I generally don't follow professional football, but there are two exceptions to this rule. First of all, I watch the Super Bowl because I'm a good American. Secondly, I try to keep up with Georgia players in the pros. Two such former 'Dawgs deserve our consideration this evening.
Jill Arrington, who was among the naysayers, referred to the Bengals linebacker as "stupid Pollack." Unfortunately, she mispronounced his name again, leading to calls for her resignation from several Polish anti-defamation groups.
I am torn upon the subject. I want Pollack to succeed at the next level, but I worry that Fate may not give him a second warning shot. This could end very badly . . . tragically, even. I am rooting for Pollack, but there is a point at which the risks outweigh the rewards. He is a smart young man with a college degree who has other options available to him. Should Pollack decide to go that route, I hope one such opportunity would present itself in Athens.
The second N.F.L. player with a Bulldog pedigree who deserves our attention is a former teammate of Pollack's, about whom Doug Gillett had a good idea. (You'll have to hunt carefully to find the part of Doug's posting that contains what I consider a good idea, because Doug and I disagree on a few things. He thinks it's a good idea to sing Elton John on karaoke night; I prefer to sing Elvis Presley on karaoke night. Doug thinks the Republicans are more evil and stupid than the Democrats; I think the Republicans and the Democrats are equally evil and stupid.)
As you may have heard if you live around these parts, Michael Vick has been indicted, Arthur Blank is taking heat for enabling his quarterback's bad behavior, and Vick's suspension may be imminent. As noted by The Falcoholic, Jason Cole has raised this ominous prospect:
That ought to work out just fine, as long as Arthur Blank's and Bobby Petrino's goal is to start a signal-caller who will look the part on a billboard in New York City. However, some Texas Longhorns fans found out the hard way that the choice between a guy who poses well in a uniform (we'll call him "Chris") and a guy who actually plays the position (we'll call him "Major") is no choice at all.
Seriously, this clown became a major college quarterback the same way Ted Kennedy became a senator . . . by having the last name that he had.
Next Thursday, when the Falcons open training camp, their quarterback will be appearing in federal court as a defendant. Even in the absence of a suspension, Vick's legal troubles will take up too much of his time, energy, and attention for him to be prepared to play N.F.L.-caliber football this season. That would be true even if Vick were more hardworking, focused, and devoted to improvement than his history suggests.
Perhaps Coach Petrino will turn to Harrington, the former first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions whose Motor City resume included 60 touchdowns, 62 interceptions, and a declaration made by me in November 2005 that my 13-year-old niece could throw a football better than he could.
Last year, with the Miami Dolphins, Harrington threw 12 T.D.s and 15 picks, mustered a quarterback rating of 68.2, and was benched before being released. That is not the future of the franchise . . . and it is highly doubtful whether an offensive package designed to showcase Michael Vick's talents could be radically reoriented in favor of Joey Harrington's skill set in the next month.
Enter Donald Eugene Shockley.
Surely Shockley's skills are more comparable to Vick's than Harrington's are. Moreover, although much was made of the overdone "drop-back passer"/"mobile quarterback" dichotomy during the brief controversy that brewed between David Greene and D.J. Shockley in 2002, any analysis that looks beyond the superficial must conclude that Shockley has an arm. He can run, but he's a better thrower than he was ever given credit for being.
Arthur Blank says he wants the Falcons to be a high-character operation. It is getting tougher and tougher to take him at his word, but, if he means what he says, he has the perfect quarterback on his roster right now.
I dare you to tell me there's a higher-character quarterback in the N.F.L. right now than D.J. Shockley. I double-dog dare you. Shockley, who could have been a four-year starter at about 75 Division I-A schools during his college career, displayed class and commitment while waiting his turn behind Greene. Rather than transfer, he stuck with the program and ignored the critics who said heading into his senior season that his last game (against Georgia Tech in 2004) had been his worst one and his best game (against Clemson in 2002) had been his first one.
Given his chance at last, Shockley had a career day in his first game as a starter and guided the 'Dawgs to an improbable S.E.C. title. How much heart did D.J. Shockley demonstrate in his collegiate career? Enough that Rich Rodriguez paid him the ultimate compliment, running a risky fake punt to seal the deal in the Sugar Bowl because Coach Rod knew what everyone else in America knew . . . that, if D.J. Shockley had touched the ball one more time, the Red and Black would have won the game.
Shockley didn't get his shot at redemption in the Georgia Dome that night. He deserves it now. By whatever means necessary (whether suspension, benching, or outright release), Arthur Blank should put his money where his mouth is and make the right call. It is time to get rid of the quarterback who thinks it's about the size of the dog in the fight and time to start the quarterback who knows it's about the size of the fight in the 'Dawg.
If anyone in a position of influence with the Atlanta Falcons has any sense at all---and nothing in the last four decades or more suggests that any such person exists---D.J. Shockley will be the starting quarterback of his hometown pro team in 2007.