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Archive for the 'Rant' Category

Which QB is Likely to be Best in 2011?

Posted by Neil Paine on February 10, 2011

File this under Chase's "Insane Ideas/Rants/Almost deleted before hitting Publish" category...

In light of the research Chase & JKL have done about the consistency of passing stats between seasons, I was wondering which quarterbacks were likely to be best in 2011 -- assuming there is a 2011 season -- if we take their 2010 numbers and strip away the factors that were heavily influenced by luck or other elements beyond a player's control.

18 Comments | Posted in Insane ideas, Quarterbacks, Rant, Statgeekery, Totally Useless

Quarterback post-season records and Simpson’s Paradox

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 31, 2011

I almost deleted this post before I hit "Publish." There are so many caveats I'm urged to proclaim, and so many nits at which any reader could pick, that I'm still not sure if this is worth posting. Further, on some level, I fundamentally disagree with the not-so-subtle argument this post implicitly endorses. Allow me to cut you off, by noting that yes, this post is stupid, yes I forgot about X, Y and Z, yes, this doesn't even make sense once you realize M, N and Q, yes I've never watched a football game before, and yes I'm biased against Player A and Player B. And, of course, I am Player C's mother. Note that I've categorized this post under both Rant and Insane ideas.

The comments to Neil's post on The Rivers Index raised some interesting questions. Commenter Sean played the role of Marino backer and noted how Miami was always being outrushed in those playoff losses. He pointed out, correctly, that Dan Marino is the only victor of the 52 quarterbacks to start a playoff game in the last 60 years when his team was outrushed by 150+ yards .

I started wondering how to break down each playoff game based on the level of support each quarterback received, from both the running game and the defense. Game-ending stats are deceiving -- just one of the many caveats in my head as I wrote paragraph 1 -- but I figured there was little harm in doing some back of the envelope calculations. If nothing else, this post can just add some layers to the typical discussion of post-season records. Here's what I did:

55 Comments | Posted in Insane ideas, Quarterbacks, Rant

Checkdowns, Rants: Rookie Wage Scale

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 7, 2011

Jason Lisk (f/k/a JKL of the PFR Blog) continues to kill it over at the Big Lead. You can read all of Jason's work here, and I highly advise you to do so. His latest piece? A large rant against the idea of a rookie wage scale in the NFL. Jason, Doug and I are in the tiny minority of NFL fans who don't think rookies are overpaid, even the most highly drafted ones. My favorite piece in his article today? A link to a sportswriter complaining in April that Ndamukong Suh was going to recieve similar guaranteed money to Albert Haynesworth. What an injustice!

We've discussed this on the PFR blog before. In February 2009, Jason wrote that some proof that first round picks, as a group, are not overpaid. In May 2008, I came up with a modern Draft Pick Value Chart, which confirmed my believe that the top rookies are not overpaid. Brian Burke wrote an insightful article on how NFL players are gladiators, not bricklayers, and I believe Burke is with the PFR Crew w/r/t rookie salaries.

And then, today, I got bored and did a tongue-in-cheek rant over at the Footballguys message boards. You can read it and follow the anticipated ridiculous comments here, but I'll re-post it as well below:

How in the world can it be justified to pay Jim Harbaugh 7 or 8 million dollars are you? Are you kidding me? Putting aside that, ya know, that's more money than most people will make in their entire lives, what has Harbaugh done to deserve it? He did a good job coaching in a decent conference in college? He never even won his conference! Yet all of the sudden he's somehow worthy of one of the richest contracts in NFL history?

Mike Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and has Pittsburgh as an annual contender, and he's making 4.8 million per year. Jeff Fisher, one of the most respected coaches in the league, is making just shy of 6 million per year. Tom Coughlin, after he won the freakin Super Bowl, is making just over 5 mill per year. How in the world can you justify paying Jim Harbaugh more than all of them? More than Bill Belichick, who's making 7.5 per year?

It's just absurd. Harbaugh's a college guy who hasn't proven a single thing in the NFL. Why not make him PROVE his worth first, then pay him? Wouldn't a 3-year, 6 million dollar deal still put him in the top .0001% of rich people and not cripple the franchise if he's a bust? If Harbaugh's actually a good NFL coach, surely his next contract would be in the 6-7 million dollar a year range. So if he's a good coach, he'll make a ton of money. If he's a bad coach, he'll still make good money but not crazy money. Why won't Roger Goodell step in and do something about this? As an average NFL fan, I have to say it turns me off to the whole sport to see an unproven whippersnapper like Harbaugh come in and make more money than my family will make for generations. For coaching freakin' football. Make him prove it, then pay him. Isn't that how every other industry in the world works?

Please, NFL and Goodell, do something.

10 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, Rant, Rule Change Proposals

LaDainian Tomlinson: Not Toast

Posted by Neil Paine on October 4, 2010

Sometimes you just gotta admit that you were wrong.

First of all, I was wrong to doubt the Jets before the season. In fact, after Sunday's 38-14 shellacking of Buffalo (admittedly not the greatest opponent, but one which at least played New England and Miami relatively close), I'm beginning to think New York is at worst the 2nd-best team in the NFL -- perhaps even the best if Ben Roethlisberger shows rust upon his return to Pittsburgh's lineup. Here are our Simple Ratings through week 4 (adjusted for a home-field advantage of 2.5 points, and obviously excluding Pats-Fins):

Rank Team Games Rating Rank Team Games Rating
1 PIT 4 13.72 17 HTX 4 -0.13
2 NYJ 4 12.60 18 CHI 4 -0.65
3 RAV 4 10.64 19 MIN 3 -1.07
4 KAN 3 9.45 20 SEA 4 -1.13
5 SDG 4 7.29 21 WAS 4 -1.21
6 OTI 4 5.85 22 RAM 4 -1.50
7 GNB 4 5.27 23 TAM 3 -2.61
8 ATL 4 4.99 24 DET 4 -3.29
9 CLT 4 4.27 25 NOR 4 -4.02
10 NWE 3 3.44 26 NYG 4 -6.08
11 CLE 4 2.75 27 JAX 4 -7.57
12 CIN 4 2.51 28 SFO 4 -9.18
13 PHI 4 2.30 29 RAI 4 -10.09
14 MIA 3 1.58 30 BUF 4 -10.28
15 DEN 4 0.85 31 CAR 4 -12.80
16 DAL 3 0.50 32 CRD 4 -13.58

In a year where it's looking like parity rules, the Jets are one of only a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack at all.

