On Redheaded Quarterbacks and Whether Linemen Can Swim

Tom Pennington, Getty Images
Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Quarterback in the NFL is the position that drives the franchise, sometimes into a sinkhole that swallows reasonable chances of success for years on end.

No wonder teams spend so much pre-draft time prodding, probing and analyzing quarterbacks. The decision is so costly and important that the term "pre-draft" as it pertains to the evaluation and measuring of QB prospects has been expanded to include college career, choice of high school prom date, kindergarten teamwork skills and, this year, conception.

An NFL coach doing his homework (and more) in advance of tonight's prime-time NFL draft hinted in last week's Sports Illustrated at a concern about whether TCU quarterback Andy Dalton can lead a team, seeing as how he's got red hair and not many great red-headed quarterbacks came instantly to the coach's overtaxed mind.

"Has there ever been a red-headed quarterback in the NFL who's really done well?" the coach asked. "It sounds idiotic, but is there any way that could be a factor? We've wondered."

True enough.

It does sound ridiculous.

The Brady 6

Quarterbacks are almost always the story of every draft, even when they aren't the story of the draft. Just wait a few years and they will be.

ESPN just aired a documentary on "The Brady 6," the six (mostly) failed quarterbacks who were chosen ahead of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady in the 2000 draft. Chad Pennington was the only first-rounder of the group, and he did manage to make a name for himself with the New York Jets. Marc Bulger acquitted himself well enough, too.

Pennington, Bulger, Tee Martin, Chris Redman, Giovanni Carmazzi and Spergon Wynn came off the board before the New England Patriots made Brady the 199th player chosen.

That would seem to add to the genius reputation of New England head coach Bill Belichick...once he explains why he took Adrian Klemm, J.R. Redmon, Greg Robinson-Randall, Dave Stachelski, Jeff Marriott and Antawn Harris before he got around to Brady.

The moral is quarterbacks are the greatest risk-reward position in the draft. And Andy Dalton's chromosomes aren't the only thing under the microscope this year.

Cam Newton's Fake Smile

A Pro Football Weekly evaluation of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was hardly kind.

"Very disingenuous," writer Nolan Nawrocki wrote of Newton. "Has a fake smile, comes off as very scripted and has a selfish, me-first makeup. Always knows where the cameras are and plays to them."

"Has an enormous ego with a sense of entitlement that continually invites trouble and makes him believe he is above the law - does not command respect from teammates and will always struggle to win a locker room..."

"Lacks accountability, focus and trustworthiness - is not punctual, seeks shortcuts and sets a bad example. Immature and has had issues with authority. Not dependable."

Auburn quarterbacks coach Fred Whitfield ripped Nawrocki when he found out about the assessment.

"Nawrocki spent 10 (minutes) with Cam? Drunks can say that."

The critique of Newton could be called "damning" if the Carolina Panthers weren't expected to take Newton with the first overall pick tonight. It's difficult to go higher than first.

One NFL team threw Newton a curveball in the NFL Scouting combine interview period. Newton was asked why he changed a play from the sideline during Auburn's national championship win. The play worked. Newton supposedly got defensive about the question.

Teams test players that way. In fact, they test players so many ways they get away with inane questions because players figure there must be a deeper meaning, even when there isn't.

Questionable Questions

Washington quarterback Jake Locker told a Seattle radio show about the strangest question he was asked during the process leading to Thursday's draft.

"I was asked if I had a 16-year-old daughter whether I'd let her be on birth control or not," Locker related. "That one kind of threw me for a loop. It caught me off guard. I didn't know what to say at first."

Locker said he wouldn't.

Teams apparently give it their all when trying to come up with questions for quarterbacks. They don't waste just any questions on the men who will direct their teams for seasons to come.

It's standard to ask players if they'd rather go to five Pro Bowls or win one Super Bowl in an attempt to find out how me-oriented they are. Most players see that one coming a football field away.

Ohio State offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who would go on to Pro Bowl status in New Orleans, was asked if he could swim for some reason. Other players have been asked if they can sing.

Some years ago, one team official asked Ohio State offensive lineman Kirk Barton if he'd rather be a dog or a cat.

"You wonder if it's a house cat or a tiger," Barton said at the time. "If it's a tiger, then you're solid. But a dog can beat a regular cat. I always pick the dog."

And -- coincidentally -- more than one team will pick a dog in the 2011 Quarterback Class.

The Obligatory Ryan Leaf Mention

For every Hall of Famer like Peyton Manning, there's a bust like Ryan Leaf.

