If someone had told you a year ago---that Nick Foles would be the winning QB and MVP of the Super Bowl, that Baker Mayfield (even after making obscene gestures in a game versus Kansas) would win the Heisman Trophy, that Case Keenum would lead the Vikings to 13 wins and the NFC Championship game, that Deshaun Watson would hit the league by storm as a rookie until blowing out his knee, that Jared Goff coming off a miserable rookie season would lead the once lowly Rams to 11 wins and make the Pro Bowl, that Jimmy Garoppolo would be traded to the 49ers for a 2nd round pick and suddenly become the highest paid player in the NFL, that the Chiefs would jettison Alex Smith after his best season in the NFL in favor of starting 2nd year phenom Patrick Mahomes and that the G.O.A.T. and 2017 NFL MVP Tom Brady (at age 40) would pass for over 500 yards and 3 TDs/0 int. and not win the game---would you have believed any of it?
Welcome to the newest QB frenzy of American football.
Americans can now tune in to Criminal Minds on Wednesdays and then proceed to binge watch a 5 day weekly series called Offensive Minds on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
American football has become a John Daly-esque display of “grip it and rip it.”
Where once pro coaches expressed disdain for the high scoring, wide open, spread offense bonanzas that occur on college campuses throughout the fall---now pro coaches are surreptitiously embracing the offensive frenzy of the college game---to the point of offensive coordinators sit with their QBs, slap on tapes of their college games and ask them which plays they like best.
Suddenly---the college football version of the NBA’s “pick and roll” which is called an RPO (run-pass option) is the new rage of the NFL. This rage is changing the way NFL teams play defense. It prevents defenses from loading the box and it behooves them to insert a new breed of speedy linebackers, because these poor guys are getting picked on---literally and figuratively---play after play. RPOs have become a guessing game for linebackers---do they commit to the run option and plug the hole, thus leaving the middle of the field wide open? Or do they gamble that the QB will fake the handoff and look to pass over the middle or into the flat or up the seams to the league’s new flock of athletic pass catching tight ends?
When QBs are a running threats---it forces teams to play zone coverages for fear that if they play man-to-man and vacate an area of the field, the QB can take off and run through 20 yards of open turf.
The traditional saying is that defense wins championships---well, not so fast.
Four of the five top defenses (1. Vikings; 2. Jaguars; 3. Chargers; 4. Eagles; 5. Patriots) made it to the playoffs---and in the playoffs---each of these defenses---at some point---got shredded. The Vikings gave up 62 points in 2 games. The Jaguars gave up 66 points in 2 games. The Eagles’ defense could not stop Tom Brady in the second half and fortunately were saved by a pivotal strip sack late in the game. The Patriots gave up 75 points in 3 games, including the 41 they points they surrendered to the Eagles.
In 2018 which long-shot QBs will be this year’s versions of Case Keenum, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson and Nick Foles?
Teams looking for new QBs, like the Arizona Cardinals, can peruse a menu that could include (based on free agency and possible trades) Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, A.J. McCarron, Tyrod Taylor, Josh McCown---and maybe Nick Foles or Jacoby Brissett.
This gives hope to every team and every QB. Rookie QBs can take note of how Dak Prescott burst into the league as a surprise 4th round starter (pick #135). They can look at how quickly and naturally Deshaun Watson emerged as one of the more electric QBs in the league.
Veteran QBs can hope to form a chemistry with their OCs and find their groove and comfort zone---for they too, if the chemistry is right, make a mad dash for the roses. Doug Pederson rode Nick Foles to the Lombardi Trophy in the way Red Pollard rode Seabiscuit to victory in the Santa Anita Handicap over the unanimous favorite War Admiral in 1940.
Even Colin Kaepernick, the greatest long-shot of all---the pariah of the NFL---may get his shot. As crazy as this sounds---when one compares Jimmy Garoppolo’s last six game stats to Colin Kaepernick’s---check this out:
Garoppolo: 67.4%, 1,565 yards, 7-5 TD/int., 96.2 QBR
Kaepernick: 65.1%, 1.305 yards, 9-2 TD/int., 96.2 QBR
From the highest paid player in the NF--- to the least wanted.
If the 2017 NFL season proved anything---it proved--that anything---is possible.
What a story it would be if Mike McCoy---who has had to endure the humility of losing his job as head coach of the Chargers and subsequently being fired and scapegoated in mid-season by the Broncos as their offensive coordinator---could be the Red Pollard to one of the long-shot QBs in the free agent or draft class. What a thrilling, exhilarating and jubilant ride that would be. That would be one heckuva ride to root for.
Let the 2018 QB frenzy begin. “Hope is a good thing, Red.” May the best long-shot win.