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Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with Rams 2x Pro Bowl Quarterback Marc Bulger

Posted on July 2, 2018 at 4:55 PM

After being taken in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft, Marc Bulger was cut by the New Orleans Saints, spent time on the practice squad with the Atlanta Falcons and eventually landed with the St. Louis Rams. He didn't take an offical regular season snap until his third season (2002), but when his time came, he was ready. Bulger led the NFL in AY/A in 2002, made the Pro Bowl and won Pro Bowl MVP honors in 2003 and made another Pro Bowl appearance in 2006. Before his 30th Brithday, Bulger ranked No. 1 in NFL history in passing yards per-game (270.6).


I talked with the 2x Pro Bowl quarterback about how he got off to such a strong start, what it was like to play with the "Greatest Show on Turf", which game stands out as his personal favorite and what he's up to now, over 7 years since he reitred from the National Football League.


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Ryan: Your were a 6th round draft pick (168th overall), selected shortly before Tom Brady (199th overall) in the 2000 NFL Draft. A lot has been said of Brady stepping into the limelight early, playing like a veteran. But people are quick to forget, you followed a 2x NFL MVP and stepped into the starting role winning your first 6 games. Talk about pressure right?


Marc: "I was cut and spent my entire first year at home working out in Pittsburgh, where I am from. [It] was very frustrating knowing that I could play but I was never given one rep in preseason with the Saints. It was really cool being in charge of the 'Greatest Show on Turf.' My first 1st down ever started on own 2-yard line. We were 0-5 and Raiders were 4-0. [We scored a] touchdown on that first drive, [which] made all the work worth it! At the combine, you are marched around like cows. Brady and I spent a lot of time together since they do it alphabetically. We didn't understand how the guys were ranked ahead of us in [the mock] drafts. I think Tom proved his point."



Ryan: I’m a statistics guy, so let me throw some out you. After the 2006 season, you ranked No. 1 in NFL history in passing yards per-game, minimum 50 starts (270.6)—well ahead of No. 2 Peyton Manning (261.0), your former teammate, No. 3 Kurt Warner (260.6) and No. 4 Dan Marino (253.6). How did that happen?


Marc: "I think I was the fastest to 1,000 completions. Mike Martz is the answer. [He is the] most underrated coach in history. I learned a lot from watching Dan [Marino] too since we went to same high school in Pittsburgh."



Ryan: What was it like to follow in Kurt Warner’s footsteps and extend the lifespan of the “Greatest Show on Turf”?


Marc: "Amazing. Kurt was so good to me. As I mentioned, I was home my first year after being cut. Isaac Bruce was on my Fantasy Football team and then I'm in the huddle a year later telling Isaac, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace—all Hall of Famers—what to do. Surreal. Again, Mike Martz."



Ryan: Of the 99 games you played during your career, which one stands out as your personal favorite?


Marc: "Winning a playoff game in Seattle was great. [Winning] Pro Bowl MVP [was] insane. But heading home and kicking the Steelers butt after [they] passed on me in draft was my favorite. I did the same thing to the Pittsburgh Panthers in college, multiple times. Not that I hold a grudge."



Ryan: What are you up to these days?


Marc: "I love working with www.themarcbulgerfoundation.com. I'm super passionate and proud of work I've done for over a decade now. Obviously, I love my family and spending time with them."


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Follow Marc Bulger on Twitter: @MarcBulger10


Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with 2001 Heisman Trophy Quarterback Eric Crouch

Posted on July 1, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Photo credit: (C) 2002 www.huskers.com


At Nebraska, quarterback Eric Crouch led the Cornhuskers on a thrilling run his senior year that led to an appearence in the Rose Bowl National Championship game vs. the Miami Hurricanes. Crouch won the 2001 Heisman Trophy, tearing up the record books and leaving his mark in the world of college football. I talked with Crouch about his time at Nebraska, his run for the Heisman Trophy, how his style of play might work in 2018 and what he's up to these days.


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Ryan: I feel that your 2001 season with Nebraska remains one of the most breathtaking runs for the Heisman Trophy in NCAA history. What do you remember most about that season?


Eric: "I remember our team having a great season and playing in a National Championship game against one of the best teams to play college football, Miami. Being a competitor, I will always remember the loss to Miami. They were a very good team and deserved to win the National Championship."



