NFC East: Sammy Baugh
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Look, I'm not saying he can and I'm not saying he can't. I have nothing but respect for Eli Manning's abilities and the things he can do. He can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and if you didn't believe that after the first time, he did it again for good measure. The New York Giants' quarterback is largely underrated and underappreciated, and he's perfectly capable of having a great season even though he's coming off his worst season.
If Manning completes 70 percent of his passes this year in Ben McAdoo's new offense, as quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Monday he'd challenged Manning to do, then McAdoo, Langsdorf and anyone else who had a hand in it should have their choice of NFL head-coaching jobs next January. And they can ride unicorns with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to the interviews.
Start with the very short list of quarterbacks who've ever hit that number in a full NFL season. It's basically Drew Brees (twice, in 2009 and 2011), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994). Langsdorf said the list he gave Manning also included Sammy Baugh, Ken Anderson and Alex Smith. But Baugh played only eight games in the 1945 season in which he hit the mark (the league played a 10-game season that year). Anderson's 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike. And Smith put up his 70.2 mark in 10 games in 2012 before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.
So if Manning is to hit this goal over a full season, he'll be doing something only three other players -- two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, and one of whom surely will be -- have done. The fact that it's a nearly impossible achievement is the first and best reason to doubt it. Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5, and his career high for a single season is 62.9, set in 2010. He would have had to complete an additional 69 passes in 2013 to get to 70 percent from the dismal 57.5 at which he finished. That's 4.3 more completions per game. Even in 2010, he would have needed 39 more completions, or 2.4 per game. May not sound like a lot, but it is when you think about what it means.
Secondly, as much as we've written about the Giants' new offensive scheme, there are still legitimate concerns about whether they have the personnel to run it effectively. The offensive line isn't set yet. Their wide receiver group is littered with question marks after Victor Cruz. They do not have a reliable pass-catching tight end on the roster. And as much as they want to stress high-percentage plays and completion percentage, it's tough to imagine they'll throw to the running backs all season.
Which kind of leads me to my final point: Eli Manning, risk-taker. Manning's calling card as a quarterback has always been, to me, his fearlessness. He has the confidence to try any throw, no matter how risky, because (a) he believes he can make it, and (b) he has an uncommon ability to put mistakes behind him and not let them affect his performance as the game goes along.
It's inconceivable to think that McAdoo and Langsdorf could change this about Manning even if they wanted to, and it's inconceivable to believe they would want to. Manning's ability to deliver an uncanny throw in a huge spot is one of the few things you can point to right now in this Giants offense that might have a chance to set it apart from others in the league. Their challenge is to install an offense that's more efficient and less turnover-prone while still making use of what Manning does best. So there's still going to be plenty of downfield stuff, and that stuff will come with more risk.
Now, OK. I understand about coaching and motivation. If Langsdorf sets a goal of 70 percent and Manning aims for it but falls 5 percent short, he'd still obliterate his career high and improve on last year by 7.5 percent. The Giants would surely take that. But hearing Langsdorf say this Monday brought home the ideas of (a) how much different this offense is going to be than it has been for the past decade, and (b) how hard it's going to be for the Giants to be proficient in their new offense in its first season.
Dallas Cowboys (Jason Witten, 117)
Hey, nothing like a little Twitter war between the official Twitter accounts of two division rivals, right? I mean, talk about old-school. The Cowboys "wished" Eagles quarterback Michael Vick a happy birthday with a photo of DeMarcus Ware sacking him and saying they couldn't wait to see him in November. The Eagles, whose best two games of the 2011 season might have been their twin beatdowns of the Cowboys, shot back with a question about whether the poster had burned the 2011 game tapes. How many days until real football again?
If the third year in the NFL is traditionally a player's breakout year, the Cowboys have some candidates, including Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, John Phillips and Phil Costa. The Cowboys' official site has the rundown on potential third-year breakout guys. (And yeah, I know Lee broke out last year. So do they. Don't be so doggone nitpicky, mmkay?)
