Memorial Day weekend brings a rare lull to NFL coverage. Minicamps have wrapped up or are about to, and rookie contract negotiations are no longer dramatic due to the new salary scale. Some coaches are actually on vacation, if you can imagine.
So that leaves us with little to write about. It isn't too hard to manufacture a lot of discussion from a tiny story -- every time Jerry Jones opens his mouth about Tony Romo, it's like a football blogger stimulus package, and Joe Namath is reliable for saying something so loopy that you wonder if the Jets' quarterback problems are now polluting the time stream -- but those of us who are reluctant to make mountains out of molehills resort to creating a different kind of mountain. One with four faces staring out from it.
Yes, we are talking about the football "Mount Rushmore," the currently voguish, soon to be unendurable Internet meme that takes a top-four list -- top four all-time quarterbacks, top four all-time Jacksonville Jaguars -- and creates a faux monument for the ages, "ages" in Internet time lasting until the start of training camp in late July.
Sports on Earth has done its share of Mount Rushmores, and we reserve the right to do more in the future: Let's face it, they can be a lot of fun and spark some fan debate. But the following Mandatory Monday mountains stake out something other than the high ground. The kings of these hills accomplished something unique, minor, tangential or borderline dubious. These are the kinds of mountains you carve out of mashed potatoes, but in a way that makes them more interesting. It's hard to seriously debate about a Mount Rushmore that features Jim Brown or Joe Montana. Here is your chance to argue about some granite statues that feature Jay Feely, Steve DeBerg, Von Miller and Brian Hoyer. If you don't like them, just cut them down for kitchen countertops.
We begin with what the world needs most: a giant monument for advanced thumb twiddling. The following NFL personalities tweet much more than "Good Morning Tweeps Rise n Grind!" and Bible verses. Not that there is anything wrong with Bible verses, but I have a Bible and a pastor; what my life lacks is a 240-pound 26-year-old millionaire sharing his inner musings. That's what these guys provide. Active players only.
The Skinny: Kluwe is now the Raiders punter, which means it's time to just tweet, baby. Following Kluwe is like following Shane Lechler, Chris Hardwick and Bill Maher at once: You get progressive politics and nerdist culture, plus everything you want to know about punting in the NFL (not much, admittedly). On the opposite side of the political scale is Feely, who also gets placed on the other side of the mountain so the boys don't bicker. Kickers and punters have more time to think about non-football topics than position players, but Arian Foster finds time to mix absurd jokes and unpredictable opinions with airport philosophy. Darnell Dockett represents that most entertaining breed of NFL tweeter: the guy likely to pop off and post something inflammatory without thinking. Dockett is also funny, opinionated and informed when he stops to think for more than the time it takes to type.
Honorable Mention: Chad Ochocinco Johnson (@ochocinco) was the greatest tweeter in NFL history. You can pretend to hate him, but it was impossible not to giggle when he called Roger Goodell "dad." Johnson has fallen into irrelevance since retirement. Ricky Williams (@RickyWilliams) hasn't, and while the true Tao cannot be tweeted, Williams comes close with his Caine from "Kung Fu" wisdom. Colts owner Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay), with his airplane full of Benjamins and cognac and his Steely Dan lyrics, is legendarily bonkers. Rumor has it that many Irsay tweets are not from the Dude himself, but from his trusted lieutenants. Somehow, entrusting a subordinate to tweet the lyrics to "Bodhisattva" on a weekday morning makes it all even crazier.
Our next list contains not the greatest players and coaches never to win a Super Bowl, but the players and coaches most famous for never winning the Super Bowl.
Who's On It: Tony Gonzalez, Marty Schottenheimer, Fran Tarkenton, Barry Sanders
The Skinny: There's a difference between never winning the Super Bowl and having "never won the Super Bowl" permanently tattooed on your legacy. Tony Gonzalez still has the chance to escape this fate. Gonzo was on the Ernie Banks list of sports superstars to never win a playoff game (quick: make your own mountain!) until last year, when he watched the Falcons defense piddle away a game against the Seahawks and said: "Oh, no, not this time." Gonzo's last-second heroics got him off the no-playoff-wins list; to climb off this mountain, he may just have to play two ways.
Barry Sanders' Lions won exactly one playoff game during his storied career. They were famous for running and shooting their way into the postseason like a harried businessman wedging his newspaper in a closing elevator door, then acting all sweaty and weird once they arrived. Sanders' 13-carries-for-a-loss-of-one game against the Packers in 1994 was more problem than solution, but you cannot blame Sanders for playoff pratfalls when the Lions might have gone 5-11 without him.
