For quarterbacks, there is an unmistakable lesson to be gleaned from this NFL season:
They pay you to prepare — year-round.
There will be no more part-time franchise quarterbacks. Brett Favre has exposed the inherent danger in that setup, and Michael Vick 2.0 is demonstrating just how much added value there is in having a talented QB fully invested.
Franchise quarterbacks don’t get an offseason. They’re members of the coaching staff. They show up early and leave late. They study game film like it was narrated by Jenna Jameson.
You want to be paid like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, then you must be willing to prepare like Manning and Brady.
We’ll call it the “Ted Thompson Rule.”
Thompson, of course, is the Green Bay Packers general manager who made the gutsy decision to dump Brett Favre when it became obvious The Old Gunslinger wanted franchise money for part-time play.
Three years ago, I criticized Thompson for his bold move. I was wrong. You can’t build a consistent, winning football team around a quarterback who isn’t all in, and the repercussions for taking the risk can be devastating.
The devastation in Minnesota is deeper than the $17 million to $20 million owner Zygi Wilf is scheduled to pay Favre for the Vikings’ disastrous 2010 campaign. Coach Brad Childress lost his job. The Vikes burned a third-round draft pick on Randy Moss. They still have no clue whether Tarvaris Jackson is a legitimate NFL-caliber quarterback. Adrian Peterson has another year of wear and tear on his tires.
Moving forward, at the QB position, talent alone means very little when it comes to getting paid. It’s not just Brett Favre.
The problems in Tennessee surrounding Vince Young and Jeff Fisher are directly related to preparation. Fisher has never fully believed in his “franchise QB” because he has never believed Young prepares like a franchise quarterback.
Young constantly misses practice with an assortment of nagging injuries. He has never developed a reputation as a film-study student of the game.
Talent can be a curse. At Texas, Young’s physical gifts were so overwhelming he didn’t need to prepare while in college. He simply needed to show up on game day healthy and in solid cardiovascular shape. Young never learned to compete at a professional level.
Young equates competing to emotion. Sunday, he responded emotionally to booing fans. He egged them on. After a frustrating loss and a thumb injury that forced him out of the game, Young threw his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands. He bickered with Fisher in the locker room and left without addressing the media. His teammate, Michael Griffin, chased after Young and begged the QB to return to the locker room.
Young clarified his position on Twitter.
“Just want to say I’m fine sorry to my teammates.”
“Just want to play.”
Playing isn’t enough in the NFL, especially at the prices the league pays starting quarterbacks. True competitors prepare. Preparation is a superior, mature way to compete.
I never understood this in my youthful days as a college football player, and it’s why I never reached my full potential. Like a lot of immature players, I thought what I did on Saturdays was all that mattered.
Jeff Fisher has spent five years trying to teach Vince Young how to compete Monday through Saturday. Fisher is tired. He’s ready to give up. He announced Young is no longer the Titans’ starting quarterback. The rumor is Fisher will use Young’s thumb injury as an excuse to put the quarterback on injured reserve.
Let’s hope Young is taking notes on Michael Vick 2.0.
Assuming there’s a renewed collective-bargaining agreement this offseason, there’s going to be considerable debate about how much money the Philadelphia Eagles should spend to retain Vick, the leading candidate for league MVP.
Vick’s play justifies another $100 million contract. He won’t get half of that if he’s unable to convince the Eagles he’s ready to commit to the responsibility of being a franchise quarterback year-round.
Unlike his Atlanta playing days, Vick 2.0 is receiving praise for his practice and preparation habits in Philadelphia. He understands the game from the pocket because he’s putting the work in on the practice field and in the film room.
Will these habits continue after he lands a new contract?
That’s what the Eagles are trying to figure out.
Does Vick really want to compete against Manning, Brady and Drew Brees? Or does Vick believe he’s Brett Favre, a QB so talented and accomplished that full-time preparation is unnecessary?