SUPER BOWL XXXII CHAMPION 1997 DENVER BRONCOS: Curse of the 1983 Draft

Thirteen losses in a row??  Are you kiddin’ me?? Hard to believe but from 1983-1997, the AFC lost every Super Bowl and many in decisive fashion.

xxxiiThe NFC’s dominance in the Super Bowl had reached an embarrassing level and let’s face it the Green Bay Packers were poised to become back to back champions.  Brett Favre, at the height of his powers, having collected his 3rd straight MVP trophy was leading an offense that was stronger than the one that won the Super Bowl the year before.

Dorsey Levens was having a career year in rushing with 1,435 yards.  Reggie White, had former Philadelphia Eagle Seth Joyner join him with Green Bay in a quest to get a ring like White, Sean Jones, Keith Jackson, Andre Rison, Desmond Howard, and Eugene Robinson had the year before.  This team had just run roughshod over the San Francisco 49ers 23-10 in Candlestick to take the NFC Championship…What happened?

First, let’s take you back to 1983. The great quarterback class that brought Jim Kelly, John Elway, Dan Marino, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, and Todd Blackledge all to the AFC.  From that time on the conference made personnel moves and strategies based on being downfield passing attacks.  Subsequently the teams also geared their defensive personnel to stop that kind of approach.  They had thinner, lankier linemen to pass block and defenders to rush the passer and cover running backs.

Think back to the Patriots DE Garin Veris, Denver’s DE Rulon Jones, Dolphins DE’s Kim Bokamper, Cleveland’s Al “Bubba” Baker. All AFC defensive line prototypes you didn’t see in the NFC.

Their less fortunate Earth bound NFC brethren stayed rooted in running the football. They were stouter in the types of linemen they kept and played stronger at the line of scrimmage.  How do we know this?  From 1983-1997 there were really only two running backs that led the NFL in rushing from the AFC: Marcus Allen ’85, Eric Dickerson in ’88 after being traded from Rams, and Christian Okoye in 1989. In Okoye’s case, he carried the ball 90 more times and only outrushed Barry Sanders by 10 yards.  On the last day of the season with Okoye’s day completed, Sanders was 10 yards away in a late game with several minutes to go, yet was uninterested in the rushing title.

xxxii2When you think back to the Super Bowls during the 13 game losing streak, what became apparent was how much more physical the top NFC teams played. They simply overpowered the AFC Champions on the line of scrimmage.  This was the curse of the great quarterback class of 1983. Yes they made it to the top of their conference yet it wasn’t a coincidence that they were a combined 0-9 in the Super Bowl during that stretch.  So what did they need to do?  Well…to get John Elway a Super Bowl ring, Denver had to build him an NFC team.

Since the advent of Free Agency in 1993 the physicality of the NFC started to have an effect on the AFC as players switched sides.  The teams were getting more physical by the year and if you look at the 1997 Denver Broncos, a significant number of new players on their roster had come from NFC camps. CB Tim McKyer, LB Bill Romanowski, FB Howard Griffith, WR Ed McCaffrey, OL Mark Schlereth, OL Brian Habib, RB Dereck Loville, and DE Alfred Williams to name a few, had come over to give Denver a stronger more physical team.

They drafted Terrell Davis, a north/south NFC power-type runner more suited to the NFC East than the pre Mike Shanahan Broncos.  The AFC began to change & starting with the ‘95 Steelers, the AFC Champion arrived much stronger on the front lines than their predecessors in previous Super Bowls.  The inability to control the line of scrimmage is what doomed the AFC in those 13 previous Super Bowls.

Couple that with the sentimental favorite to win it all, John Elway. We forgot that it had been 8 years since Elway was called “The Duke”, a nickname of late 80s fame when he had gone to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years.  We kept waiting for THOSE Bronco teams in orange jerseys to show up with a pedestrian running game.  Unfortunately so did the Green Bay Packers who woke up in the second half of Super Bowl XXXII tied 17-17, and were facing Terrell Davis running north and south on them. This brought the linebackers up and allowed Elway to complete several choice seem passes to Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe which led to the famous diving, helicopter spinning, run of Elway’s that told Bronco nation that THIS Super Bowl was going to be different.  Much different!!

