Bruce Arians Insights on QBs

downloadBruce Arians deserved a better writer than Lars Anderson to discuss what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.  The book is a mess in a lot of ways with side trips in the middle of chapters that don’t necessarily related to the topic at hand.  There is a good book in here somewhere.

With that said, Arians has a lot of important points to make about what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.  Here he profiles those he has worked with most closely: Peyton Manning, Kelly Holcomb, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Carson Palmer.  All are very different quarterbacks but with a lot of the traits Arians looks for in an NFL signal caller.  Unfortunately, a lot of the chapters start meandering into other topics, but nonetheless they are great vignettes about some of the best quarterbacks in the league and one primarily a backup quarterback (Holcomb) who Arians got the most out of.

What is the most important attribute for an NFL quarterback?  First, it’s brains.  To be successful in the NFL a quarterback doesn’t have to be the best athlete on the field, but he probably has to be one of the smartest.  The ability to watch film, read defenses in fast paced live action, and get the ball where it needs to be with accuracy and velocity ultimately is the key.  But football smarts is essential to success regardless of other factors.

You also must have heart.  The willingness to take a big hit to get the ball off, the willingness to play through pain, and the willingness to prepare hard and do what it takes to maximize potential.

You have grit, which Arians defines as “handling success and failure equally”.  You can’t get too up and down over wins and losses but have to compartmentalize and move on to the next game.  If a QB throws an interception or a pick six (an interception returned for a touchdown), the QB can’t get rattled but has to move on to the next play.

And you have to be leader.  An NFL quarterback must be somebody others on the team look up to as an example and want to play with.  And all the traits above set that example.

From athletic point of view obviously an NFL quarterback has to have decent arm strength but it doesn’t have to be a rocket.  Accurate throws to all parts of the field are what set quarterbacks apart.  And the quarterback has to be athletic enough to avoid rush and move around in the pocket, what many call “pocket presence”.  You don’t have to be the best athlete just athletic enough.

As Arians notes, a lot of big armed, athletic quarterbacks have failed in the NFL because they did not posses these traits.

The other interesting part of this book is how some potentially great quarterbacks lack the maturity to play quarterback in the NFL.  Arians was with Baltimore when they scouted Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning as their first NFL draft pick.  Arians walked around both players’ campuses incognito and just asked around about what people thought of them.  Everybody had good things to say about Manning and nothing bad, while nobody had anything but bad things to say about Leaf.  So that ingrained in Arians a clear lack of leadership and we see what happened to Ryan Leaf.

Overall this was an interesting book about NFL quarterbacks, just annoying disjointed and unorganized at times.

The Quarterback Whisperer: How to Build an Elite NFL Quarterback

2012 NFL Season Week Five Observations

Steven Ridley takes handoff from Tom Brady

Some Quick Thoughts on Week Five

Chop blocks: I agree with Clay Matthews — the chop blocking I saw this weekend was troubling.  Brian Cushing was injured, maybe for the season, a block from the side, right on or below the knee, by Jets Guard Matt Slauson.  It was clearly an illegal play.  Ironically, while not illegal, it was the Houston Texans guards I saw going low, from the side, on defenders they were not engaged with.  In fact, that is how just defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson got hurt when he had to leave the game.  Any of these so called “zone blocking” scheme teams are prone to these low blocks on defensive players they are not engaged with.  I saw low blocks by the Broncos as well against Patriots.  Not sure how much can be done about it within the current rules but it’s one that will continue to put defensive players are risk.

Rookie Kickers: I don’t think I have seen a year when you had three such unbelievably good rookie kickers in Matt Blair of Minnesota, Billy Hunter in Baltimore, and Greg Zuerlein with Rams.  And the Rams have a great rookie punter as well in Johnny Hekker.  Makes me wish the Patriots had one now that Gostkowski has a case of the misses.


