Every time I read another episode of blather mixed with hyperbole and a side of nonsensical trolling from Jason Whitlock, I usually ignore it like an airplane passenger blocking out the existence of a crying baby.
Whitlock is mostly a ranting rube. And that’s fine, because that’s his shtick, and it’s what’s given him a posh, cushy chair atop the sports writing business, and an audience to poke, prod, and anger with a careful selection of words and topics. This admittedly works on me because reading such trolling is part of my job, as is consuming and dissecting the daily rantings of the NFL media machine.
There’s always a fresh view on a stale subject, and the blogging snowball builds through new opinions that are intriguing, odd, absurd, uneducated, or some combination of all four. Whitlock’s offering today tapped into a new category: blind ignorance.
During the thrust of a column about Robert Griffin III in which he confessed his undying love for the Heisman winner, Whitlock wrote that Griffin’s speed (specifically his 4.41 speed during the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine) doesn’t help his stock.
Instead it’ll hurt his value, because Griffin is “blessed with too many tools.”
While admitting that Griffin isn’t a young Michael Vick clone in terms of his accuracy (which is quite true, since Vick completed just 54.0 percent of his passes during his final year at Virginia Tech, and Griffin completed 72.4 last year at Baylor), Whitlock then wondered if Griffin could still become an immature quarterback like an early Vick or Donovan McNabb. That’s the kind of quarterback who relies too heavily on his legs, and he then either fails, or struggles heavily.
Sure, that could happen. That could always happen, but what’s disappointing about Whitlock’s approach is his need to trumpet a finely entrenched mold for a position in football that can’t be described solely by looking through one narrow prism.
Here’s the entry point for his old school teachings:
NFL games are won most consistently by quarterbacks who play from the pocket. If a quarterback leaves the pocket, he’s going to get hit. If a quarterback gets hit regularly, he’s going to get hurt. If a franchise quarterback gets injured, his team has little chance of winning the Super Bowl.
It’s as though Cam Newton and Tim Tebow didn’t happen in 2011, and Vick’s 2010 is already a faded and distant memory.
Much of Vick’s regression this year wasn’t his doing, as he was behind a painfully creaky offensive line, and when he was injured it was due to wicked shots sustained while firmly in the pocket. If we’re still leaning on the sacred yet horribly flawed quarterback “wins” statistic, then eight of Philly’s 10 wins last year came with Vick under center, when he had 676 rushing yards, 30 combined rushing and passing touchdowns, and only six interceptions.
Tebowmania was easy to despise this year because of that same wins statistic, but Tim Tebow was a glaring and now notorious exception to Whitlock’s mold. At one point he won six straight games while finishing the season with a horrid 46.5 completion percentage, and rushing for 660 yards in just 10 starts. But the most notable is Newton, a rookie quarterback who was supposed to be JaMarcus Russell, but instead set records immediately, becoming the first rookie to pass for 400 or more yards in his first two starts.
His rare blend of powerful legs and arm strength led to a rookie record for combined touchdowns when Newton scored 35 times, 14 of which were on the ground. A team that won only twice in 2010 did well to win six games this year with Newton, especially given their crippling defensive injuries that led to an average of 26.8 points per game scored against Carolina.
The pocket passer does indeed remain the dominant quarterback breed, but only because the gifts possessed by the likes of Newton and Griffin are extremely rare. In recent years with the proper coaching and scheme the success of those rare gifts has become more common, yet the instinct to doubt instead of covet special, unique talent is still strong.
Different isn’t always easy, but it can be better.