Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Reason WR's Are Divas: Their Job Is Easier

[Ed. Note: This was the 6th post ever written on this blog, so I wanted to pull it forward because it's relevant to what I wrote earlier about Anquan Boldin. If you were reading this blog back then (Google Analytics gives that a 99+% chance of being a no), I apologize.]

A diva used to refer to a supremely talented female opera signer, and comes from the same root at the word 'divine'. The genesis of the negative connotation of the word diva were (usually female) lead singers that were notoriously difficult to work with.

Being a lead singer, while it is the most visible position in the band, requires the least amount of work. Most of what differentiates lead singers from the other members of the band and the rest of the world, is a great singing voice. Unfortunately for most of us, 99% of the population was not born with the requisite combination of vocal folds, muscles and ligaments to have a resonant, pleasing, and in the cases of the best lead signers, distinctive singing voice. Similarly, 99% of the world was not born with the DNA to grow to six feet tall or more, with elite speed, agility and the hands and reflexes to snare a NFL sized football traveling 45 or 50mph while running full speed.

The most accessible component of music for most people are the vocals. Above all the complicated layers that comprise any piece of music, the words are the one thing almost everyone listening can understand. Far more people, for instance, can remember the words to a song than hum along with the guitar solo, much less play it. The inner workings of the bass, drums, guitar and other instruments can be enjoyed by all, but understood only by a musical connoisseur or someone with a background in the instrument.

Likewise, the passing game is the most exciting part of the football game, partly because of the fast pace and partially because, with two people involved, it is the easiest to understand. Quarterback drops back, looks to the WR, who creates separation and they connect on a crisply thrown ball, hopefully. That's the part of the game than happens in Brett Favre's Wrangler Jeans commercials, not the scrum between the center, right guard and the nose tackle.

Like the chords and rhythm of a hit song, most fans can't process the complicated strategy and execution of offensive and defensive line play either, although they can appreciate the end results. Collectively, line play is universally considered the most important component of a football game, laying the groundwork for everything else that happens. But there are too many things occurring at once. The only people who can dissect line play are those with access to the overhead-view coaches' tape: current and former coaches, players and analysts.

When it finally all comes together, like the lead signer, the WR might have the easiest job on the field, save for the kicker. Wideouts match up with guys they typically have 3” of height or more on, and have the knowledge of where they are planning on going.

The obvious comparison between an band and a football team should be quarterback to lead singer. But the problem is that the quarterback's job is extremely difficult, and his level of performance is directly affected by this teammates. The quarterback bears responsibility closer to the band manager or sound guy. A wide receiver can get open on a play regardless if the TE on the opposite end of the formation runs his post route efficiently or if the running back runs too flat or a screen. A quarterback, however, will have no chance of completing a pass if a defensive tackle shoots through a gap and gets to him before he completes a three step drop.

That's why some top level WR's complain all the time and all of them think they don't get the ball enough. They actually are open, they are doing their job, while someone else, be it a lineman or quarterback isn't. The thing is, getting open doesn't take nearly the amount of playbook study, time in the gym, or technique that blocking a 290lb missile does. It doesn't take the same level of film study and ability to dissect the entire defense that is necessary for a top level quarterback to be successful. They don't take the physical punishment in between the tackles that a running back does. In both cases, it takes a complex and heroic effort to set the table for both wide receivers and lead singers.

2 comments:

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