Hobson's Choice: Conservative Or Committed?

Q: Why is it that with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and we are down by more than 10, we punt the ball, instead of taking some chances? We have been way too conservative with running the ball on third and long(s), and not taking chances on fourth and short(s).
--Chase F., Orlando, FL

CHASE: When you have difficulty running the ball, they call you too conservative. When you run it well, you're called committed to the run.

A major reason for the failure of last season's offense, in my opinion, was the inability to be able to line up and smash it and I think it's because they got away from that a little bit in the No Huddle. The only way you're going to get it back is to do it over and over.

Obviously they're far from that point because two yards seems like two miles, but if you stop doing it because you can't, you never will.

Sure, if short yardage keeps becoming an adventure, they have to look at personnel. But if you can't get two yards on the ground, your QB is doomed.

Certainly they are big and strong enough up front to get those yards. Yet the last two weeks make you wonder a little bit about the decision to cut Rudi Johnson. He's a perfect short-yardage back and Chris Perry has admitted he's still trying to get in tune with the holes and his cuts. Perry can pop the big one like Johnson can't, but is there room on the roster for a short-yardage specialist?

(But when Johnson didn't practice in camp as he nursed a hamstring injury, they felt he cut himself.)

It all gets back to doing it over and over. Perry still hasn't hefted the ball in his NFL career as much as Rudi did in his first month on the job in November of '03, so he needs the work, too.

I see where you're coming from. You don't always have to run it on third-and-two. Against Tennessee they had five plays of third-and-two or third-and-one and had three runs and two passes. They only made one of them and that was running.

Tough way to make a living. Short yardage has to better, damn near 100 percent, so that's awful. But I don't think throwing is the answer or that balance is the answer. Being able to smash it is.

By the way, I believe the punt you're talking about came after one of those failed third-and-twos. Palmer had his pass batted down at the Bengals 46 with 13:09 left in the game and trailing, 24-7.

That's just too early to give them a short field. The defense had been playing well enough to get the ball back and they did in less than three minutes.

With 10:25 left, they still had a shot to tie the game with two touchdowns and a field goal. Going for it on fourth with that much time left I think would have been irresponsible.


Q: Time for some new leadership? Let Carson take a break and let Ryan try. Maybe Carson needs some time off. He hasn't looked good in preseason or the first two games. I am not saying he is a bad QB, but sometimes you need to take some time off to clear your mind. We need a QB who can run against the Giants and pass. Face. it Carson is not getting it done. We can blame the wind if you want, but the Titans were in the same wind. I would hate to see more terrible years. We've still got a chance. But we have to win this weekend to make a statement.
--Josh R., Hillsboro, OH

JOSH: With all due respect to you and Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting him against the Giants with Carson on the bench would be making a mockery instead of a statement.

Fitzpatrick is a fine player and I think he's good enough to have a career where he can start 100 games. But you're talking about benching the heart-and-soul of your team now that Willie Anderson is gone before you play the Super Bowl champions on the road. You can't do it. It doesn't heighten your chance to win, I don't care how badly he's playing. It doesn't upgrade you at the position and it would be a stunning move psychologically to everyone involved. A real non-starter, so to speak.

Palmer has hit some bad times, no question. But at the very least he's earned the right to play himself out of a slump. He may have awful numbers right now, but this is no fly-by-night guy.

The only thing that has more short term memory loss than pro sports is politics.

This guy was the MVP of a division title in '05 and in '06 he would have repeated with an 11-5 team if three plays went the other way (Justin Smith sack in Tampa, Chris Henry's 75-yard touchdown in Denver, Shayne Graham's field goal against Pittsburgh.)

They didn't go the other way, but here is a guy who has a history of stringing you into playoff contention.

It would be akin to benching Ken Anderson in favor of John Reaves during 1978 or Boomer Esiason in favor of Turk Schonert in 1987. What would that have done to their psyches in bad years and would it have prevented their MVP seasons of 1981 and 1988, respectively?

Plus, if there is any group of guys on this team that has the best chance of leading them out of this offensive mess and get on a roll again, it is this quarterback and these two receivers because they've done it before.

I'm a big Fitzy guy. But you can't do it. Shouldn't do it.  

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