For the first time in a long time, I had the chance to watch football this past weekend, uninterrupted and without the thought of papers, exams and other work I had to get done looming over my head.
I noticed something that I have overlooked for years, and don’t really know why I have done so. I became aware of just how important the position of quarterback is in the game of football, no matter the level.
Two games stuck out to me from this past weekend as evidence of this. The first was the Florida vs. Tennessee game on Saturday afternoon, and the other the Indianapolis vs. Miami game on Monday night.
I know both of these games had to do with my favorite teams, but it is purely coincidental and you will see what I mean as I begin my case.
Now, whether or not Urban Meyer really did hold his offense back because Tennessee would not open up and throw the ball and really challenge the Gators for the win is up for debate, but he is right. Tennessee could not open up the offense with Jonathon Crompton.
Crompton has never shown that he has a big-time, Division I arm that could lead the Vols to the promised land, and Lane Kiffin and Tennessee had to play accordingly and try to jam the ball down Brandon Spikes's and the Florida defense's throats with Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown.
That strategy almost worked, too, but as the old saying goes, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” "Almost" still means "came up short," and it took the worst game of Tim Tebow’s college career for the Vols to get as close as almost.
Crompton was doing a great job not throwing the ball, except for the play-action passes and short third downs and when Florida could not just pin their ears back and go after him. Kiffin wanted Crompton to just move the chains and he was doing just that. However, Kiffin could not stray away from the game and go for the kill because it would give Superman a chance to turn his day around, and give Meyer a chance to show off how explosive his offense is or could be, and then almost becomes not even close.
So, to summarize, I believe Tennessee could not make the final push to defeat the Gators because the threat of Tebow doing what Tebow does in most games kept Kiffin from opening up the offense and going for the win.
Now, onto the NFL and the Monday night game. In order for the Dolphins to win, they needed to keep the ball on the ground and control the clock. I have often said that their best offense is their defense, and vice versa.
What I mean by that is, when their defense is on the field, they are doing their job when they force a punt and give the offense the ball with good field position. That gives the offense a better chance at scoring. The Dolphins offense is their best defense when they are picking up first downs and moving the ball downfield and keeping the clock ticking down.
This plan was working to perfection for the Dolphins, and they were closer than "almost." They were outplaying Indianapolis and were holding onto the lead and to the ball. Tony Sparano’s crew could not have been happier. Except for one little problem—the Colts have Peyton Manning.
Manning was on the field for just under 15 minutes of the game, not even a full quarter! However, when the final whistle blew, Manning was standing on top, as he has so many times before, with the Colts winning 27-23.
I know people have said all you need to do is give Manning a chance and the ball, and he will be able to score, but Monday night he proved it by picking apart Miami and proving (to me anyway) that he is the best quarterback in the game.
Since Monday, I have been trying to think of quarterbacks that could do what Manning did: completely outthink and outperform a team that outplayed them the way the Dolphins did Monday night to the Colts.
I have come up with only one besides Manning—the Dolphins' previous star QB, Dan Marino. I just could not think of any other quarterbacks that were that accurate going deep downfield, and had a weak enough running game where that is a style of football they have to play.
I do not doubt Joe Montana’s or Tom Brady’s abilities to drive their team downfield late in games, but neither are the quick-strike type, and never have tey played that style of offense. As for Brett Favre, he makes way too many stupid plays, and you could not afford any of those in that type of situation.
Now, the Dolphins still had time Monday to drive the ball downfield and they did not need to hurry too much. They did need to hurry more than they did, and could not afford to call the two running plays they did to start the drive.
Also, at the end of the day, Chad Pennington is not physically gifted like Peyton Manning is. He manages games, he is great with a good running game, and he usually just has to pick up first downs and not turn the ball over. If you need to strike quickly, Chad is not your guy, and showed that Monday night.
That being said, he was a Ted Ginn, Jr. big catch away from pulling that victory away from the Colts, and that is the most you could ask for out of Pennington. If Manning was the quarterback on the Dolphins in that situation, then you could be upset if he does not find a way to get the ball into the end zone. He is the caliber of quarterback that figures out how to do that and could go do that, and there are only a few of those ever to play in the NFL.
Have we learned anything new? No. Quarterback is the single most important position in sports, and I just helped prove an already proven point. If you don’t think its important, then why did the Vikings just give Favre $25 million for the next two years?