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QB Controversy Brewing

July 27th, 2007

You technically can’t have a QB controversy without the coaching staff and/or front office being involved. But that fact doesn’t stop the media or fans alike to do their best to fan the flames.

Okay there was somewhat of a controversy when Schaub was still around, although it never really manifested itself within the organization.

But I have the feeling that with both Schaub and Vick out of the picture, the concerns over the Falcons quarterback position have not diminished.

And this is not to bash Joey Harrington. I personally like Joey Harrington, have since his days at Oregon. But frankly, short of a Jim Plunkett-like renewal at some point in the future, he’ll go down in history as one of the biggest draft busts of all-time. He’s not quite on the level of Ryan Leaf, if only because Harrington has managed to be demoted into journeyman status in the NFL as opposed to locker room pariah.

I’m not an optimist. I respect Bobby Petrino’s abilities, but I don’t expect him to “resurrect” Harrington’s fallen career and make him into the player that the Detroit Lions thought they were getting five years ago. That would be a leap of faith that considering all the disappointments that have surrounded the Falcons the past few years, I’m unwilling to take.

I think where the controversy lies in will be in D.J. Shockley. Shockley, being a UGA alum has a strong local fan base. And Harrington makes a very easy target for fans and media as he did in Detroit.

And I feel a lot of the hope that has been displaced by Vick’s downfall will fall into Shockley’s lap. Face it, we Falcons fans have been spoiled with having a strong-armed and athletic quarterback lining up behind center the past few years. And anytime anyone that has not fit that description has played (Kurt Kittner, Doug Johnson, Schaub), that player has been met with general revilement. And then when you factor in the Bulldog Nation, well you can see how Shockley could inherit the title of “Mr. Can’t Do Wrong” that Vick somehow managed to cast off.

And I see much the same for Harrington in this 2007 season. Shockley just shares too many similarities with Vick not to be beloved. They are almost identical in size, and although Shockley’s athletic gifts pail in comparison to Vick’s (don’t worry D.J., the rest of the world is in the same boat), he still is heads and heels above roughly 95% of the rest of the NFL quarterbacking landscape.

When will the controversy begin? There will be distant rumblings probably during the preseason, as we will likely get more exposure to Shockley during exhibition games than Harrington. That’s just the nature of it, in the summer you fall in love with the backups, while in the fall, they generally don’t do much besides warming pine.

I wouldn’t expect it to reach it’s crescendo until several weeks into the season, especially if the Falcons don’t get off to the fast start that has been the normal case with Vick as the guy the past five years.

But that hope that fans have in Shockley is probably misplaced. Frankly, D.J. Shockley is not Michael Vick. And never will be. And despite all the untapped potential and upside you want to label Shockley with, it’s only a minuscule fraction to what Michael Vick possesses. Michael Vick was the number one player picked in his draft choice. D.J. Shockley had two hundred and twenty two players selected ahead of him for a reason.

This is not to say I believe Shockley incapable of being a contributor to this team this year or in future years. But he’s a seventh round pick. Statistically, his chances of lasting more than four years even as a backup in the NFL are about on par with the chances of Michael Vick being acquitted in federal court. It is indeed far from the realm of impossibility, but still manages to stray into the realm of overwhelming unlikelihood. You bet on those kinds of odds only because you’ve been blinded by greed, as opposed to filled with logic and reason.

There might certainly be a point during this season that the team is so dismal, that Harrington taking control of the clipboard may be warranted.

Harrington struggled in Detroit, although not initially caused, but were certainly aided due to the lacking support of the Detroit media and fans. I’m hoping that the same does not occur in Atlanta, although I’m not very optimistic about it. Eventually he probably will be swallowed by the sea of red and black that is the Bulldog Nation as opposed to the inviting one of Falcons fandom.

But if anything the Falcons need is perhaps a positive interest story this year. And what better than to have Joey Harrington pull a Kurt Warner? Heck, I can do without a Super Bowl run. I’ll settle on a wildcard and a Brenda Warner-free January.

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