New England over Denver, 31-21

Coming into this game I really wondered how we’d fare against a team with a good offense and defense.  Thankfully, the Patriots look back in some semblance of top form, at least on offense.  I love the balance attack with the running and passing game going.  Not being so one dimensional on offense will serve the team well going throughout the season.  The defense also played reasonably good, opportunistic football.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB

Baltimore over Kansas City, 9-6

It was awfully painful to watch the Chiefs utterly self-destruct against the Ravens.  The Chiefs pretty much outplayed the Ravens the entire game except turnovers.  And the turnovers just killed the Chiefs chances of winning.  And I am sorry but Matt Cassel has played terribly this year.  I hated to see him get hurt and think that fans that cheered that should be ashamed.  But, it is time to give Quinn a chance to see what he can do, although if his past performances are any indication, he probably won’t do much better.  It’s a shame too because there is talent this team otherwise.  The Cheifs beat themselves in this game and handed the Ravens a win.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

St. Louis over Arizona, 17-3

Exposed.  That is what Arizona was on Thursday night.  Not so much their defense, although even that unit has seen it’s better games, but th offense was just awful.  But it has been all year long, the defense just kept bailing them out, until Thursday night’s loss to the Rams.  The Cardinals offensive line is embarassing.  It seems defensive ends have career days against them every week. They can’t run the ball.  And while I don’t think Kolb has much chance back there, even when he does he doesn’t always do much with it.  I feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald who I think is the first or second most talented reciever in the league (along with Charles Johnson of Detroit).  He has a bad quarterback coupled with a bad offensive line.

I frankly I am not a big beleiver in the Rams or Sam Bradford, which is surely and unpopular stance.  I love Danny Amendola though, and it’s too bad he got hurt this year again and will be out for a while.

Chris Long just schooled the Cardinals tackles.

MVP: Chris Long, DE

New Orleans over San Diego, 31-24

Fair or not, I just can’t root against the Saints after the bounty scandal, not this year at least.  But I like San Diego even less so this game left me wanting both teams to loose, although I probably leaned a little toward the Saints.  The Saints and Drew Brees got the offense rolling late in this one and never looked back, as Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas consecutive game with a touchdown pass record at 48.

Given the weakness of the AFC West, at least until Denver starts winning some games against good teams, San Diego might be in the drivers seat.  It will be interesting to see how that race plays out this year.

MVP:  Drew Brees, QB

Houston over New York Jets, 23-17

The New York Jets played well enough to win this game.  But they made mistake after mistake after mistake, espeically on offensive, leaving them no chance to beat a good team.  And it was not all Mark Sanchez’s fault.  It was just a sloppy, mistake prone offensive game.  It was also rather poor blocking by the offensive line as well.  Only Nick Mangold is any good.  D’Brickshaw Ferguson has always been wildly overrated.

The defensive backs played really well containing the Oilers passing game with the exception of a few gaffs, but the defensive line and linebackers were just mauled by the Texans offensive line.  They gave us some really big runs to Arian Foster.  But they hung in and kept them to field goals instead of touchdowns enough to give their offense a chance.  Their offense just didn’t take advantage of it.

I don’t think the Jets are as forlorn as many, but this could be a tough year for them.

MVP:  J.J. Watt, DE


Offensive Player: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants [200 yds rushing]
Defensive Player: J. J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Eric Winston, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Special Teams:  Johnny Hekker, P. St.  Louis Rams
Rookie of the Week: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

2012 NFL Season: Week Two Observations

Replacement Refs: The replacement officials had a really rough go of it in week two. While I didn’t see any game changing calls, the officials dramatically slowed the game down and ruined the flow of the action. In the Baltimore at Philadelphia game, the officials constantly were spotting the ball incorrectly or having trouble determining where it should be spotted. They also did not get control of the game when players got a bit chippy. The Denver at Atlanta game was even more mismanaged. It was very painful to watch.

Jay Cutler Continues to Prove he is a Jerk: I have never been a fan of Jay Cutler, especially after the petulant, childish way he left Denver. I do feel sorry for Cutler because he really doesn’t have a good offensive line and he often gets pounded on during games, but bumping your left tackle and getting in his face in public probably isn’t the best way to handle it. And his postgame press conference was also childish and petulant. Despite what Brian Urlacher says, I find it hard to believe Cutler has much respect in the Bears locker room.

Tight Ends Rule the Day: While there were some amazing offensive performances from Reggie Bush (RB, Miami), Danny Amendola (WR, St. Louis), and Victor Cruz (WR, New York Giants), it was the tight ends that made pivotal or had big days that helped get their teams over the top in Sunday. Brent Celek of the Eagles was the clearly the MVP of that game and was frequent target and security blanket for Michael Vick. Vernon Davis (San Francisco), Heath Miller (Pittsburgh), Todd Heap (Cardinals), Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta), and Anthony McCoy of Seattle all had pivotal roles in their team’s wins.