Philadelphia Eagles (Brent Celek, 105)
Yeah, I'm linking to Sheil Kapadia every day. Because how many people besides him are writing fresh stuff on the Eagles every day right now? His latest notes the appearances of Vick and DeSean Jackson on another NFL columnist's "biggest jerk" list, which is one of those lists that makes me ask, "How many days until real football again?"
Jason Brewer wonders if Jason Babin could lose snaps to a healthy Brandon Graham, making Babin a situational pass rusher, and still produce at a starter's level. Jimmy thinks he could, and I agree. It's all Babin likes to do -- pressure the quarterback. Babin himself will admit this if you ask him. I don't think he'd mind being deployed in situations where he had no other responsibilities.
Washington Redskins (Fred Davis, 90)
The dude accused of trying to extort money from Robert Griffin III has been on "Judge Judy." It's like day-and-a-half-old news, but I thought you'd like to know if you didn't already. Judge Judy. Have I asked yet when real football starts again?
And here's Griffin posing with the Hall of Fame bust of Sammy Baugh, with links to stories about his and the other NFL rookies' trip to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, while there as part of the rookie symposium. Sammy Baugh has never been on Judge Judy, and to my knowledge made no attempt to extort money from Griffin while this photo was being taken.
New York Giants (Jake Ballard, 78)
Chris Canty, the same guy who compared Jason Pierre-Paul to Reggie White the other day while up in Bristol, is apparently really into comparison. This time, he says Eli Manning is more clutch than Tony Romo. I think we can all basically sign off on that one, no? Two Super Bowl MVP awards, one attained by beating Romo along the way, yada, yada. What I want to know is how Eli compares to Reggie White.
When Mark Herzlich asks how many days until real football starts again, it's not because he's bored with the offseason. To hear Herzlich tell it, he lives for this time of year. You don't have to be a Giants fan to root for Herzlich, who's not out of the mix for a potential starting linebacker spot at some point down the road.
Only 19 players in league history have had four-interception games, and three of them played for the Redskins. Sammy Baugh ('43) and Dan Sandifer ('48) are the other Skins in the Quad Club. It's the second time this season a Skins defensive back has been honored by the league. Safety LaRon Landry received the same award in Week 5.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
|Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images|
|Sammy Baugh was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural class.|
The only problem with living to age 94 is that most of your friends aren't around to talk about you anymore. But legendary former Horned Frogs and Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh never cared much for adulation. He died Wednesday near his beloved ranch in Rotan, Texas, and he leaves behind some wonderful memories.
My friend and mentor Frank Luksa, a legend in his own right, delivered a touching tribute to Baugh this morning. Redskins fans may have heard rumors of Baugh's exploits, but Luksa pulls back the curtain on how the league was viewed in those days. Baugh was scared to death that his teammates would find out he was making $8,000 to play quarterback.
"It scared the livin' hell out of me because I thought someone would find out how much I was making," Baugh said. "It really gave me a strange feeling to know I was so overpaid when we had guys doing their job as well as I did and making less than $200 a game.
"We won the [NFL] championship that year, and Cliff Battles led the league in rushing. The next year, he asked for a $250 raise up to $3,000 a year, and Marshall wouldn't give it to him, so he quit.
"If I'd known what they were doing, I would have given him the $250 myself because after that first year, I was making $12,000."
You can still find Baugh in the NFL record books. He won six passing titles and four punting crowns while playing for the Redskins from 1937-52. He also tied an NFL record with four interceptions in a game (He played safety in addition to quarterback and punter). Baugh was the last living member of the original Hall of Fame class.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Baugh family today.
The great Sammy Baugh passed away Wednesday. He was 94. The Pro Football Hall of Famer starred at TCU before eventually joining the Redskins. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and he was the oldest living Hall of Famer. Redskins owner Dan Snyder released the following statement about Baugh:
Sammy Baugh embodied all we aspire to at the Washington Redskins. He was a competitor in everything he did and a winner. He was one of the greatest to ever play the game of football, and one of the greatest the Redskins ever had. My thoughts and prayers are with his family tonight.