Hall of Fame

The Makings of a Hall of Famer

 

 

After watching Andre Johnson’s performance last night against the Colts I started to think about his place amongst the greats and if he would be a lock at making it into the Pro football Hall of Fame. I’m a born and raised Houstonian the home town boys always get the get pushed to the front of the line if it were up to me, so the answer would be an emphatic YES if the question was posed to me about #80s place in Canton. I’m also the guy that stands by the FACT that Hakeem Olajuwon is the greatest center of all times. Warren Moon and Earl Campbell deserve to be mentioned in the tops of their respective positions, and since Roger Clemons went to high school 10 minutes from my house he’s the best to ever do it on the mound. Yes I’m a homer, but these guys were great in the true sense of the word.

So, how do you determine who should wear the faded, but hallowed, yellow jacket? From my vantage point there are only two ways that a player can earn that honor.

1)Production aka Stats

2)The voters must like you enough to vote you in.

 

I won’t spend much time on the voters because we all know how fickle that can be. They base it on emotions too many times to be credible in my book. In the case of Pete Rose everyone knows that he should be a hall of famer as a player, but the holier than God baseball purists that vote may never let him in or at least not while he’s alive because of violations that he committed after his playing days were behind him. I want to stick to product.

Numbers never lie, unless you are labeled a product of a system like Keenum is being branded. The men in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have compiled stats over a professional career that merit their busts to be put on display at the Mecca of American Football, but what was so special about these players that led them to put up faded yellow jacket deserving numbers? I believe it comes down to four things. 1)Football ability 2)Durability 3)Longevity and 4)The surrounding cast(coaches and teammates).

I’ve separated football ability into three sub-categories. 1)Talent 2)Motor aka Work Ethic and 3)Football IQ. Randy Moss had natural ability and Football IQ that allowed him to wow coaches, teammates, and football fans week in and week out, but he also had a poor work ethic that frustrated those same people. I believe that this hampered his football ability and kept him from owning all of the G.O.A.T.’s, aka Mr. Jerry Lee Rice, receiving records. Mr. Rice wasn’t as physically gifted as Moss, but he out worked and out thought anybody that had the futile task of lining up across from him to stop him.

Durability and longevity go hand in hand some what. Bottom line is if you can’t stay out of the trainers room, then you can’t stay on the football field. Your talent doesn’t matter if you can’t stay healthy enough to display it. I’m reminded of the Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming era in Rocket land. Yao was very skilled gave other big men fits with his length and touch but he couldn’t stay on the court with his brittle size 18 feet. McGrady was one of the most phenomenal players that ever touched the NBA court but back and knee problems kept him from reaching his full potential. Like my old school barber used to say, “he’s hell when he’s well but he’s always sick.” Longevity is pretty self explanatory. If you have enough football ability and your body can hold up to the beating that an NFL season can put on it, then you have a good shot at a lengthy career. Attitude also plays a key role in longevity. No one should want to be branded a “locker room cancer” because coaches don’t want those kind of guys around. There are a bunch of supremely talented guys out there that can’t land a job because they have been blackballed based on the perception of their attitude.

Emmitt Smith is a prime example of all four elements coming together. He wasn’t the fastest running back, but he was quick, tough, strong, versatile, great in pass protection, knew how to use his blockers, and had excellent field vision. It didn’t hurt that he ran behind what I consider the greatest Offensive Line ever. He also had a Hall of Fame receiver on the outside making plays after catching balls from a Hall of Fame QB so the defense couldn’t key on the run. Let’s not forget about the Pro-Bowl fullback that flattened Line Backers to clear even more room for him after the O Line opened holes that four lane traffic could have driven through. Fifteen years after he was drafted by the despised Dallas Cowboys he left the as the all time leading rusher.

He finished ahead of Jim Brown who retired early and played less games per season. He surpassed the more talented Barry Sanders who like Jim Brown also retired in his prime but had less talent surrounding him. He never had a 2,000 yard season like the much faster Eric Dickerson but he played for five more seasons than the Sealy Texas native. And lastly, he put on that ugly faded yellow jacket in Canton Ohio.

