(Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part article. See last week’s
edition for part one.)
John Eisenberg has been part of the sports writing landscape for more than 30 years and was willing to share his insight on pro football.
The NFL has been littered with dynasties, but are they good for the league? “I do think dynasties are good for the league because part of pro football’s distinctiveness is its ability to showcase the game being played at the highest possible level of quality – as well as it can be played,’’ said Eisenberg. “A dynasty vividly illustrates that. It also doesn’t hurt to have a villain, which most dynasties become, because fans love having someone to root against. What you don’t want, of course, is a team that dominates for so long it becomes boring. The New England Patriots are approaching that threshold, in my opinion.’’
What you don’t want, of course, is a team that dominates for so long it becomes boring. The New England Patriots are approaching that threshold…”–John Eisenberg
Pro football is a violent sport and head trauma is part of the residue. Is the NFL doing enough to protect its players?
“The league is certainly doing all that it can in terms of seeing that players take the field wearing the best possible equipment (helmets),’’ said Eisenberg, a University of Pennsylvania graduate. “There have been big improvements there, and I’m sure more are coming. But beyond that and legislating against the wrong kind of hits, I’m not sure there’s much the league can do.”
Eisenberg, who penned That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory, then added: “It’s a precarious situation, and believe me, one that greatly concerns people in the league,” he noted.
The NFL has changed over time. How will it look like in two decades? “The game already looks a lot different than it did 20 years ago with more sophisticated passing attacks and rules that discourage certain hits,’’ said Eisenberg. “I can only imagine old players screaming at their televisions when they watch a quarterback slide to the ground on a scramble without being hit. But that’s the direction the game is going in, becoming more pinball-like and less violent for the sake of player safety, and for better or worse, the game is only going to continue to trend in that direction.’’
Tom Brady has a record five Super Bowl rings, but is he the greatest ever?
“Certainly, no quarterback has been more successful than Brady,’’ said Eisenberg. “He’s an amazing mix of intelligence, talent and determination. No quarterback has worked harder at mastering the craft. He wins games while watching film in the middle of the week. His arm isn’t the strongest, but his accuracy is astounding. His determination was most obvious during the Patriots’ amazing Super Bowl comeback from 25 points down against Atlanta. But having said all that, there have been other quarterbacks just as effective for long periods. Joe Montana comes to mind. Johnny Unitas set the mold years ago. I would hesitate to say anyone was better than those guys.’’
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.