Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Husker fans need to stop obsessing of Martinez's passing

For all of his great attributes as a runner when healthy, the frequent criticism of Nebraska sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez are "He can't pass" or "His throwing motion is lousy."

True, Martinez will never be Tom Brady but even those who expect him to reach even the passing accuracy levels of recent former Husker quarterbacks Zac Taylor (2005-2006) or Joe Ganz (2008) are going to be sorely disappointed. Granted, Martinez is still very young and growing into his role as a passer but he hasn't really ever shown serious potential as a pocket passer or someone who can progress through four or five reads. He's never going to be throwing the pretty fade for a corner of the endzone touchdown and nor will he be expert a fitting a pass between an underneath linebacker and an over the top safety on a post route.
The promising thing about new offensive coordinator Tim Beck's scheme, at least based on what we heard throughout the offseason, is that these things shouldn't be as big of a weakness. What the offense should do is maximize Martinez's strengths, which are blinding straight-line speed and some experience with running an up-tempo, spread-option scheme.

For those who want Martinez to become Joe Montana, the Huskers don't need him to be a pinpoint passer, if the offense can get the defense to equally fear runs up the middle, options to the boundary, or screen passes to the likes of Kenny Bell or Ameer Abdullah. That's how Chip Kelly does it in Oregon. He makes defenses try to defend horizontally and vertically, while trying to catch their breath and make adjustments with minimal time against a no-huddle offense. If Martinez can get to the level of say Oregon's Darren James or Texas's Vince Young, rather than expecting he will become an NFL-caliber quarterback, that'll be fine.

Here are Nebraska quarterback statistics since 2004:

2004 - Joe Dailey - 2025 yds, 49.4%, 6.53 yds/att, 17 TDs, 19 INTs

2005 - Zac Taylor - 2653 yds, 55.1%, 6.17 yds/att, 19 TDs, 12 INTs

2006 - Zac Taylor - 3197 yds, 59.6%, 8.18 yds/att, 26 TDs, 8 INTs

2007 - Sam Keller - 2422 yds, 63.1 %, 7.45 yds/att, 14 TDs, 10 INTs

2007 - Joe Ganz - 1435 yds, 58.6%, 9.44 yds/att, 16 TDs, 7 INTs

2008 - Joe Ganz - 3568 yds, 67.9%, 8.50 yds/att, 25 TDs, 11 INTs

2009 - Zac Lee - 2143 yds, 58.6%, 7.10 yds/att, 14 TDs, 10 INTs

2010 - Taylor Martinez - 1631 yds, 59.2%, 8.32 yds/att, 10 TDs, 7 INTs
All quarterbacks listed from 2004-2009 combined for 575 rushing yards while Martinez had 965 on his own in 2010.
Other than Ganz in 2008 (67.9%), which of those years was any of the guys on this list a "more accurate passer" than Martinez last year? Obviously his yardage and touchdowns are down because he plays in a totally different offense but Keller was the only other one to really exceed Martinez's percentage last year and no one did it in their first year as a starter. Keep in mind, Keller started at Arizona State before transferring. In addition, we all remember how much help Martinez got from his wide receivers last year.
I'm not going to argue that Martinez gets any style points for how he looks in the pocket but he is serviceable as a passer. As for this business of throwing motion, people didn't like Phillip Rivers throwing motion either but that's turned out all right for him with the Sa Diego Chargers. Bernie Kosar nearly won a Heisman Trophy and started for years in the NFL throwing side-arm so I don't get hung up on how the delivery looks.
I'd like to see Martinez work through his progressions a little more as well but when he pulled the ball down and ran against Tennessee-Chattanooga, he got a first down more often than not.

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