In closing, the Houston Texans have one sure fire Hall of Famer on the roster in Ed Reed who will go into football immortality as a Baltimore Raven, one potential inductee in JJ Watt if he continues to have the impact that he’s had for the first three seasons of his career, and one that continues to set records and should be a sure thing when he hangs up the cleats in #80. The only thing that could possibly keep Dre from being a first ballot addition is the fourth element that I listed earlier. He played on some poorly assembled teams for the better part of his career. Those teams included two Qbs that wore or wears a #8 Texans Jersey. I think David Carr could have been a better finished product if he hadn’t been the sacrificial lamb behind that “bleeping” NFL B-Team O Line. Schaub, on the other hand, just couldn’t get the ball out in front of Dre causing him to slow down and allow the Defensive Back to catch up after being initially toasted. These plays should have accounted for over a dozen more touchdowns. It would be a travesty, in football standards, if Andre Johnson does not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame because his team failed him.   

 

Can You Play Football?

Can You Play Football?

 

The Texans welcomed the Oakland Raiders into Reliant Stadium for a head to head throw down of many times beaten teams. Hurts my heart to say that about my beloved Kirby-ites. This game took me back to the last time these two teams went at it in 2011. It was a close contest that was decided by a dramatic second & goal Michael Huff end zone interception of Matt Schaub in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Although many commentators and frustrated fans chose to pile on Jacoby Jones, the intended target, for not making a better effort to catch the last second heave I saw it differently. What I saw was a quarterback that couldn’t make a football play.

Many people fired shots at Schaub for not running the ball since he was so close to the end zone and only had one man to beat. Once I took a good look at the play I understood why he didn’t tuck and run. He can’t! Schaub plays the way that he plays because he knows his physical limitations. He, on the other hand, doesn’t know his mental limitations. Football is just as much mental as it is physical. There are many top flight athletes that are working at the car wash because they just don’t have what it takes between the ears to play at the highest level where coordinators get payed BIG bucks to scheme the mental aspects of the game.

Schaub couldn’t make the mental play or the physical one in that particular situation. Anybody that has ever played basketball knows that if you want to make an entry pass into the post to your big man and he’s being fronted by a defender, you throw the ball higher than the defender can jump and your guy has a better shot of catching it on the way down. Schaub threw a straight line pass at Huff giving Jones no chance at making a play. The Jacoby bashers just wanted something to get on his ass about in my book on that play, but it goes against the laws of physics for an individual to be able to run one way, jump, change direction in mid-air, and then stretch his body over a defender who has the ball thrown(rather softly) directly to him. Unless your name is Mr. Fantastic, I don’t see anybody, let alone a third receiver, making that play.

The point that I’m making is that Matt Schaub has not shown that he has the physical or mental tools to make a football play in big moments. I know that this is not a grand unveiling of facts, but walk with for a minute. It seems to me that the game speeds up for him when the intensity of the moment increases. He made the right decision to throw it to Jones, but he rushed the throw when he saw the linebacker about to bust him up. From my couch it looked like he had enough time to make a better throw before the linebacker got to him, but his instincts told him to just get the ball out of his hands. I heard many takes about how Schaub needs to learn how to scramble. That doesn’t make any sense to me. You can improve foot mechanics in the pocket, but quickness and speed are not learned behaviors. An athlete can improve them if he or she already has the ability naturally, but “if you ain’t got, You ain’t got it!” What Schaub needed in that moment was a cooler head. If he had not rushed the ball out of his hands, then he would have made a better entry pass to Jones and gave him an opportunity to get a goal post dunk.

Back to this season, or better yet this years Raiders v Texans game. Keenum got the start and Schaub got the finish. Why Keenum is on such a short leash is another article within itself. I just want to touch on the contrast between the two Texans Qbs that came to me as the game unfolded. Actually I’ve been ranting about this to anyone that would give me an ear and an hour, but this game put it in perspective for me since they both saw some action.

Case has repeatedly been called a system quarterback, but I don’t see it that way. My definition of a system quarterback is one that can’t survive outside of the system. I don’t mean one particular system, but any system in general. If Matt Schaub goes to another team next season and learns that system, I believe that he can competently navigate it as long as it’s not interrupted and it fits his physical abilities. His problem is, and always has been, that once the system is interrupted by a human bulldozer that has a dead aim on his jersey number, he panics or succumbs to his physical limitations. Life in the NFL does not allow a QB to just stand in an undisturbed tranquil pocket all night and meditate on his progressions. There are finely tuned athletes on the opposing team that are paid rather handsomely to take the QB, and coordinator, out of their comfort zones.

