When I used to sit in on conversations between Al Davis and John Madden while they were debating the most important position on the field; Davis contended it was cornerback, while Madden identified the offensive line, one thing was certain for both, a team needed a topflight quarterback to win.
In those days, the mid 1970’s, it was easy for the Raiders to talk about all three. Madden was coaching one of the best offensive lines in football history, a group that included front and center Jim Otto, alongside him Gene Upshaw, while Art Shell served at tackle. The Raiders defensive backfield was stocked with future hall of famers and men that played in those years like an athlete that belonged in the hall with a bust. Willie Brown, George Atkinson and Jack Tatum made it almost impossible for the fourth man in the group not to be the one opponents picked on.
The Raiders were also rich in quarterbacks. I was there while Daryle Lamonica was lighting up the East Bay skies with long touchdown throws, and when Ken Stabler took over and taught, by the coach’s own admission, Madden how to win. With Lamonica, if Madden said in a sideline conference that Warren Wells was open deep, it didn’t matter down and distance, Lamonica was going deep.
Madden credits Stabler with teaching him how to allow a football game to unfold, and to cash the winning ticket when the result was on the line. In 1976, Madden could have told Stabler that Branch had his man deep early in the second quarter, but Stabler might not exploit it until the fourth quarter to win the game. If history is a teacher, I would think Stabler learned the tricks of the trade from his college coach at Alabama, Bear Bryant, and Madden was bright enough to take the lesson from his long-haired quarterback.
Quarterbacks, particularly back-up quarterbacks, have made the news in recent weeks by leading their teams to winning streaks.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have long been in search of a top quarterback, and this year were forced three deep on their depth chart before finding a winner with sixth round draft choice Gardner Minshew. He bounced into action with a pair of wins in his first two outings, and after last week’s win in Cincinnati, he has now won three of five starts.
When one-time first pick in the draft quarterback Cam Newton went down with an injury with the Panthers buried with an 0-2 record, all seemed lost. In the media room after a second week Thursday night loss at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera looked like a guy that just saw his puppy run over by a car.
Instead of the designated best player in the draft, the Carolina offense now needed to rely on the skills of an undrafted and untested Kyle Allen.
How’d that go?
Very well, the Panthers reversed their winless start with four consecutive victories, and now are in striking distance of the division leading New Orleans Saints, just one game back in the loss column. Allen will make his fifth start this Sunday when his Panthers visit the San Francisco 49ers, a team looking for a sixth straight win.
A team looking for a seventh straight victory is at work tonight, when the New England Patriots visit the New York Jets. Quarterbacks in this matchup could also gobble up all the headlines, the best ever leading New England, and Tom Brady’s young competition tonight, Sam Darnold.
When the Jets met the Patriots four weeks ago, New England was surging through an early season domination of their opposition, and their 30-14 win over the Jets was gained while Darnold was sidelined. Tonight, the Patriots look to extend their unbeaten streak against an opponent they have already defeated this season by double-digits.
This is a very unlikely spot for a Patriots blowout. Who wins this game is open for debate, while which team beats the point spread seems more obvious.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Jets (+10) over New England Patriots