Scientific breakthrough: QBDNA

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 27, 2005



By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
 
Many of the best NFL quarterbacks share similar traits. Quantifiable ones, like accuracy and arm strength, are showcased at scouting combines and skills competitions. Other, less-obvious traits, such as strong leadership and quick decision-making skills, are intangibles that only become evident under game conditions.
 
As the role of the quarterback has evolved, so has the inexact science of evaluating, drafting and developing players for the position. A team's fortunes are largely dependent upon the selection (natural or otherwise) of a competent man to run the offense. Since football is a game of survival of the fittest, the play of the quarterback can often mean the difference between a loss and Darwin.
 
The trolls at Cold, Hard Football Facts might be missing a chromosome or two, but we believe we've made a landmark discovery by tracking the genetics of quarterbacking mechanics. It's a hereditary link we call "QBDNA." How else do you explain the frequency with which we now see relatives lining up under center in the NFL? Within the complicated double helix of the male DNA molecule, a quarterbacking gene must have emerged.
 
To find a likely believer in the existence of such a keen gene, look no further than Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden. He played quarterback at the University of Dayton and was a three-year letterman. His younger brother Jay, who now serves as an offensive assistant for the Buccaneers, starred at the same position for Louisville and won four ArenaBowl championships as the signal caller for the Tampa Bay Storm. The patriarch of the Gruden family, Jim, coached eight years in high school, 15 in college and two with the Bucs. After spending 17 years evaluating talent for the 49ers, he has returned to Tampa as a personnel consultant.
 
Assembling players who possess QBDNA has clearly become a priority for the Grudens, as evidenced by the Bucs' quarterback depth chart at the start of this season. First-stringer Brian Griese (now injured and out for the year) is the son of Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Bob. New starter Chris Simms is the son of Phil, the former Giants field general. And the team traded with the Browns to acquire Luke McCown, who is the younger brother of current Cardinals QB Josh.
 
The McCowns are seemingly part of a new phenomenon. In 2004, a record was established when five sets of brothers were NFL quarterbacks. Here is a look at their career statistics through Week Seven of this season:
 
Quarterback           
Att.
Comp.
Pct.
Yards
TDs
INTs
Peyton Manning
Eli Manning
Combined
4,084
391
4,475
2,603
198
2,801
63.7
50.6
62.6
30,993
2,457
33,450
227
18
245
125
13
138
Matt Hasselbeck
Tim Hasselbeck
Combined
1,992
177
2,169
1,199
96
1,294
60,2
53.7
59.7
14,185
1,012
15,197
81
5
86
52
7
60
Ty Detmer
Koy Detmer
Combined
946
311
1,257
546
164
710
57.7
52.7
56.5
6,351
1,814
8,165
34
10
44
35
11
46
Josh McCown
Luke McCown
Combined
745
98
843
423
48
471
56.8
49.0
55.9
4,667
608
5,275
21
4
25
24
7
31
Damon Huard
Brock Huard
Combined
289
107
396
170
60
230
58.8
56.1
58.1
1,691
689
2,380
9
4
13
8
2
10
 
In addition to being the most productive brother act, the Mannings are obviously the dominant names among these five fraternal strands. Since being drafted No. 1 by Indy in 1998, Peyton has rewritten the regular-season record books, most notably by throwing 49 TD passes in 2004. He leads all NFL siblings in career attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.
 
Like his older brother, Eli was deemed to have QBDNA and was selected first overall. After forcing a trade from San Diego to New York and struggling through most of his rookie season with the Giants, he has shown steady improvement. In fact, his last-second touchdown pass for a 24-23 victory over the Broncos on Sunday prompted many in the media to proclaim his official "arrival."
 
Had the result of that defining chuck-and-duck play been different, however, it is easy to anticipate the criticisms:
"You have to set your feet and step into your throws."
"How can you expect to be accurate while backpedaling?"
"He just threw that up for grabs."
"It was a typical mistake for a young quarterback."
 
While it may be premature to anoint Eli an elite passer, it is hard to find much fault with his performance so far this season. Through six games, in which the Giants have gone 4-2, he has thrown for 1,414 yards and 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions. By so doing, he has already become the most prolific younger-brother QB. (It is interesting to note that in all instances, the older brother has been the more successful one.) Eli's numbers have now surpassed those of the Eagles' Koy Detmer, who has mostly been a backup for his nine seasons in – appropriately enough – the City of Brotherly Love.
 
A closer examination of these sets of brothers reveals potent football bloodlines and competitive upbringings. As nearly everyone with a pigskin pulse is well aware, Peyton and Eli Manning are the sons of former Saints quarterback Archie. Matt and Tim Hasselbeck's father, Don, knew passes from the receiving end – he was a tight end who spent most of his career with the Patriots. Ty and Koy Detmer played high school football in San Antonio for their dad, Sonny. Damon and Brock Huard's father, Mike, coached them at Puyallup High School in Washington. And Josh and Luke McCown's older brother, Randy, was a three-year starter at quarterback for Texas A&M.
 
Including Archie's stats, the Mannings absolutely demolish the regular-season passing marks of all other families in pro football history. Yet they don't hold the career playoff records. Those would belong to the Bradshaws, the only other brother duo to play quarterback in the modern NFL. Terry, of course, guided the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in six years during the 70s...while his brother made much less of an impact.
 
Are you unfamiliar with Craig Bradshaw? Nine years younger than Terry, he started his collegiate career at his brother's alma mater, Louisiana Tech, but then transferred to Utah State. After being selected by the Houston Oilers in the seventh round of the 1980 draft, he appeared in just two games that season. He never attempted a single pass in the NFL and is now a contemporary gospel singer and speaker. Still, as a family, the Bradshaws have had far more postseason success than the Mannings.
 
Some other sets of slinging siblings could be on the horizon: UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer is the brother of the Bengals' Carson, and Marcus Vick is following in the Virginia Tech footsteps of brother Michael, who now leads the Falcons. As college juniors, both are enjoying outstanding seasons and are considered to be pro prospects.
 
Most importantly, both players appear to possess QBDNA.

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