Matt Schaub is the ultimate system quarterback, or rhythm passer as they like to call him, in my opinion. He has proven over and over again that he does not have the physical, or mental, ability to make a football play outside of the system when it breaks down. When he came in for Case I was not surprised that he moved the chains between the 20s and left the field with three points instead of six. That’s what he does. That’s who he is. Kubiak’s system seems to require space and for most of the field Schaub pads his stats. The field shortens and becomes more dense once the defense has the end zone at their heels when the ball is snapped. That’s around the time that most systems are challenged and offensive players just have to make plays. They have to be able to play football!

This takes me back to my youth when we would get off the school bus, grab a snack, and run to the field that we turned into our stadium for the day. Most of us didn’t play Pop Warner so we really didn’t have a grasp on the mental aspect of the game. We just played. Some of us just had the knack to make a move that would stir up an OOOOOOHHHHH moment. You know when you see somebody get shaken out of their converse when they go to make a tackle and end up tackling the invisible man? Those moments. Some of us just had flat out speed. I personally learned how to play a Randall Cunningham style of QB out there on those fields. Drop back, look for the open man and let it fly. If nobody was open, then turn on the jets get to the end zone for seven. We didn’t kick field goals, so every score was seven.

I never learned progressions or coverages out there. I just knew how to make plays. When I made it to high school that ability to make plays landed me the starting quarterback spot ahead of guys that played the position since little league. Most coaches didn’t care if guys like myself could read safety tendencies or not. They just wanted us to do what we did naturally, make plays. I have another article that needs to be written about that last point, but for time and relevance sake I’ll move on.

I don’t believe that Schaub would have flourished in our chaotic environment. Elway, Steve Young, and Tarkenton would have. Cam Newton, V Y, and Vick already have. I believe that the 3rd ward Cougar Case Keenum could have did the “The Thang” out there with us too. It was all about being a play maker. If anything, Case was yanked for not being enough of a system quarterback against the Raiders. According to Kubiak…

From HoustonTexans.com

What was happening was, we had to make a lot of changes from a protection standpoint to handle some of the things they were doing,” Kubiak said. “Trying to create some tempo and do that and it made it very tough on Case, in my opinion, being a young player. I knew that Matt could get done some of the things that I wanted to get done, real fast, and to give us a chance to win the football game. So that’s why I did it.”

 

Schaub can navigate the SS Kubaik in his sleep. He came right in and showed the youngster how to do it. Until…Dum Dum Dummmmmmm!!!! The dreaded red zone where you actually have to be a good “football player” in the NFL to get consistent 6s instead of the Texan 3 step aka a field goal.

Until the Texans get a Warren Moon, Young, Favre, or Elway that can operate systems at the highest level and still make plays when the defense actually does its job and disrupts things, maybe the Texans need to employ a two QB rotation. Let Schaub play until he get’s the team to the red zone and then bring in Keenum to finish the job since #8 and #80 can’t get on the same page in the end zone. I’m joking of course, but Case still has some growing to do in this system before he can really shine and pull off some W’s. Unfortunately Schaub will never be a big play maker because he doesn’t have the ability to be one. He’s a good quarterback, but he’s not a good football player. He doesn’t have any sandlot in him or at least not enough.

Time to shut this thing down like Deon. Just because you know how to play football, doesn’t mean that you can play football especially in regards to the NFL. That’s why there are coaches and coordinators. Many of those guys, like Kubiak, are former NFL back-ups. Maybe Schaub has a future as an Offensive Coordinator in the NFL and maybe Case has a successful NFL future ahead of him. We shall see. Peace  

The Running Quarterback

The Running QB

What comes to mind when someone says the words “Running Quarterback”? Most of the time this term is synonymous with the melanin laced African in America, aka the Black ones. From the time of the legalization of the forward pass in 1906 there have been certain stereotypes placed on the quarterback position. Even after the integration of professional American football, where all men were supposedly equal, black quarterbacks were branded athletes playing the position and not intelligent enough to truly master the position from the pocket.

From before the time of Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam to the present day Cam Newtons those myths are continuously being dispelled. Also with the emergence of more athletic white quarterbacks, like Crouch, Matt Jones, Tebow, and Manziel to name a few, makes the “running quarterback” more acceptable in the mainstream American sports landscape. So being an athletic, or running quarterback, is no longer just a “black thing”.