But the main purpose of this post isn't so much a mea culpa about the Jets in general, but rather one about a specific New York player... Back in April, I scoffed at NY's acquisition of LaDainian Tomlinson, calling him (among other things) "toast" and "completely washed up". I cited the fact that when a running back over age 30 posts a sub-3.5 YPC average, it almost universally means he's finished as a productive NFL player; in fact, among the 11 backs who had worse age-29 + 30 YPC averages than LDT did in 2008-09, all but Bill Brown & Dorsey Levens were totally out of the league by age 32. Simply put, 31-year-old RBs who play as badly as Tomlinson did in 2009 don't tend to play pro football much longer, much less contribute high YPC averages again.

15 Comments | Posted in Rant, Running Backs, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Reactions from the Jets opening game

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 14, 2010

It was hard to contain my excitement. Amazing seats, on Monday Night Football, for the Jets in their new stadium, against one of the best teams in the league. And after one of the craziest, most intense games I can remember, I'm left with nothing to do but blog.

First, let's good the good plays out of the way.

16 Comments | Posted in General, Rant

Derek Anderson Also Has an Unbelievable Handshake

Posted by Neil Paine on September 1, 2010

In the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 (which I highly recommend, btw), Aaron Schatz compared Jake Delhomme's ongoing presence as an NFL starting quarterback -- despite all evidence that he could no longer perform in that capacity -- to this Onion article about a CEO whose rise through the ranks was attributable to nothing but his "unbelievable handshake", a.k.a. his ability to make people like him and convince them that he's a strong leader. With all due respect to Delhomme's firm handshake, though, I think one of the men he's replacing in Cleveland has possibly surpassed him as the master of that charade.

That man, of course, would be Derek Anderson, picked up from the scrap heap this offseason by Arizona. Despite a giving vote of confidence to longtime QB-in-waiting Matt Leinart during OTAs and training camp, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has soured on the former USC star to the point of giving Anderson the starting nod (which in turn has made Leinart so disgruntled that the team is considering trading him). What went wrong? The turning point for Whisenhunt was apparently Arizona's August 23 game vs. Tennessee, in which Leinart was unable to lead the offense to any kind of sustained ball movement and was pulled in favor of Anderson during the 2nd quarter.

Chief among Leinart's sins that night: a 2-yard completion on 3rd-and-3; a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-16; and a deep incompletion on 3rd-and-1 when (ironically) one of his patented short checkdowns would have been enough for a 1st down. For Whisenhunt and the Cards' staff, it was a microcosm of Leinart's struggles since being named Kurt Warner's successor -- particularly when you compare Leinart's skills to those of Anderson, whose famously strong arm theoretically offers more big-play ability for an offense that has been starved for it (especially with Larry Fitzgerald injured).

That's the conventional wisdom, at least. However, if we look at the two quarterbacks' preseason performances on the whole, we see that even with Leinart's unimpressive play, Anderson has still done nothing to warrant supplanting him for the starting gig:

Player G GS Comp Att Yds TD Int Sck SckY ANY/A
Leinart 3 2 19 23 161 1 0 4 29 5.6
Anderson 3 1 31 53 287 2 2 1 4 4.3

And this isn't the first time Anderson has passed a QB on the depth chart despite statistical evidence that he was the inferior option. As I noted last November, Anderson also convinced Eric Mangini to start him over Brady Quinn (who, granted, wasn't exactly enjoying a banner year either) even though he was having one of the worst seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

Just like the CEO with the amazing handshake, Anderson apparently has the special ability to come across as the best man for the starting job, even when his actual on-field performance doesn't back that up. Now, Anderson supporters will obviously counter by pointing to his breakout 2007 season, when he went to the Pro Bowl and almost led the Browns to the playoffs... but you can include that season in his numbers and he still comes out as the league's 2nd-worst QB to receive 1,000 attempts since 2006.

Is Leinart necessarily a good quarterback? No, he's actually been well below-average according to the numbers so far. But the evidence we have on Anderson says that he's actually even worse -- worse over his entire career (including 2007), and worse so far this preseason. I'm all for a good QB competition, but at least give the spoils to the on-field victor rather than the guy with the better handshake.

13 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Rant

Joe Namath is a legitimate Hall of Fame Quarterback

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 12, 2010

If you haven't been keeping up with the comments to the previous post about amazing stats and context, well, shame on you, because there has been a lot of interesting discussion about a lot of things. One of the things that came up was a discussion of player talent with some references to Joe Namath. I'm going to just quote some comments from BSK, responding to JWL:

Are you we thinking of the same Joe Namath? He of the 173/220 TD/INT ratio? Of the 62-63-4 record as a starter? Of the career completion percentage of 50.1%? Of the career 65.5 passer rating? And while perhaps Namath would have had a better career despite his injury, the fact is the injury happened, his career numbers were pretty poor, and by no legitimate statistical measure can you say he was a legit HoF. Take away the story of Super Bowl III and his personality and it wouldn't even be up for discussion. And that is the problem with the HoF.

And later . . .

