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QB : 38 as RB : 30

Postby Flux » Wed May 12, 2004 7:51 am

History suggests Gannon must go

By Skip Bayless, Mercury News

The best pro football writer I know is Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune. Pierson knows the game better than some who coach it. Pierson has stumbled upon a historical trend among great quarterbacks that validates my gut feeling about Rich Gannon.


The Raiders should cut him June 1 and pursue Kerry Collins.


Gannon, the NFL MVP in 2002, hit the tragic number last year like an unseen wall. He turned 38 on Dec. 20. Now history points at his football future like a snub-nosed .38.


"Astonishing," Pierson calls the 38th parallel in so many quarterbacks' careers. So many got hurt and/or just too old at 38. Joe Montana. Steve Young. John Elway. Jim Plunkett. Dan Marino. John Brodie. Y.A. Tittle.


Rich Gannon?


The torn labrum Gannon suffered in his throwing shoulder during the Oct. 20 Monday night game against Kansas City took some focus off the obvious. Even before his season-ending surgery, Gannon was losing it. Losing velocity, accuracy, agility, confidence, poise and the faith of his teammates. Getting reamed by this quick-tempered perfectionist was tough enough for them to take when he was MVP. But once he became an obvious reason for last year's 2-5 start, Gannon's finger-pointing became unbearable.


When the season ended, he blamed just about everyone but himself. He took shots at former coach Bill Callahan and former coordinator Marc Trestman, as well as at unnamed teammates who lacked the commitment to Raiders excellence.


Gannon said: "I wouldn't say I'd take a torch to the place, but it wouldn't be far from it."


He also made it as clear as shattered glass he will not take a pay cut. This has been erroneously reported as "Gannon insists on a raise." But it is just as ominous that Gannon vows he won't take "a penny less" than the $7 million his contract calls for. He'll be "happy to restructure" -- to, say, lessen this year's cap impact by taking more bonus and less salary -- but he will not sacrifice promised income just to be part of what should be a much better team with a new coach/coordinator, Norv Turner.


Owner Al Davis has met his negotiating match in this fiercely proud man. Gannon cannot be sweet-talked or brow-beaten. And Gannon reinforced his pay-me-or-cut-me ultimatum -- or delusion -- by whipping the ball around pretty well at a recent mini-camp.


But Montana at 47 is still capable of outpassing Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey in helmet-only, non-contact spring drills.


Baseball pitchers rarely return to their former level of effectiveness after labrum surgery, and in practice and games, quarterbacks ask at least as much of their arms as pitchers. You would have a better chance of consistently beating the house in Vegas for six months than of risking $7 million on a 38-year-old quarterback with a surgically repaired labrum.


Marques Tuiasosopo proved last season that he's better suited to being a rally-starting backup than a starter. So Davis needs to make loyalty-testing calls on two players who have performed magnificently for him. He needs to thank Gannon and receiver Tim Brown for all they have meant to the Raiders and send them into the sunset.


I'd do the same with Jerry Rice, but it appears Davis prefers to give him a farewell tour as a third-down receiver.


Sure, Gannon probably would wind up starting in Tampa Bay for former Raiders coach Jon Gruden. So let Gruden find out that 38 is too late. Let Davis clear just enough room under a Raiders cap that has more trap doors and false walls than a haunted house to squeeze in Collins.


Collins, 31, is the same age Plunkett was when Davis plucked him off the 49ers' discard pile. Collins' battle with alcohol and his crazy-hot, lazy-cold inconsistency make him the perfect Raiders reclamation project. The 6-foot-5 Collins has perhaps the most effortless velocity in football. Here is the home run thrower who could return "fly pattern" to the Raiders' vocabulary.


Davis, of course, won two Super Bowls with deep-thrower Plunkett. Plunkett had shoulder surgery just before turning 38 but did bounce back to throw 14 touchdown passes against nine interceptions in 10 starts the next season. But he retired at 39.


With his concussions mounting and his body breaking down, Montana retired at 38. Concussions forced Roger Staubach to retire before he wanted to, at 38. Injuries did in Sammy Baugh at 38. Johnny Unitas should have quit in Baltimore at 38, but he was benched in San Diego at 39 and soon retired.


Sonny Jurgensen put up remarkable numbers at 40, but he was splitting time with Billy Kilmer. Kilmer retired at 38. Len Dawson, 38. Phil Simms, 38.


Steve Young suffered what turned out to be his career-ending concussion on Monday night, Sept. 27, 1999 -- two weeks before his 38th birthday.


George Blanda, who lasted until 48? He qualifies. He lost his job as the Houston Texans' full-time starter when he threw 30 interceptions to 20 TD passes -- at 38. In his final nine seasons with the Raiders, he was primarily a kicker.


Don Pierson, ironically, stumbled across the 38th parallel while researching a story on the one quarterback who proved to be the exception. In Minnesota, Warren Moon had one of his best seasons at 38 and played parts of five more seasons. But at 38, Moon led the Vikings to only an 8-8 finish.


Though Davis prefers to make history, he is also a student of it.


Oh, and Rich Gannon is a baby
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Postby mig28 » Wed May 12, 2004 8:01 am

Thanks for the good article, Flux. I knew 30 was the Mendosa line for RBs, but the exact correlation for so many QBs is surprising.
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Postby aussieboy » Wed May 12, 2004 8:08 am

interesting article.
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Postby Mercer Boy » Wed May 12, 2004 8:24 am

Lots of good names dropped there.

But Montana at 47 is still capable of outpassing Tim Rattay and Ken Dorsey in helmet-only, non-contact spring drills.


I'm a Niners fan, and it's probably true. Sad really.

Gotta bring up good ol' Steve Deberg! He was like 42 when he quit? Of course, he wasn't stellar, but he was playing. You've had a good long career as a QB when you make it to 38 anyway, so it might as well be the "wall" for the position.
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Postby NFLknowitall » Wed May 12, 2004 8:42 am

Where is my fork? You know it's time for the Raiders to move on and getting Collins is a good start, unless they want another top draft pick next year. "There, he's done, I've officially stuck my fork in him".
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Postby Guest » Wed May 12, 2004 10:23 am

Yet Priest is over 30 yet everyone is still falling all over themselves to draft him. The fall happens quickly and often without warning.
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Postby Poobah » Wed May 12, 2004 10:41 am

Anonymous wrote:Yet Priest is over 30 yet everyone is still falling all over themselves to draft him.


Yeah, who wants a back who scored 26 (or was it 27, I lost count)TD last year anyway, and who has less miles on him than the average back of his age? What are ya'll thinking? }:-)
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Postby Guest » Wed May 12, 2004 10:46 am

Poobah wrote:
Anonymous wrote:Yet Priest is over 30 yet everyone is still falling all over themselves to draft him.


Yeah, who wants a back who scored 26 (or was it 27, I lost count)TD last year anyway, and who has less miles on him than the average back of his age? What are ya'll thinking? }:-)


He's not a car, he's a runningback. Check out the dropoff between Faulk's 2001-2002 seasons, did ya see that coming? Again, name me one back who produced big numbers after 31 .
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Postby Mercer Boy » Wed May 12, 2004 10:57 am

Did a little research...

Walter Payton had 1333 yds and 8 TD's in the 1986-87 season. He was 32 years old (I think...born in July 1954). :-)
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Postby kashikis » Wed May 12, 2004 11:00 am

nice article Flux

I really think Gannon is done this year. I think if he would not have gotten hurt he would be a servicable QB, but now I think he will go into Neil O'Donnel mentor status or retire.
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