Winning Beats Dogma Every Time

from SNYGiants special contributor Matthew Cohen

I’ve always felt that athletic quarterbacks had a place in the NFL and were hindered by the conservatism of NFL coaches. We’ve seen many athletic quarterbacks come into the NFL (Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Randall Cunningham, Vince Young, etc.) and, in my opinion, they were never properly utilized. How many times did we hear announcers repeat the dogma: he has to learn to be a pocket passer or he’ll never succeed in the NFL. All of that running was ok if a pass play broke down but it was otherwise foolish and dangerous.

My thoughts were that even a mediocre passer could be successful if they played in a scheme that forced defenses to account for their running ability. Why is this?
1) The threat of a quarterback run makes play action pass incredibly effective.
2) Linebackers have to worry about a traditional handoff but this is compounded by the threat of a QB run (draw, bootleg, etc.)
3) The pass rush is blunted. Defenses can’t do aggressive edge rushes because an athletic quarterback can cut inside of a rushing end for a big gain.
4) Pass defense is made more difficult because zone defenders have to watch out for a QB sneak in addition to covering receivers.

The really scary thing is that the QB does not have to run that often to accomplish these goals. A few plays a game are enough and the defense has to be on edge every play because an athletic QB can break a big gain. Additionally, if the QB slides or runs out of bounds, injury risk is manageable.

Well after watching Robert Griffin III trash the Giants defense on Sunday, I’m sorry to fear that I was right. I’m not sure if RGIII is a great pocket passer but it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t matter.

The Giants were so focused on him on the option that they couldn’t stop Morris. The linebackers were so focused on the option that he was playing catch all day on intermediate routes where linebackers were clearly unprepared to defend the pass. And he doesn’t even have any great down field receivers. He was very effective even though his longest completion was for 30 yards (I don’t count the screen to Moss).

Kudos to Redskins coach Shanahan who figured out that the NFL is all about matchups and threw out decades of dogma to create one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. The great advantage of defense is that you are playing 11 on 10 because you don’t have to worry about the quarterback running. If you do have to worry about the QB running, the game becomes a heck of a lot harder.