My Top Five Teams: San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Green Bay, Denver


Arizona Cardinals over New England Patriots, 20-18 (on Game Rewind)

I really, really did not want to watch this game on Game Rewind and I wish I hadn’t. The Patriots played about as badly on offense as I have ever seen them play. They weren’t playing well when Aaron Hernandez went out with an ankle injury, but after that they seemed totally unprepared and muddled on offense. It was just awful to watch. The Cardinals do have a solid defense, but New England didn’t seem to even show up for the game. On the bright side, the defense played rather well considering the turnover and blocked punt and that offense did nothing to help them out.

About all I can say about this game is that I hope it’s an aberration and not a trend. The loss of Aaron Hernandez for a month or more is going to hurt.

MVP: Patrick Peterson, CB

Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears, 23-10

The Chicago Bears were just awful in this game. The offense line was atrocious. Jay Cutler was awful even when he had time in the pocket. And Clay Matthews not only had 3.5 sacks, but was a menace to Chicago’s offense all night long.

Green Bay’s offense looked much better in this game than they did last week against the 49’ers and they even got a little running game going with Cedric Benson at times. It wasn’t a spectacular offensive performance but it was certainly and efficient one.

MVP: Clay Matthews, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Baltimore Ravens, 24-23

Not only for was this game a turnover fest for both teams, but the replacement officials were pretty lousy in keeping up with the flow of the game. The Eagles tried to hand the game to the Ravens early with a flurry of turnovers, but Baltimore gave the ball right back often enough to almost even out the points off turnovers by the end of the game. It was a close game throughout but the ragged play of Flacco in the second half and a few lucky breaks for the Eagles turned it into a close win for the home team.

While the officiating was poor, they didn’t decide the game. I am sick of Baltimore constantly blaming bad calls every time they lose a game. It was offensive pass interference on Jacoby Ford in a second half apparent touchdown pass. He had is hand on the defenders facemask. And it was clearly a forward pass by Michael Vick in the fourth quarter when the ref overturned his original call of a fumble. At most one might argue it was intentional grounding. These two calls did seal the deal for the Eagles, but both were appropriate and correct calls.

Tight end Brent Celek had a fantastic game for the Eagles.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Pittsburgh Steelers over New York Jets, 27-10

The Steelers had a nice, steady offensive performance in this game. While the offense was still generated primarily in the passing game there was just enough running to keep the Jet’s defense off balance. And Big Ben had a one of his better games, spreading the ball around to numerous receivers. We even saw the reemergence of Heath Miller in the passing game who had three catches and a touchdown.

And the defense played liked we are accustomed to seeing the Steelers defense play. They seemed rather vulnerable last week against Denver but this week they held the Jets in check for most of the game.

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

San Francisco 49’ers over Detroit Lions, 27-19

I think the 49’ers are clearly the best team in the NFL right now. They have a fabulous defense and the offense is now clicking on all cylinders. Quarterback Alex Smith is playing at a very high level, and has good rapport with tight end Vernon Davis. He is making good decisions and getting the ball to his receivers with velocity and accuracy. And I keep waiting to see Frank Gore slow down and look his age. But so far he looks fantastic and rejuvenated. With the depth on the offensive line and the stout defense, the 49’ers are going to be hard to beat.

Detroit, on the other hand, doesn’t come out looking so good. Granted they were playing a tough defense but Matthew Stafford was not that accurate with his passes. Stafford seems a bit lost at times. He might have a big arm, but in this game I wasn’t too impressed with him. And they really need to get a running game going but I’m not so sure Kevin Smith is the answer there. I think Detroit might regress a bit this year.

MVP: Vernon Davis, TE

Atlanta Falcons over Denver Broncos, 27-21

Wow, what a difference a week makes. Last week Payton Manning looked like the old Payton Manning, and this week the throws three first half interceptions spotting Atlanta at 20-0 lead. That was pretty much, almost the game.

Manning the Broncos did come back and make a game of it in the second half but Atlanta’s offense and defense did just enough hold off a comeback.

On the theme of what a difference a week makes, Julio Jones had an embarrassing week, dropping a sure touchdown pass and having fumble fingers throughout the game. Lucky for Atlanta the same was not the case for Roddy White who had a superb outing.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

St. Louis Rams over Washington Redskins, 31-28

Danny Amendola. Enough said. What a wicked good performance by this WR. He had 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and tied an NFL record for most catches a first half with 12. He was almost unstoppable except for a fumble. The Rams fell behind early because of turnovers and sloppy play but I thought mostly outplayed the Redskins. A blocked punt by St. Louis in the second half essentially cleared the way for the win.

