The NFL Season Heats Up In November

Football is a game of attrition. This isn’t baseball…this isn’t basketball. Your team has to endure injuries and a changed line up 40% of the season. Missing a RB for 4 weeks or this linebacker for 4 over here, or the season ending variety. There have been seasons where you can watch an older player lose their prime down the stretch. Looked like a Hall of Famer in September and seeing spot duty in December.

Gillette square - Aaron FrutmanConsequently you’ll see a backup become a starter and do well when he gets his chance. The question is does your team have the look of a champion and play like one with a different roster than week 1?? Week 10 even?? Remember in 2004 when the 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles had to finish without Terrell Owens??? Didn’t the 1982 Washington Redskins win their first Super Bowl with their best receiver in Art Monk on the bench??

127888192_crop_650x440I remember being the first with Taylor Blitz coining the phrase “The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV with a second string football team.” and they had with 17 players on injured reserve. Then the regular media hopped on the bandwagon…yet I digress.

To win the Super Bowl you have to win the games in November to earn your spot in the race in January. A lot of time left and a lot of changes, injuries, and teams that need to come together. Now is when the real race starts heating up.

 

Overcoaching: Take Two

There are multiple ways NFL teams overcoach. Some are merely lined up in formations that doesn’t suit their personnel. Others fail to include their best players often enough in their game to make a difference. Still others get away from their game plan too quickly in a knee jerk reaction to what is happening in a given game.

The Dez Bryant eruption on the sideline with fellow Cowboy Jason Witten.

The Dez Bryant eruption on the sideline with fellow Cowboy Jason Witten.

Several of those manifested themselves in the Dez Bryant outburst toward the end of Dallas 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions. We have often said “When you have a talent like this, you sick him on the defense 15-20 times per game.” Every great receiver has been selfish and wanted the football and at what point does “We’re trying to get you the ball.” fall on deaf ears??

On the week he proclaimed to be as good as Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Bryant had to watch in disbelief as the Lions fed his nemesis 14 times for a club record 329 yards and a touchdown. We’re not talking about the game where Terrell Owens set the reception record of 20 on 5 yard passes. “Megatron” averaged 23.9 yards per catch!! Seam routes, bombs, deep in routes, every single play designed to get him in winnable situations. When it called for it, put the ball up where he at 6’5 can get it.

Well the 6’2 Bryant who said earlier in the week he could do what Johnson can do, made a circus catch on one of his two touchdowns. However it was his 3 catches and something said after a pass thrown behind him in the third quarter that set him off. Yet across the field he watched the Lions move Johnson from the “X”, to the “Z” when he caught the bomb, to the “Slot” where he ran several corner routes. To the final seam route from the “Y” position that put the ball in place for the game winner by Stafford. The Lions game plan called to do what was possible to get him the ball. All the while Bryant played decoy on 59 of 64 offensive plays for Dallas.

The volatile Dez Bryant erupted on the Cowboys sideline eliciting multiple reactions from observers.

The volatile Dez Bryant erupted on the Cowboys sideline eliciting multiple reactions from observers.

If Bryant is the top gun in your offense, why are you only targeting him 5 times?? You need to have your main player be at the heart of the offense in the waning moments. Not watching Romo throw erratically over the head of Cole Beasley with 2:38 to go. Yet here he stood on the backdrop of personally challenging himself after calling out Johnson and had to stand and watch rookie Terrence Williams targeted 10 times during the contest.

Come on are you serious??

Now listen it’s easy to point out there was a better way for Dez Bryant to channel his emotions. However football is an emotional game played by men who do wear their passion on their sleeve. No one seemed to mind just two weeks ago when a livid Tom Brady berated his young receivers on the sideline for running the wrong routes and dropping passes against the Saints. In fact, the game’s announcers speculated why he was upset and justified it all at the same time. It could have gone for as long as Dez’s situation but the camera panned away after a few moments.

