Monday, April 16, 2007

The Stupidest Thing I've Heard All Day, April 16

From John Clayton's piece on rookie quarterbacks:

Spread options aren't going away, and while this evolution is creating quarterback prospects able to do more things in passing offenses, it is hampering their preparation for the NFL. More and more, scouts look at tape and see quarterbacks taking their first running steps after they accept a shotgun snap.

That style fits the CFL more than the NFL, and as creative as offensive coaches might be in the NFL, defenses have too many fast athletes to be beaten with a steady diet of quarterback options. Ultimately, teams have to line up in conventional sets, run the ball and work the play-action game with quarterbacks. That's NFL football and it will always be NFL football.

Has Clayton (who I usually like, if only because he makes me feel 10x handsomer every time I see him on SportsCenter) been watching the same football league that I have? Because I could have sworn that the single biggest story in the NFL last year ran the fucking shotgun option on about 15 percent of his downs. Sure, the Titans didn't exactly become the Utah Utes, but I sure saw a lot of NFL teams get "beaten up" by Vince Young running right fucking by them.

More examples:

- The St. Louis Rams lined up 4- or 5-wide on most of their plays the two consecutive years they went to the Super Bowl.
- The Atlanta Falcons have been anything but traditional in terms of offensive gameplanning since Mike Vick was named the starting quarterback. The Falcons have also integrated some options into the ostensibly "West Coast" playbook, and Mike Vick doesn't play-action so much as run bootlegs and decide on the fly whether to pass or throw.
- My good friend would actually appreciate it if you told Andy Reid that he "has to run the ball," because good ol' Sacred Underpants hasn't gotten the memo yet.

There are probably a few more examples of "outside Clayton's box" thinking going on in the NFL, but those are the ones that come to mind first. So, we've now established that Clayton's wrong, or at least overstates his case.

But there's another thing that bothers me about what Clayton's writing here: I promise you, it's exactly the kind of shit that people wrote during the West Coast's infancy (Not to mention the infancy of any "revolutionary" tactical shift in sports [Moneyball, zone defenses, neutral-zone trap]). "That's always going to be NFL football?" Says who, you ugly son of a bitch? Say that to Bill Belicheck, and see how quickly Sweats laughs in your fucking face and completely dismisses you.

Believe it or not, everyone, the only teams who place themselves at a disadvantage these days are those who truly believe the "recipe" for winning NFL franchises is 50/50 pass/run splits, two-tight sets (how many teams even run a two-tight base anymore ... five?) and play-action passing. It's not that those things are wrong, or bad, it's that they're all ultimately personnel-dependent. I am relatively sure that if Bill Walsh had been handed Eric Dickerson, he wouldn't have come up with the West Coast offense. But he didn't have Dickerson, and rightly concluded that if he wanted to win, he needed to shake some shit up. It's fitting that in the subsequent years, the West Coast has gone from being an "alternative" offense to being the norm, so much so that you see teams forcing non-WC players into a system that clearly doesn't play to their strengths, which is precisely the kind of problem the WC was created to solve. But I digress; the bottom line is that you have to be an incredibly lazy thinker to believe that the NFL is going to remain static, not to mention believe that it's ever actually been that way.

Lastly: The whining we've heard from NFL front offices surrounding some of the modern college offenses is called "improving job security," Johnny. If they can convince the fans that it's "impossible" to scout a QB these days, then they presumably don't look so bad when the pick flops. I'm shocked they don't complain about how "short" the college schedule is, too.

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