I’ve been covering sports in exchange for either a grade or a paycheck for 8 years now. In that time, I’ve had a chance to regularly cover more than a few college and pro quarterbacks. The way these guys have dealt with the media has told me a lot—I think—about their ability to succeed at football’s highest profile position.
In my experience, you can separate the quarterbacks into 3 categories:
1. THE CHARISMATICS – Win or lose, these guys typically meet the press with a smile and answer our questions thoughtfully. They’ll crack a funny joke—frequently at their own expense.
2. THE TOUGH GUYS – These guys tend not to be shy about letting us know that they have very little use for us. Their demeanor tends to be deadly serious. They can offer very thoughtful answers if you ask them a question that they deem worthy. If you ask a question that under whelms them, though, they may get sarcastic with you and/or look at you like you’re an idiot!
3. THE UP-TIGHTS – We–among other things–make these guys nervous. The “Up-Tights”seem very afraid of saying the wrong thing. A press conference to them is a walk through a den full of vipers to be survived.
So, without further ado, here’s how some quarterback’s you might be familiar with fit into my little labeling system:
Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel swears I’m wrong to put Brock Berlin in this category. As the former Canes beat writer, he would know better than I. All I can go by is what I saw. As arguably, the most verbally abused, hung-in-effigy starting Canes QB in recent memory, I was always impressed that Brock came into those Monday press conferences walking and talking like a happy go lucky good ole’ boy.
Harris seems to have a rare ability to stay unaffected by all the pressures of playing QB at Miami. Frerotte was quick with the good-natured, self-deprecating remark. Gus had already played for 5 teams before he came to Miami in 2005. At each stop, he had to answer questions about the infamous 1997 incident where he sprained his neck by head-butting a wall as he celebrated a touchdown. He could not have been more good-natured about answering any and all questions we had about that incident. This was typical of my experience with him; Frerotte’s just an easygoing fella who’s “been there” and “done that.” Rosenfels wasn’t a jokester, but he seemed to have a very calm demeanor. And, if any of you saw how Sage handled himself after his epic 3 turnover meltdown in the final 4 minutes of his game with Houston last weekend, you also have to say that Sage is a “stand-up”, “face the music” kind of guy. The two “tons”–Harrington and Pennington—may be the most charismatic of the bunch. I could see why Detroit fans had called Harrington “Joey Sunshine.” As for Pennington, he exhibits grace and humor—no matter what the final score reads.
In previous jobs, I covered both Rivers and McNabb during their college careers. They were well deserving of “charismatic” status! McNabb, though, was prone to peppering his answers with cliché’s (aka “We’ve gotta take each game one game at a time, etc…). However, the difference between McNabb and other cliché loving athletes is that it seemed McNabb used them in a conscious effort not to say anything that would get him or the team in trouble. Many other cliché loving athletes seem to use clichés because they truly don’t have any other thoughts to express.
THE TOUGH GUYS:
In my experience, so far, Henne and Marve are the leaders in this category. There’s an edge to them—a cockiness even. But, it’s a cockiness that appears rooted in the self-knowldge these guys have that they’re good at what they do. I can see how their confidence and no-nonsense demanors would play well in the huddle. Green had a lot of “charismatic” in him. But, I’ve put him here because he seemed to really bristle about being questioned about his mistakes. Lemon and Fielder also occasionally drifted into “charismatic” territory—particularly if you caught up with them in a non-football environment.
THE UP TIGHTS:
Culpepper occasionally veered into “Tough-Guy” territory. But, I had to put him here with the “Up-Tights” because he seemed to get derailed when asked to analyze himself or his situation. Daunte was the least analytical big-time quarterback I’ve ever dealt with. As for Wright, you could tell he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. He never looked or sounded like he was having any fun. Freeman was almost a “charismatic” in his junior year. But that changed during his senior campaign. In the wake of his “will he or wont he transfer”drama, Freeman became extremely nervous and wooden. Feely and Beck occasionally have flashed a “charismatic” style sense of humor. It almost feels incorrect to put Beck in this category. In his time here, I’ve found him extremely professional, thoughtful and good-natured. I put him here because there is also a certain wooden-ness about him that I see manifested in his persona and in his play. And—as we all could understand–the strain of his roller coaster ride up and down the Dolphin’s depth chart seems to have gotten to him in times. McCown was completely humorless and robotic in the short time I was exposed to him.
So what’s this all mean? Maybe something. Maybe nothing. It seems self-evident that “The Charismatics” and “The Tough Guys” have enjoyed much more success than the “Up-Tights.” However, the question is what came first: the “Up-Tight”ness or the lack-of-success? I think the former led to the latter. You might disagree.