Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Some perspective on Luck, Griffin
By Ashley Fox ESPN.com
Take a breath. There. Now, let's review a few things about preseason football.
Coaches don't game plan for their opponents. They don't watch film or scout, and they might not even know what team they are playing were it not for the name on the jerseys. The best team, the worst team, it simply does not matter.
There is no strategy on either side of the ball. No schemes, no stunts, no tricks. The plays called are purposefully vanilla. Coaches protect the good stuff. They don't want their best-kept secrets getting out. It would take away what they perceive to be their all-important edge.
Right now, there are guys on rosters who in a couple of weeks will be working at Home Depot or Applebee's. They are chasing a dream, but the reality is nearly a third of the players on rosters aren't going to have a job in the NFL when Week 1 arrives. They are getting to play now, when it doesn't matter. They had better enjoy it.
And the environment for a preseason game, as anyone who has had to suffer through one knows, is not anywhere close to what it will be when the real games start in September. People are on vacation. Stadiums are half-full. There is no noise, no buzz, no eruption for a big play or a hard hit. Fans leave early. They want to care, they go, but it is not the same as a regular-season game. Not even close.
So while it is awesome that heralded rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III of Washington had impressive debuts, let's keep it in proper perspective. The Colts' game against St. Louis and Washington's game against Buffalo were glorified scrimmages with inflated ticket prices. They weren't real. Don't call Canton just yet.
Sure, both guys looked good. Both were poised. Both are smart. For the record, Griffin was 4-of-6 for 70 yards and a touchdown, but he also was checking down, throwing short passes underneath. He was facing a Buffalo defensive front that wasn't playing with the ferocity it will in its season-opener against the Jets.
Andrew Luck was all smiles after his first preseason pass with the Colts went for a touchdown.
Against the Rams, Luck was 10-of-16 for 188 yards and two touchdowns, but his first touchdown pass -- his first NFL pass, period -- traveled 4 yards in the air to Donald Brown, who took it in for a 63-yard touchdown. It wasn't a long bomb downfield.
Both quarterbacks will probably be great. Both hopefully will have long, successful careers. Both will be inextricably linked, the way Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are, the same way Philip Rivers and Eli Manning are. It's going to be fun to watch them grow, mature, develop, learn and play.
But anything can happen once the bright lights get turned on. It is too soon to make sweeping predictions about either guy. You don't know how they will react to the pressure of the moment, to the grind of a 16-game season, to getting hit by big, strong, powerful men. The Redskins and Colts think they know, but until Griffin and Luck actually go through it, no one knows, not even them.
The regular season in the NFL is just that much different. This isn't college. And a couple of preseason games won't give the players an accurate indication of what they will see on Sept. 9.
How will Luck fare against the nasty, veteran defense of the Bears? How quickly will he pop up after Julius Peppers pounds him into the ground? Will he be able to read Chicago's complex defense? If things don't go well, if he doesn't have success early, how will he react?
And how will Griffin respond to playing inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, one of the loudest facilities in the league? How will he handle getting screamed at by lathered-up Saints fans? How will he do against one of the best defensive minds in the game in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo?
Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat, for 16 long, grueling weeks.
We get so wrapped up in the immediacy of the moment these days. Everything has to be now, now, now. Information. Technology. Twitter. We want to know now, to see, to get our information where we want it, how we want it, now.
But the development of a starting quarterback takes time. It takes years. It takes experience, success, failure, repetition and practice. The only way to become great is by doing it, and then doing it again, and again, and again.
Look at the six quarterbacks who are pretty much universally thought to be the best in the NFL right now (in no particular order): Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning. All have extensive experience. Rodgers has the least amount of seasons as a starter (four) but that is only because he was buried behind Brett Favre for three years.
Brees and Brady each have been a starter for 10 seasons, Peyton Manning for 13, and Eli Manning and Roethlisberger for eight. Those guys have the credentials to be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- each has won at least one Super Bowl -- but they are continuing to build their cases.
Luck and Griffin might get there one day, but they also might not. We can't possibly tell from a handful of snaps in the preseason, and we shouldn't even try.