It is said by announcers and analysts during the games, and is printed in articles before and after the games are played, that in the Playoffs experience is key. That sentiment rang true this 'Wildcard Weekend.' NFL fans across the country saw two young QB's struggle and fall in their Playoff debuts, and may see more of the same in the games to come.
Chris Simms of the Tampa Bay Bucs played well in his first career playoff start. He even ran for a dramatic touchdown at a pivotal jucture of the game, but he threw two interceptions and couldn't hit his receivers when it mattered most. Simms' rookie teammate Cadillac Williams also struggled his his first playoff start, losing a fumble as the Bucs were driving, which didn't help Simms' effort. Eli Manning of the New York Giants played poorly in his playoff start, throwing 3 inteceptions and losing a fumble. Eli's game was as tough as any for a 2nd year quaterback to endure. His offensive line continually let Julius Peppers and Co. penetrate early and often, the Giants were playing from behind the majority of the game and he even fell victim to Plaxico Buress seemingly give up before our eyes. Those excuses aside, Eli threw the ball erratically, made terrible decisions, and looked lost for most of the game. There will no doubt be harsh criticsm of both quaterback's performances, though more so for Manning assuredly.
What all of this boils down to is that two Division winners lost home games to Wild Card teams this weekend. The most striking similarity is that each losing team had a 2nd year QB at the helm and both Wild Card teams had veteran QB's leading their squads. Mark Brunell(Was) and Jake Delhomme(Car) both have playoff experience and are far removed from their 2nd year as a starting QB in the NFL. Going in to the Redskins/Bucs game, I couldn't believe that most betting outlets had the Bucs as the favorite. Yes, they were playing at home, but they have a rookie RB and 2nd Year QB who hasn't even been their starter for a full year to lead them. In my eyes, that's an easy bet to make, I was sure the Redskins would win, because I figured there was no way the young players would handle the pressure and on the Redskins side, they have all kinds of experience. I was right, and on the inside I felt a little cocky about it. That cockyness wore off when we got to halftime of the Giants/Panthers game today. It was at that point, as the Giants were down 10-0, and my friends and I were trying to decide on what to get for lunch that I realized that what I was so right about for the Redskins game, I was so blind about for the Giants game. It's experience!
Every major American sport has a 'Trade Deadline' at some point of the season, where teams are forced to decide whether they are a 'buyer' or a 'seller'. Whatever your team decides, what's for sale is 'Veteran Talent.' Your team wants those veterans to come in and help spread the experieince to their new teammates, and help take the pressure off of the younger players. It makes complete sense. Though the NFL trade deadline does not apply to that rule since in the NFL, trades are hardly made and when they are, they are mostly for draft picks and/or a player who is holding out. In the NFL, your offseason is usually spent trying to snatch a few veteran players to add to the mix, so that come playoff time, there's some rock solid leadership and an understanding of how to win in pressure situations.
There are always exceptions to the rule, Tom Brady being the biggest example of that. He stepped in with no experieince at all and hasn't stopped winning. Kudos to him and the fucking New England fucking Patriots.
Bitterness aside, it's no surprise that the Giants and Bucs were dispatched quickly, both teams are lead by players who still have a lot to learn about playing in the NFL, and more so about playing in the NFL playoffs. It's a process, Terry Bradshaw talked about it at the end of today's Giants game, it's natural. Everyone agrees that guys like Eli Manning and Chirs Simms will be great players, they just need that 'E' word, experience.
So far, young QB's have been picked apart in the playoffs by squads lead by veterans. Manning, Simms and Leftwich are toast. It will be interesting to see how Roethlisberger, Palmer, and the Orton/Grossman connection fair. I predict the youth of the NFL QB crop will be golfing sooner than they would like.