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BEST PASS YOU EVER THREW? It was third down and 17 during Week 2 against Carolina. I dropped back, thinking about taking a shot at Kellen Winslow in tight coverage down the middle. Just

I get in the huddle, the clock’s running down and i just pause. i thought, oh my gosh. what is the play?

when I’m about to cut loose, a defender

place to eat dinner. When I got back,

“Oh, kids, meet Josh!” Then they said,

all the lights were on, and the door was

“Hey, we gotta go do something

wide open! The creepiest thing was

tonight. Can you watch our kids?” And I

searching every room by myself.

was like, “Uh, I don’t know you.” The

Nothing was missing, but I have no

lady gave me a piece of paper with their

idea what happened.

phone number and address. Of course I never called them. What kind of

almost sacks me. Then another guy comes and gets me, but I pull free. I break around, and all I see is this big white glove waving 40 yards down the field. It’s

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State want a statewide education funding ad to stop running. The ad, which shows the Sooners losing to Texas and the Cowboys falling to Missouri, states: “We’re not talking about football, we’re talking about our schools coming in last.”

The world according to us

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miserable about it all week. Of course,

MOST AFRAID YOU’VE BEEN ON

FUNNIEST THING A FAN HAS EVER

people would leave their kids with a

when you’re a sixth-grader, there’s not

THE FIELD … ?

SAID TO YOU?

complete stranger?

really anything else to worry about.

Fear hasn’t been a part of my game for a

A guy wanted me to endorse his hair

long time. Back in eighth-grade football

product. He said it wasn’t Soul Glo, but

LEAST-FAVORITE TRAIT ABOUT

Godfrey tried to undercut it, but it went

DUMBEST THING YOU’VE SAID IN

practice, I ran over a kid, fell and

it was similar. I got a kick out of that

YOURSELF?

right over his hands and into Kellen’s. We

THE HUDDLE?

separated my shoulder. That was by far

because I was with a bunch of my

I need to enjoy myself a little more. When

got a touchdown out of that drive, and

Last year, we used all “R” and “L” words

the worst pain I’d ever experienced. My

teammates, and they like to tease me

I don’t play my best game, I’m miserable

those points allowed us to win the game.

for our formations. We were playing

shoulder still hurt when I came back after

about my hair. When I first got to Tampa,

about it. Obviously, I’m stoked if we win,

Seattle, and the call was “Roger and

a couple of weeks, so I was really scared

I heard a lot of Afro Sheen jokes.

but right after, I’m back to work. I don’t

TOUGHEST SCHEME TO READ?

Louie,” which was a slot formation

of hurting it again. I finally just said screw

The Saints have a really exotic blitz

where the X and the Z [receivers]

it and started laying people out again.

package on third down. Well, it was

exchange positions. The coach gives me

TO YOU ?

EASIEST WAY TO GET ON YOUR NERVES?

exotic to me the first time we played

the play over the headset: “Louie wing,

… OFF THE FIELD?

It was after my kickoff party my rookie

Receivers I’ve played with throughout my

them last season. I threw two third-

73 stutter eggshell across” or

One of the first nights after my brother

year. A couple with two small kids—one

career have said the same thing: “Hey,

down interceptions that day. Now,

something. I get in the huddle, the

and I moved into our new house, he went

was a baby and the other was 4 or 5

man, I’m gonna be open. Throw me the

picking it up has almost become

play clock’s running down and ... I just

out of town. I went over to a friend’s

years old—came up to me and said,

ball.” That’s really the worst request.

second nature. Live and learn.

pause. All the guys were like, “Come on!

Kellen. I throw it as hard as I can. Charles

take a day to relax and enjoy it. STRANGEST THING A FAN HAS SAID

Come on!” I thought, Oh my gosh. What

Oct. 18, 2010

opposite of the formation, which was

my first opportunity. There are so many

Roger. I say, “What’s the opposite of

nuances and protection calls when

Roger?” Everybody screams, “Louie!”

you’re playing a 3-4 defense like

I called the play, and we converted on

Green Bay’s, so I definitely came into the

third down.

the longest yard

In the Cardinals-Raiders Week 3 tilt, Arizona return man LaRod Stephens-Howling took the opening kickoff 102 yards for six points. Last season, only 8 TDs measured 100 yards or more. As shown in the chart below, that’s less than 1% of the 1,247 scores across the league.

game a little more nervous. I didn’t play great, but I did well enough to win.

4.3%

16.9%

6.2%

6.6% 14.4% 0.6%

......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... ......... .........

15.2%

WORST CRITICISM YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? I consider myself a drop-back

It was such an up-and-down emotional

quarterback. I had 14 rushing

roller coaster when we played the

touchdowns my last year at Kansas

Dolphins last year. We took the lead

State, but that’s because our running

toward the end of the game, but with

back left and another guy got hurt.

