NFL analysts talk about ‘em like they leap tall buildings in a single bound. They fawn over their “athleticism” as if they’d never seen a QB cross the goal-line before.
Michael Vick, Vince Young, Tim Tebow: all skilled quarterbacks who buck tradition and break the pocket whenever they see daylight or feel the pressure.
Athletic QBs play some exciting football, for sure. They can throw a 60 yard TD strike, dash 20 for the 1st and will often take a team to the playoffs. But they don’t win rings.
Think of them as the adult version of a Punt Pass & Kick winner. I never competed, as my peers never game me a heads-up. Their concerns were unfounded as I couldn’t kick worth a darn. But I did have Lance Alworth hands, a game skill unwelcome at PPK.
Superman QB is all the rage on campus (Robinson / Pryor) and gaining favor in the pros (Vikings are stockpiling with Tarvaris Jackson & rookie Joe Webb). Clark Kent can run wild in college as he often has only one or two top-flight defenders on opposing teams with which to contend.
But the NFL is a whole different world. In playoff action an entire defense can be laden with All Pros. And if you’re a quarterback who shows a fear-flight tendency, that’s just like blood in the water. Defenders will eat you up before halftime.
Like comic book Superman, the football version has his own kryptonite: the pass rush.
I don’t doubt for one minute the mettle of superman QB. He’s got moxie to burn. Their instinct to ‘rabbit’ when pass protection gives-way comes not from fear as much as it does a lack of confidence in the game-plan and themselves.
Both Steve Young and Randy Cunningham fit the profile early in their careers. Proficient at passing, they nonetheless ran at will. But both had their best seasons (SF ‘95 / MN ‘98) later in life as they resisted the urge to take flight and let their aerials do the flying instead.
Aaron Rodgers is out of the same mold, having good pass instincts but a risky panache to go halfback. As such, Packers may end up like those Eagle and 49er teams: playoff busts.
The pocket-passer uses mobility to evade the rush and buy time to survey the field like a general, allowing his troops to re-route. He runs as a last resort. Surprisingly, this patient style is becoming passé in many a football war-room. It’s as if scouts never heard of Peyton, Tom or Brett.
The coach who banks on the running QB might be compensating for a porous offensive line. It makes some sense, except that QBs aren’t ball-carriers per se nor built to absorb downfield hits. It opens up a whole new avenue of injury for the traveling man.
But the kids do love their muscle-bound super-heroes. Vick is a hot commodity and moves the market more than drop-back QB Drew Brees. Denver’s Tim Tebow will heat-up when he replaces Kyle Orton in the coming weeks. Like NFL owners (and their 18-game schedule), whatever the kiddies want, the kiddies get.
Even so, don’t expect to find pocket passers on the endangered species list anytime soon. As long as quarterbacks like Doug Williams, Trent Dilfer and Eli Manning keep hoisting the hardware on Super Bowl Sunday, the flash QB will remain just another NFL passing fancy.
Keys to Sport
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory, my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.