Jason Whitlock and Jeff George go way back. High school teammates at Warren Central in Indianapolis, they took separate paths after graduation (Whitlock to Ball State, and later sports journalism; George to the University of Illinois before being the first-overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft). But through it all, Whitlock has been one of George's loudest -- and most persistent -- supporters over the years.
Take this Page 2 column from October 2002 that begins thusly: "Being Jeff George's No. 1 fan is perhaps the most emotionally draining job in sports." There are otherexamples, of course, which help paint a portrait of a man who really loves George. So much, in fact, that in his most recent Kansas City Star column, Whitlock lobbied for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to sign his former high school teammate. And he wasn't kidding.
Bill, I'm not crazy. Yes, I'm in the tank for Jeff George. We grew up together on the east side of Indianapolis, and we take loyalty very, very seriously.
He's not perfect. He mishandled his career and talent. But the dude is 40 now and still wants to play. He can get the ball to Randy Moss and stretch a defense.
Matt Cassel can't carry you for a full season. You need a veteran backup who can fill in when Cassel struggles or carry the load for a game or two.
Here's the thing -- and I can't believe I'm about to write this -- but it's not a completely insane idea. I mean, yeah, I could see how signing a 40-year-old quarterback to replace a guy destined for the Hall of Fame seems like something a mental patient might come up with, but we're talking about Belichick.
You know, the same guy who brought us Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie. Of course, in both instances, they were signed to back up Tom Brady who, prior to last Sunday, had starting 128 consecutive games. Save mop-up duty, there was no real chance either would've played in critical situations.
But the point remains: Vinny and Dougie were both, as they say, "a play way" from finding themselves under center. So in that sense, Belichick had enough confidence in their abilities to entrust them with the possibility of taking over in an emergency.
Now that chore falls to Cassel, a four-year vet who last started a football game that counted in the 1990s. Who knows how this turns out, but New England is clearly much worse off without Brady.* The question is whether Cassel can still get them to the playoffs, or if somebody else -- a veteran, perhaps -- would be better suited for the task. And since Brett Favreain't walkin' through that door, Jeff George is the most obvious guy for the gig. Obvious to Jason Whitlock, anyway.
* This sentence has been nominated for Understatement of the Decade