Reads Listens Views 10/23/2015

This natural rock formation looks like an elephant to me. Photo by Deigo Delso.
This natural rock formation looks like an elephant to me. Photo by Deigo Delso. “Roca del elefane”

Clip Quiz Answer, Taking on Mike Shanahan, My favorite black bird, the Hurricane music dynasty, & Film Room No.60


If you’re new to the Rookie Scouting Portfolio blog, welcome.  On Fridays I post links to pieces that I’ve found personally compelling or to content I hope will scratch that itch, but I haven’t read yet.

As I’ve long said about this Friday feature, you may not like everything listed here, but you’re bound to like something. I’m a little early on the delivery date, but trying to work around my usual, crazy schedule.

Views (Opinion) – Former Denver Broncos GM Ted Sundquist’s Insights on Jay Cutler and Shanahan on Robert Griffin


Sundquist gave his detailed account of the pre-draft assessment, war room dynamics, and post-draft development of Jay Cutler at Bleacher Report yesterday. I have never asked Sundquist about the Cutler story, but I had gained a lot of second-hand information prior to Sundquist’s public telling and a lot of what he revealed jibes with what I heard. There were also things I didn’t know: Mike Shanahan originally coveting Matt Leinart and that Jake Plummer was well-liked and respected as a locker room leader.

It fills in the blanks with the story I heard: In 2005, Plummer had a Pro-Bowl season, led the Broncos to the AFC Championship game, threw two interceptions, lost the confidence of Shanahan, and the next year Shanahan and new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger removed play-action rollouts and boot-action from the playbook–Plummer’s most effective play the prior year–and essentially rigged the offense just enough to have an excuse to start their rookie Cutler. Essentially, Shanahan is the type of leader who gets his way either directly or with subterfuge and manipulation and he doesn’t care how it happens. When he lost trust in Plummer, he wanted Leinart, but was alright with taking Jay Cutler after he and Sundquist agreed on Cutler as one of their alternative first-round options.

This fits with the narrative that I heard went on at the same time in Tennessee. Jeff Fisher and the scouts wanted Cutler, Titan’s new OC Norm Chow wanted his protegé Leinart, and Bud Adams wanted Vince Young. And of course, the owner, who hired people he’s supposed to trust to do their jobs, overruled them all so he could flip off everyone in his Houston stomping grounds once again. During this dysfunctional game of “Let’s set back our team 10 years,” ESPN reported during the NFL Draft that, the in the days leading to the selection process, Shanahan called his buddy Fisher and asked his opinion about Cutler. Fisher gave the thumbs up and I believe this solidified Shanahan getting on board with Sundquist and company.

Sundquist’s account spends more time on the reasons that Cutler wanted out of Denver, which begins with Josh McDaniel giving an exemplary demonstration of how not to be a leader unless the intent from the beginning is to drive a promising franchise quarterback out-of-town with the weight of one meeting.  I have always been a fan of Cutler’s game. He was a gifted prospect at Vanderbilt and I liked him more than Leinart.  Sundquist’s story provides context about Cutler’s development being truncated with the leadership change in Denver and the eventual trade to Chicago and it underscores much of what I’ve written about quarterback development mistakes–rush a player in the lineup before he’s equipped to develop mastery as a player and earn his role as a leader and then watch the supportive infrastructure get chipped away by impatient owners with poor skills at managing people.

Although Cutler still has potential for good years in his career despite not continuously hitting the high notes of his second season–and having more than a few low notes–Shanahan is a common factor in two quarterback stories gone wrong.  Robert Griffin wasn’t developed, he was flash-fried, and that delicious smell wafted through the stands and the media lens and hypnotized most of them into thinking that Washington was preparing a feast that would last 12-15 seasons.

But as we’re learning, the NFL catches up to quarterbacks with dominating athleticism if they lack the scheme, surrounding talent, and mastery of skills from the pocket to do more than out-athlete the competition. Griffin displayed the potential to become a good pocket passer at Baylor, but Shanahan’s offense was designed to “win now,” and while it was good for him and the team for a year, it wasn’t good for Griffin’s long-term development. By year two, that delicious looking flash-fry was on the heat too long and burned to a crisp.

After Shanahan was sent packing, he went to the airwaves to relay stories about Griffin and Daniel Synder’s behavior. I found this anecdote worth discussing (The passage is blocked off and my commentary is in italics):

Shanahan told Sheehan that a report about Griffin coming to him after the season and demanding that certain plays be removed from the playbook was true, and the former coach put the blame on Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

“It was actually two days after the Super Bowl,” Shanahan said. “He had asked to have a meeting and I really don’t blame that on Robert. I mean, Robert to me, was a young player, he had a heck of a year, he had a serious injury at that time, and it’s me that changed the perception of a person, because I know Dan [Snyder] felt very strongly about Robert being a drop-back quarterback and did not want Robert to take shots. I didn’t want him to take shots, either; all I wanted to do was run an offense that gave him a chance to be successful. I wanted him to get better at throwing the ball away, I wanted him to get better at sliding, but doing the things that I thought gave him the best chance to be successful.