Ryan: Duel threat quarterbacks are in vogue these days, but how many players can say they've rushed for a 95-yard touchdown or scored touchdowns by passing, rushing and receiving all in the same game? How do you feel your style of play would work in today's game?


Eric: "I feel it would work great! It would have been fun to throw the ball more and spread the field out like many teams do now."



Ryan: If you had to pick one game from your time at Nebraska that you feel best represented who you were as a football player, which game would it be and why?


Eric: "This is a good question. I have never thought about it this way, but I would have to [say the] 1999 away game vs. Iowa (9/4/99). I was not the starter, but came in the game and ran over an Iowa defender. This was one of the plays that people approach me about the most. It must have been impactful to them as well. I was still fighting for a starting spot at quarterback and wanted to make a statement to my teammates. I wanted them to know that I was not afraid to play this game in a physical way. I needed to earn my teammates respect. Two game later in my sophomore year, I became the starter."



Ryan: In 2002, you were drafted by the St. Louis Rams, but as a wide receiver. Do you have any bitter feelings about what could have been had you not been injured playing a non-quarterback position?


Eric: "I am not bitter, but my son told me yesterday, I should have stuck it out. He has a point. However, playing receiver was not for me. I really enjoyed playing quarterback and having the pressure of the game in my hands."



Ryan: What are you up to these days?


Eric: "My wife and I are in our 15th year of owning our [own] company that sells recreational equipment (www.crouchrec.com). I am helping coach the running backs at Midland University in Fremont Nebraska. I have also spent a few years building a youth tackle football and 7-on-7 passing organization in Omaha, Nebraska."


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Follow Eric Crouch on Twitter: @croucheric


Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with 1969 NFL MVP Quarterback Roman Gabriel

Posted on June 24, 2018 at 6:40 PM

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated (December 1967)


In the 1960s and 1970s, Roman Gabriel was one of the most dominant, productive and durable quarterbacks in the NFL. Facing some of the toughest defenses of any era, competing against some of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history (Unitas, Starr, Tarkenton)—Gabriel left his mark on the game and retired with a resume worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Living in an age of recency bias and an inability by most to understand statistics from past generations, many might scoff at Gabriel’s 201 career touchdown passes, which currently rank him 41st in NFL history—below Jay Cutler’s 227 and Matt Hasselbeck’s 212.


Judging a quarterback’s raw passing statistics without adjusting for era is akin to saying the original Macintosh wasn’t as good of a computer as a $99 laptop from Walmart today because the original Macintosh didn’t have internet access.


Comparing quarterbacks from all generations is what I do—adjusting for era to level the playing field for everyone. Why? Because I’m not convinced that Kerry Collins (40,922 career passing yards) was a better quarterback than Joe Montana (40,551 career passing yards). Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger currently ranks 8th in career passing yards (51,065), 9th in career touchdown passes (329) and 8th in career pass completions (4,164). Not bad. And context? Yes, it's necessary.


At the time of his retirement, Gabriel ranked in the Top-6 in NFL history in career passing yards, touchdown passes and pass completions.

 

  • 8 quarterbacks already inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame ranked lower than Gabriel did in career passing yards at the time of their retirement.
  • 8 quarterbacks already inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame ranked lower than Gabriel did in career touchdown passes at the time of their retirement.
  • 9 quarterbacks already inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame ranked lower than Gabriel did in career pass completions at the time of their retirement.


Accolades? Gabriel had plenty of those too.


  • 1969 NFL MVP (AP)
  • 4x Pro Bowl selection (1967, 1968, 1969, 1973).
  • 2x touchdown pass leader (1969, 1973)
  • 3x interception-percentage leader (1965, 1969, 1973)
  • Retired ranked No. 1 in NFL history in career interception-percentage, min. 100 starts: 3.31%
  • 1973 Comeback Player of the Year (PFW/PFWA).
  • Most passing yards, single-season during the post-merger "dead ball" era: 3,219 (1973)
  • One of four players in NFL history to lead the league in touchdown passes with two different teams.
  • Broke Johnny Unitas' record of 88 consecutive starts, retiring with the longest streak in NFL history: 89 (1965-1972)
  • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in touchdown passes: 153
  • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in passing yards: 22,223
  • Retired as the Rams all-time leader in pass completions: 1,705


