Monday, January 21, 2013

A model of consistency

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    The 2012 NFL season brought three transcendent players to the NFL with hopes of reshaping the NFL offense to a quick-read, rush heavy, big play, high scoring affair.  Everyone expected RGIII, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor to be the new prototype of quarterback; a quick (lightning fast is a better description) player who is able to push the ball downfield with his legs and with his arm, too.  While Griffin was expected to be a great player, few people outside of Bill Simmons had high hopes for Russell Wilson.  With the big offseason signing of Matt Flynn, many thought there was no reason to waste a draft pick on a quarterback who could barely see over the line of scrimmage and didn't necessarily have the biggest arm to make up for his physical, or lack thereof, abilities.  Even less had heard about the backup quarterback from San Fransisco, Collin Kaepernick, who may end up being the best of the three.  The new read option, pistol offense is almost 100% different than the traditional offense that, say, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning run, the quarterback must be mobile.  While elusive in the pocket might be a great way to describe the two, mobile would be the last word that comes to my mind if I was asked to use one word to describe them.
    San Fransisco, Seattle and Washington had success this year with their powerful running games, and big passes that were generally one read and bootleg play-actions.  Safeties would cheat up on the run and then players like Michael Crabtree, Sidney rice or Santana Moss would be hit for a huge touchdown.  This offense has taken the NFL by storm as many executives will be spending their draft picks on players like Pat White out of West Virginia and eventually Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M.
   What is confusing about this phase of offense is we have seen revolutionized offenses before.  With Ronnie Brown and the wildcat offense, the wishbone rushing attack and multiple stints of option rushing attacks that have come and gone in the NFL.  We saw Mike Vick have a few successful years in Atlanta before teams learned to keep him in the pocket.  Vince Young enjoyed a year of two of limited success when teams were caught off guard by his deceptive speed and Tenessee's option attack.  These teams enjoyed a few years of regular season success, but when the playoffs came and weeks were devoted to figuring out how to stop these attacks the teams saw early exits from the playoffs.
   The stable of a successful, long lasting franchise is a PRO STYLE QUARTERBACK.  We have heard the statement before and many fans, players and coaches have experienced it, there is no defense for a perfect pass.  Perfect example; the 2010 AFC championship game of the Colts and Jets.  The Jets spent the whole week devising a game plan that played to Peyton Manning's weakness.  They harassed him, blitzed him and knocked him down to a halftime lead.  Come the second half, Manning was out slaying demons and carving up the Jets to a blowout win for the Colts.  There can be all the game plan in the world, but the bottom line is if the quarterback can read a defense there really isn't much teams can do.
   Like the wildcat and other previous phases of offenses in the NFL, the read option will eventually be figured out by defensive coordinators and turn into a has been.   Players like Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson aren't durable or physical enough to endure a 16 game season while taking hits; their body isn't designed for that type of physicality.  As we saw with Griffin, his first season was cut short by tackles that aren't uncommon in the National Football League.   In these situations, the reward does not outweigh the risk of potentially losing a franchise player.  Many 'professionals' have criticized Colts owner, Jim Irsay, for not taking the risk and drafting the more athletic Robert Griffin over Andrew Luck.  Today, the question could be asked to those critics "What is Robert Griffin doing right now as Andrew Luck is preparing for next season?"
   Take a look at players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, aside from their freak accidents, they are a model of consistency because they don't take hits.  Rather than take a hit, the two fall to the ground to avoid any possible injuries.  This isn't a case of them being weak or scared, this is a case of them knowing their worth to their team.  Along with being healthy enough to play for 10+ years, the two quarterbacks are eerily similar in gameplan.  They are prototypical pocket passers, who drop back, read through their progressions, (and not like Kaepernick's one read, check down or run) but they usually have between three and four options to choose from.   The key to sustained NFL success is not this new, Houdini style offense, it is, and has been for the past 20 years a pocket passer, a reliable running game and a big, physical defense that creates timely turnovers.  The Ravens got it right, the 49er's have it 3/4 of the way right, and they are slated to meet in two weeks in the greatest game of the year.

This blog was written by: Andrew Boyce

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