Losing your best friend has always been tough, whether you’re eight or ninety-eight.
They write songs about it and plenty of ’em: See; “Popcrush.com.” I’m not embarrassed to say I knew not one of PC’s top-ten “best friend” songs until the last one on the list (#1): The Jackson 5, “I’ll Be There” (’71). Funny thing is, that’s ‘bout time I lost a best friend.
I must’ve been around seven or eight. Typical age for your first shocker?
I think it was summer and I’m walking home. I get to my 'girlfriend' Carolyn’s house (first girl I’d kissed) and she’s on her porch with another neighborhood friend, Erik. She calls me over and drops the bomb: “Steve,” she says, “Erik’s gonna’ be my boyfriend now.”
Erik was a major doofus who’d earlier stolen my baseball cards so I wasn’t too surprised he was involved, but Carolyn’s betrayal, that threw me for a loss. Backstabbers & gossips are the culprits when buddies suddenly go bust but you’ve still gotta’ earn your friends. Maybe Erik put a knife in my back or maybe I’d just been neglectful and Carolyn wanted to rattle my cage, hoping I’d protest. But I never the saw point.
The point here being, losing a friend can be a big hurt.
In the NFL it’s never as personal as my tiny tale but the consequences can be weighty.
No friendship in football carries more weight than the symbiosis between a quarterback and his favorite receiver. And the big guys in the trenches who protect their field general? They’re good friends too, but that ain’t this.
I can’t recall a time in recent memory when this many highly productive QB / top-target relationships were coming asunder or subject of serious separation speculation.
The short list:
Wes Welker (Patriots and Tom Brady): 9 yrs. (‘04); Sure-handed, high-volume possession receiver of an exceptional quarterback, recovered nicely from recent a knee bang but beginning to grow fangs (age) and expects / deserves small king’s ransom.
Victor Cruz (NY Giants and Eli Manning): 3 yrs. (‘10); Young, speedy, confident deep threat for terrific QB whose early results impress but saw average (12.7 / 18.7) & yards (1092 / 1536) drop-off considerably in ‘12. Exchange-rate (1-RD) makes Victor costly.
Greg Jennings (Packers and Aaron Rodgers): 7 yrs. (‘06); Another trophy-receiver for star QB who was building HOF resume when injury hit in ‘11 (MCL / groin). Questions remain on recovery after long rehab which temper marketability.
Percy Harvin (now Seahawks, formerly Vikings (Chris Ponder)): 4 yrs. (‘09);
Mike Wallace (now Dolphins, formerly Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger)): 4 yrs. (‘09);
Anquan Boldin (now 49ers, formerly Ravens (Joe Flacco)): 10 yrs. (‘03).
Goodbyes began in earnest Monday when talented but troubled Harvin and salary-cap cut Boldin were both sent Northwest. Vikes appear the better for their trade: 1) calmer locker-room with hot Harvin history; 2) more money available to cover (cut vet Winfield, signed OL Loadholt); 3) got better compensation and 4) Ponder was coping without Percy Electric who missed half of ‘12 (9G / 62 REC / 677 YD) while Flacco relied heavily on AB (380 YD / 4 TD) in Ravens ‘13 post-season run. But Baltimore has an established QB and their 2nd Lombardi.
From player perspective I’m happier if I’m Percy. Everyone wants to win but everyone wants to play, too. If I haul in passes for a living (or run for that matter) I’m not happy sacrificing touches & stats for a ball-hog, run-QB like Col. Kaepernick or RG3. Russ Wilson rabbits too but appears, at this stage anyway, to have a better appreciation for developing the necessary pocket presence and should distribute accordingly.
From team perspectives, much hinges on Harvin’s play-time, compromised in Minnesota due to migraines and other maladies. Stress is a major factor in headaches and pricey Percy has heaped a lotta’ pressure on himself in forcing the trade. One key will be Pete Carroll’s ability to manage emotions, something he’s been quite adept at doing in the past.
Tuesday saw prize pick-up Mike “60 Minutes” Wallace (That’s not Chris Berman IP, is it?) part company with Big Ben and land in Miami where QB Ryan Tannehill played admirably in his rookie campaign on a 7-9 team that some report (CBS (PBP) 2-11) will consider going ‘pistol / no-read-run option.’ I’m sure Ryan is thrilled at the prospect of putting his head & knees at higher-risk. Ugh. As for Mike, at least the money’s great, right?
With free agency in full-swing and draft day on the horizon, NFL wheelers & dealers are moving fast & furious in keeping, cutting loose & casting far for new talent. There will be some painful farewells, joyous exits and hopeful, high anticipation for the new arrivals.
And for those QBs suffering from separation anxiety, remember this kindergarten lesson that never grows old: lose a friend, make another, try to keep 'em happy (and always watch your back).
NFL Hunch Line