Now, what happened on the field obviously went better for Namath than (Bo) Jackson, but neither really did anything particularly exceptional when it's all said and done with. My point was that there are supremely talented players who, for one reason or another, don't live up to that talent (or the perception of their talent). Unfortunately, we cannot give them credit for what they did not actually accomplish. Namath gets no bonus points for what might have been had he not hurt his leg before he even got to the NFL, just like Jackson gets no bonus points for what might have been. To say that Namath was a top 5 QB and then say that my statistical demonstration of exactly why he wasn't is off the mark is laughable at best.

If you read the title of this post, you might correctly guess that I am going to try to show that by legitimate statistical measures, Namath was a legitimate Hall of Famer. While I am quoting BSK here, because he just happens to be the one making comments in a post this week, I don't think he is exactly in the minority. I see lots of comments about Joe Namath not being a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback, or talking about how bad his numbers were. Joe Posnanski wrote about Namath and his "shockingly bad" numbers on his blog two years ago.

I guess I should first point out that Chase Stuart wrote a series of posts on the Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time last summer, and in the most recent version, Namath ranked #24 all-time. Now, Chase is a Jets fan, so perhaps you think that Chase, just because he sponsors Namath's player page at PFR, was cooking the books to make Namath look better. Actually, we had a lot of discussion behind the scenes about that series. Chase was contemplating including a completion percentage calculation as part of the updated formula, and I am actually the one who deterred him by showing him some numbers about teams with similar YPA's and different completion percentages, and the resulting win/loss and points scored. I should probably do a separate post on that this off-season, so I'll just say that for now, it didn't appear that including completion percentage would actually better measure value. Namath, as we know, had a relatively low completion percentage, so including that would have lowered him in the rankings.

So, we see that in what I would hope would pass as a legitimate statistical measure, Joe Namath ranks as a valid Hall of Famer, even without "the guarantee" and the New York media. So let's break down that a little further and discuss why some think he is not, and why I think he is.

1. When we cite things like quarterback rating, completion percentage, and interception ratio, we are going to find that they do not favor Namath. Of course, quarterback rating is over-reliant on completion percentage, and interception percentage also plays a big factor, so mentioning those things and also citing qb rating is redundant.

2. As we know, qb rating does not include sack percentage, though I argued a few months ago that it should. This also disfavors Namath when we cite qb rating, because he had a quick release, which is statistically confirmed by his extremely low sack percentage relative to his era.

3. I talked about quarterback personality types this summer and one of the traits I used was the Gambler trait. If you threw more interceptions and more incompletions because you were avoiding sacks, you were a Gambler in my book, and Namath was an extreme Gambler. Of course, this isn't necessarily bad for your point production and value, even though it is bad for your blessed qb rating. I actually wrote a modest proposal for a Kansas City area sports blog entitled Matt Cassel needs to throw MORE interceptions, where I discuss some of these things. Holding the ball and taking sacks can be as costly or more costly than throwing some interceptions by throwing the ball before you are ready. In Namath's case, we are underselling how good he was when we don't also cite his sack data. His effective completion percentage (completions divided by total passes plus sacks) ranks him much better, and in my opinion, more accurately provides a full picture of a quarterback's contribution.

4. Completion percentage is vastly over-rated. Again, I will probably have a separate post sometime this off-season. I also looked at quarterbacks with similar passer ratings, but different sub-ratings in the four categories, and you will probably be interested in the results as they relate to how frequently, say, a qb with a 90 rating that is dropped down by a bad completion percentage wins and scores, compared to one that is propped up by a good one.

5. Most people agree that yards per attempt is a better indicator of passing value, and Namath exceeded 8.0 yards per attempt in 1967 and 1968, and was at 7.0 or higher every year between ages 23 and 32. Using our advanced passing table which adjusts to league average, he was above average in that category in every one of those seasons. He was insanely above average in 1972 (over two standard deviations above the league average).

6. When we look at adjusted net yards per attempt, which does include his sack rate and his interception rate (but does not include completion percentage), we see a well above average quarterback for most of his career. We don't have reliable sack data for individual quarterbacks before 1969, but extrapolating his career sack rate after 1969 (combined with his completion percentage and interception rate) we can make a pretty good guess that he was also good at avoiding sacks before 1969. From 1969 forward, which would be after he won the Super Bowl and most think he stopped being a good quarterback, he was over a standard deviation better than the league in 1969, 1971 and 1972. He was above average in 1973 and 1974 as well. The only year he was average was in 1970, when he played in only 5 games. So, using adjusted net yards per attempt, rather than quarterback rating, we see that he was a well above average quarterback from ages 24 to 31.

7. His numbers need to be put in context of his era, which we can do with things like our Advanced Passing Table, as interception rates and sack rates and completion percentage were all much lower than they are today.

Of course, all of the above is why he ranks in the top 30 all-time on Chase's list, but I just wanted to spell out why that was, and why I disagree with assessments that selectively cite things like qb rating and completion percentage. I don't know how talented he was relative to other quarterbacks. I do know that he ranks in the top 30 by what I think is a pretty good objective measure, which takes into account rate stats and total attempts to derive value.

And he is ranked in the top 30 despite missing a substantial portion of what would be the prime years for a lot of quarterbacks (missing 28 games between ages 27 and 30). The one year he played almost a full season during that stretch (1972), he led the league in passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per attempt. Oh, and he completed 50% of his passes, so he sucked. The Jets went 7-6 when he started that year, but it was because they ranked 19th out of 26 teams in points allowed, and not because they finished 2nd in points scored.

And he is ranked in the top 30 despite hanging around too long and playing broken down and on bad knees, and putting up awful numbers at the end of his career. We don't know what he would have been if he had stayed healthy (though it's not going out on a limb to say he would rank higher), but let's be clear. His career numbers were not "pretty poor", unless you worship at the Church of the Blessed Quarterback Rating, and ignore everything else.

