Friday, September 14, 2012

Rage Valley: Brandon Paster (QB - WAS)

While watching the Olympics it occurred to me that while it is readily apparent that Usain Bolt is an absurdly fast human being (some might say the fastest ever), it is very difficult to get perspective on just how fast he is running while watching it on television.  Usain Bolt's world record time is 9.58 in the 100m dash.  Sweet.  What the fuck does that mean?

A thought came to me.  Why don't they stick a normal civilian in Lane 1 to give us a better sense of his speed?

I'm not talking about putting your average Joe American in there to lumber down the sideline (although you could and it would be pretty entertaining) but someone who is reasonably young and athletic.  I consider myself a reasonably fast runner, put me out there and everyone can see me at the 60 yard marker while Usain does his patented celebration and understand how goddamn fast he is.  Or better yet, put me out on the 50 yard marker to start and watch him chase me down.  Hell, put a chainsaw in his hands to add a little haunted house fear element.  Imagine how scared you would've been in that haunted house if you looked back and instead of a deranged killer or oddly-armed zombie chasing you down it was Usain fucking Bolt.  Now that shit would be terrifying.

Another thought struck me today while half-reading an article about Robert Griffin III and his first-game success in the NFL.  I wondered: "What would happen if you stuck me in an NFL offense and just let me play a full game, regardless of the score, regardless of my (lack of) success.  How would I do?"

With the intent of hitting a larger percentage of my target audience, I will go ahead and replace Robert Griffin III in the Redskins offense in this upcoming week's game in St. Louis.  This is also with the intent of giving me a chance to win the game.

A rundown of my abilities as an athlete/quarterback:
-5' 11" 170 lbs...we're going to take me from 2 months ago before I laid on a couch for weeks and food-binged, so there is actually some muscle there.
-I can run pretty fast.  I've always wondered how I would stack up against decently mobile NFL quarterbacks and would like to think I'm faster than the Mannings but a touch slower than Aaron Rodgers.
-I have pretty good arm strength for someone who never played quarterback competitively.  20 yards downfield is well in my range of an accurate ball, 30 yards on a good day, and I could maybe launch a 50-yard bomb if I had to.  I think.  I honestly have no idea how far I can throw the ball in terms of yardage.
-I have very good hands, in the event of an errant snap or the vaunted QB screen from NCAA Football ~'04 (it may still be in the game but I'm not sure).
-My athletic Achilles heel is jumping high but I like to think that I have "game ups."  Fortunately jumping isn't much of a required attribute for a QB.
-Football experience: 3 seasons at WR/CB/KR for my intramural co-ed flag football team.  1 season as QB (read: running back) for a different co-ed flag football team.
-The second team lost in the championship game where I was flagged perhaps 5 times for throwing past the line of scrimmage and completed maybe 3 passes.  It was also raining, I have small hands that grip wet balls poorly (heyooo), and I was benched by one of my WR's late in the second half of a blowout.

A quick rulebook for how this scenario would go down:
-We will assume that I have knowledge of the entire Redskins playbook and have replaced Griffin in all of the film-sessions for the week leading up to the game.  I have not, however, taken a single snap in practice but my ability to throw miraculously translates flawlessly while wearing pads.
-The Redskins would be allowed to adjust their gameplan for having a slower (if just barely) quarterback in the game.
-Similarly, long downfield passes would not be called, unless it is an HB option where I have tossed to Evan Royster.
-We are assuming that Evan Royster has greater arm-strength than Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. for no other reason than that he is from Fairfax, Virginia (I went to Fairfax High School).
-Aside from these adjustments, the offense must stick to a normal gameplan balancing the pass and the run.
-The defense must likewise call a normal gameplan as if they were playing a semi-experienced NFL quarterback such as say, Sam Bradford.
-I am assumed to be in good enough shape to play an entire NFL game.
-A spell has been cast upon me to make me game-ending-injury proof, but a sack/hit/touch will still hurt like a motherfucker.
-I am never in danger of being benched.

