Friday, April 15, 2011
The Perfect Quarterback's Personality
People talk about what a risky business the evaluation of quarterbacks is, and they aren't joking. That minefield is littered with the wreckage of general managers and head coaches' careers who have latched their reputations to the backs of colossal busts. Or the ascendancy of geniuses like Bill Belichick, whose reputation is partially established by a quarterback he passed on 5 times in one draft.
Once a talent evaluator has established that a quarterback has the physical skills to play at the position, and the intelligence to read defenses, call audibles, and in general not lose the game due to plain ol' stupidity, what is left?
The personality of the winning quarterback. Don't hire a private investigator to see if the guy is snorting coke off of a hookers' backside in his down time, hire a psychiatrist to see if the guy is a pain in the ass to play golf with.
Let me explain. I think great quarterbacks share a few qualities, none of which are related to physical skills or test related intelligence. They are, as follows (with credit to grinch11, who jogged this post with a reply over at Fieldgulls):
Perfectionist. I think of the truly great quarterbacks, and I have trouble coming up with any who aren't perfectionists. Favre was the closest, but I saw him screaming his head off at teammates enough to know that even if he didn't demand perfection from himself, he demanded it of others. But Brees, Manning, Brady, Rivers, plus many of the retired greats I can think of demanded perfection out of others, and themselves as well. It is a perfectionism bordering on just plain type A jerkishness that the greats have in common.
Obsessive. I can't tell you what Peyton Manning's garage looks like, but I will bet it doesn't look like mine. His rumored obsession with game tape, watching it for any tiny edge, any small advantage, is the stuff of legend. I will bet Manning is still doing mental calisthenics over missing some bit of tape, some shred of evidence, that Tracy Porter was setting him up in the Super Bowl. That must just eat at an obsessive guy like Manning. Hell, I will bet that having a locker next to his not be perfectly tidy makes him grind his teeth in his sleep. Brees and Brady don't strike me as any less obsessive. The stories that New Orleans players and personnel tell about Brees throwing imaginary games into the twilight by himself on a Saints practice field only further show that this obsessiveness is a quality that all the best possess.
Competitive. The pure will to win that the greats in all sports show is mandatory in a great quarterback, in my opinion. When you hear stories about what happens in the huddle on the great game-winning drives in football history, there is no "IF we win"; it is assured in the minds of those quarterbacks. I can't see guys like John Elway or Joe Montana being at all happy about losing a game of tiddlywinks, let alone a football game. There is a very good reason those two were known for their 4th quarter comebacks. In a team situation, that competitive fire is contagious, and is what I think helps the great quarterbacks elevate the games of people around them. Or ruins the game of those who don't match that competitive desire. It isn't a football story, but the rumors about how Michael Jordan ruined the careers of guys like Craig Hodges by just plain destroying their confidence in practice, mostly because it irritated Jordan that Hodges wasn't competitive by nature, illustrate this level of competitiveness.
The one who has something to prove. The chip on his shoulder, the imagined slight, the always-felt disrespect. Brady has made his career partially on this feeling. If you watched The Brady 6, this emotion was palpable. Manning is an interesting study in this, as he was the first pick in the draft, and still imagines he is being disrespected at all times. When asked before the draft how he would respond if the Colts didn't take him first overall, he responded by telling them he would spend the next 15 years kicking their asses. Imagined disrespect. Brees is much the same, he still is upset about the way he was shipped out of San Diego to make room for Philip Rivers, and has taken it out on the league ever since. Of all the 4 qualities listed here, this is the one that drives Matt Hasselbeck the most, I think. He has mentioned his late selection enough times for me to know that it fuels his efforts on and off the field.
Like I said, the mental tics that make the great ones great would make them lousy golfing partners. So maybe if John Schneider wants to get to know what lurks in Ryan Mallett's mind, hit the links with him. Or the bowling alley, like he did with Russell Okung. If he has what it takes to play in this league, you won't be able to stand him by the time the tenth frame is done or the last putt is sunk. Doubt his skills a few times during the game just to see his response, Mr Schneider.
Substitute any name for Mallett's, but the question remains the same: is he an obsessive competitive jerk driven to prove everyone who ever doubted him wrong by working his ass off?
So, how do 2011's prospects stack up in the psychology department? To what level do they show these 4 traits?