Tag Archives: Cam Newton

Still Searching For The Answer at Quarterback

How’s this for a knee-jerk reaction?

John Beck isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

Yes, last Sunday was only one game. Yes, last Sunday, he made his first NFL start in over three NFL season and close to four years overall. Yes, he finished last Sunday’s game without the services of his starting running back, best wide receiver, and 40% of his team’s starting offensive line. All of those are true.

Here’s my retort: when you watched the game last Sunday, did we really see anything from Beck that, at any point, made you think: “wow, I know it’s only his first game in four seasons, but I really think we have a chance with this guy”? Emphatically, no.

Anyone who’s being completely honest with themself would admit that Beck showed us that he’s an average quarterback, at best, with a little bit of mobility. That’s it. There’s nothing special, or even above average, about his game. Again, being honest, the only reason that myself, among many other Redskins fans, rallied behind John Beck was that he wasn’t Rex Grossman. That’s about it. It’s not like we saw something in 2007, or even this past preseason, that makes us believe that there’s something to this guy. Hell, this is the guy that Grossman beat out for the starting job. Decisively, I might add.

At this point in time, we just have to let Beck finish out the season. Because, really, what other choice do we have? There’s no point in going back to Grossman. He was a below-average quarterback, and he showed nothing different when he was the Redskins starter; there’s nothing to gain by going back to him (except maybe draft positioning). And it’s not like we’ve got some third guy at quarterback, waiting on the bench. Our third string, pratice squad quarterback is Jonathan Crompton, a guy who wasn’t even in camp with the Redskins and signed with the team just days before the regular season started.

Honestly, I’m sick and tired of the patchwork quarterbacking this team has rolled out over the past decade. 21 starting quarterbacks in 19 years, since the end of the Gibbs I era. That’s just ridiculous on so many levels. Even with the new hope found from the Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, we’re still busy rolling out retreads like Donovan McNabb or castoffs like Grossman and Beck, and being told to have patience and faith.

Damn it, we’ve had nothing but patience, faith, and hope for the better part of two decades now. Enough is enough.

Quarterbacks aren’t like kickers, where there’s five capable guys waiting by the phone for tryouts, ready to take the incumbent’s spot if and when necessary. In today’s NFL, more than at any point ever in the history of the league, a team’s success lies with the performance of its quarterback.

Just take a look around the NFL, as of late October, 2011. The resurrection and current success of some of the league’s top franchises, both currently and over the past decade, began with finding their franchise quarterback – usually capitalizing on an early pick in the draft – and then putting together the rest of the team around that.

Green Bay won the Super Bowl last year, and went to the playoffs two of the three years Aaron Rodgers has been the starting quarterback (yes, I know Rodgers was drafted 24th overall; if you remember that draft, Rodgers was legitimately in the running to be the top overall pick, and only fell to #24 after Smith was drafted because so many teams were afraid of the risk and cost associated with drafting a QB, given the high bust rate between 1997 and 2004). I’ll make the argument, right now, that Rodgers could very well be the best quarterback in the entire game – especially with Peyton Manning gone – even over Tom Brady.

In addition to having him as their starting quarterback in two Super Bowl wins, Pittsburgh has never had a losing season since drafting Ben Roethlisberger. The Giants have never had a losing season since drafting Eli Manning (outside of Manning’s rookie year in 2004), and they also have a Super Bowl ring to show for it. The Chargers have never had a losing season with Phillip Rivers (the third member of that 2004 draft class) as their quarterback , and have won 11 or more games in three of the five season’s he’s been the starter.

Indianapolis drafting Peyton Manning, and their subsequent success, should go without saying (at least until this season). Philadelphia ruled the NFC East for the better part of a decade, after drafting McNabb. The Bengals won two division titles with Carson Palmer as their starting quarterback. Atlanta won their division twice this decade, behind two different highly-drafted franchise quarterbacks (Michael Vick and Matt Ryan). Joe Flacco has taken the Ravens to the playoffs every season he’s been the starter. Detroit has been slowing down over the last few weeks, but looked like one of the best teams in the league through the first five weeks of this season, largely in part due to Matt Stafford’s play.

