Jimmy Garoppolo was very tough when he dug for an extra yard at the five yard line, instead of running safely out of bounds. That decision destroyed this season for the Niners.
Carson Wentz did the same thing for the Eagles. He got a touchdown instead of a yard for his trouble, but neither tradeoff made the least bit of sense.
CJ Beathard has stood tall and proud in the pocket, taking a beating worse than Sylvester Stallone got in the original Rocky. If the team trainer asked to slice his eyelid open with a razor so that he could finish a game, I don’t think anyone doubts that he would eagerly say yes.
I hate that toughness.
It helps no one. It hurts the quarterback, and it hurts the team.
I mean, I get it. It’s incredibly brave for a quarterback to risk serious injury in an attempt to help the team. I could never do it, but I am admittedly a wuss. I’m afraid of cold showers. That’s why I’m a writer, not a player. That and a complete lack of talent. But I digress.
There was a time when military generals literally led their troops into battle. They were the first person running at the enemy, with the troops behind them. That time ended. You know why? Because great generals got killed, and they are hard to come by. Entire nations were destroyed because their leaders wanted to be “tough.”
More deadly weapons were a big part of that change in military tactics. And the weapons in the NFL are a lot more deadly these days, too, except that the weapons in the NFL are people — lethal combinations of size and speed such as Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.
It’s understandable that quarterbacks have trouble adjusting to the lethality of these opponents. No one in history has faced such dangers. But they can watch film, and listen to coaches, and listen to their bodies after they take the hits that toughness brings.
Nick Mullens hasn’t displayed that sort of “toughness” — and I hope he never does. When he’s in the pocket, he looks anxious, desperate to get rid of the ball as soon as possible — and that’s great. It’s not just common sense, it’s smart football.
Not just because he avoids hits that can cripple him (and the team), but because every second gives linebackers and defensive backs more time see the situation and make a play. Quick-hit passes keep them off guard and reduce the risk of interceptions, strip sacks, and wide receivers destroyed the second they catch the ball.
Besides, we know that the most important ability of a quarterback is the ability to diagnose the situation and respond as quickly as possible. Each tough hit dings the old noggin a little, slowing reaction time incrementally but steadily.
So, I say “down with toughness!” Have Nick Mullens teach a little fear to CJ Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo. They could use it.