My efficency-metric, QBS2, levels the playing field for quarterbacks of all generations, grading them based on how they ranked amongst their peers in passer rating, DVOA (1989-2017) and Total QBR (2006-2016). By this measure, Gabriel's career QBS2 average ranks him higher than 12 quarterbacks already inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


  • Roman Gabriel: 65.30
  • Terry Bradshaw: 64.88
  • Bob Waterfield: 64.61
  • Ken Stabler: 61.33
  • Jim Kelly: 61.08
  • Brett Favre: 60.68
  • Joe Namath: 57.22
  • Troy Aikman: 56.24
  • Bobby Layne: 55.12
  • Ace Parker: 54.00
  • Warren Moon: 52.57
  • John Elway: 52.07
  • George Blanda: 51.38


My argument for Gabriel, much like my argument for Charlie Conerly in 2015, is not that he is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. But is his resume just as if not more impressive than some quarterbacks already inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Absolutely.


I interviewed Roman and asked him to reflect upon his 16-year career, his 1969 MVP and what it would mean for him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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Ryan: When you were drafted No. 1 overall in the 1962 AFL Draft and No. 2 overall on the 1962 NFL Draft, did you feel added pressure to excel at the pro level the way you did at N.C. State?


Roman: “No, but [I was] concerned about competing against people I did not know so far from home.”



Ryan: Having played in 185 games over 16 seasons, what do you consider to be the finest accomplishment of your NFL career?


Roman: “Just making it that long and always being counted on to show up.”


Note: Gabriel’s 89 consecutive starts at quarterback between 1965-1972 broke the previous NFL record of 88 set by Johnny Unitas (1959-1965).


Ryan: Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have led the league in touchdown passes with two different teams: Y.A. Tittle (49ers and Giants), Sonny Jurgensen (Eagles and Redskins), Peyton Manning (Colts and Broncos) and—do you know the other?


Roman: “I think it was me [with the] L.A. Rams and Philly Eagles.”



Ryan: You were named NFL MVP in 1969. What do you remember most about that season with the Rams?


Roman: “How as a team we played hard. [We] met on Mondays and Thursdays, on our own as teammates, which helped us win 11 in a row.”


Note: During the Rams 11-game winning streak in 1969, Gabriel threw 22 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions.


Ryan: What would induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame mean to you?


Roman: “I have been very fortunate to be in the N.C. State Hall of Fame, Wilmington [Sports Hall of Fame], [and the Wilmington] Walk of Fame. To be a candidate would be an achievement in itself. It would be very special, not only for me but for all the wonderful people donating their time and effort to make it happen.”


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There's a movement for Gabriel, 40 years since he reitred from the NFL, to finally be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You can visit the Facebook page here and follow along on Twitter (@RGabriel4HOF) to help support the cause.

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with Former Chiefs Quarterback Damon Huard

Posted on June 19, 2018 at 7:15 PM
Damon Huard's time in the NFL stretched from the 1996 offseason with the Cincinnati Bengals, to years as Dan Marino's backup with the Miami Dolphins, to time in NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy, to years as Tom Brady's backup with the New England Patriots, to a strong stint with the Kansas City Chiefs and finally, an offseason with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009.

It was an interesting journey, one that included winning two Super Bowl rings and setting the NFL's single-season record for interception-percentage. I talked with Damon about that journey, what it meant for him to finally catch his first break as an NFL starter, what it was like to be around Tom Brady at the earliest stages of his career and what he's doing now with some of the best wines you'll find in the state of Washington.

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Ryan: Damon, many remember you from your time with the Chiefs in the mid-late 2000s, but you were working hard to break into the NFL as early as 1996 with the Bengals. Tell me a little bit about that journey and what it meant to you by the time you had the opportunity to start your first game in the NFL.


Damon: "Getting cut by the Bengals was tough. I thought my career was over. Fortunately, I got a call from the Dolphins the next spring and Jimmy Johnson gave me an opportunity to compete and I made the most of it. I had to wait until 1999 for my first meaningful action in the league. When I got in there, I had a great team around me, including the mentorship from Dan Marino. It was very satisfying to have some success after all the hard work put in those first three years."


