Tandler's Take: The Blog 9/29

Is Daly right about Brunell and is Jeff Garcia like Jeff George?

September 29, 2004

Brunell Not Right Fit?

In the Washington Times, Dan Daly suggests that Mark Brunell isn't the right fit for Joe Gibbs' offense and he's not so sure that Clinton Portis is the right guy either.

Let's talk about Brunell first. You have to wonder what was going through Coach Joe's mind when he reviewed the game tapes and decided, "Mark's my man." All of his previous quarterbacks, after all, have been able to throw the deep out, one of the staples of his offense — Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, all of them. But Brunell doesn't have the arm strength; he simply can't get the ball there. And if you can't hit that intermediate-range pass with regularity, you won't be able to get the defense to back off ... so that, among other things, you can pound them with the running game.

He then moves on to Portis:

And what kind of back does Gibbs require? Well, he had his greatest success with a guy who, in his two best seasons with the Redskins, averaged 3.6 and 3.8 yards a carry — as compared to Portis' career average of 5.4. John Riggins wasn't much of a breakaway threat, but he could be counted on to gain those 3.6 or 3.8 yards most of the time, which kept the chains moving and kept the Washington defense off the field. Coach Joe refers to those Super Bowl teams as "first-down teams." Riggo and the Hogs just cranked out the first downs.
Portis, on the other hand, is a home run hitter, and it's harder to control the ball with a back like that.

Let's see here; Gibbs has gone from strong-armed, big play quarterback and bruising, move-the-chains runner to weaker-armed, ball-control QB and big-play runner. Gibbs hand picked both players. Now, I doubt that Gibbs had any kind of secret plan to build up Brunell's arm strength beyond what he saw on film and it's also improbable that Gibbs had a plan to bulk Portis up to 260. It's logical to assume, then, that he had a plan. That's just a guess, mind you, just like Daly was guessing that Gibbs didn't have one.

There's nothing wrong with looking for your big plays from your running back instead of from your passing game. Perhaps given the gambling, blitzing defenses that are in vogue these days, it's better to have a runner who can take it to the house if he can bust through a tackle than it is to hope that your quarterback can stay upright long enough to execute the deep out or launch one downfield.

Besides, I'm not quite sure that Daly's premise is even valid. Portis did a good job grinding it out on Monday night, gaining 94 yards with no carries over 12 yards. Brunell found his stride on the deep ball in the fourth quarter, hitting Rod Gardner with a couple of long ones.

Daly did emphasize that it was early to be pushing the panic button:

Of course, it's a journey of discovery for Coach Joe, just as it is for his players. Another thing he's finding out is that zone blitzes and run blitzes, tactics he didn't see much of the first time around, have become much more prevalent. And this means more plays — no matter how well designed — are going to take losses, losses the offense has to be able to recover from.

Scouting the Browns

I never really considered getting digital cable since I don't subscribe to HBO or any of the other premium channels and there just wasn't enough benefit to digital to justify the extra expense. That all changed when Comcast digital cable started offering the NFL Network and their weekly on-demand highlights package.

The NFL Network is OK; the Playbook show is a good in-depth show on strategy and techniques. But the key to the package is the on-demand highlights for each game that is available each week. You get about 10 minutes of highlights from each game played the previous Sunday. You get all the big plays as well as a lot of the "smaller" but also important plays that keep drives going or end them. It's all on demand so you can call it up at any time, pause and rewind, slow motion, the works. Among other things it's great for scouting out the upcoming opponent.

A first glance at the Browns' game against the Giants last week shows a couple of weak spots. Their biggest is under center. Jeff Garcia is playing awful football. I base this assessment on having watched most of the Browns' game against Dallas as well as the highlights package. His passes just aren't on target and it doesn't matter if he's under pressure, which is the case frequently, or if he's comfortably in the pocket.

Certainly, Garcia isn't having much fun. This was evident on a play late in the game with the Giants up 27-10. A shotgun snap went over Garcia's head and scooted back deep into Browns territory. He made a half-hearted attempt to pick the ball up inside the 10, but he didn't come close and Michael Strahan recovered near the goal line. It was a Jeff George type moment for Garcia.

September 28, 2004

Another Dallas game, another loss. At least last night I expected the outcome and it wasn't as hard to take as some of the others. But it's still frustrating.

There's a lot of talk about clock management today and that's certainly going to happen when you enter the late stages of a close game having burned all of your timeouts. Two were called to avoid delay of game penalties; once the play got in late and on the other the play got in a little late and there was still a chance to get the play off but it appeared that Mike Sellers was lined up in the wrong spot and Brunell had to burn the time out. The latter of the two was the more egregious and it's certain that there will be a discussion with Sellers about it. We'll see if the mistake will be corrected or, as was the case so often the past two seasons, repeated.

The worst waste of a time out, though, was the challenge of Terry Glenn's catch of Richie Anderson's halfback option pass for a touchdown to make it 21-10. Now my trusty Tivo was having some hard drive issues so I haven't seen it since it happened, but that did not appear to be close enough to burn a challenge on.

Now, some are saying that if the Redskins had saved any of the three time outs, they would have been able to use it to stop the clock after Gardner's long reception with four seconds left and attempt a tying field goal. While that's true, they wouldn't have had the time out even if they had not burned it. They almost certainly would have used it on defense to stop the clock during Dallas' last possession.

Bold Statement: Analysis

In this spot each week, I'll examine some of the bold statements I made the week leading up to the game and see if they've held water. The statements will be rated with a number of buckets of water from zero to five. No buckets means that I couldn't have been more wrong had I said that the sky is green. Five buckets means that I either had a crystal ball or I was extremely lucky.

-- Eddie George will not gain much more than about 50 yards. (9/27)
Buckets: Five
George carried the ball 11 times for just 19 yards. In fact, Dallas as a team rushed for a mere 50.

--Testaverde will throw for close to 300. (9/27)
Buckets: Three
Vinny pitched for just 219 and being off by that much might be grounds for one fewer bucket, but he controlled the game from start to finish and was just as effective as if he had thrown for more yards.

-- Brunell won't be significantly better this week than the last two. Well, probably a little better than against the Giants, but I don't see him having 250 yards passing up his sleeve. (9/27)
Buckets: Four
Again, I was off on the yards but without that 49-yard desperation heave to Gardner on the last play, he winds up with 275 throwing. Yes, I know that all the yards count but Brunell was just about as effective as I thought he'd be—not terrible, but not terribly effective either.

-- So, in an incredible oversimplification, it comes down to Vinny vs. Ports. Whichever one is more productive will be playing on the winning team. (9/27)

Buckets: Five

Portis rushed for a very quiet 94 yards and Testaverde, as noted, controlled the game. Slam dunk.

Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/28
Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/27
Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/25
Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/23-24
Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/22
Tandler's Redskins Blog 9/21

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