Shanahan’s opening statement is a nice way of setting up Griffin as this young, immature guy that shouldn’t be blamed for his naiveté. The former coach wants to re-frame the story so he’s the innocent one and Daniel Snyder is using Griffin as a pawn to get what Synder wants. The idea that Griffin wasn’t ready to develop as a pocket passer out of Baylor is not true.

There are a lot of exposures on tape where Griffin climbed the pocket, slid from interior and edge pressure, and made throws in the face of punishment. Marcus Mariota is playing from the pocket despite the use of read option concepts and Griffin’s pocket presence at Baylor was in the same range of prowess as the Titans’ rookie.

The truth is that Shanahan has always been a system coach and he’s so enamored with how he does things that he does not like to make tweaks that he hasn’t thought of. He wants to be the beneficent dictator. When that’s threatened, he doesn’t play nice. I’ve been told that Shanahan’s career has been defined by front office politics–and it’s more than what got out publicly. 

“Yeah, he did ask for a meeting. He did talk about, number one, he wanted change. He mentioned the Baltimore game and the Atlanta game, you know, his injuries. He talked about protection shortening his career. What I tried to share with him is I thought he had probably as good a protection as most rookies do have in their first year because of what he was able to do with the running game. If you compare [Griffin’s protection] to Andrew Luck, it’s not even close. He actually [mentioned] what plays were acceptable and unacceptable, and when he started talking about what plays were acceptable and unacceptable, and that he wasn’t a rookie anymore and wanted to voice his opinion, the term unacceptable is used by Dan, the owner, quite often. So [I had] a little bit of a smile when I heard some of these complaints.”

I have no doubt that Shanahan is probably correct that Griffin and Snyder had a discussion before the quarterback’s meeting with Shanahan and I understand how that can look bad to the coach. It would look bad to me. At the same time, if Shanahan really wants the public to think that Snyder was behind Griffin’s desire be developed as a pocket quarterback then he’s counting on the public not seeing Griffin at Baylor.

I thought Griffin had the physical tools, mental acumen, and feel for the game to develop into a pocket passer with game-changing athleticism. Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers are examples of players I mentioned in my pre-draft analysis that would be good models for Griffin’s tools and potential. Shanahan wanted a cog for his system, Griffin wanted a shot to develop into a great quarterback, not just a great athlete that throws the football. 

Shanahan said Griffin was determined to throw more and run less, and that he didn’t want to be associated with running quarterbacks.

“He wanted to be more of a drop-back, Aaron Rodgers-type guy,” Shanahan said. “He did a few more things, and basically what I did is I went and talked to Dan, and I said, ‘Hey, Dan, for a quarterback to come to me, a veteran coach, and share these things, number one, he can’t be the sharpest guy to do something like that, or he’s got to feel very good about the owner backing him up. And since you have been telling me from Day One that he’s a drop-back quarterback and we should do more drop-back, and you guys have spent the last couple months together, I would think, or at least the last month, that this is an extension of you.’ He said it wasn’t. I just told him that the only chance that this kid, Robert, has to get to the level that we need him to get to is for him to at least trust us that we’re going to run the offense that gives him the best chance to be successful. And if not, it’s impossible, because he’s not ready for it. I can see it, that he’s not ready for that type of offense. Not that he’s not good enough, he just has never done it before.”

This is where I believe Shanahan really twists the narrative to gain sympathy. Shanahan frames the conversation with the hope of his audience believing that Griffin’s request to have input with the playbook is absolutely unheard of. He goes so far to say that Griffin isn’t very smart for even making the request. I spoke with some folks connected to the league about quarterbacks having input with scheme and what I learned fit with my intuition on the subject: It’s a mixed bag.

Some coaches are more amenable to feedback from quarterbacks and generally, it’s when the player is a veteran. System coaches like Shanahan who love the smell of their own chalk don’t like to give up control. Shanahan makes the whole thing seem unheard of, but football leadership structure is not different from other forms of teamwork.

If you have a key player in a position that is an extension of how the strategy is conceived and implemented, wouldn’t you consider his points rather than think it’s blasphemy to request input? Do you do that when one of your best young employees with great production comes into your office?

I get that Griffin, a second-year player, requesting input into the offense and his development plan is less common along the league’s landscape. But Griffin was characterized as an unusually bright leader–even by standards for top QB prospects–and he just delivered a huge year for the team.  