The galvanized Broncos, from that point on were physically punishing the Packers defensive front and Davis controlled the rest of the 3rd quarter and most of the 4th after Brett Favre had driven down to tie it at 24.  Everyone seems to forget that the Broncos were on the verge of blowing out the Packers. After Terrell Davis scored to give the Broncos a 24-17 lead, Tony Veland forced Antonio Freeman to fumble the subsequent kickoff and Tim McKyer recovered at the Packer 17 yard line.  Only Eugene Robinson’s timely interception at the goal line kept Green Bay in it.

As for Howard Griffith, the fullback who led Terrell Davis into the endzone on his 3 TD runs, go back and look at his blocking in that 4th quarter on that last drive.  Go back and watch on one play where not only did Griffith block two different Packers on a sweep to the left but WR Ed McCaffrey absolutely “de-cleat” Packer linebacker Brian Williams as Davis ran for a big first down that demoralized the Packer defense. Why do I say this?  This was the point that Green Bay realized their defense was dead.  The next play after Davis went left (again) thru a gaping hole for 17 yards to the 1 yard line, Coach Holmgren told the defense to “let them score” knowing they were powerless and give Favre some time.  Denver held them on downs and the celebration began.

xxxii3To win “This one’s for John”, Denver Bronco’s first Super Bowl triumph, they had to build Elway an NFC team to do it.  They played and looked like the Giants, Redskins, and 49ers that had manhandled them on the front lines in previous Elway led Super Bowls.

So yeah, Super Bowl XXXII was different, much different.  It actually featured 2 teams from the NFC…just ask the Packers front line…

1990’s San Francisco 49ers v. Dallas Cowboys: 49ers Perspective

Former San Francisco 49er Head Coach Bill Walsh referred to the early years of the organization’s coming of age as “Camelot”. After the 1981 Super Bowl championship they would go on to become “Team of the Decade” winning another 3 titles. San Francisco became the NFL’s gold standard in on field achievement and the corporate way they conducted themselves.

Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and John Taylor had taken the West Coast Offense to a record level.

Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and John Taylor had taken the West Coast Offense to a record level.

Their players were revered as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott took their place among the league’s greatest ever players. They had been the toast of Presidents as the 80’s drew to a close. In 1989 new Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones traveled to San Francisco to learn from Eddie Debartolo how the league’s model franchise did business. This was nothing new as even former Head Coach Bill Walsh had become a favorite on the corporate motivational speaking circuit.

As the 90’s beckoned, the team was transitioning on the field as Steve Young, Ricky Watters and a new wave of 49ers emerged. It started with a team loss in  the 90 NFC Championship to the New York Giants 15-13 ending their chance at a 3-peat. Gone were 80’s holdovers Montana, Roger Craig, and Lott as the new generation took shape in 1991. Montana from a vicious hit that kept him out of football for two years. The others were released as the team looked to get younger to stay competitive.

They finished 10-6 as Steve Young finished his first season as a passing champion. It took awhile for San Fran to find their footing yet they finished on a 6 game winning streak. By 1992 the Niners hit their stride finishing 14-2 and retooled with Ricky Watters rushing for 1,013 yards to join Young, and Rice in the Pro Bowl. Another passing title moved Young into the elite of the sport yet it came crashing down with a loss to the upstart Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship 30-20.

Steve Young being sacked  during the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

Steve Young being sacked during the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

Yes, those same Dallas Cowboys who had studied the 49er organization some 4 years before. The same Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones who had traded for former 49er Charles Haley to help lead the upstart Cowboys and shift the balance of power. Haley had grown up a 49er and battled T Steve Wallace, G Guy McIntyre, and G Harris Barton for 6 years in practice. His experience and spirit settled the nervous young Cowboys in their ’92 NFC Championship triumph.

