Sportswriters have a way of lazily lapsing into cheap cliches much of the time. Statements like "they just didn't come through in the clutch" pop up all the time on ESPN, as well as in national and local newspapers. This kind of tripe should be reserved for people calling into sports talk radio at 3 in the morning, not coming out of the mouths of highly paid "experts." David Orgas is one of the smartest, most observant sports fans in existence. He runs my complicated fantasy football league
and he made this movie
. It's not a documentary, it's a movie. With actors and props and stuff.
David has a few issues with the way that Brett Favre is being covered this year, but I'll let him take it from here:SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
- By David Orgas
I’ve had it. I’ve hit the wall. If I have to read one more article from one more hack journalist about Brett Favre I’m going to tear down the Journal-Sentinal building with my bare hands. The Journal isn’t the only paper with hack journalists. They’re everywhere. But they’re the best local example of crap sportswriting (my apologies to Dave Kallman).
What has annoyed me most recently is the trend (and it’s all about the trends—no one has a singular voice or opinion anymore) to refer to Favre as smarter and under control. “He’s managing the game now.” “He’s not making those wild passes.” And just today I read that Favre has reverted to “dinking and dunking.”
Crap. All of it. Pure crap.
Dinking and dunking? Brett Favre? Anyone who watches Brett Favre play or any highly effective Bill Walsh-era offense and believes he is watching “dink and dunk” football does not understand the sport. One of the prescripts of this offense is to get the ball quickly to the receivers and let them run. Slants, to my belief, are not dink patterns nor are they by definition “dunks.” They are, however, a staple of the Walshian Engine. A quick-out is another route that gets the ball quickly to the receiver or running back and allows him to run away from his defender. While it is a shorter pattern, the play requires great timing, accuracy and arm strength to get the ball to the correct spot immediately for it to be most successful. Another pattern utilized to great success in this offense is the screen. It is imperative to differentiate a screen from a check-down to a running back in the flat—which is far more “dink-like” than the screen. However, please note when the QB does throw the check-down whether or not it is, in fact, a check-down. Did the QB actually look downfield or through his progressions before dumping the ball off to the FB in the flat? If all the QB did was drop back four steps, turn the toss it to the FB, then that is the definition of dinking and dunking. Seldom is that the first read for Favre, if ever.
I have seen Quarterbacks dink and dunk. I have recognized this as a pattern of play. What makes this practice discernible, is receivers and running backs who are generally facing the QB, stationary, in anticipation of the throw. Contrast that from a fully-functional Favre offense where the receivers are moving forward, breaking out of their routes in anticipation of the ball already in flight. While some of the throws may be less than 10 yards, this is not dinking nor dunking and to equate the two is pure folly.
Perhaps the most annoying banter coming from urinalists these days is how they perceive Favre playing smarter and more under control. The inference being that Favre was, formerly, an out-of-control turnover machine with utter disregard for where he was throwing the ball. The main point of reference for these dullards is the ’05 season. A season in which Favre threw 29 interceptions and only 20 TDs despite throwing the most passes in his career to that point. Obviously the man was making questionable decisions, right?
I may look at the ’05 season differently than you do. I certainly look at Favre’s performance during that campaign differently than the sports writers of this nation. But when I look at the 2005 Packer season, I begin with 2002. That was the year that I had a conversation with a young special teams gunner that forever changed how I look at offenses, football and Brett Favre.
It was right after the season. The Packers had just lost to the St. Louis Rams in the playoffs and Favre had thrown 6 interceptions—several of which bounced off the hands of his receivers. On one of the game’s most crucial plays, the Rams faked a blitz and dropped back into coverage. The slot receiver (Bill Schroeder) ran straight upfield as Favre dropped a short pass over the middle. Schroeder never stopped running and the ball landed right in the hands of Aeneas Williams who raced into the endzone for a TD. Everyone blamed Favre for the pick. I asked the young gunner his opinion. “Billy’s fault.” In opposition to the common belief of his fans, Favre did not misread the defense. The receiver did.
“Our offense is all about timing.” I was informed. “Every player on offense is making a read of the defense before the snap and at the snap.” Quarterback, receivers, running backs and linemen. In order for the passing game to function properly the QB and his receivers need to make the same reads. “If Brett Favre throws an interception and there isn’t a receiver on your television screen… Don’t ask where is Favre throwing the ball. The question to ask is, why isn’t there a receiver on my television screen?”
According to the young special teams star, Favre almost never makes the wrong read. Defenses don’t confuse him. Favre has an expectation of his receiver to be in a certain place at a certain time and a confidence that his linemen will open up the passing lane at just the right time. “If we miss a cut block and the lineman tips that pass… all the blame goes to Brett.” “If the corner jumps the slant and the receiver doesn’t fight through to the spot… all the blame goes to Brett.” I watch football differently now.
You may not choose to believe the words spoken to me by the then 26 year old special teamer. Heck, he only had 13 catches that year. But, between you and me, I’ll take Donald Driver’s word on it.
Fast forward to the 2005 season. The year of Favre the Wildman, right? In an offense that requires timing and precision and trust between the QB and his targets, Favre was called on to believe in a cast of characters that read like the cut list from the Arena Football League: Samkon Gado, Tony Fisher and Vonta Leach in the backfield; Antonio Chatman, Andrae Thurman and Robert Ferguson at WR and Tory Humphrey at TE. Add to this collection of shelf-stockers and grocery baggers an offensive line that started Wil Whittiker and Adrian Klemm at the guard spots and Grey Ruegamer in the pivot for several weeks. Only Driver and Donald Lee remain from those weapons (?) and Lee was an in-season acquisition that year with limited knowledge of the offense.
These are the players Favre was called upon to trust. These are the players required to read the defenses and make the correct adjustments in their routes. Would you trust these players?
That is why when I saw Number 4 throw an “out” against the Vikings and Andrae Thurman ran an “in,” and the ball was intercepted and returned for a TD, I didn’t ask where Favre was throwing the ball.
That is why when, facing a fierce Steeler blitz, Favre threw a pass that landed on the turf behind Antonio Chatman as he sprinted down the center of the field I didn’t wonder how Favre’s pass could’ve been so far off target. I wondered why Chatman didn’t cut off his route.
That is why when Favre, leading a late charge against the Eagles, threw a 50 yard bomb to Ferguson rather than attempting to matriculate the ball down the field I didn’t wonder what he was thinking as the pass was picked off in the end zone. I knew. There was no way he was going to get a better chance to put the ball in the end zone. Not with that crew. For the record, Ferguson put about as much effort into catching the ball as I did, sitting on my sofa, lifting my left leg.
Let’s fast forward again. This time to 2006. A Packer offense that, at one point, led the league in dropped passes. A Packer team that was the youngest and least experienced in the NFL for the second straight year. A Packer offense that struggled with protection from an interior offensive line with virtually no game experience. Favre threw 18 interceptions. I counted four that deflected off the hands of the receivers, two that were deflected by defensive lineman and one that was wrestled out of the hands of his intended target… I look for things like that now.
And now we’re in 2007. And sportswriters everywhere see Brett Favre playing smarter, more in control, throwing shorter passes. And again I see something completely different. Confidence. I see a Quarterback who believes his receivers will make the right read and break the right way. I see a QB drop back and fire the ball almost immediately to a spot. I see the same player I’ve always seen. Maybe the guys around him in 2007 are a little better, a little more experienced and a little more trustworthy than they have been over the past couple years.
And for the first time in many years I see a chance for Favre to shine again.
- David Orgas is the writer and Director of "Dare to Dream: The Alan Kulwicki Story," and is capable of caluclating complex salary cap problems in his head.