Even Mark Sanchez, who has looked erratic and inconsistent at times (and that’s being polite), has led the Jets on 7 fourth quarter comebacks, 9 game-winning drives, in less than two and a half seasons as the Jets starting quarterback. And, of course, that’s not mentioning the fact that he’s helped take the Jets to two straight AFC Championship games. Heck, even Vince Young took the Titans and Tim Couch took the Browns to the playoffs once.

Along with intense pre-draft background searches and character interviews, the sophistication of many college offenses, along with draft preparation camps and private coaching from ex-NFL coaches and coordinators, have made some of the recent top draft picks more NFL-ready than we’ve ever seen. If you count every quarterback drafted in the first round between 2008 and 2010 – Ryan, Flacco, Stafford, Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, and Tim Tebow – all but Tebow (a known project and considered a reach overall) started very early in their NFL career and are firmly entrenched as their team’s starting quarterback for at least the next decade. And while the jury is still out for most of the guys from the 2011 draft class – namely Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder – Cam Newton is well on his way to joining the formerly mentioned entrenched starters as well.

In contrast, take a look at teams like Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Houston, Kansas City, and yes, Washington, who’ve foregone the draft route and tried raiding other teams’ rosters or plugging in retreats at quarterback. These are among the teams with the longest playoff droughts in the NFL (you could argue that Kansas City’s playoff run was a huge fluke last year given how bad that team has been this year, and even despite all the offensive statistics they’ve put up under Matt Schaub, the Texans have never made the playoffs in the history of their franchise).

Yes, I know: drafting a quarterback is far from a perfect science, and there’s often as much of a chance of missing as there is of getting the right guy. For all the guys mentioned above, one could easily throw out names like Ryan Leaf (gigantic douche), David Carr (still in the NFL, but just never quite seemed to get it), Joey Harrington (more interested in being Elton John than John Elway), Akili Smith (overrated because of physical attributes while ignoring only one year of college football experience), Byron Leftwich (lazy work ethic and lousy teammate by numerous accounts), Alex Smith (no arm strength and gimmick college offense), Vince Young (overall IQ equivalent to a bag of hamburgers), Matt Leinart (more interested in partying and chasing tail), and Jamarcus Russell (couldn’t stay away from questionable characters, purple drank, or buffet lines), among others, as retorts. All of them, except Alex Smith (who seems to have finally caught on to some extent), have been colossal misses, setting back the fortunes of their franchises for years.

Even the Redskins had to deal with this after they tried to take this route – although not necessarily with a high draft pick – by drafting Jason Campbell, which obviously failed. Campbell was a better physical prospect – and human being – than he was a quarterback. The revolving door of coaching staffs and offensive supporting cast did hurt his development, but he was just one of those guys whose mind and football acumen weren’t nearly as good as his physical skills and talents.

But as we’ve seen, the “acquisition” route at quarterback hasn’t exactly worked either, and we’re once again in a position where we have to hit the reset button. Beck, Grossman, or whoever else we can dig up (Kellen Clemens) will suffice for the 2011 season, but not a day past that.With as many as six guys (maybe more) who could carry a first or high second round grade in the 2012 NFL draft
(assuming they all declare for the draft) – Andrew Luck of Stanford, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, Matt Barkley of USC, Robert Griffin III of Baylor, Nick Foles of Arizona, and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M – if there was ever a year that Shanahan was to find “his” guy that he could groom into the next franchise quarterback of this team, it would be this year.

But for now, even while John Beck remains the starting quarterback, the search for the Redskins franchise quarterback continues.

This column was cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

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The Redskins vs. The Cowboys preview: Another win changes things.

Almost every Sunday, I try and meet up with my parents to have dinner with them, especially since I have the good fortune of living close by to them. I’m an only child, and even tough I’m married and have enough things going on to keep me plenty busy, spending a few hours on a Sunday evening hanging out and catching up with my family is the absolute least thing I can do.

After all, the person I am today is almost entirely a reflection of the way I was brought up by parents. And that fact absolutely extends to Football, or more specifically, my/our love for the Redskins. Again, the fact that the blood coursing through my veins runs distinctly runs burgundy and gold is due, in large part, to my parents sharing that same passion and loyalty towards the Redskins, and teaching me those same virtues about being a fan.

My mom always felt that fans of the Dallas Cowboys are less welcome in her home than even door-to-door salesmen, uninvited houseguests, or termites. My dad always believed that the pulse of Washington DC ebbed and flowed with the success of the Redskins. He always joked how people just naturally seemed to be happier, friendlier, and in a better mood overall the Monday morning after a Redskins win.

