I’ve considered myself a “Knapp apologist” in that I spent most of 2004 and 2005 defending Knapp, his play-calling and his offense. But that has changed this year. Basically from week to week, I don’t know whether I’ll be defending Knapp or trying to execute him. But there is little doubt in my mind, that from a play-calling and offensive management standpoint, 2006 has clearly been Knapp’s worst year.
Which is odd to me because this is the much ballyhooed third year in the West Coast Offense, in which things are supposed to click.
But now my official stance on Knapp is that he needs to be fired after this season. It’s not an easy stance for me to take, but after careful thought for the past few weeks, that’s my current mindset. Of course, if the Falcons offense starts clicking down the stretch, I’ll quickly pretend like I never made such a statement.
I don’t blame Knapp entirely for the failures of the Falcons offense. It’s not easy to work with Mr. Inconsistency No. 7, who is so much more a replica of his cousin out in Oakland than many want to admit. But nonetheless, I understand the nature of the “business” that is the NFL, and Vick with his $130 million contract, has greater job security than Knapp does.
I don’t fault the West Coast Offense as many others do. There is nothing wrong essentially with that offense. It is really the only modern passing attack (used in the NFL) that takes advantage of a mobile QB. The problem is that I don’t think Knapp did quite enough to adapt the WCO to Vick’s strengths and weaknesses.
He did some. He utilized a mobile pocket (seemingly up until this year) by rolling Vick out a lot to his left. He used bootlegs. He installed components of the spread option attacks used at Texas and West Virginia this year. The team brought in bigger receivers with deep speed rather than the guys that are used to running simple slants, which potentially could take advantage of Vick’s arm strength, rather than his weakness at throwing timing-based passes.
But the problem is that all these changes have been too few and far between. In my opinion, considering the weapons this team has on offense, they should be better taking advantage. To me, the offense is too conservative and too predictable. Opposing defenses really only focus on containing Vick’s runs, and not over-pursuing in the running game for fear of Dunn’s cutbacks, and that really is all there is to figuring out the Falcons offense. If you can do those things (basically if you have a fast, disciplined defense), stopping this offense is going to be easy. Knapp & Co. have not figured out new wrinkles and ways to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes.
Why not utilize more screen passes with Dunn and Norwood, two players that are excellent at using them. Why has DeAngelo Hall become a complete afterthought as far as receiving goes? They tried him on 1 WR screen (for no gain), and I don’t think he’s played a snap of offense since. Why doesn’t the team try to use Vick as a decoy, by lining up him at WR? Hall could be the exact same decoy. Why don’t Dunn and Crumpler split out wide that much? Why did the team never take advantage of Duckett’s past as a All-state prep quarterback, and try to use him on some HB passes?
I’m not saying that our offense should be built around these components, but using simple screens three or four times a game, would that really hurt us? Trying to take advantage of mismatches and decoys with the immense talent and athleticism this team has, would that hurt us, if used once or twice a game?
So now I’m at the point where we should simply start over offensively after this season. I’d love it if Rich Rodriguez would land in Atlanta next year in some capacity (either as head coach or OC) and install his spread option attack which would be the ideal fit for Vick, but I realize that is highly doubtful.
But essentially I think we need a fresh approach to the “Vick Dilemma.” Someone that is willing to think outside the box, and think of fresh ways in order to give defensive coordinators headaches.
Who that person is besides Rodriguez, I don’t really know. But I’d bet that whomever is Knapp’s successor, would understand the realities that his job security is built upon installing an offense that would help Vick to play up to the weight of his contract.