ESPN’s Mike & Mike Talk QBs

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Well, Peyton Manning was clearly ready for some football. The Denver Broncos quarterback roasted the defending Super Bowl champion, the Baltimore Ravens, Thursday night with seven touchdown passes. And, no, they weren’t playing Madden NFL 25. Manning tied an NFL record for touchdown passes, the most since 1969.

On that note, it seems like the perfect time to talk quarterbacks, and there are few better to talk shop with than Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, hosts of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike.

We caught up with Greenberg and Golic in New York City at the Football ANYone? Trivia Challenge in celebration of Subway’s SUBtember campaign. The guys quizzed customers on football facts, made some subs, and found a few minutes in between cold cuts and mayonnaise to chat with us about the upcoming NFL season–and the influx of potentially game-changing QBs.

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Men’s Fitness: What do you see as the biggest upcoming stories in the NFL this year?

Greenberg: The biggest stories are going to be how the incredibly dynamic young quarterbacks of the NFL progress, which is to say that we may be entering an unprecedented Golden Age of Quarterback play in football. Watch Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts); Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins); Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers); Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks); and some other guys who don’t get as much attention–Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins); the kid in Buffalo, EJ Manuel; and the kid that we have, Geno Smith (New York Jets). 

I think the league is changing so much toward this pistol offense, this dynamic athletic-quarterback offense. The real question is: Do those guys progress, or does the threat of injury really curtail that style of play? 

MF: That was sort of my next question: How are guys like RGIII and Russell Wilson—guys who run—changing the game?

Greenberg: It depends on who you ask. If you ask guys like my partner (Mike Golic), he will tell you that this will never last. Quarterbacks are all going to get hurt and teams are not going to want to subject their quarterbacks to that kind of pounding.

There are a lot of bright football people whose opinions I regard very highly–Trent Dilfer and Kirk Herbstreit are among them. I’ve sat down and had long conversations about this, and they’ve said, “Greeny, this is the future of football, these dynamic athletes.” Trent Dilfer works with high school quarterbacks and he says that’s all the quarterbacks are now, these guys who are dual threats. Every kid, every athletic kid who went out for football when I was a kid and you were a kid, they made him a running back or a wide receiver. Now they’re taking the best athletes and making them quarterbacks. So, I think that’s the future of pro football. But the threat of injury is the overriding factor in all of that. You can’t imagine sending Tom Brady out there to get hit hard 10 or 12 times a game. Will that last? I don’t’ know the answer. I hope the answer is yes because I think it’s an extraordinarily exciting thing to watch.

MF: You said this could be a golden age in football. Could this be the start of the changing of the guard in terms of NFL QBs?

Greenberg: You’ve got two historic greats entering the final stages of their careers. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady stand alone. However short your list of Greatest Quarterbacks Ever is, they’re on it and there are a lot of other really good quarterbacks who are getting up in age. But those two quarterbacks stand alone, and they have for 15 years.

There are a lot of great quarterbacks who are in their prime–Ben Rothlesberger, Eli Manning, Drew Brees. These guys have a chance to be all-time greats. So I think the torch to some degree is already being handed over.

MF: Do you think RGIII’s knees will hold up this season?

Greenberg: I hope they do because I love watching him play. I think RGIII is the most exciting player to come into the NFL since Randy Moss. Before Moss was Barry Sanders. Before him was Lawrence Taylor. Guys who come in and it’s just different. Michael Vick. He’s just different from everybody else. I think RGIII has that quality about him. He didn’t have one knee surgery. He had two. 

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MF: What about Russell Wilson? He happens to be on the cover of our October issue.

Greenberg: We use the expression “gets it.” Well, I’ve never met a young man who “gets it” the way this guy gets it. He has leadership coming out of his ears. He’s going to be phenomenal. From a dynamic athletic standpoint, I don’t think he’s RGIII, but he certainly is a dynamic athlete and I think he has a chance to be just as good if not better.

MF: What do you think of the kid from Florida State University, Jameis Winston?

Greenberg: I jokingly said to Kirk Herbstreit on our show the other day, “I don’t want to overstate things after one performance, but I think he’s going to be the greatest player who ever lived.” Obviously that’s a joke. But I’ve never seen a kid look the part in his first game more than he looks the part. Just look at him. He stands so tall in the pocket. If you created a robot and said, “This is the body that I want to play quarterback, what I want him to look like,” that’s what he would look like. 

Golic: What impressed me, forgetting the stats–25 for 27, 356 (yards), four touchdowns, and ran for one–is his poise. I liked how cool he was. When he threw the ball under pressure, he didn’t get happy feet. He didn’t start running at any sign of pressure. 

MF: This is a good question for you. As I was walking in here, I saw a Time magazine cover with Johnny Manziel on paying college athletes. First, what do you think of Manziel and whether he might come out this year? Also, should athletes like Johnny Manziel be getting paid?

Golic: Well Manziel, he makes it sound like he’s going to come out this year. I think other people think he’s a better quarterback than I think he is. I don’t know how well his game is going to translate to the NFL. He runs well, but I think he needs to learn to throw better. No matter how well you run, you need to learn to throw from the pocket in the NFL. 

And, no, I do not think that athletes should get paid at all. They get a scholarship worth $200,000 to $250,000. When 99% of them go on to the real world, because really only 1% of them go on to the pros, these people aren’t paying off any student loans. The other thing is: How do you figure out what to pay them? Are you only going to pay the athletes on scholarship teams who make money for the school? If you come up with a viable system that’s fair and won’t open a Pandora’s box to more cheating, then I’d be willing to look at it, but for the most part I don’t think they should get paid.

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