90 Comments | Posted in HOF, Player articles, Rant

Amazing numbers in context

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 10, 2010

In this week's Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King included a discussion of the Hall of Fame selections this weekend, and included a section on Floyd Little. King notes that he did not vote for Little, but at least 36 of the remaining 43 selectors did. Here is the part that caught my attention:

There's no doubt in my mind that the exhaustive work of Denver Post writer Jeff Legwold either got Little in or was a major factor in his election. The way the system works is that each candidate has his case for election presented by a member of the media from where he played. Then there's free-flowing debate about the candidate. Little's speaker was Legwold. Our bylaws prevent me from discussing freely what Legwold said in the meeting, but with permission of Hall of Fame VP Joe Horrigan, I can say that one factor in Legwold's argument was that Legwold personally viewed about 1,200 of 1,641 carries in Little's nine NFL seasons.

Though I can't tell you what Legwold said in his presentation, I can tell you I discussed this with him after the presentation and Legwold said he kept records of each carry and where Little was first contacted by a defender behind a subpar Denver offensive line. Legwold said about 30 percent of the time Little was first hit behind the line. That's an amazing number. "I saw a runner who had to struggle to get to the line of scrimmage often,'' Legwold said afterward. "He had no time to be a patient runner, because he was in a bad offense with no other options.''

It's that amazing number comment that got me. I'm guessing that the committee didn't consider how frequently all running backs are first contacted behind the line of scrimmage, because that number doesn't seem particularly amazing to me. How good is a .350 on base percentage? You have to have some context about what the average is. Is making 50% of field goals from over 50 yards good or bad? Well, we need to know what others have done.

Getting hit behind the line of scrimmage 30% of the time may have wowed the room, but if it did, it's because the voters did not understand and put into context how many runs are failures where the back is first contacted behind the line. I don't have play by play data from Little's era and I also haven't viewed over 1,000 carries of any player from that era. I can try to do a quick estimate of how amazing that number is. Before the 2007 season, Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders wrote an article breaking down the percentage of rushing plays that result in certain gains. He used the 2005, 2006, and 2000 seasons. For those three seasons, 9.1% of all runs lost yardage, 8.8% gained no yards, and 12.1% gained exactly one yard. That adds up to 30.0% of all running plays either losing yards or gaining one yard or less.

Now, that number is not a direct comparison. It just allows us to put the "first contacted behind the line 30% of the time" in some context. First, not all of those rushing plays measured in 2000, 2005 and 2006 were by running backs, though a sizeable majority were. Also, not every one yard gain resulted from first contact occuring behind the line of scrimmage, though a majority of them were. On the other hand, sometimes a running back breaks a tackle or brushes off a player "contacting" him and gains more than a yard. The average carry in the three recent seasons was about 0.1 yard higher than it was during Little's prime. Throw that all together, and my guesstimate is that Little was hit behind the line a little more frequently than the average running back. I would put an estimate of between 25% and 30% for the average running back during Little's time. Certainly, it wasn't something like 10% or 15% for all others.

These numbers were presented in a vacuum to make Little's Hall of Fame case that despite his numbers, he deserved in because he played with such bad teammates. As an aside, this makes me extremely interested to see Little's induction speech. What's he going to do? Get up and thank his offensive linemen--for being perceived as being crappy enough to get him in?

So how bad were his linemen? Well, Doug and Chase have both taken a crack at that topic, and were certainly not looking to make a case for a specific player. In Doug's first pass at looking at the top 100 career rushers, Little ranked 89th in terms of playing with pro bowlers the year they made the pro bowl. He jumped to 31st when looking at how many eventual or past pro bowlers he played with, though his pro bowlers weren't of the Munoz variety. He dropped back to 85th when looking at the total pro bowls for his linemen. Remember, though, that these are below average rankings when compared to other top running backs, not compared to all running backs.

In part two, Doug then used Approximate Value and weighted it by linemen age versus peak. Little came in at #88 on that list. A year later, Chase improved on Doug's information by not only weighting it by the linemen age, but by also weighing it by the running back's actual production peak. Little came in at #85 on Chase's list. So we can say that Floyd Little played with below average linemen relative to other top rushers. Of course, so did Walter Payton, who checks in at #91, or Gale Sayers at #88. I'm guessing that Walter Payton's presenter didn't get up and talk about how bad his linemen were throughout much of his prime. The way Little's case was presented, you would think he played with the worst line of all-time, or even the worst among the top 100. He's about as close to average as he is to the very bottom, where James Wilder really did play with linemen who were a lot less accomplished than Little's. I'm going to start breaking down Wilder's career carries. I suspect he was hit behind the line an amazing number of times, and his 3.8 career rushing average should be a lock for the Hall.

56 Comments | Posted in History, Rant

Super Bowl III Play by Play

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 20, 2010

With another championship game coming up between the heavily favored Colts and the brash, young Jets (with a coach named Ryan on the sidelines), I decided to pop in my Super Bowl III DVD and provide a running play by play of the game. This blog has never done a full play-by-play report of a game before, and I think it's fitting that we start with a game that was played over 40 years ago. I'll warn you in advance that this is not intended for those who crave short, thought-provoking or exciting reading. In fact, this post is almost certainly bad. If you're okay with that, grab your popcorn.

Super Bowl III Boxscore

"NBC Sports presents the third AFL/NFL World Championship Game.... the Super Bowl. The American Football League champions the New York Jets against the National Football League champions, the Baltimore Colts.... at the Orange Bowl."

Your sponsors for the game: Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge, Schlitz, Gilette (selling the new adjustable, Techmatic razor) and TransWorld Airlines.

72 degrees, 15 mile per hour winds, 20% chance of rain.

