In the next few segments, I will be talking about offense, defense and certain positions on the field. There are 22 players on the field at all times; 11 for each team. During a regular “drive” of the game there are two teams; an offense and a defense. The other part of the game involves a group of players called special teams, which are exciting but don’t stay on the field long (we will eventually touch on them as well). The offense is the group of 11 players that has possession of the ball. Their aim is to take the ball down the field and make points. The defense’s aim is to keep the opposing team’s offense from scoring; the ideal scenario for the defense would be to take the ball away by means of a turnover (fumble or interception) and either score for their team or get the ball back to their offense. Now that technical jargon is out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff.
The offense and the defense makes up the majority action of the chess match that we talked about last week. Within each of these teams are different positions with different responsibilities. Each player will respond to those responsibilities differently according to their physical abilities, personalities and how they’re coached. On offense, arguably the most important position is the quarterback. The quarterback is the one on the offense who calls the plays (usually dictated by the coaching staff), takes the football once it’s snapped and either hands it off to a runningback or passes it to a receiver. He can also run with the ball, most quarterbacks have some kind of scrambling ability (aside from a few teams, most try to keep the QB from doing a lot of running). The NFL has been referenced as a “Quarterback driven league”. What does this mean? The team is only as good or as bad as the quarterback. You can refer to the QB as the matron of the family, and “if Momma ain't happy, ain’t nobody happy”. Just like there are matrons who run their families with wisdom and love (June Cleaver or Clair Huxtable), so there are QB’s who run their offense with intelligence and skill. We have had some excellent examples already this season.
In the very first game of the regular NFL season on Sept 5th, Peyton Manning, the QB for the Denver Broncos masterfully guided his team to defeat the reigning Superbowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He threw for seven touchdowns and had the highest rating for a QB he has ever had (we will touch on QB ratings later). The human element comes to play, when you realize he is the oldest QB in the league, at 37 years old. In football-years , which are similar to dog years, Mr. Manning would be about 259 years old. If that wasn’t enough, he had three or four neck surgeries ending in 2011 that made him sit out an entire season. The heroic effort it took for him to come back from such critical surgeries cannot be fully appreciated from a distance, it is a next to impossible accomplishment. As I sat with my husband watching the warm ups to that first game, I remarked to him how awkward Peyton Manning looked. Things like, “His helmet looks too small.” “Look how awkward he runs” “He’s old…” My husband just smiled and said nothing. After the game, he remarked almost under his breath “Yeah, he was really awkward wasn’t he?”
Now just like there are the much beloved matrons like Clair Huxtable or Marion Cunningham, there is the other extreme. You might have Marie Barone or Peggy Bundy to deal with. Take, for instance, this past Thursday Night Football game. Although the New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is one of the best in the league and ended up winning the game, he had a tough game in which he threw tantrums as well as footballs. On the human side of things, the Patriots have had more than their share of off season trouble. Everything from contract troubles, injuries and a highly publicized arrest in which the former teammate is on trial for murder. Because of all of that, the offence has been drastically reduced, which has resulted in a lack of veteran offensive players for Tom Brady to throw to. The stress of playing with very young players, whose on-the-job training included a nationally televised football game, released his “inner yenta” where his anger made headlines. After the game, he addressed his behavior remarking that he needs to improve his body language, and might I offer this suggestion: his potty-mouth.
There are only 32 starting NFL quarterbacks in the world. Their skills and talents make them very unique and the pressure that is placed on them every week in the football season makes them very special. It is hard to come up with a time when the quarterback has not been the central person on the offense. And although I will never be in the club, I am sure that most of them would rather be compared to Clint Eastwood than Marie Barone.
Happy football watching!