In both football and life so many things are uncertain, but one certainty in both is change. How effective that change is comes down to the individual or people in control of the thing or circumstance that is changing. In the NFL, Every franchise goes through a certain amount of change during each off season and this past off season was no different.
The NFL is a business and therefore a copycat league. If a team is successful then it’s making money and as long as front offices are doing their jobs then the formula for success in the game will either be copied or created.
In last year’s playoffs we witnessed the San Francisco 49ers fall just short of a Superbowl win by running a college proven offensive system that for years many said would not work at the NFL level. I knew with the league being the way it was and how effective San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was at putting points on the board that the ‘Read option offense’ would be copied and copied it has been this off season with many teams employing players and coaches that have had success in the system.
I have always been one for the defensive side of the ball and just like many defensive coaches; I believe the read option offense can be stopped.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said in March the attack would be slowed with study and everyone from the Green bay Packers to the New York Giants had deployed their defensive assistants to college campuses to crack the code.
Personal friend and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said a few months ago that it won’t be defenses that put an end to the read-option offense, but injuries to NFL signal-callers.
“The problem is for those quarterbacks, one of these days, one of them is not going to walk off, ” Cunningham said.” It’s a lot of pressure on him to physically do that.”
Cunningham, who’s been coaching since the 1960s, went on to say: “I think we all understand what the issues are and how to play it. I reflect back on my college days and it wasn’t that hard to remember all that stuff because it put a lot of pressure on me in those days and it does in this league, too.”
The pistol formation is a newer beast, but the read-option attack didn’t emerge in a vacuum. Coaches and players league-wide have faced it for decades at the college level. It’s fair to expect NFL teams to improve against the option in 2013, but offenses will continue to adapt, too. That’s just part of the chess match that makes NFL football the product it is.
I agree with what Gun says. I believe a franchise is doomed without a franchise Quarterback and when you find one you have to protect him. That’s why a left tackle is the second highest paid player on the team and why books like blindside were written so to have your multi-million dollar investment running around on most plays without protection just isn’t wise with defenses the way they are today. We saw with Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III just how tough it can be at that critical point of the season where defenses are giving that little extra to get the quarterback off the field. His injury was evidence to me that this offense is too risky to run at this level. The season is just too long and physical for a quarterback to take that much battery. I think landing a franchise quarterback is just too valuable, so to put him out there like that is just not wise in my opinion.
The Packers opened this season with a re-match of that playoff debacle in which Kaepernick rushed, mostly untouched, for an NFL quarterback record of 181 yards and follow it with a matchup against RG3 and the Washington Redskins.
Prior to the game I loved the insight Clay Matthews gave us on what we should expect from the Green Bay defense in those games against read option quarterbacks:
“One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback,” Matthews said a few Monday’s ago on ESPN radio’s Mike and Mike show. “So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they’re too important to their offense.
“If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that’s exactly what we’re going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”
Of course, hitting the quarterback requires catching the quarterback.
“I can tell you right now, we started from Day 1 in OTAs when we came back in the offseason working on this read-option, pistol, fake offense for lack of a better term,” Matthews said. “We’ve been working on it, especially after what we saw last year in the playoffs specifically and then opening up the season with two of these quarterbacks. We’re ready. We feel good about it.”
The Packers lost the week 1 matchup but Kaepernick knew Matthews was there and I know Packers defensive coordinator and zone blitz specialist Dom Capers will have this game in the memory bank. I just hope they meet up again. I have a feeling they will.
Another thing that grabbed my attention was the job the Tampa bay Buccaneers did with upgrading its secondary this off season. For me a hard hit is as entertaining as a touchdown and I just love the way Dashon Goldson plays the game. With the Buccs drafting one of the best safeties I’ve ever seen at the collegiate level in Mark Barron from Alabama university last season and trading away their first pick in this years draft for top NFL shut down corner Darrelle Revis, The addition of Goldson really put the icing on the pirate ship for them there in Tampa. He signed a 5 year 41.5 million dollar contract and for me is the hardest hitting defender in football. He just has a knack of separating the ball from the ball carrier.
Probably my favourite player to ever play the game was former Buccaneer safety John Lynch. Lynch was just as intelligent as he was tough and a true gentleman off the field as most tough guys are. When I knew he was going to be in the FOX commentary booth for the Buccs season opener against a New York Jets team with a rookie quarterback I just knew I had to tune in for his views on Goldson.
New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith came out throwing high and across the middle and it wasn’t long before Goldson struck. Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland got rocked off his feet with an intended pass down the middle and as contact was made the yellow flags flew. The penalty was because Goldson hit the receiver and the receiver was unable to defend himself as the ball came to him. I was annoyed the refs threw the flags and I knew John Lynch was annoyed and I wanted him to say something and he did. Lynch said. ” He does not use his head, He uses his shoulder, He does not go to Cumberland’s head. That’s a good hit. That’s a legal hit but its just what these officials are told to flag these days. Their told to air on the side of caution and they did that there but nice play Dashon Goldson “. He went on to say that Goldson earned his contract due to his play in San Francisco and that he was the modern day, prototype, NFL safety. This was high praise indeed.
Goldson wasn’t done there though. He sent another two Jets to the locker room before the final whistle and had a great debut as a Buccaneer. He was flagged though and it was annoying as he was just playing the game the way it should be played as far as I’m concerned.
In the booth John Lynch was also in high praise of studio official Mike Peireira as Mike went on to explain why Goldson was flagged. Lynch said. ” Mike Peireira does such a great job of explaining things and I’ve been in those official meetings and that’s exactly what their told to flag. But at the same point you have to let them play football and football is a tough game, It’s a physical game and I think the only advice you can give to a guy like Dashon Goldson is to go low, But then you start to worry about guys hurting their knees – Their money makers ” The nine time pro bowler said.
I just think the league is taking too much precaution with these hits and its taking away one of the things so many fans love about the game. A player like Dashon Goldson is great for the game. He gets fans in seats and tickets sold. I was proud of how Lynch stood up to the league on this topic last Sunday.
By Rhodri Jones