We're off to Seattle, by George
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist

Being Jeff George's No. 1 fan is perhaps the most emotionally draining job in sports.

A.C. Cowlings has it easier than me ... at least A.C. gets to play a lot of golf, hang out with Playboy models and assist in the hunt for the real bimbos.

Jeff George
If Marchibroda hadn't mishandled George, the Colts would have had themselves a dynasty.
Meanwhile, being an out-of-the-closet, radio-talk-show-hosting, sports-column-writing, former-high-school-teammate-of Jeff George fan means you'll spend a portion of each day explaining to some NFL fan that Jeff George is a great family man, a doting dad, a loyal friend, a man whose football resume includes nearly 28,000 NFL passing yards, 150 touchdown passes, a 10-2 season at Illinois, back-to-back state titles at Warren Central High and not one embarrassing off-the-field incident.

Being Jeff George's No. 1 fans means I now have a new favorite NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, my sixth new favorite team since the Indianapolis Colts plucked George with first pick of the 1990 draft.

See, that's the thing about falling in love with George's right arm, the most gifted football-launcher never to sniff a Super Bowl ... you never know where it's going to lead you.

Jeff George
Then June Jones ran George out of Atlanta.
I used to be a big Marty Schottenheimer fan, and then Marty cut George from the Washington Redskins last September, and I've hated Marty ever since. I spent two months hating former Atlanta Falcons coach June Jones, and then George told me he still liked Jones, even though Jones ran George out of Atlanta. I've been mad at Jon Gruden, Dennis Green, Norv Turner, Ted Marchibroda, Ron Meyer, Rick Venturi and all sorts of assistants, until George explained to me that he didn't have a problem with any of his former coaches (except Marty).

I never much liked Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks -- horribly drab uniforms -- until Tuesday afternoon, when they made George the eighth quarterback to sport a Seattle jersey in the past five months. George is following in the footsteps of immortals such as Ryan Van Dyke, Ryan Leaf, 53-year-old Mark Rypien and Dave Dickenson.

Jeff George
The Raiders were pretty dumb, too.
All it took to get my No. 1 QB back in the league was a season-ending injury to Trent Dilfer, the worst quarterback ever to be dragged to a Super Bowl title, a quick review of Matt Hasselbeck's two-play highlight reel, Elvis Grbac's refusal to come out of retirement -- which, translated, means his refusal to stand in the pocket and take another hit -- and coach Mike Holmgren's realization that barring a dramatic turnaround he's going to get fired at the end of this season no matter who he brings in at QB, so he might as well, for the first time in his Seattle tenure, have one guy on the roster who can actually throw the damn football.

And we all know George can throw the football. Why do you think I've been in love with his right arm all these years? I've loved his arm ever since we both played in the Indianapolis Warren Township little league. As a fifth and sixth grader, George was the star of the Tomahawks, a traveling all-star team that literally ran a pro-style, multiple-formation offense to take advantage of George's NFL-quality arm. I'm not kidding. As a grade-schooler, George threw a better ball than the Detmers do today.

By the time we reached high school, it was a forgone conclusion that George would not only play in the NFL, but that he would soon be the league's No. 1 overall pick and a future Hall of Famer. That is, if he didn't pitch or play short in the majors. The kid could do magic tricks with a ball and his right arm.

Jeff George
Jeff helped Denny Green land a plum job in broadcasting.
What happened, how George's name became synonymous with "loser, team cancer, and aloof." is still somewhat of a mystery to me. It's a mistake to blame his family, which is an error many people make. We should all have families as loving and supportive as the Georges. You'll never convince me George is a bad teammate or a bad person. I know the guy. He has a sense of humor. He knows how to be one of the guys. Is he shy and quiet? Yeah. But so what? When they compile the list of NFL jerks, Jeff George's name should be way down the list.

Nope. If George has a fatal fault as a football competitor, it's that the game (and life) came too easy for him at the high school and college levels, and that prevented him from learning how to truly compete. At the NFL level, champions reveal themselves in times of adversity. George experienced little adversity while growing up. He had the ideal home life and the ideal athletic experience. He's not some kid who pulled himself out of the ghetto or off a farm or away from a coal-mining shaft by playing sports and earning a scholarship. He's not some kid who overcame an absentee father and a gang-infested neighborhood. He didn't walk on at some university and prove to everybody that he should've been a scholarship player.

You ever notice how many NFL players have hard-luck stories? Life's hard knocks prepare you for football's hard knocks.

Jeff George
If not for Marty Schottenheimer, George would have made Skins fans forget all about Joe Theismann.
I've never liked the way George reacted after throwing an interception or fumbling the football. That's adversity. I was at the Vikings-Rams playoff game when George didn't dive to the ground for a loose football. I've seen him walk away rather than chase the defender after throwing an interception. As a former offensive tackle, I know how difficult it is to pass block when the quarterback bails out of the pocket to the right or left (a George habit), rather than stepping up into the heat of the rush the way Phil Simms used to. Competitors study their opponents and themselves, looking for weaknesses to exploit and eliminate. The book on George is you flush him from the pocket and make him move to his left and all the magic evaporates from his right arm.

I hope Jeff George understands all of this now. He's dealt with some real adversity the past year. The entire National Football League told him to get lost, we don't want or need you. It was a humbling experience, the kind of experience that should have his competitive juices boiling and his football focus at an unprecedented level.

As with every team Jeff George has played for, the Seahawks are now my pick to win the Super Bowl. I know they're 2-5, and I know Holmgren has said Hasselbeck is Seattle's starting quarterback. But just wait until Holmgren and Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson and Walter Jones and the other Seahawks fall in love with George's right arm. It's a love that will last a lifetime, or until the coach is fired, whichever comes first.

Jason Whitlock is a regular columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com), the host of a morning-drive talk show, "Jason Whitlock's Neighborhood" on Sports Radio 810 WHB (810whb.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of The Sports Reporters. He can be reached at ballstate0@aol.com.



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