No one turned into Wile E. Coyote in the postseason quite like Schottenheimer. Like the Coyote, Schottenheimer's second greatest enemy was himself; his greatest was gravity, which sucked the football from his players' hands at critical moments the way rock ledges gave way under a pair of ACME rocket skates.
Tarkenton tops Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and others because he has become so cantankerous about everything. Years of losses to the Steelers, Raiders and (in NFC title games) Cowboys have turned him into the NFL's Dowager Countess.
Here's a mountain made of clipboards: the best third-string quarterbacks in the NFL entering the 2013 season. Veterans only, so this is not just a rehash of the fourth round of the draft. "Third string" is determined by the depth charts at Ourlads.com.
Who's On It: Rex Grossman (Redskins), Brian Hoyer (Browns), Tarvaris Jackson (Bills), John Skelton (Bengals)
The Skinny: Rex Grossman once led the Bears to the Super Bowl. Now, he leads the Redskins' scout team. Oddly enough, his game didn't deteriorate very much in between. Grossman will be ready for action if that brace on Robert Griffin's knee snaps and the shrapnel hits Kirk Cousins in the eye. Let's hope it does not happen.
Brian Hoyer exerts a peculiar pull over some of my fellow analysts, who give him the "better than many starters" treatment. Hoyer was ordinary-at-best in college and has knocked around the Steelers and Cardinals inactive lists, but perhaps he absorbed pure awesomeness from Tom Brady during his period as the Patriots backup. The Jets coveted his services after the Cardinals released him in the offseason, but the Browns snatched him up. That sentence may be trying to warn us about something, but I will give my colleagues the benefit of the doubt, third stringer-wise.
Jackson has a 17-17 record as a starter and has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions. The Bills are lucky to have a starter with those claims to fame in some seasons. Skelton was an opening-day starter last year, and Mike Mayock kept comparing him to Ben Roethlisberger until we were tempted to check Mayock's coffee for rubbing alcohol and caramel color, or as we call it in New Jersey, "scotch."
Honorable Mention: Seneca Wallace has been many things in his career. A collegiate superstar. An emergency starting quarterback who had an 11-touchdown, three-interception season (2008. You can look it up). A Slash/Wildcat player. A part-time receiver. Short. Now he's the third-stringer in New Orleans, and while he probably has very little left, he has always been a hoot to watch. Of course, if any of these guys see the field after August, we will be better served by covering our eyes.
The four greatest four-eyed faces in NFL history.
Who's On It: Bob Griese, Eric Dickerson, Willie Roaf, Von Miller
The Skinny: Bob Griese's glasses peered out at us from 1970s football cards like a time capsule, thick-rimmed relics of Warren Commission hearings and Watergate investigations … until those very frames came back into style about three years ago. Griese can now step out of a 1971 snapshot and into a hipster bar, and score.
Eric Dickerson's sport goggles marked the leading edge of space-age eye care and Devo-chic intimidation in the mid-1980s. They also prevent his team's owners from poking him in the eye during contract disputes. Willie Roaf shed his iconic glasses early in his career, realizing that a left tackle should not look like he is preparing for a poetry reading. Miller has no such qualms: He shops at vintage frame shops in SoHo and gabs about his eyewear fashion choices in Esquire.
Griese, Dickerson and now Roaf will have spectacles-free busts in Canton. There's a long way to go, but if Miller ever makes the Hall of Fame, his passion for geek fashion will almost demand a bust with glasses. We suggest that he search the vintage boutiques for a pair of Griese Undefeateds just for the occasion.
Honorable Mention: Chuck Muncie. Muncie died a couple weeks ago, and we would remiss to forget what a great running back he was, and just how successfully he rocked those horned rims.
This list does not feature the greatest USFL players who made it in the NFL (Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Sam Mills, sorry Herschel), but the greatest USFL players who NEVER made it in the NFL.
Who's On It: Chuck Fusina, Kelvin Bryant, Eric Truvillion, Kit Lathrop
The Skinny: The USFL celebrated it 30th anniversary a few weeks ago. It was enough to make you throw that old slab of cardboard on the blacktop, put some D-batteries in the boom box and do a little break dancing. (Oh, who am I kidding, I listened to Journey.) Players like Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker escaped the USFL time capsule, but these guys didn't.
