Tag Archives: Michael Vick

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 Eagles preview: A Game to Define a Season?

A game in the middle of October – win or loss – rarely dictates the rest of the season is going to unfold for a given team. Heck, at this point last year, the Green Bay Packers were a .500 team coming off back-to-back overtime losses, and looking up at the Chicago Bears in their own divisional standings. Yet three and a half months later, they stood in the center of that gaudy monstrosity in Dallas, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.

But when the Philadelphia Eagles visit FedEx Field this Sunday to take on the Washington Redskins, this mid-October game will be different. Because, depending on what the outcome is around 4:30pm that afternoon, we’re going to learn a whole lot about both teams, and their prospects for the 2011 season.

Let’s start with the much-discussed Eagles. For them, this isn’t a “must win” game; it’s a “can’t, under any circumstance, lose” game. If the Eagles lose this game and get to 1-5, barring some miraculous rally later on, it could very well cost Eagles coach Andy Reid his job. When your notoriously frugal franchise goes and blows insane amounts of money to acquire Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Ryan Harris, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown, and Vince Young, all in hopes of gearing up for a Super Bowl run, it always follows that anything less than the goal in mind is considered a failure. But to even think about the Super Bowl, you actually have to make the playoffs, the odds of which will be dramatically lowered for the Eagles should they lose on Sunday. In the modern Super Bowl era of the NFL, only one team has started their season 1-5, only to make the playoffs: the 1970 Colts. And that was 41 years ago, so it’s not exactly like there’s any precedent handy to draw from.

When juxtaposed against the bevvy of problems and flaws that this Eagles team has shown, Young’s comment referring to this squad as a “Dream Team,” before they even played a preseason game, is nothing short of completely asinine. Their offensive line is terrible. Their defense might be worse; they can’t stop the run to save their life (3rd worst in the league), and they’ve given up over 85 yards rushing to an opposing running back in every single game they’ve played this season.

And that high-priced secondary, with those three Pro Bowl cornerbacks (Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel)? All sizzle, and no steak. They’ve allowed the second most touchdown passes in the NFL and the third highest average opposing quarterback rating. They’re in the bottom third of the league in interceptions (three), opponent’s completion percentage, and opponents yards per attempt.

But there’s also one more problem with this squad, which everyone conveniently forgets to talk about: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Whatever your opinions of him may be due to his off-the-field issues and legal troubles, the following are indisputable facts: since Thanksgiving weekend of last season, Vick is 4-7 as the Eagles starting quarterback (4-8 if you count the playoff losss against the Packers). This season, he’s has the most turnovers of any player in the NFL (14). I don’t care how many bounced passes or bad breaks he’s had: seven interceptions and seven fumbles in five games is laughably ridiculous. Vick may be the most gifted playmaker in the entire league, but it’s a complete joke in the way that the Philadelphia fan base that refuses to acknowledge this fact, just like they refuse to acknowledge how much they were against signing him in the first place, only to change their tune once he replaced Kevin Kolb as the starter and started winning games.

Let’s be honest: you’re damn right if i’m relishing the current demise of the Eagles. For years, us Redskins fans had to hear the taunts from Philadelphia fans about how we’re the “offseason Super Bowl winners” and “paper champions.” Watching the Eagles try to buy themselves a Lombardi Trophy, i’m firmly enjoying being the kettle who calls the pot “black.”

And yet, there’s a reason that this 1-4 Eagles team is favored, on the road, against a division leading team with a 3-1 record – the first time that’s ever happened in NFL history. If the Eagles do find a way to stop self-destructing – please, Lord, just push this off for one more week – this is a damn scary football team. It’s essentially the same offense that punched us in the gut, slapped us in the face (repeatedly), stole our lunch money, and gave us an atomic wedgie, a couple of wet willies, and a swirlie on national television last November – only slightly better.

With Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin, they’re arguably the most explosive offense in the entire NFL. I hate using cliches, but the Eagles literally can score from any part of the field on a single given play. Their team speed on offense is ridiculous; when a guy like Jeremy Maclin – someone who runs a sub-4.5 40 yard dash – is one of your middle of the pack speed receivers (and slower than your quarterback), that’s saying a lot. And being honest: McCoy scares the living crap out of me. I don’t know if there’s a more elusive, dangerous runner in the open-field, this side of a healthy & productive Chris Johnson.

The Eagles players know that they’re basically playing for their coaches jobs; many of the Eagles are supposedly dedicating their performance this Sunday to saving Reid’s job. But for the Redskins, this probably isnt the most important game of the season for the Redskins – just the most telling.

Here’s what we know about the Redskins: they took care of business in the season-opener, beating a depleted Giants team by two touchdowns. They had to come back in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona, who looks to be a lot crappier than we thought they’d be. They pummeled a horrible Rams offense and pulled out a victory in St. Louis on the backs of the Defense (essentially inspite of quarterback Rex Grossman’s abysmal performace). And on National Television, they both blew a fourth quarter lead and completely choked at critical moments, allowing the Cowboys to beat them.

So, there’s a reason for the skepticism and disbelief about this team being a legitimate threat in the NFC East, let alone the NFC. In four games, they have only one “quality” win. Grossman is simply not a good quarterback (i’m not even sure if we can call him “serviceable”); he’s played two-and-a-half lousy games of football, and the season is only four games old. The offensive line play is inconsistent. The offense has no true playmaker or game-changing threat that scares opposing defense.

But a win this Sunday, over Philadelphia? That changes things. If the Redskins really have the ability and the killer instinct to put their foot on the throats of this vastly overrated “dream team”, and put them (and Reid) out their misery, that will speak volumes, even if it’s against a team that’s well into their self-destruct sequence. To beat a extraordinarily talented and dangerous team, who’ll be playing with their 2011 season and possibly several coaches jobs on the line, would be an enormous “building block”-type win. The last time a Redskins squad had only one loss through six weeks of the NFL season was the last time they won the NFC East (1999).

If the Redskins lose (as everyone predicts they will), to steal a quote from Dennis Green: “they are who we thought they were” – a resurrected franchise with an infusion of young talent mixed with smart free agent signings, but still with plenty of work to do, before they’re truly “legitimate.” But even if it is just one game in October, a win changes all of that. We’ll have ample reason to believe that the corner really has turned for this team.

But they have to beat Philadelphia first.

So by bedtime this Sunday, we’ll know whether the 2011 Eagles will either remain on life support or need their last rights delivered, and we’ll have a much better clue as to what we can realistically expect from the 2011 Redskins.

This column has been cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

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.