It's a sunny, 73 and humid day in St. Louis, but none of that matters as we're playing in a dome.  I drive to the game with my father who seems to think it is just one more travel soccer game from my youth and is anxiously imparting his advice, "Stay on your feet Brandon, you're always on the ground."  Thanks Dad.

I have a special treat lined up with the PA announcer to give me an entry song even though we are playing an away game.  I told him I'm cheering for the Rams before the game, so I enter ready to rage:

Pre-game warmups go by in a blur and before you know it I am at the center of the field standing across Stephen Jackson and Sam Bradford for the coin toss.  I have been chosen as a captain in my first and only game with the team.  My locker room presence is undeniable.  I call heads, we win the toss and elect to defer.  Sam Bradford looks at me with his kind of Asian-looking eyes, the only part of him that at all portrays his 1/16th Cherokee-heritage, smiles, and chooses to kick.  Sam Bradford once again makes my life hell.

Brandon Banks drops back to receive the kick and in a rare occurrence in the NFL gets a chance to return.  With tantalizing speed and an incredible knack for finding the running lanes, Banks has a solid return to the 36-yard line where we setup offense.

The first play calls for a WR screen to Aldrick Robinson who is starting in place of Pierre Garcon, who was too much of a bitch to play through his foot pain.  I slide my hands under the taint of center Will Montgomery and stare into the eyes of James Laurinaitis and wonder why I chose to look into the eyes of the hardest Ram to spell.

I handle the snap cleanly and look left quickly to throw the safety off, adjust my feet right and find Aldrick Robinson with his defender ten-yards off of him, apparently unaware that I would struggle to throw the ball to where he is already.  I pull my arm back to drill a spiral into Drick's chest (my new locker-room nickname for him) and let loose.

The ball flies out of my hand end-over-end and drops lamely, 10 feet in front of Drick's feet.  I forgot to put my hand on the laces.  At least the ball traveled forward for an incomplete pass.

I sulk back into the huddle, embarrassed, but my locker-room presence has earned the loyalty of my teammates and I know they will fight for me every down this game, regardless of the score.  No Randy Mosses here.

Second down calls for an HB toss to the right and Alfred Morris barrels through a weak-tackling Rams D for 8 yards, setting up 3rd-and-short.  Evan Royster runs on to the field and calls the play in the huddle himself, a HB screen to the right.  The play calls for left tackle Trent Williams to push Rams DE Chris Long upfield and then slide to block for Royster on the right.  I hike the ball and he executes the block perfectly but I see Chris Long hurtling upfield and react as I would playing Madden in 2005...taking off towards my own endzone as my 5-step drop turns into about 14.  I see Royster open with a pack of blockers, launch myself off my backfoot, and immediately find that it is considerably more difficult to throw off your backfoot while sprinting than it is in Madden, my pass falling feebly to the ground 10-yards short of Royster.  Long reaches me as I release the ball and his light push sends me somersaulting into my own endzone, an impressive 41 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

As the Special Teams unit jogs onto the field I swear I hear Evan Royster say to one of the lineman, "I told you Fairfax sucked at football."  A fair point from a former Robinson Ram, a team which routinely trounced us.

Our defense holds strong.  No one is surprised.  The Rams are missing 3 starters from their offensive line and their offense focuses on game management rather than scoring.  Standards for a successful drive are low with Sam Bradford attempting a pass more than 15-yards downfield often drawing applause from surprised fans.

We get the ball with good field position again and this time Shanahan calls for a first down run up the middle with Morris gaining 6.  I hear Shanahan in my ear calling for another WR screen to Robinson.  The Rams should probably know this is coming as the Redskins ran 4 WR screens on their first 6 plays in week 1 but they are backed off Robinson again and I focus on hitting him with an accurate pass and unleash a spiral that hits him in the chest.