Going into the game it was a 50/50 split as to who had the upper hand. What really hurt Steve Young is a now healthy Joe Montana watched from the sideline. As San Fran fell behind in the second half, a growing feeling in the stadium loomed. Would George Seifert put Montana in if the game got away from Young. Even though Young was the NFL’s MVP, he still had the legend looking over his shoulder.

Troy Aikman outplayed him and made several signature throws to Alvin Harper while Young threw 2 4th quarter interceptions. What if Guy McIntyre doesn’t false start on the game’s 3rd play negating Jerry Rice’s 63 yard TD from Young?? It would have changed the complexion of  the game. However Troy Aikman had gone 24 of 34 for 322 yards and 2TDs. Emmitt Smith controlled the clock with 114 yds rushing and 59 yds receiving. They took the measure of San Fran and became the league’s signature team with their Super Bowl XXVII championship.

Going into 1993 the 49ers had traded away Joe Montana making it Young’s team. This added pressure from the fans but their real battle was catching Dallas who was now an established champion. They were brash and played with an in your face bravado that took the 49ers aback. In the locker room following the ’92 Championship, Jimmy Johnson’s boast “How ’bout them Cowboys!?!” reverberated in the CBS cameras & throughout Candlestick Park. It haunted the organization as they set their sights on dethroning the loud, brash Cowboys.

Once they qualified for the NFC Championship rematch in Dallas, it was time to right the ship. Dallas had beat them 26-17 in the regular season to add to their confidence. Then Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson dropped a bombshell.  He called a Dallas radio station and declared “We will win the game and you can put it in 3 inch headline!” Now they were calling San Fran out and how would they respond??

Called out and humiliated like an after school fight in 6th grade, the 38-21 loss in the ’93 NFC Championship was worse than it looked. Dallas was up 28-7 in the 2nd quarter and was sitting on the ball with 3:27 to go. The defense, which had struggled all year, was completely exposed. The gap was widening and the team needed to make drastic changes if they were going to compete with the younger Cowboys.

Michael Irvin had emerged as one of the best wide outs in the NFL. Emmitt Smith had the last 2 rushing titles and had his 3rd straight 100 yard rushing game against the 49ers. Troy Aikman had yet to throw an interception in 2 NFC Championship games. Alvin Harper was becoming a serious 49er killer as he emerged with the highest yard per catch average in postseason history. Most of it due to huge plays against San Fran.

Carmen Policy and the 49ers brass moved into swift action. Back then the team that lost the conference championship coached the Pro Bowl squad. Free agency had come to the NFL the year before and they used this as a recruiting trip. They signed future Hall of Famers Rickey Jackson, Richard Dent, Deion Sanders off the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Then stole Ken Norton Jr from the Cowboys and DE Charles Mann all fom the ’93 Pro Bowl.

Floyd and Watters celebrate touchdown during their 44-15 demolition of Chicago in the '94 playoffs.

Floyd and Watters celebrate touchdown during their 44-15 demolition of Chicago in the ’94 playoffs.

“If you can come in and give us the defense, we have an offense that can dethrone the Cowboys and get to the Super Bowl.” They also knew they needed a new approach psychologically and embraced a more brash, in your face street tough mentality. Embraced was the outgoing personalities of Ricky Watters, Deion Sanders, and rookie FB William Floyd. Gone was the laced up corporate attitude of the team on the field. This group showed its emotions on the field, celebrated with end zone dancing and Deion highstepping downfield after interceptions. The only thing that made the 49ers recognizable were their helmets. Thanks to the NFL commemorating their 75th season, the Niners elected to play most of the season in their “throwback” uniforms of the 1950s. The 49ers were reborn in 1994.

It worked as the 49ers blew through the regular season 13-3 and scored a team record 505 points. Steve Young was league MVP and Sanders was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. They retooled and had specific match ups ready as they eyed the defending champion Cowboys. They beat them during the season 21-14 to earn the right to homefield advantage for the ’94 NFC Championship. If the Cowboys were going to 3peat, they had to go through the last team that had that same chance just 4 years before.

