NFL Playoffs: The running quarterback has arrived in the NFL

The Green Bay Packers know how the Sooners felt in the Cotton Bowl. Colin Kaepernick is helping to change the game, and the colleges know how the game can change.
by Berry Tramel Published: January 19, 2013
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photo - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs for a 56-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXP130
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs for a 56-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the third quarter of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) ORG XMIT: FXP130

Sports Illustrated's most recent cover features 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick running wild against the Packers last week, with a one-word headline.

HOLY …

Yep, the NFL certainly acts like an alien ship has landed on the Super Bowl Tournament, and mysterious beings have emerged from the capsule. Close Encounters of the QB Kind.

Robert Griffin III. Russell Wilson. And, foremost, Captain Kaepernick. Rifle-armed quarterbacks who can run like the wind.

To which college coaches say, welcome to our world.

Most gridiron developments drift down. Pro to college. College to high school. But this quarterback progression has moved up, from campus to Metropolis.

The Pack didn't know how to defend Kaepernick? The Falcons fear the same fate Sunday in the NFC title game? Get in line.

“We'd love to play everyone in a box,” Bob Stoops said the other day, wistfully remembering the days when foes would line up and try to pound you. “It's a lot easier when everything is not so spread out.”

The box days are gone — well, except for that Alabama-Notre Dame Big Bowl — which explains why every coach on a big stage is fleeing the old ways.

Multiple NFL teams have incorporated the option, which once was believed to create quarterback genocide. The squads with traditional quarterbacks have embraced other twists, like New England and the hurry-up offense.

Stoops, having been fourth-degree burned by consecutive Heisman winners RG3 and Johnny Football, is moving away from a Marlboro Man quarterback to a mobile QB system.

In Stillwater, Mike Gundy sprung a quarterback-run wrinkle in Bedlam, with third-teamer Clint Chelf wounding the Sooners with a variety of draws.

That fulfilled the prophecy of Gundy's former offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, who during the season suggested that the next spin to Air Raid offenses was a quarterback who could run. Upon that declaration, Big 12 defensive coordinators immediately unionized, demanding combat pay.

It all reminded me of a conversation I had a quarter century ago with an old pal, the late Mike Little, who said every team runs the ball, then either runs the option or passes. Twenty-five years later, the “or” is gone. And that's a big or.

With Johnny Manziel, A&M ran the ball efficiently and threw the ball expertly and scrambled to great gain. Then in the Cotton Bowl, the Aggies sprung some option plays on the Sooners.

OU was embarrassed, but before the month was out, the most regal name in the sport was victimized exactly the same. Kaepernick's play against Green Bay made the NFL fall off its axis. And much like Johnny Football, Kaepernick came largely from nowhere, having been given the 49er job six days after Thanksgiving.



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