Sometimes in the overload of a press conference, mucho basic info is overlooked. Take Mike Tomlin’s news conference for example.
Q: In what ways is Dixon better now than he was a year ago, or even at the start of training camp?
A: Just in general, overall mastery of our offense, the spewing of the verbiage, the fluid understanding of where to distribute the football, the understanding of protections and so forth.
This was Head Coach Mike Tomlin answering the question regarding the maturation process that he’s seen in Dennis Dixon. It sounds innocuous, almost dare I say mundane? But when you peel back the skin of the comment and get to the core, this is part of what Coach Mike was saying.
1. Overall mastery of the offense for a QB includes, but is not confined to displaying an understanding of the concept behind the play, having reached a familiarity in technique execution that doesn’t require a check list to run through because that time needed is spent disseminating vital last second info to teammates. Further, knowing who’s in what package personnel-wise and where they have to line-up according to the down and distance. Then listening to the play called in his earpiece while every receiver involved in the last pass reports that they “were open” while reviewing mentally part of the scouting report pertaining to the play being called and then coordinating the huddle and calling the play while finally getting the team to the line of scrimmage all within the time limits and get them set where he can finally get the cadence going so he can snap the freaking ball
2. Spewing of the verbiage is another great Coach Mike-ism that means that Dennis has control of the sometimes complicated word patterns that are used to communicate the plays. Depending on the system, the play calling may be a lengthy, time consuming process (or it was in years gone by) and speeding up the tempo while sounding like you have a mouthful of marbles will not bring clarity to a play called. You should have heard Bubby Brister in full blown “Cajun-speak.” That’ll make you say what? Every time.
3. The fluid understanding of where to distribute the ball is the knowledge of where to go with the ball once you have made your read. Both pre-snap and post-snap. After all the critical elements of point #1 have been met, and the QB is doing the “7-yard walk” to the line of scrimmage he’s downloading a myriad of info starting with the safeties, and moving forward to the defensive front. It’s not forced and it’s not a time of panic. This is where the “letting the game come to you” starts. Also included in this category are the first, second and third or “check down” reads. Remember that timing is critical in any pass route. You can see why a Troy Polamalu and all his pre-snap buzzing around create a nightmare scenario for QB’s.
4. Understanding the protection scheme is equally important to both the QB and the line. Especially the QB, because he’s the one who can get killed out there. After making sure all the backs and receivers have got it right, checking in with the hogs is a smart thing to do. They must be on the same page as the QB, otherwise somebody’s going to go back to the huddle hurting. And the hot receivers better have their heads screwed on straight.
5. And so forth. In other words, I’ve only scratched the surface.