Friday, January 27, 2006

Piling on the Gang of Six

Everyone needs their pinatas. Dan Shaughnessy has Theo Epstein. Dick Vitale has his imaginary Duke critics. John Kerry has the Democratic Party. (G-d, I wish he would go away.) And I have the "Gang of Six." Anyway, to continue piling dirt on a grave that was dug when Boise State visited Athens, here's a remark from an NFL scout in Chris Mortensen's article arguing that Jay Cutler should be the first quarterback taken in the Draft ($):

"It can't be fun playing quarterback in the SEC," the scout said. "I mean, most of the teams are five and six deep at cornerback -- it's not even close when you compare it to the Pac-10. The speed on defense across the SEC is ridiculous. The defensive coordinators, well, some of them should be coaching in the NFL. Some of them have, in fact. Playing quarterback in the SEC is a task. Playing it well every week is a bigger task."

Now, to play Devil's Advocate for the "Gang of Six" propagandists, they could point out that there are six Pac Ten QBs starting in the NFL, as compared to three SEC QBs and that's certainly a valid point. On the other hand, two of those six quarterbacks - Kyle Boller and Joey Harrington - are the two most vilified quarterbacks in the NFL by their own fan bases. Additionally, Mark Brunell is well past his sell-by date and is keeping his position warm for Jason Campbell, a product of the SEC. NFL depth charts do support the scout's statement that SEC teams have better corners than Pac Ten teams, as there are 15 starting corners in the NFL from SEC schools, as opposed to eight from Pac Ten schools. It's truly remarkable that the SEC produces so many good corners when they're only trained against Pop Warner offenses that make Woody Hayes' Ohio State offense seem complicated by comparison.

In the Cutler/Leinart/Young debate, Cutler probably is a better prospect than Vince Young. Texas runs the modern version of a college option offense. No NFL team has implemented a run-based spread offense based off of the zone read play, probably for the same reasons that the option hasn't been run in the NFL: the defenses are too smart and fast to be bamboozled by that offense, plus a quarterback will not be able to survive a whole season taking hits from NFL defenders in practice and in games. Thus, Young won't be in the best offense for him and it's anyone's guess as to whether he has the throwing skills to master an NFL offense. He didn't have to make that many hard throws at Texas because defenses were so paralyzed by the run threat. Does he have the accuracy and arm strength to make those throws in the NFL? I'm skeptical.

Cutler/Leinart is a closer call. Leinart has been as very productive quarterback throughout his college career. Yes, he has been surrounded by a lot of talent, but it's important to remember that he won the Heisman in a year in which USC had to replace their offensive line and receiver corps. He's very accurate and has enough arm strength to get the ball down the field. He seems like a Chad Pennington with more velocity. He seems very likely to succeed on the next level. Cutler is interesting. His stats weren't overwhelming this year. 6.65 yards per attempt is nothing special. Sure, he doesn't have much talent around him, certainly relative to Vandy's opponents, but Tim Couch put up huge numbers with less talent than his opponents (and look where all that production got him,) albeit in a different offense. I'm going on a gut feel, but I never got the sense that I was watching a great quarterback when I was watching Cutler. He wouldn't be a bad first round pick, but I don't see him as a top five guy, certainly not in a loaded draft.


Anonymous said...

You didnt mention Jake Plummer, who was good this year, but is also vilified for being a ticking timebomb for game killing interceptions.

Anonymous said...

I don't even see him as a first round pick. Mort does this every year. Last year it was Matt Jones. Cutler should be a 2nd or 3rd round pick, IMO.

Michael said...

I actually kinda like Jake Plummer. He gets a bad rap for having played on some lousy Cardinals teams. He does make his share of mistakes, but he also got Denver to the AFC Title Game, which is no small feat. He didn't play well in the title game, but Denver had no running game and they also had protection issues. I'd put him in the upper half of NFL starters.

Mort sure can identify with Southern white guys. G-d help me if a short, red-headed Jewish guy ever becomes a prominent college QB. That said, Mort isn't the only one hyping Cutler.

