Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Assorted Football Thoughts

Tonight's blogging is brought to you by an infant who thinks that all the cool babies refuse to sleep in their cribs...

The Falcons were nothing more than the ram caught in the thicket when G-d told Abraham that he wouldn't have to sacrifice Isaac. They were on the field in the Superdome to be the foil for the Saints and they played that role beautifully. The Saints, shockingly, decided to run blitz just about every time on early downs until they had a big lead and they left their weakside defensive end at home to prevent Vick's bootlegs. Vick was not accurate enough to make the Saints pay, but that wouldn't have mattered anyway, since none of his receivers were open anyway, a point driven home by Joe Theismann in a monologue that seemed both surprisingly useful (for Joe, at least) and an apologia for Vick. (It's much better to rip the anonymous receivers than it is to point out that the QB is inaccurate.) The play-calling also failed to take advantage of New Orleans selling out on the run. Where was the play-action passing to Crumpler on early downs? The game also reminded me that before every Falcons game in a hostile environment with the entire country watching, I keep waiting for Vick to recreate the 2000 Sugar Bowl and it never happens. Just call me Lucy.

We're a month into college football and I've already gotten sick, yet again, of coaches who think that 45-yard field goals are gimmes. Bob Stoops was guilty of this in Eugene, squandering about 45 seconds that could have been used to move the Sooners closer for a game-winning field goal. He was punished by his kicker lowering the trajectory of his kick and having it blocked. On Saturday, a coach far more familiar with blunders - Mike Shula - was confronted with the following scenario:

Bama has the ball in the second half of the first OT, needing any score to win.

His quarterback, presumably scared that Two-a-Days has made his brother a biggre chick magnet, has been near-perfect on the road against a pretty good defense.

His running game has been negligible, both in the game and all season.

His kicker has a case of the yips.

So naturally, Shula elects to run the ball into the line three times and then Leigh Tiffin misses a 40+-yard field goal, causing Auburn fans to celebrate for all sorts of reasons. (Something about vengeance on Van Tiffin in this life or the next.) If Shula calls a max-protect pass play with two receivers running slants/posts on any one of the three downs, then Bama wins 23-17 and Houston Nutt is thumbing through the Yellow Pages for realtors. Instead, Shula clearly reasoned that if Bama tried to move the ball and turned it over, then he would be blamed, but if they stuck their feet in the mud for three players and then the kicker missed, then the kicker would be blamed. Adam Sandler, take it away:

Once again, I'm ignored by my teammates and all my coaches
"Go back where you came from!"
Scream 70,000 fans
Well, I know I could win their love back
By catching a winning touchdown
But, unfortunately, I was born with these very small hands

And another of my pet issues has arisen, the QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!!! (Cue The Imperial March, which, incidentally, the Notre Dame band needs to stop playing for their defense, although I suspect that it's unintentionally appropriate since the Irish would have a hard time stopping the Ewoks.

Beware, Ambrose Wooden, they run a mean stop-and-go.

Watching the CBS pre-game show before the Bama game on Saturday, you could almost feel Tony Barnhart, Spencer Tillman, and Tim Brando quivering with joy that one of the major programs in the conference has a...QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!!! And not just a made-up, "do we start Tim Tebow over a four-year starter who was the top recruit in the country?" controversy, but an actual, "there are competing reasons to start either one of these guys" controversy. Personally, I don't think that the term "controversy" is the right one to describe Georgia's situation because every one agrees that neither Cox, nor Stafford have a death grip on the job and that the rational thing for Richt to do is to play the hot hand.

I'm a voice in the wilderness on this subject, but I see nothing wrong with playing two quarterbacks. If it was good enough for Steve Spurrier when he shuttled Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise in for one another on every play in the '97 Florida State game, then it ought to be good enough for the rest of the mortal coaches in college football. Football talking heads act as if the other ten players on offense are complete mental basket cases who would react to different quarterbacks by losing control of their bowels and running into the stands to cower behind the hot dog stand. In so doing, the talking heads mistake cause and effect. Playing two quarterbacks is not a cause of poor quarterback play; it's usually the result of the fact that a team doesn't have a surefire starter, so it has to make do by going with a hot hand. If Georgia would have slavishly abided by the conventional wisdom that a quarterback cannot be yanked short of Security Council resolution ordering such, then they would have lost to 0-3 Colorado. Georgia has two promising, green quarterbacks. Young quarterbacks tend to be inconsistent. Given that reality, it only makes sense for Georgia to play both guys in the hope that one of them will be having a good day. There's no reason for Richt to hastily decide that either Cox or Stafford are his guy for the rest of the season. Start either one of them and then yank them if they don't play well. In the rest of the world, this is described as "competition" or "incentives." In the make-believe world of football analysis, forcing a quarterback to play well under threat of benching (just like every other position on the field) forces the signal-caller to "look over his shoulder" and then "turn into jello," as if quarterbacks are five-year olds who needed to be coddled and told they're doing great after they fingerpaint their parents' wedding albums and use Elmer's glue to close up their orifices.

Georgia's bigger problem is that they don't have a receiver who can make a play. The recent archetype for a freshman quarterback succeeding is Chad Henne and he had the "don't worry; heave it to Braylon" fallback plan whenever Michigan needed points. Matt Stafford, in contrast, has Mohammed Massaquoi as his #1. Pray for him.

Incidentally, I was listening to the end of the Georgia game with my father-in-law, who is a yankee (but still a nice guy) and had never heard Larry Munson before. Sadly, Larry didn't quite lose control like I hoped he would, although the fact that Georgia was having to rally to dispatch a 26.5 point underdog might have had something to do with that.

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