Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Open Discussion

Hope all is well this wrestling/basketball season. I thought I might throw out a conversation piece that has bothered me for quite some time. Doesn't keep me up at night, but certainly a conversation piece that's worthy of discussion.

All in my opinion:
There seems to be a myth out there that what makes a successful running game for an NFL team is the quality of the back. This theory I whole heartidly disagree with. I assume many will agree, but I would be interested in hearing the other side. This years draft will be used as the model.

As I have zero coaching experience and can only sit by (like all of us) and ponder the choices being made by these highly paid decision makers, I have to wonder... Why the hell is there such an emphasis on the Running Back these days? There was a point in time (Walker/Dorsett/W Payton) when the running back truly could change the tide of the game. Single handidly this ability is no more. The talent of players across the board is too talented. Linebackers now run 4.4's and 4.5's. Speed, power and cutting ability, though important, are becoming less of an impact. Barry Sanders retired realizing this fact. You can be great, but the talent now days is too good to put an entire team on your shoulders. Once acknowledged, let's get back to the question: why the emphasis on RB's these days?

Examination #1: A general ranking of running backs in this years draft with projected ranking:
1. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (5-11, 208)
2. Chris Wells, Ohio State (6-1, 237)
3. LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh (5-11, 210)
4. Shonn Greene, Iowa (5-11, 235)
5. Donald Brown, Connecticut (5-10, 210)
6. Javon Ringer, Michigan State (5-9, 205)

Now... I agree for the most part with these rankings and could possibly swap one or two , but no matter. That is not the point here. The discussion will arise in the following:

Examination #2: Overall draft selection of RB's
(hypothetical and probably an NGD's rankings. No matter.)
1. Knowshon #12
2. Wells #19
3. McCoy #36
4. Greene #38
5. Brown #60
6. Ringer #? not on top list...

It should be stated that I'm well aware of the offensie linemen (hypothetically) drafted ahead of these various backs. However, the point is this.

Is it really worth passing on a potential "bad ass" OL (with the potential longevity being twice as long as the pompous prick he's typically blocking for?) as it is to draft the highlighted RB stars of the NCAA? Me thinks not.

It has been proven time and again that the offensive line can make any running back at the pro level look like a super star and thus grant him access to receive all kinds of accolades and praise. I won't continue to throw out the many names/examples, as that would merely bring up sensitive points with some and that's certainly not my purpose. To avoid sensitivity in you girls, I'll bring up my favored team, the Dallas Cowboys. Emmitt Smith. Great running back. No doubt. Won Super Bowls and positioned himself as the leading rusher in all football... I love it. Now the discussion... Was he merely set up in a position of circumstance with one of the greatest offensive lines in history, or is he truly that great and worthy. Me thinks a little of both. He was able to run through holes that any RB (at times a couple of us) with a pulse would have been able. He made some great moves, he made some cuts, but really... Was it all his doing or the offensive line that worked for him? Take this theory farther and was Terrell Davis such a stud for Denver, or merely a protege of circumstance? How about Jamal Anderson? For the most part, these guys had holes any of us could have ran through. They all had talent, no doubt, and not to take away from that, but my point is that perhaps these players were glorified not by shear talent, but perhaps mere beneficiaries of situational circumstance.

Now put yourself in the coaches chair:
Barry Sanders. I can only assume is the consensus greatest RB of all time and unfortunately played for the worst team of all time. His accomplishments are truly amazing given the circumstances. If you had the best O-line in all football right now, would he be your man? If not, he'd be up there, right?

Applied today:
Knowshon Moreno. If you knew you could build the O line and pass on Knowshon, yet get the likes of Ringer in the 3rd round would you do so?

Better addressed, would Knowshon be more advantageous as a #12 pick behind a Detroit Lions type line, or would Ringer be more productive at #65 behind a Detroit Lions line with a New Bad Ass Lineman?

Why teams are so concerned with their RB stable as opposed to the offensive linemen that make it happen is beyond me. A stacked line with a medicore back is far more productive then a mediocre line with the likes of a Knowshon.

See 2008 UGA season.


Otto said...

I think the Denver Broncos are the best example of your point. The quality of depth and their zone blocking scheme produced 1000 yd rushers yearly. T. Davis, O. Gary, M. Anderson.....the list goes on. Sure you can't over look the vision/cutback ability of these guys but at the same time you could have plugged any back in and they would have been productive.
I think what seperates greeat backs is the ability to turn a tackle for a loss into a 4 yrd gain. The ability to punish/intimidate defenders and crush their will in the 4th quarter. The ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. These days players like Westbrook in Philly can change a game because of his versatility and gamebreaking ability....he is special.

I Think Moreno has the qualities to gain the 'extra' yrds... turn the loss into a short gain. He also plays with a passion that raises the level of play of the entire team. He reminds me of Walter.....

All in all there are few GREAT rb's and alot of GREAT Olines that make average backs GREAT. Your fancy dancing boy Emmit is an average back (that was blessed to never have a serious injury) that rode an All pro Oline straight to the HOF. Put B. Sanders on the Cowboys and u got rb #'s that would never be touched. Put Smith on the Lions and u got a 3 yr career....IMHO
I'll take the Stud OLman everyday and twice on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I think it varies from team to team. Certainly, you could find examples of both. What Knowshon did behind Georgia’s made of glass offensive line, needs to be given a lot more credit than he has been give. NFL scouts obviously see this because when he failed to run insides the 4.5’s in the 40 at the combine they did not waver on his potential as a good NFL back. Moreno’s in-flight decision making ability to change directions at a moment's notice is one of his greatest skills.
I have heard of Beanie Wells being accused of taking plays off. He has nobody to fault but himself. When is the last time Ohio State has had a suspect offensive line? For the life, of me I can’t remember. Wells has lots of natural ability and has the size to be a great NFL back.

I think Emmitt Smith is great. I am in no way taking from what he did as a Cowboy. However, how hard is it to run behind arguably one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history(during the 3 Super Bowl runs). The line that Sanders ran behind in Detroit throughout his career was weak. Sanders made THEM look good as opposed to the other way around which is what I am suggesting with Smith. Sanders was a faster, quicker, and was a much more of a mulit-dimensional back than Smith who was primarily a straight ahead down the field runner. That being said comparing one to the other is a lot like saying Barry Sanders is 99 and Emmitt was a 97.

I really would have liked to see Knowshon Moreno run behind a healthy and experienced offensive line. They are projecting him anywhere from San Diego at 16 to Philly at 19. Both have great offensive lines.