NFL14 Cherry Picks W14: “Kingdom for a (QB)!”

4 Dec

Quarterback Crude

A (quarterback, a quarterback), my kingdom for a (quarterback).”

That’s word-play on a famous line from Shakespeare’s work, Richard III (A5 S4).

Edward de Vere (1550-1604), 17th Earl of Oxford and author of Shakespeare papers (a/k/a “Shake-a-Spear”), was quite the pen-master, quilled variety.


No word-processors, no writing tablets and not much in the way of research tools, beyond monasteries and small, private libraries, in those days of minstrels and non-refrigerated beef, all making Edward’s exploits that much more stupendous.

As for the Shakespeare character, allegedly from Stratford on Avon and emblazoned on 75 million beakers to attest to the fable, he was about as real as The Cat in the Hat.

And what was the #1 folly (sport) in de Vere’s day? Falconry, talons & tearing. The sport of aristocrats. They didn’t mess around in 1589, and if you did and got caught, it was off to the Tower of London or chopping block for you, poor devil.


What Richard shrieked on the battlefield as his world came crashing down around him differed slightly from the version above, but so similar are the sentiments to that of many an NFL king in 2014 it’s hardly worth quibbling over: a desperate and decisive shortage of a critical element to victory, at Bosworth, a horse, here, a top flight quarterback.

What the owner of a floundering franchise wouldn’t give for a top field general to take his offensive team to higher ground and winning ways.

Wide receivers can be game-changers (See; Rice & Alworth).

A few teams have ridden a running back to glory (See; Brown & Riggins).

A stout defense can make good offense look pedestrian (See; SEA ‘13 & CHI ‘85).

But even with a guy like Ray Lewis or NaVorro Bowman roaming the terrain, you best have a reliable Mr. Matriculator under center or kiss any Super Bowl plans goodbye. It’s why the quarterback gets the cheers in victory and jeers in defeat.

A good signal-caller is hard to find.

Today, there are approximately 60 rostered quarterbacks in the NFL. For those franchises who’ve secured their man, it’s like money in the bank: surety.

Teams that win consistently are QB contented. He need not be Canton bound, i.e., Peyton or Tom, but a dependable bloke who wins more than he loses, i.e., Flacco and Rivers.

By my count there’ll be 18-20 settled quarterback spots as summer camps open in ‘15, all but one (CAR) pocket-passers or mobile managers. That leaves a dozen or so teams that can be fairly characterized as facing a QB quandary and will then more than likely seek a starter, whether by draft, trade, free-agency or giving a current rosteree his big chance.

Keep in mind, of those 20 odd established stars, you’ve got half a dozen veteran QBs with 10+ years under their belts and another half dozen closing in fast on their 1st decade.

And while their jobs are not (or shouldn’t be) in danger, four of those est’d passers, Ryan, Brees, Cutler and Eli, are putting up numbers while having a tough time translating them into wins. But there is something called team defense, or lack thereof, and if put on the open-market, these guys’d move but fast.

Who will fill those vacancies when they come open in the not-too-distant future? Talented pro quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, they need nurturing, time to develop. Can’t crank ‘em out like so many widgets, not the pro type, anyway.

After getting the basics in high school, it’s college where advanced training for signal-callers is suppose to take place. But “there’s a problem, Houston.”

Unlike major league baseball, where an extensive minor league farm system will weed out college grads who don’t make the grade while grooming the honor roll, pro football gets Joe college straight off campus w/all his habits, good and bad.

A quarterback crisis looms on the NFL horizon.

It’s a paltry plight compared to the impending worldwide energy crisis that will prove catastrophic at the pace we’re on (2035?), but for the serious NFL fan and general manager, this present positional predicament should be of paramount importance.


The player pipe-line running from college to the NFL, supplying trained passers, is dryin’ up quicker than a Texas’ oil well. Why? Sir Runs-a-lot is all the rage in amateur-land.

High school and college coaches both are taking a short-cut, using their EZ-Pass® on the highway to glory by slotting Mr. Athletic into the quarterback spot, giving him carte blanche to hog the ball and bring home the bacon.

And it‘s paid off in pork bellies.

National championships and Heisman awards are proof that flash-QB works wonders at the lower level of play, where disparity of talent can be wider than the Lone Star State.

Trouble is, teachers (coach) and students both are foregoing their Football 101 studies. They can prove time-consuming, tedious and a painful learning process enroute to becoming a proficient pocket passer, one who reads defense beyond “See Spot run.”

And NFL fans are paying the price.

