Monday, August 22, 2011

The Kingsburys of Football

**The following is a guest post I've written for the critically-acclaimed blog The Kingsbury Factor (a.k.a. The Preeminent Guide to Short-ish White Dudes Who Can Shoot the Trey). You can check it out here.**

What’s the football equivalent of a Kingsbury? Surely a natural place to look would be quarterback. Like basketball's shooters, quarterbacks aim at a target and release. They’re rewarded for accuracy, and even more so if they're accurate from long distances.

"C'mon guys, seriously?!?!"
But to call a QB a Kingsbury doesn’t feel right. Quarterbacks are too heralded, and more importantly, too necessary: You can’t win without a good quarterback, but you can certainly win without a Kingsbury. And besides, Kliff Kingsbury (right) was a quarterback, and according to KF’s FAQ, “nobody wants to hang out with that dude.”

Quarterbacks -- and running backs -- are just too involved in the offense, and do too many different things to help a team win.

So what about offensive line?

Just kidding.

If you ask me, a Football Kingsbury is a wide receiver, but not a game-changing one. Not the receiver who’s so fast he can get behind zone coverage, or so tall/strong he can beat two DBs to a jump ball. A Kinsgbury is the receiver who beats you one way and one way only...but does it really, really well, and consistently.

I’m talking about the Under-6’0 Caucasian Slot Receiver.

Like his basketball equivalent, the U6CSR is (relatively) short, slow, and limited in talent. His strengths are he’s sure-handed, precise in his route-running, willing to go over the middle, and never publicly asks to be traded/guarantees victories/cries in press conferences.  

But before we get to this year’s preseason list of Kingsburys, I want to take a quick look at the men who made it all possible.

Hall of Fame

Wayne Chrebet (New York Jets, 1995-2005):           
The original Football Kingsbury. Or at least the first I can remember. The 5'10 Chrebet was undrafted out of Hofstra, and -- despite ranking 2nd in Jets' history with 580 receptions -- perennially underappreciated. It’s kind of sad, actually, because it wasn't Chrebet's fault. Football just wasn’t ready for a Kingsbury.

Wes Welker (New England Patriots, 2004-present):           
The One Who Changed Everything. Welker’s legend begins AFTER college (important to note, because his college quarterback was none other than...Kliff Kingsbury!), when after three surprisingly efficient (but mostly unnoticed) seasons with Miami, Patriots' Coach Bill Belichick traded a 2nd round pick to get him. “Wait, a 2nd round pick???”, we all asked. “He’s a punt returner! And he’s....WHITE!!!!" But then we said, "But…if Bill Belichick’s doing it, well, I guess we’ll wait and see.” And, sure enough, Belichick turned the 5'9 Welker into the 3-time Pro Bowler, 2-time reception-leader, and PPR fantasy jackpot “Slot Machine” we know him as today. Now every coach looks for a Welker (watch any NFL preseason game and you'll see one), and football Kingsburys will forever be compared to him. If football had a reverse color barrier, Welker is Jackie Robinson, and Bill Belichick is Branch Rickey. Wayne Chrebet is Josh Gibson.

Today’s Torch Bearers

Danny Amendola (St. Louis Rams, 85 receptions for 1,006 yards in 2010)
Like Welker, Amendola (5'11) came out of nowhere (Texas Tech) to become Sam Bradford’s most reliable target last season, helping St. Louis to a remarkable 5-game turnaround, and nearly a division championship. In one game against Detroit, Amendola caught 12 passes for 95 yards. Catching 12 passes in a game and NOT going over 100 yards takes great route-running, better hands, and some seriously limited breakaway ability. Congratulations, Danny.

Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati Bengals, 52 receptions for 600 yards in 2010):
Shipley (5'11) did an impressive six years at Texas, and the Bengals rewarded him for his academic prowess by taking him in the 3rd round (which would’ve NEVER happened if not for Wes), and assigning him to the slot inside the 'Ocho and T.O. Show'. Obviously that didn’t work, but it wasn’t Shipley’s fault. He turned in a solid, productive rookie year, and in the next couple weeks, you’ll hear so many experts call him a “fantasy sleeper” you'll think you discovered why it took him so long to finish college.

He was a stripper by night, if memory serves me correct.
Julian Edelman (New England Patriots, 7 receptions for 86 yards in 2010): 
Comparisons to Welker are irresistible, since among other similarities, they play for the same team. But that’s not really fair to either of them. Edelman (5'10) has had chances to break out in games Wes was hurt, but hasn’t done anything with them. Maybe one day Belichick will make him effective, but if another team stupidly trades a 2nd round pick for him (I’m looking at you, Miami) expecting similar returns, they’ve got another thing coming.

And now (finally), “The List”

I was hoping to do a top-10 list here, thinking I'd have plenty to choose from. But after going through all 120 FBS rosters, I could find only five...


5. Jonathan Warzeka (Air Force, 5'9, Sr.)
His numbers (18 for 406 and 3) aren't "Welkeresque", but that's because Air Force runs the option, and throws it less than 10 times a game. Warzeka's 18 catches actually led the Faclons last year, and won him All-MWC Honorable Mention honors. If anything keeps JW from KF status, it's not his catch total, it's his speed: He's too fast. Stop doubling as a change-of-pace back and running 4.4 40's, Jonny. You're making the rest of us look bad.

4. McKay Jacobson (BYU, 5'11, Sr.)
Last season McKay had 37 catches for 410 yards and Wait! Did that say BYU??? JIMMER!!!!!!!!!!! And that, my friends, is why you can't sleep on McKay Jacobson. Nor can you sleep with him. Honor code.

Remember Brandon Davies...

3. Austin Zouzalik (Texas Tech, 5'11, Jr.):
From the school that brought you Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Kliff Kingsbury, sure enough, we found a Kingsbury. The sophomore numbers (31 for 432 and 2) are solid, but with Lyle Leong's 74 catches lost to graduation and Zouzy moving into a starting role, I expect them to double. And the big thing here is the pedigree. Texas Tech is college football's Kingsbury Factory; Short-White-Slot-Receiver-U.


2. Cody Wilson (Central Michigan, 5'10, Jr.) 
I was expecting to find an abundance of Kingsburys in the MAC. Small, blue-collar, midwestern, limited-athletically: It just felt right. But in the end, all I found was Cody. Thankfully, his resume more than makes up for it. His 83 catches for 1,137 yards and 5 touchdowns as a sophomore earned him 2nd team All-MAC, teaching the world this is one Chippewa you don't want to play soft zone against. He's got another year left, too, so even if he doesn't finish this season as the #1 Kingsbury, 2012 is his to lose.

1. Cole Beasley (SMU, 5'9, Sr)
Cole gets the preseason edge over Cody partly because he caught more passes (87) for less yards (1,060) and one more touchdown (6). But more importantly, Cole is an inch shorter (same height as Wes!), plays for a better team against better competition, and knows how to bring it when the eyes of Chris Kingsbury are on him. In a head-to-head with Zouzy and Texas Tech last year, Cole caught 2 second-half touchdowns and nearly lead SMU to a shocking comeback. The two schools open up with each other this year on Sunday, September 4th. Make sure to tune in, because the Kingsbury schedule only goes downhill from there.

Hopefully Zouz spent the offseason working with Welker and Amendola, and uses that opening game to show the Kingsbury world he's arrived. Hopefully McKay Jacobson channels his inner Jimmer while simultaneously repressing his inner Brandon Davies. Perhaps a KFer comes out of nowhere -- maybe even a freshman. But until we know more: FVG forecasts a two-horse race for the King of all Football Kingsburys: A race that goes over the middle and past the sticks. To Wes Welker's house we go.