Late yesterday, Kerry Collins announced his retirement from the NFL. It is an extremely bittersweet moment. Not many people can appreciate how good a player Collins was. He was on the doorstep of a title more than a few times, only to have others implode around him. Yes, we are here today to share with you, as best we can, a message you will probably not hear anywhere else- Kerry Collins was a very good Quarterback who got the short end of the stick.
In 2000, Collins led the Giants to a 12-4 season. How many QBs do that any single time in their career? That alone is noteworthy. He lit up a weak Minnesota secondary with perfection en route to a 41-0 shutout to bring this franchise to the Super Bowl. This was a comeback for a player who was almost out of football, a guy who straightened out, stopped drinking and cleaned up his act. In the Super Bowl, he played against arguably the second best defense we have seen (next to the ’85 Bears, and it wasn’t even close). So Collins certainly didn’t look good in Tampa. But even there, he did not have the help of Fassel. We learned from Toomer ~9 years later that before the game Fassel played favorites and took sides with one of the units, turning team unity into animosity. It would not be the last time that Collins was undermined at the worst moment.
In 2002, Collins was in charge and he was all-world. This was the season where the Giants had the single greatest offense in my 42 seasons of watching the team. And Collins was the QB at the helm of this juggernaut. Behind an effective OL (think McNally) and weapons galore, Collins was the prototypical Giants QB. His howitzer arm was meant for the winds of the Meadowlands, and he could deliver strikes under any playing conditions. It is fair to remember that Collins was a pea brain who could throw a stupid interception, but in 2002, it did not come into play because the Giants offense was too good for that. He threw for over 4000 yards to players named Toomer, Hilliard, Shockey, Dixon and Barber. This was the year that Toomer was a Pro Bowler in everything but name, the pinnacle of his career. And his QB was Collins. In a game vs Peyton Manning at the dome, the very first play from scrimmage in Q3 was a bomb to Toomer that seemed to travel forever. Toomer had the speed and the grace to separate, and then reaccelerate into the ball for a TD. Not bad for a road win.
The undermining of Collins and the Giants in 2002 came in many forms. Losses to the expansion Texans and then a prevent-offense-‘extraordinaire’ loss to the Titans camouflaged a terrifically talented ensemble. And Fassel’s prevent-offense would once again undermine a spectacular offense where Collins helped put up 38 points for his team in 43 minutes vs SF. If Collins was allowed to play football for the final 17 minutes, he could have put up 60. Instead, the team gets a black eye for the second worst playoff implosion in NFL history. And Collins gets the shaft. Again.
After Fassel imploded in 2003, Accorsi traded 4 picks for Eli Manning, and Collins did not want to be holding a clipboard. Collins demonstrated he could take a team to the promised land twice while with the Giants. He validated Accorsi’s move to bring him to this franchise. Yet with the choice to go for Manning, he was not given the support he clearly had earned.
Bouncing around in Oakland, and then as a backup in Tennessee, one would think Collins was done. But in 2008, Collins would show us once again how good he could be. Picking up his second Pro Bowl nod, Collins led the Titans to a 12-3 record in 15 starts, notching another one of those elusive 12 win seasons. The Titans went to the playoffs as a 13-3 legitimate Super threat. This time it would be insanity after insanity as his teammates practically threw the game. Collins had 1 pick during the game, but LenDale White fumbled the ball in the red zone and Alge Crumpler gave away another at the 5 yd line, erasing two potential scores. Collins carried the team on his back after Chris Johnson went down at the half, amassing 281 yards. The Titans outgained the Ravens ~390 to 210 yds and lost.
What would you say if we told you that Kerry Collins threw for more yards than all but 10 QBs in NFL History? Yes, Kerry Collins is #11 All Time in yards passing. Under the radar? Kerry Collins wet the bed enough times that we won’t ever call him “great.” But he was more than good enough at more than a few times in his career to go all the way. History may not want to remember him fondly, but Collins fought valiantly for his teams and has over 40,000 reasons why he gets our respect for a terrific career.