Thursday, April 26, 2007

Football - Fascinating Comments by Jon Gruden

Ok, so some of you may think - well duh, so Gruden's the master of the obvious. But for me, these comments were fascinating because it just continues to highlight the limitations Coach Gailey had to work with with Reggie Ball at QB. Now, I don't think you'll ever hear him say that in a public forum, but those who know the game and have access to the complete game film (all angles) can see it plain as day. First, see this comment from J.Gruden:

"They [Georgia Tech] struggled at quarterback, and they'll tell you that," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "They didn't have the kind of quarterback who could get the guy the ball the way they wanted to. He's a heck of a player. I think we all agree on that."

Check it these more detailed comments, based on this incredibly glowing review of Calvin in the USA Today:

Although Gailey has an NFL background, Gruden saw a Tech offense on film that was light on timing routes with quarterback Reggie Ball never completing better than 50% of his passes during a season with Johnson.

"They gave him a lot of quick screens and a lot of bubble screens," Gruden says of his video study.

"You just don't really see the guy on the outside edge of the numbers doing a lot of comebacks, slants or timing patterns. That's no disrespect. The guy had 80 catches for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, so they did a lot of great things."

Gailey says Johnson's development includes a greater appreciation for the big picture. He says Johnson drew double-coverage on at least 70% of his snaps and triple-coverage about 10% of the time. This forced him to adapt.

"We saw some of the most unusual stuff you could ever imagine," says Gailey, alluding to a play when a nickel back came from the other side of the field to join a cornerback and a safety in covering Johnson. "Just crazy stuff, where you say, 'How do they coach that?'

"The one thing he didn't see in college but will in the NFL is bump-and-run. They didn't want to take the chance that he'd get past them for a big play."

"Appreciation for the bigger picture", as Cocach Gailey indicated, also meant designing plays around a QB that had difficulty seeing over the O-Line, and who struggled with timing patterns. Bottom-line was that most passes from Reggie were designed to be either caught immediately (stop, turn, catch, then run), caught while running away from a defender (out patterns outside the hash marks), or deep balls that are hard to intercept. Rarely did you see a slant inside because that means a trailing defender and another defender approaching CJ from the middle, which meant a timing pattern. Can't be too early in the route - can't be too late or ..... ouch.

Yes, these are all things we mostly know, but it's interesting seeing an NFL coach make the comments.

In addition, to that, here's some more insight into Calvin's workout with Gruden and QB Chris Simms, about how they tested some other skills:

Quarterback Chris Simms got to see what Johnson could bring to Tampa Bay firsthand when he accompanied Gruden to Georgia Tech last week.

"Everything you hear about that guy is definitely true," Simms said. "Especially his demeanor as a person. He's calm, cool and collected and very humble. He's not anything you'd expect one of the best athletes in college sports to be like."

Because Johnson didn't run a lot of short routes at Georgia Tech, Gruden wanted to see him get in and out of breaks. He even had Simms throw some poor passes.

"Everybody knows he can run fast and catch the deep ball," Simms said. "Coach Gruden wanted to see him do some things out of his element - short routes, run in and come back out, double-move stuff. That was impressive as well because he's a really big guy, and it's amazing to see him change direction like that. It's very impressive."

If the Bucs want to have a crack at Johnson, they may have to trade up from the No. 4 overall pick, most likely to Detroit's spot at No. 2. And even that might not be enough because the Raiders, with the No. 1 pick, have begun negotiating with Johnson and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Simms won't allow himself to daydream about Johnson.

"I just don't want to get my hopes up too high," he said. "I just want our coaches to do whatever is best for this team. But if that means drafting Calvin Johnson, I'll be one of the happiest guys in the world."

Lastly, the latest rumors from are that Author Blank has virtually ordered the Falcon's GM to figure out how to get Calvin Johnson. No doubt Falcon fans are salivating, although what it might take to get him could be crippling.

(Oh by the way, the picture above is NOT the next cover of NCAA 2008 - somebody on the 'net did that).