Ryan: You competed with a young Tom Brady to have the opportunity to back up Drew Bledsoe in New England. We all know the legend that Tom has worked himself into becoming, but as someone who was there with him in the quarterback room, in camp, in practice—what was Brady like back then?


Damon: "Crazy competitive, incredible teammate, hard worker, great listener, and driven to be the best. Nothing was going to stop him."


Ryan: You backed up two Hall of Famers: Dan Marino toward the end of his career and Tom Brady toward the beginning of his. What differences and similarities did you see between the two quarterbacks?


Damon: "They are very similar in their mental makeup.  [They're both] extremely confident in their abilities, they both tilt the room when they walk in, they have that presence about them that the great ones have. They make their teammates around them better with their confidence and energy."


Ryan: You’re credited with mimicking Peyton Manning’s pre-snap routine to help the Patriots defense prepare for the 2003 AFC Championship game. Whose idea was that: yours, Bill Belichick’s?


Damon: "That was Coach Belichicks idea. We had played the Colts a bunch over the years and we knew that they were a 4-3 Tampa 2 team for the most part and not real exotic on defense. So I spent a bunch of time that week watching their offense and doing the best I could to give our defense a great look on scout team. It was very cool to be recognized by him in the lockeroom after that 2003 AFC Championship game. Bill had a great way of making everybody on the roster feel a part of the team. He was great at defining everyone’s role. I felt like the most important backup quarterback on the planet and certainly felt a sense of accountability to the Patriots despite playing so little."


Ryan: Your best season, in my opinion, was 2006 with the Chiefs—finishing the year with 11 touchdowns to 1 interception and a 98.0 passer rating. You were the 2nd highest rated passer in the league, behind Peyton Manning (1st, 101.0) and ahead of Drew Brees (3rd, 96.2). Did you know that your 0.4% interception-percentage still stands as the best single-season mark in NFL history?


Damon: "I see that stat on ESPN every once in a while. We had an awesome team that year. We could really run the football with an incredible offensive line: Wiil Shileds, Brian Waters, to name a few, and hard nose running back, Larry Johnson. It made for an awesome play action passing attack. Tony Gonzalez was the best tight end to ever play the game and he made me look good. We preached no turnovers and protecting the football. You do that in the NFL and you win alot of games."


Ryan: Can you tell me a bit about “Passing Time” wine and how it is that you got involved in the field?


Damon: "Passing Time is the realization of an idea between two friends and teammates sparked by a mutual love for Washington wine. It was Dan’s vision, and my heritage and commitment to quality that set the stage for Passing Time to be Washington State’s next world-class winery. We make three cabs from the three Appleations that do it best in Washington (Walla Walla, Red Mountain, and the Horse Heaven Hills). We just bottled our fifth vintage (2016) last week. The 2015 Cabs were recently rated 97, 97, and 95+ by acclaimed critic Jeb Dunnuck (previously of the Wine Advocate). These scores put us in the top 5% of all domestic wines, and the third highest rated winery for Cabernet in the state of Washington. For more info please visit www.passingtime.com"

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Follow Damon Huard on Twitter: @damonhuard

Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with Former Texans Linebacker Jay Foreman

Posted on June 4, 2018 at 7:00 PM

As a linebacker in the NFL, Jay Foreman played in a total of 85 games for 4 different teams (Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers) and recorded 367 tackles. I caught up with the 8-year veteran to discuss what it was like to learn from Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith, what it meant to be part of the 2002 Houston Texans expansion franchise and what he's doing now, over a decade since his retirement.


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Ryan: What are Sundays like for you now, 11+ years after your retirement?


Jay: "My Sunday’s are pretty much the same every week. I guess you could say I’m a creature of habit. I try and go for a walk, then church, then look for a competitive game to watch (NFL or Golf) and then a family dinner every Sunday night. I always wanted to provide my kids with a consistent family dinner on Sunday’s. But I will say, I do enjoy watching football more now than I did years ago."



Ryan: Your father, Chuck Foreman, was a 5x Pro Bowl running back with the Minnesota Vikings—one of the most dominant and versatile players of his generation. What was it like to grow up in a football family and how did it help prepare you for your NFL career?


