|Prototype for the 21st century QB|
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist
By the Hammer of Sid Gillman, by all that is third-down efficient, by God (disguised as Mike Vick), the genie is out of the bottle, out of the pocket, officially out of hand, and even running Check-With-Mes at the line!
The new Physicality of Playing QB is re-animating the game.
Quarterback has always been the pivotal offensive position, in that he (or, in cases such as Chad Hutchinson whenever Tuna gets impatient with him, she) handles the ball 50 or 60 times a game. Most times in the past a QB handed or shoveled or passed it off ASAP to the real physical talent, particularly in the NFL, so certain potentials and opportunities were never fully pressed.
Well, maybe they were pressed by somebody like Roger Staubach, or John Elway, but even then only individually, not as game theory. In fact, those men were at first repressed in the NFL, told to slow up, rein in, hold back.
Playing quarterback, way back when, especially at the NFL level, was almost like practicing Feng Shui, the art of moving pictures, plants and furniture around the room to little real effect, and charging people large dollars for doing it. There was only one Johnny U. Mostly, it was a lot of Dr. Frank Ryans.
The QB became the "field general," with all that a general implies -- highly decorated, yet slow-footed; decisive, as long as it was with somebody else's body; brave, ditto; ambitious, ditto; imperious all on his own. His effect was mostly felt if only behind a stout front line. He was no coward, but he was still behind the lines. In fact, from a common grunt's point of view, he was just a rumor, a smart or at least cunning rumor, but a rumor nonetheless.
Once, too much athletic ability would even get you moved out of QB.
Being physical was seen as conduct unbecoming a pro QB. Well, it was becoming, but you weren't supposed to be very good at it. It was noble for a QB to try to be physical, but it was futile. Roll mental tape of Joe Kapp.
The defenses have now dictated a new age of physicality. Now, you can continue to play Field Generals at QB in the League. But the bigger, faster stronger defenses have another couple of words for them: Sitting Ducks.
Now, you don't need Field Generals. You need Flying God%#$!% What-da's?
For generations we've been talking about it. Some flat-world theorists have wasted their time, and ours, in "debating" it -- about "escapability," whether it was "desirable" as a QB skill. It's gone past that now. Merely escaping the rush has changed. "Escapability" is pretty much mandatory. Now it's about offensive strike capability. To become a fully functional, Death Star-quality offense, you've got to be able to hurt the D with your QB's legs as well.
Defenses have taken their mission to a new levels of potential destruction: their mantra always has been, "Kill the head and the body will die." As defenders evolved, grew bigger, faster, stronger, the game demanded either rules to protect the QBs (which would not help; rules aren't much good to dead men), or changes in the way the QB was trained and utilized. He had to be able to escape to survive, yes; be big, strong, so he could repel boarders, or mobile, so he could evade them. But not merely evade, the most efficient offensive minds figured, why not also punish defenses with yardage, first downs, their own wisely applied physicality? Wear the defense down!
Take the recent college national championship. Or the coming Super Bowl.
I knew Kenny Dorsey was an utterly charming young man, having observed him at the College Football Awards Program at the Disney Boardwalk in Orlando; he was courteous and responsive, unfailingly polite, cooperative, smart, he had a winning smile. But we are not talking about all that. We're talking about playing 21st century football, and winning championships.
Dorsey went to Miramonte High School in Orinda, California, a wonderful place in which to live, tucked beyond the Oakland Hills, on the continental side of the Caldecott Tunnel, which opens up into the wonders of San Francisco Bay. Orinda is a comfortable enclave. But it won't help Dorsey rise to the demands of being a New Age QB with a Physicality of Playing Quarterback rating that reads higher than "breathing."
Going to the weight room hurts. You only go to keep from going someplace worse. Orinda is not worse than the weight room. Dorsey never deepened his chest by doing pec and lat and trap work, or curved his arms by punishing his biceps, or shredded up his abs, or any of that stuff. He wasn't trying to escape any sort of harsh environment through football. He was your average college-age kid who fueled himself on junk food, went to school, had a life, and tried to make his parents proud, played video games and checked out chicks; he figured he threw a nice ball, not a bad ball, could read defenses. At Miami, that was enough. Gino Toretta won the Heisman Trophy playing QB at Miami, OK? So being Ken Dorsey was plenty good enough.