Anonymous said...

I think Cutler is a pretty solid prospect. You mention that he had less impressive stats than Tim Couch. This strikes me as a very gang of six-ish rating of a QB. If stats were everything, wouldn't David Klingler, Tim Crouch, Andre Ware and the past few Texas Tech QBs be very successful pro QBs? Why is it that Cal in general and Ted Tedford in particular is renowned for producing great college QBs who simply do not have success at the NFL level?

My guess is that Cutler has some other quality that is often cited in regards to QBs who don't put up the best stats. Call it leadership or perhaps call it an ability to manage the offense. The QB with the best stats doesn't always end up being the most successful. I haven't seen enough of Cutler's games to offer up my own opinion, but based on the comments of people like Mort I do think he could do pretty well as an NFL player.


Kyle King said...

I like Chris Mortensen and I like what he had to say in praise of the S.E.C., but, in the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that Mort is (or, at least, was; I'm not sure of the current status of his son's plans to transfer from Arkansas) the father of an S.E.C. quarterback.

That doesn't make him wrong, but paternal pride is a powerful thing and it would be hard for even the best journalist to remain objective about a particular position in a particular league when his son plays that position in that conference.

peacedog said...

Not any more kyle. I believe Mortenson the younger is headed to GSU to play for Van Gorder (not that it much matters, heh).

Michael said...

I recall Mort being an apologist for the Mannings when they pulled their BS move to get Eli to New York in the '04 Draft and that was before Alex went to Arkansas, wasn't it? I could be wrong on that.

Heisman Pundit said...

I love how 'a scout' is the be all and end all of all opinions to a layman. I don't know if you have ever met any 'scouts', but not all of them are very knowledgable of college football. Some are just guys who, frankly, are no different than your average joe. They are generally the worst-paide, lowest on the totem pole in an NFL organization. There are bad scouts and good scouts. Clearly, the scout you quote from is a bad scout if he thinks that most of the SEC is five or six deep at cornerback . What does that mean? That teams in the Pac-10 don't have six corners on their rosters? Does that mean that Vandy, Miss. State, Kentucky, Ole Miss and SC are churning out corners all the time? That their third-stringers are NFL prospects? Don't think so. Why would it matter to an SEC quarterback if the team he is facing has a good third-string corner? It's not like the offense he is running requires a dime secondary package to defend him! As for the SEC corners, no one ever said the league lacks talent and since corner is the position most reliant on talent, then of course there are going to be a lot of corners coming out of that league. But you WILL note that there are very few good quarterbacks not named Manning coming out of that league in the last 10 years. Maybe it's because none of the offensive coordinators coached in the NFL. Which of course backs up my theory that SEC offenses lack the sophistication of Pac-10 offenses.

As for the defensive coordinators, this scout thinks that Pac-10 coordinators haven't coached in the NFL? The list currently includes Pete Carroll, Nick Allioti, Mark Banker, Tom Hayes and DeWayne Walker. That's half of the league's coordinators who have NFL experience. The SEC? They also have five defensive coordinators with NFL experience. Except the SEC has 12 teams and the Pac-10 has 10. So as a percentage, the SEC has fewer defensive coordinators with NFL experience, thus showing once again that the scout was a dumbass and your whole post a complete waste of time.

Finally, you are maybe the worst Devil's Advocate ever of the Gang of Six. If you recall, that group includes only two teams from the pac-10. The rest are from the SEC, Big East, WAC and Independent ranks. Must be fun to keep refuting arguments I never made.

Anonymous said...

Could you please outline the differences between a PAC-10 offense and an SEC offense. Then explain what makes an offense "sophisticated." After defining "sophisticated" apply your logic and identify which teams from each conference run a "sophisticated" offense and support your argument. Also, briefly describe your football experience and knowledge. ("I watch football on television" is not a good reference)

Michael said...

Here are the principles:

Basically, the offense needs to be very successful and they need to use their backs and tight ends in the passing game. Clearly, no one in the SEC qualifies, which is why Georgia was going to have so much trouble with Boise State.