For more than two decades, Warren Moon dominated pro football. First in Canada, as a top quarterback in the CFL, and then for 17 years in the NFL, Moon captained offenses that were as dangerous as any the league had seen up to that point. As the leader of the Houston Oilers' run-and-shoot offense, Moon twice eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for passing yards in a season and helped the team reach the playoffs seven consecutive seasons. He then went on to Minnesota and Seattle, where he continued to excel as a one of the league's premier signalcallers, racking up more than 4,000 passing yards twice more before retiring as a Kansas City Chief in 2000.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, the nine-time Pro Bowl QB talked to Pro Football Weekly about how offseason preparation has changed since his career began, his role as radio commentator for the Seattle Seahawks, and the marketing company he founded earlier this year.
PFW: What is the preseason like for established players?
WM: I prepared for a preseason game the same way I prepared for a regular-season game. It's where you kind of establish your routine, get ready for regular-season games. So everything you can do leading up to a preseason game, you will do leading up to the regular season, whether it is the way you dress, how you stretch before a game, what you eat, how you go out for pregame warm-ups and what you want to accomplish in warm-ups and so on. A lot of teams don't game plan for preseason games, but I've been with some teams that do, some teams that don't, so that would probably be the biggest difference, the preparation. Mentally, as far as game study, it's different because there is no game plan, but physically, it's the same. You go in there and you play as long and as hard as you can, and you try to experience a lot of different situations for the short time you are in there. For me, I always wanted to convert a third down, a short-yardage situation, if you were lucky enough to get the ball in the red zone to move it there and then get around the goal line and score. The main thing you want to do is try and score points while you are in there.
PFW: How much has offseason training and conditioning changed since you arrived in the NFL?
WM: It's huge. It's a year-round sport now. The guys get off, depending on if you went to the playoffs or not, anywhere from six weeks to two months, and then all of a sudden you're back at it in March, back to training. Whether it's starting your weight training or offseason conditioning and that gradually pulls out to the football field and it's 11-on-11. You're having meetings and that goes all the way through the offseason, two or three days a week, depending on what your coach sets up. And then you have the organized OTAs, which we never really had back in those days, and then you have the official minicamp. Back when I played, there were only the two minicamps to get yourself acclimated to whatever situation you were going to have that season, such as a new offense or defense, or a coaching change, and then you came into training camp to try and get in shape. That's where two-a-days came to be, because two-a-days were for getting into tip-top shape when you're in camp. But now these guys are in peak condition when they arrive in camp, because they've been training for three months prior, so they don't need the two-a-day practices anymore. All you're going to do is take a fine-tuned body that comes into practice and break it down, and you don't want to do that.
PFW: Has the perception of the NFL moved from a fall sport to a year-round job?
WM: I think these younger players understand that it is a job, it is a business, that you have to put the time in. With free agency involved in football these days, rosters are changing over from 10 to 30 new guys on a roster from season to season. With all these new guys you have to teach them your offense, teach them your philosophy and you have to get these players to jell with one another. So that's why these offseason programs are so important, for continuity and for learning.
PFW: One offseason story that dominated the headlines this offseason was whether Brett Favre would play his 20th season. As somebody who played into their 40s and in Minnesota, what do you think of the Favre saga?
WM: Well it's no different than any other year, just a different reason. Last year it was the shoulder, this year it's the ankle, and Brett has pretty much said the same thing all offseason, which is that if he's healthy, he'll play. I know he wants to, I know he still can, and the only matter is if he's healthy enough to do it. That's why you see him out there at that high school, throwing the ball around, getting himself ready. … But based off what he did last year, the guy can still play at a high level and you'd still love to have him on the team, even if it's for only half the season.
PFW: Favre is 1,225 yards away from breaking your record of most passing yards across all levels of professional football. Do you wish he had retired to preserve your record or does it even matter to you?
WM: Well, I don't like to see my records broken, but I know they will be broken at some point, based on the way the game has changed. It's more of a passing game, so all I can control is the time that I played, and what were the records when I left the game. I know those records are made to be broken, I broke somebody else's records, and I'm sure somebody was going to break mine. But it was nice to know that I played well enough to get myself in the position to even hold the record.
