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WEEK 5 CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND: The Folly of “Skill Positions”
My friends, THE GURU understands that football, like my wardrobe, is full of contradictions.
We love explosive offenses but insist that “defense wins championships.” Coaches want players to be aggressive but elect to punt the ball on fourth down with a yard or two to go. Broadcasters call some guys “skill position” players while ignoring the prowess it takes to master other spots on the field.
Of the three contradictions above, the most maddening is the use of the term “skill positions” to refer to players that are most likely to handle the football and score. I’m speaking, of course, of the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. The pretty boys, you know, the kind of cologne-wearing, hair-focused player that THE TRE MAN longs to be. My own flesh and blood, a ballhandling traitor.
The issue with the term “skill position,” in my view, is the implication that QB, RB, WR and TE are (a) the only spots that require skill or (b) the roles that require the most skill. Truth be told, neither assertion is correct and great football minds from the past and present back me up.
To be sure, those positions require skills aplenty but, as football is a strategic game with a lot of moving parts, specialized ability is needed at every position on the field, from offense to defense to special teams.
What is a skill, defined? Well, according to the learned experts at Oxford, it is the ability to do something well; expertise.” Makes sense to me.
Now, considering that definition, tell me which football position doesn’t require specialized skills. That’s what I thought. We all understand that every position requires unique skills for players to do their jobs effectively.
Take a position we know and love, the middle linebacker. This guy should be a man’s man, the kind of dude with whom one would glad share their Chapstick. Strength is imperative, of course, but he must possess the skill to put his teammates in the right position, to quickly diagnose what the offense is doing and act – and react – in a split second. And, once he gets near the ballcarrier, he must use good technique to take the runner to the ground.
That to me, is skill, and it doesn’t end there. Look at every single position on the field and we see skilled folks doing their jobs. From the oft-anonymous players, like long snappers and offensive and defensive linemen, to those we know well, like receivers and defensive backs. All requiring talent and a unique skillset.
At day’s end, I suppose my rant begs a question: if we aren’t going to use the term “skill player,” then what should we call those quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends?
I’d suggest a simple term: ballhandlers. This group would include the four pretty boy spots and several others: the center, who handles the ball on every offensive play, as well as all kicks and punts as a longsnapper; the kicker, who touches the rock on each of the plays in which he is on the field; and the punter, who does the same. These are your ballhandlers, the guys who have direct responsibility for what happens with the football.
For those who would disagree with my inclusion of those that are highly unlikely to score TDs – the specialists – I would say this: the plays in which these individuals participate are, on average, critical to scoring and/or field position and, thus, the outcome of the game. Field goals, punts, kickoffs – these are all potentially game-changing plays.
Beyond ballhandlers, other players could be divided into various categories. Offensive linemen could be defined as blockers, in a nod to their most noteworthy skill; defensive linemen could be tacklers and/or rushers, depending upon their primary roles within their teams; and linebackers and defensive backs could be cover defenders and/or tacklers, etc., etc.
Bottom line: by changing the descriptors, we’d recognize the skills of every player on the field, instead of implying that various positions require more skills than others.
Who is with me? Do I see a hand in the back? Thank you, sir!
Thanks for your support though I know that I’m on an island with my picks, now sitting at 32-33 (.492) after the Colts took down the Broncos in OT on Thursday night. As I flail away, let’s try a little something different this week and see how I fare when I’m matched against a blindfolded buffoon. Check out this video and see the full list of picks below.
Enjoy the games and God bless you and yours!
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