We’ve bashed Bill Musgrave intensely on TVA. Everything from not pushing the ball downfield to suspect play calling to poor pass protection to relying too heavily on Adrian Peterson to not relying on our All World running back enough. But while this is not a blog post to say Musgrave should immediately be crowned as a Head Coach in waiting like we once had with Brian Billick… He certainly has done better in 2011 than a once hot candidate who interviewed for the job.
Josh McDaniels (otherwise known as Baby Hoodie from his days serving under Bill Belichick in New England) has been an absolute disaster thus far with the St Louis Rams. They currently sit at 0-4 and have scored a league worst 46 points. But how could this be? The Rams have a 3-time Pro Bowl running back in Steven Jackson, a bright young quarterback in Sam Bradford, a stable of youthful wide receivers and an offensive line of expensive free agents and top draft picks.
Much of McDaniels failures up to this point can be attributed to pass protection. The Rams currently are on pace to allow 76 sacks this year, which would be historically bad number. So awful it would tie the expansion Houston Texans of 2002. Remember David Carr’s rookie year where he couldn’t go through more than one read and was absolutely crushed to the point his development was derailed? Would we want that happening to Donovan McNabb or even Christian Ponder as he learns from the sidelines? The other major problem has to do with the complexities of McDaniels offense. As a rookie Bradford thrived running a traditional West Coast offense under now head coach of the Browns Pat Shurmur. McDaniels scheme is derived from the West Coast offense, however relies more on 3 to 4 wide receiver sets as well as using a fullback or a tight end with relative frequency. The quarterback is required to gauge the defense after making the snap later making the most intelligent pass downfield. That works fine if you have a stellar offensive line (which neither the Vikings or Rams have) and/or excellent wide receivers (which the Rams don’t have and Vikings solely have Percy Harvin). Not to mention it takes an extremely savvy quarterback to determine his read progression during his dropback. Tom Brady did quite well in New England working with McDaniels; yet few quarterbacks are adaptable as Brady and that certainly applies to any quarterback we have on our roster.
Musgrave’s offense has been centered around Adrian, which is the way it should be. Good coaches build around their best players. The offense involves numerous plays running out of a two tight end sets or a traditional I-formation with one tight end and one fullback. The results thus far haven’t been spectacular, but lets see how the offense grows towards the later parts of the year. Lets see if either Christian Ponder or Joe Webb can run a nice play action bringing the defense in to then throw a 15-yards slant downfield to Kyle Rudolph. Lets see if Adrian can keep busting for runs longer than 20-yards with Ryan D’Imperio as his lead blocker. Lets see if Musgrave can improve his play calling to actually surprise defenses (sidenote, it’s a lot easier for play calling to look good when you have difference makers… one could easily argue both McNabb and Bernard Berrian add nothing — but we’ve covered that in other posts). There are things to look forward to.
If you were one clamoring for McDaniels in January, give Musgrave some more time to see what he can do. 1-4 is nothing to celebrate, but that’s one more win than the Rams currently have.
Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig