"Quarterback dives deep into the most coveted and hallowed position in the NFL - exploring the stories of five top quarterbacks and taking readers inside their unique experiences of playing the position and holding the keys to their multi-billion-dollar teams"--
In the mighty National Football League, one player becomes the face of a franchise, one player receives all the accolades and all the blame, and one player's hand will guide the rise or fall of an entire team's season - and the dreams of millions of fans. There are thirty-two starting quarterbacks in the NFL on any given Sunday, and their lives are built around pressure, stardom, and incredible talent. Legendary bestselling sportswriter John Feinstein, in his most insightful book yet, shows readers what it's really like to play the glory position and to live that life - mapping out a journey that runs from college stardom to the NFL draft to taking command of the huddle and marching a team down the field with a nation of fans cheering.
Feinstein builds his profile around five NFL starting quarterbacks - Alex Smith, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Doug Williams. With incredible inside access, we get the full quarterback experience...being drafted #1 overall, pushing through grueling injuries, winning Super Bowls, being named a starter on multiple teams, being the first African American QB to lead a franchise to a title. Feinstein shows us exactly what it's like in the locker room, huddle, heat of battle, and press conferences, through spectacular moments and embarrassing defeats. He explores the controversies of a league embroiled in questions of substance abuse and racism, TV revenue, corporate greed, and the value placed on player health. And in the end, Feinstein addresses the ways in which each quarterback - some just a year out of college-is handed the keys to a franchise worth billions of dollars, and how each team's fortunes ride directly on the shoulders of its QB. This is Feinstein's most fascinating behind-the-scenes book.
JOHN FEINSTEIN is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the classic sports books A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled, along with many other bestsellers including The Legends Club, Where Nobody Knows Your Name and The First Major. He currently writes for The Washington Post and Golf Digest and is a regular contributor to the Golf Channel, Comcast Sports Regional Networks, and he hosts a college basketball show and a golf show on SiriusXM Radio.
"Another must-read from a master of long-form sports journalism." --Booklist, starred review "Eminent sportswriter Feinstein embedded himself with five successful quarterbacks . . . tak[ing] readers from one breathtaking finish to another. With a critical eye and unsurpassed sense of sports history and culture, Feinstein examines qualities of leadership, the politics and drama within locker rooms and league offices, and the unrelenting pressure that can either crush a quarterback or turn him into a legend. Stellar research and storytelling that makes this an essential read for NFL fans and sports enthusiasts." --Library Journal, starred review
"A worthy offering for fans of the modern, increasingly embattled game." --Kirkus Reviews
Praise for The First Major
"Feinstein's talent always has been the depth of his relationships, which enables him to get important figures to divulge intimate details of what transpired. . .The book features one interesting anecdote after another . . . In the hands of a lesser writer, a book about a lopsided match would have been hard to pull off. Feinstein, though, knows how to tell a good story, regardless of the outcome." --Chicago Tribune
Praise for The Legends Club
"One of [John Feinstein's] best, a beguilingly personal, sometimes heartbreaking look at the psychic cost of doing battle in America's most brutally, nakedly competitive (and actual) arenas. It makes a fitting bookend to the author's first, A Season on the Brink (1986), his hair-raising expos of Indiana coach Bobby Knight, expletives included." --The Wall Street Journal
"The legends are right there in the subtitle: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry. The unbilled fourth legend is the author. His longstanding relationships with the principals give the book its insider appeal; his history with each man goes back decades, and the intersecting, layered looks at each are built on firsthand knowledge . . . Funny and smart." --USA Today
"Feinstein entertains readers with fair, objective observations based on fact and his unique inside access gained not only through years of his coverage but also through many new interviews with former players, coaches and administrators. . . In a famous speech before he died, Valvano implored all of us to attempt to do three things each day: laugh, think and cry. He would be pleased with The Legends Club because it will evoke all three from readers, no matter where their college basketball allegiances lie." --The Washington Post
