Category Archives: Quarterbacks

The Great Separator: The QB

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In the NFL there is no getting around the importance of good quarterback play. In the year 2000 a Trent Dilfer quarterbacked team won a Super Bowl behind an all time great defense. Tampa Bay won two years later with Brad Johnson under center and an all time great defense. Since then the league has changed drastically. The rules have continued to grow in the favor of offense. Ever since the Ravens and Bucs won with journeymen quarterbacks the Super Bowl winners have had 1 thing in common: a franchise QB.

The closest a team has come to the Ravens/Bucs model is the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson is a good young quarterback, but is far from what makes that team click. Without Russell Wilson however the Seahawks would struggle to remain a relevant power. The only reason they edged out the 49ers in the NFC Championship was that Russell Wilson was better than Colin Kaepernick.

Since 2003 the AFC has only been represented by these quarterbacks: Brady, Roethlisberger, Manning and Flacco. Brady has won 3 out of 5 Super Bowl appearances. Roethlisberger gave Pittsburgh 3 chances winning in two of them. Peyton Manning has won one Super Bowl in three appearances. Joe Flacco had been on the cusp of a Super Bowl for 4 seasons before finally breaking through, lifting Baltimore to glory in 2012. Forget about winning the Super Bowl, you can’t even get through the AFC without a great quarterback.

If you ever wondered how truly important quarterback play is, look no further than the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals went from nobody to a Super Bowl runner up just by obtaining Kurt Warner as their quarterback. Warner hid the fact that the offensive line could not block and the defense was solid but not great. When Kurt Warner left Arizona had to start from scratch.

Football is the ultimate team sport. The QB however is the ultimate separator from good to championship caliber teams. Look at the NFL today. The Houston Texans are probably the most talented team to ever have the league’s worst record. When Matt Schuab announced to the world that he was shot- by throwing pick sixes left and right- Houston was no longer a power in the AFC. The Texans still don’t have what I would call a legitimate quarterback on their roster.

Houston is not the only good team that gets knocked down for their quarterback play. The Saint Louis Rams are a prime example. With maybe best defensive line in football and a solid all around defense they are a tough matchup. With Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey the Rams have explosive playmakers on the offense. The offensive line is good and just got better with the addition of Gregg Robinson. Much like Tampa Bay, they have every hole filled except for the quarterback. Now you can call Sam Bradford a franchise quarterback if you wish but Im still waiting for the production.

Without a franchise quarterback in the NFL you are essentially up a creek without a paddle. Football is a team game but no team is complete without a franchise quarterback. The quarterback position is the great separator in professional football.

The Joe Flacco Misperceptions

Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl MVP who has won more road playoff games than any quarterback in NFL history. In the Ravens Super Bowl run he tied a Joe Montana (arguably the best football player ever) record with 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a postseason. Flacco has had an unbelievable career, yet receives less fan affection than any Super Bowl MVP I have ever seen. Those who disrespect Flacco, fail to see the success he has had as the Ravens quarterback. Its a never ending job beating the Joe-Flacco-is-our-QB drum but as a Ravens fan I do it proudly. Here are the common misperceptions about Joe Flacco:

1.) He is inconsistent:
In his rookie year he passed for 2,971 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In 2009 he passed for 3,613 yards with 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In 2010 he passed for 3,622 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In 2011 he passed for 3,610 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. In our Super Bowl season he passed for 3,817 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Finally this past year he passed for 3,912 yards 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. I can’t find inconsistency with those statistics. If anything that is the model of consistency. Do fans want more? Yes, but Joe has been anything but inconsistent. He has led the Ravens to 5 straight playoff seasons with at least one victory. Back to back losses have been a rare occurrence during Flacco ‘s career in Baltimore. Making 3 AFC Championship games in 5 years is consistency.

