It’s a mystery that NFL execs and coaches have been trying to solve for ages. How many creative ways are left in an NFL playbook to inventively make use of a phenomenal athlete without a definitive position? The question weighs even more heavily upon athletes at the NFL’s most important position – quarterback.
Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch are Jacksonville’s Sherlock Holmes and Watson, currently roaming the Jaguars practice facility, scouring playbooks for clues to answer that question when it comes to malleable playmaker Denard Robinson.
The Jaguars quarterback situation is arguably the league’s worst. Their 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert has been a waste of space, consumed in an offseason battle with career backup Chad Henne.
An old adage about quarterback platoons that’s been proven over time says that if you have two quarterbacks, you have none. If you have three, then you’re the New York Jets offense.
Robinson became known as Shoelace in his hometown of Deerfield Beach because of his blazing speed and propensity to buck trends by not tying his shoes when he ran. On his first play from scrimmage as a Michigan Wolverine true freshman, his dreads and shoelaces were flapping in the wind for 43 yards to the house. The Jaguars coaching staff isn’t tying him down to a single position, either.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Jags have designated Robinson as a mysterious “OW” on their depth chart, short for offensive weapon, after lining him up in the shotgun at quarterback during OTAs last month.
The Jags fan base that was desperate for Tim Tebow was denied by Jacksonville’s front office that sought a distraction-free locker room. Robinson’s projected role clearly signals that it wasn’t Tebow’s skills, per se, that turned them off. Robinson broke a litany of collegiate rushing records, but his throwing mechanics and duck-duck-goose passes make Tebow look like Warren Moon.
The NFL’s inception of the wildcat offense in the mid-2000s created a false hope for a generation of John Doe quarterbacks without an offensive identity. The goal is to keep defenses guessing, in hopes of fooling them with a few big gains. In the end, though, it’s a Chinese finger trap.
Many have tried, but none have succeeded. The forward pass is king, and relying heavily on quarterbacks with borderline passing skills is like bringing a bayonet to a shootout. Denver’s single-wing option offense gave it a new look. Tebow was the Hope Diamond of the modern single-wing/Wildcat quarterback, but his unique skill set has only produced a marginal NFL signal caller who’s been pawned off like cubic zirconia. The Jags’ plans to experiment with their 4.43/40 quarterback is akin to Nicki Minaj’s newest lace front wig. You can change the look, but it’s the same result every time.
After getting drafted in the second round, Pat White was trumpeted as the Dolphins’ ‘Great White Wildcat Hope’ in 2010. Ironically, fellow Wolverine Chad Henne was de facto starter Chad Pennington’s backup at the time. White fizzled out in one season.
The glaringly obvious knock against Robinson is his diminutive size. Quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Doug Flutie and Drew Brees have circumvented those glass ceilings before, with precision passing skills, high releases, next-level understanding of offenses and their shoulder cannons. Robinson has more speed to burn, but he’s rocking a water pistol that disqualifies him from becoming a viable dual-threat. His frame is too slight and his bones are too fragile to play running back.
So where does that leave him as a pro?
Jags offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch should be spending their OTA time converting him into a slot receiver instead of interloping him at several positions where he won’t stick. There was a time when it appeared the Wildcat experiment would pan out, but the failures over time have jaded many and proved it to be a frivolous expenditure of energy. Robinson could develop into a dangerous receiver, but if they mismanage his career by yanking him around the offense, that potential may never have a chance to flourish. He's has been open to playing another position and the Jags should listen.