Once again, the Bay Area is leading the way with top quarterbacks, as three with Bay Area ties will be playing in the two NFL conference championship games this weekend.
The Bay Area has always led the way with top quarterbacks, starting with Frankie Albert when Clark Shaughnessy introduced the T-formation to college football at Stanford. A number of top quarterbacks have since gone to Stanford, including John Elway, the most talented I've ever seen. Elway was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Cal has also had several top ones, including Craig Morton, who is now in the College Football Hall of Fame. At a time when Texas coach Darrell Royal was famously (and stupidly) proclaiming that when you throw a pass, three things can happen and two of them are bad, Bay Area schools were filling the air with footballs.
Obviously, nothing has changed, and the makeup of the conference championship games proves that.
Of the three quarterbacks, Brady is the only one I had no contact with before he became a pro. He had grown up on the Peninsula but went to school at Michigan, where he was underappreciated. The Patriots took him with a supplemental pick in the sixth round, and you know the rest of his story.
I knew Rodgers quite well when he quarterbacked Cal, and I enjoyed him on and off the field. He was very smart and confident. While other players called me “Mr. Dickey,” he called me by my first name, which I much preferred, and kidded me about my behavior.
When he declared for the draft after his junior year, the 49ers had the first pick in the draft and I wrote that they should choose Rodgers. Instead, Mike Nolan picked Alex Smith. That probably worked well for Rodgers because he was able to sit and learn until Brett Favre left the Green Bay Packers, while Smith was getting beat up physically and abused mentally by both Nolan and an unknowledgeable fan base which blamed him unfairly for all the team's problems.
Though Luck played for Stanford, I also got to know him well because he was very approachable, modest and had an excellent deprecating sense of humor. Once he came to a media luncheon the week of the Big Game wearing a blue-and-gold tie. It was, he explained, the only tie he owned.
Luck is not only physically talented but, even as he showed in college, he was excellent at reading defenses and making adjustments, as well as quick decisions on whether to pass or to run. He did not have Elway-type ability but he was an effective runner when he chose that option.
The Colts targeted Luck as the first pick in the draft, though Robert Griffin III was a multi-talented player with good intelligence, and their judgment has been vindicated as Luck has improved each year.
It seems likely, though, that Brady will be the only Bay Area quarterback to survive the conference championship games. Seattle's defense has been overpowering and will be too much for Rodgers, playing on a bad leg. Brady's New England Patriots are superior to Luck's Indianapolis Colts. They'll all put on a good show, though.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.