November 30, 2010
You thought that the evening couldn't get any worse for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson(notes) after his team was decimated, 27-6, by the San Francisco 49ers on "Monday Night Football." The defeat took the 3-8 Cards out of any possible playoff race once and for all, left them with their sixth straight defeat, and threw yet more questions at the feet of Anderson and his future as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Anderson completed 16 passes in 35 attempts for 196 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. He has completed just 53.7 percent of his passes for the season, and at this point, we can be pretty certain that the only reason he's starting is that he provides a more reliably mediocre option at the position than the Cards would get from the rookie ups-and-downs of Max Hall(notes) or John Skelton(notes).
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked after the game about two of his players laughing and joking on the sideline in the death throes of their season. "I didn't see that, and I'd be disappointed if that was the case," Whisenhunt said. "I didn't sense, with talking to Derek in the fourth quarter, and from talking with our offensive line, that that was the case. So until I see that, I would be hesitant to say anything about it."
Anderson took the podium next and was asked about his seemingly less-than-appropriate reaction.
One reporter, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, asked, "I don't mean this to be sarcastic, or pointed, but that went out on Monday night television, and a lot of fans are talking about it right now as a big problem with this team. Can you put into context what was going on at that moment, and what caused you to ..."
Anderson cut him off. "What Deuce and I talk about is nobody else's business."
[Related: Reporter's close call with Zamboni]
Somers: "But why was something funny when you're down 18 points in the fourth quarter?"
Anderson: "It wasn't funny -- I wasn't laughing about anything."
Somers: "But the cameras showed you laughing ..."
Anderson (cutting the reporter off again): "OK, that's fine. That's fine, that's fine, that's fine. That's fine. I'm not laughing about it. You think this is funny? I take this [bleep] serious! Real serious! I put my heart and soul into this [bleep] every single week!"
Somers: "All I'm saying is that the cameras showed you ..."
Anderson (cutting him off yet again): "I'm' just telling you right now what I do every single week! [voice starts to rise] Every single week! I put my freakin' heart and soul into this, I study my ass off! I don't go out there and laugh! It's not funny! Nothing's funny to me! I don't want to go out there and get embarrassed on 'Monday Night Football' in front of everybody!"
Somers: "But that's why I'm asking you ..."
Anderson: "I'm telling you right now! We were talking! Deuce and I were talking!"
Somers: "What was the context of the ..."
Anderson: "I'm done." (walks away from the podium),
It's easy to understand Anderson's frustration -- being asked to put your gestures and moods into context after getting blown out in front of the country may seem a bit ridiculous. But quarterbacks are leaders, and leaders have an obligation to lead by example, even if it seems unrealistic that every player will react the same way to adverse circumstances. One reporter told ESPN.com that Anderson went back to the locker room, kicked an inanimate object, and departed.
This is no way for any quarterback to act. You'll occasionally see the best and more hyper-competitive quarterbacks bounding from a press conference in a snit if something hits them the wrong way (as I remember, Dan Marino had a particular tendency to do that). But when you're playing at a backup level at best, and you appear to the world that you're not serious about your craft, it would seem smart to take advantage of any opportunity to explain yourself. Anderson just made himself look petulant, and that's not going to sit well with anyone. The Cardinals are in freefall, and it's hard to imagine that Anderson, who signed a two-year, $7.25 million contract in March of 2010, will be in the team's future plans when it comes time to pick up his $3.9 million base salary in 2011.
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