He retired. Again.
Will this retirement stick?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe He’s retiring so he can just wait until the first week of August, after training camps are half over, and then sign wherever He feels like signing to keep on keeping on.
Do I want Him to go? Sure. He’s been an annoying presence in the part of my brain that can’t quite give up on football (stupid part of my brain, I hate it so much) for twenty-three years. Put it another way: He has been an irritating presence for forty-five percent of my life. It’s long past time for that percentage to start going down.
Is He the “greatest of all time”? I suppose He is, for multiple ways of defining “great”. But remember, numbers aren’t the only measure of greatness, and I’m a storyteller at heart anyway. For me, all of This Guy’s stories were annoying stories, maddening stories, stories that shouldn’t have ended the way they did if not for the people opposing Him doing stupid shit at key moments.
He didn’t make the other head coach decide to only hand the ball off to his running back, who at the time was the best RB in the game, only 17 times against a defense that was bad against the run, thus playing into His own head coach’s defensive scheme.
He didn’t make the other team’s kicker boot the ball out of bounds immediately after the other team tied it up with a minute to go, thus giving Him only needing to move the ball about 25 yards in 60 seconds to set up a game-winning field goal.
He didn’t make the other head coach engage in very odd clock management in a close game, thus seriously damaging his team’s ability to overcome in the end. (That particular head coach is an interesting case, because he was once the poster-child for the “Can’t win the big game!” trope, but now, since he did win the big game a single time three years ago, he is currently viewed as one of the reigning super-geniuses of football.)
He didn’t make the other team decide to, in Gregg Easterbrook’s terminology, go “pass-wacky” with a big lead in the second half and thus manage to kill no time and wear out its defense so He could execute a 34-28 win after being down 28-3. (A reminder: as thrilling as it is when your team executes a big comeback, big comebacks are always at least partly due to the losing team getting dumb when it has the lead.)
He didn’t make the other team decide that throwing the ball from a goal-to-go situation when they had a RB who was, at the time, one of the very best RBs in football, was a good idea, and He further didn’t make the other team decide that the passing play to call was a low-success rate play that ended up getting picked off by His team.
He didn’t…well, you get the idea. And yes, anyway, those dumb errors are (for the most part) gifts of situations, and it was still up to Him to make the best of those situations. But it certainly felt that He got way, way, wayyyyy more than his fair share of flukey situations.
He didn’t somehow manage to make the other three teams in the division he played most of his career suddenly get very bad at drafting talent for the better part of two decades.
He was involved in multiple significant cheating scandals, resulting in His team getting a couple of wrist-slaps from the league. That first wrist-slap was particularly egregious, with the Commish destroying all the evidence without letting anybody else see it and then handing down a punishment designed to seem harsh but really amounted to, yes, a wrist-slap.
He also somehow managed to play 23 seasons (He missed one entire season with an injury sustained in Week One, and the next year He came back like he’d never missed a beat), but more than that, He played 47 playoff games as well, which means that He played almost 26 seasons worth of football over those 23 years, which is mind-boggling given the nature of this particular game. I’ve heard it said that “Everyone has a conspiracy theory that they actually believe,” and mine is that there’s no way His longevity is explained by good offensive lines, His getting the ball out quickly, His avoiding inflammatory foods, and His going to bed every night at 8pm. Maybe at some point Gisele lets something slip about weird medical procedures he had done every off-season in Buenos Aires or some such thing.
He also benefitted greatly from a gradually-shifting NFL rulebook that literally made beating him harder. The book on beating Him has always been pretty simple to state, if hard to do in practice: get physical pressure on Him, especially from up the middle. He hated getting hit, and in any game where He started getting hit more than usual, He would start getting jittery in the pocket and His accuracy would suffer and if the pressure kept coming He would eventually just start making bad decisions. The best example of this was Super Bowl 42, where He played under pressure all game, His NFL-best offense could only muster 14 points, and when He got the ball back with a minute to go and down by three, He couldn’t even get His team to field-goal range. (A similar scenario unfolded again just four years later, against that very same Giants team, and when he missed a key pass by throwing the ball behind his intended receiver, his wife came out after the game and criticized the receiver publicly!) If I had Aladdin’s lamp, I might well burn one of my three wishes to see Him start a full NFL game against, say, the ’85 Bears, the ’89 49ers, or the ’91 Redskins. I do not believe He would have flourished quite so well against a defense built to succeed under that NFL rulebook.
(An aside here about His most recent Super Bowl defeat, in Super Bowl 52: Is there any more flukey championship in recent sports history than that one? The Eagles rolled through the regular season behind a quarterback who was having a terrific year until he got hurt, and then the backup quarterback stepped in and kept right on rolling all the way to victory in that Super Bowl, despite the fact that He had probably the best single passing game in Super Bowl history that day, throwing for more than 500 yards, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions! He lost that game, and after that, both of the Eagles’ quarterbacks from that season regressed to the point where now they’re just journeymen guys knocking around the league and not really doing anything impressive at all. The one game He had where I have to admit His greatness was an unbelievably improbable loss.)
Oddly, He recently got some very odd flak on social media when He posted something about spending time with his kids. I guess even that was a bridge too far for the self-appointed alpha-males of the world. Even I have to admit that when He isn’t “alpha” enough, maybe we need to rework the concept a little.
So, assuming that He is actually ending his career now, He is moving on to a broadcasting gig at FOX. This means that I will rarely see him, since I watch almost zero football on teevee these days. (I don’t know what the nature of His broadcasting work is supposed to be–whether He is going to be a studio guy or one of the booth commentators on game day.) I’m sure He’ll be fine at that job, and I certainly don’t wish Him ill…but like many other fans, I certainly wish Him off the field for good, because He was just that annoying.
And yes, He was great. Sheesh.
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