Fantasy footballers, announcers, coaches, defensive coordinators and almost everyone else peripherally involved with professional football are slowly coming to a similar conclusion: the NFL is now a passing league.
But the transformation has been slow, tentative. At any moment, we're capable of regressing back to the grind-it-out, run-run-incomplete pass-punt offense of our esteemed forebears.
"Please, NFL, stop passing on first down!" we cry, clutching our heads in fear. "You're much too exciting! Put us all back to sleep now!"
Our longing for Joe Buck-induced torpor now hangs in the balance with the rumors that fired Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is in the mix for the Oakland Raiders' future head coaching vacancy .
Yes, the progenitor of the Airraid—the shoot-em-up attack that sent the Texas Tech Red Raiders to ten straight bowl games and propelled them to the doorstep of the national championship for at least a few weeks—is on a list of names to take over if Al Davis fires Tom Cable in the Raiders' upcoming coaching performance review.
Leach has already remade the Big 12 in his image. The conference that formerly featured 12 variations on the option-pitch now resembles a high-powered gunslingers' duel.
Leach has taken the players passed over by the big programs and plugged them into a system that is proven to succeed. By spreading the ball out to a multitude of receivers, defenders aren't able to predict where the ball will go, and the lesser secondaries have gotten torched.
It works in college. As of this year, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas and Baylor all run some variation of the wide-open passing spread spawned from Leach's days under Hal Mumme and LaVell Edwards, and the attack is spreading to the other conferences as more and more of Leach's disciples find positions elsewhere.
So is it too much of a stretch to say the Airraid, which emphasizes quick outlets for quarterbacks and demands smooth, intuitive route-running from wide receivers, will remake the League? Will Mike Leach push the NFL from pass-favorable to pass-only?
Yes, it is; and no, he won't. Depending on your sympathies, college football is either a crucible in which to test the limits of the game, or a three-year nuisance standing between a freakishly talented high-school player and his millions of entitled dollars.
In either case, it is without question a poor, poor place for college offensive minds to ply their wares. Leach to Oakland is an experiment whose results we've already seen. Steve Spurrier, a similarly talented offensive mind who retooled the passing game, survived two seasons with the Washington Redskins before being run out.
Saying Mike Leach will go to Oakland to tutor JaMarcus Russell and make the Raiders' passing attack scary again is as insane as projecting Rich Rodriguez to take over for Mike Tomlin and retool Pittsburgh's rushing attack with the zone-read. (Dennis Dixon for NFL MVP in 2010!)
Of course, some part of me wants to see this. Leach is as good on the microphone as Ric Flair in his prime . His unorthodox approach to the media and the PR machine is praised by us old-schoolers who are tired of the PC path the game has taken.
And Leach is also an outstanding teacher; he's taken middling three-stars and broken every meaningful Big 12 passing and receiving record. He's produced league- and nation-leading offenses consistently, and demonstrated uninterrupted continuity and production between quarterbacks and receivers even within a single year. He's done much more with much less than what's available in Oakland.
But as much as I love insanity—particularly of the Leach variety —I love the integrity of Leach's system more. I wouldn't want to see it fail, as it inevitably would, at the next level. Coverages are too good, but more importantly, Leach's system would fail for the same reason Spurrier's did—it put its quarterback in too much danger.
For the amount of money a team invests in its quarterbacks, dropping back to throw an average of 50 times per game amounts to financial suicide.
Plus, Oakland's administration is diseased enough already. The deacon of the dysfunctional, Al Davis, and his perennially poor draft picks have led Oakland past mediocrity and into the land of conference irrelevance year after year.
And as many of us know, two crazy people can't date each other. Someone needs to be the steady hand, and that will never be Mike Leach.
But hey, JaMarcus Russell and Louis Murphy could be the next Graham Harrell/Michael Crabtree. Right?
If Adam Schefter tweets about it , then yay, he shall come to pass.
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