PFW: The offense you ran during much of your career in Houston was the run-and-shoot. There are aspects of it in the NFL today, but no team runs it strictly. Will we ever see a full return of that offense?
WM: I don't think in a pure form, the way we ran it, no. But the concepts you see in the passing game, you see a lot of spread offenses in the NFL and college football, where you have four or five wide receivers, so the game has spread out and becoming a passing game, like we used to do. But they still have tight ends where they can come inside and go into those formations as well, it's not all spread formations in the NFL. They still can go into two-TE or two-RB sets, while ours was just pure four wideouts every play of the football game, regardless of the situation, and I don't ever think you'll see it go back to that.
PFW: Transitioning to your role as Seahawks commentator, what are your thoughts of Pete Carroll thus far?
WM: I've been really impressed, first of all, with the staff he put together, him and GM John Schneider have really worked well together in terms of reshaping that roster. They've probably had more than 30 different roster changes from last year so far, and that number continues to rise. Every day I look on the Internet and they've made some sort of roster change. They are working toward finding the right type of players, and he's not going to stand pat until he gets the type of guys who fit his system. He created a very competitive environment when he was at USC and he wants to do the same with Seattle, and I can already see that the way the practices are going. They have brought in some playmakers, which is something they really needed this year on that football team, so I think they will be better, but they still have a ways to go.
PFW: The Cardinals have won that division the past two years, a lot of people are jumping on the 49ers' bandwagon, the Rams added the draft's No. 1 pick in QB Sam Bradford, and as you mentioned, the Seahawks are improving. What do you make of the NFC West?
WM: It's a division that most people think is one of the weaker ones in football, but I think it has a chance to be a pretty good division in the next couple of years, only because of all the turnover that has happened. The division has gotten much younger, but all those young players will develop into pretty good players. You know San Francisco has had some pretty good drafts the past few years, you look at what the Rams are continually with their drafts, they're building a good football team, and Seattle is doing the same thing. While they might not be as strong right now from top to bottom, in the next couple of years, that youth and talent will turn into experience and when some of those other divisions fall off, the NFC West may take over. It tends to be like that, in goes in trends, some divisions seem to be good for a while, and when those players get older, they take a backseat to regroup, and a different division takes over. And that's what will happen with the NFC West in the next few years.
PFW: Do you consider the Seahawks a contender for the division title in 2010?
WM: They certainly have a chance, but they have to get off to a good start, no doubt about it. I don't think there is any clear-cut favorite in the West right now. You know Arizona lost a lot of good players, including QB Kurt Warner, so there are question marks there. The Rams are in rebuilding mode and they are probably going to start a rookie this year at quarterback. San Francisco, I would say right now, would be the favorite, because of what they have returning, they had a very good draft, they have a great running back and Alex Smith is going to be the big question mark for them at the quarterback spot. If he can be consistent, with the way they play defense and run the football, they're going to be a tough team to beat.
PFW: Describe your role as CEO of Sports 1 Marketing and please explain what the company does.
WM: I'm the president and founder, so it's a sports marketing and entertainment business that I developed and it's something I've been working on over the past couple of years through my relationship with (agent) Leigh Steinberg. I'm taking a lot of the relationships I've developed over the last 23 years of playing professional football and the last 10 years of being out of it, and using those relationships to leverage business opportunities. So it's a lot of major corporations that we'll be working with to market their product, whether that's to improve the profile of their product through exposure in a sports arena. We also are going to do production projects, in making sports movies and TV shows. That's something I'm really excited about, because there are some good stories out there.
PFW: Are there any projects that the company is currently working on?
WM: One of the movies we are working on is "The Magician," which is the story of Marlin Briscoe, the first African-American starting quarterback in the National Football League. We are going to do a movie on his life story. Greg Howard, who wrote the screenplay for "Remember the Titans" is writing the screenplay for this movie and he's really excited about this story. So some of these stories that people don't know about, we are going to try and bring to the public, because they are stories that should be heard.
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