Fusina and Bryant were the stars of the Philadelphia and Baltimore Stars, who were the Vince Lombardi Packers of the USFL (with Jim Mora as Lombardi, which tells you something). Fusina and Bryant led the Stars to two USFL championships, which really was not quite as ridiculous an accomplishment in 1984 and 1985 (well, 1984 anyway) as it sounds today. Truvillion played wide receiver for Steve Spurrier's Tampa Bay Bandits "Banditball" offense. Give Spurrier a catchy name for his offense and a hinky league, and he will give you some receivers with impressive numbers. Lathrop was an NFL knock-around defensive tackle who got cut and released by numerous teams before giving the USFL a try. He was a two-time All-USFL defender, but instead of teams releasing him, his team kept him as it folded, merged, and mutilated. Lathrop went from the Chicago Blitz to the Arizona Wranglers to the Arizona Outlaws just by standing still. Such was life in the USFL.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Collier was a scrambling sensation who might have taken the NFL by storm if not for that other staple of the 1980s sports headlines: cocaine. Collier is now clean and sober and working as a community development director at Southern Miss, which definitely deserves an honorable mention.
The four greatest pure punters in NFL history
Who's On It: Ray Guy, Shane Lechler, Andy Lee, Sean Landeta
The Skinny: Sorry, Sammy Baugh and Yale Lary! This mountain is for pure punters only. You will have to settle for Mount Pro Football Legends Who Also Punted. (That would be an awesome mountain.) This slab of granite is dedicated to the guys with the NFL's least interesting job, which does not mean it has to be an uninteresting group.
Guy is a Hall of Fame cause celebre and a member of some legendary Raiders teams. Lechler, the longtime Raiders star now with the Texans, is probably the greatest punter ever. Lee challenges, and sometimes beats, Lechler for the punting crown, and he helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last year. And Landeta? He punted for 22 years, for six teams, through 18 playoff games and one of the most memorable Super Bowls in history. These guys have been doing their jobs while we ran to the restroom for generations.
Honorable Mention: Tom Tupa was the punter who could also play quarterback. Sort-of. Maybe. Tupa played some quarterback early in his career, and Bill Parcells liked to give him some fourth-quarter reps under center in the preseason: "Look out! I really might let this guy throw in a real game! I'm that crazy!" Tupa squeezed 875 punts and 25 interceptions into a truly strange career.
The four greatest assistant coaches in history who never accomplished much as head coaches.
Who's On It: Alex Gibbs, Dick LeBeau, Mouse Davis, Bud Carson
The Skinny: The problem with truly great assistant coaches is that they usually become pretty good head coaches. Many of the head coaching "failures," like Norv Turner, got multiple opportunities and can point to a handful of successful seasons. These four coaches have only their work as assistants to be truly proud of.
Alex Gibbs is the innovator of zone blocking, the drive train that currently powers the Texans and Redskins offenses and has influenced every other offense in the league in some way. Now that the Redskins have grafted read-option principles to Gibbs' blocking philosophy, Gibbs' contributions will live on for another generation. Dick LeBeau was a head coach for three years, and they were the low point of his NFL career. LeBeau was a Hall of Fame player, and as an assistant he transformed the zone blitz from a once-in-a-while wrinkle into a core defensive strategy.
Bud Carson also had a brief head coaching tenure. Before that, he coached the Steel Curtain and then coordinated a Rams defense that reached the Super Bowl. Afterward, he made the Eagles defense the best in the NFL; most of the things Eagles fans attribute to Buddy Ryan (like the House of Pain game against the Oilers) actually happened after Ryan left and Carson took over.
As for Mouse Davis, he had just two short stints as an NFL assistant. His career spanned high school, college, the USFL, the CFL and the af2, of all things. But Davis is the father of the run 'n' shoot. Don't laugh. The run 'n' shoot did not go extinct. It's DNA seeped into every offense in football, at every level. Next time your favorite team comes out on first down in a four-receiver package, and you think nothing of it, thank Davis.
Honorable Mention: We could go on all day.
We already looked at the greatest third-stringers in the NFL. Now, let's carve the faces of the greatest backup quarterbacks in history.