The problem that most coaches or analysts have with running quarterbacks is that they feel these young men are not NFL polished products. Even though many of them can make all the throws the analysts say that “they can’t do it under center”. They complain that the these types of quarterbacks can’t read coverages or the blitz. They act as though the football Gods either gave some quarterbacks the ability to run or throw from the pocket. Only few have been blessed with both and they are in the Hall of Fame.

My question is how do these players make it all the way to the highest level without knowing the fundamentals of the position? Why are they not known to be accurate passers? Why do they have poor pocket awareness? Why are they always counseled to play wide receiver, or tight end in Crouch’s case? Is their situation a product of their ability(or lack there of) or a lack of proper coaching? I say the latter.

It can be based on pure laziness on the coaches behalf or the constant revolving door that is employment verses unemployment. You can look at it from whatever window you choose. Bottom line is that from the time of little league the coaches want the best athlete taking snaps. Most little league teams don’t throw the ball down field so the running game is the primary focus. Running backs and quarterbacks are usually the teams best athletes. Although middle school, and especially high school, have better offensive line play and receivers that can catch the down field pass many coaches choose to still have the best athlete under center. Or they will have a traditional pocket style QB at the helm with a “running quarterback” in their back pocket if they feel that they need a change of pace.

With the “running quarterback” the coaching staff uses their natural ability to run faster than most people on the field to their advantage. Therefore the spread option, read option, sprint out package, veer, or bootleg offenses are employed into the offensive scheme. These packages require zero pocket presence, because from the time that the ball leaves the center’s hand and enters the quarterback’s hands the QB is on the run. There is no need to read safeties for the most part because the running quarterback is taught to look for the first option or run like a bat out of burning hell if that option is not open.

Some of these athletes make it all the way to the upper echelon of college football if they are dynamic enough at what they do. One would think that college coaches at these major and storied programs would take the time to teach their quarterbacks how to play the position. If for nothing else, to at least get them ready for the next level. Unfortunately, it seems that these coaches have an attitude of, “once they leave my program and go to the NFL, then they aren’t my problem or concern anymore.” These coaches are concerned with keeping a proud and wealthy alumni circle happy so that they can keep writing those fat checks to the university. If the fat checks stop coming in, then the fat coaching office will be occupied by the incumbent’s replacement.

This treatment of the “running quarterback” is probably most prevalent on the high school level. As mentioned in my blog “Can You Play Football”, I entered my sophomore season as the starting quarterback. Eventually they moved me to slot receiver to take better advantage of my speed. It got so bad that I wasn’t even invited to QB meetings anymore. They would send me to receiver drills and bring me in to play QB when the starter was hurt or having a bad game. The coaches figured that they should let an athlete be an athlete and put me in to run the bootleg, sprint out, option package. Partly because I was too short to see over the line and letting me use my athletic ability seemed more time effective than teaching me how to read coverages. It wasn’t that I had trouble learning because I was a top student in my class intellectually. They just didn’t take the time to teach me the fundamentals of the position.

I remember one game against El Campo I was put in at quarterback and the coaches called a 71. The Z receiver ran a six yard hitch route and the slot ran a corner. The Z came wide open so I threw the hitch and hit him square on the numbers. The ball was wet and muddy from heavy rain so he dropped it. When I went to the side line the head coach asked me why didn’t I run the ball. I said “he was open coach”. He said “ I put you in to run the ball son.” That should say it all.

How long has this been going on? So were black quarterbacks that made it to the league unable to process information on the field properly or were they just not taught how and what to process? Are athletic QBs of any pigment naturally inaccurate passers or did their coaches fail to teach them the proper footwork mechanics that would allow them to be in position to make accurate throws? Are they impatient in the pocket or have they been pushed to run the ball by coaches even though they have an open man at the 1st down marker?

Another possible reason that many young black men were not as fundamentally sound as some of our white contemporaries is because we couldn’t play organized football until seventh grade because our parents couldn’t afford to pay for all of the fees that accompanied playing in the Pop Warner sports associations. Neither could we afford to attend the many football camps that were offered.

These things need to be investigated and corrected at the early levels of organized football. Then maybe the Terrelle Pryors wouldn’t have to be taught how to play the position that they have been playing their entire lives when they get to the pros.

Peace Sha…