Cover image for Quarterback : inside the most important position in the National Football League
Title:
Quarterback : inside the most important position in the National Football League
ISBN:
9780385543033
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, [2018]
Physical Description:
357 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Summary:
"In the NFL--America's most popular sports league--quarterbacks are kings. The right QB becomes the face of a franchise and marches his team--and millions of fans--on a glorious winning odyssey that can last for a decade or longer. The wrong QB leads his team to losses, infighting, second-guessing, and fan misery. Quarterbacks are drafted straight out of college with indescribable expectations and tantalizing dreams of stardom resting on their shoulders from Day One. They play in front of 75,000 fans, with millions more watching at home. The intense media glare follows their every move. Many QBs wash out of the league ... and a few become legends. John Feinstein takes us inside that rarified world with five men who have achieved the highest levels in the NFL. Andrew Luck and Alex Smith--both #1 overall selections in their respective drafts; Joe Flacco--Super Bowl MVP; Doug Williams--the first African American quarterback to win the biggest game in sports and to be named Super Bowl MVP; and Ryan Fitzpatrick--experienced veteran and starting quarterback of seven NFL teams ... among them, they have lived every aspect of playing the position. Feinstein describes the pressures, politics, business, and physical toll. He maps out a QB's journey, from incredible athleticism and college stardom to the NFL draft, from taking command of the huddle to marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering. With the cooperation of these five quarterbacks and dozens of other players, coaches, and GMs, Feinstein assembles an unprecedented glimpse into the routine of a star quarterback--in the locker room and in the huddle--and outlines what happens on the field in the heat of battle, whether leading to spectacular moments or embarrassing defeats ... as well as the demands of the press conferences afterward. Feinstein also explores the controversies of a powerful league embroiled in questions of player health, substance abuse, racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, draft decisions, free-agency strategies, and management decisions that are sometimes brilliant and sometimes questionable. In the end, [this book] is John Feinstein's most fascinating--and insightful--book yet."--Dust jacket.
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Summary

Summary

In the mighty National Football League, one player becomes the face of a franchise, one player receives all the accolades and all the blame, and one player's hand will guide the rise or fall of an entire team's season - and the dreams of millions of fans. There are thirty-two starting quarterbacks in the NFL on any given Sunday, and their lives are built around pressure, stardom, and incredible talent. Legendary bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein, in his most insightful book yet, shows readers what it's really like to play the glory position and to live that life - mapping out a journey that runs from college stardom to the NFL draft to taking command of the huddle and marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering.

Feinstein builds his profile around five NFL starting quarterbacks - Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Doug Williams. With incredible inside access, we get the full quarterback experience...being drafted #1 overall, pushing through grueling injuries, winning Super Bowls, being named a starter on multiple teams, being the first African American QB to lead a franchise to a title. Feinstein shows us exactly what it's like in the locker room, huddle, heat of battle, and press conferences, through spectacular moments and embarrassing defeats. He explores the controversies of a league embroiled in questions of substance abuse and racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, and the value placed on player health. And in the end, Feinstein addresses the ways in which each quarterback - some just a year out of college-is handed the keys to a franchise worth billions of dollars, and how each team's fortunes ride directly on the shoulders of its QB. This is Feinstein's most fascinating behind-the-scenes book.


Author Notes

John Feinstein was born in New York City on July 28, 1956. He graduated from Duke University. He is a sportswriter, author, and sports commentator. He was on the staff at the Washington Post and wrote for Sports Illustrated. He is the author of several books including A Season on the Brink, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, A Good Walk Spoiled, and The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and the Story of an Epic College Basketball Rivalry.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Being a starting quarterback in the NFL is arguably the most challenging position in all of professional sports; too much credit for wins, too much blame for losses. In this exploration of what it means to be an NFL quarterback today, Feinstein, New York Times best-selling author of A Good Walk Spoiled (1995) and numerous other in-depth analyses of various sports, focuses on five current or former quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Doug Williams, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The five have had very different careers, but, taken together in Feinstein's telling, they reveal much about the game and the position of quarterback. Smith was a number-one overall draft pick and has had a solid career. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad, was almost the last pick in the same draft and has been a journeyman, playing for seven teams since 2006. Flacco won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, and Williams overcame a long-held prejudice against African American quarterbacks to become a Super Bowl MVP. Fitzpatrick's career, thought the least distinguished, may be the most interesting. He's been a successful starter, but he also went three seasons without ever getting into a game. As Feinstein relates the five careers, he also touches on the larger, league-wide issues of player health, substance abuse, racism, and, of course, team management, both good and bad. Another must-read from a master of long-form sports journalism. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Feinstein is one of the few sportswriters with a permanent seat at the best-seller table. He won't be forfeiting that spot anytime soon.--Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2018 Booklist


