keasley45 wrote:Maybe its just the ultimate embodiment of the unique character of this team.
Not to create yet another 'who's fault is it ' thread, but i wanted to post a possible scenario around how and why we are where we are with the team today that doesnt necessarily 'incriminate' anyone, but rather looks at the situation as just a case of trying to work through the gifts and challenges of a very unique circumstance and rare player at QB.
I think we can all use a bit less of the polarizing talk when it comes to Pete vs Schotty (or whoever the OC will now be ) vs Russ and the blame game for who is responsible when we dont succeed. I've certainly been guilty of going down the rabbit hole when it comes to trying to untangle the mess of our season and the last several years. But I think at the end of the day, the reality is that there isnt a 'BAD GUY' in this plot. just a bunch of guys commited to trying to figure out the best way to win.And they are much closer to what's actually going on than we are. The best we can do is look at game film.
Everyone is due their fair share of praise for the success we have seen and responsibility for the challenges.
The two constants in this game are Russ and Pete. The OC, interchangeable - although it would be great if we could get some consistency at the position, the fact that we havent found that is beginning to look like evidence to me for what might really be going on. The team has been trying to figure itself out for a while now and i think what we just finally saw this season was hopefully the last phase of a long, 4 year exploration.
I honestly believe that since the collapse of the LOB and the departure of Lynch, there has been a concerted effort to try to transition the team to RW, both from a leadership perspective, which i think he has done, but also from a scheme perspective, which to date we have struggled with. But ultimately what does that transition to a passing offense look like for such a unique QB.
He's similar in height to D Brees but doesnt have Brees's savant like ability to diagnose a defense and hit 10 different WR a game consistently. Brees overcomes the challenge of maybe not being able to SEE everything by being so enmeshed in the plays that he can run the O with his eyes closed and hit his receivers anywhere on the field so long as they are where they are designed to be. He has a rare and uncanny abiliity in this sense and i'd wager that if there was a NEXT GEN stat that could measure his brain's ability to read and react, / process data, he'd be off the charts.
Russ has come to defeat his issues with his physical stature by moving outside the pocket, releasing the ball and diagnosing plays from a deeper drop, and when all else fails, punishing a defense with is escapability and timely runs. Like Brees, he's incredibly accurate on the long ball and overall in general, when he has the opportunity to see where he's going with the ball. Russ, an uncanny pocket sense. Drew, an uncanny field sense. Again - my observation, not set in stone fact.
But given the above, an offense built around a passing game will by default need to look a bit different for Drew than for Russ. To say that Russ can do what Drew can from a shear technical ability , is in my opinon just as foolish as someone expecting Brees to be able to do what Russ can (nobody in the league can do what he can). And thats not throwing shade on Russ, he's fully capable of executing an offense. Its more praise for Drew because the dude is just that good.
The question is, what does that magical passing game look like for our QB?
It was apparent that the OC we had when we were built around a legendary defense and sledghammer in ballet shoes in Beastmode, no longer fit the profile for a team that was moving to a more aggressive passing game. He was let go.
What did that more aggressive passing game mean? Nobody knew until this year because nobody had seen RW with reliable running backs and a philosophy that was built around his arm moreso than his legs. We'd come to know him as a QB that could make something out of nothing when the plays didnt go according to plan. He built his legend on improv - turning nothing into a mile long highlight reel of spectacular plays.
But i think MAYBE at some point the improv act which had been just a tool for Russ, whether because of a poor play design, not being able to see receivers, not being able to process reads quickly, or being conditioned through years of HAVING to be ready to break from the scheme due to poor protection and do his own thing, became his default style of play.
So now, enter Schottenheimer, a guy, for all the criticism leveled at him, showed that he could pull together some pretty effectve schemes. I dont know how much responsibility to assign the OC or the QB for the inability to effectively implement a passing game that was diverse in terms of its range of routes and combinations, but the results... well, we saw them. however, i dont think its s a stretch to assume that RW is a contributing factor. He cant NOT be for the adjustments that have to be made for his height alone (deeper drops, slightly longer developing routes). And that's not bashing him at all, it just is what it is.