Jay: "Growing up with a famous father was very unique because of all the life experiences (good and bad) you are exposed to at an early age. I will always say that there was more good than bad and that I wouldn’t change anything. The weird part is that most people think you get it easy because of your family history, but it’s the opposite. It’s hard to imagine people trying to hurt you or hold you back because of who your Dad is or what he did on the [football] field. As far as preparing me for a NFL career, I think being Chuck Foreman’s son helped a lot because I didn’t get overwhelmed by the big stage and I always knew how to compete."



Ryan: Your rookie season (1999) was Bruce Smith’s last season in Buffalo. What was it like to come into the locker room and learn from veterans like Bruce?


Jay: "It was awesome. Not only was Bruce there but [so was] Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Ted Washington and Ruben Brown—all Hall of Fame players or soon will be. The best part is that they were all great teammates and taught younger players like myself what it took to make it in the NFL."



Ryan: What was it like to be part of the Houston Texans as a new expansion franchise?


Jay: "Being a original Texan was a great experience and it was great to be a part of something special. We didn’t win a lot of games but the relationships are for a lifetime. I will always hold my time in Houston close to my heart because I felt that I ascended both personally and professionally there."



Ryan: Out of the 85 games you played in your career, which one stands out as your personal favorite?


Jay: "I would say my very first game being active, against Seattle, because it's when you realize you made the team and are going to play in the NFL. And the second one is the game I got injured in because it was the best game I think I ever had and also, the last game I ever started. I guess when they say “play the game like it’s your last”, I took it to heart, even though I played two more years after the Jets game when I was a Texan. Up until that point, I had never been hurt or injured before."



Ryan: What are you up to these days?


Jay: "I am blessed to do some media work for Nebraska and also, to help with the Foreman Foundation. The Foreman Foundation raises funds and awareness for diabetics from all walks of life. You can find more information at www.jayforeman.net and www.foreman-foundation.com."


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Follow Jay Foreman on Twitter: @foreman5644


Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with Former Pro Bowl Quarterback Jim Everett

Posted on May 7, 2018 at 5:55 PM
In the 1980s and 1990s, former Pro Bowl quarterback Jim Everett stood out as one of the most productive players of his era. During the 5-year stretch of 1988-1992, Everett's 19,024 passing yards were the second most in the NFL, most in the NFC and more than Hall of Fame quarterbacks: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Warren Moon. Everett led the NFL in touchdown passes, twice, faced Joe Montana in an NFC Championship game and continued to play at a high level in his 30s with the Saints.

I talked with the 12-year veteran about his career, what it took for him to succeed in the NFL, how he measures success and what he's up to these days.

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Ryan: Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk football. I begin a lot of interviews by asking vets what they miss most about playing the game. I’d like to change that up a bit. What do you enjoy the most about your post-football life?

Jim: "First of all, I feel so very blessed to have had an opportunity to play a sport that I love and respect. My 12-years in the pros along with the many years before taught me a number of lessons in life, more than I could have imagined.  These experiences have translated into who, what and where I am today. Sharing and applying what I learned on and off the field has led me through the financial industry and has guided me in helping companies in many ways.

Possibly the most rewarding part of a post-career is giving back to the sport that has been so darn good to me. Coaching, mentoring or just supporting our local youth in our great sport of football motivates me. Sharing our stories and creating more are keys to living a good life and I am unlocking that door daily."


Ryan: To have played in the NFL at all puts an athlete in rarified air. To have played in 163 games is something truly remarkable. You were successful in your 20s with the Rams and in your 30s with the Saints. What did it take to play for so long and to find success with two different teams?

Jim: "Success can be measured in many different ways Ryan. I consider every snap and every game I played a success. Sure, there were times we won and there were times we learned. Winning is similar to mixing a cake recipe with a correct combination of quality ingredients, yet no team is the same on an annual basis due to many factors including injuries, Free Agency or even coaching changes.  What is consistent is change and every player has to evolve with change or move on to something else or do it elsewhere.

I attribute my successes on the field by acknowledging all the people of support, which includes my family, the support staff, the teams, my teammates and of course, recognizing that I really wanted to be the best at my craft, even if that effort didn’t translate into Super-Bowl recognitions. My efforts were 100% my best and reflecting on every moment of those times make me smile with pride."


Ryan: You led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1988 (31) and 1989 (29)—finishing 10-6 and 11-5 respectively—only to be snubbed from the Pro Bowl both years. You went 5-11 throwing 23 touchdown passes in 1990 and were selected to the Pro Bowl. Do you feel the prime of your career remains underrated?

