Poets on Sports


By: Eric Morris


On the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft, mock draft frenzy has reached code red, along with the arduous analysis of hand size, forty-yard dash times, and Wonderlic scores, all of which are subjected to the NFL’s burgeoning love for sabermetrics, bean counting, and pissing into the wind. During the drudgery of the process, we often hear about how one quarterback “passes the eye test” while others end up sitting in the green room on draft night wistfully looking at their phones and trolling through the undoubtedly harsh Twitter vitriol.

Myself, I’m not really sure what the “eye test” is—they all look like football players to me—and I’m not sure anyone else does either; however, while talent evaluators are concerning themselves with measurable data and player interviews, instead of asking if player X’s mom was a prostitute, perhaps the birthname of player X should be given loftier consideration? Forget about measurables, tangibles and intangibles, vertical leaping ability, or wingspan. Forget about Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s bantering that can only be described as quasi-sexual and tense. Forget about, I don’t know, football.

Please, then, consider: Does player X have a name that sounds like the name of a franchise quarterback?

Often I come across a name that just doesn’t sound right. A name that wouldn’t look cool when scripted across the back of a jersey or while being word-vomited by Al Michaels on MNF. If by looking at someone or giving them the “eye test” is an acceptable practice for identifying an individual player’s capacity for greatness, then maybe their name can be telling too. Maybe the ear test is worth a shot. How many times, anyway, have scouts been wrong when assessing the “physical tools” of a player with “freak athleticism” who happens to be the Fort Knox of psychological fortitude?

In order to break down the upcoming quarterback prospects potential for success at the next level—based on nothing beyond letters and linguistics—I took a list of the alleged 25 greatest quarterbacks of all-time. From this list, I counted the number of syllables, the number of vowels, the number of letters in the player’s last name, the total of the three previous categories, and, lastly, what letter the last name begins with. I then averaged the numbers in each column in order to create a set of parameters for deciding a QB’s potential for greatness based on sound and spelling.

As a respected member of the scientific community, I want to be consistent in my analysis, so after I tabulated the list of great quarterbacks, I did the same for a list of the suspected worst quarterbacks as a point of reference and to determine if there is any validity to the first list.

While I am fairly certain that a player’s name has no bearing on the individual’s ability to audible and read a defense, I still think, for argument sake, it’s worth a look; the aesthetic value must be worth something. Likewise, I don’t believe that NFL personnel departments are so much smarter than the rest of us slobs. I didn’t have to look at one dude in his underwear running around three cones to provide my analysis, and I certainly don’t need a pro personnel department to tell me Ryan Leaf blows or that broad jump translates to talent or that Tom Brady is cerebral freak of nature.

After the numbers for the greatest and the worst QBs were calculated, I found another list of the top 10 quarterbacks in the 2014 draft and applied my findings to determine which quarterbacks are linguistically destined for greatness and which quarterbacks are bound to wallow in the mire of mediocrity. When comparing the lists of the greatest and the worst QBs in history to the 2014 draft class, I looked to see which QB matched or most closely matched (approximately) the numbers on either list.



Quarterback # of syllables # of vowels # of letters # total Begins with
Joe Montana 3 3 7 13 M
Peyton Manning 2 2 7 11 M
Johnny Unitas 3 3 6 12 U
Otto Graham 1 2 6 9 G
Tom Brady 2 1 5 8 B
Bart Starr 1 1 5 7 S
Dan Marino 3 3 6 12 M
Steve Young 1 2 5 8 Y
Fran Tarkington 3 3 10 16 T
Roger Staubach 2 3 8 13 S
Bret Favre 1 2 5 8 F
John Elway 2 2 5 9 E
Sid Luckman 2 2 7 11 L
Len Dawson 2 2 6 10 D
Y.A. Tittle 2 2 6 10 T
Dan Fouts 1 2 5 8 F
Warren Moon 1 2 4 7 M
Terry Bradshaw 2 2 8 12 B
Kurt Warner 2 2 6 10 W
Sonny Jurgensen 3 3 9 15 J
Troy Aikman 2 3 6 11 A
Jim Kelly 2 1 5 8 K
Norm Van Brocklin 3 3 11 17 V
Roman Gabriel 3 3 7 13 G
Bob Griese 2 3 6 11 G
TOTALS 51 57 161 269  
  Average Average Average Most Common
2 2.3 6.4 10.76 M (4)

*List courtesy of The Bleacher Report (www.bleacherreport.com)

**the sometimes Y rule with vowels does not apply

The results, then, based on the list and parameters, suggest that the ideal quarterback   (linguistically) has a last name that starts with an M, contains 2 syllables, 2.3 vowels, 6.4 letters, and a three column total of 10.76.

You know, just like how the average American family has 2.5 baths and 3.25 children.