Library Journal Review

Quarterbacks in the National Football League (NFL) are not just on-the-field captains; they also embody a team's identity, for better or worse. The wrong pick in an NFL draft can haunt a franchise for years. The right pick can make an ordinary team perennially elite. Within the time frame of the 2017 NFL season, eminent sportswriter Feinstein (A Season on the Brink) em-bedded himself with five successful quarterbacks-four current and one retired. As the season unfolds, Feinstein deconstructs the inexact science of the annual NFL draft, chronicles injuries and health concerns, and takes readers from one breathtaking finish to another. VERDICT With a critical eye and unsurpassed sense of sports history and culture, Feinstein examines qualities of leadership, the politics and drama within locker rooms and league offices, and the unrelenting pressure that can either crush a quarterback or turn him into a legend. Stellar research and storytelling that make this an essential read for NFL fans and sports enthusiasts.-Janet Davis, Darien P.L., CT © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Excerpted from the Introduction On the afternoon of October 1, 2017 the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens met in Baltimore, in what was billed by the media as a 'battle for first place,' in the National Football League's AFC North Division. Both teams were 2-1, but the Ravens record was deceiving. They had opened the season by beating the decidedly mediocre Cincinnati Bengals and then had beaten the historically bad Cleveland Browns in week 2 before travelling to London to get pounded 44-7 by a surprisingly good Jacksonville team. The Steelers had also beaten the Browns and had then beaten the Minnesota Vikings before losing--stunningly--to the Chicago Bears on the road. In short, people were still trying to figure out how good the two teams were and this game would certainly provide some clues. The Ravens had not had a good offseason. Their most reliable receiver, Dennis Pitta, had suffered a career-ending hip injury during one of their mini-camps--or as they're now called in NFL vernacular, "OTA's--Organized Team Activities." The team's 2016 first round draft pick, wide receiver Brashaud Breeland, had shown blazing speed. He had just one weakness: an inability to actually CATCH a football on a regular basis, a glaring issue given that his job was to CATCH footballs. Both starting guards, including Pro Bowler Marshall Yanda, were out for the season. There was no consistent running back, unless you counted Alex Collins, a talented rookie with a penchant for fumbling. Danny Woodhead, an excellent third down receiver acquired during the offseason was--you guessed it--injured. Joe Flacco had been the Ravens starting quarterback for 10 years--having been drafted in 2008 out of the University of Delaware. His arrival had ended a search for a solid quarterback that had started when the team first moved from Cleveland prior to the 1996 season. The Ravens had actually won a Super Bowl after the 2000 season with Trent Dilfer playing quarterback largely because they had put together one of the great defenses in league history. General Manager Ozzie Newsome had taken Flacco with the 18th pick in the '08 draft at the urging of scouting director Eric DeCosta, who had gone to see Delaware play at Navy the previous October and had left the game at halftime with stars in his eyes. "I was supposed to go to a game at Maryland (28 miles away from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium) later that afternoon," he said. "I was so excited about Flacco I went back to the office and began digging out any tape of him I could find." Flacco was 6-foot-6, weighed 240 pounds and had a cannon for an arm. He looked effortless throwing the ball downfield and, even though Navy's defense that year wasn't very good, DeCosta watched in awe as Flacco made difficult throws look easy. Ten years later, Flacco had won a Super Bowl and had been, for a while, the highest paid player in the NFL. Even though other quarterbacks had surpassed him in total dollars, Flacco was still doing just fine. He was in the second year of a six- year contract worth $120.6 million. At 32, he was, without question, the face of the Ravens franchise. Which meant--as with almost every starting quarterback in the NFL--he often went from toast-of-the-town to roasted-by-the-town from week-to-week. Most of the time the criticism rolled off Flacco's broad back. He had acquired the nickname of 'Cool Joe,' early on because his demeanor almost always stayed the same. If you were going strictly off facial expressions or body language, it was difficult to tell if Flacco had just thrown a touchdown pass or an interception. "The criticism comes with the territory," he said with a smile. "If you're going to accept being put on a pedestal when you play well, you better be ready to accept getting chopped down when you don't play well." "Even when it's not your fault?" I asked one day. "It's ALWAYS my fault," he said. On that warm October afternoon on their home turf against the Steelers, it was Flacco's fault. Even if he had plenty of help. The Ravens were bad. They trailed 19-0 at halftime and lost 26-9 in a game that really wasn't that close. Flacco threw two fourth quarter interceptions--one a deflection--and Collins had a critical first half fumble. The defense, which had caused 10 turnovers in the first two games, couldn't get Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers off the field. In all, it was a long day for all the Ravens. It began with the team kneeling as one prior to the playing of the national anthem. This was a week after Donald Trump's rant about players not standing for the anthem and the Ravens had decided to take a knee together before the anthem. Even though the song hadn't yet begun and even though the entire team was standing when the music started, many fans booed the gesture. The