The vanquished became the victors with their 38-28 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys in the ’94 NFC Championship Game. Super Bowl XXIX was an anticlimactic 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young liberated himself from the ghost of Joe Montana. For 3 straight years these two teams pushed each other to heights they would not have achieved without each other. However the final shot was fired by the 49ers.

Young and Rice celebrate in Super Bowl XXIX.

Young and Rice celebrate in Super Bowl XXIX.

Jerry Jones had become obsessed with overtaking the 49ers who themselves made practical business decisions. They didn’t match Ricky Watters free agent contract with Philadelphia, which was a mistake, and they had to enter a bidding war for Deion Sanders. In ’94 they signed him to $1.1 million for one year where other teams were offering 4 years $17 million. Coming off a Super Bowl triumph and his 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year it was time to cash in. San Francisco baited jones and he took it and overspent for Deion at a cost of $35 million.

This crippled Dallas who wouldn’t be a player in free agency the rest of the decade. The Cowboys had all their money tied to Aikman, Smith, Irvin, and Sanders. The 49ers had freed themselves of the Dallas stranglehold and would go on to be an elite team the rest of the decade. They just didn’t see a new foe emerging in Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay Packers.

However there was the 1995 season where the 49ers were more in the spirit of the pre ’94 group. At midseason they took on the revenge minded Cowboys in Texas Stadium. The Cowboys were 8-1, healthy and ready to show with Deion Sanders in tow, they had overtaken San Fran. Going into the game they were missing QB Steve Young, FB William Floyd and staggered into the game with a 5-4 record. Perfect timing for the Cowboys to provide the knock out blow. Nobody believed the 49ers had a chance…

After being upset by the Packers in the 1995 NFC Divisional Playoffs 21-17, they began a new rivalry chapter with them. As for Dallas, they did win Super Bowl XXX to make it 4 wins in 4 years between these two organizations. New teams would emerge before the decade concluded. Most notable was Mike Shanahan’s Denver Broncos. Shanahan was San Francisco’s Offensive Coordinator during the heat of the 49er v Cowboys rivalry.

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2013 Washington Redskins Preview – RGIII In Camp On Time

All eyes on Robert Griffin III as he returns from off season knee surgery.

All eyes on Robert Griffin III as he returns from off season knee surgery.

Think back to that dark January evening, when Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, fell awkwardly fumbling the football on his last play of the game. More than the Redskins faithful held their collective breath as he was helped to the sideline. It initially looked like the Redskins had lost more than a wild card playoff game to Seattle, for a period it lost faith and trust in head coach Mike Shanahan as well. Why would you risk your injured star quarterback and jeopardize his career??

Clearly RG III is one of the most electrifying talents the NFL has had in more than a decade. His jersey has been among the most popular sold during the 2012 NFL season. When it was learned that he would have to go through another knee reconstruction, the NFL fan base held their collective breath. After months of what sounded like wishful thinking, Griffin III made it to pre-season camp on time to run one play with a knee brace before coaches sent him in to get it. The sigh from Redskin fans could be heard nationwide, and now we have to assess this team moving forward. How will the Redskins fare defending their NFC East title?? For the first time since 2000, the Redskins are the team to beat in the NFC East, this time based from on-field performance.

Quarterback: We just covered the importance of Griffin III’s return.  Although he and Andrew Luck were compared throughout the 2012 season, it was RG III’s performance that gained momentum as the season progressed. Forgotten amid his off season recovery is the fact the Redskins ended the season on a 7 game winning streak after a 3-6 start. The NFL’s fifth best offense was powered by a QB who completed 65.6% of his passes (258 of 393) for 3,200 yards 20 TDs and only 5 interceptions. However it was the stretch plays using the read option that saw Griffin explode for 815 yards and another 7 touchdowns.

