Friday, September 18, 2015

The real reason Peyton Manning is struggling this season

The sports media is having a collective fit over how Manning looks this year.

It's hard to blame them; they do have a lot of empty air to fill and he has looked very old. And it's hard for them not to connect how he played at the end of last season (when his legs were injured) with what they see now.

So what happened? Has he fallen off the shelf?

"Falling off the shelf" is an old way that scouts and coaches would describe a sudden decline in play from one season to the next; usually with the inference that age is the culprit, and that the reduced level of play is both untenable and unlikely to improve.

Has Peyton Fallen off the shelf? No. No he hasn't.

Peyton Manning has been the subject of study for me since he came into the league; and I think I know him as well as possible for a non-football insider.

So why is he looking so old compared to how he looked pre-injury last year? I'll tell you: for the same reason an old computer seems slow - it's being asked to do things it is not capable of.

So, what is it that Peyton is being asked to do that he wasn't last year?

Footwork my friend; footwork.

Basically now that Manning has had Kubiak's version of Bill Walsh's offense (referred to by heretics as the "West Coast Offense") foisted upon him, the entire way that Manning takes the snap, sets up in the pocket, and throws on time has been fundamentally altered.

Kubiak's offense (which is very faithful to how Bill Walsh designed it) is heavily dependent on precise and quick footwork. There are other fundamental changes that Manning has had to adjust to: such as pre-determined throws based on coverages, routes that change dynamically based on the coverage, the lesser need for audibles at the line, and short precise throws on time to specific points.

But these are all things that Manning has no problem with.

The footwork though - that is a problem.

Bill Walsh always said he could tell if a college QB would fit his system by watching only his feet. When he drafted Joe Montana in the 3rd round; it was his feet that he coveted.

Simply put, in the Walsh offense, a Qb takes the snap and drops back in either a three or five step drop. At the point where the back foot hits, the QB should be on balance and already in position to immediately throw to his first receiver at a specific point on the field. This puts a premium on quick and precise footwork, along with the balance to be in a stable throwing position immediately upon the end of the drop. This puts a lot of pressure on that back leg; and a lack of spring in that leg will cause poor balance, a inconsistant throwing position, and release point.

This is critical. And it is exceptionally critical when the QB does not have a power arm. Brett Favre and John Elway excelled in this system despite having shoddy footwork (at least compared to a Montana) due to their ability to put a lot of power on the throw from awkward and fundamentally unsound positions.

Watching Manning this year, it is painfully obvious to me that his legs are dead. Dan Marino had the same issue in his final couple of seasons.

Now, there have been times this year that Manning has looked more like himself. Usually when they need to throw every down due to playing catch-up. So, why?

Well, most of those snaps are taken from the shotgun where the footwork is less of an issue. Manning takes the shotgun snap and can settle a bit while the receivers (who are running longer routes) try to get open.

Basically Manning is struggling for the same reasons that many college spread offense QBs struggle when they come to the NFL. Poor footwork.

Will practice improve the situation? Almost certainly it will. But how much?

I predict that either the Broncos will start working a lot more out of the shotgun, or that Manning will continue to struggle in the base offense.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Deflategate and all that

Why would he do this, or allow it? Because he has no scruples whatsoever.
What is more likely, that he has been caught for the only two times where there was trying to gain an unfair advantage?
That every part of the organization where he is involved there is a concerted effort to gain an unfair advantage; and that spygate and deflategate are just the two times that he has been publically caught?
I say "publically" because if this story hadn't been reported by the media, it would have been resolved behind the scenes by the NFL.
Other than Bill Walsh or a young Paul Brown; no modern coach has ever had as much direct control over all aspects of the organization.
I can believe that Belichick would not be the one personally directing the deflation of footballs; but this could only happen in an atmosphere of competition where cheating in sly ways is institutionally encouraged and rewarded.
The biggest argument the the Belichick supporters have is that it would not have affected the outcome of this particular game whatsoever.
I don't think anyone is suggesting that it did. So, who are you arguing with?
The week before, the Patriots barely beat a scrappy Ravens team in freezing weather.
Are there any Belichick supporters that can honestly say that they don't think that the Patriot's balls in that game weren't intentionally deflated?
What do I think should be done? I'm torn on that. For the act itself, considering the advantage that was gained, I'd say the same penalty as spygate.
This seems to be a much lesser advantage than what was gained during spygate, but this is a second offense.
The only way to stop this sort of skullduggery is to hurt the Patriots competitively. A fine isn't going to do anything whatsoever.
And for those of you out there who thought the spygate penalty was too harsh? Well, since that penalty did not stop the Patriots from cheating, I'd say that the Patriots themselves are telling us the penalty was not severe enough - because they keep doing it.