Who's on it: Don Strock, Earl Morrall, Steve DeBerg, George Blanda
The Skinny: To make this list, a quarterback must be famous for being a backup, even if he did time as a starter. Blanda was the most famous backup quarterback in human history. No one ever filled the most important backup quarterback role -- coming off the bench to provide exceptional copy for sportswriters -- quite like Blanda. Blanda won games at age 46 even when he was only 39, and he could milk maximum drama out of three or four pass attempts per year. When he threw a touchdown pass, then kicked the extra point: goosebumps. Whenever a backup quarterback gets undue credit for being a leader-winner-inspiration for doing something incredibly ordinary off the bench, he continues a tradition that began with Blanda.
Strock backed up Bob Griese and Dan Marino. In between, he was part of a fun platoon called WoodStrock, where David Woodley would bumble around for three quarters and Strock would save the day. The Dolphins reached the Super Bowl with this insane arrangement, proof that Don Shula was a true genius: An ordinary coach would have started Strock and gotten just as far, but no one would remember it.
Steve DeBerg was Backup to the Stars in the 1980s and 1990s: Joe Montana, John Elway, Vinny Testaverde. The NFL needs a DeBerg right now: a quarterback whose March signing guarantees that the team is about to draft a top rookie quarterback. A guy like that would make my job a lot easier; it's a task with Kevin Kolb written all over it.
Earl Morrall took over for Johnny Unitas' Colts in 1968 and got them to the Super Bowl, relieved Unitas for the Colts in 1971 and helped win a Super Bowl, then went 9-0 for the 1972 Dolphins, whose other quarterback went 5-0. The man knew how to pick employers. Morrall had starting stints with the Lions and Giants early in his career, but no one remembers them.
Honorable Mention: Charlie Batch may not have Blanda's star wattage or Morrall's place in history, but no recent backup has done a better job of hiding behind the hot water heater in the offseason and reemerging at the start of camp with job security.
What would any article on the Internet be without a shameless effort to generate some attention by pulling muddy sand from the bottom of the well?
Who's On It: Jerry Jones, Geno Smith, Jim Harbaugh, Robert Griffin
The Skinny: Jones is becoming a one-man Would You Rather riddle. Would you rather have a boss who pays you exactly what you are worth and sets reasonable goals, or one who grants a lavish raise but then tells everyone within earshot that he now expects you to morph into a cross between Roger Staubach and Alexander the Great, setting you up for public humiliation? Jones sounds like he is suffering from a crippling case of buyer's remorse. Sure, the Romo contract was a little pricey, but why not let him throw a few passes before getting the jump on the dissatisfaction?
Joe Namath said this week that the Jets did not need to draft a quarterback. Chuck Norris has yet to clarify his position on the topic. Geno Smith is considering Jay-Z's Roc Nation agency to represent him. Jay-Z is not the first rapper to dabble in sports management: Master P is sending No Limit Soldiers to court Greg McElroy. Fear not, because Norris will roundhouse kick them. Smith has already become the receptacle of our anxieties and grudges, our hang-ups and the inadequacies we project onto others. That's usually the last step in the development of a Jets quarterback, not the first. In fact, "receptacle for anxieties and grudges" are the exact words in the job description on the standard NFL contract for "Jets quarterback." Maybe Jigga can get the language changed.
I had the chance to see a lot of Jim Harbaugh at the Indianapolis 500. The Panther Racing team he is involved with did not do very well (their highest finisher came in 22nd place, making them the Cleveland Browns of open-wheel racing), but Harbaugh was actually accessible and considerate to the media. No matter how many times he was asked how racing compares with football, he did not once adopt his typical NFL press conference "my mouth is answering your question, but my heart and soul are shoving you through a layer of sheetrock" expression. Harbaugh told reporters that when he comes to Indianapolis, he eats at Cracker Barrel and buys his slacks for the year. In that order, you would hope, so that nothing has to be suddenly let out. If Slacks Shopping with Coach Harbaugh strikes you as TMI, wait until the season starts.
And of course, RG3. The wedding registry. The brace. The minicamp: He was planting and throwing. The Dr. James Andrews quotes that stretch for words beyond "superhuman." If Smith is the hamper we toss our soiled psychological laundry into, Griffin is the repository of our aspirations, our memories of youth and vitality, the embodiment of hope itself with a space-age exoskeleton attached to his knee. It's a wonderful place to be, but anyone who follows sports knows that the distance between Geno and Griffin on the Mount Rushmore of over-scrutiny is not as great as it should be.
Honorable Mention: Nope, not going to mention him.