Training camp is always a fun time for the personnel department. Most days are spent attending two practices, eating great food and watching college players on video. One of my favorite aspects of camp is the free time in the evenings. During this time, there is always great discussion and debate about the game of football. One year, we spent hours discussing the following question:
If you had your choice, which quarterback would you take for one season, one game and one play?
Below I have selected two quarterbacks for each scenario: one active and one retired. Keep in mind, the answers skew modern because I'm not old enough to have watched the great QBs of 1950s, '60s and '70s.
There are so many candidates to choose from in this category. If not for a neck injury, Peyton Manning would've been a near lock. The consistency over his first 13 NFL seasons is unmatched. He holds NFL records for most seasons over 4,000 passing yards (11) and most consecutive seasons with over 25 touchdown passes (13). Drew Brees has also been on a tear over the past six years. He's led the Saints to a Super Bowl title, while also posting 5,000 passing yards in two different seasons. However, the final decision in this category came down to two players: Tom Brady and Rodgers. I can't argue with anyone who would select Brady. He's led the Patriots to five Super Bowls, posting some monster numbers in the process. He's eclipsed 35 touchdown passes while tossing less than 13 interceptions in three of his past four healthy seasons. Even after taking all that into account, if I had the opportunity to pick one quarterback to lead my team into the 2012 season, I would select Rodgers. He's already led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title, recording impressive numbers in each of his four seasons as the Packers' starting quarterback. In 15 games last season, he tossed 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He's still only 28 years old and has proven to be very durable.
For all the drama that surrounded the end of Favre's career, there is plenty of substance to support his selection in this category. He tossed at least 30 TDs in nine different seasons. To put that into perspective, Hall of Fame quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and Troy Aikman never produced a single season with 30 TD passes. Even the great Joe Montana only hit that mark one time. Favre also led his teams to double-digit win totals in 10 different seasons. Most importantly, you never had to worry about his durability. He proved to be the NFL's iron man by playing in 297 consecutive games.
This decision came down to two players: Brady and Eli. Brady has always been a big-game player and that was very evident in the Patriots' three Super Bowl victories. He is very cool under pressure; the moment is never too big for him. Eli has proven to be just as unflappable for the Giants. He's led them to several tough road playoff victories, as well as head-to-head wins over Brady's Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. This decision could've gone either way, but if I had to win a game tomorrow, I'd go with Eli.
This decision didn't take long. Montana was always at his best in the biggest games. In four Super Bowl appearances, he led the 49ers to four victories, tossing 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. His signature moment was a surgical, 92-yard touchdown drive to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
Faced with a fourth-and-7 at the most crucial point of a game, I would roll with Roethlisberger. Several quarterbacks have similar poise and accuracy, but Roethlisberger separates himself with his ability to buy time, absorb contact and still deliver the ball on the money. An unblocked pass rusher would spell doom for most quarterbacks, but it almost works in Big Ben's favor. He can use his quickness to avoid the defender, his strength to bounce off him or offer up one of his patented pump fakes to get him in the air. He is very accurate on the move to both sides of the field and he's also capable of using his legs to pick up necessary yardage on the ground. His game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII is a great example of why I decided to select him in this category.
This choice came down to Elway and Favre. Both proved their ability to thrive in clutch situations throughout their respective careers. They have two of the stronger arms in NFL history and both are excellent athletes capable of buying time in the face of pressure. As much as I admire Favre's creativity and aggressiveness, I give a slight nod to Elway because of the trust factor. Right or wrong, Favre's late-game interceptions in his last two NFC title games still linger in my mind.