Friday, October 30, 2009

So did I hear that right? Did everybody pick my Rams to win this weekend?

I sit hear a bit dumbfounded at the moment. Jamie Dukes, who has a perfect record in upset specials this week, picked my Rams over Detroit as his upset special. Some may complain that this is cheating, as a Ram victory over Detroit may not actually constitute an upset victory. Why? Because Brian, Sterling and Joe all picked the Rams to defeat Detroit also. They did this right at the top of the show on this weeks NFC Matchup.

One of the reasons for their pick may actually be invalid. Joe noticed that the Rams like to throw to the outer flats. Detroit seems to have particular difficulty in covering this spot. Donnie Avery happens to run several different routs to this point, and he runs them extremely well. Joe and Sterling focused on how well Bulger throws to these two spots on the field.

As of this would be very well and good, except it would appear that Marc just might have had his last strike last week against the Colts. That failed 4th down conversion combined with with an utterly stupid pick-6 turned a modest loss into the worst blow-out of the day. Both plays were courtesy of Marc Bulger.

The current scuttlebutt says the following things:
  1. Don't be surprised when you see Kyle Boller start on Sunday.
  2. Don't be surprised when the Rams look around for a quality veteran free agent quarterback early in 2010. I haven't the slightest clue who that would or could be. There is no such critter scheduled to enter the market this off season. I only hope we don't bring in Jeff Garcia. Likewise, I hope it is not Chad Pennington. God forbid that Brett Favre should retire and un-retire again with the Rams. It would be best if simply stick with Kyle Boller. Regrettably, other teams may be smacking their chops in anticipation of acquiring Bulger, believing that they can protect him better than we can.
  3. Don't be surprised at all when the Rams spend the #1 or #2 pick overall on a Quarterback. The presumptive favorite is Texas Longhorn QB Colt McCoy, although I would greatly prefer it to be Tim Tebow.
Ergo sum, Bulger will probably not be making throws to the outer flats this weekend. Hopefully, Boller will be making those throws to the outer flats where Donnie Avery will be waiting for the rock. Hopefully, we will prevail. It should be noted that Detroit is working a young and star studded offense right now. They have some really beautiful weapons in their offensive arsenal. The key issue is their defensive weakness, and in particular, the weakness of their secondary.

So if I were to write Bulger's epitaph with the Rams right now, how would I phrase it? I would say that Bulger was a fugacious epiphenomena of Mike Martz. Martz simplified the game enough for Bulger to be successful. He told him things like "I want you to count to five and throw to this spot here." Martz made the rest of the play work. The moment Bulger was called upon to read progressions of adaptive routes in a sophisticated ball control passing attack (one which may not actually work anymore) it all went to hell in a hand basket for him. Although the soft spoken Bulger comes off as a fairly intelligent chap, it is clear that he is not a thinking man's QB. This guy does not have the mind of Joe Montana, or even Jeff Garcia.

We also need to consider the proposition that the 49er West Coast offense doesn't actually work anymore. As Coach Brian Bilick says, everybody runs a little West Coast, and nobody runs it as Bill Walsh did. The reason is clear: Quick ball-control passes are still helpful in acquiring a few first downs, but you can't do that all game long. The counter measure is just too easy.

As I have said several times before, a certain dude by the name Belichick figured out how to stop this offense in 1980's when he was the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. He invented a thing called the 40 yard box. The notions is simple. You defend 40 yards from the line of scrimmage and no more. The first 20 yards are called the Red Zone. The second are called the Yellow Zone. You defend the Red Zone with hard man-on press coverage. You defend the yellow zone with a soft-zone coverage, notorious for knocking teeth out of mouths, and creating major concussions. If a receiver goes outside the 40 box, you let him go. You dare them to wait for the long pass, because you have a blitz or two or three headed for the QB on every play. If the QB holds the ball, you will get a Leonard Marshall vs. Joe Montana situation soon.

I should remind you that Marshall's hit on Montana effectively terminated Joe's career with the 49ers. It was more or less Steve Young's show after that play.

There is no way to solve the Belichick 40 yard Box unless you have all three of following elements:
  1. An extremely mobile QB who can run for good yardage, just like Steve Young, Randell Cunningham or maybe Michael Vick.
  2. An all-pro offensive line that can really defend the QB.
  3. A deep-strike speed burner who can get out of the box in big hurry. Torry Holt was precisely this sort of man, which makes his release even more inexplicable this season. Marshall Faulk was also this sort of player.
Absent these features, I see no reason to believe Coach Walsh's masterpiece system will work in the modern league against a fully-modern 3-4 defense. Furthermore, we can say that its success is entirely dependant upon the bomb. If you can't nail a few good bombs per game, you cannot force the defense out of the Belichick Box. This is why Dan Fouts says that the first precept of the Don Coryal offense is the Bomb. The bomb is that which makes everything else possible.

Should we pick a QB this season, and I have every reason to believe we will, we need to keep in mind Coach Bill Parcell's super formula for selecting a Quarterback. The guy had almost matchless success in finding these guys through all of his many travels. Let's pay close attention to the Big Tuna. When selecting a QB, the Tuna demands all of the following criteria be fulfilled:
  1. The candidate must have graduated from college
  2. The candidate must have been a 3 year starter in college
  3. The candidate must have made a minimum of 3o starts as the first string QB of his college team.
  4. The candidate must have won a minimum of 23 games as the starter in college
  5. Candidates who did some graduate course work after receiving a Bachelor's and before entering the draft will be preferred.
  6. The candidate cannot have had any run-ins with the Police blotter.
  7. The candidate must come highly recommended by his college coach.
  8. Character issues are paramount, and the candidate must impress us as a leader figure.
Fortunately, I do believe that both Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow will be able to fulfill these criteria. Much depends upon whether these guys graduate on-schedule academically. I believe they are on course to do so. We need to make sure that this is true.