Wide Receivers are defined by strengths. Some are known for speed and the ability to get open deep, and some are known for route running and getting open in traffic. The purpose of this evaluation is to help conclude whether a WR with deep speed such as Mike Wallace is more appropriate for the Miami Dolphins than a player Like Gregg Jennings with great route running skills.
Prior to probing into the heart of the matter the following charts presented in no particular order, should be considered. These represent the yardage splits for some of the more prolific NFL QBs, along with rookies, Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Charting these passers creates a snapshot illustration of the NFL as a whole. Before reading on, take a moment to identify what obvious conclusions can be drawn from the data.
The New England Patriots with Tom Brady have been one of the most prolific scoring offenses in NFL history, but in today’s game, the Packers and Saints along with Peyton Manning led teams, have also set the standard for scoring points. The Patriots have gone through several wide receiver evolutions with Brady at the helm, covering the spectrum from Randy Moss to Wes Welker and many different players in between.
When reviewing the receivers associated with these prolific passers, the unexpected realization is...
Speedy deep threat WRs are highly overrated.
The 2012 data above shows a whopping 72% of the TDs thrown by these QBs came from 20 yards or less. Staying with the Patriots as an example, it is not presumptuous to assume someone in New England did a similar analysis and came to the same conclusion.
Why bother with a deep threat Diva like Randy Moss when only 28% of the scoring opportunities come from pass plays longer than 20 yards and 80% of those scores come from throws that actually traveled 20 or less yards down the field!
Roughly 10% of all TD Passes are thrown more than 20 yards in the air.
90% of all TD passes are throws of 20 yards or less.
In view of this, it is easy to see why the Patriots know the advantage of dynamic route runners like Wes Welker coupled with physical, elusive, pass catching Tight Ends. The Packers are well aware, as are the Saints and most of the high powered offenses in the NFL. Deep threat receivers are not as important in passing offenses as was once thought.
The West Coast offense was spawned from the philosophy of using the short passing game as an effective alternative to a power rushing attack. Teams employing this attack value the wide receiver position differently than teams utilizing a power rushing attack.
Long scoring passes in the WCO are derived mainly from two scenarios, a receiver causing a missed tackle on a short pass route or the short passing game causing the safeties to creep too close to the line of scrimmage and thus allowing a receiver to get behind them. The type of receiver effective in this offense is a prolific route runner, proficient at reading defenses.
Tight ends in the WCO are pass first, block second because the short passing game is the rushing attack.
In effect, tight ends are the WCO running backs.
The power rushing attack demands different types of receivers. The tight ends in a power offense are block first, pass second. This is why Anthony Fasano was a great fit in the Sparano offense but may not be a great fit in the Sherman offense. The wide receivers in a power offense are expected to block but there is also the need for a speed receiver. The term “take the top off the defense” is derived from a speed receiver keeping the safeties from playing in the box to help in run support. Great route running or reading defenses, is not as important as safeties respecting a WRs ability to get behind them.
The free agent question facing the Dolphins is whether Mike Wallace is actually a good choice for the Miami offense. The clamoring of the fan-base should never influence the evaluation process. Years of mediocrity has the fans begging for a splash of any kind, but making a splash for the wrong receiver will lead to further mediocrity as it did with Brandon Marshall.
The price for making a mistake goes beyond the possible $60 million in salary.
Placing a mismatched receiver in the offense could be a disaster.
The Brady, Brees, Rodgers and even Manning offenses do not utilize the concept of an alpha receiver because they spread the passing attack to many receivers. This is another mainstay of the West Coast Offense. The power rushing attack is where the alpha concept makes sense because of the limited opportunities and the need to force the defense to key on a single receiver. When the defense must key on the alpha, it essentially creates a blocking scheme for the running game. The receiver removes defenders from the play by running them out of it.
The alpha - Diva - demands attention (Brandon Marshall), which happens when there is a $60 million dollar man in the huddle. Not only is it paramount from a pay for performance aspect, but there will be an expectation from the fan-base to justify the huge investment. The Dolphins already made the decision to change to the West Coast style and hence unloaded Marshall.
Going for the big name would mean a return to the convoluted, unplanned Tony Sparano offensive formula?
For Miami, it's complete nonsense...
This is where Joe Philbin must take control and spell out the direction of the Miami Dolphin offense in perfectly clear terms. Trading Marshall came about because he was not a good fit for the football team, Wallace is in the same mold. There may be no “border line personality disorder” but the stats sheet is what has been used to define the player, not where he fits in the scheme and on the roster.
Great teams do not overpay role players and the Sherman/Philbin offense is designed to spread defenses thin by utilizing role players. In this scheme Wallace’s salary would never justify the statistical outcome. Wallace would never be happy as a role player and the offense is not designed for an alpha dog.
The Steelers build through the draft and allow players to leave if they do not fit the team concept. The Dolphins wish to follow this path. It makes little sense if they choose to overpay players other team's have discarded because they don't fit, especially when those same players do not fit the Miami scheme.
Will the Miami Dolphins be a team that builds through the draft...
Or was this lip serve?
It is simple logic when answering the question of whether Miami should spend $60 million on Mike Wallace. It doesn't matter whether Wallace is a great player, it doesn't matter whether Wallace is a good citizen. What matters is whether Wallace is a good fit for the Miami Dolphins and that is all that should matter. Hypercritical fans should never dictate team decisions, those decisions should come from researching what is proven successful.
The Dolphins need look no further than the Patriots, the Saints, the Packers, teams that have been to the dance and came home with the trophy. Most of all, the Dolphins should know that one of those teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers, allowed Mike Wallace to walk.