss to T.O. Major downer.

Patrick Hruby: The McNabb pass that Brian Westbrook had to reach back and snag with one hand. The Eagles QB nearly led Philly to the upset, but his throws were too high or behind his receivers for most of the game. He looked overzealous; I think he drank too many lattes with Peter King before the game.

Aaron Schatz: The 30-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis, but that's because I'm a Patriots fan. When Freddie Mitchell said, "Hey Rodney Harrison, I've got something to show you on Sunday," it turned out the something he had to show him was Greg Lewis.

Skip Bayless: McNabb's floater that was intercepted near the goal line by Rodney Harrison -- moments after Harrison had forced a similar interception that was cancelled by an away-from-the-play penalty. Inexcusable. Those lost points eventually could have given the Eagles a 14-0 lead.