So apparently Gunther Cunningham disagrees with Mike and Kyle Shanahan on the subject of how safe it is for a quarterback to run the read option offense.
The Redskins’ head coach and offensive coordinator believes that the attack is safer than a traditional pocket passing attack in large part because the quarterback can usually see where the hits were coming from. Cunningham, the Lions’ defensive coordinator, doesn’t see it that way.
“The problem is for those quarterbacks, one of these days one of them is not going to walk off,” Cunningham told the Lions’ website. “It’s a lot of pressure on him to physically do that.”
A quarterback being helped off of the field and missing time after running a read option play is not something that happened last year. Robert Griffin III, who ran it extensively with the Redskins, suffered a knee injury when scrambling on a pass play. Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick missed nary a snap due to an injury.
Who else got dinged up last year? Ben Roethlisberger missed three games last year after injuring his right shoulder getting sacked in the pocket. The Chiefs’ Matt Cassel missed some time after sustaining a concussion while passing in the pocket. Michael Vick also got a concussion while working as a pocket passer and missed several games.
But for the most part NFL QB’s stayed remarkably healthy last year. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and see who missed some time:
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, sprained ankle--He got this while being sacked in the pocket. Big Ben missed one game and was limited in others.
- Colt McCoy, Browns, concussion--This is the injury that probably is the closest to the nightmare scenario envisioned for Griffin as McCoy was scrambling and was illegally hit helmet to helmet by James Harrison. He missed the last three games of the season
- Matt Schaub, Texans, Lisfranc--He was injured in a very dangerous place, in a pile of players during a quarterback sneak. Schaub missed the final six games and the playoffs.
- Peyton Manning, Colts, neck--There was no specific play that caused Manning’s injury, although Tony Dungy said that the issues may have started when he was hit in the pocket by the Redskins’ Phillip Daniels and Andre Carter. Regardless, we know it wasn’t caused when he was scrambling downfield because he didn’t do that.
- Mike Vick, Eagles, broken ribs--While Vick has been banged up while scrambling in the past, this particular injury came when he was hit in the pocket while completing a pass. He missed three games.
- Jay Cutler, Bears, broken thumb--This happened while Cutler was trying to get in on making the tackle after throwing an interception.
- Sam Bradford, Rams, high ankle sprain--The injury took place late in a blowout loss to the Packers while Bradford was getting hit in the pocket. Bradford was never right all year and missed a total of six games.
So, I guess Cunningham believes that teams aren’t going to allow quarterbacks to throw from the pocket or run quarterback sneaks because they could end up being carried off the field.
“I think we all understand what the issues are and how to play it,” Cunningham said. “I reflect back on my college days and it wasn’t that hard to remember all that stuff because it put a lot of pressure on me in those days and it does in this league too.”
The Redskins face the Lions, who were 4-12 last year, in Week 3 at FedEx Field. We’ll see how well Cunningham and his defense, which allowed 437 points last year (27.3/game, 27th in the NFL), “understand the issues” when going up against RG3 and matching wits with Kyle Shanahan.