Category:NFL
Posted on: July 8, 2010 11:45 am
 

The Legacy of Kyle Boller and Ben Roethlisberger.

Coach Bill Cowher was about to find out what kind of a coach he was.

Ken Whisenhunt was his OC in 2004.  The Steelers were a veteran team with a Pro Bowl running back, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, a couple of Pro Bowl blockers and a top-10 defense.  It was a team with aspirations of greatness.

Then Tommy Maddox suffered an elbow injury in the 2nd week against their divisional rival the Baltimore Ravens, forcing the Steelers to promote Ben Roethlisberger to starter.  Suddenly Whisenhunt has a rookie QB taking the snaps.

Now Cowher was in a bind.  This was way ahead of Pittsburgh's timetable for the development of Ben Roethlisberger.  He was supposed to be their future, not their present.  With Maddox out and Big Ben in, the Steelers season was about to take a turn...unexpectedly for the better.  He started 13 games that season and won every one of them on his way to the play-offs.  He won NFL Rookie of the Year and, astoundingly, the Steelers finished 15-1.  His success was shocking but would represent a growing trend in NFL QB development.

To understand this we have to looking back at NFL history.  There have been 60 rookie QBs since 1960 who have been primary starters, which is to say they started at least half of their team's games in a season.  Of those 60, only 14 posted winning records.  A rookie quarterback simply limits what an offense can do.  That's why so few NFL teams over the years have committed to starting them.  Old school thinking is that it takes three years for a quarterback to figure out all the nuances of the position at the NFL level.  Not anymore though.  Look at it historically: 

From 1960 until 1979, there were 22 rookie QBs who were starters.  Only one in 2 seasons, Phil Simms in 1979, managed a winning record.  The Giants started him for the last 11 games, and he went 6-5 on a 6-10 team.  However, Simms had a 50.5% completion rating with only 13 TDs but 14 INTs.

From 1980 to 1988, there were just seven rookie QB's who started their rookie season in 9 years.  Now, however, three managed winning records:  Chris Chandler of the Colts (9-4, 8TD, 12INT, 55.4%), Dave Wodley (6-5, 14TD, 17INT, 53.8%), of the Dolphins and of course Dan Marino of the Dolphins (7-2, 20TD, 6INT, 96%) who was the first to secure a play-off berth. 

Between 1989 and 2002, there were 18 rookie QBs who started.  Again, just one managed a winning record during that stretch, Kerry Collins, on the expansion Panthers for the final 13 games as a rookie in 1995 and posted a 7-6 record.  Again, Collins had a 49.4% completions rating with 14 TDs and 19 INTs.

Fast forward to 2003.  There have been 11 rookie quarterbacks who have started their rookie season.  Seven have posted winning records starting with Kyle Boller.  Boller the posterboy for success?  Surprisingly he was the 1st of this generation (though struggling greatly ever since).  He marks the start of 'the trend' with the 2003 Ravens, posting a 5-4 record on a 10-6 team. 

Then along came Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 who won his 13 games with the Steelers, then (surprisingly again) Kyle Orton went 10-5 with the Bears in 2005.  Vince Young took the Titans to an 8-5 record in his 13 first starts in 2006.  Then Trent Edwards, 5-4 for a 7-9 Bills team in '07.  Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan both started the season as starters and each guided teams to 11-5 records and playoff berths in 2008 with Flacco becoming the 1st rookie to ever win 2 play-off games.  Finally, Mark Sanchez follows up in 2009 with Rex Ryan following Flacco's development.  Sanchez starts all season and goes 9-7 (success is arguable to some) and he matches Flacco's rookie season play-off record. 

Big Ben skipped his senior season to turn pro, so he was already a year behind in the NFL learning curve for the position. He also came out of the Mid-American Conference, so he had never seen the speed or caliber of defender on Saturdays that he would be seeing on Sundays.  Still, Roethlisberger had the best physical tools at his position in the 2004 draft.  He was the biggest and strongest QB in a draft class that had Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.  But Manning went 1st overall, Rivers 4th then Roethlisberger at 11th.

