Legendary Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton is known for revolutionizing the game as one of the most successul and first "scrambling" QBs in the NFL. In an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal published Monday morning, the former Minnesota Viking and New York Giant took teachers' unions and misguided education spending head on in a biting criticism, hypothetically comparing what would happen if the current American education system status quo was applied to the NFL:
"Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been in the league. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player's been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct."
A few commentators have compared recent national politics to America's most watched sport, but few former players have as strongly injected themselves into such a contentious issue as Tarkenton has in Monday's WSJ. Comparing how education reformers calling for means-testing are characterized, to reformers in Tarkenton's hypothetical NFL, the quarterback writes:
"Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: 'They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans.' The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help."
Tarkenton backs his metaphor with stats showing education spending over the last two decades, blindly throwing more money at the problem, has converted to "only middling results." The scrambling QB goes on to assert that the same misguided beliefs that have contributed to an underperforming education system, are at the front and center of President Obama's jobs plan. Tarkenton closes:
"Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards."
Since retiring in 1978 after 9 Pro Bowl selections, 3 Super Bowl appearances and an MVP award, Tarkenton founded a software company and commentated Monday Night Football.