As Denzel Washington said, playing Coach Herman Boone in Disney’s Remember the Titans, “We will be perfect in every aspect of the game.” Perfection is what every athlete strives for, no matter how tough the task.
This past weekend we were reminded that perfection is the hardest goal to conquer after witnessing Big Brown’s failed attempt to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes. If Big Brown emerged as the winner of the Belmont, he would have become racing's first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
Perfection doesn’t come along very often, and when it does, it’s a special happening in sports.
The last Triple Crown winner in baseball was in 1967 when Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski won the prestigious distinction. A few players have come close to winning the Triple Crown, but in a 162-game season - a season full of ups and downs – it’s hard to imagine a player who can be perfect in the three statistical categories (batting average, home runs and RBI’s) that are measured.
In the NBA, there has only been one player to ever average a triple-double for an entire season, and that feat was obtained by Oscar Robertson during the 1961-62 season when he was a member of the Cincinnati Royals. Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists a game. The only player since Robertson to come close to averaging a triple-double was Jason Kidd.
In the NFL, the quarterback position is the most prominent, and since 1978 there have only been three quarterbacks – Tom Brady (2007), Kurt Warner (2001) and Dan Marino (1984) – to lead the league in three major categories; QB rating, yards and touchdowns.
The irony of the situation is that Brady, Warner and Marino made it to the Super Bowl during those seasons, but the perfection they experienced during the regular season resulted in a distinct failure on the NFL’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl.
Big Brown’s near date with history made me wonder if in back-to-back years the NFL could have a QB win its Triple Crown? Every year it seems that the same four or five quarterbacks are in contention, but for one reason or another they fail to lead the league in all three categories.
With that said, I cast my five nominees most likely to contend for the QB Triple Crown this season. The premise is based on their production the last three years, the offensive weapons that surround them and the overall dynamics of the team.
The Nominees for the QB Triple Crown are:
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The 2007 Triple Crown Winner, Tom Brady has all the qualities you want in a quarterback. He has excellent poise and leadership qualities and is the ultimate field general. Not to mention, he has the best wide receiver in the game, Randy Moss, to throw to, as well as the best slot receiver in the game in Wes Welker, who always finds a way to get open. Brady’s ability to spread the ball around and complete a high percentage of his passes bodes well for another run at the Triple Crown. Over the last three years, Brady has averaged 4,148 yards, 33 touchdowns and a 99.1 QB rating, and has led the Patriots to a 38 - 10 record during that span.
Peyton Manning has come close to winning the Triple Crown twice this decade (2004 and 2006) but missed out on the honor for not leading the league in passing yards. Manning has the opportunity to win the Triple Crown every year with the high-powered offense that he leads and his ability to complete a high percentage of his passes. He’s a tremendous leader, has led the Colts to a 39 – 9 record over the last three seasons and has averaged 4,061 yards, 30 touchdowns and an astounding 101.0 QB rating. Manning, with a healthy Marvin Harrison and a steady Reggie Wayne, is a strong contender for the Triple Crown this season.
Tony Romo is in a different situation from the other nominees as he’s only been a starter for two seasons. But over that time, Romo has displayed a knack for getting the ball in the endzone. It doesn’t hurt that Romo has the likes of Terrell Owens, Jason Witten, Marion Barber, amongst others, to get the ball to. Even though Romo hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of success in the postseason that he has in the regular season, he’s still a strong candidate for the Triple Crown with the Cowboys explosive offense. In his two seasons as a starter, Romo has compiled an average of 3,557 yards, 28 touchdowns and a 96.3 QB rating. During that time, Romo has led the Cowboys to a 22 - 10 record.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
For being one of the smallest QBs in the NFL, Drew Brees has been one of the most consistent performers over the last three seasons. Brees doesn’t have the kind of playmakers that the other nominees possess, but he has the ability to locate his receivers quickly and deliver the ball with precision. Although Brees is highly accurate, he’s been haunted by the one or two lapses in a game where he will turn the ball over. The amount of interceptions Brees throws each year will hurt his attempt to win the Triple Crown, as he’s averaged 15 interceptions over the last three seasons. But, during that same period, he’s averaged 4,139 yards, 26 touchdowns and a respectable 91.6 QB rating. During the last three years, one in San Diego and two in New Orleans, Brees has led his teams to a 26 - 22 record.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Carson Palmer is the best quarterback everybody forgets about, largely in part because he plays in Cincinnati. Palmer gets overshadowed by his flamboyant target and the player that helps him achieve the amount of statistical success he posts, Chad Johnson. With Johnson, if he stays in Cincinnati, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as his primary targets, Palmer will continue to accumulate numbers that will put him in the hunt for a Triple Crown. Palmer has quietly been one of the most productive QBs in the NFL over the last three seasons and has averaged 4,001 yards, 29 touchdowns and a 93.9 QB rating. Although Palmer has been successful, the Bengals as a whole have struggled over the last three years with a 26 – 22 record.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.