2.) He is not the reason for Baltimore’s success:

Yes, Flacco has had good teams. The fact of the matter is that it is impossible to separate Baltimore’s success and Joe Flacco. The Ravens were pitiful in 2007, searching for a functional quarterback. In 2008, Flacco’s rookie season the Ravens were 1 game away from Super Bowl glory. In 2012 the Ravens defense was at times horrible. The Ravens won the Super Bowl on Flacco’s arm. Ray Rice was a non factor- other than fumbling in the big game. The defense only played a half and one final drive on that Super Bowl Sunday almost blowing an insurmountable lead. Flacco is a big part of what makes the Ravens tick. With 12 fourth quarter comebacks and 19 game winning drives, Flacco is the very definition of clutch. Even on bad days he can make the big throws when the Ravens absolutely need it.

3.) He is Not a Leader

Flacco has a personality, it just does not play up to the cameras. The Ravens love him. He is undoubtedly the leader of that team and the new face of the franchise. His teammates love him and believe in him. Flacco leads by example and when he does speak his words carry weight. Flacco leads by example. He does not blame his teammates in bad moments and does not let injury be an excuse for himself. If you think he is not a leader just because he is quiet…you need to reexamine your definition of leadership.

You don’t have to love him. He is not above criticism. But if you choose to ignore his success and want him out of here, make accurate assessments. Its the least you could do as a Ravens fan, for your true franchise quarterback.

Rookie QB’s: Sit em or Start em

-Chris Schisler

When NFL teams draft a quarterback of the future, the question is when do they let the future begin. Starting an unpolished rookie risks making him spoiled goods. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings as well as the Oakland Raiders all believe they have just found their savior under center. It is an exciting time in these 4 NFL cities. The decision they make could either pay off big time or haunt them for years to come.

It used to be common for teams to give their rookie QB time to develop. Things started to change in 2008, when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, led their teams to the playoffs in their rookie season.Teams began to start their quarterbacks right away.

In 2009, the New York Jets started Mark Sanchez right away. The Jets went to back to back AFC championships. The Jets were winning but Sanchez was a very flawed passer. The Jets surrounded their quarterback with a pound it out running offense & the comfort of a dominant defense. The Jets kept believing that Sanchez could be a star, ignoring his shortcomings. Sanchez regressed to a butt fumbling level and the Jets replaced him. The Jets came into the 2013 season at square one with Geno Smith. Geno Smith did so poorly in his rookie season that the Jets signed Michael Vick this offseason.

The league did not realize that Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were exceptions to the rule. Teams looked for QB’s to get on the field training; they rationalized it by saying “what’s he going to learn on the bench?” There are some success stories such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson & Andrew Luck but there are just as many Blaine Gabbert like nightmares.

There are less people qualified to be an NFL quarterback than any other job in the world. The physical and cerebral workload is incredible. The quarterback is the leader of the team and ideally is the most football obsessed amongst the players. They get all the credit in victory and all the blame in defeat. Think about the teams that win; they all have good QB’s. Teams have to be picky about who they put under center. If a rookie quarterback is going to start he has to earn it and be capable. Many teams draft a quarterback with a high ceiling in terms of potential and ruin him on the field too early. Everyone looks at the Flacco’s and Matt Ryan’s of the world. Why does nobody look at Aaron Rodgers. He had to sit behind Brett Favre; that worked out pretty good.

No matter how you slice it a rookie quarterback is a project. This years crop is a great example. Blake Bortles has a prototypical QB body and supreme arm talent. That said his footwork is messy at best, this affects the timing and accuracy of his passes-he struggles to read a defense when he is in the pocket and us only comfortable when rolling out. Johnny Football is not without his flaws. He has a lazy drop back, makes bad reads-uses his legs to get him out of the trouble he got himself in and forces late throws in the red zone. These two quarterbacks can make every throw and have an amazing amount of talent but I don’t think either one is ready. It’s not the ability, its the lack of fundamentals in their game.

