Dont go out like Steve Young, Trent
I’m sure there are some Chiefs fans who’d like to see former quarterback Trent Green light up NFL secondaries down in Miami and end his career on a high note. You can bet most Dolphins fans share those sentiments.
Hey, it could happen. For the first time in his career, Green has one of the best defenses in the NFL backing him up. He’s got a pair of dependable wide receivers in Marty Booker and Chris Chambers to catch the football. Throw in rookie wideout Ted Ginn, Jr. and a pair of rising stars in receiver Derek Hagan and halfback Ronnie Brown, and that’s a solid cast.
All he needs now is an offensive line, right?
More like a time machine.
The sad truth of the situation is that 37-year old quarterbacks, more often than not, don’t do much in the twilight of their on-field football lives, and it doesn’t matter where you were drafted, how talented you are or how much time you spent on the bench before starting.
After throwing for over 40,000 yards and 300 touchdowns during the first 16 years of his career, Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton crashed and burned in his final two years (played at ages 37 and 38). He spent a large chunk of 1977 injured and threw a whopping 46 interceptions in his last two seasons with the Vikings.
Even more notable is the fact that Tarkenton’s unique scrambling ability completely evaporated in ’77 and ‘78. He totaled zero yards rushing on 39 combined carries. Quite embarrassing for a player who had over 3,000 yards rushing in his career.
Raider great Ken Stabler should have never accepted trades to Houston and New Orleans. Not only did he fail to get the Oilers over the hump, his Saints career was marked only by injury and lousy performances – The Snake didn’t have much bite left. Stabler’s final two seasons (played at ages 37 and 38) netted just 10 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. He completed a dismal 47.1 percent of his passes in 1984.
Sammy Baugh, who connected on better than half of his passes for 12 straight years, saw his percentage dip to an abysmal 43 in 1951. Add in 17 interceptions that year (on only 154 attempts) and a 1952 season that saw “Slingin’ Sammy” become “Sittin’ Sammy,” and it wasn’t exactly the greatest swan song for Baugh.
And it’s not just the old-timers. Brad Johnson showed just how much his arm strength had diminished with the Vikings last year (nine touchdowns, 15 interceptions, career-low quarterback rating). Vinny Testaverde overstayed his welcome with the Jets, Cowboys and Patriots over the last seven years (and he was 37 at the start of this period), firing 25 interceptions in his longest stretch of play, 20 in his next-longest and generally sparing everyone to death, leading exactly one team to the playoffs in that time frame. And last, but certainly not least, Dan Marino was outplayed by our own Damon Huard in 1999.
Now obviously, there are exceptions to “The Rule Of 37.” Roger Staubach enjoyed a 1979 season that saw him set career-highs in touchdowns (27) and passing yardage (3,586). Warren Moon threw for a personal-best 33 touchdowns in 1995 with the Vikings at the age of 38. Y.A. Tittle had one of his best seasons as a pro in 1963, racking up 36 touchdowns and leading the Giants to the NFL Championship game.
The only problem with these “exceptions” as they relate to Green is that Staubach, Moon and Tittle were all surrounded by gobs of offensive talent during those seasons. Staubach played with Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson and Tony Hill and an offensive line that included two Pro Bowlers and Hall-of-Famer Rayfield Wright.
Moon had Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Jake Reed, not to mention one of the most beastly offensive lines ever assembled – Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Chris Hinton, Todd Steussie and the late Korey Stringer.
I won’t pretend to know anything about Tittle’s teammates, but the ’63 Giants ranked first in scoring offense. Clearly, that kind of achievement takes more than one man.
Meanwhile, Green has a solid cast around him, but no one headed to the Hall of Fame. In all likelihood, none of them are headed to the Pro Bowl next season, either.
And there’s one more problem – the knock on the noggin Green took last season.
Thirty-seven year old passers coming off injury don’t have a great history of success. Steve Young suffered several concussions before his final season, and his last one forced him out for good just three games into the 1999 season.
San Francisco’s John Brodie was injured six games into the 1972 season. He returned the next season but threw only three touchdowns (and 12 interceptions) in 14 games.
The ultimate example in all of this is Johnny Unitas, who tore his ACL in the 1971 offseason while playing, of all things, paddleball. He would play three more years and totaled just 10 touchdown passes in 26 games. Hardly the way anyone wants to remember a 10-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame quarterback.
Green’s future in Miami is not written in stone. Let’s be honest – he’s made a career out of beating the odds. They just seem to be stacked a little high this time. Football is a young man’s game. Green is old.
Unless Cam Cameron has a flux capacitor in his back pocket, I don’t foresee a happy ending.