7 Comments | Posted in Rant, Totally Useless

Gary Kubiak and Coaching Scared

Posted by Jason Lisk on November 25, 2009

I'm stunned, absolutely stunned (your sarcasm meter should start going off about now) by the double standard that exists with complaining about coaching decisions. All last week, I heard about how a decision is judged on what happens thereafter. Well, by that standard, I saw plenty of decisions that were bad enough to merit complaint, but not a single talking head is yelping about it. Okay, so those were not in prominent prime time games. Well, then Gary Kubiak, with one timeout in hand, in position for a deep field goal from the thirty yard line with a kicker who had already missed from the same distance and had missed a last second attempt to tie the week before, uses that timeout by instructing his quarterback to take the snap and fall to the center of the field behind the line of scrimmage. Kris Brown, even with that excellent centering job, missed the kick badly. I mean, if ever there was a bone-headed decision that also lead to a bad result, this was it, in front of the whole Monday night football watching universe.

Two days later, and I'm still waiting for the firestorm.

14 Comments | Posted in Rant, Statgeekery

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Posted by Jason Lisk on September 11, 2009

I just want to go on record as saying Darrius Heyward-Bey will not be a bust.

That is all.

Well, actually, that's not all. Yesterday, Richie commented that the Raiders have drafted a lot of busts, and listed Heyward-Bey. (I'd link to his player page but, weird thing, he doesn't have one yet). Well, I'm singling out Richie here (forgive me), but it's not like that view would be considered controversial, because that is what virtually everyone says. Ever since he was drafted seventh overall, he has been identified as a bust, because, God forbid, he was drafted higher than expected. If I could buy stock in Heyward-Bey at this point, I would, not because I think he is destined to be a star, but because his actual value likely exceeds the perception.

Do I have any reason to believe this? Well, yes, actually. It's the unbiased pre-draft views of the "draft experts". The same draft experts talking about how bad of a pick it was. Heyward-Bey was pretty universally viewed as a late first round pick. If someone had drafted him at #25, we would be inundated right now with talk about how he has so much speed and upside. Here's a list of the forty-two receivers drafted between picks 20 and 40 from 1980-1999. The median career receiving yards was 4,260, median years as a starter is 4.5. Those numbers would certainly not be bust worthy.

So, even if we assume that he is not a typical top ten wide receiver, and instead should have been drafted later in the first round, he has a decent chance of turning out like Darnay Scott or Derrick Alexander. And if he does that, you are not allowed to consider him a bust.

Now, that is all.

8 Comments | Posted in Player articles, Rant

Preseason awards are absurd

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 27, 2009

You know what I don't get at all. Preseason Awards.

I was reminded of this during the recent "Tim Tebow was left off of somebody's preseason coaches ballot . . . who could it be . . . the world will end . . . " saga that we were forced to witness last week. It was part sad and part comical, and entirely absurd. SEC Coaches were coming out of the woodwork to proclaim their innocence from the horrible slight of Tim Tebow. Newcomer Lane Kiffin, public suspect #1, produced his ballot publicly to dispel any rumors. Coaches like Saban and Petrino were asked if they voted for Tebow, and they said they did. (And here's the thing, Dolphins and Falcons fans, they were actually telling the truth). Turns out, it was Steve Spurrier and the director of football operations who filled out his ballot.

Here's what Spurrier had to say about voting for someone other than Tebow: "We screwed up pretty badly. I'm embarrassed about it. I feel bad about it."

Before we go lamenting the humanity of it all, let's remember that we are talking about a preseason award here. Preseason awards are pointless, insignificant, and worthless. Sounds like I'm being repetitive, recurrent, and verbose--but I'm not.

Preseason awards are pointless. I mean, what is the point of voting on a preseason award when you are basing it on the past. Just re-publish last year's award winners, bump up any second teamers to replace the graduating first teamers, and move on. If someone is not allowed to disagree (even if it is an accident or oversight), then why even vote in the first place. You shouldn't. It's pointless.

Preseason awards are insignificant. Who was the last person to actually cite a preseason award on their resume or career summary? I'm sure there is somebody out there, but that's a whole other rant. The point is, Tebow is not going to be listing his hallowed preseason SEC QB selection among his career accomplishments. Heisman trophy winner--yes. 2009 Preseason selection--no. And if you're never going to use it on a resume, well, it seems like an insignificant award. Awards are made to be cited. Who is going to cite to this one in a few months?

Preseason awards are worthless. The whole term is an oxymoron. There is nothing to award. The 2009 version of Tebow and Snead have the exact same statistics right now. It's a prediction. Some will turn out to be right (in which case, gosh, they might get an actual award), and others will not (and then the preseason award won't be worth the 2 seconds spent considering it).

I know there are a lot of things in sports that make no sense. Preseason awards, though, really, really make no sense. I'm pretty sure my preseason comeback player of the year and 2007 NFL MVP Tom Brady agrees.

7 Comments | Posted in College, Rant

My Reaction to the Jets Draft

Posted by Chase Stuart on April 28, 2009

There's a lot to get into here, so let's get started. In case you didn't know, I'm a Jets fan, hence my interest in writing down my thoughts after a busy weekend.

One of the interesting parts of the Jets trading up for Mark Sanchez was the recognition of two coaches going after "their guys" for their system. Last year, the Jets had Kenyon Coleman at 3-4 DE and Abram Elam at SS. Both players were just cogs in the system; when Rex Ryan came over, he brought in Marques Douglas, who played 3-4 DE for Baltimore last year and earlier this decade, and also Jim Leonhard, starting SS for the Ravens. So Ryan brought two guys that fit his version of the 3-4 -- two guys that he clearly liked -- to replace previous role players (Coleman and Elam).

