Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're in a Rebuilding Phase-No-Wait-Never Mind.

Shylock here. To quote great Jew Jerry Seinfeld, "What's the deal" with last year's awful NFL teams doing complete 180's this year (Lions excepted, of course). Miami and Atlanta, who last year went a combined 5-27, this year are heading for the playoffs with a combined record of 20-10. I'm sorry, I have to say that again. These teams TOGETHER had 5 WINS last year, and this year, they each have TEN. It's unheard of!

How do you explain this kind of turn around? It almost defies logic. After last season, "experts" were saying that Miami would, at best, win six to seven games this year, while Atlanta would probably do about the same while rookie quarterback Matt Ryan adjusted to the pro game. Well, all that was completely wrong. The Dolphins are even poised to bump out Brett Favre's enemic New York Jets this weekend. So what's the big difference?

I'd like to pose the argument that it is almost 100% because of improved quarterback play. Let's start with Miami. Last year, they had a total of three signal callers on the field throughout their 16 games-Trent Green (what a disaster that was, shocker), Cleo Lemon, and eventually BYU rookie John Beck. The inconsistent quarterback play, coupled with the fact that none of those guys are really any good, has to be the main reason Miami couldn't get it done last year. Teams need one guy to look to at quarterback, emphasis on ONE guy. Because the quarterback is more than just an offensive player, he's the team leader; he's the player that is in charge of taking control of his team, commanding the offense, and moving the ball. Miami had three guys. And not one of them was much of a leader. Oops.

Atlanta's situation is more complicated. Their leader turns out to be a thug, and their team is thrown into turmoil, despite the overhwelming ledaership skills of one Byron Leftwich. Between him and Chris Redmon, moving the ball was just not happening. So what do you do? You draft Matt Ryan, who learns the offense in what, two months, and suddenly you have a winning team.

He's a beast. Don't deny it.

Now you can't discount the work of Michael Turner, and the fact that Ronnie Brown hasn't been injured this year and has rushed very well. But Pennington and Ryan are the clear leaders on these teams. Just last game against the Chiefs, Pennington threw for 235 yards with 3 touchdowns. Ryan had that amazing pass to Roddy White that kept his Falcons alive to deflate the bears.

It also makes you think-just how much time does a quarterback need to learn the offense? I've been patient with Redskins' quarterback Jason Campbell for the past two years, because I do think he shows flashes of greatness, and in time, could be a real threat. But seeing what Ryan has done in Atlanta, and looking at the careers of guys like Peyton or Brady, who come right in and make a difference, you start to wonder if maybe the right guy in the right system really can win right away.

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