Last week produced a few guffaw moments right around April Fool's Day. The Redskins signed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White to a one-year deal. That news sparked a good deal more blogger stupidity than Washington's signing of Kellen Clemens as a camp arm in 2011.
Some national media types put the right spin on the move. Others trolled for eyeballs along three lines of thought ... I use the word "thought" loosely.
1 - Kirk Cousins is available to trade.
2 - Pat White would allow the Redskins read-option offense to proceed seamlessly if Robert Griffin III is lost to injury again.
3 - Pat White and RGIII in the same backfield open immense options for the Wildcat formation.
Um, hold your horses, cowboy.
Why let last week's news go to waste when it can be used to make some points about Griffin, the Redskins and the Double-Duel-Threat-QB Wildcat? Besides, Hog Heaven is not above trolling for readers, either. Kidding aside, these points are worth making.
1. Robert Griffin III puts the magic in the read-option offense.
Robert Griffin III cannot be duplicated. Pro teams take college concepts like the shotgun spread and make it their own, usually by adding precision an order of magnitude greater than the NCAA level. Then, opposing coordinators catch up with the concept and break it down. Since only elite college athletes start for pro teams, those raw schoolboy concepts do not stand on their own. Opposing players have seen it before and simply run it down.
The read option works so well for the RG3skins because Griffin III is a deadly passer and world-class hurdler. That kind of talent is not duplicated, certainly not by Pat White.
Read option will influence coaching careers more than player careers. NFL coaches who grew up in play-action are not that familiar with it, but their teams are looking for players who can run it, thanks to the play of Griffin, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. The trend might boost the prospects for Greg Schiano, Chip Kelly and especially for Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh.
Carroll and Harbaugh have the best shot at success with option concepts. Carroll cycled through the NCAA and the NFL before landing in Seattle. He has NFL experience most college head coaches lack when jumped from USC to Seattle.
Harbaugh earned his NFL chops immediately upon joining San Francisco, a rarity for college coaches. Here's the thing, Harbaugh and Carroll have quarterbacks in Kaepernick and Wilson who rival RG3 in the read option.
2. Kirk Cousins isn't going anywhere ... this year.
Rex Grossman is Kirk Cousins' back-up. He is not RGIII's back-up. Cousins most successful accomplishment last season was to keep Grossman on the inactive roster on game day. What's so complicated about that?
The notion that the Redskins would trade Cousins before knowing RGIII's condition with certainty is just ludicrous. White's similarity to Griffin's play style (with less talent) would supposedly drive the 'Skins to hop him over Rex Grossman on the depth chart so that Kyle Shanahan would not have to change the game plan with White as he should (have done) with Cousins.
Cousins developed as a play-action passer in Michigan State's pro style offense. He has acknowledged that he must get better at running the read option offense that the Shanahans want to call. And, he said in January that he would work on his speed in the offseason. Lets begin there.
In hindsight, White acknowledged that he did not put in the work while with the Dolphins to be anything more than a gimmick Wildcat quarterback. I'm not attributing that to character. You shouldn't either. But Cousins recognizes his need to break his comfort zone in ways that White did not as a rookie. After two years away from football, White is determined to make the most of his second chance in the NFL, slim as it is.
Head Coach Mike Shanahan said that Cousins would take all the first team snaps in the offseason and training camp. If traded, Cousins would have to be replaced by someone not named Rex Grossman or Vince Young. The "Skins would have to get that person at the same salary cap cost as Cousins, who is on the new rookie wage scale as a fourth rounder.
Trading Cousins right now would be a downgrade in the position even with RGIII on the roster. We call that a self-inflicted wound.
3. Pat White – wild card in the Wildcat?
This notion is superficial thinking at its best. White was not successful running the Wildcat in Miami. Why would he be successful in Washington?
The Jets signed Tim Tebow to run the Wildcat package. The result is a continuing source of laughter. Tebow completed six passes of eight attempts for the highest passer rating of his career (84.9). He rushed for 102 yards in 12 games for the lowest yards-per-attempt in his career (3.2). Tebow is better by far than White.
Both the Wildcat and the read option force defenders to stay home as they figure out what the offense is doing. Both are surprise attacks in their way, but the NFL is less surprised by the Wildcat than read option. To repeat the point we made above, it's Griffin, not the scheme, that makes all this work.
So you are a defensive coordinator calling the play to stop Griffin and White who are lined up in a Wildcat from the pistol formation. Who is your point of focus? White?
Focus on Griffin and then White beats you with a great play, which would be a career first for him. The coach would want to talk to you about it. It might not be pleasant. But focus on White and get beat by Griffin who makes another electrifying play and you are toast. White adds no value.
The 'Skins have other ways to surprise defenses. Roy Helu is a decent receiver out of the backfield. Can he pass? The Dolphins' Wildcat worked best when Ronnie Brown took the direct snap and either ran, handed off or passed the ball. A direct snap to a back, or a player in motion, is more likely to work. Even if alert to it, defenders would not expect it.
Clinton Portis has a lifetime 116.0 passer rating (three TD passes on three completions). Portis never ran the Wildcat. Just sayin'.
White and Griffin in the same backfield is a gimmick that would shout "Wildcat." Even then, you would give White the Tebow treatment – defense his running until he proves he can beat you by passing.
What's in this for Pat White?
This post is a knock on superficial online football thinking, not on Mr. White. He is as aware of this litany of failure as Hog Heaven readers are. His career went horribly wrong in 2009 because he was on a horrible 1-15 team. He did not have the chops to change it. Neither did the coach nor any other player.
He will not make the Redskins. If Mike Shanahan is an honest man, he made that clear to White while offering another bite at the apple. White gets to another training camp, this time with a division winner. He can get verbal recommendations from NFL coaches that his agent might parlay into a shot with another team. White worked out for the Giants and 49ers before signing with Washington. He might even get video footage of game action for his souvenir collection.
There is a reason to keep him around in September, although I'm not sure of the rules for the practice squad. Colin Kaepernick and the 'Niners are on the schedule. Somebody has to run the scout team, the "no brainer" idea Cousins alluded to.
A slim chance is still a chance. Don't begrudge a man a second shot at his dream.
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