Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Feb 2013

A Historical Review of the "Elite Quarterback."

After I saw the table in this article showing the explosion in the media's use of the phrase "elite quarterback," I was put on suicide watch. Of course, Joe Theismann is one of the people to blame for this nonsense. Can we please take this phrase behind the barn and beat it to death with a shovel?

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 06 Feb 2013

60 comments, Last at 13 Feb 2013, 12:42am by jebmak

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 4:23pm

Only if we agree to set it on fire after we think it is beaten to death.

38
by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 9:50pm

I'd like to put the little bastard in a sack and toss the sack in a river and hurl the river into space.

2
by Peregrine :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 4:35pm

I recall John Clayton using the term a bunch two or three years ago. Then other ESPN folks latched onto the phrase. And once ESPN runs with something, it's run into the ground.

22
by dryheat :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 9:50pm

It doesn't bother me nearly as much as "once in a generation player", of which there are roughly four in each draft. I think we have Peter King to thank for that one, directed at Reggie Bush, the likes of whom haven't been seen in 20 years.

I heard Cowherd call the Unibrowed NBA rookie (Davis?) a once in a generation talent about a week ago. In a league where LeBron, Howard, Rose, Wade, Kobe, Rondo, Durant, Paul, etc are all more-or-less in their primes.

36
by Jetsoex :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 5:02pm

The term 'elite' does not annoy quite as much as 'great'. At least a limited amount of thought goes into putting a player's name next to 'elite' but in order to be 'great' you basically have to have a reasonable chance of making an NFL roster. It is kind of how news articles use the word 'slams', which is usually the headline of an article where someone says something that is slightly negative about a given topic.

3
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 4:38pm

Maybe we could replace the phrase "elite" with "world class" which is a term used by the English media about their best international football players (even when there are about 10 other players in the world who are better at their position than them)

4
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 4:50pm

When applied to NFL players, I think that phrase would annoy this European just as much as the Super Bowl winner claiming to be "World Champions" does.

World class, in soccer, is meant to mean good enough to play for a world select XI. (The English media is generally stupid enough to believe that being the best Englishman at a position still automatically means a player's one of the best in the world.) If the Rest of the World put together an American Football team, just about any player in the NFL would be better than the corresponding Rest of the World player (Germany's Sebastian Vollmer and Domenik Hixon, and Scotland's Lawrence Tynes being notable exceptions), rendering the term meaningless.

5
by James-London :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:06pm

England currently have one player who can legitimately lay claim to "world Class" status, and that's the annoying little shit A$shley Cole. And even he's past his best.

Is the room in the unmarked grave?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

6
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:10pm

"I think that phrase would annoy this European just as much as the Super Bowl winner claiming to be "World Champions" does"

I get the joke, but come on. There is no non-NFL gridiron football team anywhere in the world that could beat ANY NFL team, let alone the Super Bowl champion.

8
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:23pm

Exactly, and I make that exact point about individual players in my post.

If you're going to claim to be world champions, at least save it for a sport (game, hobby, whatever) which is played at a similar level of organisation somewhere outside your country, never mind continent. It's a completely redundant claim otherwise.

9
by Independent George :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:34pm

It actually annoys me, too.

13
by krugerindustria... :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:58pm

Personally, I would sign off on "Champions of the Universe"

15
by JIPanick :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:35pm

I'm for it. No need to stop at annoying the Brits, we can tick off the Vulcans too!

44
by Scott C :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 2:57am

The Vulcan sense of humor is even more dry.

49
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 5:35pm

But is it as dry as a river thrown into the sun?

27
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:05am

"If you're going to claim to be world champions, at least save it for a sport which is played at a similar level of organisation somewhere outside your country"

This seems completely backwards to me. If anything, I find it more suspect for the NBA champion to be called "world champions", specifically because basketball is played at a reasonably high level around the world, and there is some history of international teams beating teams of NBA all-stars in international play. Thus, to presume that being the best team in the NBA equates to being the best team in the world is more debateable.

We agree that the best team in the NFL is the better than any team outside the NFL. The claim of being "world champion" therefore seems entirely reasonable to me. Unless the point you're trying to make is that it's obnoxious, and I suppose I can see that.

30
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:57am

The 2006 NBA All-Star game demonstrated that a good NBA team is capable of beating an NBA All-Star team, because they actually have roles, plays, and play defense.

