The St. Louis Rams, desperate for a quarterback like seemingly half the NFL is these days, called Brett Favre this week, according to ESPN. The franchise wanted to see if Favre would unretire for the umpteenth time and give it one last final shot, after all the other one last final shots.
Seriously. They called Brett Favre.
Favre is 44 years old and currently working as a volunteer offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the Oak Grove Warriors, a high school team in Mississippi. He spends his spare time jogging and mowing the lawn.
He hasn’t played since 2010, when a week after his record 297-regular season game starting streak ended, he went 5-for-7 for 63 yards, one touchdown and one pick in a Minnesota Vikings loss to the Chicago Bears. He was concussed early in the game and replaced by Joe Webb.
That was it. Even Favre knew it. He reportedly told his agent, Bus Cook, to turn down the Rams’ interest this week. He'll remain on the sidelines, imparting his knowledge onto the next generation and counting down his days to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
So this time, perhaps for once, this Brett Favre story is not about Brett Favre. This non-stop coverage isn’t his fault, unless you blame him for staying at his playing weight.
That the Rams made the call says a lot more about the state of quarterback play in the country than it does the delusion of coach Jeff Fisher or the perceived I-can-do-it-ego of Favre.
The NFL has a whole host of problems right now – and, mind you, a whole host of profits. Taking nothing from the seriousness of player health and safety, its most pressing concern just might be the dearth of capable quarterbacks.
That there aren’t 32 quality quarterbacks for the NFL’s 32 franchises has been obvious for years now. If you don’t have a good one, you don’t stand a chance at winning. That’s long been true. Now, however, if you don’t have an even OK one, you struggle to not embarrass yourself.
The problem is there may be only 15-20 good quarterbacks in the world. And after that, 20 more who are even remotely capable of handling the position. The job is just that difficult and with injuries and poor roster moves, the inch-deep pool of reserves becomes increasingly obvious.
Compounding the problem, the pro game lacks offensive diversity, so we really don’t have any grind-it-out, run-first teams anymore that could live with a lousy QB. Some focus on it more than others, yet even those clubs – say Minnesota or the New York Jets, which prefer Rex Ryan’s “ground and pound” – are still reliant on a QB of some acumen.
The Vikings have the best back in the league, Adrian Peterson, yet the team was a laughingstock Monday as it called on quarterback Josh Freeman to throw it 53 times in a 23-7 loss to the Giants. Freeman completed just 20 of those passes and many of the misses sailed wildly over receivers' heads. This, of course, was the same Josh Freeman who winless Tampa Bay dumped due to poor play. And yet the Vikings still believed grabbing him and tossing him into the starting lineup was their best option.
They were probably correct. There is simply no one left. Here’s guessing that if Sam Bradford had been lost for the season two weeks earlier, rather than last Sunday, the Rams would’ve gladly claimed Freeman.
He’s better than Favre.
And that’s about where we are in the NFL right now.
(On a side note: If this doesn’t cement the idea that no one in the NFL believes in Tim Tebow, nothing will.)
There is no immediate solution here for the NFL, but the long-term problem needs to be addressed. Television ratings have shown that no amount of concussions will cause fans to turn away. At least not yet. The NFL just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Bad teams and bad quarterbacking play, however, might pose a greater threat. There was a train wreck aspect to watching the Vikings on Monday but how long can that last? That’s on a national level, however. Counting on actual Viking fans to tune in each week for games shown locally from here on out is another thing.
A league that is reliant on strong quarterbacking needs to find a way to develop the next generation of strong – or at least moderately strong – quarterbacks. The elite guys will always be there. Football desperately needs dozens of guys who are at the very least better than dudes three years into retirement.
The NFL already does plenty of work with youth and high school football, but perhaps it needs to do more. Quarterbacking is already better at the college level, in part because of the rise in 7-on-7 offseason football in Texas and much of the South. That isn’t a perfect development system for the pros though.
And neither are the college ranks anymore. The NFL was spoiled for decades by so many college coaches running pro-style offenses that led to fairly smooth transitions. Now the spread is the rage in the college game and while many of those elements work and NFL teams are embracing that system, it has yet to fully mesh.
Maybe the NFL can take the work getting done by the Manning Passing Academy and the Elite 11 camps and take it to the next level. Maybe it can embrace the high school talent camps run by Rivals.com, Under Armor and others by either partnering or doing its own. Maybe it should return to running a developmental league, like it used to with NFL Europe, which might identify and refine some promising talent.
Maybe it can just disperse an army of old quarterbacks to spread out around the country and work with young high school quarterbacks in big cities and small, little towns.
Kind of like what Brett Favre is up to these days.