The scouting consensus was that Big Ben was the least ready of the three to play coming out of college.  However, in 3 years time he might be the best of the that group because of those tools.  Now Whisenhunt wouldn't have the luxury of grooming him for two years. 

What to do?  The year before, the Ravens had to find out what Kyle Boller did well, what he was comfortable with.  The tendency when coaches game plan is to put all these good things up on the board and then ask their QB to run them.  You can't do that with a rookie QB.  Coaches limited what that had to do and found ways to get them to do those things repeatedly from different formations and sets. So they disguised them and protected their young quarterbacks with their run game,  the 1st major componet to a rookie QB's success. 

Enter Ken Whisenhunt.  The Ravens "success" with Kyle Boller was just one season removed.  In Ben's first 11 starts in 2004, Roethlisberger never threw more than 25 passes.  He threw for more than 200 yards just twice.  He averaged 21.1 passes per game in 2004 as the Steelers ran the ball 62% of the time.  But his attempts increased as his offensive package expanded in 2005, passing 22.3 times per game.  

In 2008, Matt Ryan's Falcons would finish 2nd in the NFL in rushing with Pro Bowler Michael Turner the focal point of the offense.  Flacco, Roethlisberger and Young also were rookie starters on offenses that finished in the top 5 in rushing.  Rather than rush to put the ball into their top prospects hands these teams did the opposite by taking the ball out of them. 

So two Super Bowls and a Pro Bowl into his career, Roethlisberger is averaging 34.4 passes per game this season.  It exceeded Cowher's wildest expectations and started a trend and new fomrat for successfully employing a rookie QB in the NFL.  That brings me to my next point:  Expectatons

Roethlisberger also entered the NFL without the burden of "expectation".  Being an NFL quarterback is all about confidence.  Most rookie QB's are quickly and easily overwhelmed at the professional level.  Mitgating the pressure of the position is crucial to controlling their development.  Roethlisberger wasn't the 1st overall selection of a draft like Eli or Peyton Manning.  He wasn't a top-5 pick like Philip Rivers nor even a top-10 pick.  He was the 3rd QB selected in his draft class.  So was Boller, who went 19th overall after Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich were drafted.  Flacco was the 18th overall pick.  Edwards was a third-round selection and Orton a humble fourth-rounder.

None played under the media microscope that Troy Aikman did.  The 1st overall pick of the 1989 draft who went 0-11 as a rookie.  Peyton Manning, who also went 1st overall in 1998 and threw an NFL rookie-record 28 INTs and mustered a 3-13 record, or David Carr, who went first overall in 2002 and was sacked an NFL-record 76 times that season while going 4-12.  They inherited bad teams that leaned heavily on them as if they were saviors.  The two former Qb's managed to overcome their rookie trials, while Carr has yet to recover.

Draft position is usually a key component in a successful equation for a rookie.  When a player goes first overall, he generally is headed for a very bad football team.  Aikman's Cowboys were coming off a 3-13 season, as were Manning's Colts.  Carr was going to an expansion team.  However, the glow of that top draft pisck and multi-million dollar contract dims in September when the games start and reality sets in.  Many become walk-in starters and the focal point on offense because of the weakness of the cast around them.  Then they become just another punching bag on a pathetic team.  Generally the lower a quarterback is drafted, the better his team, the better his situation and the better his chance for success.  This is whay ou see players like John Elway and Eli Manning refusing their 1t round selection teams.

Dan Marino was the 6th QB taken in the 1983 draft, the 27th overall choice, by the defending AFC champion Miami Dolphins.  Look at his success.  He went 7-2 as a rookie on a 12-4 team, threw 14 more touchdowns (20) than interceptions (6), won the AFC passing title and was selected to the Pro Bowl.  The records by and larger show that the QBs who win the most by and large went to good teams or good circumstances. 

