But Roethlisberger and the other bruised berries aren’t really daring to be honest and open. They are being almost cowardly when they communicate through riddles, rumors, sly suggests and zingers. They have the power and job security to be blunt, but they would rather be coy and invite the kind of attention and speculation that they pretend to hate.
Rodgers can state, flat-out, that he wants to have a say in Packers personnel decisions. Flacco can acknowledge that he’s in professional peril and that his only recourse is to get to work. Roethlisberger can mark the territory around his locker without going out of his way to wreck a rookie’s first week in the NFL.
Le’Veon Bell never gets a guarantee that extends beyond the franchise tag, but Roethlisberger feels free to get territorial about a third-round pick. Brady makes cryptic remarks at events that sound like settings in Tom Wolfe novels while the Patriots trade away his backup, a potential franchise quarterback, and then pick the least-threatening quarterbacks on the draft board to assure him that he’s still their one and only.
Even among NFL royalty, these quarterbacks are more royal than most, which makes it really off-putting when they get petulant about the tiniest setback or slight.
Quarterbacks on the Roethlisberger-Brady-Rodgers tier are paid not just to win games, but also to represent our highest ideals of professionalism and leadership. That’s why team execs throw around phrases like face of the franchise, why Ryan’s very-good-but-not-great play is worth a $100 million guarantee (his extreme corporate blandness is considered an asset) and why independent-minded prospects like Josh Rosen give old-school football guys the willies. Teams don’t want their quarterbacks to be about anything except winning the next football game.