31
by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 11:08am

I understand this line of thought, but you have to remember that NBA teams are not made up only of American players. Most of the best players in the world play in the NBA regardless of their country of origin.

16
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 7:50pm

"When applied to NFL players, I think that phrase would annoy this European just as much as the Super Bowl winner claiming to be "World Champions" does."

Ad-hoc NCAA teams, consisting of a mixture of D1,D2,D3, and NAIA players regularly win gridiron world cups against the best international teams. The rest of the world, combined, might make for a mid-level MAC team. Although American Samoa would have pretty nice linemen.

And before you ask, NFL teams have played rugby champs before in mixed-rules competitions. They usually win.

17
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 8:31pm

I wasn't going to ask, as I already knew that. I'm not sure what your point is. If it's that the best NFL team is the best gridiron team in the world, I don't know of anybody who disputes that fact.

53
by wiesengrund :: Sat, 02/09/2013 - 7:51am

Ad-hoc NCAA teams, consisting of a mixture of D1,D2,D3, and NAIA players regularly win gridiron world cups against the best international teams. The rest of the world, combined, might make for a mid-level MAC team.

I may be worng, but I think only once has a team with no US imports won over a US team. About three years ago the Austrian national selection defeated the mighty Augustana Vikings, Div III, CCIW. I was there, it was a great game, a defensive battle that ended 10-3, but everybody felt how special it was. And everybody knew that, while it might happen again once or twice, beating Div III without US imports will always be nearly impossible.

46
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 1:04pm

I've always taken the term to mean, in soccer, among the best in the world at his position, not necessarily the best, which may or may not be what you mean.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

7
by rrsquid :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:18pm

Or replace with "Super Bowl Winning" which seems to be the only criteria for elite.

11
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:36pm

Be careful of the Dilfer Corollary.

45
by Not Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 9:49am

Dilfer was an Elite Game Manager.

48
by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 1:19pm

I hate you.

51
by Insancipitory :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 9:26pm

If "matriculating the ball down the field" can be a thing, so can "delegating the the ball down the field." Long live Trent Dilfer, Vice President of quarterbacks!

34
by vcs (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 1:31pm

Which is exactly what the NFL does. You actually don't see very many references to "World Champions" in the modern presentation, it's always "Super Bowl Champions" or "NFL Championship", "Lombardi Trophy", etc.

I believe the SB rings say "World Champions", but that's about it.

54
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 02/09/2013 - 9:01am

You've reminded me where this World Champions thing came from ... Super Bowls I, II , III, IV were not Super Bowls ... they were AFL-NFL World Championships.

In the 60s the world was a more insular place and before the merger the AFL & NFL would have had them each proclaiming their winner as 'world champion'. in that context, the term makes much more sense ...

10
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:35pm

Aaron, a phrase is not a physical living object, so you cannot beat it to death with a shovel.

Joe Theismann is a physical living object though.

12
by Will Allen :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 5:51pm

Maybe not an object, but most certainly a tool.

14
by young curmudgeon :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 6:24pm

No, a shovel is a tool. Joe Theisman is a...oh, wait.

19
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 9:35pm

Theismann talked shit about dandelions. I hate him more now.

By the way, if "elite" was used properly, it would not bother me. It is a very economical way of saying "one of the best."

21
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 9:47pm

Agreed. The problem isn't the term, it's how it's used. Here's a tip: if you have to ask whether a guy's elite, he isn't.

29
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:12am

"if you have to ask whether a guy's elite, he isn't"

Best answer to this question I've ever heard.

18
by Theo :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 9:31pm

I clicked the link in the first line.
I read there's a council that wants CBS fined for airing Joe Flacco saying "fucking awesome"?

Isn't there a difference between willingly airing something and just airing something as it is happening?

20
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 9:37pm

It was after 10 PM, so I am not sure if they can. When I worked for the radio, the FCC had no jurisdiction between 10 PM and 5 AM.

23
by JohnD (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 10:27pm

I'm sorry, I don't buy that for a moment. They may choose not to enforce the same rules between 10 and 5, but they most certainly have jurisdiction.

33
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 12:05pm

Perhaps jurisdiction was the wrong word. But they don't have a say in content between those hours.

37
by Lance :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 8:30pm

I'm skeptical of even this. Perhaps rules are more lax during those hours, but CBS isn't going to run some t-and-a show at midnight, and I think even NBC gets in trouble when someone on SNL drops an f-bomb during its live broadcast.