Jim: "Hmmmm. Ryan, the quarterback gets way too much credit for victories and losses. But nevertheless, we as fans, associate with champions. So having no Super Bowls to show for a career as a quarterback, well, this is the measuring stick by public opinion. Yet, there have been some remarkable NFL careers that are fantastic but will go rather unnoticed without a ring to show for their effort."


Ryan: What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your NFL career?

Jim: "Leading by example and staying positive in the face of adversity. Matter of fact, [that] still applies. Beating the Eagles and Giants in the playoffs on the road in 1989 was special.  Lastly and openly, multiple victories as the Saints quarterback vs. Chuck Knox’s Rams teams was very gratifying."


Ryan: Fellow Purdue Boilermaker Drew Brees (70,445) is only 1,496 yards short of eclipsing Peyton Manning (71,940) to become the NFL’s all-time passing leader. He’s 4,286 yards head of Tom Brady (66,159), and younger. Does any part of you relate to Brees as it pertains to out-producing your peers only to see others receive more recognition?

Jim: "[The] public measures by Super Bowls. Drew is having a spectacular career and he’s in the right place at the right moment and he’s seizing the opportunity. We’ll look back after the clock spins a few more times but at the end of the day, Drew will receive his recognition as being one of the game's best ever to play the position."


Ryan: If you had to pick one game, that in your opinion best represents who you were as a quarterback, what game would it be and why?

Jim: "One game? Tough question. Here’s a go. Almost any game against the Giants, or the comeback in Tampa Bay (coming back from a 27-3 deficit to win 31-27) or the Rams/Saints game in 1989 where Flipper [Anderson] set the record with 336 receiving yards."


Ryan: What are you up to these days?

Jim: "Overall retired, but Ryan, loving that our Rams returned to Los Angeles. [I'm] doing some additional TV work for CBS, helping as a Legends Community Ambassador. [I was] recently was named a board member of the NFL Alumni and I assist local athletic programs in our area. Family life keeps me very busy and that in itself is truly rewarding."

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Follow Jim Everett on Twitter: @Jim_Everett

Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with Former Dolphins Quarterback Jay Fiedler

Posted on April 21, 2018 at 4:10 AM

As a quarterback in the NFL, Jay Fiedler started 76 games, played for 5 different teams (Eagles, Vikings, Jaguars, Dolphins and Jets) and passed for over 10,000 yards. Between 2000 and 2003, Fiedler's 35 wins as a starter were 5th most in the NFL—below only Peyton Manning (38), Steve McNair (40), Donovan McNabb (41) and Brett Favre (43).


I caught up with the former Dolphins quarterback to talk about how he worked his way up with depth chart, what it was like to replace Dan Marino, who he would take No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and how he's helping to develop future athletes with his football camps.


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Ryan: You've been retired for over a decade now. What do you miss most about playing the game?


Jay: "I certainly miss the camaraderie around the locker room and the relationships with teammates, coaches, support staff, etc. But relationships can go on and camaraderie can be found in all walks of life. What I miss the most though is the competition. Knowing that each week you get to spend 3 hours competing in a physically and intellectually demanding environment against the best in the world is something that is difficult to duplicate."


Ryan: From the very beginning of your career, you had to work your way up, spending time with the 1994 & 1995 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings before getting your first start with the Jaguars in 1999. Tell me a little bit about that experience and how it helped prepare you to become a full-time starting quarterback.


Jay: "Well I didn’t take the traditional path to becoming a starting quarterback. Having to prove yourself every step of the way and always knowing you can quickly be out of a job helped me to develop resiliency and an unwavering self-confidence that definitely prepared me for becoming a starter. During those first few years in the NFL, I also learned how much politics and business go into personnel decision making. I was cut by two teams whose coaches told me that I was a better player than the one they were keeping. Getting cut by a team can have a damaging effect on a player’s ego and confidence, but fortunately I was able to always maintain a high self-confidence to keep the dream of starting in the NFL alive even when others closed the door on that dream.


My path also gave me the opportunity to learn the game in many different ways. By playing with four different offensive coordinators in my first four years in the league, I was able to absorb the game from coaches who each had varying perspectives of quarterback play. I was able to learn from some of the best coaches in the game, like Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Tom Coughlin. I was able to take a bit from each coach to continue developing into a better quarterback each season."