The question beyond that is how much of his natural tendency to want to move out of the pocket to see routes is absolutely necessary (ie , how much CAN he see at a 3 or 5 step drop from under center or a catch and release from shotgun) vs it just now being how he plays. If its how he's been conditioned to play, then the challenge is re instilling the discipline to run the offense called - essentially reconditioning him to know the field and trust it and on occassion, throw blind to a spot you trust a wr to be. If its vision (he CANT see the field in certain instances) and his ability to analyze a read, post snap iand trust it is severely impaired because his defuault reaction for 9 years has been to get the ball and move, then that's a bit more difficult to overcome. And it could also certainly by both - and likely is.
Either way, now at year 10, then the offensive strategy needs to shift. If he can get his discipline back, he should eventually be able to make the reads and get the ball out quickly. And again, i dont know whether what we saw this year from him (patting the ball, the double clutches, the indecisiveness) was a failure in being able to drop back and 1,2,3 read, react and get the ball out to the open guy in the flow of the offense, or if t was that he was trying to do it but couldnt see, and thus was constantly forced to break pocket and look deeper, which right off the bat negates the playcall and puts the chances of the down succeeding on RW and a given wr's ability to read eachother and connect. however, from what i've seen on tape over 16 weeks, i can say comfortably that although you can criticize Schotty fro maybe not adapting in game with a reasonable quickness or not calling up enough plays to RB's, there were A LOT of plays left on the field. And it could just be that the disconnect between PC and Schotty that led to his firing was a desire on Schotty's part to keep trying down the road of getting RW to function more effectively as a complete passer in the flow of the offense and plays called, getting him to use the whole field. Whereas Pete sees the best path to move the offense and RW forward being to stop trying to push him to do what he now obviously struggles to do and supplement the short pass game quick reads and a more methodical progression down the field, with a more schematically diverse and intentional run game.
And that run game CAN get us where we want to go. If its effective, it sets up all of those incredible passes Russ is known for. On its own, it can be lethal either by virtue of its diversity or its factor of intimidation. Which, depends on who is running the rock. The one thing i will say thats a bit concerning is that even if Carson comes back, between he and Penny, we have a back that is lightning quick through the hole and a bulldozer, but struggles to break long runs and a RB who dances too much in finding the holes, but can take it to the house on any given play if he breaks the first line of defense. Because they are so different, WHEN we deploy them in a game can be a tell as to what we want to do. If chris is in we are a bit more diverse, although he doesnt have great long or edge speed. When Penny is in, its likely going outside. What we need to really help Russ is either a scheme that can leverage both styles effectively, or a different back altogether. Someone like Jones in GB or conceptually the tandems that Cleveland or KC run. In the case of KC and Cleveland, either back can go inside or outside, but they each have their obvious strengths.
If you cant draw up short to middle pass plays, you have to develop a combination of longer developing passes and screens with a FAST running attack that is effective on the edges early in games and a PUNISHING one up the middle late. Gaining 5 yards consistently on swing plays, and runs off tackle forces defenses to play the width of the field. I think its why we saw the hawks constantly trying to establish the edge running game even though they knew they could reliably get 3.5 ypc between the tackles. without a consistent threat to spread the d-line and backers out, the field gets small for both runs and passes. And even harder for a shorter QB to fit the ball into tight openings.
The running game, and a well designed one that stretches the defense and punishes it seems to me to not be simply the preference of a head coach, but if any of the above is remotely true, pretty much necessary in getting RW back on the track to success.
this post is wayyyy too long but thats only because the challenges the team now faces (and i guess has faced all along) are complex and not as cut and dry as letting Russ cook, or keeping Pete out of a playbook, Russ being broken, or the OC being a dud. There's a ton that Pete and the coordinators are looking at on O to unlock the potential of this team. Some of it is in just unlocking (not unleashing) Russ, some of it is scheme, some of it, personnel and all of it doable.
We've been quick to condemn coaches and players for the failures to date but in all honesty, like everything else about the franchise, the difficulty in finding the ultimate success over the last few years is like everything else around this team, due to the fact that the circumstances are just sooo unique. Starting with the QB. And thats a blessing and a curse. But it is what it is. Cant believe i'm about to say this but it genuinely in this case really is all about the process and evolving.
I'm confident we will get there.