By Kevin Ross

Winning coaches in the National Football League prove to be masterminds at placing their teams in the right position to be successful. Whether it’s Bill Belichick scheming to matchup Rob Gronkowski with a middle linebacker, or whether it’s Jay Gruden of the Bengals designing plays to beat Washington for a 73-yard touchdown; scheming to gain a competitive advantage is the soul of NFL football.  And the Washington Redskins are not immune from this age old notion, as Mike Shanahan has figured out a non-conventional way, to once again lead the league in rushing.

shanahan RGIII, Redskins Must Succeed in Run Game to Beat Atlanta

(Credit, Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The NFL has become enamored with protecting the quarterback who is the game’s most valuable advertising commodity. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo all do the league a favor when they remain healthy for gameday. In other words the star quarterbacks bring in the revenue, while signal callers who are constantly injured do the league a disservice when it’s time to add up the profits. So to protect that revenue, the NFL wants the quarterback to be protected in the pocket where league rules can help him to remain safe.

This puts perspective on why those who associate themselves with the NFL seem to praise the pocket passer, while belittling those quarterbacks who run. Television analyst try to convince the masses that mobile quarterbacks get injured at a higher rate compared to traditional pocket passers. But the truth is mobile quarterbacks get injured at an identical rate as pocket passers.

It seems the more Mike Vick stays in the pocket, the more often he gets hurt. The question of the day is this: Is it better to see a defender hit you and embrace for the blow, or is it better to stand tall in the pocket and get your blindside crushed?

Some say it’s six-one-way and a half-a-dozen the other.  Which makes the most sense, given that injuries occur in-and-out of the pocket.

Make no mistake about it quarterbacks Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III are the future of the NFL. The game is evolving to a point where one day, every NFL quarterback will  be required to run like Mike Vick and throw like Drew Bees (some say RG3 already fits the bill).  Look for NFL coaches to continue to implement college style formations and plays into their respective gameplans.  The NFL will never completely resemble the NCAA, but it’s easy to see that certain collegiate staples are beginning to find a cozy home in the National Football League.

Mike Shanahan and the Redskins were finally ahead of the curve by drafting Robert Griffin III. They say the age old secret to winning a Super Bowl has remained constant: Run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense.  Having a mobile quarterback gives a team a leg up on the former of that notion.

On a typical play when the ball is handed to a rusher, the defense immediately has an advantage. The reason being that 11 defenders are only being blocked by 9 offensive players; the offense essentially loses two players because the quarterback and ball carrier don’t count.  This is why it’s so tough and sometimes it seems nearly impossible to get the ground attack moving.

But this is where the mobile quarterback comes to play.  When Robert Griffin III takes off to run, the ratio drastically changes as there are now 10 offensive players blocking 11 defenders. The quarterback running simply means that there is an extra man blocking, which can make all the difference in the NFL.  And this is why the Redskins lead the NFL in rushing yards, and it’s why coaches such as Mike Shanahan have added a few collegiate formations to their offensive playbooks.

When coach Shanahan retired from football in 2009, he spent many hours at the University of Florida picking the brain of head coach Urban Meyer.  Can you guess the starting quarterback who Mike Shanahan studied while at Florida: Tim Tebow.

Mike Shanahan proceeded to bring a little bit of that Urban Myer offense to the NFL, and so far his ground attack can’t be stopped.  So look for more of the same this Sunday as the Redskins do battle against the Atlanta Falcons who rank 29th in rush defense.  The Redskins will run Alfred Morris into the ground, and more than likely they will also run RG3 into the ground. But the big question is will all of this running lead to a curly “W”.

Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on


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