Ryan: Your first postseason experience, ironically, was against the Miami Dolphins in the final game of Dan Marino's career (a 62-7 win for the Jaguars). You stepped in and averaged a whopping 15.6 YPA, tossed two touchdown passes and finished with a 108.9 passer rating. How much do you think your performance in that game influenced the Dolphins' interest in you as the successor to Marino the following season?


Jay: "I know that it played a part in the Dolphins interest and decision because people in the organization told me so. The bigger factor from that game against the Dolphins was the fact that leading up to the game, Miami didn’t know if Mark Brunell was going to return from injury to play. That forced the Dolphins staff and pro scouts to analyze my performance from the week before when I played well in my first NFL start in Week 17 of the [1999] regular season."


Fiedler on 1/2/00 vs. the Bengals: 28 of 37 (71.8%) for 317 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions = 104.3 passer rating


Ryan: Towards the end of your first season with the Dolphins (2000), you faced a quarterback in the postseason who went on to finish his career with a record "9 one and done's" (Peyton Manning). You had a rough game that day, but your team won. Is football the ultimate team sport, or do quarterbacks really deserve the heat they take when their season ends short of a Super Bowl ring?


Jay: "I had a rough first half but was able to make a number of plays in the second half and lead the team to a last second touchdown that got us to overtime and ultimately helped us win the game. A quarterback can have the most impact into the outcome of any game, but he can’t win or lose one by himself. Without our defense keeping the game close, Lamar Smith having a career day (227 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns), and our receivers making some key catches, I never would have had the opportunity to lead our team on that final drive of regulation, throw the game tying touchdown and ultimately finish with the win. Football is the ultimate team sport."


Ryan: Lets fast-forward to 2001, which I really feel was your breakout season. You finished with an 11-5 record, ranked second in the NFL in fourth quarter comebacks (4) and finished with a higher YPA average (7.3) than Rich Gannon (7.0) or Tom Brady (6.9). What do you remember most about that season, besides gracing the front cover of Sports Illustrated?



Photo credit: Sports Illustrated (October 2001)


Jay: "Having a year as the starter under my belt and the continuity of being in the same offensive system for another season helped me perform well in 2001. It was the first time since college that I didn’t have to learn a new system going into a season and I felt I had great command of the offense.


There were lots of highlights from that season, including of course, the game against Oakland in the first game back after the 9/11 tragedy which led to the Sports Illustrated cover shot. That game had so much emotion going into it and then ended in dramatic fashion with the last second dive into the end zone for the game winning score."


Ryan: On paper, the quarterback class of 2018 is said to be the strongest we've seen in over a decade. If you're the Cleveland Browns picking No. 1 overall, who are you taking?


Jay: "This is a very deep crop of quarterbacks from a talent and production standpoint, but it’s too early to label it the strongest in recent years. I think the guy with the biggest upside to be a long term franchise quarterback is Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen). He would be my pick at 1."


Ryan: For those who may not know, you are very involved with football camps, teaching young people how to play the quarterback position. Can you tell me a little bit about your camps and what they can offer young people seeking to develop their skill sets?


Jay: "I have two different sports camp businesses. One of them is Prime Time Football (www.primetimecamps.com), which is a year-round football training platform for beginners up to pros. I have run my own overnight football camp under the Prime Time brand for 20 years now, since early in my playing career, and have expanded that into multiple offerings of clinics, camps and private instruction. I have been able to work with kids as young as 7 years old as well as college prospects preparing for combine and pro days. In the past few years I had the opportunity to help prepare Trevor Siemian and Joe Callahan for their pro workouts. It’s been great to see unknown guys that I have worked with perform well and make it against the odds.


In addition to Prime Time, I also run The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps (www.brookwoodcamps.com) each summer along with my brother Scott. Brookwood has been a family run summer sleepaway camp for over 30 years. We provide top level world-class instruction in a variety of sports and activities for boys and girls ages 6-17. The camp combines the best of a sports camp within a traditional summer sleepaway camp framework, all set on 160 beautiful acres in the Catskill region of upstate New York. Campers learn from the best while having great fun and making new friends from around the world."