Chris Chandler was a 3rd round pick by the Colts in '88 but started that season and went 9-4 on a team that finished 9-7.  He benefited from handing the ball off to Eric Dickerson, who won the NFL rushing title that season.  David Woodley, an 8th round pick by the 1980 Dolphins, posted a 6-5 record on a team that finished 8-8.  He joined a Miami team coming off an AFC East title.

Defense.  Boller played on a Baltimore team in 2003 that ranked 3rd in the NFL in defense.  Roethlisberger's 2004 Steelers finished 1st in defense.  Orton's 2005 Bears finished 2nd, as did Flacco's 2008 Ravens.  Mark Sanchez's Jets defense ranked 1st.  The only QB bucking the trend was Matt Ryan's Falcon defense that ranked 24th overall.  Along with RB's, defenses are any QB's best friend.  They take the pressure off by making it possible to win without a Herculian offensive effort.  Ask Trent Dilfer.  Further, the pressure that mounts on a QB to win from behind can cause them to implode.  Great defenses keep even those situations tenable.

There it is.  Take the pressure off the QB by running early and often.  Also a top 5 defense is almost always necessary.  Lastly, getting drafted early by a poor team without a solid supporting cast could doom a rookie QB to career journeymanship. 

So how will the 2010 draft class fare?  Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy, and Tim Tebow.  Any of these could be called upon in the first 8 games to take over their teams offense for some reason or another.  Will we continue to see the trend grow?

 

Posted on: November 16, 2009 6:11 pm
 

MJD should've been compelled to score that TD!

I know that MJD made the "smart" decision seeing that JAX's defense is a sieve, but this a the problem w/NFL gamesmanship today.  Rather than playing your best for the full 60 minutes, players and coaches look for LOOP-HOLES like this or like taking a knee to end the game in the last 1:30 of play. 

I know the rules allow for this sort of "clock management", but whatever happened to playing hard for 60 minutes?   In my book this should be a delay of game penalty! 

I think that Goodell and the NFL need to review these "loopholes" like they did challengeable/reviewable calls and apply this logic to these situations.  Crazy things happen under the 2 minute warning that shouldn't be allowed.  Teams should not be allowed to take knees or avoid scores during this time and should endeavor to play to their fullest for the entire 60 minute of game play.

And for those of you that say, "Well, that's fine for fantasy play, but this is reality and coaches use the clock to win real games!" I say Nertz!  This IS FOOTBALL.  Play hard for 60 or go home.  Taking knees under the two minute is for sissies!  Besides it it weren't for fantasy play it wouldn't enjoy the giant leap popularity it has now over ALL other sports.

CHANGE THE RULEBOOK, Goodell, so we can actually watch 60 minutes of real football.
Posted on: November 9, 2009 1:08 am
 

The biggest Fantasy Football Surprises of 2009!

There's a few players each year that can carry your team if your lucky enough to grab them in time.  These guys are usually players that were either waiver wire grabs or are performing far better than their general draft position indicates.

Who's the biggest fantasy surprise this year?
Cedric Bednson - CIN (rejuvenated in CIN)
Brett Favre - MIN (not the same Farve of recent memory)
Miles Austin - DAL (from out of nowhere - almost)
Ray Rice - BAL (becoming an everydown back)
Saints DST - NO (now the #1 scoring DST)
Owen Daniels - HOU (out for season, but who knew he'd lead the TE's until then?)
Steve Smith - NYG (rising to the challenge)
Mike Simms-Walker - JAC (good stats despite bad team)
Brent Celek - PHI (could take over for Daniels)
Broncos DST - DEN (so much made of their preseason OF woes...)
OTHER??? - Explain

Personally I own C-Bens (drafted in 7th) and Austin (waiver grab), but (despite the blog) it won't salvage may team's season.
Posted on: November 4, 2009 5:27 pm
 

Is Justin Forsett built to be the Hawk's FT RB?

