There are 32 teams in the National Football League and nearly one-quarter of them – seven – have starting quarterbacks named Matt.
(This is a statistical anomaly of epic proportions, eclipsed only by this improbable reality: George Foreman has five sons, and each one is named George.)
Here’s a rundown of the unusual suspects:
• Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
• Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
• Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals
• Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers
• Matt Ryan, Atlanta
• Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
• Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Often in life, your name defines your lifestyle. What, Albert Einstein was going to be a male stripper? Hercules was going to be an actuary? Lady Gaga was going to be a librarian? And apparently, if your name is Matthew, you’re more likely to be standing behind center than sitting behind a desk.
In actuality, it’s a motley crew of Matts. Only one of them has ever made the Super Bowl as a starter (Hasselbeck). Only one other has ever started a playoff game (Ryan). The rest of them – save for Moore’s 6-2 mark – have losing records of starters. And Leinart still might get benched.
Still, in a league of Donovans and Carsons and Trents, how can seven starting quarterbacks share the same mundane, albeit common, name?
In the 26-year period from 1981 to 2006, Matthew was annually in the top five most popular baby names in the U.S. Last year it dropped to 13th, due in part to Matthew Stafford’s 61.0 passer rating.
(By contrast, let’s look at the Mannings: Peyton last year was 147th on the baby-name list, up from 950th 20 years ago; Eli last year was 90th, up from 353rd 20 years ago. I guess we should all be thankful that Yo-Yo Ma has never won a Super Bowl.)
There is some commonality among the Matts. Two of them – Hasselbeck and Ryan – went to Boston College. And two of them – Leinart and Cassel – went to USC; in fact, Cassel backed up Leinart in college.
(Speaking of which, I must briefly mention my ill-fated Player of Destiny from last year, USC’s Matt Barkley – yes, another Matt who one day may be an NFL starting quarterback. I forecast him as the Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman; I’m not even sure he watched the Heisman show. He is dead to me.)
Anyway, Couch Slouch’s research team – which consists of my friend Vinnie, when he’s not cutting coupons, and my wife Toni, when she’s not shredding me to bits – looked into the history of common first names in various industries. They discovered that there are two professions – musicians and criminals – that share the NFL quarterbacks’ first-name repetition:
Classical composers: Franz Berwald, Franz Joseph Hayden, Franz Lehar, Franz Lizst, Franz Schmidt, Franz von Suppe.
Pop singers: Michael Bolton, Michael Buble, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald.
Mob bosses: “Joe Bananas” Bonanno, Joe Colombo, Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo, Joe “Fat Man” Magliocco, Joe “The Old Man” Profaci, Giuseppe “Joe The Boss” Masseria.
Outlaws: Billy the Kid, The Apache Kid, The Sundance Kid, Slaughter Kid, Kid Curry, Kid Rock.*
(*–Technically, he’s a rapper, but Kid Rock has been arrested on assault and simple battery charges, plus he was married for five months to Pamela Anderson, which, culturally speaking, is an outlaw maneuver.)
Anyway, to get back to our so-so quarterbacks, as Scott Brunner once said, “Tis better to have thrown an incomplete pass than never to have thrown a pass at all.”
And let me close with a quotation from one of the gospels, the aptly named Matthew: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Frankly, that sounds like a quarterback.
Ask The Slouch
Q. I heard you on the radio other day blasting Tony La Russa. You sounded like an idiot. (J.R. Phillips; Mequon, Wis.)
A. First of all, I don’t have to blast Tony La Russa to sound like an idiot. Second of all, it wasn’t me you heard; it must’ve been some poor sap who sounds like me. Third of all, if I were on the radio, I would’ve blasted La Russa – he’s a good manager but he acts as if he gave birth to Abner Doubleday.
Q. When a TV camera shows the dugout during a team’s at-bat, sometimes there are only two or three players on the bench. What gives? Where is everybody? (Paul Mika; Naples, Fla.)
A. Hey, pal, have you ever watched a session of Congress on C-SPAN? That place has more empty seats than a Rod Blagojevich fundraiser.
Q. Would your fifth bride take the name Chad Lococinco? (Jim Mulcahy; Clifton Park, N.Y.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Where does Elin Nordegren rank on the PGA career money list? (Joe Schmidt; Cleveland)
A. Pay this man, too, Shirley (but send half to his wife).