Excerpted from the Introduction On the afternoon of October 1, 2017 the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens met in Baltimore, in what was billed by the media as a ''battle for first place,'' in the National Football League''s AFC North Division. Both teams were 2-1, but the Ravens record was deceiving. They had opened the season by beating the decidedly mediocre Cincinnati Bengals and then had beaten the historically bad Cleveland Browns in week 2 before travelling to London to get pounded 44-7 by a surprisingly good Jacksonville team. The Steelers had also beaten the Browns and had then beaten the Minnesota Vikings before losing--stunningly--to the Chicago Bears on the road. In short, people were still trying to figure out how good the two teams were and this game would certainly provide some clues. The Ravens had not had a good offseason. Their most reliable receiver, Dennis Pitta, had suffered a career-ending hip injury during one of their mini-camps--or as they''re now called in NFL vernacular, "OTA''s--Organized Team Activities." The team''s 2016 first round draft pick, wide receiver Brashaud Breeland, had shown blazing speed. He had just one weakness: an inability to actually CATCH a football on a regular basis, a glaring issue given that his job was to CATCH footballs. Both starting guards, including Pro Bowler Marshall Yanda, were out for the season. There was no consistent running back, unless you counted Alex Collins, a talented rookie with a penchant for fumbling. Danny Woodhead, an excellent third down receiver acquired during the offseason was--you guessed it--injured. Joe Flacco had been the Ravens starting quarterback for 10 years--having been drafted in 2008 out of the University of Delaware. His arrival had ended a search for a solid quarterback that had started when the team first moved from Cleveland prior to the 1996 season. The Ravens had actually won a Super Bowl after the 2000 season with Trent Dilfer playing quarterback largely because they had put together one of the great defenses in league history. General Manager Ozzie Newsome had taken Flacco with the 18th pick in the ''08 draft at the urging of scouting director Eric DeCosta, who had gone to see Delaware play at Navy the previous October and had left the game at halftime with stars in his eyes. "I was supposed to go to a game at Maryland (28 miles away from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium) later that afternoon," he said. "I was so excited about Flacco I went back to the office and began digging out any tape of him I could find." Flacco was 6-foot-6, weighed 240 pounds and had a cannon for an arm. He looked effortless throwing the ball downfield and, even though Navy''s defense that year wasn''t very good, DeCosta watched in awe as Flacco made difficult throws look easy. Ten years later, Flacco had won a Super Bowl and had been, for a while, the highest paid player in the NFL. Even though other quarterbacks had surpassed him in total dollars, Flacco was still doing just fine. He was in the second year of a six- year contract worth $120.6 million. At 32, he was, without question, the face of the Ravens franchise. Which meant--as with almost every starting quarterback in the NFL--he often went from toast-of-the-town to roasted-by-the-town from week-to-week. Most of the time the criticism rolled off Flacco''s broad back. He had acquired the nickname of ''Cool Joe,'' early on because his demeanor almost always stayed the same. If you were going strictly off facial expressions or body language, it was difficult to tell if Flacco had just thrown a touchdown pass or an interception. "The criticism comes with the territory," he said with a smile. "If you''re going to accept being put on a pedestal when you play well, you better be ready to accept getting chopped down when you don''t play well." "Even when it''s not your fault?" I asked one day. "It''s ALWAYS my fault," he said. On that warm October afternoon on their home turf against the Steelers, it was Flacco''s fault. Even if he had plenty of help. The Ravens were bad. They trailed 19-0 at halftime and lost 26-9 in a game that really wasn''t that close. Flacco threw two fourth quarter interceptions--one a deflection--and Collins had a critical first half fumble. The defense, which had caused 10 turnovers in the first two games, couldn''t get Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers off the field. In all, it was a long day for all the Ravens. It began with the team kneeling as one prior to the playing of the national anthem. This was a week after Donald Trump''s rant about players not standing