Wednesday, September 21, 2005

(Ole Miss Update) Lane to start....but wait....

It's a good news/bad news situation. Robert Lane is set to start Saturday against Wyoming. The Clarion Ledger has a preview/Lane profile. The good news is Lane will probably start. The bad news is that Noel MazREDzone is our offensive coordinator.

I've wanted Lane to be the starter since he stepped on campus. Some of that is, for sure, this peculiar phenomenon among supporters and fans that when the team is playing poorly, the guy who's not playing is always better than the guy who is playing. Never mind that the coaches and the reporters and the people who make it their business to know these things think differently, I GO TO THE GAMES AND/OR WATCH THEM ON TV, so I know more and, more importantly, I can see the forest better (ie, the big picture) because I'm not deep in it all the time, blah blah blah. (Notice: digression over).

Anyway, Robert Lane is set to start, and I'm pretty excited about that. I think Robert Lane, while not the most accurate passer, is a winner. A winner like Tee Martin. A winner like Jason White. Not the most gifted passer or the most comfortable in the "system" but a winner. Someone who other players rally around. Someone who puts his head down and fights. That is what I've seen when he's been in there. You can sense the team playing just a bit harder. You can sense the crowd getting more into it.

The prospect of this season turning around with a gutsy winning performance from Lane is exciting. After his fumble on the last play of the last game (when he was rushed into service following the injury to Spurlock), he said "It was a tough situation to be put in, but I survived it, I learned from it and it'll make me a better quarterback. I plan to lead this team to victory." That's a winner talking.

Lane's NOT saying "I've learned the offense and am comfortable and I look forward to the challenge of implementing the system at full speed in game conditions." He's planning on LEADING the TEAM to VICTORY. That's what a quarterback should do. Whether he does that with his arm, his head or his legs doesn't matter. His familiarity with the "system" doesn't matter. Winning matters. Offensive coordinator Noel MazREDzone said of Lane ""He's got a bit of a bow in his neck ... he brings that to the team, a toughness at that position. He's got a little moxie. Now, we have to roll the ball out there and see what he knows for real."


That's not the whole picture. MazREDzone has to get him in the stupid "system." MazREDzone also said: "There are all kind of wrinkles in that offense, we're trying to iron them all out." (As if it's the execution, rather than the stupid "system" that's to blame for our poor offensive performance thus far. Why does there have to be a system? NASA needs systems, computer networks need systems. Offenses need plays. Anyway, I digress).

What really gives me pause, however, is this "Mazzone said Lane is "night and day different" from the player he saw on film last season and early in fall camp — a quarterback who struggled to throw the ball downfield and often took off to run too soon. " Oh no, MazREDzone is taking that square peg, moving it toward his round hole. He's gotta stay in the "system" even if his talents aren't suited for it. Look, Mazzone's been mediocre with that offense everywhere he's been and he's not gonna change the "system" just to adapt to the personnel he has right now, no siree.

MazREDzone goes on: "I don't know how much they asked him to step back and read coverages last year, but we've been working with him on staying on his progressions and getting to the third reads. At times, he's too anxious to take the football and show everybody he can run over people." Translated "I know he's a better runner than passer. But that doesn't matter to me. What matters is he runs MY offense (so I get the credit when we succeed). If we don't, it'll be a matter of EXECUTION. It won't be because i'm asking a running, scrambling quarterback to stand back in the pocket and make 3 and 4 reads even though I know it's not his strong suit."

The point is Lane CAN run over people (and Spurlock can run around people), so why not just let him do it? Is that such a difficult thing to understand? Will the world come to an end, will the offense and team just completely break down into chaos and anarchy if he only makes TWO reads and then takes off for a 6 yard gain running the ball? Isn't that the point, to go forward toward the end zone? Is it better for him to make his third read and throw it away than make 2 reads and run for 4 yards? If he takes off and runs a few times, won't there be more receivers open later when LBs and DBs cheat up to stop that (like they do when you have a traditionally effective running game)? I'm no expert, but will someone point out the flaw in this approach? I must be too much of a simpleton, because I can't fully comprehend the "system" It's almost as if the "system" is more important than first downs and points.

I wonder what would have happened had Ole Miss brought in an option-oriented OC when Eli was here. Would they have made Eli run the option? That makes about as much sense as asking Lane or Spurlock to sit back in the pocket and make 3 or 4 reads when their strengths are running, scrambling and improvising. Apparently, MazREDzone (and Cutcliffe last year, who started Flatt over Lane and also insisted on a slavish devotion to a stupid "system") is more concerned with Lane staying in the "system" than actually moving the ball and scoring points. Of the three touchdowns we've scored on offense (that's 1.5 per game against powerhouses Memphis and Vandy), 2 have been players improvising (Spurlock and Mico), not flawless execution of some stupid wrinkle in MazREDzone's super-crafty "system."

So I'm excited, but I sure hope Lane just goes out there and plays on gut and instinct. We'll see Saturday.

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