Why Do So Many Star Quarterbacks Become Idiots?
This isn't going to be a CTE column. This isn't going to be a ‘dumb jocks’ column, because that's a BS stereotype anyway. This isn't going to be a Deshaun Watson or whomever is in legal trouble lately column. What we're looking at here today is the quarterback in middle age. Being a quarterback is an absolutely wild job. You have to be aware of the movements and intentions of 21 other people on the field, 11 of whom would love to do you physical harm. You also have the pressures and privileges that come with being the face of the team in a faceless sport. Football means a lot of moving parts, a lot of variables that can make or break the end result, yet we still refer to quarterbacks as the “winner” or “loser” of a game like they're starting pitchers in baseball. That's the pressure; the privileges are the riches, celebrity, and godlike adoration showered upon you when you have success. They made a whole James Van Der Beek movie about it.
If you're an NFL quarterback, you've had a lot of success just to get there. Ever since you were Little Giants age, you've been one of the top athletes in your immediate social circle. You don't get to the NFL with at least some college and high school success, and you don't have college and high school success as a quarterback without people telling you you're a god all the time. That messes with people's heads. Especially when their body starts to betray them and they can no longer do the thing people revere the for. Or maybe they can't play the game quite the way they used to, and that “way they used to” is never coming back. Nobody likes the extra joint creaks and neck stiffness that comes with aging, imagine being a football player. With all that in mind, let's look at a few millionaires who never heard the word “no” until well into their 30s:
Tom Brady's Retirement/Unretirement and Goop For Jocks
Tom Brady is 45 years old as of this writing, and he'll probably be even older by the time you read this. He's closer to an AARP card than he is his first beer. He's been playing football longer than anyone thought possible or even seems reasonable. And all three of those statements have got to be terrifying to him.
Maniacally driven to be the GOAT, Tom Brady is a football obsessive to the point that estranged wife Giselle Bündchen has talked about being a “football widow” during the season. Everyone says they're retiring to “spend more time with their family,” but with Brady, it seemed like a real thing. His kids are between the ages of 9 and 15. Bündchen retired from her high-profile career in 2015. Not even six months of retirement was enough for Touchdown Tom, though, who became one of very few people in human history to return to Tampa Bay willingly.
It's possible that Brady looked at his family and decided rabid defensive linemen are more appealing, or it's possible that Brady is afraid of confronting his mortality. Check out his intense workout routine, courtesy of TB12 dot com. What's TB12 dot com, you ask? That's Tom Brady's answer to Goop, a brand whose “Mission Is To Empower Anyone To Live Pain-Free & Perform Their Best” (capitalizations theirs). The website offers workouts, nutrition tips, and motivational stories, as well as selling workout equipment and nutraceuticals—you know, the things Alex Jones sells to pay his nearly $1 billion in damages to Sandy Hook families. Tom Brady is basically Chris Traeger, trying to live 150 years and maybe spend 50 of those years playing professional football. We're exaggerating, of course, but are we? Maybe playing a season of football is difficult. Maybe being a husband and father is difficult. Confronting your mortality? Buddy, that's the difficultest.
Aaron Rodgers Seems Concerned About Health
Speaking of confronting your own mortality, let's talk about COVID vaccine refuser and subsequent COVID getter Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers MVP caused a stir last season when he said he was “immunized” against COVID in training camp, then proceeded to get COVID and missed a Week 9 game because he was unvaccinated. His reasons for not getting vaccinated included being allergic to one of the ingredients in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and straight-up being afraid of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If you think it's weird to willingly subject yourself to repeated head trauma as a profession but to attack a life-threatening disease with anti-brain worm paste and the advice of Joe Rogan, congratulations! You are out of sync with a sizable portion of the population of the United States.
The issue that seems to come up with Rodgers over and over again is trust and control. He spoke before the 2021 season about his frustrations with the Packers, including a “desire to be more involved in conversations directly affecting my job.” Remember earlier, when we talked about quarterbacks baring public-facing responsibility for wins and losses? Well, if Green Bay cuts Rodgers's favorite wide receiver or doesn't make moves to bolster their defense, it's Rodgers that gets the legacy heat for only having one Super Bowl ring. Not management. Not the communal ownership of a town in Wisconsin. Aaron Rodgers.
Now take all of those workplace control frustrations and apply it to a global pandemic. A truly out-of-control situation, where all of humanity was learning life-altering things in real time. A novel virus rendered the air we breathe and the people we interact with potential vectors of poison, and governmental response included the President of the United States actively spreading disinformation. That's not a great environment for a quarterback, the all-seeing field general. But instead of throwing a 60-yard touchdown pass on the 4th-and-goal of life, Rodgers did the pandemic equivalent of a butt fumble.
Brett Favre and The Untamable Ego
Okay, so maybe we are looking at legal trouble a little bit. Aaron Rodgers's predecessor is currently facing a legal blitz after embezzling welfare funds from the state of Mississippi to build a volleyball facility. Who cares about societal responsibility to help poor people? There's volleyball! Favre claims he did nothing wrong, but that's hogwash: he literally texted the Governor asking for help with his lil' facility despite being told “improper use could result in violation of Federal law.” The question is why, why did a retired multimillionaire ask around for “a contractor that would say hey rather than give you money I'll build for free!!" like he was Donald Trump or something?
Remember how much ego it takes to lead a football team. Brett Favre spent his career known as a gunslinger, a guy who threw into triple coverage unnecessarily because he believed in his arm that much. He walks into every room dick-first, metaphorically, and even enters professional relationships dick-first, not metaphorically. How could the guy who didn't know what a nickel defense was until midway through his career understand the intricacies of state budgetary allocations? He's just a big kid out there! Just a lovable goof, you can't take him seriously. Every friend group has that one person, the one who's an adorable golden retriever of a human, always down to try anything and damn the consequences. Favre's been that guy his whole life, and it got him a Hall of Fame football career, millions of dollars, and a Super Bowl ring. Why should he change in retirement? Why should recovering addict Brett Favre ever be motivated to do anything different in his life? It's not like The Washington Post is calling him the future of the Republican Party or anything.
Oh. Maybe we should shut quarterbacks down for a while, just until we know what's going on.
Chris Corlew is a Bears fan and, like that organization, doesn't see the value in quarterbacks. Find him on Twitter.