MVP: Danny Amendola, WR



I know Reggie Bush had a phenomenal 172 yards rushing, but I am still going with Amendola.

Offensive Player: Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens.

2009 NFL Divisional Playoffs Review

The New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts certainly didn’t look rusty after playing a few meaningless regular season games and having a bye week. In fact, they looked the opposite, healthier, fresher, and ready to roll.

Kickers played a huge role in this year’s playoff games. Nate Keading of the San Diego Chargers choked on two makeable field goals that probably cost the Chargers the game. Chris Kluwe had a fabulous day punting for the Vikings that had an impact on field position and the ability of the Cowboys to come back after getting down early. Last week Jay Feely of the New York Jets had to punt and placekick. His ability to punt effectively was impressive.

New Orleans Saints over Arizona Cardinals, 45-14

This game turned out about how I expected, although I thought the Cardinals would have more success on offense. The Cardinals defense played so badly last week that I expected another track meet in which the Saints would ultimately prevail. I did not think the Saints defense would play as badly as Green Bay’s last week, and they were at home, so I gave them a big edge. A few early turnovers and the Saints scoring a touchdown on nearly every possession in the first half sealed the deal early.

The Saints looked quite impressive on both sides of the ball throughout the game, and Reggie Bush even emerged as a significant scoring threat, as if the Saints didn’t already have enough weapons. His 46 yard touchdown run near the end of the first half buried the Cardinals early, and his 83 yard punt return in the third quarter knocked whatever spark the Cardinals had right out.

You have to hand it to Kurt Warner though. After getting blasted after an interception in the first half and leaving the game, he came out in the second half and played hard, in what increasingly looked like a futile effort given their defense was doing little to stop the Saints.

MVP: Reggie Bush, RB/KR

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 20-3

The biggest weakness of the Ravens this year is they lacked a true number one receiver and had a hard time getting big plays in the passing game. That was ultimately their downfall all year, and against the Colts in the playoffs. Add to that the multiple turnovers, and they had no chance.

You could see the frustration on quarterback Joe Flacco’s face in the second half with the inability to get anything going. Derrick Mason is a decent receiver but too old and not fast enough to be a breakaway wide receiver and Mark Clayton, who should be that guy, is a bust.

The Colts, and Peyton Manning had a very efficient offensive game, controlled the clock, and simply ground out an easy win over the Ravens. The Ravens defense played well in spots, but with the turnovers and time of possession, there was not a lot they could do to pull this one out.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Minnesota Vikings over Dallas Cowboys, 34-3

While the Minnesota offense played extremely well, especially Brett Favre and Sidney Rice, it was really the defense and special teams that set the tone early and clamped down on the Cowboys. Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense were harassed early, with Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards emerging with three sacks and forced fumble early in the game. And they continued to frustrate the Cowboys offense throughout, leaving the offense to have its way with the Cowboys defense.

And even though I am no fan of Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, once he was knocked out of the game, the Minnesota defensive line really dominated the action. Putting Jason Witten and sometimes a back to block Minnesota’s Jared Allen was foolhardy, and their back up tackle was not up to the task, either.

Obviously Favre played a great game with four touchdown passes (but one in garbage time), but it was the defense that really pulled this one out for the Vikings. I also have to include punter Chris Kluwe in that, who had some excellent punts which impacted field position.

It was a well rounded effort by the Vikings and gives them the kind of big win they need to keep momentum as they face New Orleans next week in the Superdome.

MVP: Ray Edwards, DE

New York Jets over San Diego Chargers, 17-14

I really thought the Jets had no chance against the Chargers this week. The Chargers won nine games in a row and were the hottest team heading into the playoffs. They looked completely flat offensively in this game, but hats off to the number one defense in the league for shutting them down most of the game.

Two big keys to game were the two interceptions thrown by Philip Rivers in the third quarter, one on a brilliant play by Darrelle Revis, and Nate Keading missing two makeable field goals, which probably cost the Chargers the win. The ten points off turnovers and missed field goals were huge for the Jets.

The biggest play of the game, and the one that ultimately sealed it for the Jets was Shonn Greene’s 53 yard run for a touchdown that put the Jets up 17-7 with a little over seven minutes left to play. Given the way the Jets defense was playing it proved to be too much for the Chargers to overcome, although they came close.