Bryan Cox had the same thing happen to him in 1995 when they caught him upset during a Monday Night game against Pittsburgh. Now he cited racial bias and asked why it wasn’t a concern when Dan Marino went off on the sideline. Remember the blow-up about Troy Aikman supposedly yelling at all African American players back in 1995?? What about the sideline blow-up of Ken Norton Jr & Thomas Everett during the 1992 NFC Championship Game against San Francisco??

This is football and you’ll have some of that and then you move on from it. There are fights during pre-season and some harsh things that are said on the sideline. Yet when the final minutes were ticking down in Norton, and Everett’s case, they were kissing cousins joking about their first Super Bowl visit sided by side. Norton with the football he intercepted Steve Young with under his arm to seal the win. This will blow over also but masked the big reason it happened and we’re speculating. Why was he upset in the first place??

He watched the Detroit Lion feed the ultimate competitor in Calvin Johnson the football. They were committed to getting him the football. In this instance, Bryant didn’t see that same commitment on the Cowboys part. Don’t even begin to bring up Cris Carter, Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Michael Irvin from a generation ago being different. They were the exact same way. Taylor Blitz Times readers know I have the footage to back up exactly what I’m saying too. Yet overcoaching brought this on, trying to show how diverse the Cowboys attack can be rather than get the best players the football.

It was a good thing Bryant did go off instead of watching his teammates wander listlessly through the final plays of another 4th quarter meltdown. This team has anointed Tony Romo the leader when the defacto on the field, in the trenches “follow me” ass kicking player hasn’t been seen in Dallas since Marion Barber and Terrell Owens. Did he go overboard?? Come on every incident we glamorize about football is about extreme emotion on the sideline. We joke about it in the Jim Harbaugh commercial when he’s over the top coaching little kids. We joke about it when the black coach replaces Robin Williams after biting a snicker candy bar yelling “Now let’s go for it!!” at the top of his lungs.

Did you know that once upon a time the Baltimore Colts weren’t playing up to their ability in 1970?? They were in a team meeting when Mike Curtis lit into his team when he told them “We have three games plus the (postseason) . I’m going to play the same way I always play. And you’re going to go full speed in practice and in those games or I’m going to kick your ass, myself. Remember I said that.”  The Colts won all six and won Super Bowl V ironically against the Dallas Cowboys.

Someone needed to light a fire down in Dallas. Maybe they won’t coach past their strengths again leading to another meltdown. Fire can’t come from Jerry Jones, only fear. Fire comes from passionate teammates who are in the trenches with you. Dallas you’re 4-4 what are you going to do with this??

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Overcoaching In the NFL

One of the more unique pitfalls many NFL teams fall into is the inability to formulate a gameplan around the personnel they have. Too often on Sundays we’re seeing teams with inexperienced quarterbacks lined up in a Pistol (short shotgun), regular shotgun accompanied with 4 and 5 receiver sets.  Then you see these elaborate play sheets coaches have to chronicle what they would do in down and distance situations if….. Stop!! There is no need to go into a football game with 200 plays and formations.

Tom Matte's famous wristband resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tom Matte’s famous wristband resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Too many NFL offensive co-ordinators and head coaches want to be seen as geniuses on ESPN is where this is coming from. If you follow the evolution of the play sheet, you had a series of formations and plays that were manageable. Have you ever taken a look at the famous “wrist-band” of Tom Matte?? A former Baltimore Colt running back who was forced to play quarterback when quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo were injured in 1965.

As you can see there were 5-7 plays for each down and distance circumstance. Head Coach Don Shula came up with the concept so that Matte could call the plays necessary to move the offense. The Colts lost a 13-10 playoff game for the Western Conference that sent Green Bay to the NFL championship game and Matte’s wristband went into NFL lore.

