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NFL Unfiltered Week 14: Patriots, Packers, Robert Griffin III, and more!

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Robert Griffin III and the NFL’s other uber-athletic quarterbacks have ushered in an exciting brand of offense.  There are pistol formations, read options and plenty of superhuman sprints to the goal line.  
 
But while fans and talking heads marvel at highlights, the truth is Griffin III, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are lacking the football acumen to run a more traditional NFL offense right now.  Robert Griffin III photo: nfl.si.com

I am by no means saying they aren’t intelligent enough to play quarterback.  Let me repeat that another way.  There is no question in my mind all three are capable of learning to play quarterback the way Hall of Famer Steve Young did. I am simply saying they don’t have enough experience to do it today and their coaches know it. That’s why they’re trying to get by with trickery.  

Washington Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan has one of the best offensive minds in all of football.  And based on his use of Griffin III, there is some truth to that assertion.  

If you are one of the three people who read ‘Unfiltered (thanks, Dawn) you know I have criticized Shanahan, Ron Rivera and the merits of any offense predicated on a quarterback’s super-heroic running exploits.  

But I have softened my stance.  I now believe Griffin III, Newton and Kaepernick came to the NFL with major quarterbacking deficits, and their coaches are doing the best they can to keep them on the field.  Cam Newton photo: businessinsider.com

My epiphany actually came from Young.  He recently made me realize there is nothing overly advanced about the Redskins’ offense.  He eloquently pointed out that the read option is merely an illusion.  It gives young quarterbacks clean looks at ordinary pass patterns.      

Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is bringing his young quarterback along in a similar fashion.  He knows Kaepernick played in a very productive but gimmicky offense at the University of Nevada.  But instead of asking Kaepernick to decipher opposing defenses, he is trying to remove all the guesswork.       

Newton won the national championship at Auburn and did it with a less than complicated playbook.  I don’t know how many plays the Tigers had in 2010, but it seemed like Newton ran the same ten.  And of course Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy by simply being the best athlete on the field every game.  

Each one of the league’s new-age quarterbacks played mostly away from center and each had the freedom to run as often as he pleased.  But, while wildly successful as collegians, their offenses severely limited their ability to mentally challenge NFL defenses.

Sure, they will have historic games- like the one Newton had Sunday when he became the first player in league history to pass for at least 250 yards, run for at least 100 yards and have a rushing and passing touchdown in one game.

We are also likely to see more 50-yard runs similar to Kaepernick’s, as he has one in the last two games.  But do you believe that kind of production is sustainable in the NFL?  

Eventually, injury or ineffectiveness gets the best of every supremely athletic quarterback unless he prepares himself for the day his legs can’t save him.  

Do you think Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick (both of whom were just as athletic as today’s group) wish they could go back and play in an offense where the read option is a staple?  Or do they regret not properly learning the nuances of quarterbacking like Young? Colin Kaepernick photo: Thearon W Henderson Getty Images

I am certainly not suggesting the newest crop of athletes stop running altogether because a quarterback should keep drives going by occasionally using his legs to scamper for first downs. But it shouldn’t be the fabric of the offense.  

In my view, Griffin III, Newton and Kaepernick all possess the intellect to dominate NFL defenses without playing like a running back.  But they must recognize the need to develop their football minds.  

If they don’t, we’ll remember them as much for their unfulfilled potential as we do their breathtaking moments.  

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WEEK 14 OBSERVATIONS
What the pundits can’t or won’t say

At this point, it’s easier to simply say you don’t like Vick rather than say he can’t play.  

Here’s hoping former Giants’ tailback Tiki Barber has a strong support system, because he must feel like Michael Strahan is living the life he yearned to have.  

Somewhere, former Titans and Eagles quarterback Vince Young must wonder why his running ability never became the focal point of the offenses he played in.  

The firing of Cam Cameron should once and for all silence the Joe Flacco apologists.  If he were that good, the Ravens wouldn’t have an identity crisis…and Cameron would still have a job.  

Mike Tomlin is going to seriously challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers’ long-standing commitment to its head coaches.  

The Cardinals are another example of why I believe every coach becomes a genius when a good quarterback is around.  In about 5 years, nobody will remember Ken Whisenhunt narrowly lost Super Bowl XLIII. They’ll only remember Kurt Warner was really good and John Skelton wasn’t.  

Nick Foles has a chance to start in the NFL, but the Eagles are fooling themselves if they don’t take a quarterback in the first round next April.  

Raheem Morris made mistakes, but he won 10 games with the Buccaneers, something Greg Schiano won’t do this season.

It’s another week for the national talking heads to fawn over the Packers.  But the only real difference between them today and last week is their opponent. Lots of teams get well playing the Detroit Lions.    

They say teams take on the personality of their coaches.  That must explain why the Lions play with a Napoleon complex.  

Top 4 this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).

1. New England Patriots (10-3) – The bullies are back but the 49ers defense is different.       

2. Houston Texans (11-2) – Three straight road games is always a lot to ask.  

3. Atlanta Falcons (11-2) – We’re all just waiting for their season to end.   

4. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) – They’ll need to win 2 of 3 to ensure a playoff bye.         

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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RG III photo: nfl.si.com

Newton photo: businessinsider.com

Colin Kaepernick photo: Thearon W Henderson Getty Images