November 10, 2011
If you've got a bunch of kids, and you give them a shiny new toy, and they don't know how to use that toy -- they're throwing it around casually, misusing it, abusing it, doing things with it that were never intended -- you'd take that toy away from them, right?
This is why I'm proposing a ban on NFL head coaches using the word "elite" to describe their quarterbacks.
Alex Smith was the latest to get the label, courtesy of his head coach, Jim Harbaugh.
"I think people that know football and understand the game appreciate Alex Smith as a very talented quarterback," he said. "He's every bit the elite quarterback as there is playing in the game right now."
The first sentence is true. The second, I'm not so sure.
I have nothing but complimentary things to say about Alex Smith. He's played brilliantly, and I've found it tremendously entertaining to watch him rescue his NFL career. He's been a model of efficiency. Sixty-four percent of his passes are completed, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 10-to-2. He doesn't throw the ball a lot, and his yardage totals don't blow anyone away, but he's asked to do his job in a certain way, and he does it very well.
Aaron Rodgers(notes) sets the bar right now for elite quarterbacks. You could argue, if we're judging only on this season, that he's the only elite quarterback in the NFL. No one else is close. If you wanted to expand the definition to include Drew Brees(notes) and Tom Brady(notes), I'd have no quibble. Beyond that, I think we're done.
"Elite" is supposed to be a small group. If we let Alex Smith in, let Eli Manning in, let Joe Flacco in, let Mark Sanchez (Mark Sanchez!) in, then "elite" loses all meaning. By these definitions, Jason Campbell(notes) would be elite. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) would be elite.
If any of these gentlemen do eventually raise their game to an elite level (and some are closer than others), they won't have to say they're elite, or have someone else say it for them. They'll just know it, and that will be enough. Until then, though, there's absolutely nothing wrong with just being a very good NFL quarterback.
Gracias, Larry Brown Sports.
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