1:10 left they got the ball back. Ricky

Basically, I was the running and passing

If there’s one team that could rightfully be called the “new jacks” of the

Williams, I think, broke a big run down to

game. So, some draft experts were

NFL, it’s the Buccaneers. Last season, Tampa Bay boasted one of the league’s youngest

the 7-yard line. They waited ’til there

saying, “Freeman is not really a

rosters, and its inexperience showed in an 0–7 start and a dismal 3–13 finish. This

were like 14 seconds left and kicked a

quarterback; he’s just an athlete

season, the Bucs are a big early-season surprise. A catalyst behind the rise? Second-year

field goal, and we lost. Before that, my

playing the position.” It’s a slap in the

QB Josh Freeman, who can safely be said to ply his craft away from the spotlight’s glare.

worst loss was my little league basketball

face to work so hard to do something

Which is why The Mag decided to get to know the 22-year-old swashbuckler under

championship game in sixth grade. It was

well, and have people disrespect me

center a little better, subjecting him to our inaugural “Psyche Scan.”

one of those losses where you’re

like that.

By Carmen Renee Thompson

ESPN The Magazine

right now! Finally, I remembered the

were 0–7 coming off a bye week. It was

WORST LOSS ON THE FIELD?

sophomore signal-caller josh freeman STANDS UP TO OUR PRESSURE.

58

is the play? This can’t be happening

My first start, against the Packers. We

Photograph by Bob Croslin

END ZONE

not afraid

BIGGEST GAME?

9.1% 7.1%

0.6% 100+

1.2%

1.1%

91 - 99

81 - 90

2.6%

2.8%

71 - 80

61 - 70

3.4%

51 - 60

4.1%

3.8%

41 - 50

31 - 40

21 - 30

11 - 20

6 - 10

5

4 3 2

1

0

YARDS ESPN The Magazine

Oct. 18, 2010

59


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For his new book, The Games That Changed the Game, former pro quarterback and current Monday Night Football analyst Ron Jaworski spoke with coaches from the past about the NFL’s future. Their prediction? The spread offense is coming to a team near you. With nearly 40% of Football Bowl Subdivision (see page 55) teams relying on multireceiver sets, more shotgun specialists will be available on draft day. “The top six quarterbacks will always be elite passers,” Jaws says. “But the league may have to adapt.” Some teams are already set to transition to a world of dual-threat QBs. Here are six squads best prepared to make that switch.

GAME READY Broncos

When attending a cold weather outdoor game, gloves are

Sure, the Chosen One has improved his throwing motion, and Josh McDaniels is likely grooming the rookie to start someday. But imagine Tim Tebow, the first college player to run and pass for at least 20 TDs in the same season, manning the five-wide 10 plays a game right now. “If there’s anyone in the NFL who could run this type of system,” Jaws says, “it’d be Denver because of Tebow’s skill set.”

49ers

Browns

There was a reason Troy Smith won the 2006 Heisman: more than 5,500 career yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing at Ohio State. Health problems derailed the fourth-year pro, but he—and the Niners—could make a legitimate comeback with the spread. New O-coordinator Mike Johnson coached a similar style QB in Michael Vick during Johnson’s four seasons in Atlanta.

Seneca Wallace is the prototypical change-of-pace passer. Without a blocking back, the spread leaves the QB vulnerable, effectively taking the play off the table when backup Wallace starts in place of Jake Delhomme. In small doses, though, the eight-year vet could shine. After all, he did throw for more than 5,000 yards in just two seasons at Iowa State.

Patriots

Falcons

acceptable. Even mittens will do. Do not bring a baseball mitt.

NEarly there Giants

“Pocket passers can’t throw on their backs,” Jaws says. With a porous O-line (18 QB hits allowed, seventh most in the NFL), that’s where Eli Manning’s been this season. Big Blue would do well to draft Middle Tennessee’s Dwight Dasher. His ability to escape pressure (nearly 2,000 yards rushing) should charm O-coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who had the mobile Warren Moon in Houston.

60

ESPN The Magazine

Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to break out the spread with Tom Brady, but Pats fans don’t want No. 12 sacked. Why not bring in Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor—who, like former Hokie Michael Vick, is a dual threat (1,738 rushing yards)—to take the hits? “A rookie spread QB probably won’t succeed right away,” says Jaws. Then again, there’s no better teacher than Brady.

Oct. 18, 2010

In Matt Ryan, the Falcons have a QB ready-made for five-step drops. But next season, Georgia Tech senior Joshua Nesbitt could be the magic bullet for a team once known for its run-happy signal-caller. Nesbitt already has 100-yard-rushing and -passing games this season, and what self-respecting Falcons fan wouldn’t want to cheer on a Peach State grad?

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: JOE RODRIGUEZ; MATT SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES; JOSH D. WEISS/US PRESSWIRE; GEOFF BURKE/GETTY IMAGES; ED ZURGA/AP IMAGES; MATT STAMEY/US PRESSWIRE; FERNANDO MEDINA/US PRESSWIRE

By LaRue Cook


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