Then the Jets want to move into the top five to grab Sanchez, and Eric Mangini's there holding the valuable pick. What does he want? Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam, two guys who can come in and start for the Browns and help Cleveland adjust to the complicated Mangini defense. There's no way the Jets can trade a backup DE and a backup SS, along with a backup QB, to anyone else but Mangini. But for Cleveland, it was a coup -- they got three guys they really like, and a second round pick. For the Jets, they gave up a second round pick and simply depth to move from #17 to #5; easily the least a team has given to trade that far into the top five in recent history.

So for starters, I was happy to see the Jets didn't have to give up next year's #1 or more than just this year's #2 to move up. That said, is Sanchez really worthy of the #5 pick? I don't know. He's simply not the prospect that Matthew Stafford is -- he can't carry a team, in my opinion. He's your prototypical "keep the offense moving" type of guy; he won't jumpstart an offense but he won't shut one down, either. He's not Peyton Manning or Carson Palmer or Jay Cutler or Matt Stafford; ironically enough, I don't think he's similar to Joe Flacco, who is four inches taller and has a much stronger arm; Sanchez projects as more of a system quarterback. Sanchez, if things go well, will be an elite game manager. He's not going to be a top 3 QB in the NFL. But the ironic part is Sanchez is a better fit for the Ravens' (and now Jets') style of play than a Flacco or Cutler type is; Sanchez should be a Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Brees, Jeff Garcia or Chad Pennington with an NFL arm sort of player.

Now is Sanchez worth the #5 pick? If he turns into a Mark Brunell or, even better, a Boomer Esiason, type, then yes. But if that's his ceiling and he's not very likely to reach it, then he's not worthy of the pick. On the other hand, the Jets can evaluate this trade as 'is he worth the #17 pick, the 2nd rounder and bench depth?' That's a different question entirely (more on that later). Sanchez is a fascinating prospect for two reasons -- he's been called the safest pick in the draft by some people yet he fits the typical bust profile. We don't have a lot of film on him. He's almost never had to carry a team. He didn't have to throw into tight windows. He was asked to do very simple things, playing with elite talent against bad defenses. He never faced much adversity. So there is a lot of unknown with Sanchez.

Conversely, there are a bunch of things that make him very safe. No one works harder. He's a very strong character guy, and a tremendous interview -- his face will be all over NY, he will be the Jets, going forward. He'll be interviewed a million times by the NY writers and come out looking great in all of them. The Jets gave him a private workout and sent him the playbook two days beforehand; he had mastered nearly the entire thing by the time the Jets arrived and he made all the correct throws. That sort of football IQ makes him a very safe player. He's got a great play action move, something important to the Jets run first philosophy. He can move and throw on the move. He's highly accurate.

So while Sanchez is a solid prospect, the Jets also missed out on some very good players. Pre-draft, I was hoping for Brandon Pettigrew, Jarron Gilbert and Jarrett Dillard to fall to the Jets in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds. To me, that would have been a terrific draft, with a backup option of Maclin in the first round and depth at OL, TE or RB in the third. The Jets could have done any of those things. So why are Pettigrew, Gilbert, and Dillard a better group than Sanchez and Greene? The Jets could have made the defense even better with Gilbert, who has terrific potential, and the offense would have really benefit from a TE like Pettigrew and a smart player like Dillard. The Jets still don't have a blocking tight end on the roster, and that's a significant issue. With Kellen Clemens or Brett Ratliff at the helm, the team would have been very strong as long as one of those was at least decent.

Still, I'm glad the Jets didn't stay at 17 and take Percy Harvin or Beanie Wells. So it could have been worse. I think the 2009 Jets are worse off by doing what they did than what my hope was, but the future may be brighter. At this point, it all becomes a question of what type of player Sanchez becomes.

Moving on, I don't love the trade up for Shonn Greene, but I get it. My favorite draftnik, Sigmund Bloom (who writes for both Footballguys.com and Draftguys.com), always throws the word "clarity" around, and nothing speaks clarity more than this move. Ryan says Greene was by far the best player on the Jets board entering Sunday, and the team was more than happy to give up some picks to get him. Ryan saw a team excel with a three headed monster last year; he's going for that again. Consider the '08 Ravens RBs vs. the '09 Jets RBs:

Player            Age   Wt     Ht      BMI
Le'Ron McClain    24    260    6-0     35.3
Willis McGahee    27    228    6-0     30.9
Ray Rice          21    195    5-9     28.8
                
Thomas Jones      31    220    5-10    31.6
Leon Washington   27    210    5-8     31.9
Shonn Greene      23    235    5-11    32.8

Only two teams gave three RBs 100 carries last season; the Ravens, largely by design, and the Saints, largely due to injury. Ray Rice was the speedster and the third down back; that's Leon Washington's forte. McGahee was the old veteran, who could play every down and do it all, but was no longer excellent at anything; McClain was the plodder, and the big, bruising, one dimensional power back. That's where Shonn Greene comes in -- the Jets did not have the bruiser, the power, the inside presence. Now Washington's much better than Rice, and Jones in '09 should be considerably better than McGahee was in '08, so the Jets have the start of a terrific ground game. But as Ryan said after drafting Greene, he wants the Jets to have some pound and ground, and Greene is that pound.