Name # of syllables # of vowels # of letters # Total Begins with
Ryan Leaf 1 2 4 7 L
JaMarcus Russell 2 2 7 11 R
Rick Mirer 2 2 5 9 M
Jack Trudeau 2 4 7 13 T
Joey Harrington 3 3 10 16 H
Todd Marinovich 4 4 10 18 M
Mike Phipps 1 1 6 8 P
Bob Avellini 4 4 8 16 A
Akili Smith 1 1 5 7 S
David Carr 1 1 4 6 C
Tim Couch 1 2 5 8 C
Dave Brown 1 1 5 7 B
Heath Shuler 2 2 6 10 S
Derek Anderson 3 3 8 14 A
Karl Sweetan 2 3 7 12 S
Jack Thompson 2 2 8 12 T
Chris Weinke 2 3 6 11 W
Dave Klingler 2 2 8 12 K
Rick Norton 2 2 6 10 N
Todd Blackledge 2 3 10 15 B
Dan Pastorini 4 4 9 17 P
Bobby Douglass 2 3 8 13 D
Gary Huff 1 1 4 6 H
Rodney Peete 1 3 5 9 P
J.P Losman 2 2 6 10 L
TOTALS 50 60 167 277  
Average Average Average Average Most Common
2 2.4 6.68 11.1 P (3) S (3)

*List courtesy of Complex Sports (www.complex.com)

After analyzing a history of stinkers, the quarterbacks most likely to bust in the NFL have last names that begin with P or S, have 2 syllables and average 2.4 vowels, with the average length of the last name being 6.68 letters, and an average total from all three columns is 11.1. So far, not totally different from the successful quarterbacks; however, beyond the starting letter, there is a slight trend that separates the names of great quarterbacks from the names of crappy quarterbacks: Length. In three of the four categories, the number is, even if slightly, larger. A deal breaker? Certainly not. The only category, it seems, that bares a true difference is the beginning letter; using all of the other categories (while ignoring the first letter), the best quarterback, linguistically speaking, also equates to being the worst quarterback—spelling aside, this is often the case anyway. But factor in the opening letter and the HOF will certainly be calling at the end of said player’s illustrious career.



NAME # of syllables # of vowels # of letters # total Begins with Boom or Bust or Back-up
Teddy Bridgewater 3 4 11 18 B Bust
Johnny Manziel 2 3 7 12 M Boom
Blake Bortles 2 2 7 11 B Boom
Derek Carr 1 1 4 6 C Bust
Tajh Boyd 1 1 4 6 B Bust
Zach Mettenberger 4 4 12 20 M Bust
A.J McCarron 3 2 8 13 M Bust
Stephen Morris 2 2 6 10 M Boom
Jimmy Garoppolo 4 4 9 17 G Bust
Brett Smith 1 1 5 7 S Bust
David Fales 1 2 5 8 F Bust

List courtesy of Walter Football (www.walterfootball.com)


With the first overall pick, the Houston Texans select: Stephen Morris, Quarterback, The University of Miami.


When the linguistic breakdown is applied to the 2014 draft, the analysis shows that Stephen Morris (2 syllables, 2 vowels, 6 letters, a three column combined total of 10, and starts with M) most closely matches the numbers of the all-time greatest quarterbacks (2 syllables, 2.3 vowels, 6.4 letters, and a combined three column total of 10.76).

While I don’t think the Texans (or anyone else) are rearranging their draft board, it is interesting to see that the other two quarterbacks to reach Boom status are Johnny Manziel (2 syllables, 3 vowels, 7 letters, a three column total of 12, and begins with M) and Blake Bortles (2 syllables, 2 vowels, 7 letters, a three column total of 11, though Bortles lacks the M last name), both have been touted (in some circles) as top-five picks.

However, (there’s always a ‘however’ isn’t there?) J.P. Losman, based on these findings, should have done much more than flounder around in Buffalo and then make the leap to the notorious Las Vegas Locomotives.

Clearly speaking, there is no logical connection between a quarterback’s success and the spelling of his last name; no more anyway than a player’s bench press numbers. An illogical connection, though? Maybe. Serendipitous correlations? Perhaps. Rational? No.

Greatness is defined by one thing: Super Bowls. But accuracy, a canon arm, pocket presence, and moxy certainly help. Iambics and scansion have their place, but that place is not the gridiron. In football, spelling and syllables only lead to unnecessary math. Johnny Manziel may be too short; Blake Bortles may be too inaccurate; and Teddy Bridgewater may need his Michael Jacksonian glove. While a smooth sounding name has no impact on that, still, a few names—Manning, Marino, Montana—just slide off the tongue, are pleasing to the ear, and fit nicely across the shoulders of an authentic NFL jersey—for sale now at the NFL Pro Shop for $800.00.

Eric Morris, a NE Ohio native, teaches writing and involuntarily suffers from acute, sports-related depression.

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , .
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