Why Tom Brady will be fine next season

May 27, 2009 at 11:52 am | Posted in New England Patriots, NFL, Sports | Leave a comment
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This one is so painfully obvious that this will hopefully be short and sweet.  To read a condensed version: the Patriots happily traded away a capable back-up(who will be starting next season) and a long-time defensive stalwart(Mike Vrabel) for a second round pick in the draft.  This draft wasn’t the strongest in recent memory and it’s always a good idea to watch the moves that Belichick makes in order to gauge both his team, the player, and the draft.

He traded away Cassell, in part, for the good of the team.  Nothing shows Tom Brady his confidence in his rehabbed knee like trading away a guy who threw for 3,000 yards for almost nothing.  Sure he can tell Tom his position is secure for the time being and in the future and that he has faith in his reconstructed knee, but by trading away someone who was shown to thrive in the system he is completely committing to Brady.  Without having to worry about his back-up usurping his starting spot, Brady’s confidence should only improve.  This is an excellent move to show support for his star player.  He knows that Brady at 75% is still better than Cassell and more than likely will be for seasons to come.

Secondly we must examine what he took in trade.  A second round pick in the draft with which they took DB Darius Butler(40th overall).  They are clearly content with offensive cogs, though developing some new offensive lineman should also be one of their priorities, and want young, hungry defensive players.  The weak spot in this team had been the age and speed of the defense.  Immediately after Butler they took a DL at the 41st pick(Ron Brace).  It seems that Belichick was very calm and calculated about what he needed, didn’t jepordize his position by a fire sale of players, and looked to improve his young talent pool on defense.

Simply put, trading Cassell was a statement.  Brady is fine and will certainly still perform at a top-5 quarterback level.

Why the Wildcat is not a legitimate offense

May 22, 2009 at 11:32 am | Posted in Miami Dolphins, Michael Vick, New England Patriots, NFL, Ronnie Brown, Sports, Uncategorized, Wildcat | Leave a comment
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I am sick and tired of hearing about the WILDCAT offense in the NFL.  The idea of a direct snap offense has its roots in the beginnings of football when there was no forward pass.  The quarterback as we know him today rarely handed the ball off, and instead merely ran right or left.  Why people are flipping out because the Dolphins routed the Patriots once and still are talking about draft picks as possibly being able to run such an offense is beyond me.  Today’s NFL requires passing.  Very few running backs are great throwers, nor quarterbacks great runners.  An example from the previous post, Michael Vick, is surely a formidable runner and athlete, but his ability to pass was unrefined.  Players who relied on their legs more than their arms in college rarely succeed in the pro game.  The collective speed is far greater than anything seen on a college field.  The necessary accuracy for passing is also significantly higher.

Why does this mean the Wildcat doesn’t work?  Bringing in a running back to take a snap for one play is intended to confuse a defense.  It loses its efficacy as the defense becomes accustomed to seeing it and adjusts accordingly.  This neccesitates the offense running a variety of plays out of the formation.  This means that the running back will either be expected to pass downfield, or execute some kind of double pass with another player on the field.  Multiple exchanges mean an increase in the likelihood of fumbles.  For the way that most NFL coaches play the game as one of field position this is hardly the most desirable option for an offense.  Trick plays will always have their place, but the options from a Wildcat are limited by the fact that it is still a conventional formation(in the sense that little changes in the alignment excepting for a different player taking the snap) and the element of surprise is predicated on a one-man play action.

Proper play-action execution is difficult even with hours and hours of practicing.  The idea is to freeze defenses long enough to create an opportunity on a pass route that would be negated by superior speed, defensive alignment, or limitations of a quarterback.  This is in addition to slowing the defensive line and buying the quarterback more time to complete a pass.  Some NFL players are terrible at the fake.  Awful.  Now place someone in the backfield who more than likely averages less than one throw per NFL GAME, tell him to run the play-action by himself(convincingly) and then throw the ball downfield.  The odds of a successful play given this litany of mitigating factors calls the principle into question.

Of course the counterpoint is that if the system is so flawed, why did it work against one of the greatest teams of the era?  The New England Patriots are no longer collectively as fast as they once were.  I will concede that they infuse new talent regularly, but the soul of defense was established veterans who, despite their savvy, are a step slower.  This means that any play fake, no matter how anemic, is guaranteed to buy AT LEAST as much time as one against a team who reads the play correctly and reacts accordingly.  Additionally, 5 plays from one offense NEVER win a football game.  This is in much the same way that ONE play never does.  There are, on average 60-70 plays per offense per game.  This is not including special teams.  On any one play touchdowns can be scored.  Just because Ronnie Brown ran for a touchdown from the Wildcat doesn’t mean the task wasn’t also easily accomplished from another formation, much in the same way that one of his touchdown passes could have been thrown by someone else.  The receiver could have dropped the ball, he could have missed the target, the defense could have made a play.  The point is that in any one game it is IMPOSSIBLE to point to one thing being the difference.  There is never just one thing.  Winning a football game is not letting the little things add up to more points for the other team.  It is NOT about one play or one formation.  The Patriots, with one of the league’s most potent offenses, could have matched the scoring, the Dolphins could have fumbled before the endzone, etc. etc.