GM Mike Tannenbaum remembers the three straight runs from the goal line last year that ended with no points. That's not going to happen with Greene. I expect Jones to lead the team in rushing, Greene in rushing TDs and Washington in receiving. So while I don't love the trade up for Greene, it shows clarity on the part of the team -- Ryan knows what he wants to do and what he needs to have to do what he wants. He wants three RBs and wanted a power runner, but he didn't have that. Now he does. This isn't about sending a message to Thomas Jones but about playing power football. Greene is a big back with great footwork; he's not a good blocker and is definitely a 2-down back at this point, but he's going to be grinding out the 4th quarter of games. A 39" vertical leap with the weight he's carrying shows the power he has in his legs. He also ran a faster 40 than Knowshon Moreno. Here is how I project the Jets RBs to perform this year, barring injury:

Jones: 280 carries, 1200 yards, 6 TDs; 30 rec, 200 yards, 1 TD (182 fantasy points)
Washington: 110 carries, 500 yards, 4 TD; 50 rec, 400 yards, 2 TD (126 FP);
Greene: 110 carries, 400 yards, 8 TDs; 5 rec, 30 yards, 0 TD (91 FP)

Total: 500 carries, 2100 yards, 18 TDs; 85 receptions, 625 yards, 3 TD

The passing game still only has one proven WR, although Leon Washington will be split out wide more frequently this year and Dustin Keller will be used in that way, too. I suspect the Jets top three leaders in receiving yards will only include one wide receiver, Jerricho Cotchery. Sanchez or Kellen Clemens will have to be creative this year, but Keller and Washington help because they provide mismatches for defenses. It's also possible that one of David Clowney, Brad Smith, Marcus Henry and Chansi Stuckey will develop into a legitimate wideout, but I wouldn't count on any one of them breaking out. The Jets desperately need that big, fast WR to stretch the field, but that's not necessarily Rex Ryan's M.O.

On defense, it's hard not to be super excited. The Jets defense should be much better this year with Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Lito Sheppard and Vernon Gholston. Obviously Ryan should make this a unit that attacks the passer. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery are a terrific 1-2-3; Leonhard and Rhodes complete a Jets defensive backfield that could be one of the best in the NFL, with three Pro Bowl caliber players and a SS that is perfect for Ryan's system.

At LB, Bart Scott and David Harris are terrific inside; between Vernon Gholston, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace, the Jets OLBs could get 20 sacks. I know people like to rip on Gholston, but he was terribly misused by Mangini and Ryan is the perfect guy for him. Obviously everything starts with Kris Jenkins up front, and he was outstanding last season.

So we know what Ryan's doing. He's crafting this defense in Baltimore's image -- it should be one of the very best in the league. The running game should be one of the tops in the league, and expect Jones/Washington/Greene to get around 500 carries this year. A solid game manager is all the Jets need at QB, and in time, that's what Sanchez will become. How quickly he develops will answer the question of how far this team goes in '09 and '10. In my perfect world, the Jets would have traded into the 3rd round to get Jarron Gilbert or the 5th round to get Dillard, and had they done either of those things I would have given this draft an A.

17 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, Rant

Do good teams really build along the lines?

Posted by Jason Lisk on April 24, 2009

If you hang around team message boards or websites or listen to talk radio this time of year, you will hear lots of discussion and debate about who teams should take. Inevitably (at least it seems to me), somebody will make some comment about how good teams build along the lines, or build from the inside out, or how teams that know what they are doing draft the big uglies. The quarterbacks, wide receivers, flashy defensive backs, these guys are risky! Take the offensive lineman, he's a safe pick, someone will call in and say, that's what a good franchise would do.

The problem is, I can't find any substantial evidence to support such a view. Plenty of anecdotal cases come to mind to counter those who point out that the Lions were idiots for spending first round picks on wide receivers. Namely, that same organization also is the last one (and only one I can find since 1978) to draft three offensive tackles in the first round in three straight years, from 1999-2001, and Aaron Gibson, Stockar McDougal and Jeff Backus didn't exactly set the Lions up for success. People also think of the Steelers as doing it the right way. In the last 15 years, they've actually taken more pass catchers than the Lions in the first round, with four wide receivers and two tight ends.

But those are just isolated examples that come to mind. I thought I would sit down and do a study to see how good and bad teams did draft in the first round, and determine if there were any differences in where they focused. I'll start by saying this is far from a perfect study (as with most) as it entails arbitrarily, though I hope logically, defining good and bad teams in a way that can be used to create useful categories with large sample sizes. We also know that while first round picks are important, they do not solely decide who is good and bad over a period of time. As Doug wrote about here, there are generally somewhere between 4 to 5 originally drafted first round picks starting for a team at a given time--which leaves most of the starters coming outside round one. Also, sometimes good teams draft bad players, and bad teams draft good players.

Still, acknowledging all that, I plowed forward.

10 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, Rant, Statgeekery

Some proof that first round picks, as a group, are not overpaid

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 24, 2009

I could go into a long dissertation on why first round picks, even the top ones, are actually underpaid relative to their average performance over the life of the contract, trot out charts and graphs, and post a study of the cap numbers for teams to see which players actually underperform their cap figures.

I could point out that, despite the public posturing from [gasp] the teams that have a financial incentive to complain that rookies are paid too much[/gasp], no team has actually intentionally passed on a pick or traded it for a later draft pick straight up.

Or I could just say this:

Meet your 2008 Franchise Players.

Fourteen players were franchised by NFL teams this season—okay, well, a kicker, a punter, and 12 football players. Those fourteen guys have combined to start 53 seasons and have played in eight Pro Bowls. Of course, seven of those pro bowl appearances belong to actual franchise-type players, Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs. The other appearance belongs to Shayne Graham. So what we have is a group of guys who have started for at least a few seasons, for the most part, are decent starters, but not elite players at their position at this point. In order to avoid letting these guys get to the open market without draft compensation, these teams are willing to pay and take a cap hit equal to the average of the top 5 salaries at the same position.

A running back who has started fewer than five games (Darren Sproles) and another who has yet to play a full, healthy season as a starter (Brandon Jacobs) will make over 6.5 million for next season, which is almost as much as Adrian Peterson's base salary + prorated bonus, for both the 2007 and 2008 seasons combined. An offensive lineman (Max Starks), who plays right tackle, has never been selected to a pro bowl, missed most of the 2007 season, and started 2008 as a reserve, will make about 8.5 million in 2009, almost as much as “overpaid” Joe Thomas and Jake Long will average over their initial contracts. Unless he gets traded and signs a large long-term deal, a quarterback may get paid a huge amount to be a backup. I don’t want to hear about how Matt Ryan and his 34.5 million in guaranteed money over 6 seasons is overpaid, when Matt Cassel is worth 14.65 million as an insurance policy.