The Browns would be best suited to sit their rookie passer on the sideline. They must remember the future is what is important. Manziel needs to develop a disciplined approach to football. If he tries the headless chicken-make magic out of nothing routine in the NFL he may get himself killed. Brian Hoyer deserves a chance to at least prove he can start in the league. The future is important to Cleveland they have been bad for a long time.

The Jaguars don’t expect to start Blake Bortles this year. Sure he could win the job, but they will only play him if he is truly ready. This is an organization that went through growing pains with Blaine Gabbert; they have learned from this experience. Chad Henne showed flashes of decent play last season. The Jaguars don’t need to rush things, they don’t expect to be great over night. They are rebuilding not rehashing their past mistakes.

Teddy Bridgewater however could start on day one. Bridgewater ran a savvy offense at Louisville like a well oiled machine. I had him rated as the best quarterback prospect; he was a total steal as the first rounds last pick. Bridgewater read defenses like a pro in college. Like Bortles and Manziel, Bridgewater has the ability to beat you with his legs. However Teddy uses his legs to extend plays, keeping his eyes downfield remaining a passer. Its funny that Bortles gets compared to Ben Roethlisberger based on size. Teddy Bridgewater plays the game mostly comparable to Roethlisberger; extending plays and connecting on deep bombs. The Vikings got a guy who is ready & they have no time to waste. Adrian Peterson is human so he won’t last forever.

I am not high on Derrick Carr, I never really have been. He has a tremendous arm, the physical tools are there. I can’t help but see Kyle Boller in Derrick Carr. I think it is so easy to fall in love with a cannon arm that we overlook signs of trouble. for Oakland’s sake I am wrong. I think Carr was very sheltered at Fresno State. The QB friendly spread offense and lower level of competition concerns me. His mechanics concern me. Getting blown out by USC in Fresno State’s Bowl game concerns me. Carr has the physical tools but I am not convinced he can do it at the next level. I don’t foresee patience for the Oakland Raiders. Matt Schuab is a shell of hus former self and a mere placeholder at quarterback. I predicted Carr to be a bust- an opinion many people have bashed me for. Now that I know he is a Raider, I am even more convinced.

There is no right or wrong approaches here. Everything depends on the situation. A team should absolutely start a rookie if he has earned it and is ready. Sitting your QB does not insure success. However starting him before he is ready is a good way to make him spoiled goods. Its a slippery slope that the respective NFL head coaches must be aware of.

QB Attributes That Cannot be Overlooked

One reason I love the draft is that it gives us a few good months of football nerd talk. We break down what makes every prospect good, and what they need to work on. We evaluate players mostly by what we see on the field, but also project what we could see in the NFL. The world of the draft is a utopian dimension for me because its all about real football conversation.

You hear a lot of scouting terms. For a defensive back you hear the words fast twitch and for a quarterback you hear arm talent and overall mechanics. I have made a list of attributes that I think are not talked enough about.

QB:

1.) A quarterback’s head is a weapon. It is not a physical weapon but a weapon of deception. Defensive players migrate to where the quarterback is looking. Therefore QB who stares down his targets is going to throw interceptions.

The QB must be able to fool defenders with where he places his head. An example of this is when the QB moves the safety with his eyes so he can hit his tight end in the middle of the field. Anything that can create hesitation in the secondary is a great skill for the QB to have.

This is also important on screens and draws. When the QB drops back on a screen pass he must keep his head forward. Screens are not difficult plays for the defense to diagnose, they do not need the QB’s help. On a draw play the QB is selling the pass, but handing it off to the running back. A good sell is required.

2.) Anticipation & Patience
In college football everything is open. In the pros nothing is open. The QB must anticipate where his receiver will be and throw the ball before the receiver gets there. Throws must be on time in the NFL. A perfect throw allows the receiver to run after a catch. Too often a passer will sling one in a tight window and get his receiver to get lit up. It’s one thing to be a gunslinger, its another to be reckless.