The guy is talented and many fans and fantasy owners are wondering when/if he's going to take the starting running back left open after Shaun Alexander left injured.  Talent counts for a lot, but in today's NFL where defensive players are bigger and stronger than ever, smaller players can be injured more easily which cuts their careers short.  Therefore, RB's of his size are usually relegated to special teams, change of pace, screens plays, play action.  Coaches give them limited carries as backups in order to preseve them. 

Rarely can you find a "small" player who can be successful as a full time back because of injury.  Barry Sanders comes to mind, but was is a freak as well as lucky.  He left the game on top without a major, crippling injury.  Which is why he left when he did.  There aren't many in the past 10-15 years of the modern game.  Others like Ray Rice put on extra muscle armor in the off-season. 

Can a small RB (less than 5'9" and 200 lbs) be a fulltime back in today's NFL?  If so, for how long?  Give me your opinions!
Posted on: October 9, 2009 11:40 am
 

Who is the best Runnng back of all time?

And I mean EVER!  From present day back to the turn of the 20the century.  Tell me who you think is the best in history!
Posted on: October 2, 2009 6:18 pm
 

2009 Ravens-Patriots atch-up for Week 4.

This could be the AFC match-up of the year.  This is the game where the old, declining dynasty will be passing the torch to the new, emerging dynasty. 

What do you anticipate will happen this Sunday?
Posted on: August 17, 2009 1:53 am
 

McNabb & Vick: An Eagles NFL True Story

It shouldn't surprise me but it does; Vick signing as a QB to "backup" me?  I might've also wondered "What are they thinking?!" but I also know the answer to that as well.  And lastly, I would've been interested in the Eagles fans' reactions to this move when I've only given everything I was to them and my team center.  Sadly, that too is as predictable as the sun rising.

The answers as I, Donavan McNabb, see it:

Eagles fans have been calling for my head since Superbowl XXXIX.  They want a Superbowl so bad (probably because they're sooooo jealous of Pittsburgh) that they're willing to sacrifice, me,  one of the best QB's in the game.  I've had 7 post season appearences (more than even Tom Brady and Brett Farve each), 5 NFC championship appearances, 15 post season games (with 9 wins, I might add), I'm the Eagles' all-time leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, and the least intercepted QB per pass attempt of all time (4303 attempts-90 interceptions (2.09%).  Then why do they have to bring in Vick "behind me" who has some of the worst pass completion and interception ratings among QB's today?  You know?...I believe it's the coaching that needs the "backing-up"!  Why not bring in Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy or Mike Shannahan instead?  Yeah, I like those guys!

Andy Reid has been under pressure from Eagles management for not winning the "big" games and his benching me last year, after just two uncharacteric bad starts, was idiotic and accomplished little.  I thought it to be a ploy to get the heat of his back and onto mine so he could keep his job another season.  He couldn't even get me a decent receiver to take the team from merely great to say, oh..."New England" Great .  When they landed Terrell Owens, we did infact go to the Superbowl and we could've destroyed the Pats if Owens wasn't battling a broken ankle.  Then comes the inevitable dreaded "Owens" implosion and exit.   No seasoned wideouts acquired in 4 years since.  Enter Vick.  Why?  We know he runs balls, not catches them.

I'll tell you straight up:  Philly fans are fickle in the best of times, pure and simple.  Hey!, I've lived there 10 years and I know what a pit it can be at times, so I know from were I speak.  The fans compete with Oakland's Black Hole each year to for the Low-Rent Award.  Lastly the stadium has a police precinct in it - what does that tell you?  The fans have turned on me for not bringing home a Superbowl to Philly. Rather, shouldn't they be asking, "Why couldn't Andy Reid bring home the trophy?"  Who's the real choke-artist in Philly, huh?

Also, Vick is vile (maybe not as vile as Donte Stallworth is right now), but even Tony Dungy can't convince me that this thug should even be in the NFL ever again.  What kind of role model do the Eagles want in Philly anyway?  The kind that works hard, is a team player, supports his community and wins or the kind that wants to live a gangsta's life, puts his own glory ahead of his team, and worry more about what he's owed than what he can give back.  McNabb? Vick? Vick? McNabb?  Ummmm....even Corky could make that decision.

