Other than the Buffalo Bills, I can’t think of anybody who was happy to see Joe Webb go. The Carolina Panthers cut Webb Saturday and Buffalo signed him Monday morning. No way was he going to stay unemployed. He’s too selfless and too valuable. If a position were invented, Webb, 30, would volunteer to play it.
Webb told me once that he knew every position on the field. He didn’t play every position for the Panthers. He played quarterback and wide receiver, played on the kickoff team, the punt team, the kick and punt return teams, and was a personal protector. The personal protector’s role is to stand closest to the punter in case an opponent breaks through. His role also is to make sure 10 teammates have joined him on the field.
Every position group holds meetings. Webb led the Panthers in meetings.
Do not limit him, however, to these roles. He is 6-4 and 230 pounds, and in Pee Wee football in his native Birmingham, Ala., he played offensive line. In college at Alabama-Birmingham, he played some safety.
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Webb makes a Swiss Army Knife look one-dimensional.
Speaking of Swiss Army Knives, why did the Panthers cut him? They cut him because they added two young quarterbacks they believe they can develop, which, I guess, makes Webb expendable.
The year before the Panthers drafted Cam Newton, the Minnesota Vikings invested a sixth-round pick on Webb. He played four seasons for the Vikings. In one game he passed for 200 yards, and in another he rushed for 109 yards, including 65 yards on one touchdown run.
Webb told me that on special teams opponents would ask him what a quarterback was doing out there. Most special team players are like a can of domestic beer. A quarterback is a craft beer. But this one made whatever turf he stepped on his.
As Webb sat at his locker one day I asked him if, because of his versatility, he was the team’s best athlete. He didn’t want to say he was. But he would not be offended if others did.
As we talked, Cam Newton, who was at the next locker, dramatically cocked his head toward Webb. Finally, Newton could listen no more.
About the best athlete question, Newton told Webb: “You don’t want to say yes.”
To me Newton said: “He knows he can’t. He’s not even the best athlete in the (quarterbacks) meeting room.”
Webb laughed and told Newton: “You know better than that.”
I told Newton that if a man plays multiple positions, and the positions make an array of different demands, he has to be a superior athlete.
“Joe’s a good athlete,” Newton said. “You can tell him I said it. He’s not the best athlete in that (quarterbacks) room. It goes DA (Derek Anderson), then me and then Joe.”
Newton corrected himself.
“DA, then me, then (quarterbacks coach Ken) Dorsey, then Joe. We got some studs at that position.”
Webb will play anywhere coaches send him, including Buffalo.
But quarterback is his love. Quarterback is almost every player’s love. I asked Carolina head coach Ron Rivera if Webb ever subtly asked if he could play quarterback.
“Oh, yeah,” Rivera said. “I wouldn’t say subtly, either.”