Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Managing the Game


I must have missed the memo. When did “he is just being asked to manage the game” become an acceptable euphemism for “he is a mediocre quarterback”? Now, I am no Professor Emeritus of Bristol University but I am pretty fucking sure that “managing the game” is the premise of every quarterback, and that the good ones do it well. Management involves authority and competence. When Joe Montana ran the 49er offense, he was managing the game better than most QBs could dream it. When Jim Kelly ran the Buffalo no-huddle offense and called his own plays, he was managing the game better than most QBs did. When (insert legendary QB here) was leading his team to (legendary win with time running out), he was indulging, above all, in a practical demonstration of the sublime art of managing the game.

So, if a coach prepares a super-conservative game plan for his mediocre QB, he is doing the equivalent of Crash Davis telling Nuke LaLoosh, “Don’t think. You’re only hurting the ball club”. If he doesn’t want his QB to throw a 20-yard pass it is not because the QB can’t physically throw it over the LBs, under the safety and away from the DB. Heck, pretty much every NFL QB has the ability to throw a ball effectively on most normal pass-trajectories, which is why they get signed in the first place. The trick is in figuring out what throw may be called for on any given play after reading the pre-snap defense, and then given the unfolding response of the defense if that (or any, for that matter) throw is warranted given the evolving circs. So a conservative game-plan implies that a coach doesn’t trust the QB to read the defense to accurately figure out where the LBs, DBs and safeties are going to be at the time he flings the pill---in other words, he does NOT trust his QB to manage the game.

Speaking of QB play, yesterday in the AM I tuned into Mike and Mike and they had Kordell Stewart (who is evidently now an analyst for the NFL network) critiquing the QB play of Ben Roethlisberger. Seriously, do we need to expose our impressionable children and youth to this nonsense? Pro-Football gives me the following info: In Stewart’s eight-year career with Pittsburgh (five as a starter) he threw for 70 TDs, threw 72 INTs and had a career QB rating of 72.3 (with his highest season-long rating being 81.7 in 2001). By comparison in his four and a half seasons as the Steeler QB, Big Ben has won 70% of the games he started and thrown for 94 TDs and 65 INTs. His career QB rating currently stands at 90.1, with his worst QB rating (in 2006) being 75.4. Plus he has led the team to a Super Bowl win.

Kordell, I know it is your job now to comment but when asked to opine on the play of someone who has shown a better appreciation for the QB position from his first day than you did in your entire career, how about you go for something like “Ben knows how to play the position. Sure the recent INTs are a problem but I’m betting he and the team will figure it out”.


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The Improp said...

Kordell Stewart is an analyst?? That's like telling me Ryan Leaf is a quarterbacks coach.

Too soon?

Robb said...

Korsmell (it's been a long time since I've been able to use that one - thanks, V!) Stewart is the biggest fraud in the history of the NFL.

The only advice he should be giving NFL players is: Don't demand to play a position you are clearly incapable of playing when you have the ability to be an impact player at another position.

I have two words for Korsmell: Heinz Ward.

Three more words: Go %#@% yourself.

Anonymoustache said...

I had a feeling you'd be all over that one Robb.You're welcome.
But "biggest fraud in the history of the NFL" is a bit much, don't you think? The Steelers won 60% of the games that Kordell started as QB, over a five year span. I know thats a bit misleading as he really had only 2 good seasons, 11-5 and 13-3. That's really no different from, say, Mark Rypien. Also, that's better than many many useless fuckers who have infested the NFL for multiple years without any justification. Oh, I don't know---Chris Simms comes to mind immediately, but he's far from alone I'm sure.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Dude, you are embracing a very pernicious fallacy: that someone who is not good at performing a task must therefore not be good at analyzing the performance of others. I have not idea if Stewart is a decent analyst or not, but the fact that he was a shitty QB is completely uninformative.

Anonymoustache said...

I thought someone might point that out. I didn't make my point very well and I regret it.
I do agree with you that a shitty performer need not be a shitty analyst. Which is why I didn't go just with, "Hey Kordell, STFU!".
Instead of going with "He needs to exercise better judgment with the ball" which is the kind of bullshit anyone can say about any QB who is suddenly INT-prone, Kordell could try and bring some insight into what the problem may be, while also keeping it in the context of how good Ben has been, i.e. point out that this is an aberration, not the norm for Ben (that's where the stats come in, for Ben).
I have too many memories of Kordell's bad judgment and wasn't thinking it all through during the original post.
I'll concede that bringing Kordell's stats into it was unnecessary and only served to imply the pernicious fallacy that you pointed out.

scribbler50 said...

If I can weigh in here as a native of Pgh. and lifelong, etc.

First of all, you're absolutely right about this "manage the game" bullshit and all its intended, unintended meaning. It's the new overworked phrase that we're going to hear to death because these guys in the booth and those on the panel shows are all birds of the same psittaciformes order. (Sorry, I was just showing off there.) It's just like a couple of years ago when the "high ankle" sprain came into existence. Maybe I'm uninformed but... I played the game, watched the game and have argued the game for more years than I care to admit and it was always just... he sprained his fucking ankle. Where did this "high" come from? It got to the point where they could be helping a guy off the field and Parrot #2 in the booth would say, "I don't want to speculate but it looks by the way he's limping it's a high ankle sprain."

I'm digressing, I realize, but I think you get my point. Words are said because everyone else is saying them regardless of their true and valid application. I prefer your take on the phrase which is the Joe Montana one. Managing is a good thing for Christ Almighty sakes! It means you are a general who decides to march from the ground or attack from the air both of which you're capable of doing. (Also see old film of General Unitas.)

But what really peaked my interest and made me want to comment here (bloviate?) is the fact that the first time I heard that phrase with any annoying frequency was when Ben took over the Steelers his first year. He was asked, they all said, to "just manage the game" and it's meaning at the time was clear... "He's got the keys to the Cadillac, his job is to stay in the slow lane and not run the car off the road." All right, fine... half true and half okay. He was brand-ass new and that made sense. FOR A WHILE! But it went on like that for almost two years, maybe more, long after he'd learned the plays and showed what he could do. Now, for crying out loud, the fucking "manage the game" phrase is everywhere. Even Kerry Collins spoke out this past week saying, "Don't call me a manager, I'm a quarterback. I can throw, I can win the game." Talk about your twisted logic. A quarterback IS a manager, case closed!
And finally, I've been saying for years what Robb astutely pointed out... Kordell would've made a great wide receiver. He had great hands, could take the hit over the middle, and once in open field run like a deer. I know I'm going out on a limb here here but he reminded me of a Jerry Rice type of threat. Unfortunately however and due to his pigheadedness, he'll NOT be joining Hines Ward in The Hall and my lasting image of him is on the sidelines that day throwing a temper tantrum and giving it to Bill Cowher, (the guy who displayed the patience of Job with this guy) and Cowher mouthing those words "Not now!"

Okay, that's it, I'm done. Sorry to have gone on so long but when I see anything Steelers I can't shut up. It's in the DNA. In fact, if these had been words spoken aloud I'd have run the risk of giving myself a "high larynx sprain".
Nice to know you're a football guy, I'll be back.

Anonymoustache said...

Dude, please don't apologize for leaving a long comment, especially when it is insightful and fun to read---Indeed, thank you for taking the time to do so.
Plus, I didn't know what the order "psittaciformes" represented, but do now!
Also, always glad to talk Steelers in particular and football in general. More football ramblings to follow shortly in a new post.
Finally, "high larynx sprain" had me chuckling. To avoid that, I guess you have to be able to manage the uvula, huh?