After reading Danzig's excellent statistical analysis posted here and commentary on Glenn Dickey's surprisingly informative article posted by Hydro, I can't help but feel compelled to give my opinion on the subject. We're less than a month away from Cal football and I'm getting excited just thinking about it. For the first time in seven months my dad and I reignited the Longshore/ Riley debate.
I think the main difference between the Longshore camp and the Riley camp on this site is how one approaches football. Those who support Longshore point primarily to statistics which reflect his talent. I have to admit, after reading Danzig's post I was shocked at how well Longshore played in certain games. I thought Dickey's piece was particularly illuminating in the sense that it illustrates how Longshore obviously takes a technical approach to the game. His instinct is to check all five options as he searches for the hole that must exist in the defensive scheme. When he succeeds it's perfection (ie. offensive stats that are off the charts; see early 2007). When he fails it results in sacks and injuries. Besides being a classy guy (from everything I've heard), this must be why Tedford loves coaching him. He's the perfect student.
However, although Longshore is obviously very intelligent and has a strong understanding of the game, this is in fact his biggest weakness. He plays football like it's a video game when in fact football is something else. I played football in high school on the offensive line. I suffered from slow white man's syndrome and while I wasn't the biggest kid or the strongest kid, I was a decent player because I knew the play book inside and out. I understood how to operate with technical and tactical precession. Look at any intelligence survey from the NFL and you'll find that o-linemen are at the top. With that said, I was an absolute mess on defense. I spent my freshman year of high school as a third string middle linebacker and when I got in the game I was confused. My brain needs a strategy and I lacked the ability to read and react to what was happening. I was incapable of forgetting everything from practice and just hitting someone. To me, that has always been Nate's biggest problem. When a play goes wrong he's constantly thinking about what could have been improved. Perhaps the receiver should have run the route differently, or maybe he should have stepped out of the pocket sooner. It's all technical analysis. That's not playing football but rather it is thinking about football. Had Nate just reacted to the situation he might have made a first down. Watch any Longshore game and when a play goes wrong you can see the focus on technical mistakes in his eyes as he politely tries to communicate to his teammates or Tedford what went afoul. The kid thinks too much.
So why Riley? Well, look at the Dickey article. Riley will look to option 1, and option 2, and then he looks to make his own play. That's what my coaches used to call "reading and reacting." The best football players learn the plays but understand that the game is technical only in a limited sense. This isn't Madden football and no play is going to work every time. Although I respect it, that's why statistical analysis is so silly in football. You can complete every pass on first and second down but miss every pass on third down and yet you'll still have a 66% completion rate. We all know that the game is determined by four or five big plays. Consistency is a factor, but is basically irrelevant in a close college football game. You only have to deliver on those important plays.
Nate's a nice kid but he doesn't have "it." There's a difference between being able to throw a sixty yard pass from your knees and leading men. Let's watch Aaron Rodgers this year. The ESPN pundits think he's going to be a disaster. I think they'll be in for a shock. As for Kevin, he blew one of the biggest games in Cal history and yet came back and won the bowl game against Air Force. The kid is a winner. Nate is a prodigy who would make a great offensive coordinator and maybe a decent backup in the NFL. My hunch is that Tedford sees Nate as what he could have been had he had the pure athletic talent. That's why he's so loyal to Nate.
-The Guy Who Used to Post as "Ted" on the Old Site