And then there were two. In one corner, the youngster. Exciting, fast and a different type of player, but perhaps too inexperienced, and too prone to mental mistakes.
In the other corner, the crafty veteran. Such a veteran that he was an afterthought until a few days ago. He's always been a steady hand, even though we're sure he's not going to win a game on his own. The phrase "game manager" is overused, but that's really all we're looking for with Charlie Batch.
Dennis Dixon was recently named the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 showdown with the Atlanta Falcons, but does it truly matter? Just because a player starts doesn't mean he has to play a whole game. It doesn't even mean he has to play a whole half, or quarter.
NFL coaches often stick with starters past the point of effectiveness in games for various reasons, some more convincing than others — the QB didn't have the chance to get into a rhythm, you don't want to damage a guy's confidence by making him think he'll always get the quick hook, and the ever-popular "we'll win with this guy and we'll lose with this guy" mentality.
There's a silver lining in the current situation — these reasons don't make the cut when the quarterback controversy is between backups. Batch isn't moving the ball? Bring in Dixon. Dixon's making mistakes? Let's put Charlie back in. Neither of these guys will be starting in a month, so what does it matter? The Steelers should pull out all the stops in these following four games. If that means swapping QBs a little quicker than usual, Mike Tomlin should have no regrets.
The Batchwagon has been picking up a lot of passengers in the last few days, but for what it's worth, Dixon is my pick. I think people are taking way too much from that Denver game. Every QB makes mistakes. To act as if Batch will be impervious to negative plays is giving him — or any QB — too much credit. Dixon might throw a bad interception, but he also might make a couple key first down runs on third-and-long. He's the high risk-high reward guy.
But why are fans so sure of Batch? He's started four games in the past six years. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Batch is 18-for-38 for 2 TDs and 3 INTs. Small sample size? Sure. But to think he'll come in and show any improvement over those marks now, after all that time on the bench, at 35 ... it's a little optimistic.
Am I completely at ease with Dixon behind center? Of course not. But he's a backup QB. You should be worried when your backup QB takes the field, no matter who he is. There's a reason he's the backup.
The beautiful thing? If Dixon gets out there and makes some inexcusable decisions, Batch is waiting in the wings. (OK, it's not that beautiful of a situation, but the eye of the beholder only sees two options right now.) Go with what works. Change on the fly. I just think Dixon should be given the first chance.
One thing I'm sure we can all agree on: We can't wait to get past this month, when this decision will seem like a distant memory.
Phil Dzikiy is a journalist, blogger and Steeler fan, among many other things. Visit him online at phildzikiy.com or follow him on Twitter @phildzikiy, if you're into that sort of thing.