Sometimes patience is important. Against a zone coverage the QB may have to hold the ball longer than he usually would when throwing to a receiver running an inside route. This will allow more time for the receiver to find the window of said zone coverage.

3.) Being able to throw at awkward angles.

A quarterback prefers a nice comfortable pocket to throw into. This preference is not always granted. QB’s who can throw accurately at awkward angles and or while taking contact frustrate defenses.

The Endless Debate: Who’s Better Manning or Brady

-Chris Schisler
There is possibly no debate more fun than picking between Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. In many respects it is a pointless argument. Choosing one does not discredit the other; both are top 5 quarterbacks of all time. People are also very decided on this issue. You’re either a Brady guy or a Manning guy, and that’s how you will always see it. This debate is however amongst the most entertaining conversations in football.

Peyton Manning was born to play quarterback. He is the son of beloved Saints quarterback Archie Manning & it did not take Peyton long to steal the spotlight. The Manning name is royalty in the game of football.Manning went to Tennessee to play his college football for the Volunteers. It was clear from the beginning that Manning was a special talent. In 1998 the Indianapolis Colts drafted him number 1 overall. Manning was supposed to be great and he managed to be even greater than expected.

Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick. At Michigan he was part of a two quarterback system. No one knew he would be an all-time great. Anyone who says they did is a liar. But when Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury in the 2001 season, the Patriots had no choice but start Tom Brady. Behind a great New England team he won his first Super Bowl that season.

At this point, America was in love with Tom Brady. He was the tough underdog that everyone could root for. Out of practically nowhere he became one of the league’s biggest superstars.Brady would continue to have a tremendous amount of success. He won another 2 Super Bowls and his first 10 playoff games. Brady has made the Patriots a contender every season (except for 2008 when he was injured). On top of it all he married supermodel, Gisele Bundchen.The same person who was thought of as a tough hard working diamond in the rough now fights a troubling public image. Many people can’t relate to Brady and most of these people cone off as jealous.

There is a perception that Brady is a whiner and he is often called a pretty-boy diva. Some of Brady’s critics have a point but what man would not trade lives with Tom Brady for a day?

If you make it a popularity contest, Manning would likely win. Manning comes off as a cerebral student of the game. He comes off as funny and human. In short people can relate to Manning in a way they can’t with Brady. In actuality both quarterbacks are very cerebral and are great students of the game. Both quarterbacks are revered by their teammates and are hard workers. Manning and Brady are both extremely competitive.

These players are two of the last “Old School” pocket passers in the game of football. Mechanically however they are very different. Manning is more athletic. He will never look to run but he can roll out and keep plays alive with extraordinary footwork. He used to kill with the play-action pass game built off the stretch run play. Brady is more of a stationary passer.

Blitzing either quarterback is often a mistake. They both have one of the quickest releases I have ever seen. As masters of their craft Brady and Manning beat you before the snap of the football.Tom Brady has the better arm strength. I think there is nobody that steps into their throws quite like Tom Brady.

In a perfect world we would appreciate them as equals. Just about every strength that Manning has Brady has too. How do we break down who is better? Results have got to go into the equation.

Tom Brady has 3 Super Bowl rings and has played in 5 Super Bowls. His playoff record is 18-7. No quarterback has won more games in the postseason. The translation of these numbers is that Brady has given the Patriots a chance to win the Super Bowl almost every season. Peyton Manning has been in 2 Super Bowls and has only won 1 of them. His playoff record is 10-11. Manning has struggled in many seasons to get out of the divisional round. Throughout his career he has been miraculous in the regular season and his teams often enter the divisional round off a bye while having home-field advantage. The results show Tom Brady as the better playoff quarterback.

Football is a team sport and it takes a team to win. There is no position that has a greater impact on the game then that of quarterback. Great quarterbacks give their team a better chance to win the game. Playoff results are as valid as any measure when comparing all time great quarterbacks.

