Over 24 years ago the Atlanta Falcons traded the drunken Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers. Favre went on to win one Super Bowl, earn 11 Pro Bowl nods, cameo in There's Something About Mary, and is going to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend.
The elite quarterback type
We generally know how this happened: Favre partied too much. Fox Sport's Bruce Feldman wrote about the situation in his book The QB and included an abridged online version of how The Gunslinger was sent off from Atlanta. It includes June Jones, junk science, and some similarities to Atlanta's current offensive problems.
Here are my favorite parts.
June Jones became a believer in brain-typing in the run-up to the NFL’s big QB draft debate back in 1998.
Uh oh. This feels a little bit like when Mr. Burns was a big believer in phrenology in the Simpsons. Jones was with the San Diego Chargers when the team hired a stock broker (not joking) to give his impressions on the brain-type of Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.
Beathard admitted it was the Chargers who were paying Niednagel. "He says Peyton Manning has It. Ryan doesn’t," Beathard told Jones. Manning was "ESTP." Leaf was "ESTJ."The letters are based on the pairings of psychological attributes in the sixteen personality types from Myers-Briggs, which were at the root of Niednagel’s work.
Regardless of the underlying nonsense, Jones believed he learned a similar trait with Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
An eye-catching majority of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks who played in the past thirty years are this one personality type. So were other Super Bowl–winning quarterbacks Ken Stabler, Phil Simms, Joe Theismann, and Trent Dilfer. Jones used the famous NFL Films anecdote of Joe Montana, the moment before beginning a last-minute, game-winning, touchdown drive in the Super Bowl, walking into the huddle and matter-of-factly pointing out John Candy in the crowd to one of his linemen as an example of a guy wired to thrive under pressure."ESTPs, under pressure, play their best," said Jones. "Whether it’s a two-minute drill or we have to win the game on this drive, they play their best.
That sounds concerningly familiar. Where did Jones believe it went wrong with Favre?
"I thought Favre was inaccurate and drunk for eighteen straight months. [Atlanta starting QB] Chris Miller was in the Pro Bowl, and we needed help on defense," recalled Jones, who wasn’t surprised to learn that Favre was wired to thrive under pressure. "If you go back in college, he won so many games on the last drive. In two years, I think he had thirteen wins, like, ten of them came on the last drive."Jones said if he knew then what he knows now about brain-typing, the Falcons never would have traded Favre to Green Bay."I[t] would’ve been different if I knew and I knew how to coach him," he said. "In two-minute situations, let him call his own plays. In those heated situations, Kelly went no-huddle; Favre, Elway, Marino—they all called their own plays. Let them lead."
Does anyone feel like Jones is describing Matt Ryan? Ryan, of course, has 24 (!) 4th quarter comebacks, good for 15th in NFL history. The are only five active quarterbacks with more 4th quarter comebacks: Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tony Romo. But the player who earned the nickname Ice has not been given the chances to put the game into his hands.
As June Jones said, let this type of quarterback run the show. He made the mistake with Favre and it looks like Shanahan is doing that with Ryan.
Are the Falcons wasting another quarterback?
Kyle Shanahan joined Atlanta as a fairly well-regarded offensive coordinator. He produced career years for countless running backs but struggled to do much with any quarterback who wasn't Matt Schaub. Considering he was dealing with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, and Brian Hoyer, it was easy to look past the struggles.
Shanahan even came to Atlanta saying all the right things.
An offensive coordinator's relationship with his quarterback is important. Shanahan said he looks forward to building that relationship with Matt Ryan. "You work as hard as you can to put guys in a situation to be successful. You want to know what makes them comfortable. You want them to communicate with you that, hey, I know this might work, but I'm uncomfortable with it. You need to dialogue throughout the week and you try plays throughout the week - that's what we practice for. But going into that game on Sunday, you've got a very good idea of what he likes, what I like, and it's just a process of communicating with each other. There's lots of ways to win."
were a bold-faced lie did not come to fruition. Atlanta's offense looked very similar to Shanahan's prior offenses. Lots of quarterback movement, bootlegs, and conservative passing. We really liked Dirk Koetter around here but he received criticism for limiting the no-huddle. Now with Shanahan we have seen it even less.
Q: Can you run more no huddle? Do y’all want to run more no-huddle?
A: That’s something that we think about every week. That’s something that we think about every quarter. Every time in the game. It’s part of our offense. We’ve run it this year. I don’t know if people have noticed. We’ve done it in probably three of the games. We think if it gives us an advantage, we’ll do it. But we don’t just say hey, let’s go no-huddle because we hear you guys telling us too. I don’t hear you, but my wife hears you. (The Falcons have only run no-huddle in traditional hurry-up situations.)
When the offense
slumped died last season, the refusal to use more no-huddle was so absurd that D. Orlando Ledbetter graced us with one of his very few joke articles.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is not a fan of the no-huddle offense.
He’s used it in three games in traditional hurry-up situations. While some of the players want use it more, he’s nixed that idea.
So, we came up with five reasons why he hates the no-huddle.
5. Matt Ryan might throw it to Roddy White
4. The Falcons might get a first down.
3. The Falcons might score in a red zone
2. It would be unfair to the defense to not allow them to get set.
1. I would lose all control of the operation to some quarterback person.
The top reason is a problem with a number of coordinators: they are so dedicated to their game plan and scheme that they refuse to change anything. Shanahan seems to fit in this camp. He reportedly resisted the urge to use much no-huddle with the Washington Redskins, despite some success. It was successful with the Cleveland Browns, but the team decided against relying on it too often. He refused to make changes to that bad offense last season. What has Shanahan said so far this offseason?
The Falcons plan to improve in the red zone by reducing their turnovers, they don’t plan to use more no-huddle, give Ryan more audible power nor throw more deep passes.
Shanahan hasn’t found a consistent thread as to why his offenses have finished in the lower half of the league in red zone efficiency in six of eight seasons.
Those sentences were not a joke. The lack of audibles has been bothersome, and Shanahan discussed what Ryan is able to do at the line of scrimmage.
Under the former offensive coordinators Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had wide-ranging audible authority.
Ryan has an audible option -- to check a run into a pass or vice versa at the line of scrimmage -- on perhaps 50 percent of the plays, according to Shanahan.
This is a shockingly small amount of freedom for a veteran quarterback. Despite a proven history of his adept ability at reading a defense and making the right audible, Ryan has no options on half of the offensive plays.
What would June Jones do?
Finally we ask what would June Jones do (WWJJD)? Jones has a long history coordinating offenses and has obviously learned plenty about football. He learned from those mistakes, and Falcons fans can watch one of those mistakes put on his gold Hall of Fame jacket and talk about his career for probably 5+ hours.
Jones knows now that when you have a quarterback that can command the offense and stay cool under pressure, he needs to be given the power to lead the offense. Stubbornly fitting a player to a scheme, especially an unproven scheme, is a great way to waste a quarterback's career. And Falcons fans have seen that a little too often.
Does Shanahan even recognize there is a bigger problem here? I'll leave you with what he had to say about the offense last year before playing Matt Hasselbeck's reeling Indianapolis Colts. Before the game that started with three straight passes to Roddy White and Ryan tossed three interceptions to a bad defense. Before the offense spent the rest of the year unable to put points on the board.
We’ll get this going. But we have (had) a few set backs. The main thing is don’t panic and be confident with what you are doing. Just keep working to get better. Usually when you do that, the rest takes care of itself.