What is interesting is the wristband disappeared for more than a decade in the NFL . As we fast forward through the evolution of football, more and more NFL coaches had sheets that they would use to send the play in. It really started to gather steam when the late Bill Walsh decided to script his first 15 plays back in 1979. That script accompanied down and distance play situations and the the list became a full fledged chart on the sideline. Walsh was truly a genius reviving the principles learned from Paul Brown to be effective in the modern game.

Here is an example of what one of these play charts these coaches carry around looks like.

Here is an example of what one of these play charts these coaches carry around looks like.

From that point on every coach had to have a chart to show he knew his craft as well as Walsh did. At least imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yet where has that left us?? How many times have you watched a team burn multiple time outs because they couldn’t get their personnel in fast enough?? How often have you watched a team struggle for 28 minutes on offense and finally click in a 2 minute drive before the end of a half? Before the end of a game?? Why??

The late great college basketball coach John Wooden once said there was too much overcoaching in the modern game of basketball. The Chancellor definitely feels the same thing is happening in the NFL. It’s ironic when a team can’t make heads or tails with what their game plan is and then start moving the ball in the final few minutes.  Why was Viking quarterback Matt Cassel in shotgun formation more than 20 times when he has one of history’s finest backs right there in Adrian Peterson?? Overcoaching!! And it’s running rampant throughout the NFL.

Even Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady has a "Tom Matte" wristband the size of a bible.

Even Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady has a “Tom Matte” wristband the size of a bible.

Everyone wants to line up as though they have Tom Brady or Peyton Manning at the helm when in truth, only 10 to 12 teams have quarterbacks who can be trusted. Whether we’re talking Alpha or Beta quarterbacks, these guys can be trusted to win games on the road or at home. Most of these teams would benefit from simplifying their offense.

Players need to be playing, not thinking. Go back to last Sunday’s match-up between the New Orleans Saints vs the New England Patriots. All game long, young Patriot receivers were running the wrong routes, dropping passes. When the game was on the line and the routes were simplified…bang receivers were holding on to the football. Brady threw the game winning 17 yard strike to Kenbrell Thompkins (who?) with just :05 left.

Even the late Tom Landry had to “dumb down” his offense for a young Roger Staubach to thrive.

If you have a veteran quarterback, let him call the plays. In the most critical juncture (under 2 minutes) he calls them anyway. He should during the middle of the game as well. If you are grooming a young signal caller, it’s best to get him acclimated from more traditional sets. Sure you open the offense with a few open formations here and there. Yet watch how the Colts are grooming Andrew Luck. They’re using a fleet of running backs to pound the defense and allow Luck to perform play action throws against simplified reads. If you have watched, Luck has improved every single week and is set to have his biggest game of his young career this week. He and the Indianapolis Colts host the Denver Broncos as Peyton returns to Indy. A winnable game if they stick to a simplified approach.

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The Beta Quarterback

When you look at life from a psychological standpoint, you have leaders and you have followers. Well in the Taylor Blitz Times lexicon of NFL football describing the quarterback position, you have the alpha and the beta. The alpha infuses confidence in his football team through his leadership and play. His teammates are inspired through his verve, spirit, and fight which in turn raises their level of play to meet his.  You can see the confidence in their eyes when the game is tight. This is what every coach wants and covets each year in the NFL draft. He doesn’t shrink when games are on the line or when the team is up against a superior opponent.

Matt  Schaub has been a schlub in the 2013 season.

Matt Schaub has been a schlub in the 2013 season.

Then you have the beta quarterback that many teams seem to be afflicted with. He comes through with the physical gifts that scouts and coaches can see where he can improve, and can possibly sculpt a winner from. He fulfills his promise and can win you football games yet isn’t a leader. This is the guy that looks to his teammates for confidence when they’re looking to him for theirs.

Subsequently when the situations get tight or they’re up against tough teams, he shrinks before the moment.  Sure they win the games they are supposed to win but the superior opponent he needs to beat to become a champion, he will always come up short. Late game interceptions, mangled last minute drives in important games and always loses when an alpha quarterback is leading the other team. Constant big game heartbreak follows this guy….always.

