NFL Quarterbacks’ Passion for their Jobs
I’ve noticed many NFL quarterbacks who are driven by their jobs. They are consumed with leading their teams to the Super Bowl, and, once there, winning it. Drew Brees wrote about his passion for his work and his city, New Orleans, in his 2010 book, Coming Back Stronger. Drew suffered what could have been a career ending shoulder injury in his last season at San Diego at the end of the 2005 season. He suffered a torn rotator cuff and ligament damage after trying to recover a fumble and being hit by a 340 pound defensive tackle. He was in pretty dire straits. He was pretty much let go by San Diego and was looking for another place to work.
Miami and New Orleans were the most interested suitors. He interviewed with Nick Saban, the coach of the Dolphins at the time, whom he said was very intense and highly serious. He went to New Orleans, a city that was reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He spent time with just hired coach Sean Payton, who sold him on the vision for his football team. The Saints had been a perennial loser and this was a risky situation for Brees. He wasn’t sure he would be ever as effective as he once was. Miami kind of eased off on him, but New Orleans and Payton didn’t. He signed with New Orleans and began to work towards getting ready for training camp.
His first throws in training camp were wounded ducks. It didn’t look good. But Brees, who had an intensive offseason of physical therapy and training, stayed committed, kept working his head off, and became one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Brees tells the story of his first game in the Super Dome in 2006. He was always one to get to the games at least two and a half to three hours before kickoff, plenty of time to get taped up, worked on by the trainers and get warmed up for the game. He got caught in traffic. It was 6:30 and he was texting Payton that he was frantically trying to get to the stadium for the 7:30 Monday Night Football kickoff. He finally got to the stadium about 6:40 and when he was pulling into the deck in his SUV, his truck was too tall for the ceiling of the deck and he wrecked the top of his truck into the concrete ceiling above him. It was close to a disaster. Brees finally made it to the locker room with help from the Saints staff and played a tremendous game as the Saints welcomed their fans back to the Super Dome with a huge victory.
Brees was part of a rebirth of New Orleans and it climaxed with a Super Bowl 44 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in 2010. His teammate, Heath Evans, a former Auburn player, said he sees more Super Bowls in Brees’ future. It’s not just Brees, it’s Payton. They have a plan to succeed and they’re passionate about it. Evans said that Brees played six games this year with something torn in his arm. He’s a warrior. He gets his team together before every game and leads a passionate, motivational cheer. He’s an animal out there, and I mean that in a good way. He cares so much. One of his teammates, Jonathan Vilma, an outstanding middle linebacker, says Brees is not very fun to be around after he loses. That’s the way it should be. And he’s one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the game. He could be one of the best ever before he’s through. He cares about the city of New Orleans, also. He has multiple foundations to help the inner city kids and he’s always taking out time to spend with kids in the city. He has helped restore the city along with the rest of the Saints. The Saints fans love Brees and would just as soon punch you in the mouth if you said anything negative about their beloved, adopted native son. It’s a true success story. Hopefully, it’ll continue with more Super Bowl Championships. Drew and his team deserve it. They just care so much about success.
Peyton Manning has always embraced his job. He loves it. He works countless hours in the offseason. He’s a workaholic when it comes to the game. In the offseason, he’s working out with receivers on throws and routes. He studies the game relentlessly. He tries to find vulnerabilities in the opponent’s secondary so he and his receivers can exploit those and score touchdowns. He markets himself. I love his commercials. They’re funny and he’s a fun, well-spoken guy.
Tom Brady is the consummate professional. He studies, works with his coaches and is the ultimate competitor. He’s just cool and collected out there. He was a sixth round draft pick out of Michigan, but you’d think he was the top pick. You wonder what these GMs and coaches were thinking letting this guy slip to the sixth round. He is 3-1 in Super Bowls, and save for a miraculous throw and catch by Eli Manning and David Tyree, would have been 4-0. I expect more titles from Brady. He and his coach, Bill Belichick, are too motivated and obsessed with winning it all to not win win more championships. Brady could have multiple more titles before he’s through.
Ben Rothlisberger–though I don’t approve of his off field behavior last summer–gets it. He has become a true leader for his team. He’s also got two Super Bowl championships on his resume with maybe another one in a week and a half. He just make plays at the clutch time. His stats don’t totally overwhelm you, but they’re pretty good. He threw for 17 touchdowns and five ints this season in 12 games; pretty impressive numbers. The guy is a winner. He’s also calmed down his act. He seems to have learned from his mistakes and become a more mature, focused and controlled person. He’s always been a winner; he now knows how to conduct himself off the field.
Aaron Rodgers is becoming one of the top quarterbacks in the game. He had an awesome season and was stellar in victories at Philly and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He is a pinpoint passer, can go deep and can beat you with his legs. He is putting his name in the elite category. He had a pretty rough second half against the Bears on Sunday, but I think that had more to do with the vaunted Bears defense. They’re very good and made adjustments. Still I think Rodgers is coming into his own.
