Thursday, September 2, 2010

Giants: Backup QB / Schedule

Nowadays, with the influences of free agency, salary cap limitations and economic stress on teams, it is not possible to stock great players at backup positions. The days of keeping stars and high priced veterans as backups is long gone. As two examples that come to mind: in 1990 the 49ers had two future HOF qbs on the roster - Joe Montana and Steve Young (actually if memory serves, Young was on the 49ers for a few years before that, so the two HOF qbs were on the 49ers for maybe 3 or 4 years). From 1986 through 1992 OJ Anderson was on the Giants and he was an "insurance" backup to Joe Morris until he emerged as starter when Morris got hurt. Nowadays when the team invests $100M in the starting qb, they're going to look for an inexpensive, reliable backup. That can take several forms: taking a young, unproven player and hope that he is able to handle things; or a veteran well past his prime looking to hang on for another season or two. Sometimes you get lucky and find a career backup or a once-promising player who had a bad start to his career and is looking to resurrect his reputation by hooking up with a team that needs a calming veteran influence. Last two years, the Giants were lucky finding someone in this last category and getting David Carr as Manning's backup. This year they were hoping to go the career backup route with Sorgi, but when he hurt his shoulder, they had to look elsewhere. I completely agree with their decision to part ways with him rather than hoping his shoulder would recover and he could be a competent backup. (To the Giants credit, they put him on IR, rather than cutting him, which means that he gets paid.) There are two reasons that this was the right move. First, it's not like Sorgi is a proven commodity or an excellent backup. He played very little behind Peyton in Indianapolis and did not shine in the few opportunities he had to play. Second, the one most important quality you want from your backup qb is health. Let's face it - if your star qb goes down for the year - your season most likely goes down with it. What you want from a backup qb is to fill in if your starter goes down for 3-4 weeks with some minor injury, like an ankle sprain or the like. If that happens, you want the backup to come in and give you a chance to go 2-2 and not flush away the season. But if the backup has a bad shoulder, his ability to play those 4 games is questionable. You can't expect a star at that position, but you do want some health and continuity. The Giants would have gotten neither from Sorgi and it was right to part ways. The backup for now is Bomar, who has a decent arm but not the strong game skills to run a team. From what I have seen so far, he makes all the typical rookie mistakes: locking on to a receiver and telegraphing where he's going to go with the ball; holding on to the ball too long and giving away sacks; occasionally throwing unsafe passes into coverage. Unfortunately, those are not things you can work on in practice and only come from game experience. So let's hope Bomar does not have to make an appearance, but I would still prefer someone who can play to someone who is injured.

Just a thought or two about the Giants schedule: I think it has some difficult elements in it and is among the toughest in football. Since the NFL went to the 32 teams in 2002 when they added the expansion Houston Texans, the schedule became much more even and has less variability from team to team. Prior to 2002, the league had 31 team and 3 divisions in each conference. To be sure there was some expansion throughout the '90s and it wasn't always 31 teams, but the point is that there were 3 divisions in each conference, not 4 as there have been since 2002. Prior to 2002, each team played the other teams within their division twice, played one division from the opposite conference and had 4 or 5 other games that were variable dependent on how strong the team's record was the year before. With a strong record, the team played a tougher set of opponents and with a weak record, the schedule was easier. The point is that there may have been 4 or 5 games that were variable and easier/harder than your opponents in the division and in the conference, which could make a real difference in the season. Nowadays, with 16 teams and 4 divisions in each conference, there are only 2 games that are variable based on previous season's record and there is much more parity in the schedule.

Having said that, what you want from your schedule is at least a good split of the home/away games to make matters easier. The Giants this year play the AFC South and the NFC North, where, in each, there are two strong teams and two weaker teams. In the AFC North, the Colts and Texans are the class of the division and the Titans and Jaguars are weaker teams and more beatable. Giants also play the NFC North where the Packers and Vikings are preseason playoff or Super Bowl picks, while the Lions and Bears are weaker. In both cases, the Giants get the stronger teams from these divisions on the road and get the weaker teams at home, exactly the reverse of what you would like. The Giants play the Colts and Texans on the road, while they get the Jaguars and Titans at home in the AFC South. In the NFC North, the Giants get the Packers and Vikings on the road and the Bears and Lions at home. It would have been better if it were the other way around, but that's life. To make matters worse, the Giants get the Colts the second week of the season and it seems like every year, the Colts win their first 8 or 9 games, making this a very tough game to win. Frankly, I think the Vikings are due for a little decline from last year, when absolutely everything fell into place for them. But, I think the Packers will be better than last year and have a good chance to win the division. Because the Giants finished third in their division last year, the Giants get two other 3rd place teams within the conference: Panthers and Seahawks. It would be nice to play Seahawks at home and avoid a west coast trip, but here too, the Giants draw the tougher split and have to go out to Seattle.

In the end, remember the famous saying about the NFL schedule: "It's not who you play, it's when you play 'em". With injuries, up and down flow of the season, hot streaks, cold streaks, this is more true in the NFL than other sports.

2 comments:

Yankel the Nachash said...

Why are we obligated to play the Vikings every year?

wolfman said...

Yankel,

This is a question that has been haunting our NFL scholars and schedule makers for many years. This year it's because the NFC East vs. the NFC North, which happens on a 3 year cycle. The last 2 years the rason is that Giants finished in the same spot in the standings in the NFC East as the Vikings did in the NFC North in the previous season.