Monday, September 24, 2007

Why Daunte?

In 1973 the Raiders got off to a shaky start. The Raiders were becoming perennial playoff participants in part because of Daryle Lamonica's deep ball prowess. But in 1973 the Raiders seemed to have hit a road block. Lamonica had no problem moving the team between the 20 yard lines, but once in the red zone they were repeatedly settling for Blanda kicks. Ultimately the problem was resolved by replacing Lamonica with Kenny Stabler. To the fore, Stabler brought his talent as a skilled play caller on late drives and uncanny accuracy in the 10 to 20 yard range. It was the mid range accuracy that brought the Raiders out of their early season doldrums in 1973.

I bring this up because of the current similarity in the debate between Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper. While many would be inclined to compare McCown with Stabler and Culpepper with Lamonica, it is, in fact, the other way around. It is the mid range accuracy which is key. Inside the red zone the deep ball is no longer an issue. Defenses don't have to worry about it, and offensive receivers can only hope to get so much distance between themselves and defenders. For that reason the defense can focus more on the run, and that is what makes working inside the red zone its own special problem.

Josh McCown is an excellent game manager with superior athleticism. McCown is going to run any offensive play that's sent him with near perfection, and that is why he's received Kiffin's preference. But the Raiders are not currently very effective inside the red zone, particularly against the Browns where they had to settle for three Janokowski field goals.

When defenses confront McCown in the red zone, they know that McCown is going to run any play well and call the correct audible if need be. McCown, however, is not that accurate. It's not that he has poor accuracy, it's just very average. Defenses know that they have to keep reasonably close to receivers, but they can play those receivers loose enough to focus on the run. McCown is a smart player, so he will not throw a pass to a receiver who is closely blanketed. McCown, lacking other options, will throw that ball away.

Daunte Culpepper, on the other hand, is extremely accurate both intermediate and deep. He has a live arm, and can rifle passes into receivers. Culpepper has been known to continuously fire passes into receivers who are being blanketed by throwing so that the receiver is always between the ball and the defender, thereby making it so only the intended receiver has a chance to catch the ball. If the defender tries to go over the top or through the intended receiver, it will generally result in a pass interference call, putting the ball at the 1 yard line with first down and goal to go.

That's the relevant difference. When opposing teams are confronted with McCown in the red zone, they know they have to watch the play and stay with it, but they can afford to play their backfield loose, and focus on the run. Confronted with Daunte Culpepper, they have to blanket the receivers while leaving enough at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. That last is a very difficult proposition with Jordan currently playing so well.

And this is why we need to stay with Daunte now that he's broken the ice.


Blogger Calico Jack said...

Nice post BR. I applaud McCown's courage & team first attitude. In my book he is a quality guy and IDEAL backup.

Prior to McCown's injuries, he had average arm strength, below average velocity, and average accuracy. With the injuries, his mechanics are noticeably off. Try throwing with a cracked bone in your index finger on your throwing hand. Try planting your feet with a left bruised foot and sprained left ankle. Very difficult. On top of that, due to McCown's poor arm strength, our WRs are waiting on the ball with little opportunity for YAC. The passing windows in the NFL are tight and close fast. To me this is the biggest glaring difference between McCown & Culpepper.

Culpepper's ability to throw the deep ball with accuracy & touch invariably becomes a threat to the D. This threat in turn opens up the intermediate to shorter routes. The opponents DBs have to back off the WRs which gives ideal targets and space for successful completions.

With Jordan running on all cylinders, Culpepper under center, the D will need to pick their poison. Play action pass with Culpepper under center should be a GREAT opportunity to make some BIG plays down the field. Porter on a double move. Curry on a stop & go pattern. Miller with a deep seam route. All of these deep passes can be easily completed with Culpepper with protection & creative playcalling.

One other sidenote on yesterday's game. I like the fact that Culpepper stayed true to Kiffin's game plan and didn't force the action. Culpepper seemed more than content moving the chains in an unspectacular fashion. I also have appreciated Culpepper's attitude throughtout camp, the exhibition season, and 1st 3 games. He has been a true team first guy. You can tell that he respects McCown and has been very supportive.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous H said...

Nicely done. I actually remember those years. I grew up 40-50 miles from Kenny and we have crossed paths on a few occasions. He's slightly older than me and we both have quite a bit of mileage on us.

I became a Raider Fan before he was drafted, and knew about him when he was in high school. Ah, memories.

You are 100% correct on the accuracy part. Even on McCowan's touchdown throws the receivers have had to slow down significantly or even stop to catch the ball.

Good Job.


11:28 AM  
Blogger nyraider said...

I'm just getting a minute to read your new post... nice job.

I believe Culpepper brings more to the Raiders than his above-average skills. He brings an intangible that comes with experience and knowing how to win.

I have no doubt that McCown is a quality individual and a capable QB, but why waste a talent like Culpepper when we have him at our disposal? It just wouldn't make sense.

3:52 PM  
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