I could continue, but I feel as though it is berating the same point over and over again.  You can disagree with me, but you’re wrong.  The New England Patriots lost that game.  The Wildcat did not win it, the Dolphins one it.  Last time I checked the Wildcat was not a team.  The Patriots would be excused for not being prepared on the first play, but everytime after that the play succeeded the credit was due not to the Wildcat, but to the Patriots defensive ineptitude.  Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Let’s Talk Tebow

May 20, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Posted in NCAA, NFL, Sports | Leave a comment
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Tim Tebow decided to stay another year at college instead of entering the draft.  “He’s not ready to come out,” “He’ll never be an NFL Quarterback,”  and “He’s projected as a tight end or h-back.”  Maybe, just maybe, he wanted to finish his education.  Maybe he wanted to stay at school before he moved on to a YEAR-ROUND JOB like everyone else!  It’s entirely possible, though rarely discussed, that the decision could have, in fact, had very little to do with football.  We all know from the human interest stories that his family is very religious.  Maybe in much the same vein they value education.  Tebow, to my knowledge, hasn’t done any interviews explaining his decision.  And, in the end, does it really matter why he did it?  College football is more than a vehicle to the NFL, as so many NCAA commercials are quick to point out: “go professional in something other than sports.”

The Tebow discussion touches on what I posted yesterday, the NFL’s willingness to draft body types.  The knock against Tebow is about his throwing motion.  I remember the same things being said about Phillip Rivers’ throwing motion as draft day neared and he seems to be succeeding.  People say that his size is ideal to take punishment, but that his running style would not work in the NFL.  I’ll be the first to agree that Tebow will probably not be the best quarterback the NFL has ever seen.  But we are talking about a young man who for years has relied on his ability to win games first and foremost.  Statistics on running and passing aside, Tebow does what he can to help his team win the game.  Maybe people are worried about projecting him as a quarterback because they can’t use any measurements to predict any success because there have been so few like him.  I think the mistake is to expect anyone to be a Hall of Famer out of college.  Let’s try to predict short term success and, in the act, speculate on future megastars.

The new media storm surrounding such decisions is the result of the way top picks are guaranteed massive amount of money by greedy agents.  In the era of holdouts and performance bonuses athletes seem to have forgotten that they are, in fact, only candidates for a job.  If they don’t have the right attitude they should be let go; it’s a privilege not a right.  Maybe teams who surround themselves with such players may have temporary success, but in the long run the cohesiveness of a team wins in the NFL, not the individual players.  The best example is the Dallas Cowboys in the past 5 seasons.  They have had a roller coaster ride of successes and failures, but in the end they lose because they are taking chances on non-character guys.  That and Tony Romo is not a proven playoff quarterback.

Tebow, however, is the focus here.  He wins games.  I believe that has to count for something.  Sports can be uplifting because sometimes they defy explanation.  Tebow defies explanation.  Nothing is rational about why he wins games.  We can’t explain it by physical talents alone, of which he has many.  Plenty of players with far more talent have not been as successful has he has.  My point is that the NFL would be remiss to not try him as a quarterback.  He’s not used to taking snaps from under center.  That can be taught and practiced.

You can’t practice always coming out on top.  If that were possible, wouldn’t more people enjoy that type of success?

Michael Vick’s Possible Return to the NFL

May 19, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Joe Montana, London Fletcher, Michael Vick, Peter King, Sports, Zach Thomas | Leave a comment

I have considered several things over the past couple of days because of this recent buzz about Michael Vick returning to the NFL.  The foremost consideration is that Vick has yet to be re-instated to the NFL!  All the talking heads are speculating about which teams would take him, but he’s not even eligible to be added to a roster in ANY capacity.  I think the whole situation is endemic of the NFL’s problem.  Granted, the number of NFL teams calling me for personnel decisions is few(none), but it always amazes me that the NFL is a specimen first league, regardless of how every year draft pundits warn about drafting workout specialists and physical freaks.  While the NFL is obviously the desired landing point for every 6’4” tall, 280 pound-weighing, 40″ vertical-jumping, 50 rep bench-pressing, 4.60 40 yard dash time-running specimen, when did the NFL stop being a landing point for football players.  Doesn’t anyone see the unmeasurables?  Those who don’t stack up well but win games?

I read an interesting speculation by SI’s Peter King about where Joe Montana would have been drafted today:

I’m not measuring arm strength, obviously. But I’m dead serious when I ask this question:  If Joe Montana, who was a third-round pick 30 years ago, came out today, how many teams would declare him either undraftable or a free-agent only?

-Peter King

Granted players with these traits are in the NFL, but the circuitous route seems excessive.  James Harrison’s path to the NFL is well-documented; it took him forever!  How many quality years did he waste to get to the NFL?  On the other hand the argument can be made that he would not be the player he was today if it were not for the fact he had to fight so hard to get there.  In lieu of making a litany of examples I’ll merely say that for my money, there should be as much a place in the NFL for a Zach Thomas or a London Fletcher etc., etc., as there is for anyone else.  It seems that the NFL is merely betting on the field.  Draft enough freakish athletes and you’ll eventually find one who can play football.  How about looking for football players first and seeing if they are athletic enough?  And just playing football does not make you a football player!

Back to Vick.  Why would any NFL team take a chance on someone who has just spent 19 months NOT being in the NFL?  He’s not ready for game speed, not this season anyway.  Then what?  He’ll be 30 in two years!  The speed that was his ONLY calling card will have left him.  Then he has to rely on his arm which, while impressive, never completed passes at a rate that merits a permanent starting job in the NFL.  People are saying that he should be used as a gimmick player, I have one question:  Why?  He’s a veteran and therefore commands a higher base salary.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a young, hungry player on any practice squad and use him for trick plays or, GOD FORBID, in the dreaded WILDCAT(Obviously much more could be said about this, needless to say I think that the WILDCAT is an excuse for commentators to run their mouths and not actually a legitimate threat to the NFL establishment).  MARK MY WORDS:  Pat White will find time as a receiver and not a thrower.  He won games at WVU not because of a superior arm, but because his quickness bought him time, yards, and hesitation in opposing defenses!!!!  We’re talking about gambling on a quarterback past his prime, two years removed from the game with a history of behavioral problems.  Money would be better spent elsewhere.

Back in action….

May 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m back.  Real posts to follow.

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