In the past.
But not against Ohio State, in January 2003.
Why not? The Physicality of Playing Quarterback.
In the second overtime of the Fiesta Bowl, Dorsey was hit straight-on as he released a pass by a Buckeye LB named Matt Wilhelm. It was a good, clean hit, not devastating, a rather commonplace blow. Wilhelm launched himself into Dorsey's chest as he released the ball; momentum carried both of them to the turf, with the LB on top of Dorsey. Wilhelm, though skilled, is not a particularly big LB. Wait until Dorsey gets a load of the LBs in the League. Hard to believe men that size can move that fast, on every team. The best teams have four or five LBs who make Matt Wilheim look like Matt Lauer.
Dorsey had trouble getting up from this tough but commonplace hit. Once he did get to a knee, he tried to stand, but quickly collapsed back to the ground.
He only completed seven balls, but they were all big. Once I'd called him pedestrian. I could see now he is more like a danger to pedestrians. He runs with authority, can turn his body at the last instant and keep going forward to paydirt, or pay-painted grass, as the case may be, as he did to score on a sneak in spite of being in the sights of two 'Canes; his hands are strong and he is unlikely to fumble, less likely to have it stripped, as happened to Dorsey during the game.
A football game is like a little lifetime. By the end of a hard one, you are tired, most times tired and hurting. In football these days, you are tired and hurting and facing behemoths who have been shuttling in and out, and who can run quite fast, and are now upwards of 260 to 300 pounds, as opposed to the 230 or so they used to be, and who are not as tired as you are, espec ially if they haven't had to chase and tackle and bow up under downhill blocking. The Physicality of Playing QB is now at a premium in this changing game.
The Physicality of Playing QB won a national title for Ohio State.
In the Fiesta Bowl, Dorsey's body just didn't have any more to give after that hit by Wilhelm on the last drive of double overtime. Dorsey's body had gone to its limit. Kill the body and the head won't matter. Heads don't run.
A Mr. Crudup, a sub QB, came in cold for Miami for a play, hit a sideline checkdown despite being frozen and not knowing what the heck was going on. But he made a play because his body was trained. Dorsey bravely but foolishly came back in, and from the Buckeye two-yard line, could not get it in, four cracks.
A dive by Payton's son got it to the one. On second down, a play-action route flushed another Miami Physical Freak Tight End, Winston, a 6-8 pure freshman from Texas who makes Shockey look small. He ran flat to the right, along the goal line. Dorsey's body could not obey him; his pass missed the wide-open receiver. Winston's head bobbed in a frustrated curse.
The Punishment Factor had taken its toll. Part of Ohio State's defensive game plan was all about getting into Dorsey's kitchen. And it worked.
On the final play, the Buckeyes' corner blitz shouldn't have fazed Dorsey. This was no NFL LB storming down his gullet, just a college DB. The play was a lob down the middle to Kellen Winslow Jr. Stand in, float it up, let Winslow go get it, or not, as you either take the shot flush, or roll with it.
As it was, Dorsey's body went away from the goal line, surprisingly nimble now in springing away from the heat of this relatively small blitzing DB. Dorsey ended up back nearly at the 15-yard-line, and retreating, and being slung about like a rag doll in a hurricane by a DB(!), and his attempt to throw was pretty pathetic. Not only did the ball not reach the open Winslow in the rear of the end zone -- it didn't even make it back to the goal line.
I mention this not to pain Dorsey or Miami, but to suggest what he must do if he wants to do more than wear a headset on a pass-through cup of coffee drill in the NFL. I'd draft him, but not in the first round ... and while knowing he wouldn't be physically ready to play for three years, if he worked hard, wanted it. In order to be a pro, he'll have to apply himself, physically.
The new paradigm of The Physicality of Playing QB was never made plainer than at Lambeau Field on Saturday night. Yes, I know. Most old-school QBs would be trembling just off the description of the scene. Ooooo! So cooold! Ooooo! Lambeau Field. Ooo. Packers never lose there. Ooo. Brett Favre.