So over dinner last night, we joked that, with the Redskins being 2-0, and the level of optimism and excitement surrounding this team, if Washington beats Dallas tonight, Redskins fans are going to start figuring out how much Super Bowl tickets will cost, and whether they’ll able to take off a few days from work sometime around the first weekend of February, 2012

As a fan – and as a passionate one, no less – it happens. You start thinking ahead. You start looking at the schedule, and start seeing W’s where you may orginally have seen L’s.Even though the leaves haven’t even started changing colors yet, you start predicting playoff matchups and figuring out the ramifications of home field advantages.

Especially when it’s coming up on four years since your team has been to the postseason.

Yes, the Redskins are 2-0. Yes, they’re the only team in the NFC East with an undefeated record. Yes, they’re one of only four teams in the NFL that are undefeated, period. But the somewhat pessimistic, but masquerading as realistic, part of me realizes that, after all, the season is only two games old. As good as we feel about the two wins this team has racked up, we have to remind ourselves, constantly, that it’s still only two games. There’s 14 games, 10 teams, and three months that this team still has to get through.

And yet, going 3-0 – even if it’s just another early season in in September – feels like it changes everything.

Whether or not we’re still giddy from the euphoria of these first two wins, things just feel different, in a special way, with this team. It’s only September, yet they’ve already beaten the Giants by two touchdowns, something they haven’t done in six years. They’ve already showed you how they’ll play with their backs against the wall, having erased an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to came back to win the game, something they haven’t done in I can’t tell you how long.

The last time we felt this way about the Redskins was probably 2005, the second year of the Gibbs II regime. The team started the first half of the season 5-3 (including 3-0 through their first three games), lost three heartbreakers, and then ran the table to get to their only double-digit win season that decade. Like that team, if the Redskins can start 3-0, we could very well be looking at a team with a 6-2 or even a 7-1 record come midseason

There’s plenty of reasons to believe the Redskins should win tonight, without being biased. They’re playing a Dallas team tonight that’s both struggling and wounded. Four of the Cowboys five best players on offense are either not playing tonight (Miles Austin) or are still struggling with injuries (Tony Romo, Felix Jones, Dez Bryant). Their offensive line has been crap, getting almost no movement along the line of scrimmage. Their defense is giving up over 25 points per game, with a secondary that’s been busy covering no one.

You just know that the Redskins will happily tell the Cowboys: “Make Tony Romo – the guy with cracked ribs and a punctured lung that we’re not really sure has completed healed yet – beat us. We dare you to.” You know Jim Haslett will bring the heat, and tell anyone who hits Romo to make sure Romo felt it. The Cowboys refuse to run the ball anyway (30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, 32nd in yards per attempt), so there’s little reason to believe the the Redskins defense won’t spend the evening teeing off on Romo’s midsection, hoping he coughs up the football (he’s turned it over three times in two games already).

So, what if the Redskins win tonight? You never want to think ahead, but as a fan, you’re lying to yourself if you say you aren’t.

The Redskins would be 3-0, and would send Dallas to 1-2. The Philadelphia Eagles – the supposed “dream team” – are already at 1-2, with Michael Vick’s body slowly falling apart like it was a piece of IKEA furniture assembled by a bunch of drunken frat boys. The only other team with a winning record in the NFC, the Redskins already beat by two touchdowns.

Next week, the Redskins take on the St. Louis Rams, a team that’s scored a grand total of three offensive touchdowns, and is getting beaten by an average of 20 points per game this season. Steven Jackson is already dealing with a nagging leg injury, Sam Bradford’s receivers can’t catch anything, and their defense is giving up huge plays in the passing game, especially since it’s on the field for most of the game already.

Another win there would put them at 4-0 as they head into the early bye week, with a huge matchup against Philadelphia looming on the other side. The Redskins could very well be getting the Eagles without Michael Vick, who’d be just 22 days removed from an broken right (non-throwing) hand that’s projected to take “three to four weeks” to heal.

And after that? They play at Carolina, a team that’s a lot more dangerous than people gave them credit for – how many people realize Cam Newton ran third in the NFL in passing yardage, as of this morning? – but still very beatable. They’ll then play Buffalo on the road (a game that will take place in Toronto), San Francisco at home (even at 2-1, I still stay they’re one of the five worst teams in the league), and then Miami on the road (another one of the five worst teams in the league; they’re probably in the bottom three, actually).