for the anthem and the Ravens had decided to take a knee together before the anthem. Even though the song hadn''t yet begun and even though the entire team was standing when the music started, many fans booed the gesture. The boos would have been quickly forgotten had the team played better. But it didn''t and the boos were heard frequently during the second half--except for a brief period when the Ravens rallied to close the deficit to 19-9. After the game ended with the stands half-empty and the Steelers walking away with a 26-9 victory, Flacco was brought into the interview room by the Ravens public relations staff. Every NFL quarterback comes into the interview room postgame. Most wait as long as possible before going in. They chat with teammates, shower, dress and, as their final act before leaving the stadium to meet their families, they come in to talk to the media. They can take as long as they want to because there are two people the media must listen to after a game: the head coach and the quarterback. The coach usually goes in as soon as the locker room is opened to the media. The quarterback almost always goes last--often 45 minutes to an hour after the game has ended. Not Flacco. If Ravens Coach John Harbaugh doesn''t go in quickly, Flacco is apt to be the first one in, still in uniform--except for his helmet. "You have to do it, you might as well get it over with," he said with a smile. "I don''t mind it. I usually know what the questions are going to be. So, I go in, get it done and then get ready to go home." Flacco has five kids so when the team plays at home, he doesn''t linger in the locker room the way some players do. On rare occasions, to give him a break from the interview room questions, Kevin Byrne, who has run public relations for the Ravens since 1986--when they were still in Cleveland--will tell Flacco not to come to the interview room. When that happens, he stands in front of his locker and answers the same questions he would have gotten in the interview room. After the Steelers loss, Flacco came in right after Harbaugh. After he had answered a general question about the game, someone said, "Joe, how would you assess your play today?" Flacco smiled for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I sucked. We sucked as an offense and I''m the quarterback, so I''m responsible. It''s pretty simple." The real answer to the question would have been something like this: "Look, my most reliable receiver went down in June. I threw a perfect deep ball early to Mike Wallace and he dropped it. Our first round draft pick from 2016 couldn''t catch a cold, much less a football. Our offensive line is a mess and we''ve got no running game. There''s only so much I can do." Of course there was no way Flacco was going to say any of that. "You never throw your teammates under the bus," he said. "Anything you say that''s critical of anyone but yourself is going to look like you''re making excuses--and, to some degree, it IS making excuses. If I whined that way, fans wouldn''t buy it, but more important than that, I couldn''t go home and look my father in the eye. You take the credit when it''s all good, you take the blame when it''s bad. "And when you''re the quarterback, the blame, ultimately, SHOULD always fall on you." Not long after Flacco had finished talking to the media, I got in my car to drive home. I turned on the Ravens postgame show on WBAL radio. Keith Mills, the host, was just starting to take phone calls. The first caller was wound up and upset. "Keith," he said, "When is Joe Flacco going to stand up and take responsibility for the failures of this offense?" Mills didn''t really know what to say. Politely, on air, he said, "I thought he did." Later, off-air, he said, "Beyond saying, ''I sucked,'' what else was he supposed to say?" Exactly right. That caller represents the heart and soul of what this book is about. There is no position in sports that is more glamorous, more lucrative, more visible, more high-risk than quarterback. In 32 cities, the quarterback carries the hopes and dreams of millions of fans and is the centerpiece for the media that covers every NFL team. The NFL--even with all the issues that have beset it in recent years--remains the colossus of professional sports in the U.S. It dominates the sports media 12 months a year. An off-day by a starting quarterback during offseason workouts in May can cause all-out panic among those covering a team. Billion dollar franchises may rise or fall on the shoulders of one 20-something athlete. Aaron Rodgers is carted off a football field in Minnesota and the entire state of Wisconsin goes into mourning. The most controversial and talked about figure in Washington D.C. in 2017 might have been Donald Trump, but Kirk Cousins wasn''t far behind. Quarterback is a dependent posit