It's the line Bill Parcells always uses when a rookie or some other youngster has a big day: "Don't put 'em in Canton yet.''
On Sunday, the two non-Hall of Famers in question were Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo, who came up small in losses by the Jets and Cowboys. Sanchez gave the Saints 14 of their 24 points in a 24-10 loss by the Jets; Romo's turnovers gave seven points to the Broncos and took away at least three from Dallas in a 17-10 defeat.
This isn't to knock either guy.
It's a knock on the fans and the media -- you and me to be specific -- who see a young player do something good, even spectacular, and assume we're watching a budding superstar.
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"Did you notice that the guys he made the run against will all be cut next week?'' Parcells said, a probability in an era where teams regularly brought as many as 120 players to camp. As it turned out, Hampton had a nice career. Despite an upright running style that made him injury-prone, he rushed for 6,897 yards in eight seasons and held New York's career rushing record until Tiki Barber sailed by him.
But this is about the two quarterbacks.
But he's a ROOKIE and rookie QBs rarely win -- Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are both better this season than they were last. All that stuff about being the first quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 to go 3-0? The result of a silly stat -- maybe 15 years old -- that treats QBs as pitchers, awarding wins and losses.
Maybe saves are next. In that case, the saves this season for the Jets go to the defense. It is the reason they were unbeaten going to New Orleans and it is the reason they might have been unbeaten leaving New Orleans if Sanchez had played his part -- he gave the Saints 14 points; the defense allowed three to a team that had been averaging 40 until a late drive that put the game away.
First, Sanchez threw the ball near Darren Sharper, who is so old, he played at Wililam and Mary on the same college team with Mike Tomlin, the Steelers' coach. Or rather Sharper baited Sanchez, lurking in centerfield where Sanchez didn't see him. He timed his grab perfectly and went 99 yards with his 10th career touchdown return. He loves to do that. Now in his 13th season, he has 58 interceptions and especially loves to harass young QBs who play in New York.
In 2005, Sharper had three picks of Eli Manning in a game at the Meadowlands, returning one for a TD in a game the Giants totally dominated on offense but lost to the Vikings because of Sharper. In 2007, he did it to Eli again, returning an INT for a touchdown. Those games are part of Eli's negative lore -- the kind of Manning-bashing one ESPN anchor repeated during the Giants' Super Bowl run after that 2007 season by saying after he had played a good playoff game: "I really think he played well, but I have to find something to bash him about because Eli-bashing is what I do.''
Eli figures in the Romo saga, too.
In Dallas' other loss this season, two weeks ago, Manning calmly drove the Giants down the field late to set up Lawrence Tynes' winning field goal as time expired -- Eli is far more reliable than Tynes. Romo isn't even close to being able to do that regularly.
He was the main reason for the 17-10 loss in Denver Sunday, holding the ball too long and taking a sack on the 9-yard line in the second quarter with his team holding a 10-0 lead. The ball came out, the Broncos recovered, and scored on the next play. In the third quarter, with the Cowboys at the Denver 17, within easy shot of at least a field goal in a low-scoring game, he tried to force a ball to Myles Austin and Champ Bailey picked it off. So give him minus-10 points.
Then, after Brandon Marshall's brilliant catch and run had given Denver a 17-10 lead on the first play after the two-minute warning, Romo had a chance to redeem himself.
He almost did, hooking up with Sam Hurd on a 53-yard fourth-down play in which he twisted right as he was moving left and found his receiver. It was the kind of athletic ability that led folks to put him in Canton about two weeks after he got the starting job in 2006 -- from Parcells, incidentally, after the Tuna had groomed him for three years.
But unlike Eli -- who has a dozen game-winning drives in his short career, including one in a Super Bowl -- he couldn't finish. With three shots at a tying TD from the 2-yard-line, Romo kept throwing at receivers covered by Bailey, rarely a good idea. Not really his fault, but another little mark against him as a QB who doesn't quite have "IT.''
Unless "IT'' is Jessica Simpson or whoever his latest tabloid celeb girlfriend might be.
No. Don't put him in Canton yet.
Sanchez? We have no idea yet.