Even if they somehow lose to a Vick-less Philadelphia, and maybe one more team (odds on favorite, right now, would be Buffalo), that’s still 6-2 by midseason. There can’t be a single fan who wouldn’t gladly take the Redskins having only two losses around the middle of November. How many people around the country believed the Redskins wouldn’t win six games all season?

It starts tonight. Tonight’s game is a fulcrum, a springboard for the rest of the season. Yes, there’s few things better than raining on yet another Cowboys home opener on Monday Night Football (just like in 2005), but it’ll mean more when you look at the bigger picture.

This one can shape the rest of this season. With the entire country watching, let’s see what happens.

The Pundit’s Predictions and Picks for the 2011 NFL Season

For those of you who don’t know – and who am I kidding, that’s probably everyone reading this blog – I (somehow) managed to correctly predict the participants of Super Bowl XLVIbefore the season started. Yeah, I was batting around .500 in terms of predicted division winners (thank you, Mike Singletary and Norv Turner), Wild Card participants (another thanks to Wade Phillips and Tony Sparano), and completely whiffed on my rookies of the year predictions, but hey, who’s counting?

Oh, right. You are.

Nevertheless, here’s my attempt to make lightning strike twice (because clearly, that happens very often), by providing you with my predictions for the upcoming 2011 NFL season, for your reading pleasure.

NFC East

Philadelphia       11-5
Dallas                    10-6*
Washington        9-7
NY Giants            5-11

NFC North

Green Bay          11-5
Minnesota         9-7*
Detroit                9-7
Chicago              7-9

NFC South

New Orleans     12-4
Tampa Bay        9-7
Atlanta               6-10
Carolina             4-12

NFC West

Arizona                10-6
St. Louis               8-8
Seattle                  5-11
San Francisco   2-14

NFC Wild Card Round

Green Bay over Minnesota
Dallas over Arizona

NFC Semi-Finals

Green Bay over Philadelphia
New Orleans over Dallas

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Green Bay

AFC East

New England      12-4
NY Jets                11-5*
Buffalo                  6-10
Miami                   4-12

AFC North

Pittsburgh          11-5
Baltimore           10-6*
Cleveland           9-7
Cincinnati          6-10

AFC South

Indianapolis      9-7
Houston              7-9
Tennessee          7-9
Jacksonville      6-10

AFC West

San Diego            11-5
Kansas City         7-9
Oakland                7-9
Denver                 6-10

AFC Wild Card Round

Baltimore over Pittsburgh
NY Jets over Indianapolis

AFC Semi Finals

New England over NY Jets
San Diego over Baltimore

AFC Championship

New England over San Diego

Super Bowl XLVII

New Orleans over New England

In homage to Peter King’s “Ten Things I Think I Think” section of his weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, here are 10 thoughts, notes, and comments about my predictions, as well as the upcoming season in general:

1. The Redskins are close, but they’re not ready for the playoffs yet. They’re certainly not going to be nearly as bad as some publications have predicted they’d be, but I think between the amount of youth this team has, plus a brutal 2011 schedule, the Redskins will be outside looking in, in terms of the postseason.Regarding the schedule, just take a look at the last seven games of the Redskins season: at home against Dallas (who I think is going to be a damn good team this year), at Seattle (even if they’re terrible, that’s the toughest place to play in the NFL), at home against the Jets (one of the top three teams in the AFC), at home against New England (my Super Bowl pick from the AFC), at New York (Washington hasn’t beaten in the Giants in New York since 2007), at home against the Vikings (they’ll be a playoff team under Leslie Frazier, even if their offensive line is terrible), and at Philadelphia (who will still have something to play for; namely, playoff positioning, and holding off Dallas from stealing the NFC East crown). That’s six games against playoff-caliber teams, out of seven.Let the kids get another year of experience, let John Beck (assuming he’s still the opening day starter for this team) get a year of comfort in this offense, and prepare for the big run to happen in 2012. The prevailing rumor is that Shanahan & Allen are preparing to make their big run next year anyway, and things look like they’ll work out that way.

