Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jets' Problem Was Sparano's To Fix

Hiring a recently fired NFL head coach to coordinate an offense or defense is a bad move.  NFL head coaches have been their own coordinators over the years with moderate success, but most end up giving up the reins to others that can focus the necessary amount of time and energy to give the team its best chance at winning.
Tony Sparano was hired by the Jets to run the offense.  I don't like the move in the first place, regardless of having Tim Tebow dropped in his lap this off-season.  Older coaches are much like the saying suggests, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."  All people gravitate towards what they know and are comfortable with.  Old coaches are going to stay with what they know as they have to show confidence to their players in what they are teaching.  Mix in Tim Tebow and you have something that nobody has ever seen before, other than the Denver Broncos, who didn't know what to do with him until he became the starting quarterback and changed the entire offense to suit his unique abilities.  But as a back-up QB to Mark Sanchez, Tebow had to be engaged differently in the offense and not as a quasi tight end.  That was just plain silly and didn't give the defense anything to think about or adjust to.  I didn't see every snap the Jets played this year, but never saw Mark Sanchez ever fake a handoff or toss to Tebow and raise up and throw a pass the opposite direction.
Last night the Atlanta Falcons hit a long touchdown pass on a very short quick screen.  They faked a toss to the right, which made everyone on defense start moving that way and gave the offensive tackle enough time to get out in front of Roddy White (most quick screens fail because of design and the tackles not getting their outside blocks) to make one of the easiest 40 yard TD passes of Matt Ryan's career.
Tebow should have been used in similar fashion and the Jets would have turned around a crappy season into another AFC Championship appearance at minimum.
Tony Sparano's lack of ingenuity cost the Jets another season of futility and possibly the jobs of Sanchez and Tebow.  I won't put all the blame of Sanchez's poor play on Sparano, the acquisition of Tebow was enough to unnerve him, because Sanchez played poorly in the offense that had nothing to do with Tebow's presence (I chronicled the guaranteed failure of this experiment before the season ever began).
Everybody in New York needs a change of scenery now, because even if Sanchez improves his level of play, it won't be good enough to erase the bad memories of the 2012 season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bounty Case like "A Few Good Men"

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, against the player's wishes due to conflct of interest, comes into the New Orleans Saints bounty case and the outcome probably surprised everyone.
The outcome of the case reminded me greatly of the famous Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson movie of 1992 "A Few Good Men."  In the movie, a couple of marines were accused of killing one of their own, because he reported that one of the accused had done something illegal.  Tom Cruise comes on the case and finds that the "code" of Colonel Jessup's (Nicholson) marine base at Guantanamo Bay was that all orders must be followed, regardless.  Colonel Jessup ordered the accused to do a "code red" on the deceased, which was to rough up the whistle blower.  It was discovered that the perpetrators of the accidental killing were ordered by their supreme leaders to commit the illegal act and were "forced" to comply or else they would have been subject to their own discipline for refusing an order--also considered a crime (Keifer Sutherland's character Leuitenant Kendrick famously said)--in their world.
In the Saints case, Paul Tagliabue found similar things to the 1992 movie plot.  The Saints players had indeed done something wrong, but due to the undue influence of their superiors, they were compelled to oblige and take part.
Life imitating art as they say.  Now the fallout from the defamation of character lawsuit of Jonathan Vilma against current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be interesting and we will see if any of the other players wants their own form of vengeance, as all could make the case for loss of income and injury to their careers in different ways.  I haven't figured out what movie or book plot this situation will come from, but I will be brushing up on my John Grisham thrillers!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Manning Chose Right Team

Before Peyton Manning chose the Denver Broncos, I said this was the team that he should go to because it was the easiest road to the playoffs, with the Chargers being the best of the worst the division had to offer.  Beating the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers to win the AFC West was a much better option than trying to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots if he would have chosen the Miami Dolphins or Matt Schaub of the Texans if he liked the feel of Tennessee.
Playing in the new Mile High Stadium gives the Broncos a real physical advantage as well as a mental one and with his expertise now almost exclusively from the shotgun, they are one tough team to get up on.  Yesterday Manning outmaneuvered the Buccaneers with a fast-paced tempo that kept the Buccaneers in a base look defense on almost every play, but also kept the defense from getting a moments rest between plays.  One time the Bucs tried to make personnel changes and Manning quickly got his team to the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball.  He didn't get the penalty for too many men on the field that he was looking for, so he went to the sideline and got John Fox to call a timeout and make the challenge.  Of course the Bucs were found to have had an extra guy just barely still on the field, but rules are rules and the referees had to give it to him.  It is this kind of mastery that has made Peyton Manning legendary in his understanding and manipulation of the game.
I don't know if the Denver Broncos will be able to wind their way through the playoffs and get into the Super Bowl, but clinching the division on December 2nd is not a bad way to get back in the league after last year's missed season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Slow Surgeons Still Supreme

Steve Young was a scrambling quarterback that eventually found his way to the Hall-Of-Fame by distributing the football to his receivers more than his rambling runs around and through defensive secondaries.  Michael Vick looked like he might usher in a new wave of "Best Athlete On The Field" plays quarterback, just like in elementary school, but he derailed his career with prison stay.  Who knows what he may have been able to do after taking the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC Championship so long ago.  Vick's star barely has a glow left in it as he tries to make it back on the field following another concussion, the biggest concern coaches have with employing a mobile QB.
What hasn't changed in the NFL and isn't going to any time soon is that the slow-footed surgical passers are still what is going to win with regularity.  Tom Brady and Peyton Manning ran 5.0 forty yard dash times as they got ready to enter the NFL.  Neither has gotten faster over the years, but after a decade in the game, they stand far above the rest as the best the game has to offer.
Knowledge of the game and their respective offenses and getting the ball out of their hands and putting it into their receivers hands with great accuracy is what separates QB's in the NFL.  Fast quarterbacks that rely on their legs as much as their arms eventually have to make a significant transition in understanding how to play the game with their minds.  Vick has not been able to make that transition well enough to take the Philadelphia Eagles to elite status and it looks as if they will move away from him to their young pass Nick Foles, a significantly different style player.
The guy that might meld the two together the best is the up and coming Colin Kaepernick of the San Fransisco 49ers.  He can pass with great accuracy and is a very big man as well and won't get knocked around like Vick when he does choose to use his legs to his advantage, but in his short time as the starter in San Fransisco, he seems to run the offense and see the field very well for a young guy.  As he matures, keep watching those old guys carve up defenses and put their teams in position to win championships!