Not unlike the 3-pointer in basketball, the proliferation of run-QB has set into motion a devolution of football, where today’s “Gridiron Flash” or modern-day single-wing tailback (30s) (‘read-option’ misnomer), is retarding decades of progress as the art of quarterbacking steadily becomes, if not a lost calling, a rare craft, indeed.

When Mr. Freelancer hit’s the pro scene, GMs are left “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinking’ and prayin’” his game doesn’t get lost in translation, a prayer that’s going unanswered.

The Suits aren’t the only ones biting at the bit.

Co-workers at tight-end, wide-receiver and backfield can’t be all too pleased at the fewer touches they get when run-QB covets the ball and fails to spread the joy. Those 2-3 fewer takes each game add-up over course of a season, lowering totals and the valuation that can show-up on draft days and contracting time.

Remember Mike Vick, now with the Jets? Moments of prowess (’03 (ATL v GB)), a bad break of his own making but not enough tools in the kit (56C%, 59-50).

Cam Newton takes NFL by storm in his first season (‘11), passes over 4000 yards (60%), sets rookie scoring mark (35td (14r)) and can’t get back in sync (27-31).

Colin Kaepernick bursts on the scene making Green Bay sharp look Swiss cheesy but couldn’t close the deal when spotlight shone bright (See: SB47 & NFCT‘14).

Tim Tebow makes the most of his chance by taking Broncos and USA on a wild ride called Tebowmania (’11 (7-4)) while setting the bar low on a QB staple (47.9C%).

And Rob Griffin looked a diamond in the rough (9-6, 66%, 20-5i (‘11)) but a panache for pace provoked injury (knee / ankle), eventual benching and now his future is foggy.


As for Seattle’s starry young quarterback Russ Wilson, run-QB supporters claim him as one of their own, example of why the flash-form is a winner. And they’d be wrong.

Wilson ran lots at Wisconsin but raised Lombardi only as he reigned-in the run-habit under Pete Carroll, evolving into a pro-set, mobile-manager, actually rushing fewer times (3-26) than did similar styled Roger Staubach in his first Super start (5-18 (SB6)).

Russ & Pete are now the template for conversion from playground run-around to savvy NFL signal-caller. Keys are a personality to permit, and a coach who knows his stuff.

And Manziel? Still a sideliner. Some say he’ll change the NFL (“yute(ful)” indiscretion). He’ll get his shot, but flash tends to think himself Superman, always able to make things happen. NFL defensive studs will make you regret such folly, when “the better part of valour is discretion (See; Buffalo, ‘Don‘t even think about it‘ fumble).” On busted play, drop & roll, kid.

The devolution at quarterback won’t end anytime soon. Question is, will NFL fans, with their higher standard and refined football tastes, forego the pass game, a central, defining trait of pro-play since Sid Gillman made the scene (AFL ‘60), in favor of run-rabbit-run?

Answer: It’s about as likely as a gusher in the Keystone State, or a photograph of young Billy Shakespeare scribbling and burning the midnite oil. When pigs fly.


Cherry Picks Week 14: “Importance of Folly”

Dallas (8-4) @ Chicago (5-7): 12-4 NFLN 8:25: Bears win
Ravens (7-5) @ MIA (7-5): 12-7 CBS 1:00: Dolphins win
Colts (8-4) @ Cleveland (7-5): CBS 1:00: Browns win
Steelers (7-5) @ Cincinnati (8-3-1): CBS 1:00: Pitt wins
St. Louis (5-7) @ Washington (3-9): Fox 1:00: Redskins win
Buffalo (7-5) @ Denver (9-3): CBS 4:05: Broncos win
Chiefs (7-5) @ Arizona (9-3): CBS 4:05: Kansas City wins
San Francisco (7-5) @ Oakland (1-11): Fox 4:25: Raiders win
Hawks (8-4) @ Philadelphia (9-3): Fox 4:25 (GOTW): Seattle wins
Patriots (9-3) @ San Diego (8-4): 8:30 NBC: New England wins
Falcons (5-7) @ Green Bay (9-3): 12-8 8:30 ESPN: Green Bay wins

Record: 66 – 37 – 1

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Richard3, wc.cca, 10-1912; deVere, wc.cca, 1575, Brown&Harding; penny-Richard3, R.Suarez, wc.cca; NFL.wikiproject; Wilson, 11.11.12, Maurer, wc.cca; Cherries-on-cloth, 6.2011, picdrome, wc.cca.
Posted: 12.4.14 @ 5:54pm; edit 12.5 @ 1:02am EST


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