For people like me, there are no marches or parades. If I can't do something or play something, oh well, that's just tough luck. There's nobody speaking in front of Congress on my behalf or having a benefit in my name.
You see, I'm left-handed, and when it comes to this world that's dominated by right-handers, well, I just have to deal.
Say I'm at a picnic, and my friends decide to play a spontaneous softball game; if I don't have my glove in the trunk of my car, I guess I'll just have to sit on one of those lawn chairs and watch. When I was in elementary school, I had to learn how to play hockey right-handed in gym class because there wasn't one single stick designed for lefties (I still play hockey that way to this day). When I play volleyball, and someone sets me, there's a 50 percent chance it's going to be over my right shoulder, which has pretty much forced me to learn how to spike with both hands (not a bad thing).
You think you got an ax to grind in this world? To quote Dennis Miller, I'm freakin Paul Bunyan!
OK, before I go off on a huge (or huger) rant, I want to get to the main point of my article: Left-handed quarterbacks in the NFL. What, you say you've never heard of such a thing? I don't blame you. After all, the NFL is sort of a microcosm of this planet, in that, it's a right-handed world, and taking the time to design a game plan for a left-handed quarterback? Yeah right.
Stabler became the first left-handed quarterback to win a Super Bowl, when he led the Raiders to a victory over Minnesota in Super Bowl XI. Statistically, Stabler ranks third all-time for lefties, with nearly 28,000 passing yards and 194 touchdowns. Sitting just ahead of The Snake are Boomer Esiason and Steve Young; that's actually not a bad top three to begin a list of left-handed quarterbacks. But did you click on the link and check out who ranks 10th all-time among left-handed passers? Tim Tebow! That's right, the guy who passed for 316 yards and beat the Steelers in an AFC Wild Card game a few years ago, has somehow managed to already do enough to rank in the top 10--he only has 2,422 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
How can that happen? It can happen because, according to some of the research I've done on lefty signal-callers, there have only been 41 throughout the history of the league.
If you were an African American kid in the late 70s and early 80s and were looking for a black NFL quarterback to look up to, you had Vince Evans (well, bad example). You also had Doug Williams, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC title game in 1979. Williams passed for over 3,000 yards in both 1980 and 1981 (Terry Bradshaw only did that twice). And in 1982, during a strike-shortened season, Williams passed for a whopping 2,071 yards in just nine games. After a two-year stint in the USFL, Williams played for the Redskins in the mid-to-late 80s and became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, when he led Washington to a 42-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
As a lefty kid growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, in addition to Stabler (who was pretty much washed up by 1981), I had Jim Zorn, the starting quarterback of the Seahawks, to look up to. When I was about eight years old and realized being left-handed was "different," I became a fan of Zorn and searched out his Topps football card. In eight years as a quarterback for the Seahawks, an expansion franchise in 1976, Zorn started 100 games and threw 111 touchdown passes. However, by the time Seattle was good enough to make the playoffs in 1983, Zorn lost his job to Dave Krieg and was never again a full-time starter in the NFL.
Zorn is sixth all-time among left-handed quarterbacks with 21,115 passing yards. Just behind Zorn is Scott Mitchell, who passed for 15,692 yards during his career and was recently on The Biggest Loser, because he ballooned up to over 300 pounds. Mitchell lost a lot of weight and looks great today. But come on, man. You're the seventh greatest left-handed quarterback of all-time, and you wind up on that show, in-front of the whole country? What are the odds of that?
Ninth on the statistical list is Bobby Douglass, who, according to the NFL Network, is the eighth most awesome southpaw passer of all-time. Watch this three-minute clip and tell me if it was flattering or not. The word "sucked" gets used at least once regarding the former Bears passer, and they point out that in 1972, he set a then NFL record for quarterbacks with 968 rushing yards, while only passing for 1,246.
If you were an African American kid AND left-handed in the 2000s, you had Michael Vick to look up to, and, really, he didn't disappoint. Still in the league as a backup, Vick is currently fifth all-time among lefty passers, with 22,093 yards and 131 touchdowns. And in Vick's heyday with the Falcons, he led them to the playoffs twice, and was the best dual threat quarterback in the league, with 11,505 passing yards and 3,859 rushing yards. But, in 2007, Vick went to prison because, well, you know what happened there.
The list I linked earlier has Young as the greatest left-handed quarterback of all-time, but in-terms of yards, Boomer leads the way with 37,920. That's right, 14 quarterbacks have passed for over 40,000 yards, but none of them have been left-handed. I guess I would have looked at Esiason as more of a hero when I was a kid, but he spent so much time kicking the crap out of the Steelers as a member of the Bengals, it was kind of hard. Whenever I played quarterback in any pick-up games, someone would almost always scream "Boomer!" and, really, what Pittsburgh kid would have been proud of that association in those days?
Speaking of Young, in addition to being only the second (and, maybe last) left-handed quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, when he led San Francisco to a victory over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, he's also the only one in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, to think, it may not have happened if it were up to his first offensive coordinator at BYU. According this really cool story on the scarcity of lefty NFL throwers, Doug Scovil, BYU's OC in Young's freshman year, told him, "You're not going to play quarterback here. I don't coach lefties. It ain't happening."
Thankfully, Scovil left for a head coaching job, and his OC successor lobbied for Young, who eventually succeeded Jim McMahon as the starter. Young soon became a hot-commodity who had his pick of the NFL and USFL and signed a mega-deal with the Los Angeles Express in 1984. Young would eventually find his way to the 49ers and NFL super-stardom.
It makes total sense that that coach didn't want to bother with Young, because you ever see a right-hander try to teach a lefty anything athletic? They just can't figure out how to explain it. They look like they're trying to multiply 383 and 423 in their head. Fortunately, lefties are pretty good at abstract thought. Maybe that's why Young said he learned how to play the position in college simply by mirroring McMahon's movements.
Young is now one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and it almost didn't happen because some right-handed coach didn't want to adapt like lefties are forced to all the time.
For only 41 quarterbacks to have ever played in the NFL is kind of crazy. (There are currently no starting lefty quarterbacks and only two backups.) But, again, right-handed people don't really need to adapt in a world where 90 percent of them exist. In-order for a left-handed person to play quarterback, the best tackle would have to be on the right (or blind) side; most formations and roll-outs would have to flow to the left. Again, this requires abstract thought and conforming to a person's needs; it's much easier to simply not give many left-handed people a chance at the position.
Here's another quote from that aforementioned story, this time attributed to Jon Gruden, who coached lefty Chris Simms in Tampa: "You're a lefty; you're a pain in the ass. I have to call the formation the other way for you so you can roll to your left." Simms is the son of Phil Simms, the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Giants and current top analyst for CBS. Next season, when you're screaming at Simms for not knowing football, you can also make fun of him for having a left-handed son.
It's OK, his son is probably used to it.
Other than Tyler Palko, I'm not sure if the Steelers have ever employed a left-handed quarterback. Maybe they have, but the fact that I can't even begin to think of another one speaks volumes.
So, now you know what it's like to be left-handed. It's so bad, when you research the best lefty quarterbacks of all-time, you find Tim Tebow in the top 10.