Well this is how The Chancellor of Football sees the game. As you read those first two paragraphs, certain quarterbacks started to form in your mind.  One of the most unique aspect of the beta quarterback is he almost rises to prominence in the same way. Usually they are under appreciated talents that are the best of the back-up quarterbacks. Good enough to make the roster, run the scout team offense, and if we lose our starter he can pilot the ship for 3 or 4 games. Yet with the advent of complete NFL free agency, these are the guys signed after they have done well when they have relieved an injured starter. Matt Schaub was signed after performing admirably for Michael Vick in Atlanta and is the poster boy for the beta quarterback.

Tony Romo is the epitome of the Beta quarterback. On the verge of history yesterday, he threw the game away in crunch time against the Broncos yesterday.

Tony Romo is the epitome of the Beta quarterback. On the verge of history yesterday, he threw the game away in crunch time against the Broncos in a 51-48 thriller.

The Houston Texans were busy finding out the franchise quarterback they thought they had selected in David Carr just wasn’t developing. He was a shot fighter that had been beaten into submission. Too many sacks and was shrinking more by the moment when they saw a potential starter languishing on the Falcon bench. They acquired him and assembled talent around him. The team did well and when the team wasn’t ready for prime time, the thought process was: “Once he matures, he won’t throw those passes.” Yet that incessant tic never seems to leave this guy. It’s in his DNA and it becomes glaring once the rest of the team assembled with him should thrive with his leadership.

However here they are foundering when they have a healthy Brian Cushing and the NFL’s reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt. Throw in the most prolific receiver of the last decade in 6 time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, then perennial 1,000 yard rusher in Arian Foster. Yet here we are now that he has set an NFL record with his 4th game throwing a pick 6. Schaub is now broken.

He is well into his 30’s and we have seen the best he will ever offer the Houston Texans. This is supposed to be their year to come out of the AFC in the eyes of most pundits. Not here….the jury was already in with a verdict. In our preview: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/04/07/2013-houston-texans-preview-the-time-is-now/ we gave a warning this should have been a point where his maturity should win big games by now. Yet it’s in his DNA and now here is this team built for a Super Bowl run that needs him to lead and ….he doesn’t have it. The Texans are not a championship football team because they have a beta quarterback that shrank again against San Fran in a 34-3 loss. Wasn’t this looked upon as a possible Super Bowl match-up before the season??

So this is the fatal flaw that afflicts both the Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys. In state there is a young gunslinger named Johnny Manziel that leads his team into battle against top flight competition in college. He will win games and you can see players rally around him to be better as a unit. It’s in his DNA but he may not have the typical NFL body to make it but he has the psychological make-up of an alpha quarterback. It’s his moxie that will make a team take that risk next year in the draft. Put the Cowboys and the Texans on the block for needing new quarterbacks. They don’t have an alpha and they know it. The rest of us have already come to that conclusion.

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Bucs Release Josh Freeman: Now Where To??

Now the Buccaneers have cut ties with their one time franchise quarterback where do they go from here?? Is Mike Glennon the man to return the Buccaneers to the playoffs or is he a stop gap until another quarterback is drafted?? All are interesting questions to ponder but when is it time to face the fact that Greg Schiano is NOT an NFL head coach?? Eventually you run out of excuses as the losses pile up and you can only have so many scapegoats. Last week Tampa made the decision to deactivate Freeman vs the Arizona Cardinal.  It looked like the Bucs were going to get their first win of the season when Coach Schiano struck.

This could be the best thing to happen to Josh Freeman. Time for him to rededicate himself to the game.

This could be the best thing to happen to Josh Freeman. Time for him to rededicate himself to the game.

Pinned at his own 15 yard line with 7:00 left with a 10-3 lead, Schiano decided to play slick-em football instead of sic-em footbal. Instead of a safe running play and punt to a Cardinal offense that hadn’t reached the end-zone in 53:00 of playing time He opts to have Mike Glennon, his rookie quarterback, struggling in his first start no less, drop back and throw an interception to Cardinal super corner Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals tie it with a touchdown in the next couple of plays and escape 13-10 winners when Peterson intercepts another pass with :02 left to go in the game.