Yeah, well, with less than two minutes left in the half, Mike Vick, after some of his usual escapability stuff, was finally pinned on the sideline at the Green Bay 46 by Foaming Pack DE Kabir Gbaja-Biamila. KGB is 6-4. 260 pounds, runs a 4.65 40, is the Pack's best edge rusher, another in a series of big, fast behemoths that grow from seed pods cultivated by alien beings working deep inside the same California mountain that holds the Caldecott Tunnel, cultivated to become NFL defenders and to make all human beings, but especially old-school, pocket-protector, Michael Douglas in "Falling Down"-type quarterbacks utterly obsolete.
KGB had both hands around Vick's throat. Literally. Go back and look at it. Play's over. Most QBs would have folded their forelegs like wildebeest, lain over their necks for a comforting bite assuring their place in the food chain.
Instead, with his off or right hand, Vick shed the 6-4, 260-pound KGB like he was a predator from PETA and KGB, a fox stole; after caving in KGB, Vick ran toward midfield, cut like a fish at a right angle due north, burst-split past two defenders -- this burst-splitting of defenders is His Move -- and dove ahead for a big gain. The defenseless Atlanta Falcons beat the Pack at Lambeau in January during a night snowfall, handily, going away, 27-7.
Brett Favre did what he could with his arm and what few uninjured weapons he had at hand, which weren't that many. But he was limited to and by that.
Vick's numbers for the game seem uninspiring: 13 for 25 for 117 yards and one TD, 10 rushes for 64 yards, 6.4 per carry, no fumbles, no INTs.
But his Physicality of Playing Quarterback rating was (through the) Roofian. Some lace-head can figure out that coefficients of how long holding the ball times average yards per carry plus average yard per pass attempt minus the cleaning bills from D-coordinators soiling themselves equals ...
I just say ... POPQ Factor 8, Mr. Sulu. Fire it up.
Vick has more to come in his trick bag. The laughter coming from the Iggles' beastly blitzing body-bag D? That's ... uneasy laughter, isn't it?
In last Saturday's other playoff game, Chad "I'll Be Your Huckleberry" Penny, played a more traditional role of spreading the ball around after the classic three- and five- and seven-step drops, which are fine and necessary, but ... it reminded me of the columnist Jim Murray once smiling and saying to me, about a hot second-year QB named Dan Marino, as he was lighting up the League with his arm alone, "He reminds me of a guy winning a purse on his first year on the PGA Tour; he doesn't know how hard it is. Yet."
Huck Penny reminds me of Doug Williams or Mark Rypien, with Joe Gibbs. Whatever Gibbs told them would be there, was there. Same now with Paul Hackett and Huck. Can't tell how a guy will act when what you tell him is there isn't there until it happens. That's when the Physicality kicks in.
I've seen Joe Montana and Bill Walsh lose a playoff game 41-3 and come back and win Bowls. I think Manning is equipped to play New QB in the New World of Physicality required at his position; he can play in a Gannonesque sense; let's not forget who was MVP. Neither is as well-equipped as Mike Vick, but then there are carrier-based, combat-fitted F 14 Tomcats not as well-equipped as Mike Vick.
Last Sunday's playoff games leach into this weekend's playoff games, and expose the new reality of the Physicality of Playing QB. Kelly Holcombe and Tommy Maddox played a traditional, from-the-pocket shootout; very entertaining, but not where the top of the game is right now, as Pitt will find out this weekend when Pitt gets hit and can't get that seed away from the Tites because Definitely Not Little Stevie McNair's arms, legs and bullock-like neck just won't give in.
Meanwhile, the gamer Tommy Maddox, as we have seen, unfortunately, is more susceptible to the Punishment Factor. He will be giving it up. Don't trust me on this. Trust Isaac Newton.
The Scene-Steelers have Aces in the holes -- and under center, in shotgun. The Scene-Steelers play a couple of New QBs at other positions. Antwaan Randle El is a New QB who plays kick returner and slot receiver; he threw for a two-point conversion on the Brownies. WR Hines Ward was lined up as the shotgun formation QB on that same play. The potentials of this escape a slow mind, boggle a quick one and make a creative one go to work.
