The State of Quarterbacking:
I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about how the quality of quarterbacking in the NFL has fallen tremendously in conjunction with the rise of spread offenses in high school and college. The idea is that these “one-read” offenses don’t prepare quarterbacks for life in an NFL pocket. I don’t agree. I really don’t agree, in fact. This has the feel of a “everything was better in the past” type of non-sense, old man argument that you’ll hear about anything from how to raise your kids to how to make a baloney sandwich.
I have a problem with the idea that one-read passing offenses are new. The goal for an offensive coordinator is to put his quarterback in a position where his first read is available. This isn’t something new. As a coordinator, you have more a chance of calling a play where the quarterback only has to make one read and thus helping your quarterback against a college defense that does much less disguising than the incredibly nuanced NFL defenses.
I can also guarantee you that in practice, these so called one-read quarterbacks are going through all their progressions on a given play. They can all do it in theory. The problem becomes when you put them in front of a live defense, especially within a live pocket. None of these NFL quarterbacks were in any hyper-complicated offenses in college. One of the reasons they’ve succeeded in college is more about their ability to now, at the NFL level, go through their progressions in the pocket while bullets are flying all around and still make an accurate pass. The psychological pressure is real.
There isn’t so much different than a college passing concept and an NFL one. LSU is famous for their deep crosser concept. I’ve talked about it before in this space but it’s great concept against single-high safety teams. You have a post and a deep crossing pattern coming from the other side. If the deep safety stays deep over the post, you throw the crosser and vice versa. Guess what? The Falcons run this all the time. LSU used to ran a lot of 4 Verts in the early part of 2015 (more on this in a moment). Guess what? So does every NFL team.
This isn’t new either. The spread makes it easier for a coordinator and quarterback to pin point where the quarterback should go with the ball. Defenses can’t disguise as much in space (especially without NFL caliber athletes) freeing up most pre-snap and post-snap decision making. LSU used to run a concept that is ubiquitous in modern football where they would have a slant/flat combination to one side and a double slant combo to the other. Both of these are one-key defender reads. You are basically reading the flat defender to decide where to go with the ball. So, that’s one read you’re making as a quarterback post-snap. The interesting thing about this particular play is that you need the quarterback to make a decision pre-snap (sometimes even post-snap) to know which combination to look at. Just because a quarterback threw a flat route off a one-step drop doesn’t mean he didn’t make multiple reads.
There will never be a glut of elite quarterbacks in the NFL because it is the hardest position to play in sports. It takes an incredible amount of mental fortitude, supreme accuracy and impossibly fast decision making that often comes more from the quarterback himself than any sort of training.
Bring It Back:
Speaking of 4 Verts. I would love for LSU to bring this concept back into the fold with Etling at quarterback. Cam Cameron stopped calling it in the second half of 2015, with reason, because Brandon Harris was abysmal at all aspects of this concept. I like what Steve Ensminger is doing with the offenses and I think that this could be a really good concept.
The problem Harris had with this concept was threefold. First, he was awful at anticipating the throw into the seam. The seam throw has to be made before the slot receiver looks open. The window doesn’t stay open for very long in the seam. Etling’s anticipation is much better than Harris’. Secondly, when the seam isn’t open, you wanna look to the fade routes by your receivers. The fade route isn’t just a “throw the ball down the field to a streaking receiver” route. There’s an option to throw it to the receivers back shoulder is the coverage is tight. Harris could never do this. We’ve seen Etling throw a couple back-shoulder-type balls so far in his short career. Lastly, Brandon Harris could never go through his progressions long enough to hit the running back on the underneath check down route. Again, Etling has shown this ability through the first few games he’s started and played.
A few things I liked against Southern Miss:
Danny wants to throw to the Malachi Dupre on the first in breaking route but it’s bracketed so he doesn’t panic and steps up to throw an accurate ball to this second read. I’m not a huge fan of D.J. Chark’s route. I like my in-breaking route to push up the field and then either hard cut at 90 degrees or push to the post before running the in portion like a dig route. Chark isn’t going to get the separation he needs by rolling into his cut.
Derrius Guice probably has to pick up the blitzer here. LSU is in a half slide protection which would put Guice on that linebacker pre-snap. He doesn’t pick him up and that forces Danny out of the pocket prematurely. The throw by Etling, on the run, is so good.
Here’s Etling bouncing around in the pocket and then hitting his check down who happens to be the most elusive player in college football.
Curl/Flat. The flat defender, No. 13, runs out to cover Dural, this opens up the curl to Chark and he does the rest.
Really cool to see Etling come all the way across the field to his third progression and then throw a great ball to the back of the endzone for the touchdown.