I Guess It Depends On How You Define 'Expert'

>> Wednesday

Just, exactly, who the hell is Don Pierson? Well, I'll tell you. He's a writer for MSNBC.com and is one of their NFL 'Experts.' Hmm. It seems the folks at MSNBC like to throw that word around quite a bit, because after reading this little gem, I have serious reservations about calling Don Pierson an expert on anything.

The title of the article is "Shame on NFL if Young doesn't make it big."

As you can see, we're in trouble.

First off, let me just say that this article offends me as both a football fan and a literate human being with a high school education, average reasoning skills and the ability to find statistics on the internet.

Poor Vince Young. In one game, he outrushes Reggie Bush and outpasses Matt Leinart and experts are still skeptical.

Yeah, poor guy. All that got him was a national championship and a huge NFL contract.

The game was the Rose Bowl. It was for the national championship. Everybody saw it, yet nobody seems to remember it. Or believe their eyes.

The key to these two paragraphs is the phrase 'one game.' Also, as for that one game being for the national championship, there's an old axiom among NFL scouts that says that if the best thing that people can say about you is that you're a winner, you're in trouble (Ken Dorsey, anyone?).

The Texas quarterback slipped, at least in the minds of several worried evaluators. His delivery is too low. So is his Wonderlic test score. Can his unconventional style fit into conventional NFL offenses?

Yeah, Donny, those are kind of big problems. A quarterback's mechanics, whether you like it or not, is a pretty big part of the kind of success he'll have as a passer in the NFL, where the margin between success and failure is often because of small things like mechanics. Also, while I'm not totally convinced of the predictive validity of the Wonderlic, a score as low as Young's raises serious questions about his ability to process the amount of information necessary to master an NFL offense.

Here's what ESPN.com's scouts had to say about Vince Young:

His mechanics need a lot of improving. Shows a low release point and, for the most part, shot-puts the ball as a passer. A better runner than passer at this point. Does not show a good comprehension of reading defenses and making progression reads. Is extremely raw as pocket passer and will need a lot of developmental tutelage in that area in the NFL. Most of his experience has been as a shotgun quarterback in a "read-option" system. Still lacks ideal decision-making skills. Shows adequate-to-good, but not great arm strength. Tries to force things when they are not available. Must learn to better protect the football. Takes too many chances when protection is breaking down and throws too many passes up for grabs. Is impatient in the pocket. Frequently takes off too early and does not allow his receivers enough time to separate. There is also concern regarding his mental capacity due to his marginal score on the Wonderlic Test.

By the way, the system Young played in at Texas has been described by some NFL personnel people as 'incredibly watered down. It was nowhere near as complicated as what he'll be charged with in the NFL.

But anyway, let's move on. What's important is the ridiculous claim that Pierson made about it being the NFL's fault if Vince Young doesn't succeed. Come the fuck on. For better or worse, the NFL is a passing league. Every team in the league operates a very complicated offense with an excess of 1,000 plays which necessitate quickly and accurately reading the defense to determine the best route combinations for the play that was called. An unstructured offense with an indecisive and impatient quarterback just won't work against the level of competition in the NFL.

Also, Vince Young is going to experience something very different in the NFL that he probably never encountered in college - he's not going to be the best athlete on the field anymore. During probably every college game he played, Vince Young was simply a better athlete than anyone on the other side of the ball, including the USC game for the national championship. That isn't the case in the NFL. In the NFL, defensive ends, linebackers and defensive backs are all equally fast, if not faster and more athletic as Vince Young is. They're also more disciplined, and the flashy tricks that got Young on all those highlight reels on Saturday afternoons probably won't work nearly as often as they did against D-I college competition.

But I digress.

Young seems to scare evaluators who forget how much he can scare defenses.

Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora is familiar with the problem. He has Michael Vick.

In 2005, Mike Vick:
-had a 55% completion percentage (29th in the league)
-threw for 2,412 yards (20th in the league)
-threw 15 TD's (18th in the league)
-threw 13 INT (T-5th most in the NFL)
-was sacked 33 times (4th most in the NFL).

ESPN.com doesn't seem to list the 'Scared Defenses PCT' (sd%) stat, however. Also, the fear that Mike Vick induced in defenses didn't seem to factor in too many of the actual game outcomes, because the Falcons only finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

Now, Don, how come nobody is saying "Shame on the NFL!" for Mike Vick not being a dominant player? It seems to me his numbers as a quarterback are pretty average.

Vick posed a similar dilemma five years ago when the San Diego Chargers traded the No. 1 overall spot to the Falcons and chose running back LaDainian Tomlinson at the fifth spot, then drafted quarterback Drew Brees in the second round.

Boy, the Chargers sure dropped the ball on that one.

Then, Don quotes Falcons coach Jim Mora:

“We just have to be more accepting of alternate styles. If a guy leads his team to wins, let’s judge him on that, not a passer rating. Guys win games different ways.”

Mike Vick won 8 games his way. I didn't use passer rating to judge Mike Vick, but I used a lot of other stats that seem to say he's not very good at playing quarterback in the NFL.

The bottom line is this: in the NFL, quarterbacks succeed and win because they're good passers with good talent around them can understand the system and know how to use their talents for the success of the team. The ability to scramble, while an awesome secondary weapon, is just that - secondary. The best running quarterbacks (Steve Young and Donovan McNabb come to mind) were also great passers, and that's what made them successful. Mike Vick has shown that he can at times be electrifying and sometimes win games with his feet, but more often than not he has to make plays with his arm to be successful. He hasn't shown he can do that, and he hurts his team too much with horrible decisions when he's forced to throw. Right now, Vince Young seems like he'll have that same problem.

So, no, Don, it's not going to be the NFL's fault if Vince Young doesn't succeed. It's going to be Vince Young's fault. Vince Young has to adapt his game to the NFL to be a success, not vice versa. Shame on you Don Pierson.

There are legitimate reservations by experts on Young.

No shit.

But not from all of them, though, right Don? MSNBC tells me you're an expert.


Nathan 2:23 PM  

How many Heisman flops do we have to see before these 'experts' realize that dominance at the college level does not necessarily translate into even remote success in the NFL.
I remember four years of watching Ron Dayne simply run over people. He was practically unstoppable at Wisconsin. After breaking the NCAA all-time rushing record, he was (generously/stupidly) drafted with the 11th overall pick and currently has racked up 2337 yards and 17 TDS over six years in the NFL.

By the way, was the claim that the NFL owes Vince Young success some kind of racial thing? Is this the new form of making up for slavery? Re-write the rules so black quarterbacks have a leg up in the NFL?

Vinnie 3:08 PM  

That was also my first assumption from that title.

Gavin,  9:06 PM  

I think mike vick might not be a great QB (passing wise) but he is definately a game changer.... look at this:
Atlanta Falcons w/o Mike Vick 1999- 5-11 record
Atlanta Falcons w/o Mike Vick 2000 - 4-12 record
Atlanta Falcons w/ Mike Vick (not playing) 2001- 7-9
Atlanta Falcons w/ Mike Vick 2002 - 9-6 (made playoffs, and beat the packers in lambeau by the way)
Atlanta Falcons w/o Mike Vick 2003 - 5-11
Atlanta Falcons w/ Mike Vick 2004 - 11-5 (lost in NFC championship)
Atlanta Falcons w/ Mike Vick 2005 (change in system) - 8-8

I think if one player, can basically, single handedly give you another 4 wins that is pretty impressive and merits being called a good player. If Vince Young can come in and start right away and give them 4 wins (will put them at 8-8), and in his 4th season get them back to the AFC championship game, I dont think they will have a problem with that...

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