Yet there is more to talk about than meets the eye. He made his teammates believe they could win every game. The Redskins broke a 9 game losing streak at home when they topped the Vikings 38-26 in week 6. Now they come in with a 4 game winning streak at home and more important, come in with a 5 game winning streak within the division. In a winner take all game against the hated Dallas Cowboys in the finale, RGIII outperformed Tony Romo in a 28-18 win.

As long as he retains his ability to keep plays alive and stretch them with the “read opion” from The Pistol, right now defenses don’t have an answer. The beauty in the mechanics of the play are linebackers are slow to get in position to defend intermediate passes. Griffin showed the touch to make those throws as much as he deftly handed the ball off, or took advantage of a defensive end crashing down. He does need to slide more when the hit is inevitable or run out of bounds. As for defenses against him, expect teams to crash the front part of this play and delay blitz on the outside. They will have to take this play away and make him a pocket passer only. He’s showed the ability to be ahead of defenses at this point which keeps him a playoff level performer at this point.

Can Morris repeat his great rookie season??

Can Morris repeat his great rookie season??

Offensive Backfield: The biggest beneficiary of RGIII was obviously first year back Alfred Morris. His 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns were among the NFL’s best. His patient feet are key to the read option. He sets up blocks well when he gets the ball and carries out his fake well when he doesn’t get the ball. However lets face it, this will be an interesting season for him if RG III misses some time.

He does break some arm tackles but can he stay so productive if he’s the focal point of the offense?? It didn’t go unnoticed the running game disappeared when Griffin III left the wild card tilt with Seattle. Morris keeps the running game Super Bowl level as long as the quarterback stayed healthy. Yet don’t be surprised if his rushing totals dip to 1,200 yards this season.

Hankerson needs to show improvement this year. He had a great one handed catch for a TD in preseason action last night.

Hankerson needs to show improvement this year. He had a great one handed catch for a TD in preseason action last night.

Receivers: Looking to improve at receiver, Mike Shanahan brought in 6 guys this off-season. The most notable are veteran free agents Donte Stallworth and former New Orleans Saint Devery Henderson. However when was the last time these two were top tier performers?? Returning is second year pro Leonard Hankerson who needs some more polishing after a 38 catch 543 yard 3 touchdown campaign. He’s still learning the pro game but lacks burst out of his cuts running routes.

Oops, the Redskins just released Henderson. They must have been proofreading this article and asked themselves the same question.

Pierre Garcon (44 rec/ 633 yds / 4TDs) and slot receiver Josh Morgan (48 rec / 510 yds / 2TDs) were solid but have limitations as well. The player that bonded with RGIII and was the most productive was grey-beard Santana Moss. He led the team with 8 touchdowns on his 41 receptions, However he will be 34 years of age and could slip due to age and the Redskins need to be prepared. Truth is the Redskins should have drafted another receiver. Shanahan must have doubts in Hankerson and Garcon or he wouldn’t have signed so many receivers this spring. They need to get better on the outside and ranks as a bad receiving group.

Offensive Line: Did we see a return of The Hogs?? The Redskins dominated upfront when it came to blowing open holes for the running game. Only the Minnesota Vikings had a better per rush average than Washington’s gaudy 5.2 yard team average. They were the #1 rushing team in football and showed no nonsense power in obvious rushing situations. When it came to 3rd or 4th and short/goal, they earned the first down or touchdown 65% of the time to the weakside and 75% up the middle. Couple this with posting NFL highs in 1st downs rushed for both weakside (67) and strongside (51), you can see why the focus was to stand pat and re-sign their guys.

The flip side of having a dynamic quarterback who can keep plays alive is in the times he gets hit and sacks allowed. This year Shanahan will emphasize throwing the ball away to keep from getting hit 80 times while back to pass. Far too many since that ranks 23rd in all of football. Yet the team only allowed 33 sacks which ranked 13th. A majority of these happened on impromptu scrambles which will improve in the latter stages of the season. When measuring a Super Bowl level line you have to take in consideration what the emphasis of the offense is. When you can run efficiently to both sides and power up the middle, you keep the defense off balance.