The puzzling aspect of this game  is Glennon was struggling for most of the day. Why would you pass the football in that situation?? You stood the chance of not only eating at Glennon’s confidence but the trust of your players as well. Who do you blame this time?? Freeman was sitting in a luxury box watching the game.

Yet isn’t this the same guy that tries to play smash mouth defense when the opponent is kneeling in the victory formation?? Strange, strange…strange. How antithetical to opt to try and trick the Cardinals instead of running a power off tackle play with Doug Martin. What is your mantra?? What is your mode of operation? Typical to what is happening in the NFL he’s overcoaching.

However now we have to look at the future of Josh Freeman. Right now he is at the precipice. Where he once wore the captain’ s”C” on his jersey, which he was stripped of going into the 2012 season, he is without a football team. This is still a strong durable quarterback with a lot of gas in the tank at only 25 yrs old. We are only two seasons removed from when he was second to Tom Brady in touchdown to interception ratio (25 to 6). There are a slew of teams that would benefit from picking him up and for several reasons.

  • Denver Broncos: Have him learn from Peyton Manning for the next year or two before taking over for a 38 year old QB.
  • Minnesota Vikings: You just benched Christian Ponder for having not developed. Is Matt Cassel really the answer??
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: The reasons are obvious with an NFL low 32 points scored.
  • Houston Texans: Matt Schaub’s fatal flaw of throwing the inopportune interception isn’t going away.
  • Cleveland Browns: The fire is already lit for every Brown and management is going to get a new QB anyway.
  • Arizona Cardinals: To learn from Carson Palmer and be ready to take over if Palmer continues to struggle.

All these situations seem ideal and for different reasons. In retrospect did Freeman ever recover from the firing of former Buccaneer head coach Raheem Morris?? It was under his direction that he had his best season (2011) and when he was a model citizen and voted captain. Ever since Schiano arrived in Tampa, he’s hinted at replacing the quarterback. Which in this instance undermined their relationship as time as moved on.

So at this point the countdown begins…not Freeman’s resurfacing with another team because we know he will. The countdown is to the firing of Coach Schiano. If Tampa fired Raheem Morris for one 4-12 season after a winning season the year before, how could it not fire this coach for returning the franchise to laughingstock depths at 0-4??

NFL Week 5: Peyton Manning Sets The Pace

At the end of the NFL 2013 season many experts have the Denver Broncos headed to New York and Super Bowl XLVIII. Why not? We’re talking about the #1 offense in the NFL right now averaging 483 yards per game. Worse part is they just pulverized the #2 offense in the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 and let’s face it, they could have scored 80. Peyton Manning and the Bronco offense rank first in passing with an average of 383 yards per game with an obscene 179 points scored. Are you serious?? They are on pace to score 719 points for the 2013 season. Now the count will begin elsewhere for the Broncos possibly going undefeated along with shattering numerous passing records in the process.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon's clinic on how to pay quarterback.

Peyton Manning has turned each of the last four games into a surgeon’s clinic on how to pay quarterback.

However posing as the #1 challenger in their own division no less are the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid has kept the Chiefs in games playing stout defense and a low risk / high yield offense that doesn’t beat itself with turnovers. Going into last week’s contest with the Giants, Alex Smith was one of three quarterbacks (one was Manning)  who had gone the longest without an interception this season.

They’re forte through this first stanza of the season has been to play conservative football and not put their 7th ranked defense in a demoralized position. Led by the NFL’s sack king Justin Houston (7.5 sacks) this defense has forced 12 turnovers which includes 3 at the expense of the Giants last Sunday. Lets take a look at the standings.

West Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Denver Broncos Broncos 4 0 0 1.000 179 91 3-0 1-0 1-0 2-0 W4 4-0
Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs 4 0 0 1.000 102 41 2-0 2-0 0-0 1-0 W4 4-0
San Diego Chargers Chargers 2 2 0 .500 108 102 1-1 1-1 0-0 0-2 W1 2-2
Oakland Raiders Raiders 1 3 0 .250 71 91 1-1 0-2 0-1 1-2 L2 1-3

Don’t overlook the San Diego Chargers too quickly. Sure they lost Dwight Freeney for the season with  a torn quad, but this is a 2-2 team that could easily be 4-0. They’re only 6 points away from it. Last Saturday Phillip Rivers tortured the Dallas Cowboys with a 401 yard passing day with 3 touchdowns. Rivers consistently found the mismatch as he threw all 3 of his TDs against Cowboys linebackers. Danny Woodhead was a surprising star with 2 scoring receptions. Yet the Chargers keep playing very close to the vest affairs that could short circuit their season.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Phillip Rivers is off to an unbelievable start in 2013 as well.

Lost in the wake of Manning’s performance is the fact Rivers is off on a torrid pace of his own. Through four games he is 105 of 142 for an astounding 73.9% completion rate for 1,199 yards 11 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. He is on pace to throw for 4,800 yards and 44 touchdowns himself. Can they fast break with the Broncos when they meet them in their two match-ups.

Last year the Broncos finished the season on an 11 game winning streak that began overcoming a 24-0 deficit to the Chargers. Each team’s season turned on that game. San  Diego finished the season 4-7 which cost Head Coach Norv Turner his job. The Chargers haven’t forgotten and will be looking to pay Denver back in kind. New offensive Coordinator Ken Wisenhunt comes in with a roven background and two Super bowl appearances by his offenses in the last decade. They have to overcome the loss of Dwight Freeney as the season rolls on.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs…it’s hard to not cheer for a team that went through the turmoil they had last year. It wasn’t just the 2-14 season they had to endure….most people forget they had a suicide inside their practice facility by a player last year to compund things. Now with a proven winner with a chip on his shulder in Andy Reid (see Sal Paolantonio video leaving field in Philadelphia wo weeks ago) and a proven commodity in former 49er Alex Smith, this team is quietly on a mission. The Chancellor forwarned you about this team: https://taylorblitztimes.com/2013/05/13/2013-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-tools-for-a-resurgence/ This is about redemption in Kansas City and nothing motivates men like when they feel they have something to prove.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Justin Houston is a wrecking ball of a linebacker, and at 23 years of age, has just scratched the surface.

Just like San Francisco found out last year: A sure-fire champion wakes up in the middle of a season and finds themselves the hunted in their own divisional back yard. As all of NFL coverage has talked about Manning’s torrid start ad-nauseum, keep a few things in mind. On defense the Broncos are 24th in football and the Chargers should be able to score with them. Second Ryan Clady is still inactive and this week the Broncos have to have a back up Tackle play against DeMarcus Ware. This game against Dallas could be interesting.

Last but not least keep a few things in mind… Peyton Manning is not a good cold weather Super Bowl and to win it all he’ll need to win 3 games out in the elements. Just remember one of hi worst losses was a 41-0 drubbing against the New York Jets in the same spot that this year’s February Super bowl will be held. Last but not least, the greatest scoring offenses in NFL history, the 1983 Washington Redskins (541 points), the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556 points), and the 2007 New England Patriots(589 points), ALL eventually ran into a defense and DIDN’T win the title. In fact two lost in the Super Bowl and the other in the NFC Championship Game. Further evidence of this we can throw in the 1990 Buffalo Bills , the 2011 New England Patriots, and the 2001 St Louis Rams for good measure. Bronco fans learn from history and be humble as this season grows on. The first question is:  Do the Kansas City chiefs have one of those defenses that can slow Manning and company before they get out of their own division??  Something to think about…. although right now Manning has established a record setting pace

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