Does anyone doubt that Jeff Garcia made more different kinds of plays than Kerry Collins did at Candlestick? We know Collins has his own degree of physicality, is a tall, big, strong guy, not great feet but not bad, great arm, hit 29 of 43 for 342 yards and four TDs. With all those numbers, today he'd give anything for having converted even one more first down, for just half the 60 yards rushing Garcia added, for just half the 64 yards rushing Vick skated to in the snow of Green Bay.
Just as Sid Gillman passed away, the genie he always knew was in there, when he became the father of the modern passing game, came bubbling up from deep underground, out of the pipe, like magma came spewing out of Mt. St. Helens. The New QB is faster, stronger, quicker, mobile, has a deeper chest, can endure more punishment, can throw all the balls, in fact throws a beautiful ball, maybe the most beautiful ball, if his name is Vick.
The Physicality of Playing Quarterback is adding to, changing the game. So our perceptions must change, too. Not to mention our bets. Kill the old QB rating system. It doesn't account for Physicality. Therefore, it is flawed.
Bucs vs. Niners, plus 4. The El Ninos beat the 4-point spread at Tampa, even though the Other Bay Raiders, the Pewter and Smack, have the Ninos outpersonnelled. Garcia's physicality beats Brad Johnson's. Too bad Jeff won't be running from Brad Johnson. The real caveat here is that Garcia, unlike Johnson or Collins, isn't all that big and robust, at 6-1, 200. He's an athlete, but enough of one to take a flush shot from a Sapper like Brooks?
Raiders vs. Jets, plus 5. Who opened this spread, Tony Soprano or Donald Trump? Is that line looking for some New York/New Jersey action or what? They'll be breaking into cookie jars and duck feeders all over Queens and Jersey with this number. Forget 3, this number may be down to 2 by game time. But I myself would hold off on scarfing down this one. I think One Raider Nation survives the Stealths' carpet bombing runs, even though the Jets are healthy, fast, large and hot. Why One Nation then? Well ...
One Raider Nation wants to punish the Stealths via the run game, and here Gannon cannot help them much anymore. Krenzel in the Fiesta Bowl, Garcia on the Jints, Vick versus the Pack all ran sweep plays as the primary ballcarrier. Not naked bootlegs designed to fool a defense, plays designed to get a QB as a ballcarrier to the edge, or, with draws, in lanes up the middle. Gannon does not have those plays available anymore. And I do not think that Stop-and-Go rollout move Chad Huck Penny hit us with a few weeks ago was a fluke. And Gannon did get pancaked and KOed by Tony (Catch Me In "The 25th Hour") Siragusa in the 2001 playoffs. Can't really say why, it's more like a Spider sense feeling; One Raider Nation is due. Way due.
The last time the Jets were in position to go to the Super Bowl was in a year after the Raiders had just been to the Super Bowl. This was 1969. The team the Jets had to beat to get there in '69 was -- the Raiders. Last year, when the ComPatriots went to the Super Bowl, the team they had to beat to get there was -- the Raiders. When the ComPats went to the Super Bowl in 1985, the team they had to beat was -- the Raiders. The constant is -- the Raiders.
So, I'm thinking take One Nation to win. But the 5 points is a little bit rich, if you ask me. If you're talking points, take your Huckleberry.
Titans vs. Steelers. plus 4. The Tites will beat the Steelers by 4; McNair makes three plays Maddox cannot make. If I'm scared for Tommy getting back on the field where he had a spinal cord concussion, how must he feel?
Eagles vs. Falcon,s plus 7. Vick vs. McNabb? That's what all boils down to, that's what our eyes really are drawn to, and want to see, isn't it?
The eyes -- they never lie, Manolo.
The Future vs. The Now.
The Iggles will win. Take the 7, and Vick. If the guy's going to give us a heart attack anyway, we may as well go out smiling and getting paid for it.
By the Hammer of Sid (Gillman) ... it's on.