We are heading into week four of the 2009 NFL season, and while you may be ready to make a Super Bowl prediction, most people will tell you that it is awfully tough to draw concrete conclusions from three games.
Well, it only took three weeks for this NFL fan to come a stark realization — the “game-manager” concept in the NFL is officially dead.
You see, I am a fan of the Tennessee Titans (long story), and that means that I am a fan of an 0-3 football team. Let me remind you, this is the same team that won 13 games last year, and didn’t lose a game until week 12.
It’s been a pretty humbling three weeks to say the least.
Now, the Titans are led by quarterback Kerry Collins and what was supposed to be a top-five defense. Collins, who is entering what seems like his 51st year in the league, is your textbook “game-manager.” The Titans rely on an explosive running game and they tell their ancient signal caller to complete third downs and limit mistakes.
Sorry, Jeff Fisher, I like 2-yard out routes, dump offs to the fullback and running back draws on third-and-nine just as much as the next guy, but this just is not going to work anymore.
The Titans have had a chance to win each of their first three games this season, and the ball has been in Collins’ hands at the critical moments each time. In week one, the game-manager went three-and-out late in the fourth quarter and the Steelers prevailed in overtime.
In week two, the Titans were down by three but had the ball with just over two minutes on the clock — just the right amount of time to drive down for the game-tying field goal or, dare I say, a game-winning score.
Instead, Collins fumbled. Game over.
In week three, we saw a similar scenario. Collins led the offense out onto the field late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game. One sack and two incompletions later, the game was over. In fact, Collins didn’t even complete a single pass in the fourth quarter. He went 0-for-14 in the final period en route to the Titans’ 0-3 record.
I apologize for the extended assault on the Titans, but Collins’ performance has proven a wider point — the game-manager has no future in the NFL. Not for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
Just ask the Miami Dolphins how well the game-manager has worked out for them this season. Chad Pennington and the Dolphins played the Colts in week two and did exactly what they wanted to do. Pennington managed the game, didn’t force any throws and the Miami running game kept Peyton Manning on the sideline with a perfectly clean jersey.
Manning and the Colts offense had the ball for less than 15 minutes, but apparently that was all they needed.
The Colts finally got the ball back with 3:44 left, trailing by three. Miami had controlled the entire game and they needed one stop to beat Indianapolis.
It took just four plays to score. The Colts won 27-23.
That is the difference a playmaker at the quarterback position makes for a team. In today’s NFL, with all the parity that exists, more often than not games are going to come down to a final possession. Manning, an unquestioned leader and playmaker, led his team to victory, while game-managers like Collins and Pennington watch wins slip away. No fumbles, no interceptions, no bad sacks, just game-winning drives time and time again.
Just look around the league and you’ll see the difference a playmaking quarterback has on a team.
Why do you think Eli Manning got a six-year, $97.5 million extension from the New York Giants?
It’s because he drives down the field with three minutes left in the Cowboys’ brand new palace and sets his team up for a game-winning field goal. The guy makes plays when it matters most, just like his older brother.
Why do you think the Vikings went out and got that gray-bearded, Wrangler-jeans-wearing, gunslinger from Mississippi?
It’s because he throws 32-yard touchdown passes with two seconds left on the clock. You’re not going to see Sage Rosenfels pull that anytime soon.
All those games could have gone either way, but it’s the dynamic play of those quarterbacks that makes all the difference. The Titans had a chance to win each of their games, but their quarterback is too busy managing the game instead of winning it.
I’m not saying the Titans and Dolphins are horrendous teams because they are not. The Titans were the top team in the AFC last year until they met the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. Ray Lewis and Co. shut down the run and forced Collins to beat them. He didn’t, and Baltimore advanced.
Neither club has a chance at winning the Super Bowl with game-managers under center. If you’re fine winning 10 or 11 games and being bounced in the first round of the playoffs, then maybe a game-manager is right for you, but it’s the quarterbacks who make plays in those big games that end up hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
And don’t give me that argument about the great Trent Dilfer, who game-managed his way to a Super Bowl. That was almost 10 years ago and the game has changed. Plus, Dilfer played with one of the best defenses ever. But, I guess I have to admit he was a game-manager who got himself a ring.
Yet, who was the quarterback who was on the opposite sideline in Super Bowl XXXV?
Oh, yeah, that would be Collins. Just saying.
Maybe the only way a game-manager can win a Super Bowl is if he somehow gets lucky enough to face a quarterback of his own kind.
So, congrats to you Trent, you defied the odds. But it has become clear to me now: We will not see a game-managing quarterback winning the Super Bowl anytime soon.
Max is a junior majoring in journalism. Are you tired of seeing guys like Collins and Pennington manage their teams to losses? Have you gone into hiding following the Titans’ 0-3 start? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.