It’s a Wide Receiver’s World
It’s the sound of pads. It’s the smell of barbeque at a tailgate. It’s the sight of collisions. Hell, it’s the sound of another diva wide receiver complaining about not getting enough passes thrown to him.
All of that is the feeling of football in the air. Even though September seems far, far away and both sides of the labor negotiations are even farther apart, football is still the next “interesting” sport on the docket, and you know you can’t wait for it!
However, before you enter the 2011 NFL Season with the same approach you took to the last one, why not take a minute to reevaluate your perception of the league?
Last year, we entered the season with Drew Brees as the Super Bowl champion and Peyton Manning as the runner-up. Both of their respective teams had little running game and depended on their quarterbacks a great deal. And by the end of the last football season, the four finalists for the Lombardi trophy were all teams with big-arm quarterbacks, such as Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Mark Sanchez.
Now, I would be a fool to sit here and say that the majority of football watchers don’t already know that football is a quarterback’s league. There’s really little doubt about that anymore. However, while we recognize the importance of the passing game, I fear that we are not recognizing the importance of great wide receiver.
If you want to win in this league, the whole “conglomeration” of wide receivers just is not working anymore. You have to have a true #1 wide receiver or two really good #2-wideouts that cannot be defended by most of the NFL’s cornerbacks. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the pudding.
Take last year for example. Remember the four finalists I just mentioned? Well, which of those quarterbacks advanced? That’s right; Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Which two quarterbacks had at least one wide receiver that they could consistently depend on getting open or drawing the double team? You said it! Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.
With Rodgers throwing to Greg Jennings and Big Ben throwing to either Mike Wallace or Hines Ward, those two quarterbacks were never at a loss for options. Truth be told, neither of those wide receivers had excellent games in the final two matches of the season, but that’s because defenses were too busy taking them out of the game plan.
Greg Jennings didn’t do squat in the Super Bowl, but Jordy Nelson was open like a mug because of the all the double teams Jennings was drawing against a weak Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
And while Mike Wallace had a good effort in the Super Bowl, his team lost that game and he had just six yards in the AFC Championship Game prior to it. Who stepped up in his place though? Well, actually it was the running game, but that was in part because the Jets did not want to leave Mike Wallace one-on-one, not even with their collection of quarterbacks.
As important as quarterbacks have become in the NFL, wide receivers are almost of the same importance. People say Peyton Manning can make any wide receiver into the 2004 version of Brandon Stokley, but the minute Reggie Wayne had a bad start to the season and Dallas Clark got hurt, the Colts passing game looked egregious and people were questioning whether Manning was on the decline.
And don’t forget how old Brett Favre looked when there was no Sidney Rice or a healthy Percy Harvin to chuck the ball to down the field. Injuries to wide receivers forced one of the game’s most heralded quarterbacks off the field and out of the league.
The importance of the wide receiver is why I stressed that the Green Bay Packers get Rodgers some help the day after he won the Super Bowl. Greg Jennings is a true #1, but even with him on the squad, the rest of the lackluster and injury-riddled receiving core of the Packers almost cost that team several playoff games.
Besides, the days of building your organization around defense and an offensive line are far behind us. The Packers just won a Super Bowl without much of either, and the Saints accomplished the same task the year before. If you want to win, invest in the passing game in this league—for the foreseeable future, wide receivers are the hot stock on the market that is NFL football. Like it or not, there’s a reason those wide receivers act like divas that control the league; it’s because on the field, they kind of do.