boos would have been quickly forgotten had the team played better. But it didn't and the boos were heard frequently during the second half--except for a brief period when the Ravens rallied to close the deficit to 19-9. After the game ended with the stands half-empty and the Steelers walking away with a 26-9 victory, Flacco was brought into the interview room by the Ravens public relations staff. Every NFL quarterback comes into the interview room postgame. Most wait as long as possible before going in. They chat with teammates, shower, dress and, as their final act before leaving the stadium to meet their families, they come in to talk to the media. They can take as long as they want to because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback. The coach usually goes in as soon as the locker room is opened to the media. The quarterback almost always goes last--often 45 minutes to an hour after the game has ended. Not Flacco. If Ravens Coach John Harbaugh doesn't go in quickly, Flacco is apt to be the first one in, still in uniform--except for his helmet. "You have to do it, you might as well get it over with," he said with a smile. "I don't mind it. I usually know what the questions are going to be. So, I go in, get it done and then get ready to go home." Flacco has five kids so when the team plays at home, he doesn't linger in the locker room the way some players do. On rare occasions, to give him a break from the interview room questions, Kevin Byrne, who has run public relations for the Ravens since 1986--when they were still in Cleveland--will tell Flacco not to come to the interview room. When that happens, he stands in front of his locker and answers the same questions he would have gotten in the interview room. After the Steelers loss, Flacco came in right after Harbaugh. After he had answered a general question about the game, someone said, "Joe, how would you assess your play today?" Flacco smiled for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I sucked. We sucked as an offense and I'm the quarterback, so I'm responsible. It's pretty simple." The real answer to the question would have been something like this: "Look, my most reliable receiver went down in June. I threw a perfect deep ball early to Mike Wallace and he dropped it. Our first round draft pick from 2016 couldn't catch a cold, much less a football. Our offensive line is a mess and we've got no running game. There's only so much I can do." Of course there was no way Flacco was going to say any of that. "You never throw your teammates under the bus," he said. "Anything you say that's critical of anyone but yourself is going to look like you're making excuses--and, to some degree, it IS making excuses. If I whined that way, fans wouldn't buy it, but more important than that, I couldn't go home and look my father in the eye. You take the credit when it's all good, you take the blame when it's bad. "And when you're the quarterback, the blame, ultimately, SHOULD always fall on you." ***   Not long after Flacco had finished talking to the media, I got in my car to drive home. I turned on the Ravens postgame show on WBAL radio. Keith Mills, the host, was just starting to take phone calls. The first caller was wound up and upset. "Keith," he said, "When is Joe Flacco going to stand up and take responsibility for the failures of this offense?" Mills didn't really know what to say. Politely, on air, he said, "I thought he did." Later, off-air, he said, "Beyond saying, 'I sucked,' what else was he supposed to say?" Exactly right. ***   That caller represents the heart and soul of what this book is about. There is no position in sports that is more glamorous, more lucrative, more visible, more high-risk than quarterback. In 32 cities, the quarterback carries the hopes and dreams of millions of fans and is the centerpiece for the media that covers every NFL team. The NFL--even with all the issues that have beset it in recent years--remains the colossus of professional sports in the U.S. It dominates the sports media 12 months a year. An off-day by a starting quarterback during offseason workouts in May can cause all-out panic among those covering a team. Billion dollar franchises may rise or fall on the shoulders of one 20-something athlete. Aaron Rodgers is carted off a football field in Minnesota and the entire state of Wisconsin goes into mourning. The most controversial and talked about figure in Washington D.C. in 2017 might have been Donald Trump, but Kirk Cousins wasn't far behind. Quarterback is a dependent position. Lineman must block, receivers must run precise patterns and make catches while being crushed by defenders. But if it all goes right, the quarterback becomes the most popular man in that city. If it goes wrong--no matter how razor-thin the margin--even if he's standing on the sideline when the decisive plays are being made--he becomes the fall guy. The line between being rich, famous and beloved--or rich, famous and excoriated--is almost invisible at times. Quarterbacks make the most money; they receive the most endorsements; and they are the subject of the most publicity. They know that eight months of preparing to play 16 games can go down the drain in a heartbeat--and, ultimately, the finger will be pointed at them. Doug Williams, the first African-American quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, talks about 'seeing colors.' The reference is to a quarterback who feels the pressure of huge men bearing down on him and releases the ball or sprints from the pocket a split-second too soon rather than hanging in there, knowing a painful hit is coming and making the play. The great ones don't see colors. It is easier said than done. No one is ever neutral on a quarterback's performance--including the quarterback. Excerpted from Quarterback: A Journey Inside the Most Coveted Position in the National Football League by John Feinstein All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.