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Follow Jay Fiedler on Twitter: @JayFiedler


Follow Prime Time Football on Twitter: @primetimecamps


Follow Brookwood Camps on Twitter: @brookwoodcamps


Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

Ryan Michael: QBS Interview with 2x All-Pro Running Back Larry Johnson

Posted on April 8, 2018 at 11:00 AM

At Penn State, Larry Johnson was an AP All-American running back. After being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he went on to earn AP Second Team All-Pro (2005) and AP First Team All-Pro (2006) honors. He set the Chiefs single-season rushing record with 1,750 yards in 2005 (in only 9 starts), then broke his own record by rushing for 1,789 yards in 2006.


I caught up with the 2x Pro Bowl selection to reflect upon his NFL career, to discuss how Saquon Barkley's Penn State career compares to his and to see what he's been up to since retirement.


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Ryan: You were drafted in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. What was it like to join a backfield that already featured one of the league’s best running backs, Priest Holmes?


Larry: "It was frustrating at first because I had worked all my college career to be the lone wolf in the backfield. If I was going to be a backup coming in as a rookie, than I was blessed that it ended up being Priest Holmes (2002 NFL Offensive Player of the Year)."



Ryan: What advice would you give running backs entering the 2018 NFL Draft?


Larry: "Running backs coming into the draft need to learn the history of their craft, their position. Learn why we love and cherish the game we play. Most importantly, learn defensive schemes and know where to put the ball. Not every run will be a home run."



Ryan: This is a tough one and you don’t have to be modest. Who was the better Penn State running back: Larry Johnson or Saquon Barkley?


Larry: "No modesty needed. I am. My single-game records haven’t been eclipsed and neither have my single season records. While I started fewer seasons than him, I’m the only running back in Penn State history to hit 2,000 yards in under 252 carries. [Barkley] will always be faster and shiftier than me, like an Ollie Matson or Gale Sayers. I preferred to be Earl Campbell, Jim Taylor, Marion Motley. I love the kid but in this social media age, popularity always overshadows facts."


(Melvin Gordon eclipsed 2,000 yards on his 241st carry in 2014, making him and Johnson the only two running backs in FBS history to eclipse 2,000 yards in under 252 carries. Barkley's career high was 1,496 in 2016.)



Ryan: Out of the 85 games you played during your NFL career, which one stands out as the best representation of who you were as a football player?


Larry: "My career against the Denver Donkeys [Broncos]. There wasn’t a game against them that didn’t feel like a High School Homecoming. Those games showed my patience and vision as a runner, along with being able to carry the ball past 30 when the team really relied on me. I say Denver because honestly, those are the only games I can really remember."



Ryan: What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your NFL career?


Larry: "My greatest accomplishment was my 416 carry record. Everyone says that it was the downfall of my career but those carries showed how tough I was as a runner, being a big back that didn’t have much agility or top speed. Having the reputation of a warrior, [being] tough and hard to bring down came from that 416 carry season and that’s all I wanted to prove as running back in the NFL."


(Johnson's 416 carries in 2006 remain the highest single-season total in NFL history.)



Ryan: What are you up to these days?


Larry: "These days I volunteer a couple of hours a week helping The Motivational Edge, a non profit as a member of the Board of Directors. I try to raise funding and awareness for South Florida youth from all walks of life and backgrounds, to teach them about the dangers of mental illness. I try to help our youth out here as much as I can because I know what it feels like to be lost inside your mind with no one to help or care."


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Follow Larry Johnson on Twitter: @2LarryJohnson7


Follow The Motivational Edge on Twitter: @motivedge


Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael

QBS2 Profile: Kirk Cousins

Posted on January 5, 2018 at 12:15 AM

Below are the QBS2 results, ranked by season, for Kirk Cousins' career.


Kirk Cousins Season Rankings


  • 2015: 85.41 (5)
  • 2016: 85.41 (6)
  • 2017: 56.25 (14)

  • Career average: 75.69

QBS2 Profile: Marcus Mariota

Posted on January 5, 2018 at 12:05 AM

Below are the QBS2 results, ranked by season, for Marcus Mariota's career.


Marcus Mariota Season Rankings


  • 2016: 67.70 (10)
  • 2015: 39.58 (22)
  • 2017: 29.68 (23)

  • Career average: 45.65


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