And it’s not all about running. The other reason – maybe the major reason – the NFL is now catching on is that they now see the effect these schemes can have on passing. When the quarterback is a threat to run, defenses must stack the line of scrimmage, opening up passing lanes and one-on-one matchups for wide receivers outside. “You do read-option, read-option, read-option and then get them to play seven or eight in the box and you’ve got so many variations of plays and passes you can run off that,” Cam Newton said recently [source]. Indeed, Mike Shanahan thinks that play-action which fakes a zone-read, whether from the pistol or other shotgun sets, is actually better than traditional under-center play-action because of the increased influence it has on linebackers and safeties looking for the run. “Not a little bit more,” said Shanahan. “A lot more.” [source]
There was, however, one more argument against these ideas ever taking hold in the NFL; Griffin was injured and didn’t finish the Baltimore game referenced above (though his injury came on a scramble on a pass play, not a zone read). Critics argue that these attacks create an increased risk of injury to quarterbacks. That is a real concern, and if anything can short circuit these changes to the NFL game, it is this.
I don’t have a firm rebuttal, and to my knowledge there have been no comprehensive studies done at any level of football that measures the risk to quarterbacks in the concepts, so we’re left with anecdotes to judge by. Yet even if it is true – no, especially if it is true – the issue is not really about these spread concepts at all. All quarterbacks – and all NFL players, really – are constantly at risk of gruesome injury. Pocket passers like Carson Palmer, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have missed entire seasons because of injuries sustained while standing in the pocket, and quarterbacks are constantly hit while or just after releasing the ball, a far more vulnerable position than being hit while sliding following a 5-yard gain behind a lead blocker. If the argument is that the scheme is too dangerous to risk injury to Robert Griffin III, then the real argument isn’t to abolish these offenses, it’s to abolish football. That’s another discussion, but if that’s the actual concern then we have much bigger problems than the Pistol Zone Bluff.
Doug and I had an interesting discussion today after reading this excellent story. Where does Brock Osweiler fit into this, post-Brady, post-Manning future? Although Osweiler ran the pistol extensively in college and he's pretty mobile for a guy 6-8, he's not on the same level when it comes to running the football as, say Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, RG3, Cam Newton, or even our guilty little pleasure, Tim Tebow. Or will the next great pocket passer (Andrew Luck perhaps) always trump the others? Will there ever be another great pocket passer in the traditional sense?
Stay tuned. The next few years should determine the answer. As Brown notes in the story, if Griffin and the rest prove durable, change is here to stay.
Film Room: Vikings-Packers
Chunk plays are tough to come by against Denver. Not only is Denver’s linebacker corps fast and strong, but the defensive line might be the best in the league at holding ground against double teams. Derek Wolfe and Justin Bannan are terrific anchors near the B- and C-gaps. Further inside, Kevin Vickerson amplifies his 300-pound strength with very good initial quickness. The Chiefs have a lot of size up front, but don’t be surprised if they struggle getting movement in the ground game this week.
Wolfe is under team control through the 2015 season. But Bannan, who will turn 34 next offseason, and Vickerson, who turns 30 on Jan. 8, will be unrestricted free agents after having accepted 2012 salaries that are fractions* of what they had originally agreed to with Denver.
Our thinking remains that the Broncos will use a high pick on a tackle come April; even if the team is happy with the performance of Bannan and Big Vick, it must account for the advancing age of the two players.
Broncos coach John Fox not concerned with what oddsmakers say
With his team preparing for the regular-season finale Sunday against Kansas City, Broncos coach John Fox discounted reports that Las Vegas oddsmakers have now made Denver (12-3) the favorite to win the Super Bowl.
“I grew up in San Diego,” Fox said. “And we went to the horse tracks a lot. There are a lot of favorites, and it doesn’t work out like that all the time. You have to earn this between the lines. (Being the favorite) won’t affect our attitude or mindset moving forward.”
Even if we knew for a fact that the Broncos were the best team in the NFL, that doesn't mean they'd actually win the Super Bowl. Why? Because the game is only played once, and the path to get there is a single-elimination tournament.
This is important to remember when looking at win probability data like that provided by Brian Burke. If his figures say the Broncos are an 87% favorite this week against the Chiefs, that doesn't necessarily predict a blowout, nor does it mean Denver will definitely emerge victorious. Rather, it means that, in theory, if these two teams were to face off 100 times (more if we are looking at the law of large numbers), the Broncos would figure to win 87 times.
