I've always had a hard time listening to ex-NFL players call a football game on TV. I've often wondered exactly what kind of interview process these guys have to go through in order to land a job. I also wonder how bad the guys that DON'T get the jobs have to be.
This year has been particularly frustrating. The guys over at Fishduck have harped for years about how none of the national commentators covering college footbal really understand Chip Kelly's offense. Seems this has now been adopted at the NFL level where guys are likely even more lazy. I mean, I get it, these guys played the game. They were players, not some casual fan. They know this stuff. Well, I have had to listen to the likes of Brian Billick, and yes, even Troy Aikman (one of the better commentators on TV) butcher descriptions of what Chip and the Eagles are trying to do. Daryl "Moose" Johnson gets the latest award. He rambled on incessantly about how Matt Barkley had the keeper all day long and the Giants were giving it to him. Anyone find it strange that while he kept obsessing about it, they never bothered to show any replays to prove his point?
Let's have a look. There are actually 3 things to point out here:
1) The "read-option" is NOT ALWAYS ON. Sometimes the run/pass decision is called in the huddle, so while a play may appear to be the read option, it might not be on at all.
2) Matt actually was not given room to run on most occasions, and even if all those plays actually had a "read-option" component, he made the right decision the majority of the time.
3) It's important to pay attention to OL play when understanding what Chip and the offense is running.
Pics to come after you click
Let's start with a picture of Mike Vick earlier in the game running the inside zone read. This will be useful in the discussion. The point here, is in order to tell if the QB makes the right "read" and chooses the right "option" is to simply pause the film at the mesh point. Couple of things to point out here. Jason Peters collapses down the line and Kiwanuka is left unblocked. This is the "unblocked" defender. The yellow arrow represents Vick's read. Kiwanuka is keeping Vick honest and is not crashing down to stop the run. You can even see the impact Vick has with the LB behind the LOS. In this case, Vick makes the right read and hands off.
Now let's take a look at Barkley's reads. The first thing that "Moose" failed to point out is that the Eagles were by and large NOT leaving an unblocked defender on the DL. The other thing Moose failed to point out was that while the Giants DL was crashing down on the run, they pretty consistently kept a DB to protect on the backside contain. Because we were blocking the DL up front, this DB became the read. Here's what Barkley saw time and time again:
Here were some outside zone reads and read sweeps where we generally leave an interior DL unblocked:
So you are going to sit there and tell me that the Giants were giving Barkley the keeper ALL DAY LONG? Where are the running lanes for Mike Vick, much less the guy who runs a 4.9 40 and actually makes Nick Foles appear MOBILE?
There were read option plays, IMO, that maybe Barkley should have kept and ran. There was this one on 3rd and 2. #24 is responsible for backside contain, but he comes pretty hard down the line:
Here's the post mesh look paused a split second after Barkley hands off. Perhaps Barkley could have run for the 1st down here, but on this shot, does anyone have much confidence that Matt Barkley is going to get to the sticks for the 1st down on this one?:
Here's the other, where Barkley definitely should have kept. This is one of the few inside zone reads we ran with Barkley where the DE was left unblocked. In this case, Justin Tuck:
As to why the Eagles even bothered running this play with Barkley if he was no threat to run. Again, do some homework Moose and Goose. Everyone and their dog who have followed Chip Kelly in his days at Oregon all the way up to his early days in Philadelphia realizes that the inside zone is Chip Kelly's bread and butter, go to work play. Barkley is a rookie and admitted he got very few reps this past week. Learning to run the inside zone is like Grade 1 in the Chip Kelly offense. It likely makes up a large component of what Barkley is most comfortable with in this offense. Matt Barkley is the #3 QB on this team and he is a rookie to boot. Those guys generally don't have fully knowledge of the entire playbook, much less experience and practice reps running it.