Friday, December 02, 2005

the Chicken or the Egg | by Jay

One of the classic bar-room football arguments concerns the heyday of the San Francisco 49ers, and it goes like this:

Did Jerry Rice make Joe Montana, or did Joe Montana make Jerry Rice?

The argument goes 'round and 'round among Niners fans. Montana, of course, Hall of Fame quarterback, was a passer with pinpoint precision and a deft touch who made even John Taylor and Roger Craig look like all-world receivers. Rice, on the other hand, Hall of Fame receiver, best of all time, who ran better routes than anyone in the NFL and simply caught everything thrown his way. Without Rice, whither Montana? Without Montana, whither Rice?

Let's apply this frame to our '05 Irish team.

Point: Brady Quinn makes his receivers look good. His pocket presence buys enough time for the receivers to shake a pesky defender, he's got excellent vision to find the open man, and he's accurate enough to put the ball where only his guys can make a play at it. Most of all, he instills confidence in his receivers, often checking from runs into passes and making great decisions. Without Quinn, his receivers wouldn't have nearly the years that they're having.

Counterpoint: The receivers make Brady look good. First things first: Samardzija and Stovall are the best pair of wideouts the Irish have had in what seems like forever. Quinn, while a mostly accurate passer, has put up a lot of throws that can best be described as "jump balls". Sure, you can say that he's putting it only where his 6'5 trees can grab it, but that doesn't mean they're precise throws -- that speaks to the quality of his receivers more than his own talent. And on bad throws, check the highlight reel: how many circus catches by #21 and #83 have bailed out Quinn on something that was basically up-for-grabs? And how many short passes were turned into long rambles by the excellent downfield blocking by the receivers?
How much credit for the offensive explosion does each unit deserve? Feel free to take up either banner and make your case. Or if you'd like, factor in a third ingredient: Charlie Weis. In the pie chart of the Irish offense, how big is everyone's slice?