Legends don't grow on trees…
It's not often that Hollywood and the NFL share a similar dilemma. Believe it or not, I found one.
Anyone know the name of the person who created a show called "Friends," cast all those unknown actors in it and made them famous? Probably not, but I bet you can name the cast.
Not a problem, because they all played nice throughout the show's monster success and survived the entire run. Unfortunately, there are lots of shows that didn't run so smoothly, and heads rolled -- always on the same side of the fence. "Roseanne" mulched the show's creator and scads of subsequent head writers faster than Tom Arnold's knee twitches…because Hollywood is a star system, and the math is pretty basic: If you lock horns with someone whose name is the title of the show, you are the one who is asked to box up your office supplies and hit the bricks. If there is a problem, they get rid of the executive writer/producer/creator, and keep the star.
In a business sense, it's not wrong. At the end of the day, the public doesn't give a crap about the nameless writer who plucked some comic out of obscurity, built them a hit show with monster paydays -- a vast majority of the public thinks those clever people on camera think up all them funny lines on their own. Then again, it doesn't make for the greatest karma points, now does it?
It also explains my ongoing fascination with the Brett Favre debacle. For once, the star didn't win out -- the show runners did. Remarkable, especially when you consider that on any given Sunday at Lambeau, the stands were 90 percent full of fans wearing No. 4 jerseys!
I am not here to try to discern who did what to whom and when they did it. I don't have to. As my Irish grandmother used to say, "It's all over now and the child's name is Anthony…" On the other hand, only now does it truly become interesting and interpretable.
Look, coming off last weekend, it's easy enough to say the Packers were absolutely right to hand the starting job over to Aaron Rodgers -- 328 yards and three touchdowns rightfully adds some shine to a QB's street cred. Okay, so he did it against the Lions defense, but no matter how you slice it, the Pack are 2-0 and look to be the odds-on favorite to repeat as champs of the NFC North.
Meanwhile Saint Brett came out strong in the Jets' opening win against the Miami Dolphins, who barely won a single game in '07. Game 2 brought us a less convincing performance in a loss to a Brady-less Patriots team. Still, as bad as the Lions secondary is, that's how good any Bill Belichick-coached team is, so in the spirit of a level playing field, perhaps a mulligan is due here. I suspect Favre, Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles would have singed the Lions for a solid 300 and 3, just like Rodgers did.
Regardless, the nation is now convinced that Green Bay's brain trust of Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson did the right thing in cutting ties and moving forward.
Not so fast…
My catchphrase for "Nick Bakay's Tale of the Tape" has always been "the numbers never lie," and my old adage is facing an interesting challenge in the aftermath of Favre's relocation to New Jersey. Not so much the passing numbers in Weeks 1 and 2. No, I'm talking about some bigger facts, of the Pro Football Hall of Fame variety.
Favre is a first-ballot lock, and yet it's good that they shipped him off? You think quarterbacks are enshrined in Canton all the time, don't you? Well, they're not. In fact, it's a very rare, very special QB who earns the right to sweat through one of those yellow blazers that seems to be culled from the archives of the Johnny Carson apparel line (made in Buffalo, N.Y., circa 1973).
Peep the last 10 modern-day quarterbacks to get into the Hall of Fame. I had to go all the way back to the class of 1989 for the 10th QB -- and a great, one…
10) Terry Bradshaw (Class of 1989)
The name of the QB who replaced him in Pittsburgh? Cliff Stoudt.
That's right, Cliff Stoudt. Anyone remember Cliff's career? Show of hands?
By now, you're probably savvy to my angle: How often is a Hall of Famer replaced with a comparable player? The answer is almost never. Let's run down the remaining nine HOF QBs and the poor slobs asked to fill their magical Under Armour.
9) Bob Griese (Class of 1990)
Replacement: David Woodley. He did, in fact, take the 'Fins to a Super Bowl, where they got drubbed, and he quickly faded. Woodley had a tragic end. I'm not here to pick on him, so let's move on.
8) Dan Fouts (Class of 1993)
Replacement: Babe Laufenberg. I know, he sounds like a QB from the 1930s, but needless to say, not a Hall of Fame career. (Although in an odd footnote, Fouts was preceded in San Diego, believe it or not, by Johnny Unitas! Shades of Favre in a Jets uni. Maybe this bodes well for the Jets next signal caller?)
7) Joe Montana (Class of 2000)
Replacement: Steve Young. The one instance of back-to-back Canton enshrinees. The exception that proves the rule, or a great omen for Aaron Rodgers? I mean, Montana casts a shadow that is at least the equal of Favre's, and Young found a way to etch an all-time career. Pretty amazing. I had my fun over the years trading barbs with Young on the ESPN fantasy football special, but the fact is, I am astonished I'm allowed on the same show with him.
6) Jim Kelly (Class of 2002)
Replacement: Todd Collins. A mess in Buffalo, Collins has gone on to build a remarkably long NFL career…as a backup.
5) John Elway (Class of 2004)
Replacement: Brian Griese. Journeyman QB who adds to our growing list of diminishing replacement returns.
4) Dan Marino (Class of 2005)
Replacement: Jay Fiedler. Nothing interesting here, although our last three enshrinees underscore what a remarkable draft class the league was blessed with in 1983!
3) Steve Young (Class of 2005)
Replacement: Jeff Garcia. What a run in San Fran -- two Hall of Famers, followed by a guy who earned his way to the Pro Bowl. Not a Canton-bound guy, though, so we have to count Garcia out.
2) Warren Moon (Class of 2006)
The most traveled of this group, which let's us pile on with some bonus disappointments: Replacement in Houston (1995): Chris Chandler. A pretty good QB in his day, but not a Hall guy…and you have to add Steve McNair, who took over later in the year. HOF? Hmm… Replacement in Minnesota (1997): Brad Johnson.Super Bowl winner in Tampa, but not a Hall guy…Replacement in Seattle (1999): Jon Kitna. Long, journeyman career, currently making a mess of things in Detroit…Replacement in Edmonton (1984): Former Notre Dame QB (current coordinator) Tom Clement. Made it to Western Conference semifinals, but lost to the Blue Bombers (the champs). Honorable mention: Matt Dunnigan, winner of the Molson Toughest Yard Award, led the Eskimos to a Grey Cup in 1987. Nice for the CFL, but not hurting our argument.
1) Troy Aikman (Class of 2006)
Replacement: Quincy Carter. A major flameout who lost his career to drug abuse. Sure the 'Boys are in great hands now with Tony Romo, but he was an undrafted free agent, and the team had to wade through a quagmire of failed QBs -- Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, and on and on -- before finding an answer. So don't let two games fool you -- this Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre thing has a long way to go. I am truly rooting for both players, but before you anoint Rodgers the right choice, and applaud the jettisoning of Favre, keep in mind the odds of replacing a first-ballot Hall of Famer with a truly great quarterback are long, indeed.