And what to make of Nate Keading’s two missed field goals? I would not call a 36 yarder and a 40 yarder chip shots, necessarily, but they are the kinds of kicks that must be made, especially in the playoffs. Hit one, and you might be looking at overtime and a chance to win. Hit both and you are likely looking at the Chargers moving on to the AFC Championship game. It will be a long, long offseason for poor Keading.

And finally, there as been much debate about Norv Turner going for an onside kick in near the end of the game with one time out and 2:14 left on the clock. Kick it away, and get a three and out with one time out and the two minute warning, you are probably looking at getting the ball at least your own 30 yard line (but probably better with the poor punting by the Jets’ Steve Weatherford) with about one minute and a half on the clock. Even though the Jets had played great defense all day, the explosive Chargers would have had a chance to get into field goal range to tie the game and give Keading an opportunity to redeem himself (or not). Or even score a touchdown for the win. A failed onside kick ends the game. I thought it was bad move by Norv Turner.

Are the Chargers simply snake bitten in the playoffs? It seems the years they have their best chance to get to the Super Bowl they play well but lose in the playoffs. They seem to play better in the playoffs when they are the underdog.

MVP: Shonn Greene, RB


Offensive Player: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans
Defensive Player: Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota
Offensive Lineman: Kyle DeVan, G, Indianapolis Colts
Special Teams: Reggie Bush, RB/KR, New Orleans

2009 NFL Divisional Playoff Predictions

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

The Cardinals defense did not show up last week, but their offense was unstoppable against a Green Bay defense that has played extremely well the later half of the season. On the other hand, the New Orleans Saints had a rash of injuries, especially on defense, and have not played a meaningful game in a month. And in fact, they played rather poorly their last three games.

So what teams show up on Saturday? I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals, as great as they are offensively, can keep scoring on every possession two weeks in a row. And the Saints, despite being down the last few weeks, should be well rested and ready to go. Drew Brees has had a great season and has the more weapons than any quarterback in the league. Being at home, in the loud dome, against a porous defense, I think the Saints will pull this game out, maybe even in a blowout. New Orleans.

Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts

The Ravens really did not have much of a contest last week so I don’t know whether the Ravens are on a roll or not. They are very one dimensional with their key offensive threat being Ray Rice. Flacco only completed four passes last week in their win against the Patriots and has been shaky the second half of the season. Further, they have found a way to squander numerous games they should have won this year. Add to that, they have no true number one receiver and have a hard time getting the ball down the field.

On the other hand, they have already proven they can beat the Colts. They should have beaten them earlier this year in Baltimore, but blew their opportunity, like they have done so many times this year. They also have the kind of offense that can beat the Colts, a stout offensive line and running game that can control the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field. But at some point they have to be able to make plays in the passing game to beat the Colts, and recently they have not show the ability to do that.

The Colts have not played much real football the past month. But they went 14-0 and always found a way to pull out close games. Peyton Manning has been a machine at quarterback, and even with the Ravens stout defense, he can pick apart any secondary in the league.

But what Colts team will show up? The perennial choke artists who swallow the big one when it comes playoff time? Even in their lucky Super Bowl season when the Patriots knocked off the top seed and best team in the regular season, the San Diego Chargers, they almost choked against a rather weak Kansas City Chiefs team in the Wildcard round.

I hope the choke artists show up against the Ravens and lose. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Ravens have the offensive firepower to beat the Colts. So I have to go with the Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

This is a tough game for me to call. Dallas is on a roll and has played very well on both sides of the ball. And while Minnesota ended the season on a high note, they falter a little bit during the end of the season. But at the end of the day, I really think the Vikings have a more talent on both sides of the ball. The have great receivers, Dallas has good ones, they have a great running back, Dallas has good ones, and they have a very good defense, Dallas has a good one. I will call Favre and Romo a wash, as they both tend to underperform in the playoffs (but Romo didn’t last week). Minnesota Vikings.

New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers

The New York Jets got three gift wins in a row. Don’t get me wrong, you have to respect what they did to get into the playoffs and win. And their defense is stout, the best in the league this year. But their offense, like that of the Ravens, is one dimensional. They can run the ball very well but have a hard time making big plays in the passing game. That will doom them against the red hot San Diego Chargers, who are going into the playoffs with the most momentum of any team in the league. Their much improved defense, along with the mouthy jerk but great quarterback Philip Rivers, a good if not sterling running game, and big receivers, will spell doom for the Jets. I think the Jets defense can hold up reasonably well, but their offense is not going to score enough for a victory. San Diego Chargers.