Andy Benoit Talks To JoeFebruary 8th, 2013
Among the treats Joe had at Media Day during the Super Bowl was to meet Andy Benoit, who among other publications, writes for the excellent “Fifth Down Blog” of the New York Times.
Benoit is sort of the new breed of football writers. Rather than being a wordsmith, Benoit relies on watching hours of film and sifting through analytical data to bring that out in informative, concise stories without sounding like a drunk algebra teacher, or worse, someone who has diarrhea of the mouth with statistical gibberish.
Benoit also works for FootballOutsiders.com, the precursor to ProFootballFocus.com.
JoeBucsFan: What was your impression of Greg Schiano’s first year? Surprised, disappointed or is the book still open?
Andy Benoit: Book is still open. I was surprised at how well the defense played, especially against the run. They did a good job schematically with that, because they had a lot of the same personnel [from 2011]. Obviously, Lavonte David had a lot to do with that and it was a trickle-down effect with the rest of their front seven. Offensively, I like the Vincent Jackson signing; I think they got their money’s worth from him. Mike Williams has been better than I guessed he would be. And obviously Doug Martin is there so it’s a Josh Freeman question at this point. But the Bucs are in a pretty good spot overall. That’s a solid young roster they have laid a foundation for.
Joe: OK, so you set me up for a Freeman question. Is he ever going to get over the hump or is he going to be who he has been of late: One day he will look like John Elway and the next week he will look like Bobby Douglass.
Benoit: He has the talent to get over the hump. I don’t want to say it is a mindset thing but it is what is he looking at and what is he seeing? There are inconsistencies in the decision-making and there are inconsistencies in the mechanics. That’s what alarms the Bucs. Talent wise, I thought he was a new version of [Ben] Roethlisberger. It is very telling that [the Bucs] are not rushing to lock him up. Instead, they are taking a wait-and-see approach on him.
Joe: How much do you think it has messed with his mind that every year he has had so many different coordinators and position coaches? Though Joe was told by someone with high authority in the Bucs front office that offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan both was, and is a quarterbacks coach, so that in some respects, he is wearing two hats.
Benoit: It’s is hard to say because now we are talking about guessing about a guy’s mindset.
Joe: Shaun King said not long ago and not totally in a joking manner that Freeman needed a shrink.
Benoit: … (laughs) Well, Shaun is really aggressive with some of the things he says publicly about quarterbacks which is why he has done well in the media. People talk about Jason Campbell and the same thing and Alex Smith and the same thing. The guys that are really good quarterbacks don’t get different coaches every year or not for the same reason. That could be a Freeman issue as well. Eli Manning hasn’t been in a bunch of different systems and it is not just because he got lucky. Certain guys, you build the system around them. It is hard to guess how Freeman is thinking around it.
Joe: Lavonte David, he looked like he was a third round pick and, obviously, Mark Dominik traded up to get him late in the second round. I don’t think anyone imagined – shoot, I saw him play at Nebraska and realized he was a sideline-to-sideline guy – I don’t think anybody expected what this guy turned out to be. He was just unbelievable.
Benoit: He got consistently better as the season went on. All Pro might be a bit much but certainly Pro Bowl [was] in the discussion. Bobby Wagner got a lot of attention and [Luke] Kuechly was the best of them all. Kuechly is in his own class. He will be the next [Brian] Urlacher. But David, there is a lot to like about him. Very fluid athlete and good in traffic and good in space.