- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What does the $72 million signing of Brock Osweiler by the Houston Texans tell us?

It tells us that the state of quarterback play in the NFL in 2015 stinks.

You know what it also tells us? That the rankings of all-time great quarterbacks we’ve been doing in the wake of the retirement of Peyton Manning has been a joke.

It’s never been easier to play quarterback in this league than right now, and yet the quality of play is so poor that quarterbacks such as Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins are considered elite commodities.



We’re going to rank Peyton Manning among the all-time greats for his accomplishments during this era of mediocrity? We owe an apology to every quarterback who played in the 20th century.

“I had a tremendous four seasons in Denver,” Osweiler told reporters upon the news of his signing.

Doing what? Carrying a clipboard? Listening to Manning yell “Omaha”?

I’m assuming when Osweiler tells us he had a tremendous four seasons with the Broncos, it is on some sort of personal level. I mean, after all, he started just seven games in those four seasons — all this year — and was benched by Denver when it came time to play meaningful games in favor of a broken-down, 39 year-old quarterback who couldn’t throw the ball more than 20 yards.

Yet the Texans, coached by a man in Bill O’Brien who reportedly knows the quarterback position well, were willing to pay Osweiler $37 million guaranteed — including a $12 million signing bonus — because it is so hard to find quarterbacks these days who can simply manage games, let alone win them.

And we’re going to crown Manning and 38-year-old Tom Brady among the greatest of all time because they ruled in an age of mediocrity — a time when it has never been easier to play quarterback in the league?

Measuring the greatest quarterbacks of all time is a difficult proposition, perhaps one of the most debated in sports. It’s funny — we don’t have the same argument about running back. It’s Jim Brown, and everyone else is battling for second place. And, based on the devaluation of the running back position in today’s pass-happy league, it will always be Brown.

You could ever make the case that there is not much debate over the greatest defensive player in NFL history, Lawrence Taylor. It may not be a definitive as Brown’s crown, but it holds up more than two decades later.

Quarterback? Brady, with his six Super Bowl appearances and four championships, and Manning, holding nearly career NFL passing record, have been ranked at or near the top of nearly every article and discussion since Manning’s announcement as the greatest ever to play the game at quarterback.
So, where do Osweiler and his $72 million rank?

How can we seriously consider Brady or Manning to be better than Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen, Roger Staubach or your pick among the greats of the past when they have put together their record of excellence in a time when it has never been easier to do so?

The New York Times reported in January what we all know — that the NFL has tried to remove violence from the game by changing some rules and strictly enforcing others and by fining or suspending players. The result has been a number of high-scoring games that have led to numerous records and high television ratings, and “the biggest beneficiaries are the game’s most recognizable stars — the quarterbacks who have largely been free of serious injury and are leading the most dynamic passing offenses in league history.”

Records were set this season, when 804 touchdown passes were thrown and 62.6 percent of passes were completed. According to Football Outsiders, teams called pass plays 60.3 percent of the time. Nine quarterbacks threw at least 30 touchdown passes after only five did so in four of the last five seasons.

So tell me — do we really think that Manning, with his 539 touchdown passes, 251 interceptions and 71,940 passing yards, and Brady, with his 428 touchdown passes, 150 interceptions and 58,028 passing yards — are that much better than Jurgensen and his 255 touchdown passes, 189 interceptions and 32,224 passing yards? Or the late Ken Stabler, with 194 touchdowns, 222 interceptions and 27,938 passing yards?

Brady, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Blake Bortles, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the most touchdown passes this past season.

Jurgensen, John Brodie, Daryle Lamonica, John Hadl, Fran Tarkenton, Bill Nelson, Roman Gabriel, Jack Concannon, Bob Berry, Norm Snead and Craig Morton threw the most touchdown passes in 1970.

Which is the more impressive list?

Yet, we never talk about Jurgensen among the greatest of all time, or Tarkenton. Unitas has fallen off the list for many. These quarterbacks played the position when it was the hardest to play on the field — when they determined their offenses, and the defenses had carte blanche to go after them and their offensive weapons.

I don’t know who the greatest quarterback to ever play in this league is, but Osweiler’s contract tells me one thing — that he isn’t on the field now and he hasn’t been for some time.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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