Friday, July 10, 2009

The More Things Change..

1998! When a Ryan Leaf action figure sounded like a good idea!

The more they really f#$kin' change. Last night with the Cubs on an off day and nothing else to do, I found myself watching the 1998 Quarterback Skills Competition on NFL Network, and it blew my mind. Just seeing the quarterbacks that participated, the teams they were with at the time, and hearing the speculation on their futures, all while knowing what happened to each of them was kind of amusing. Some of the quarterbacks that participated-

Kordell Stewart, Steelers
They first talk about Kordell's mobility and call him "the total package," they discuss his stellar play in 1997 and mention how he was sure to keep defenses guessing for years to come. Ironically he fails the mobility challenge, which everyone assumed he would win, by holding onto the ball too long and throwing it wide of the target at the end. Later he scored the lowest of any quarterback in the accuracy competition (shocking, I know).

Danny Kanell, Giants
Honest to God before last night I can't even remember the last time I'd heard the name of this journeyman quarterback who spent two years starting for the Giants in 1997 and 1998 before disappearing into obscurity. He didn't place very well.

Kerry Collins, Panthers
This came not long after the 1997 season, and they mention Collins' hopes to take the Panthers back to the playoffs, after the 1996 Panthers had made it to the NFC championship game, only to fall to 7-9 the next year as Collins threw 21 interceptions. Just a few short months later Collins' alcoholism and an incident involving Muhsin Muhammed, a few other teammates, and a racial epithet led to him being placed on waivers by the Panthers, picked up by the Saints, and nearly flaming out of the league.

Gus Frerotte, Redskins
Frerotte was about to enter his last season with the Redskins, leading to the journeyman career he's had since then (he's been on 7 different teams). He didn't perform very well.

S
teve Young, 49ers
This one made me kind of sad, as Young was always one of my favorite quarterbacks to watch due to his efficiency and incredible accuracy. The 1998 season would be his last great season, with 36 td passes and that incredibly playoff win over the Packers when he threw the game winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens through double coverage. Just a year after that vicious hit from Aeneas Williams and the effects of post concussion syndrome would finally force him into retirement.

Trent Dilfer, Buccaneers
Dilfer was coming off the best season, statistically, of his career and everyone seemed optimistic he'd finally overcome the problems of his first three seasons and was surely to become the franchise quarterback the Bucs expected when they drafted him in the 1st round in 1994. Of course that didn't happen, and only his year as the poster child for the caretaker quarterback during the Ravens Superbowl run kept his career from being a disappointment. Now he works at ESPN, where he and Mark Schlereth somehow think the Jay Cutler trade made the Bears a worse team. F&%k you, Trent.

Scott Mitchell, Lions
Remember Mitchell? The former back up to Dan Marino who tantalized Lions fans with a 4,338 yd, 32 td 1995 season and actually led them to the playoffs in the 1995 and 1997? That seems so long ago. Mitchell never really sustained the success of his 1995 season and ended up benched just a few months after this competition in favor of rookie Charlie Batch (WHO THE LIONS NEVER SHOULD HAVE GIVEN UP ON!)

Brett Favre, Packers
Favre was coming off his third straight MVP season, his second straight Superbowl appearance, and everyone was sure he was destined for even greater heights. Thank God he wasn't. The bastard hasn't been in a Superbowl or received another MVP since.

Drew Bledsoe, Patriots
Bledsoe was in the middle of the most productive run of his career, when from 1996-1998 he threw for between 20 and 28 touchdowns each year with a passing rating over 80 for all three seasons (above his 77.1 career mark). Believe it or not the mobility part of the test wasn't his best performance.

Elvis Grbac, Chiefs
Grbac had shown promise as Young's backup on the 49ers, so the Chiefs had picked him to be their starter for the 1997 season. Grbac performed adequately, and the announcers were determined he was off to a bright career as a starter. He wasn't. During the 98 season he'd be benched with a 53.1 quarterback rating. He'd rebound to have a decent season in 1999 and a fluke season in 2000 when he threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 tds, but then flamed out horribly as the Ravens starter in 2001 before retiring. Also, if you haven't read the hilarious tale of how Elvis Grbac accidentally became People's Sexiest Athlete Alive in 1998, you should.

Jim Harbaugh, Ravens
This was fun, as Harbaugh was the first Bears quarterback I watched during my lifetime and I was always happy for his success in Indianapolis. This was right after he'd been traded to the Ravens to make room on the Colts for a rookie Peyton Manning. He said in an interview during the competition that he intended to play until he won a Superbowl, but alas that was not to be. After a disappointing '98 he left the Ravens to join the Chargers, where he led them to an 8-8 record during the 1999 season while Ryan Leaf was hurt. After "losing" the job to Leaf in 2000, Harbaugh started just 5 games, going 0-5 on a 1-15 squad. He retired after backing up Charlie Batch for the Lions in 2001. Harbaugh won the whole thing, which must sadly be a career highlight for him.

Steve McNair, Oilers
This was of course a bit awkward given recent events, and it was pretty sad to hear everyone talk about his skill set and his bright future. It was good to see an Oilers jersey again, though.

And then, of course, the funniest one of all...

Ryan Leaf, Chargers
Leaf didn't actually compete in the challenge, he was merely the person used to demonstrate each event, and it was fantastic. I really mean that, he was absolutely perfect at almost every one of the drills. He threw the deep ball well, he hit the moving targets with accuracy and damn near right on the bullseye, he even showed off great movement in the mobility challenge. It really is interesting after seeing the abysmal failure that he was on the field, and hearing him referred to as the greatest draft bust of all time, to really see the skills he had that got him drafted. Its really no surprise that arm strength and size got him as high in the draft as it did. It just makes it all the more glaring how poor his attitude really was and how badly it affected his performance.