Earl Morrall....Jeff Hostetler....Frank Reich....Tom Brady....Billy Volek?
All of the above are men who didn't start the season as their team's starting quarterback, but due to injury took over and led their team to great things (Morrall is '72 Dolphins Morrall, not '68 Colts, and Reich advanced to a Super Bowl, not winning it - but did have the great comeback against the Oilers). Could Billy Volek join their ranks?
The best chance for the Chargers to win the AFC Championship just might be their backup quarterback. Personally, seeing Volek in the game might give me reason to root harder for San Diego - I don't think I like Philip Rivers (more on that later in the week). But the Patriots are familiar with Rivers, and Volek brings an element of the unknown that could help San Diego's cause. (I am also familiar with Rivers, having been a fantasy owner of him in the 2006 NFL season, and I know what he is capable of...or, rather, not capable of. He's been playing much better than he really is...that's got to catch up with him sooner or later. Speaking of underachieving....LaDainian Tomlinson and the playoffs continue to be a mystery. Injury or underperforming....he needs to show up Sunday too. But I digress.)
I wrote on Sunday that I remember Volek making news in another part of his career. Could have been I was thinking of the fact that when he got some playing time with the Titans in 2004, he set a record for most passing yards in his first seven starts, throwing for more than any quarterback in NFL history in that situation. Now, that's mostly because the team he was playing for stunk, and that's how he had the playing time, and they were throwing the ball alot...but the fact remains, he did it. And he's capable of leading a team and getting the ball downfield. That's significant. If he has a healthy Antonio Gates, if Vincent Jackson plays as well as he's been playing, and if Chris Chambers continues to be the sparkplug he has been since joining the Chargers, maybe the Chargers can pull out the unlikely win.
But I think a change of face at quarterback might be the key for San Diego...I think Volek can take advantage of those weapons in a way that Philip Rivers can't continue doing.
AND IN THE NFC: Funny that Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are having all this success. Recently, over the Christmas holiday, I got into an argument with one of my uncles about Rivers vs. Manning. He's fed up with Manning (although, probably not anymore), and started railing about him and how he's no good, and the Giants should have kept Rivers instead of swapping draft picks with the Chargers a few years back. (This is the same uncle who hated Joe Torre, and thought he was an awful manager. I can't stand it, because the Yankees won championships under Torre - how can you not be happy with him?!)
I went off on Rivers, mostly based on my fantasy football experience, where Rivers cost me so many wins (and a playoff win, most notably) by playing awful games most of the season, with a couple of great games sprinkled in. I think Manning is going to end up being the better quarterback, I said, because I think the only reason Rivers does better is because he has LaDainian Tomlinson. Anyway, this was before the Patriots-Giants game, before Manning played horribly in that second half.
Of course, Eli played great against Tampa, and was good enough against the Cowboys...but I didn't think he was great. I think he gets nervous in tight situations, and that's deadly for an NFL quarterback. When all the Giants had to do was run out the clock, Manning got happy feet, and threw an incompletion on a big third down, giving the Cowboys the ball back. Same situation as against the Patriots. At least the Giants were ahead...I don't know that Manning could lead the Giants from behind in a situation like that, where the game is tight, in the playoffs. (I think he's done it in the regular season, but the stakes are different.) I hope I'm wrong, because I like Eli, and like seeing him do well...but I have my doubts when the game is on the line. Especially with a guy like Brett Favre on the other side.