So, if an upset occurs, it's not necessarily that Burke's math is wrong - it's just that one of those 13 unlikely outcomes (of 100) has arisen.
Veterans like Peyton Manning, Elvis Dumervil keep Broncos in check
Make no mistake: Manning casts a long shadow in the locker room. He’s a future Hall of Famer, one of the most accomplished players in the league’s history, and he plays the most important position on any NFL team chasing trophies — quarterback. He also is a vocal presence in how the team runs its offense on gameday and prepares through the week.
But other players, as well as the coaches, also say he is the hardest worker and the most prepared player on the field each week. When he demands a lot from others, he already has made those demands on himself.
I have to admit - earlier during his career, I thought Manning was vastly overrated - that he was a selfish, overly demonstrative team sport athlete - a modern Dan Marino, or football's Alex Rodriguez.
But having paid him much closer attention over the past several years, and now, watched his every play with Denver, and seen how he interacts with his teammates, it's more than apparent that Peyton is worthy of the intense praise he receives.
Yesterday and today, there has been a collective gasp across Broncos Country that the Chiefs--yes, the lowly and wretched Kansas City Chiefs, whom Denver will host on Sunday to close out the regular season--placed five players on the AFC Pro Bowl team.
The thinking seems to be that a 2-13 team can't possibly deserve such honors. After all, if their players were any good, they'd have a better record. While there's certainly some truth in that line of thinking, and the Pro Bowl has largely become a game for divas, as they say in Spain, "no sé qué," which, roughly translated, means "Kansas City has good barbeque." In other words, it's not always so crazy when you scarf meat from bone and get into the details.
Before we take a look at whom the Chiefs actually put into the Pro Bowl, though, we should recognize that a lot of things influence a team's record. Just because the Chiefs are 2-13 and the Broncos 12-3, it's not necessarily always a reflection of better play at specific positions.
Black Monday Primer: Definitive guide to 2013 coaching carousel
If Jacksonville swung for the fences and missed, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is a young head coaching candidate who has generated strong reviews for his work the past two seasons with both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning…Denver’s McCoy, Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter or Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell might make the radar screen in Philly.
There’s also a chance New England gets proactive in an attempt to keep McDaniels around as an eventual replacement for head coach Bill Belichick, a move the Kraft family could dangle as enticement to stay put. Some sources say McDaniels’ interest in the Browns has been overstated in the media, because he feels he already has the best assistant coaching job in the NFL, working with Tom Brady and Belichick, and knows continued success will bring other head coaching opportunities…Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians and the Patriots’ McDaniels are two names mentioned in connection with the Chargers job, and both make sense from the standpoint that job No. 1 in San Diego this offseason is to revive quarterback Philip Rivers’ flagging fortunes.
A few thoughts:
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday afternoon, we discussed the Denver futures of Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, and Ryan Clady.
Let's consider a few more points about Miller's situation, because it's not a simple matter of prioritizing one player over the others.
To be sure, Miller is the best player of that trio, and perhaps to a greater degree, most important to the Broncos in the long term. Therefore, he's undoubtedly the one guy we'd all choose for Denver to lock up with a lengthy, lucrative deal - more than any other player on the roster.
But chronologically, it's rather unlikely to play out that way. Check out this provision of the current CBA:
A Rookie Contract for a Drafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s third contract year.
Peyton Manning, Von Miller, and Champ Bailey were named Pro Bowl starters today; Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil are on the AFC team, but are not starters.
Demaryius Thomas, Chris Kuper, Zane Beadles, Eric Decker, David Bruton, and Britton Colquitt are alternates should players ahead of them on the roster not play due to either injury or their teams being in the Super Bowl.
Following a season during which he faced the unenviable task of blocking for a player who used the entire 160-foot width of the field as his pocket, Ryan Clady received the ultimate gift in the form of Peyton Manning last March.
By choosing not to accept the reported $28M in guarantees offered him by Denver over the summer, he set himself up for an even bigger prize.
At the least, Clady figures to receive the Broncos' franchise tag, which will provide him with $9.66M in guaranteed salary, which is more than a $6M bump up from his 2012 salary of $3.5M.
Thanks to their having clinched the AFCN on Sunday, the Ravens will have the misfortune of seeing the Broncos again next year, and even worse (for them), they'll be traveling to Denver for the rematch.
In addition to the AFCW teams, Denver will host Jacksonville, Tennessee, Philly, Washington, and Baltimore. They'll head to the road for matchups with the G-Men, Cowboys, Texans, Colts, and Patriots.