Defensive Line: When a team transitions to a 3-4 defense, that first year is a wash as the linemen adjust to eating up space where in most 4-3’s, they’re going after the quarterback first. Surprisingly this defense collapsed to 28th overall. This shouldn’t happen when your offense is one of the best at running the football and time of possession. The good news is the triumvirate of NT Barry Cofield, along with DEs Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen started 46 out of a possible 48 starts between them in 2012.  Right now Cofield is nursing a few injuries and leads an average line.

The defense is held together by the ageless London Fletcher.

The defense is held together by the ageless London Fletcher.

Linebackers: Holding down the middle is 16 year pro London Fletcher. Someone please get our CEO some of what he’s drinking. Are you serious?? Football is a young man’s game and at 37 years of age he had 141 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 interceptions, and 11 passes defensed. Again he looks in great shape but how long can he perform at this level?? Washington hopes at least another season.

Depth won’t be a problem now they have signed LB Nick Barnett.  He makes the team he will back up Fletcher and youngster Perry Riley. Last year, he garnered 125 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, and 7 passes defensed. This team was active in the preseason match-up with the Steelers the other night. Experience and youth are serving in the middle.

The real need is to have Bryan Orakpo back to be the trigger man for the Redskins pass rush. In a perfect world he’d have a bounce back year with 12 or more sacks. He should be fresh after missing most of last season. If Fletcher and Orakpo can perform as they have in the past, this is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Rookie Baccari Rambo will get every opportunity to start for the Redskins.

Rookie Baccari Rambo will get every opportunity to start for the Redskins.

Secondary: There could be major wholesale change on the back side of this defense. Mike Shanahan had to face the fact that Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams are limited safeties. They combined for 1 interception and 7 passes defensed. In the 4th and 6th rounds the Redskins picked up Phillip Thomas from Fresno State and Bacarri Rambo from Georgia. Couple this with their top pick being cornerback David Amerson of North Carolina State, this team could field 3 rookies in the secondary.

Think not?? Why else would you re-sign DeAngelo Hall other than help mentor a young secondary. Did you notice they waived two safeties a couple weeks ago?? These rookies are going to stick and their development will dictate if they’ll start or not. Although they have SS Brandon Merriweather starting right now, keep your eye on them this preseason.

Hall turned in a decent year with 90 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions and 14 passes defensed. However he is about to turn to the dark side (30 years of age) where a player can lose his prime in an individual year. When you come in 28th on defense, although you’re one of the best time of possession teams that leads the league in rushing?? You’re a bad secondary and have to take drastic measures.

Overall: This team didn’t win with smoke and mirrors last year. They had an equation no one really had an answer for offensively. Let’s not forget this team was up 14-3 early in their playoff loss to Seattle. However teams have studied RG III’s tendencies and should have a better grasp of what they have to do to slow him down. That is until he breaks the pocket, then all bets are off. In all probability we will get the same RG III when it comes to spontaneous play. He can’t change who he is. However the maturation has to come from his knowing when to slide to protect himself from the bigger hits that occur downfield.

What will be challenging for this team defending their NFC East Title is a much rougher schedule down the stretch. In weeks 10-15, Washington is on the road to Minnesota, to whom they nearly lost to last year. On the road to Philadelphia, home to San Francisco, the New York Giants, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Then they travel to Atlanta to play a Falcon team who will be vying for home field advantage. The Giants and 49ers are the last two NFC Champions who have Super Bowl aspirations as well. How they do in this stretch is how they’ll fare for the season.

Last year the Redskins swept the Cowboys and the Eagles and split with the Giants within the division. With Bryan Orakpo back to bolster the defense, they should stay with the Giants who will battle them for NFC East supremacy in 2013. This team isn’t ready to repeat the playoff run they had last year due to a much rougher schedule. The Chancellor sees the Redskins finishing at 9-7 or 8-8 this year.