The Indianapolis Colts picked Manning No. 1 in the 1998 draft. The San Diego Chargers picked Leaf No. 2.

"You can go five to ten years without getting a chance to draft a quarterback like this," former San Diego GM Bobby Beathard said of Leaf that day.

As it turned out, only if you're lucky.

The Quarterback Ghosts of Past Drafts Gone Bad

As NFL teams ponder Newton at No. 1, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in the Top 10 and other possible first-and second-rounders like Dalton, Locker, Ryan Mallett and Christian Ponder -- other names must be rattling around in the heads of personnel men along with all that information about size, mechanics, leadership and hair color.

Consider this list:

Chuck Long, Detroit (No. 12, 1986), Rick Mirer, Seattle (No. 2, 1993), Heath Shuler, Washington (No. 3, 1994), Tim Couch, Cleveland, (No. 1, 1999), Cade McNown, Chicago, (No. 12, 1999), Akili Smith, Cincinnati (No. 3, 1999), David Klingler, Cincinnati (No. 6, 1992), Andre Ware, Detroit (No. 7, 1990), Kelly Stouffer, St. Louis (No. 6, 1987), Joey Harrington, Detroit (No. 3, 2002), David Carr, Houston (No. 1, 2002), Jack Thompson, Cincinnati, No. 3, 1979, Todd Blackledge, Kansas City, No. 7, 1983 and Art Schlichter, Baltimore (No. 4, 1982).

Oh, and Todd Marinovich, Raiders (No. 24, 1991)

Come to think of it, didn't Marinovich did have red hair?

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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50 Years of Monday Night Football's Memorable Theme Music

iStock
iStock

Monday Night Football turns 50 years old today—notably on a Monday! And as the Raiders and Saints warm up for tonight's kickoff, fans will know it's game time when they hear four distinct, descending notes. But it wasn't always that way. The biggest game of the week has been soundtracked by a handful of theme songs, starting back on September 21, 1970.

When Monday Night Football premiered on ABC, it was accompanied by the thoroughly groovy, Hammond organ-heavy “Score” by Charles Fox. The composer had previously written the theme for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and he would later make a name for himself doing the theme songs for Happy Days and The Love Boat, as well as composing Roberta Flack’s Grammy-winning “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”

“No network had ever programmed a regular sporting event in the evening in prime time,” Fox wrote in his autobiography, and though no one could know what a juggernaut the show would become, he set about writing a funky soul-jazz tune. The song was released under the alias “Bob’s Band”—presumably because Fox was employed at the time by Bob Israel’s Score Productions, a music company specializing in theme songs and background music.

Fox retained its rights over that song, but the show moved on to a new opener after a few years. “Monday Night Football is still on the air, but my theme was replaced after seven years by someone named … Bob Israel,” Fox wrote of his former boss. Well, almost. First, there was a version simply called “ABC – Monday Night Football Theme” that aired from 1976 to 1981. Then in 1982, Israel’s Score Productions was brought in to update that song. The three composers of the 1976 piece unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement.

Then, in 1989, Johnny Pearson’s “Heavy Action” rang in a new era of watching live sports from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. Though the company had retained the rights to the song a decade previously, they used it primarily as background music and didn't make it an official theme until '89. The first four notes of the British composer’s opener became synonymous with American football, and the song is likely one of the most widely and easily recognized themes in television history.

Also in 1989, country star Hank Williams Jr. reworked his earlier hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" into a bar-room blues rocker that spoke of "turning on [his] TV for some pigskin fun." The song was a huge success and ran in various forms on the program for over 20 years. Williams enthusiastically growling "Are you ready for some football?" became as identifiable to the show as the opening notes of "Heavy Action."

Unfortunately, in 2011, Monday Night Football (which in 2006 moved from ABC to ESPN) dropped Williams' theme after he made controversial statements about President Barack Obama on Fox News. The network reverted to featuring "Heavy Action" most prominently, and in 2015 they reworked the theme yet again. That intro, which ran before each of the season's games, featured archive videos and computer generated players to highlight some of the greatest plays and playmakers in the history of the broadcast.

In 2017, Hank Williams Jr. and all his "Rowdy Friends" made their way back to the top of the football broadcast, but they've been replaced again in 2020 for Monday Night Football's 50th anniversary season with a cover of Little Richard's "Rip It Up," courtesy of Butcher Brown.

Yeah, we're definitely ready for some football.