|David J. Phillip / Associated Press|
|Kerry Collins has played mentor before in his career. Doing it again might be his only chance to stay in the league.|
One of the biggest myths in professional sports -- especially in the NFL -- is a veteran player doing everything he can to groom a younger guy to eventually take his job. Please. We've heard the stories about Brett Favre not doing much to grease the skids for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. That's probably more the norm than the exception.
Very few people do that in any facet of life unless the experienced employee is close to voluntarily vacating his position.
Quarterback Kerry Collins has gone through the drill once in Tennessee with Vince Young. According to teammate Jake Scott, Collins could walk away rather than do it a second time for eighth overall pick Jake Locker. Scott, on Sirius Radio, said that Collins might not want to be a "nursemaid" for Locker and could retire.
Collins, 38 and a 17-year veteran, knows where he is in his career. If he wants to have any shot of starting, returning as a "nursemaid" could be his only hope. If he's not cool with that, he's had a nice run.
Same goes for Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger and Jake Delhomme. Being the transitional quarterback might not be ideal after years of being a productive starter; but it's a chance to possibly stage a miracle finale. Think Kurt Warner, who was tabbed to groom Eli Manning and Matt Leinart and ended up likely solidifying a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by taking the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII.
For argument's sake, though, what if McNabb, Hasselbeck, Delhomme, Collins, Bulger -- all quarterbacks in their twilight -- decided they'd lost their passion and it was time to check out. Or, maybe the lockout takes away part or all of the 2011 season, letting rust accumulate on their aging bodies and giving them pause to realize how nice the time on the golf course feels as opposed to running gassers or getting blindsided by James Harrison.
The teams that had hoped to wean a quarterback into game action might have to rush things without that veteran bridge. If a team felt its rookie quarterback wasn't ready, it would have to scramble for players like Young, Leinart, Alex Smith and Tarvaris Jackson -- young guys who haven't established themselves but are looking to seize another job and not relinquish it.
Coaches always say they want competition, right?
The younger crop of veteran quarterbacks like Young or Smith might play well enough to make teams just as competitive as they could be under Delhomme, McNabb or Collins. They'd also serve notice to the younger players that they have to work even harder to inherit the job from someone who has a longer shelf life than the veteran crop of QBs.
As much as that might help a younger quarterback, at least in terms of work ethic, it might not help them as much as having a "nursemaid" around. One of the main reasons teams keep at least one veteran around every season, even when that player is well past his prime, is what that guy does in meeting rooms and on the practice field. It happens at nearly every position because coaches want someone who knows what they're doing in every meeting room.
Think about it -- particularly with the small window to prepare this offseason because of the lockout: Who do most coaches want showing Christian Ponder how to break down film, learn opposing tendencies and navigate the playbook, Hasselbeck or Leinart?
So while Collins might not want to be back, the older veteran quarterbacks have an important place in the game. It might not be the place they'd prefer, but they do have a place in next season's NFL.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.