40
by Ben Stuplisberger :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:37pm

I understand your skepticism, I don't know how it applies to TV. At my radio station, I had a late night show, and I would get in trouble with the station for lyrics that were on the list. They told me, "no, we can't get fined, but our advertisers could be listening and might pull their adds."

You may remember that Schindler's List was played uncensored on television a few years back. Also, you may remember the slew of naked butts in TV 10 PM dramas in the late 90s early 2000s.

From the FCC's website:

"The FCC has defined profanity as “including language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.” Like indecency, profane speech is prohibited on broadcast radio and television between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m."

43
by Scott C :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 2:55am

It was not after 10PM in all time zones in the U.S.

28
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 10:06am

"Isn't there a difference between willingly airing something and just airing something as it is happening?"

Not since Janet Jackson. Someone think of the children!!!

32
by Collapsing Pocket (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 11:13am

That "council" is the "Parents Television Council", which is a group of shrieking, pearl clutching busybodies who want to fine every network anytime they air something other than "Veggie tales" or "The 700 Club".

60
by jebmak :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:42am

Don't knock Veggie Tales.

24
by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 11:16pm

A line this article quotes from a 1978 article about Bert Jones: "Is there no question that will uncover an ugly speck on his soul?" Ooh, ooh, I've got one! Try "is he racist?"

25
by apk3000 :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 8:29am

And this lead to that DJ Gallo bit on how one person had to refer to somebody (Rodgers?) as "super elite"

26
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 9:29am

There can be no superlative too superlative for the hyper-real spectacle we call NFL football.

35
by AnonymousDC (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 2:55pm

Curious, how many articles mentioned just the word "quarterback" over those years?

Asking b/c I imagine the # of articles about quarterbacks has increased, an am wondering of about the % of articles about elite quarterbacks has also risen disproportionally as it seems.

47
by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 1:06pm

I was thinking about that, too, but I hadn't come up with an elegant way to test it, such as the one you suggest.

------
FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

39
by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 9:59pm

This makes me think of an article on this very site (a scramble, maybe?) where they replaced "elite" with "cromulent" to highlight the silliness of the whole thing. They really embiggened the art of pointing out how dumb the media gets about things.

41
by Insancipitory :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 11:06pm

I would read a column called The Embiggened Quarterback which was focused on weekly effusive praise of Seattle's new messiah.

50
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 5:38pm

For what it's worth, QBs have become substantially embiggened over the years.

42
by Jerry :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 12:11am

Not too surprisingly, it was one of Mike Tanier's Walkthroughs. As we've seen in too many threads here, it's not just the media.

52
by The Hypno-Toad :: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 10:00pm

Very true... But (I assume) that those who occasionally get pulled into the pointless wormhole of "elite or not" and create content for this site or comment on that content aren't paid bunches of money to not sound like concussed parrots when we discuss football. I give the amateur and semi-pro football analyst more of a pass for employing the cheap, shorthand analysis... But it's usually the full-on pros that require the pass more.

55
by metalned :: Sat, 02/09/2013 - 7:45pm

Whoever takes "elite quarterback" out to the woods, please take "skill set" with you. Skills works just fine

"For what it's worth, QBs have become substantially embiggened over the years" - Aaron Brooks Go

APPROVED....

57
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Mon, 02/11/2013 - 10:36am

Also, "can be/is quite/etc. a player in this league." I know that it is sometimes used the way it sounds, to imply that the player is just barely roster-worthy, but the last few words are awfully redundant.

Same with "is a football player" in some announcers' contexts. No way, what are we watching right now?

56
by RickD :: Sun, 02/10/2013 - 5:26pm

The usage of the word "elite" doesn't bother me half as much as the meta-discussion of its abuse. I mean, it would be fine if people would just say "Bert Jones is an elite QB" or "Brady and Manning are elite QBs." What gets irritating are the people who try to find a border between elite and non-elite. It's like looking for the border between "near" and "far." I wish sportswriters would offer something higher than muppet-level commentary.

58
by herewegobrowniesherewego (not verified) :: Mon, 02/11/2013 - 10:40am

But that's half the fun. :)

It's like how you have to wonder where precisely the dividing lines between each of "very conservative," "conservative," "moderate," "liberal," etc. on Facebook self-identified political views are.

59
by countertorque :: Mon, 02/11/2013 - 5:23pm

I was definitely not expecting to see Mike Tomczak or Bubby Brister mentioned in that article.