The pass takes so long to get there that Cortland Finnigan and the ball reach my wideout simultaneously and he is lifted off of his feet and drilled onto his back.  "DRICK!!!" I shout to him in alarm as I run over to the first friend of mine I've ever seen hit so hard.  But as I approach he is already getting to his feet, ready for the next play and I remember that such violent hits are par for the course in the NFL.  Then I remember that Cortland Finnigan is a douchebag and I shout, "Don't make me go Andre Johnson on your ass" as he walks away.  I can tell he's intimidated.

From here out I realize that each pass must not only be as accurate as possible, but I need to put everything, and I mean everything, into every throw.  Seeing the NFL in game-speed makes me realize that I make Chad Pennington's arm look like John Elway throwing a nerf ball.

Third down calls for a quick slant to Josh Morgan in the slot and I hit him with a dart.  I ask for the ball to be kept as a momento.  I also ask how Josh Morgan landed a starting job after a very underwhelming start to his career in San Francisco.

The play is called back for an illegal shift.  I still ask for the ball.

Shanahan calls in another HB screen and this time I am mentally prepared.  I drop back 5 steps and stop, find Helu in the flat, hit him with a nice pass and he scampers 18 yards for the first down.  I keep this ball too.

From here I begin to settle into my zone, completing passes every fourth attempt or so, and while this drive and the following seven end in punts or turnovers, we manage to scatter in a few first downs, one of them even in the air.  I keep the first down marker.

Amongst the punts I also found myself lying underneath some combination of the bodies and limbs of almost a thousand pounds of men: Chris Long, Kendall Langford, and my own guard Kory Lichtensteiger, my first NFL sack.  With the breath crushed from my lungs and lights sparkling in my vision, I took heed of the advice learned from Rocky movies, "look strong when you are weak, and weak when you are strong."  I taunted Chris Long, a UVA alum, famous academic rivals of my own alma mater, "William and Mary is a better school than UVA.  Michael Strahan provides better coverage than your dad on FOX NFL Sunday and is better looking than you too."  A ref overhears the last bit and finds it so offensive he flags me for taunting.  I keep the flag.

Late in the third quarter, with our team trailing 19-0 (4 FGs and a TD for the Rams, largely a product of incredible field position throughout the game), Brandon Banks takes a short kickoff back to the Rams 27-yard line and suddenly we are in business.  Feeling the rush of adrenaline from the return I find Fred Davis on a seam route that gets us all the way down to the 6.  Shanahan tightens up and calls two runs up the middle and the Rams defense gives but doesn't break, and we find ourselves 3rd-and-goal on the 2, when Evan Royster jogs onto the field.  He wants to punch it up the gut one more time, but I've got something else in mind.  The ball is hiked and I toss to Royster on the right with a legion of blockers in front of him but the Rams are stacked at the line and follow him wide.  Then, abruptly, Royster stops, plants his feet, and launches a strike all the way across the field where I have sauntered alone into the left corner of the end zone.  I make the reception and its time to dance.  In preparation for this moment I have taught my teammates the infamous Bob N' Weave, the celebration used by the Rams during the legendary Greatest Show on Turf.  A crowd gathers around me in the end zone where I lead my team in the dance and as we collectively rise from our positions we look around to see a sea of yellow around us.  We are flagged for 13 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, team celebrations were outlawed by the league in the early 2000's in large part due to the Rams' Bob N' Weave.

Sadly, this is our only moment of celebration for the game.  I finish the 22-7 defeat 9/29 for 87 yards, 3 INTs, 0 TDs.  Somewhere, Derek Anderson applauds my effort.  The benefit of not having an NFL arm is that it makes it very hard for defenders to catch your passes, not just your receivers.  My catch stands proudly as the highlight of the game and I even manage to scramble 9 times for 44 yards but my propensity to bring the ball down and try to run also leads to 11 sacks.  I run out of bad things to say to Chris Long and talking hurts too badly anyway.

I can't walk after the game for 3 weeks and don't eat solids for the first 2.

The effort lands me the backup QB job in St. Louis.  Rams beat writers celebrate the improvement over Kellen Clemens.

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