In truth, given Vick's playing style, he'd be a more likely to back up to Brian Westbrook (or LeSean McCoy for all you fickle Philly fans).  Other teams in desparate need of a "top" QB, may have shown interest, but avioded him in the end.  Besides the the Eagles and their fan base are suckers for flash and glitz a la Terrell Owens.  You think they would've learned their lesson, right?

The teams that "may have" better benefited immediately from Vick's wasting talent (Vikings, Browns, 49er's, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins, Oakland and Buccaneers) avoided him however: 

a) The Vikings and Raiders have enough delinquent players without Vick adding to it
b) Coach Spagnulo cpuldn't get back to the "Greatest Show on Turf" with Vick passing completion,
c) Coaches Singletery and Sparano wouldn't allow Vick's hijinx on the 49er's or Dolphins
d) Clinton Portis wouldn't allow Vick to steal is reps in Washington
e) and the Browns could've been a good fit in the "Dawg Pound" but Brady Quinn happens to love Dawgs.

I'm sure, several teams made offers, but the Eagles gave him a 2 yr contract.  Does a TWO year contract sound like a resounding endorement of Vick's new and iomproved character?  Or that other teams would only give him 1 season?  Even the Ravens with burgeoning talents in Joe Flacco and Troy Smith openly said they've looked into Vick, however, I believe it was Vick who refused the Ravens thinking Ray Lewis might want to break his other leg.

I'm all for 2nd chances.  Couldn't we all?  I could use 2 or 3 of them myself, but perhaps Vick should make a another NFL-sponsored public apology denouncing his past behavior, offer community service and support, AND agree to make league minimum for the rest of his career (as should all convicted anti-roll model types), then he would pehaps take his reinstement more seriously and not to treat it like it's the janitor's job at a Chuck e Cheese!  Afterall, it is a privilege, not a right, to play pro football for millions of dollars (are you paying attention Michael Crabtree?!).

Bottomline:  I'm is being jerked around.  Mark my words here and now, my days as an Eagle are numbered, pehaps as early as next season or 2010-11 at the lastest.  Vick is a cancer and only capable of thinking about Michael Vick.  When I've gone to the Vikings, Dolphine (Ooohhhh, Miami would be nice!)  or any one of the other teams that's light at QB, the Eagles will begin to fold like a cheap, rusty, old lawn chair  and then, maybe, they;ll see their error.  But then again, it's more likely that dogs everwhere start to speak  and  declare Michael Vick as their beloved king.

Posted on: August 17, 2009 1:53 am
 

McNabb & Vick: An Eagles NFL True Story

It shouldn't surprise me but it does; Vick signing as a QB to "backup" me?  I might've also wondered "What are they thinking?!" but I also know the answer to that as well.  And lastly, I would've been interested in the Eagles fans' reactions to this move when I've only given everything I was to them and my team center.  Sadly, that too is as predictable as the sun rising.

The answers as I, Donavan McNabb, see it:

Eagles fans have been calling for my head since Superbowl XXXIX.  They want a Superbowl so bad (probably because they're sooooo jealous of Pittsburgh) that they're willing to sacrifice, me,  one of the best QB's in the game.  I've had 7 post season appearences (more than even Tom Brady and Brett Farve each), 5 NFC championship appearances, 15 post season games (with 9 wins, I might add), I'm the Eagles' all-time leader in career wins, pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, and the least intercepted QB per pass attempt of all time (4303 attempts-90 interceptions (2.09%).  Then why do they have to bring in Vick "behind me" who has some of the worst pass completion and interception ratings among QB's today?  You know?...I believe it's the coaching that needs the "backing-up"!  Why not bring in Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy or Mike Shannahan instead?  Yeah, I like those guys!

