This photo has vexed me for days. Quarterbacks of my youth in Zubaz? Yes, please. Did I own a pair of Zubaz? No. More than one. The reason that it vexes me, though, is the particular arrangement of players and the timing of when this photo actually occurred.
The always entertaining Andy Gray (@SI_Vault) posted it a few days ago with the comment, “Kosar, Aikman, Simms, Moon, Marino, Elway and more QBs of the late ’80s show off their @Zubaz pride”. Now, obviously the guy posting the picture probably knows more than me, but I have serious doubts this was from the late 80’s.
Let’s start with Steve Young. Young was a backup if this picture was taken in the late 80’s. If you are going to go with a San Francisco quarterback, don’t you get Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana to put on a pair of your zebra Zubaz? Troy Aikman would have been a rookie in 1989, granted the first overall pick, so he might have been part of the group before taking a snap. The other clue, though, is the tee shirts.
Jim Harbaugh and Young are wearing NFL Quarterback Club tee shirts. NFL Quarterback Club was a video game in the 1990’s, and according to the never-wrong Wikipedia, the first Game Boy version was released in 1993.
Of course, during the 1993 season probably doesn’t work either. After much wrangling, I think the most likely time this picture was taken was right after the 1992 season. 1993 would be the last year for Harbaugh in Chicago and Jim Everett and his wonderful Jim Everett Rams shirt in Los Angeles. Bernie Kosar and his big Browns jacket was dumped out of Cleveland the next year. There’s no way those NFL Quarterback Club tee shirts would have been around four years early, but they may have started the marketing effort in the year leading up, by giving Jim Harbaugh some free swag.
So who were the biggest snubs of the Zubaz quarterback club? Well, Boomer Esiason would have had a much better career than a lot of guys on here, but struggled in 1992 and would have been on the way out. Of course, he signed with the Jets for the 1993 season, so you think they would have gotten the other New York quarterback, particularly a big name like Esiason. We’ve seen far less accomplished New York Jets quarterbacks get cover story treatment. It leads me to believe this was taken before free agency for the 1993 season.
Same with Joe Montana, who had not played since 1990, but would go to Kansas City for the 1993 season. Obviously, if Joe is healthy and playing, he’s the biggest snub here. Other possibilities include Brett Favre, who had just started his first season in Green Bay, or perhaps Bobby Hebert with the Saints, which would have added a whole other level of crazy to the photo.
Then there is the photo itself. Phil Simms is right there, asserting his alpha male-ness. He goes with the two hand hold on Jim Everett’s shoulders, the only one to go with such a move. Everett’s shirt is several levels of awesome. Aikman’s is far more understated.
Then there is Jim Harbaugh right in the middle. How does he get focal point status. At that point, I think you could make a pretty good argument Jim Harbaugh was the least accomplished quarterback in this group, and he and Warren Moon are standing right in the middle, at the forefront of the flat brim crusade. Perhaps the photographer was prescient, and knew someday Jim Harbaugh would be coaching in a Super Bowl.
[Update: As some readers have pointed out, "The Quarterback Club" was a group created by most of the quarterbacks in this picture to license many products, of which the video game was one. Here is an article from April of 1992 noting its formation. It also notes that Steve Young and Jim Harbaugh will be joining the group shortly, so we can date this photo sometime between the summer of 1992 and the end of that season. Also, Boomer Esiason and Bubby Brister (?) were part of the original group, but not pictured.]
[photo via @si_vault]