Thursday, November 04, 2004

Tommy and the future

It was a surprise to no one except Tim Riley of Winchester, VA that Bill Cowher named Ben Roethlisberger the starting QB for the rest of the season, even though Tommy Maddox is scheduled to be ready either this week or next.

I was thinking about the rationale some people use for why starters shouldn't lose their jobs because of injuries, and it goes something like this: "When you get injured at your job, it's still there when you come back, right?"

Well, first off, I work in an office, and if I were to ever pull a hamstring or strain a tendon in my elbow, I should be fired on the spot because either I was (a) playing football in the halls with Terry Tate the Office Linebacker, or (b) I'm so clumsy I fell out of my chair while typing an email -- in which case I should be under house arrest for being a nerd.

Anyway, the media got Tommy's reaction yesterday and he was much less reactionary about his actual demotion than he was when the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger back in April.

"It's obviously disappointing because you want to play, but in the same sense you understand. The team is playing well, Ben's playing well; we're on a roll, and that's my main deal.

"I want to help the team any way I can and do the things I have to do and prepare myself, because you never know when you're going to get called on again to get in there and play."
He also made it clear that he feels like a "young 33" (read: I was out of organized football for 10 years while selling insurance) and he thinks he has a lot of football left in him.

Maddox is probably right, but the real question is if there are any teams that will need his talents in 2005 and after. Something else to consider is that Charlie Batch will also be looking for work in '05 -- and he's three years younger than Maddox. If Tommy truly wants to be a starter in this league, the fact that he makes $30,000 a year is certainly a good thing. But just as the writing was on the wall in Pittsburgh when the Steelers took Roethlisberger with the 11th pick on April 24, almost any other team will view Tommy as the short-term solution while they groom their high-priced, top-round QB of the future (ask Jon Kitna about that).

That said, I'm guessing the 2004 Bears would love to have Maddox right now -- and he probably could've played better with the bum elbow than Jonathan Quinn did 100% healthy. I only had the great misfortune of seeing one Bears game this season, but I liken watching Quinn to getting a root canal sans anesthetic. He makes Kyle Boller look like, well, Trent Dilfer, but that's still an improvement.

Seriously though, looking to next season, you have to think that guys like Kitna, Batch, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Jay Fiedler, Drew Bledsoe, Mark Brunell, Mike McMahon and Tim Couch will either be free agents, or in all likelihood second-teamers looking for starting jobs somewhere.

All of the players I mentioned would be leaving teams because they've been replaced by young, high-round, big-money QBs (with the notable exception of Tim Couch). Of those teams remaining, only the Dolphins immediately come to mind as a team that might look to free agency to strengthen the QB position. Every other team either (a) has an established veteran QB, or (b) has a young QB who will be ready to take over the offense in 2005.

I wouldn't at all be surprised if a team offered a mid to late round draft pick for Maddox (I mean, he's got to be one of the best bargains in the NFL -- right after Hines Ward), and then promptly turning him into a veteran backup with lots of experience. Now, that only benefits the Steelers (they could conceivably keep Batch), and it puts Tommy back to square one.

So while it's easy to understand why Maddox might be interested in leaving Pittsburgh for a starting job somewhere else, it's not at all clear where that job might be. And while I understand the arguments about Tommy being a competitor and wanting to play, the alternative, as it stands right now, is selling insurance.