A common argument is that Tom Brady has had better teams, and that is why he has more Super Bowls. While it is true he had better defenses on his side; one could argue he has had less talent around him offensively. Think about it. Peyton had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark in Indianapolis. Brady had Troy Brown and Deion Branch and David Patten.

When Brady finally had a true dominant receiver in Randy Moss, he broke the single season touchdown record. Manning broke that record with the league’s most talented receiving core. Demaryous Thomas, Wes Welker and Erik Decker all are great in their roles. Julius Thomas is a matchup nightmare at tight end.

Brady has had championship defense but usually did not have as much talent to work with offensively. Plus it’s been a few years since the Bellicheck defense lived up to its reputation. Has Brady always had better teams? Either way he has won more than Manning.

The debate could go on forever and believe me it will. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I’m a Brady guy. I always have been a Brady guy and always will be. No matter who you choose, these are two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Simple Ways to Beat Man Coverage

One of the most frustrating things about the Ravens season was the inability of their receivers to beat man coverage. When a defense can blanket your receivers and no one gets open this allows them to be more creative in rushing the passer. Pass protection was a real problem for Baltimore. The Ravens need to work on more consistently beating man coverage.

1.) Identify coverage before the snap.

It seems like common sense but it is something that offenses can struggle with. You need to be able to have an educated guess of what coverage the defense is in.

First the quarterback should check the depth and alignment of the safeties. This often leads you to what shell the defense is playing. It is also important to count how many people are in the box. If you see 8 or more people in the box, the offense should typically be in a pass play, for example.

Next the quarterback and receivers should notice the positioning of the corners. Generally speaking if the corner’s butt is to the sideline and he is turned to the QB he is playing zone. If he is facing the receiver he is likely in man.

The defense knows this is easy to read and they wisely try to trick the offense at the line with movement and alignment.

Pre Snap motions are a great way to determine if a team is in man to man or zone. If a receiver or tight end motions and a defender moves with him across the field this indicates man coverage. The defender could stay and it could still be man if the defense switched who was covering the receiver after the motion.

2.) Crossing routes

Crossing routes make corners chase receivers across the field. It is often easier for receivers to stretch man coverage with crossing routes than it is to beat a man deep. This also creates traffic for the corner. Quarterbacks who are patient enough for one of the crossing routes to become open can really make defenses pay for man coverage.

3.) Bunch formations/ Stacking WR’s

Stacked receivers create trouble for man coverage. They have to give the receiver cushion off the line. It is hard to align in tight man coverage. If the routes cross defenders have to know what to do; this often involves switching who has who.

This is where savvy route concepts come into play. One if the receivers can set a pick or rub (whatever you want to call it) to give another receiver time to get open. This is technically illegal but is never called on the offense.

4.) Clear Out Routes/ QB Run

If defenders are in man coverage you can clear them out of the play. In man defensive backs move with the wide receivers. If all the receivers go down the field so do the defenders playing them in man coverage. This can often open up a running back or a tight end underneath.

If the secondary defenders backs are turned to the QB while running with receivers down the field; this sets up opportunities for quarterbacks to make plays with their legs. When a quarterback can pick up an easy ten yards with his legs it beats man coverage.

5.) Sluggos, Out and Up Routes, Double Move Routes.

Defense is very big on the read and react concept. Corners try to jump in front of routes they expect to see. A sluggo (Slant & Go) is my favorite route. The corner reacts to the slant, once he bites the receiver flys down the field for the Go portion of the route. Double moves are a good way to beat anticipating defensive backs.

These are just some simple strategies to employ about man coverage. There is much more that can be discussed. This is just an overview of what can be done from from a strategic standpoint to beat man coverage.