Same for Mark Sanchez of the Jets. He played his heart out in the second half of the Steelers game on Sunday and was a couple of poor play calls away from bringing his team back from a 24-0 deficit and taking the Jets to the Super Bowl. He blamed himself after the game, which he shouldn’t have because he gave his team an opportunity to win; the defense just couldn’t stop Ben. The guy has shown he has a lot of heart and wants to win Super Bowls. He’s got a shot next year.
Eli Manning is there pretty much. He’s got a Super Bowl ring so that says a lot. Eli can be a little erratic at times, but he’s had a pretty good career and has some good years left. I was impressed with him this season after a couple of games, one in which there was nobody in the media room after a loss except for one young kid reported and Eli patiently answered his questions. He also talked to the media after the final game of this season after the Giants had lost a chance to go the playoffs and he was first class. Like Eli a lot. He’s matured. He got married in the last two years so I think that’s helped him a lot. He’s from a classy family. The Mannings are winners.
Guys like Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Matt Ryan of the Falcons want to be elite. They are getting closer; maybe next season they’ll break through. They are becoming outstanding leaders of their respective football teams.The quarterbacks in this league are pretty amazing. There are others. Josh Freeman is a young, fledgeling player at Tampa Bay. Sam Bradford looks like he might be a big time winner at St. Louis if he can get some more help. Matt Hasselbeck is still a consummate pro at Seattle. Guys like Matt Schaub at Houston and David Garrard at Jacksonville are committed.
The quarterback of an NFL team is the face of the franchise; there is no doubt about it. These guys get it. They know their responsibility is to lead their team to the Super Bowl and win it. All of these guys seem to respect the privilege they are given, the money and the notoriety that comes with it. They are the villains if their teams don’t succeed. It’s not easy. Getting pounded by 330-40 pound defensive tackles, 270 pound defensive ends and 250 pound linebackers can wear on you and they deserve a good salary for risking serious injury every Sunday from September through January. But these guys put that all aside and strive to be the best they can be. They want to win for their teams and make a legacy for themselves and their teams.
I want Jay Cutler to be that way. I don’t question his toughness and competitiveness most of the time, but I did a little bit on Sunday. Some guys would play through a knee sprain; that’s debatable. The trainers and Lovie Smith told him not to risk it, so he didn’t. That was OK, though as a Bears fan, I wanted to see him out there. But it was his sideline demeanor through the rest of the game that bothered me. He seemed disengaged and not into the game. Afterwards he had kind of a nonchalant answer to why he couldn’t continue to play. A reporter for CNNSI wrote that Cutler was fighting back tears in the interview afterwards. I felt more compassion for him then. But that night, it was reported in the Chicago Tribune that he was seen at an exclusive steakhouse in Chicago with his girlfriend and a bunch of other people at a private steak dinner. For some reason, and this is just me, if I had just lost the biggest game of my life and did not play well in the game and got hurt and couldn’t help my team win, I might stay at home and order take out and spend a quiet evening at home, hurting about the loss and thinking about what I might do next year to get to the big game. I would grieve a little bit. I remember losing high school football games and they would hurt. It made winning the next one that much better because you went back to work to not let it happen again. You’d get over the losses in a day or two, but you’d use those losses as motivation to get better. Losing a game of this magnitude is a lot bigger deal than that. Jay is getting paid on the range of $8-10 million a year, something like that. It needs to matter to him. And he’s got to connect better with the fans and the media. I know the media can be difficult at times, and they can burn you, but they can also help you if you’re forthright and just decent with them. I wish Jay had come out and made a statement Monday about his knee and how much this hurt him that his team couldn’t make it to the Super Bowl and that he was going to do everything possible next year to get his team back in this position again, and that next year they were going to win it. I just wanted to see him show some heart. Besides your faith and your family, your job should be your most important part of your life. When you’re getting paid that much money, you owe your organization, your fans, your teammates and your coaches your total commitment. As Gene Chizik says, you need to be “all in.” I haven’t seen that from Cutler. His play has been erratic and he seems angry a lot.
I want to believe in this guy like I do Brees, Manning, Brady, Rothlisberger, Eli, and Sanchez and Rodgers who are coming on, but he’s not a second or third year player any more. He’ll be going into his sixth season next year with not very good results. He needs to adjust his attitude in a major way or his career will not be very successful and he’ll look back on his career when he retires and have a lot of regrets. He’s got it in him, he’s definitely got the arm, toughness and competitiveness. He just needs to amp up his passion and his work ethic if he ever wants to be elite. I hope he can do that. If he does, he and the Bears fans will be happy with the results. He owes that to his organization.
(Jay Cutler needs to cultivate his inner Drew Brees (above) to be a successful, Super Bowl winning quarterback in the NFL.)Football / Comments (0) / make a comment