Commentary

The downside to quick QB hooks

Rash early-season decisions can lead to long-term dysfunction at most vital position

Originally Published: September 22, 2010
By Ross Tucker | ESPN.com

Vince Young & Bruce GradkowskiAP PhotosThe Titans' Vince Young, left, was pulled and replaced by Kerry Collins in Week 2. Bruce Gradkowski relieved Jason Cambell and guided Oakland to a close victory over the Rams.

Vince Young got the hook in Tennessee. So did Jason Campbell in Oakland. Matt Moore was yanked on Sunday, as well, and the Carolina Panthers have already said they are going to start rookie Jimmy Clausen in Week 3.

Replacing a quarterback midway through a game is something NFL head coaches cannot and should not take lightly because of the implications it can and often does have for the rest of the season. Several coaches failed to realize that this past weekend.

Sure, coaches such as Jeff Fisher of the Titans and Tom Cable of the Raiders will say they made the move simply to try to provide a spark. In Cable's case, he could make the argument that it worked, as Bruce Gradkowski helped rally the Raiders in the second half for a victory in Oakland's home opener against the Rams. But are these coaches sacrificing the war in an attempt to win the battle?

The starting quarterback is the guy the entire team looks to for leadership. Pulling that quarterback, especially so early in the season, only serves to undermine that leadership. It can also really hurt a signal-caller's confidence in himself and in turn the faith that his teammates have in him. That's especially true in the case of Young, who has had a number of well-documented issues in this regard.

It serves as an immediate indication to the rest of the team that the coaching staff doesn't totally believe in the guy under center, even though it is asking the players to. If the coaches don't believe in the guy and will make a switch at the first sign of trouble in the second game of the season, it allows the other players to pass the buck and place the blame on the quarterback as well, even if they do so subconsciously. After all, the fans and media certainly will and the coaches already have.

Tom Brady would never get pulled from a game, with the potential exception of mop-up time at the end of a blowout. Same with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Even guys such as Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub and several others are decidedly un-pullable. It is a clear indication of how their franchises feel about them. Unfortunately for Young, Campbell and Moore, so is getting pulled.

Time to answer some of your e-mails for my first-ever ESPN.com mailbag:

From the inbox

Q: There's something I don't understand about the last part of the Redskins-Texans game. When Trent Williams went down with a knee injury with about 1:30 left in the game, why was Stephon Heyer put in to replace him? Do the Redskins not know that they have a two-time Pro Bowl LT already on the roster? If Heyer can play both sides, why not put him at RT and let Jammal Brown move from the RT to the LT position to handle Mario Williams? If it weren't for Heyer's subsequent penalty, Washington would have had a first down and continued playing rather than ending up punting.

Dave in Aurora, Ontario, Canada

A: There are a couple reasons for this. For one, Brown practiced and prepared all week to play right tackle and he probably didn't even take one snap at left tackle or in a left-handed stance. Secondly, it is Heyer's job as the "swing" tackle to be ready when called upon at either tackle position, and as such he probably took a decent amount of reps at both left and right tackle throughout the week. It is unfair to ask Brown to switch from right to left in a game like that, plus it can really hurt the continuity with the other linemen if you make multiple switches when all they needed to do was insert Heyer. If the Skins were concerned about Heyer going against Williams, there are things they could have done to protect him schematically.

Q: Now that they are 0-2 and the offense is out of sync, do you think Brett Favre's teammates are still OK with him missing training camp? Will this be used to deter players from skipping training camp in the future?

Mike in Fresno, Calif.

A: I think the players are invested in their weekly preparation now that they are in-season, so Favre's absence from training camp is a distant memory. That said, he clearly is lacking a comfort zone with his receivers and you have to think he would be more in sync with guys like Bernard Berrian and Greg Lewis if he had showed up for more of camp and the preseason, especially with Sidney Rice being out. I'd add Percy Harvin to that list as well, but he was out for most of camp with a migraine issue, so he and Favre likely wouldn't have been able to work together anyway. As for deterring other players from missing camp, who is there to deter? It was only Favre.

Q: Do players get a cut of jersey sales with their name and number?

Brad in Adelaide, South Australia

A: First of all, I had no idea there was a "South" Australia. Interesting. As for your question, yes, players do get a cut of their jersey sales when someone buys it at the team store or orders it online. I got one check for 48 cents during my career, so I hope the one person who ever actually bought a Ross Tucker jersey is enjoying it and realizing what a limited-edition item he or she truly possesses.

Q: Ross, I greatly enjoy your columns and have for the past year or two when you wrote for SI. I have been wondering why I had not seen a column of yours in the last two weeks. Now I see you have moved to ESPN. Could you please explain the move?

Steve

A: Sure. I really enjoyed my time at SI but the opportunity to come to ESPN and work across their many platforms, including hosting the Football Today podcast on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, was simply too good to pass up.

Q: Are the Kansas City Chiefs going to be a playoff contender this season?

Tony in Quincy, Ill.

A: I highly doubt it. Their defense is significantly improved since last year and much of the credit must go to new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, because the cast of characters on that side of the ball is for the most part the same as last year. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the offense hasn't made the same strides, and as a result, I don't think they are a legit contender. They are finding a way to win the close ones, however, and that is a huge first step.

Q: Why haven't the sports media placed as much blame on Jason Garrett for his sporadic, predictable and inefficient play calling as they try to place on Wade Phillips? For some reason, Garrett gets away from you guys scot-free without so much as an explanation.

Naron in Virginia Beach, Va.

A: Not sure I agree with you about Garrett getting a free pass. I have heard a number of analysts criticize him for his refusal to stick with the running game even though the Cowboys possess an impressive stable of running backs. I'm not a big believer in blaming a particular play call or two in a game because I think it is a crutch too easily used by both fans and the media. People criticize play calls only in hindsight after a certain play fails, and I think that is just way too convenient of a route to take. There are plenty of bad play calls that somehow have success and even more good play calls that are doomed by a failure of the players to execute. Now, if it is a general philosophy or a particular game plan that a team clearly has for a certain game, that is a different story.

Q: Thought I'd get in a question before your mailbox starts overflowing. What percentage of players actually care about what's going on regarding the CBA and labor/union issues? I know some are outspoken about the issues, but I can't believe that every player is in tune with what's going on.

Jon

A: I think everyone cares on some level, but unfortunately there are really just a handful of guys on each team who actually take the time to really understand the issues that are involved.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams during his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams during his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com. Tucker, who also hosts ESPN.com's Football Today podcast, graduated from Princeton.