Monday, January 21, 2008

Packers' Loss Greater Evidence of Value of Quarterback Play

Following the Green Bay Packers' improbable home playoff loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night, Packers' quarterback Brett Favre was left to explain how his team had squandered what seemed to be a decisive home-playoff edge in the NFC Championship game. Favre's answer--"I didn't get it done."

Favre's answer was correct. He did not get it done. At least not for much of the game or when the game was most clearly on the line.

In the second half of Sunday's game against the Giants, Favre started out well enough, completing four of five passes on a drive culminating with a Packer touchdown. From there, his play mostly went south.

For the remainder of the game, Favre completed five of 17 passes for a handful of yards and two interceptions; the worst pass being a twenty-yard softball into the awaiting arms of Giants' cornerback Corey Webster. Favre's final pass of the game was so bad, his intended target, Donald Driver, did not even have time to respond to the pass nor to Webster's casual step into the path of the incoming lob.

For all of the high points that Favre's 2007 season had, Sunday surely was one of the low points. That does not diminish Favre's accomplishments on the season, but it does point to the absolute necessity of having high-quality play out of the quarterback position in the latter rounds of the NFL playoffs, where mistakes are amplified in a manner not generally the case during the regular season.

Prior to Sunday's game against the Giants, the Packers had ridden a nice streak of games on the strength of their passing and running game working in tandem, with each opening options for the other. On Sunday, the Giants both put the clamps on Packers' running back Ryan Grant, who finished the game with thirteen rushes for 29 yards and no touchdowns, and put pressure on Favre.

The pressure that the Giants exerted on Favre was of the sort that one ought to expect of a championship caliber defensive-line. The Packers responded by keeping one and, at times, two extra players in to block. That meant more double coverage of the Packers' wide-receivers and fewer and more difficult passes for Favre.

To Favre's credit, he solved some of the Giants' defensive puzzle. But if Favre had difficulty with what the Giants were offering on defense, imagine how a rookie quarterback like the Minnesota Vikings' Tarvaris Jackson would have responded had he been called upon to throw the ball 35 times, as Favre did on Sunday.

While there is something to be said for youthful speed and agility, there is ample evidence to support the contention that experience, combined with general ability is the de mimimis requirement for championship-level quarterback play in the NFL. On Sunday, Favre brought both to the championship game and his team still lost. And they lost because, in an era where the play of the quarterback is preeminent, his play did not live up to the current NFL championship standard.

Up Next: The Other Team; Manning Wins Out. Plus, Free-Agent News.

1 comment:

Cabrito said...

Well, all this is very interesting, VG. One of the truly fascinating things about professional football is the crucial role of the quarterback. One wouldn't think that competence at the position would be so rare, but it surely is. Only a handful of teams in the NFL can feel truly secure about the quarterback position. At the top of the list would be New England, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans. In the next tier would be Houston, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Green Bay (he'll be 39 next year, and not a long-term answer), and the Giants (no, I'm not fully convinced yet). Bringing up the rear end of confidence would be Tennessee, Washington, and maybe Arizona, Cleveland, and Buffalo. The other 14 teams, including you-know-who, are still scrambling to find the answer. That's about half the league. Amazing, isn't it -- only half the teams can latch onto a quarterback with the skills and moxie to do the job as it needs to be done.

But let's assume that TJax is capable of making progress in the next year or two (we have no choice anyway), and cast our eye on other issues. You seem to have your ear to the ground with respect to insider Viking news. What are your thoughts about the needed improvements for next year? Do you think they'll just dump Troy Williamson outright? How will they manage to upgrade the receiver position, which I think is their most crucial need (I wonder if you agree)? Will the offensive line be a priority? Will finding an effective defensive end be a major concern (and wouldn't trying to land one through the draft be a bit risky, considering past blunders)? How about the safety position (and wasn't it a mistake to release Greg Blue)? I could go on and on, as there are other definite needs for this team, but I hope a future blog will get away from quarterback fixation and address some of these issues. Your thoughts are always respected and welcomed by those of us in Vikingland.