 

Shanahan: RG3 will “set a record” for recovery from knee surgery

Run, Griffin III, run!!

Run, Griffin III, run!!

It’s amazing how often people worry about how running quarterbacks will get injured. The complete truth is there is no safe spot on the football field for a quarterback. Of course a quarterback can slide at the end of the run to protect himself but that is really all that he has. Remember in the 2005 playoffs when Carson Palmer, when he was with the Bengals, was hit by Kimo von Oelhofen?? How about 2008 when Tom Brady was knocked out for the year?? What about when we go back to the first game of 1991 when Randall Cunningham was knocked out for the year after being hit by Green Bay Packer Bryce Paup?? All of these occurred in the pocket.
Or a more vivid picture was when Steve Young, a reckless running quarterback at times, was knocked out in 1999 by a blitzing Aeneas Williams on a Monday Night against the Cardinals. Remember that hit?? That also took place in the passing pocket. It was the concussion that ended Steve Young’s career. Of course the Washington Redskins should still utilize the “Read Option” and exploit the talents of Robert Griffin III. To eliminate that would take away his greatest weapon which right now is his dual threat capabilities.

If he’s making a speedy recovery go with it. It has always bothered our CEO when fans or coaches want to tell a mobile quarterback to not run. A mobile quarterback turns football into 11 on 11 when it comes to a running game. Defenses haven’t accounted for quarterbacks in over 60 years in the NFL. Under normal circumstances they hand the ball off and watch the play. It wasn’t until Brett Favre in the mid 1990s started carrying out a “fake pass” to retard the charge of the Outside Linebacker to the weakside, that returned it to 10 on 10 from a strategic standpoint. Other coaches started to run fake reverses away from the running play to trick defenders into staying home instead of pursuing the ball. This allows greater cut back openings for the running back as well.

Robert Griffin III along with Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson and the Pistol Offense is the next evolution of football. Now the quarterback has to be accounted for on a running play. So let RG III run when he gets back.

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Is Mike Shanahan Overrated??

Too often we give a coach or player a pass for bad decisions because they have won a championship.  Look at how Mike Shanahan is handling the Donovan McNabb situation in Washington.  This is a quarterback he hand selected then traded for.  He benches him for Rex Grossman,whom the Chicago Bears deemed expendable for single handedly losing a Super Bowl and regressing.  What is he doing? Is there a psychological edge to what he’s doing? No this is an ego-maniac who fell in love with his genius mantle and is personally  affronting McNabb with benching him and embarrassing him.  You know what? We’ve seen this before…

Mike Shanahan is one of a long list of coaches who fell into some good situations and were given more credit than they really deserved.  He was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos when John  Elway led them to the Super Bowl yet this was a Hall of Fame talent already in tow.  What is missed during those years is everyone forgets that the 1986 Denver Broncos were #1 in the AFC in defense and were highly ranked in 1987. We tend to forget that when we remember those defenses collapsing in the Super Bowl against the Giants, Redskins, and 49ers respectively. When he finally was given a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Raiders, his results were terrible.  He had a losing record (8-12) and was fired mid season.  Funny thing is 1 1/2 years later Art Shell had those same Los Angeles Raiders in the 1990 AFC Championship Game in Buffalo playing for the right to go to Super Bowl XXV. So don’t sell me on his expertise.

Here is where it gets interesting.  The San Francisco 49ers offensive plays, playbook, and ALL training sessions were all on video for the incoming offensive coordinator.   From Bill Walsh on down.  There was no serious input and you HAD to learn how the 49ers ran their offense period to be hired as a coordinator.  So when Mike Holmgren was hired away to be the Green Bay Packers head coach, Shanahan was hired on and had to learn their system.  Holmgren had just led the 1988 & 1989 Super Bowl champion’s powerful offense.  Throw in the 14-2 1990 season where the 49ers made the NFC Championship Game, and then in ’91 they again had the #1 offense although Joe Montana and Steve Young missed significant playing time.  So when they hired Shanahan in 1992 the 49er offense was already a juggernaut.  They ranked highly through the Super Bowl XXIX triumph that made it seem as though Shanahan was some genius when he ran what was already in place in deployment and personnel.

