Matthew Shepatin On Gunslinging

Friday, October 2, 2009

I have to admit that I am not fond of the term 'gunslinger'. It reminds me too much of bad Saturday afternoon serial westerns from the pre-cable days, and in a way I am sure the word has biased me away from wanting a 'gunslinger' on the team. Call it something else and I would probably be a little more receptive.

That said, Matthew Shepatin had some good points to chew on in an interview posted yesterday at the New York Times.

It’s no wonder that gunslingers like Sammy Baugh, Bobby Layne, Ken Stabler and Joe Namath are all but a thing of the past. Young quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez have the skill and guts to carry on the great gunslinger legacy but I fear that the swashbuckler is being kicked out of them. Did you see Sanchez’s headfirst dive into the end zone Sunday against the Titans? Risky, possibly even stupid, and I loved every second of it. I, for one, hope that Sanchez continues to go out there and play with a free spirit. That’s the way Romo used to play when he first came on the scene. It’s what gave him a dangerous quality. He could strike at any time. He was out there making plays. Having fun. Now I watch Tony Romo and he doesn’t look like he’s having much fun at all. It’s not only sad as a spectator but what Wade Phillips doesn’t seem to get is that it’s counter-productive to getting the most out of him. Simplify the offense and let Romo do his thing. Same goes with Jay Cutler in Chicago.

Romo and Cutler are natural gunslingers. Where they get in trouble is thinking too much out there (worried about the consequences of failure) instead of just playing their game – which is on the edge, with passion, with verve, making plays with their feet and arms. When the gunslinger is allowed to play with abandonment, he’s not only capable of dazzling feats but he also energizes his whole team to make plays (see Vikings receiver Greg Lewis and Catch Of His Life).
It is Shepatin's last point that resonates best with me. How often have we read about Favre's linemen being willing to run through a wall for him - mainly because they know he will run through a wall for them. Going back, same thing with Jim McMahon. I didn't have the privilege of watching Baugh or Layne so I can only assume that they shared those qualities. I don't think we ever read about teammates having that kind of respect for Jon Kitna, even though he had a very competitive attitude when he was here. With Joey Harrington it may have been the opposite.

Obviously I am talking about Matt Stafford here, and the idea that he may be able to energize the team with his play warms me a bit more to his potential. While I still feel that Culpepper would have given the team a better chance to win that point is no longer relevant. They've won, and while the win had its share of dysfunction we also maybe saw some of those qualities from Stafford for the first time. The passes to Will Heller and Bryant Johnson and the 26 yard run on third and long in particular. Oddly this was a quality that Culpepper used to have and seems to have lost. In his prime he made a ton of mistakes but made even more plays.

The Lions' strategies from the last two games in particular had Stafford careful leashed against Minnesota and less carefully so against Washington. It will be interesting to see the playcalling evolve as Stafford grows. I expect that we will be both excited and infuriated, sometimes on consecutive plays.