- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

Here’s to the low-profile quarterback.

Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme inflicted humiliating defeats on their much higher-profile quarterbacking counterparts in the NFL’s conference championship games last weekend.

Brady, a sixth-round draft choice in 2000, and the Patriots thrashed the Colts and Peyton Manning in the AFC title game. The pedigreed Manning was the first pick of the 1998 draft.

In the NFC, the undrafted Delhomme and the Panthers beat the favored Eagles and Donovan McNabb. McNabb was the second choice of the 1999 draft.

Brady and Delhomme continue a remarkable Super Bowl run by once-unheralded passers:

• Last season, Brad Johnson quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a championship. Johnson was a ninth-round pick who didn’t become a starter until his fifth season in the league.

• Johnson’s counterpart, Rich Gannon of the Raiders, was a fourth-round pick who had been cast adrift by three teams.

• In 2001, Brady faced the Rams and quarterback Kurt Warner. Warner was not drafted, played in NFL Europe and the Arena League and worked in a grocery store before eventually being found by the Rams.

• The Ravens’ Trent Dilfer and the Giants’ Kerry Collins met in the 2000 Super Bowl. Each was a first-round draft pick, but the Bucs chose not to re-sign Dilfer when he became a free agent, and Collins had been cut by Carolina and New Orleans.

• Journeyman Chris Chandler led the Falcons to the title game in 1998, where he faced John Elway and the Broncos.

That makes Elway and the Titans’ Steve McNair (1999) the only two of the past 12 Super Bowl quarterbacks without some kind of rags-to-riches tale.

Ridiculous Raiders — Just after it was reported that the Raiders had chosen Sean Payton as their next coach, the Cowboys announced on their Web site Payton would return to the team as assistant head coach.

That prompted usually reticent Raiders owner Al Davis to deny he had offered Payton the job.

So the Raiders, the AFC champions last season but only 4-12 this year, remain without a coach — or a de-facto general manager after Bruce Allen’s departure for Tampa Bay. Whoever ends up taking over the ancient Raiders will be their fifth coach in a decade. That’s as many coaches as Davis employed the previous 29 seasons.

Patriots owe Custer — New England might not have won the Super Bowl in 2001 or reached this year’s big game if not for Gen. George Custer. It seems Felix Vinatieri, the great-great-grandfather of Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri and the leader of the 7th Cavalry brass band, was instructed by the general to stay behind and wait for a supply boat along with his 15 fellow band members. The event they missed, of course, was the Battle of the Little Big Horn, in which Crazy Horse and his Sioux warriors massacred Custer and 276 of his men on June26, 1876.

“If you go deep enough into family history, everybody’s got an interesting story,” said Vinatieri, whose family still lives in South Dakota. “That happens to be mine.”

No spot for Hanny? — Jim Hanifan, one of the top offensive line coaches in NFL history, retired after St. Louis’ season ended with the shocking playoff loss to Carolina. The 30-year veteran spent three seasons working under Joe Gibbs in Washington. At 70, is Hanifan too old for Gibbs and the rest of the AARP crowd on the Redskins’ coaching staff?

While Hanifan heads to the family ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Buffalo should be in line for great things in 2005 with the hiring of 24-year veteran line coach Jim McNally. Consider that Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl in McNally’s second season there (1981), Carolina made the NFC title game in his second season (1996) and the Giants went to the Super Bowl in his second season (2000).

“I’m not some guy who just wants to have a job,” said McNally, who grew up in suburban Kenmore and played and coached at the University of Buffalo. “I can feel for all those die-hards who live and die with the team. The only thing I’m a little apprehensive about is I’ve got a bunch of friends there and I hope they don’t consider me a savior.”

Wycheck ready to hang ‘em up — In August 1995, the Redskins cut Frank Wycheck after 23 receptions, a concussion and a steroid-related suspension. Nine seasons, 478 catches and three Pro Bowls later, Wycheck is ready to retire from the Tennessee Titans because of the cumulative effects of 12 career concussions.

Wycheck’s 505 receptions rank him fourth among tight ends behind only Hall of Fame lock Shannon Sharpe and Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow, who already have busts in Canton.

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