Now we know he inherited Hall of Famer John Elway when he became head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1995.  By a twist of luck they had Terrell Davis develop as a running back.  He installed a running offense and signed a ton of defensive free agents to fortify the defense and he was rewarded with back to back Super Bowls.  He coached well and had the pulse of his team along with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.  Yet for all his offensive acumen he hasn’t developed his own quarterback having inherited Steve Young and John Elway. He drafted Brian Griese in 1998 and that didn’t work out as well as Bronco fans would have hoped.  He traded away for Jake Plummer who did play good enough to help the Broncos to the 2005 AFC Championship, yet they were upset at home. From 1999-2005, a 7 year period,  he only won 1 playoff game after the retirement of John Elway.

With the help of Alex Gibbs zone blocking schemes the Broncos did provide many a 1,000 yard rusher starting with Terrell Davis. Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary were surprising 1,000 yard rushers in Davis’ absent to knee injuries that derailed a Hall of Fame career.  Then with the 2002 NFL Draft, the Broncos nabbed Clinton Portis off of the NCAA Champion Miami Hurricanes.  Clinton seemed he would be a serviceable back although he had an outspoken personality.  What happened?? Clinton Porits turned out to be the most prolific back, for their first two years,  in the history of the Denver Broncos. Where Terrell Davis rushed for 1,117 and 1,538 yards his first two seasons, Portis burst onto the scene to the tune of 1,508 and 1,591 yards. Portis also scored 29TDs to Davis 20TDs while garnering the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for 2002 and setting an NFL record of averaging 5.5 yards per carry for his first two years.  He also became the youngest player in league history to have a 5 TD game and was a rising star.

So did he build another champion around a talented running back? Nope. He traded away one of history’s most prolific backs for CB Champ Bailey.  Not only did the Broncos not improve on their defensive statistics in terms of touchdowns given up, guess what happened with their star cornerback in tow??  The ’04 AFC Wildcard Tilt saw Peyton Manning throw for the most yards EVER in the playoffs for a non overtime game with 457 yards passing while losing 49-24.  Now thats genius!! The record is Bernie Kosar [The U] who threw for 489 yards in a double overtime victory over the Jets in the 1986 divisional round.  Peyton almost did that in 4 quarters. Yikes!

So where did the genius mantle come from?  He did win 2 straight Super Bowls with the NFL’s all time winningest (at the time) quarterback in John Elway, but where is the other developed talent?  Where is the other quarterback he’s groomed into an elite passer whether we are talking about Brian Griese or even Jake Plummer?? So now here we are with his on again off again mistreatment of Donovan McNabb. He won’t give him a vote of confidence in being the starter yet this lockout is keeping him from trading Donovan.  Shanahan is the same coach who put McNabb in the news signing him to a huge contract extension only to bench him two weeks later.  Lets face it the re-signing was only to back-load the contract money to years McNabb would not see.  For a reason that has not been introduced to us this seems to have gone into the realm of the personal.

Once you look at the body of work, I don’t see an elite coach.  I see an old coach who is achieving what he always has: marginal years with a couple playoff years.  Doesn’t really develop any of the talent he drafts and is callous to many of his players.  Rod Smith and Terrell Davis the notable exceptions.   I think the sand is out of his hour glass and he won’t be coach of the Redskins after this season with a sub-par performance.  I would like to word things differently Redskin fans but I call them like I see them.  He is overrated and past his prime.  The Albert Haynesworth debacle withstanding, what has he really done in Washington? Its hard to see the present situation with Donovan McNabb as anything other than personal.  Now the NFL lockout is keeping McNabb in place to prolong the agony which is unfortunate.

SUPER BOWL XXXII RUNNER UP 1997 GREEN BAY PACKERS