This really has nothing to do with music, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a bit over the past few days. We all know the economy is not in a great place, unemployment for most of the country is close to 10% at best and higher than 14% in places. People need work and highly qualified people are working jobs that they are overqualified for just to pay the bills. This is interesting and tragic, in more than the obvious ways.
It’s probably not PC or normal to compare the lack of job security in the public sector to professional sports, but I have an angle on this and I’m interested in your feedback. As you know, I’m a football fan and a big NFL watcher. As a fan of the Chicago Bears, I know the volatile position that is quarterback, and how having a solid QB can make your season, not having one can break it (note my critique of Carson Palmer, Rex Grossman, Jay Cutler and others). But for some reason, there are tons of QBs in the league that are not good players, leaders, or team members, and yet they get renewed contracts every year based only on tenure. That’s a union job in essence.
But tenure won’t secure your place in the NFL in any other position. Look at RB, and we’ll stick with the Bears because that’s easiest for me. Four years ago Chicago had Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, and Adrian Peterson (not the Vikings star) at RB. Jones and Benson competed for the starting role and Jones won. Benson’s complaining led to Jones getting traded and the Bears picked up Garrett Wolfe. Since then they cut Benson, and picked up Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Wolfe is still on the team as a 3rd down option and a special teams contributor. But they released Peterson despite having 4-5 years experience, starting a few games, and being a great special teams player. I thought he was excellent as a 3rd down back. Insert your favorite team’s lineup over the past 4 years and you probably have something similar.
Let’s look at QB again and I’ll stick with the Bears. Cutler is the starter, behind him is Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie is #3. Collins played in 2 games this year. He has 16 years experience and his win/loss stat is atrocious. No Bears fan (and I doubt the coaches really do either) want him on the field calling and executing the plays. His one start this year led to 4 turnovers, all interceptions. He was benched in the 3rd quarter for Hanie. Hanie has 2 years experience but needs time to grow. Yet Collins will make at least half a million dollars this year, despite poor performance and little credibility. His only qualification in the league is the fact that for 16 years he’s been in the NFL. That’s lame.
This week, the Bears play the Vikings. The streak of most consecutive games played ended last week when 41 year old Brett Favre couldn’t shake a shoulder injury. Tavarus Jackson started instead, and was injured by the 4th quarter. This whole thing with Jackson is what led to this thought, about job security despite talent, qualification, and ability. ESPN radio commentators have ripped Jackson all week, stating that he’s not the future QB of the team, and though he’s a nice guy, he’s not one you want calling plays for your team. Will he play next season? I think so. Some team will sign him as a backup. The same is true for Derek Anderson in Arizona. His coaches are reluctant to play him though he has tons of years experience. Will he play next season despite the fact that he’s a subpar QB? Probably. Why is that?
If the NFL and the teams in it are a business just like anywhere else, why are there decisions made each week that are a detriment to the overall health and success of the team? I believe in bringing people into an organization and giving them opportunities to succeed. In that process, there’s usually a considerable amount of failure involved because you can’t learn to win unless you encounter loss. That’s the nature of life. But to keep people on your team that you don’t trust to do their job, or dread the thought of them having to perform in that role (ie Collins coming in for Cutler), why keep them onboard, especially after years and years of them having opportunity to grow and improve? It just doesn’t jive with me very well.
I don’t know the 3rd string QB with the Viking’s name, but I do hope he does well this week, even though he’s playing my team, for the simple point that he has an opportunity to grow and be something other than a tenured QB. Vinny Testeverde played in Cleveland in the 80s, bounced around to a few teams in the 90s and eventually was a starter in Dallas and then Tom Brady’s backup on the Patriots. While he didn’t win every game, he had the talent, leadership, and ability to take his team to victory, which is how he lasted as long as he did. That’s a guy I’d want as a #2, because his experience as a starter is valuable. But to continue to pay a guy to be the backup leader of the team who lacks the leadership, decision-making, and other characteristics of a QB doesn’t make sense. Especially when there’s probably 100 Kurt Warners out there unsigned, qualified and ready to go that could put on the pads and be the best #2 in the league at any given time. Just food for thought for this Friday. What do you think?