Joe Flacco: Don’t Bet Against Him

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Joe Flacco: Don’t Bet Against Him | Chris Schisler | July 17, 2013

The Joe Flacco era has been incredible for the Baltimore Ravens. There is simply no other way to describe the past five years of Baltimore football. Since Joe Flacco became the Ravens starting quarterback the Ravens have been to 3 AFC championship games and have won Super Bowl 47. Joe Flacco is the only quarterback to win at least one playoff game in each of his first five seasons. With 6 road playoff games he has won the most playoff games on the road in league history. If Lee Evans had not dropped the game winning touchdown pass in the 2011 AFC championship game, Joe would have seven road playoff wins. If that was not enough, Joe Flacco tied a record held by Joe Montana this past postseason, with 11 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Flacco has seldom gotten the praise these accomplishments merit.
The Ravens have always been known for their defense and their running game. This is part of why Joe does not get the credit he deserves. From 1996 to 2012 the face of the franchise has been linebacker, Ray Lewis. This is now changing. With Ray Lewis enjoying retirement, it is undoubtedly Joe Flacco’s team. This offseason the Ravens backed up this idea, giving the Super Bowl MVP a $120.6 million dollar contract. Many fans were outraged. Joe Flacco went from Super Bowl hero to the reason the championship team was dismantled, in only a matter of months. This was an inaccurate blame. Flacco’s lucrative deal was broken down in a way that was very cap friendly to the Ravens. While the deal will likely need to be restructured in three years; Joe’s contract did not financially cripple the Ravens. This is just one example of many in which many Ravens fans had a wrongly unfavorable acuity of Joe Flacco.

Joe-Flacco-Ravens-580

Joe Flacco lifted the Ravens to new heights in 2012. The Ravens defense was plagued by injuries and was less than stellar outside of the red zone. Joe Flacco had to outscore the greats: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco threw for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. The Ravens 31 points were just barely enough to hold off the 49ers offense that was almost unstoppable in the second half of the game. On the game’s biggest stage Joe Flacco’s impeccable play was barely enough. The Ravens may have been known for defense but now they should be known for their Super Bowl hero, Joe Flacco.

The Ravens quarterback has not been among one of the league’s flashiest or statistically best quarterbacks during his tenure with the Ravens. He has never thrown for over 4,000 yards and the most touchdowns he has thrown in a regular season are 25. There have been a handful of awfully ugly offensive performances in his career. The Ravens however have won and Flacco has made big plays when they mattered most.

thThings were so bad this past season that the Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Since Cameron’s departure Joe Flacco has been sensational. In his historic playoff performance Joe Flacco completed more deep passes than any other quarterback. The dramatic rise in consistency and production from Flacco suggests that he really was handcuffed by Cameron. The offense under Jim Caldwell’s guidance has looked completely different. Flacco is more aggressive and is running the offense with confidence. He is changing more plays at the line. One of the Super Bowl’s most pivotal plays featured an audible to a pass on 3rd and 1. Flacco completed a back shoulder pass to Anquan Boldin and the Ravens were able put their final three points on the board. It was one of the gutsiest audibles in NFL history but it may have won the Ravens the game.

Joe Flacco is now one of the richest quarterbacks to ever play professional football. The Ravens had offered Flacco what many believed to be a fair contract before the 2012 season. Flacco declined the offer, to eventually win a rather large gamble. Joe Flacco bet on himself when the world was quick to doubt. He has made a habit of proving his critics and doubters wrong.

Joe Flacco
It is safe to call the Flacco Era in Baltimore incredible. This being said Flacco still receives massive criticism. His critics are running out of ammunition. They can no longer say that Joe can’t beat Pittsburgh. They can no longer say that he can’t win a Super Bowl. With so little to grasp at, his critics cling to his unspectacular regular season statistics and his low key personality. He may be an awful Pizza Hut spokesperson but Joe has become a great quarterback. Joe Flacco is not easily portrayed as likeable to the national media. This is why he will never get the mainstream credit other quarterbacks receive for their teams’ victories. Is it too much to ask of Baltimore to finally and fully embrace Joe Flacco?

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