Why do we watch the Pro Bowl? It certainly isn’t riveting television. There is very little drama to the game. Fans of good defense have nothing to do for those 3 hours. So why watch? The answer for me, and I’m guessing several of you is to watch my favorite teams’ players. This was the first Pro Bowl I’ve watched in quite some time, and it had everything to do with 6 Cleveland Browns playing in the game. We want to see our players mix it up with the best the game has to offer, assuming of course the best players actually go. We hope that maybe one of ‘our guys’ will have a really good game and possibly be named the MVP. Coaches and front office types just want to see their investments stay healthy. Nobody in Cleveland was happy with yesterday’s version of the game.
I’m not going to start the “who should start next year” or the “We should trade him while he’s valuable” debate again. I have to call it like I saw it, and that could have been the worst performance by a QB in the history of the Pro Bowl. Derek Anderson looked absolutely awful. He was as much to blame for the loss as anyone on the field.
In case you didn’t watch it, Anderson played pretty much the entire second half. He was handed a lead, and managed to lead the team to one lowly field goal, which was aided by two 15 yard penalties on the defense putting them into range. Officially Anderson was 10 for 26, 103 yards passing, a fumble, an interception, and was sacked twice. Unofficially, he should have thrown two more interceptions, but they were dropped. Hashmarks, Matt Mosley’s ESPN football blog graded Derek out with a D. (The rookie comment simply means it was his first Pro Bowl.)
Derek Anderson, Browns (D) — The AFC (unfairly?) put the game in the rookie’s hands, and he couldn’t deliver. But he’ll be back.
“When you’re behind, it can be a difficult challenge when the defense rises up a bit,” Cowboys QB Tony Romo said in defense of Anderson.
I would have to disagree with both Mosley and Romo. Anderson deserves an F. The Pro Bowl has certain rules about the types of defense that you are allowed to play. If you watched the game you know that the NFC was flagged three times for infractions of these rules. There was an official upstairs who would watch the play and then signal down to the field if he saw an abuse of these rules, resulting in a 15 yard penalty. The rules stipulate that defensive backs are not allowed to use press coverage, which means they aren’t permitted to line up directly across from the receiver and jam them at the line. In fact with as far back as the cornerbacks had to play, they were pretty much out of the 5 yard chuck zone from the snap of the ball. Second, the defense is not permitted to blitz. No Linebackers, no safeties, not even a cornerback. The only rushers are the 4 down defensive linemen. Third, they are not permitted to use nickle or dime formations. There were no extra defensive backs on the field. The NFC was not disguising coverages. There were no zone blitzes. This was backyard football at best, you line up your receivers against our defensive backs and get open.
Derek Anderson simply could not get the ball to his receivers. He threw high, he threw low, he threw to nobody in particular a couple of plays. And this was not a case of a quarterback not knowing or understanding the system. All game the announcers mentioned how similar this system was to the Browns’ in both terminology and execution. Anderson in fact was signaling the plays in to Manning and Roethlisberger. They made mention of how much Derek was able to help explain the system to the other QB’s. Norv Turner thought Anderson would be his ace in the hole. He gave Derek as much playing time as he could believing that Derek would be the one AFC quarterback who knew what he was doing out there. In addition, Derek had two of his receivers in the game. He missed Edwards and Winslow a number of times.
Check out the play by play of Anderson’s drives. My favorite stretch is a 12 play drive in the fourth. Anderson had 4 completions on that drive- a nine yarder to Edwards, an 18 yarder to Chad Johnson, a 2 yard dump off to McGahee, and an 18 yard completion (!) to Gonzalez. Anderson also threw 7 incompletions on the drive, most of which had the distinct look of Who is he throwing to? about them.
If I were Anderson’s agent, I’m not so sure I’d bring up the Pro Bowl when contract talks resume.