If Griffin is the franchise player, why wouldn’t a coach buy-in to collaborating with the player’s long-term development? One potential answer is that Shanahan didn’t see Griffin as a pocket passer or value his intelligence and leadership even before Griffin requested input. It would explain the Kirk Cousin’s pick.

Another answer could be that Shanahan was so in love with the idea of the system implemented for Griffin’s rookie year that his ego couldn’t handle making a change at the request of the player who made it all go and, despite the points about throwing the ball away and taking punishment being valid, he didn’t care about making Griffin the best player that he could be as long as Griffin could do what the system required. 

Whatever happened is the convergence of three personalities that didn’t play well together and the results were ugly. We’ll never really have a feel for what happened in Washington with Griffin until someone decides to do an investigative piece like a 30 for 30 film on ESPN and I’m not saying that Griffin is faultless. But there are enough signs that bad leadership and insecurity had a part in damaging the development of two excellent passing prospects–it’s not a one or the other situation.

Listens/Views: Liv Warfield & The NPG Horns – “Black Bird”

One of the best live television performances of a single song I’ve seen in many years was on Letterman, but YouTube deleted the account of the provider of this track. Here’s another nice version.

Football Reads-Listens

Views: RSP Film Room Video No.60: Notre Dame RB, C.J. Prosise

Florida Sports Talk’s Brandon Howard, a former RB at WVU, talks shop about the Fighting Irish’s versatile back.

Download the 2015 Rookie Scouting Portfolio + Post-Draft Update!

Friday’s are also my chance to thank you for reading my work, encourage you to follow the RSP blog, and download the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication.

If you’re in a dynasty league, the combination of the 2015 RSP and the RSP Post-Draft will have you prepared for this year and beyond.

Here’s just a sample of what my readers–new and old–are saying about the 2015 RSP.  (Get ready for “Squee!” “Dammit” and jaws dropping)

Take a video tour of the 2015 pre-draft to see what I mean:

Seriously, this analysis is worth the price of the 2015 RSP package alone, but you also get the post-draft addendum with your purchase of the RSP. Remember 10 percent of each sale is donated to Darkness to Light to prevent sexual abuse in communities across the United States. While that alone should get you to download the RSP package, do it because you will be blown away with the detail and insight of the analysis and content. It’s why the RSP has grown so much in the past 10 years.

Download the 2015 RSP and RSP Post-Draft here

Listens/Views: Whit Sidener Tribute Concert -Listo Medellin

Whit Sidener built the best dynasty at the University of Miami, the studio music and jazz program. Here’s an excerpt of a tribute concert featuring program alumni–several I knew, learned from, and played with for a short time.

Views: Sandrine Thuret–You Can Grow New Brain Cells. Here’s How.

In Case You Missed It/Coming Soon

Reads (Life In General)

Listens/Views: Jeff Coffin & Bob Mintzer in the “People’s Key of E Minor”

Listens/Views – White Sidener Tribute Concert – Invitation

Reads: Kenny Lawler Clip Quiz Answer

I had a post about Kenny Lawler’s target versus Texas. I offered three possible root causes for this incomplete pass and promised I’d share my take today. Here’s the play.

My Take: While true that the LB jumped the route and forced the QB to wait on his delivery of the target and that the LB later fell onto the back of Lawler’s legs and prevented the WR from reaching the pass, it’s Lawler’s break that is the root cause.  There’s a technique to running speed breaks that helps the receiver achieve a sharper turn and it’s called a J-Step. That step happens the step after the turn and the receiver carries his downfield leg into the turn to create a tighter loop as if the route he’s running is drawing the curve of a “j”.

If Lawler executed a good J-Step the defender is still at least half a step away from Lawler and the quarterback doesn’t have to wait on the throw. Even if the passer chooses to wait, Lawler’s initial separation was good enough that he could have built on it with the turn up field and the LB is far less likely to hit Lawler’s legs as the receiver makes that turn.

What did my readers think?

  • 46.67% of you agreed with me.
  • 24.44% of you were with the LB jumping the route.
  • 22.22% of you believed the late fall on the back of Lawler’s legs was the root cause.
  • 6.67% of you thought the QB was inaccurate.

I’ll do one of these again soon.

2 responses to “Reads Listens Views 10/23/2015”

  1. “•Trump Is Right About 9/11 – G.W. Bush didn’t do all he could to prevent the attack–and it’s time Republicans (our country as a whole, really) confronted that fact.”

    GW Bush didn’t and neither did Bill Clinton. Trump would not have either as he, just like the other two, does not have the slightest clue about the motivations behind 9/11 and every single jihad attack worldwide since then. None of them know anything about Islam.

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