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OPINION: The best quarantine facial hair in the NFL



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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers greet each other at the end of their game Nov. 25, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Tribune News Service

To shave, or not to shave? That is the question for a world of men in quarantine, including several high-profile NFL personalities.

Athletes have let their stubble grow unfettered to varying degrees of success. Jets quarterback Sam Darnold’s five o’clock shadow may as well be bits of eraser shavings glued to his upper lip.

Meanwhile, Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew has gone so far as to monetize his famed mustache. Fans can now purchase a bobblehead of Minshew, fashioned in an homage to overnight celebrity Joe Exotic, aptly branded as the “Jaguar King.”

With hardly a strand of peach fuzz to manage myself, I have instead combed through the goatees and beards across the NFL to find the best in the business.

Andy Reid, head coach, Kansas City Chiefs

For years, Reid’s lack of postseason success, coupled with his appearance, led to harsh comparisons from critics. His bespectacled eyes, portly stature and inability to deliver what you asked of him made Reid a dead ringer for a part-time mall Santa Claus.

Now, with a Super Bowl win on his resume and arguably the best team in the league, Reid’s stately gray mustache gives him a dignified resemblance to Germany’s formidable founding father, Otto von Bismarck.

Kansas City could not be luckier to have an MVP-caliber passer in Patrick Mahomes guided by the Iron Chancellor’s spiritual successor. Reid’s mind is surely swimming with brilliant offensive strategies, whether for scoring touchdowns or seizing victory for the motherland in the Franco-Prussian War.

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers

It seemed ludicrous when the Green Bay Packers selected Utah State University quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft despite having a two-time MVP in Rodgers on the roster. 

Though his new mentorship role comes as a surprise, Rodgers already has the requisite facial hair, a scraggly brown beard just made for scratching pensively. Rodgers instantly reminds one of the late Robin Williams in the 1997 classic, “Good Will Hunting.”

Williams plays Sean Maguire, a therapist who guides a troubled but gifted student to catharsis. Like Maguire, Rodgers must teach a talented yet unrefined youth under tremendous scrutiny. 

I can envision a preseason game in which Love throws an errant interception, forcing him to return in shame to the sideline, where Rodgers waits with a tender gaze of unadulterated empathy. Rodgers firmly embraces the tearful Love, gently whispering, “It’s not your fault,” over and over.

Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

In a recorded message March 21, Roethlisberger urged viewers to adhere to national shelter-in-place laws. Watching the grisly man speaking before me, I could only assume the real Roethlisberger and his family were being held hostage off-camera by an asylum escapee.

Alas, it was merely “Big Ben” himself, sporting a beard he has been growing since September. I don’t know when Roethlisberger decided the Forrest Gump look was for chumps and chose to go full Hagrid, but the result is frankly terrifying.

Recently, ESPN’s YouTube channel published a video entitled, “How dangerous does a healthy Ben Roethlisberger make the Steelers?” How dangerous? Are you kidding? I’d rather take my odds with a deranged axe murderer any day.  

Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

Ahoy, Dolphins faithfuls. If Miami is going to emerge from the Davy Jones’ Locker of the AFC East, it’s going to take quite the swashbuckler. Fortunately, Fitzpatrick has spent his time locked in the captain’s quarters amassing a magnificent blond beard. 

It's unclear whether Fitzpatrick plans on playing football or plundering enemy vessels for doubloons and singing sea shanties. Regardless, it doesn’t take a siren song to make me fall in love with Miami’s cannon-armed signal-caller.

However, with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa competing for a position at the helm, it remains to be seen who will be manning the ship’s wheel in 2020. Fitzpatrick might never earn the starting job with the Dolphins or locate Blackbeard’s long-lost gold, but that doesn’t matter. The real treasure is literally hidden right under his nose.

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