2. The Philadelphia Eagles – aka “The Dream Team” – will be a one-and-done in the playoffs, once again courtesy of the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field, for each and every Eagle fan to once again witness in person. The Eagles have some incredible pieces assembled on that team, but I don’t trust that offensive line one bit, and honestly, I trust Michael Vick even less. The amount of hype and attention that Vick has been getting to date is ridiculous, especially for a guy that’s had a grand total of one playoff win in his entire career.His improvisational ability is virtually unprecedented, but if he keeps running around and trying to make something out of nothing, it’s only going to subject him to more hits.

3. The Peyton Manning situation is not good, but there’s no way I’m betting against a team led by him, even if his supporting cast is as thin as it’s been in over a decade. I think he misses a few games – somewhere between two and four is my bet – needs another week or two to get the rust off, but will managed to get the Colts to a nine-win season. That’ll be good enough to win the division (the weakest in the AFC), and to secure a first round exit at the hands of the Jets.

4. I don’t like Houston this year. Between Arian Foster’s hamstring injury and “doesn’t know what, and what not, to say via social media” issues, plus forcing the 3-4 defense on personnel that it’s not necessarily meant for (see Washington Redskins, 2010), there’s no way I can pick them to win the AFC South, even if Peyton Manning misses almost a quarter of the season.

4A. And it will cost Gary Kubiak his job.

5. Lovie Smith won’t get fired…. but there’s going to be a conversation about it

5A. Jim Caldwell won’t get fired because of the convenient excuse of Manning’s neck injury…. but there’s going to be a conversation about it. Jim Caldwell is to Tony Dungy what Rich Kotite was to Buddy Ryan.

6. Norv Turner won’t get fired, but they’ll also have a conversation about it. They axed Marty for the same thing: not being able to take an uber-talented roster to the big game.

6A. That being said, I think Phillip Rivers is going to have a boffo year: something like 4800+ yards passing, close to 35 touchdown passes, and single digit interceptions.

7. Cam Newton starts the season for the Panthers, but won’t play all 16 games. He’ll either be benched, or get injured. Or both. He’s just not ready to start in this league yet. You’ll have to look far and wide to find someone who dislikes Jimmy Clausen more than I do, but he should be the starting quarterback for this team, if nothing else but for the first few weeks of the season, at least until he takes them to something like a 1-7 record. Let’s see how Newton prepares for being the high-priced backup; we’ll learn a lot about him that way.

8. While we’re talking about  #1 overal picks: San Francisco wins the “Andrew Luck sweepstakes” by securing the worst record in the NFL, thus reuniting Luck with his old college head coach, Jim Harbaugh. They’ll narrowly edge Carolina for this “honor,”avoiding a potentially fascinating plotline of what Carolina would have done had they gotten the #1 overall pick, given that they drafted Newton last year. But, with Luck staying in the Bay area, San Francisco will also finally take pity on their fans, and mercifully end the Alex Smith era once and for all.

8A.The Miami Dolphins will get their hands on the consolation prize in the “Luck Sweepstakes”: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

9. Speaking of Miami: every year, somewhere between six and eight NFL head coaches are either fired, resigned, or find new jobs. I think Dolphins Tony Sparano will be the first coach to get the axe after the season is over (if he even lasts that long). Other coaches who I think will get canned: Kubiak (as previously mentioned) Jack Del Rio (one winning season in the last 5 years), and Marvin Lewis (one winning season in the last 5 years). And in a little bit of a shocker, I think Tom Coughlin will retire when the year is over.

10. I think Jason Garrett wins coach of the year – and you have no idea how much it pains and angers me to say that. The Cowboys are a team that few people are talking about, even though you should be. Talent-wise, they’re in the upper echelon of the NFL. They went 5-3 over the last eight games of 2010. And perhaps most importantly: with all the “Dream Team” nonsense going on in Philadelphia, this is the first time in over a decade that the spotlight isn’t shining on the Cowboys. When was the last time you could say that a Dallas team this talented was actually “flying under the radar?” Jerry Jones hasn’t had to made any ridiculous statements or proclamations about the Cowboys upcoming successses, nor has he had to answer endless questions about the coache’s job security.

As a Redskins fan, I don’t like saying anything – and I mean ANYthing – nice about the Cowboys. But if there’s a darkhorse team that nobody in the NFC, or NFL overall, is talking about, it’d be them.