Andy Reid has been under pressure from Eagles management for not winning the "big" games and his benching me last year, after just two uncharacteric bad starts, was idiotic and accomplished little.  I thought it to be a ploy to get the heat of his back and onto mine so he could keep his job another season.  He couldn't even get me a decent receiver to take the team from merely great to say, oh..."New England" Great .  When they landed Terrell Owens, we did infact go to the Superbowl and we could've destroyed the Pats if Owens wasn't battling a broken ankle.  Then comes the inevitable dreaded "Owens" implosion and exit.   No seasoned wideouts acquired in 4 years since.  Enter Vick.  Why?  We know he runs balls, not catches them.

I'll tell you straight up:  Philly fans are fickle in the best of times, pure and simple.  Hey!, I've lived there 10 years and I know what a pit it can be at times, so I know from were I speak.  The fans compete with Oakland's Black Hole each year to for the Low-Rent Award.  Lastly the stadium has a police precinct in it - what does that tell you?  The fans have turned on me for not bringing home a Superbowl to Philly. Rather, shouldn't they be asking, "Why couldn't Andy Reid bring home the trophy?"  Who's the real choke-artist in Philly, huh?

Also, Vick is vile (maybe not as vile as Donte Stallworth is right now), but even Tony Dungy can't convince me that this thug should even be in the NFL ever again.  What kind of role model do the Eagles want in Philly anyway?  The kind that works hard, is a team player, supports his community and wins or the kind that wants to live a gangsta's life, puts his own glory ahead of his team, and worry more about what he's owed than what he can give back.  McNabb? Vick? Vick? McNabb?  Ummmm....even Corky could make that decision.

In truth, given Vick's playing style, he'd be a more likely to back up to Brian Westbrook (or LeSean McCoy for all you fickle Philly fans).  Other teams in desparate need of a "top" QB, may have shown interest, but avioded him in the end.  Besides the the Eagles and their fan base are suckers for flash and glitz a la Terrell Owens.  You think they would've learned their lesson, right?

The teams that "may have" better benefited immediately from Vick's wasting talent (Vikings, Browns, 49er's, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins, Oakland and Buccaneers) avoided him however: 

a) The Vikings and Raiders have enough delinquent players without Vick adding to it
b) Coach Spagnulo cpuldn't get back to the "Greatest Show on Turf" with Vick passing completion,
c) Coaches Singletery and Sparano wouldn't allow Vick's hijinx on the 49er's or Dolphins
d) Clinton Portis wouldn't allow Vick to steal is reps in Washington
e) and the Browns could've been a good fit in the "Dawg Pound" but Brady Quinn happens to love Dawgs.

I'm sure, several teams made offers, but the Eagles gave him a 2 yr contract.  Does a TWO year contract sound like a resounding endorement of Vick's new and iomproved character?  Or that other teams would only give him 1 season?  Even the Ravens with burgeoning talents in Joe Flacco and Troy Smith openly said they've looked into Vick, however, I believe it was Vick who refused the Ravens thinking Ray Lewis might want to break his other leg.

I'm all for 2nd chances.  Couldn't we all?  I could use 2 or 3 of them myself, but perhaps Vick should make a another NFL-sponsored public apology denouncing his past behavior, offer community service and support, AND agree to make league minimum for the rest of his career (as should all convicted anti-roll model types), then he would pehaps take his reinstement more seriously and not to treat it like it's the janitor's job at a Chuck e Cheese!  Afterall, it is a privilege, not a right, to play pro football for millions of dollars (are you paying attention Michael Crabtree?!).

Bottomline:  I'm is being jerked around.  Mark my words here and now, my days as an Eagle are numbered, pehaps as early as next season or 2010-11 at the lastest.  Vick is a cancer and only capable of thinking about Michael Vick.  When I've gone to the Vikings, Dolphine (Ooohhhh, Miami would be nice!)  or any one of the other teams that's light at QB, the Eagles will begin to fold like a cheap, rusty, old lawn chair  and then, maybe, they;ll see their error.  But then again, it's more likely that dogs everwhere start to speak  and  declare Michael Vick as their beloved king.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com