8 Comments | Posted in General, Rant

Football pet peeves

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 20, 2009

Throughout the season, the various contributors to this blog have had an ongoing thread of discussion of football pet peeves. Some are related to coaches, some players, some to announcers and television broadcasts, and well, some to just about anything else football-related. As you will see, some of us are a little more crotchety than others.

29 Comments | Posted in General, Rant

Overtime Rule Change Proposal: Last Clear Chance

Posted by Jason Lisk on January 9, 2009

Following the Colts loss to San Diego, where Manning did not touch the ball in overtime, Peter King wrote that the overtime rule was the "dumbest, stupidest, and most indefensible rule" the NFL has. Now, I don't think it's actually the dumbest rule.

For example, last year I proposed that the league should eliminate the automatic home game for division winner rule and allow wildcard teams with better records to compete for home games. The owners tabled a similar proposal put forth by Roger Goodell and the competition committee last off-season, but I predict that something similar will be in place by the 2011 season if not earlier. The primary reasons I saw from the owners for rejecting it really don't hold water. "It will diminish the value of a division title"--I think that teams that play one of the easiest divisions of all-time and go 3-7 outside of the division do that. "It will hurt teams that play in tough divisions and reward wildcard teams that play in easy ones"--absolutely false based on history, as the strong wildcard teams generally play in tougher divisions and lose out because of being paired with a #1 or #2 seed. If a team wins a division at 9-7 or worse (and thus every other team had 9 or fewer wins), then I submit that the division was in fact, not a tough one. "Tradition: Division winners have always been granted a home game"--again, this is not true, unless tradition goes back to 1990. The NFL has, and I believe will again, changed its playoff structure for the better. Until 1975, for example, division winners with the best record could be forced to go on the road based on a pre-set rotation that assigned home games, without considering a team's record. But I digress.

Like Doug did a couple of years ago,I realized that I've not publicly championed a different overtime system. Like Doug, I also don't have a particular dislike for the overtime system the NFL employs. In fact, it has some nice features-it is simple and fair, oh, and both teams know what the rules are. Prior to the coin flip, both teams have the same chance of getting the ball. Now, Peter King doesn't like it because their is alot of luck tied up in that pre-coin flip fairness. So I've got a solution that solves King's issue (the coin flip) and also, much like Doug's earlier suggestions, should reduce the actual number of overtime games by increasing the incentive to avoid it.

44 Comments | Posted in General, Rant, Rule Change Proposals

I’ve got a habit

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 7, 2008

Maybe it's the recent inundation of data that PFR now posseses, but I'm extremely skeptical whenever I see any study at all anymore. Many moons ago, Doug wrote an article on misusing statistics and the number of people distorting data has only increased since then. There are tons of sources on the internet that use a little bit of statistics and a lot of persuasive writing to convince you of things that aren't always true.

There's nothing wrong with statistical analysis, even when it's just a snap-shop of the pie. The problem is that people don't correctly view the analysis as meaningless trivia, but rather as really useful information. The lawyers in the crowd might draw an analog to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which keeps out certain relevant evidence "if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the" reader.

The problem isn't that there is something wrong with random evidence that's offered, but that data is highly prejudicial. People infer far more from it than they should. And that's why it should be left out. Understanding what's neat trivia and what's causal, valuable information is often tricky.

Why am I on this tangent today? As a Jets fan, you might think I was happy to read Pat Kirwan's recent article on NFL.com. As any football fan knows, Pat Kirwan is an incredible writer who has probably forgotten a bunch more about the NFL than I'll ever know. That being said, here's what he wrote:

7 Comments | Posted in General, Rant

Top Ten Tight Ends of All-Time

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 1, 2008

So I finally sit down to watch the "Top Ten Tight Ends of All-Time" on the NFL Network, which has been airing over the last month. Full disclosure: I am from Kansas City and have watched Gonzalez his whole career. He is one of my all-time favorite players. He's a great team player and team leader, he practices hard, he sacrifices for the team, he blocks well in the running game, can run and make plays in the open field, and catches touchdown passes and makes tough catches in traffic. I settle into a comfortable spot on the couch, the kids are napping, and I have a few moments to bask in the glory that will be Tony Gonzalez appearing somewhere at the top of this list. It's like the NFL Draft, my team may not be drafting for a while, and I'm comfortable knowing this, but I am going to enjoy the lead up.

The list leads off with Antonio Gates is Number 10. Okay, he's been pretty dominant recently, but we still do not know where his career will end up. Probably a little low, but debateable.

Number 9 is Mark Bavaro. Interesting. By career numbers probably shouldn't be on this list, but again, debateable.

Number 8 is . . . Tony Gonzalez? What? My day is ruined. Am I crazy for having thought Gonzalez would be considered one of the best of all-time? He holds the tight end records for career receptions and touchdowns, and will pass Shannon Sharpe for most yards early next year. It's not like he is sticking around past his prime to just pad stats either. He was second team all-NFL in 2007, and played in a pro bowl for the ninth straight season (another tight end record). After this shock to the system, I can't even listen to what they are saying on the show, I'm so amazed.

So I get up and go to the laptop, pull up this website called pro-football-reference.com, and start comparing some numbers. And I am getting even madder. Bavaro and Gonzalez next to each other? To me, this is like saying Terrell Davis should be next to Walter Payton and Jim Brown on the all-time running back list.

Next up at #7 is Dave Casper. My blood pressure improves just a little bit. Casper had a nice career and was the dominant tight end of the late 1970's. Well-deserved on this list, just not in front of Gonzalez. The brief improvement in mood is immediately reversed by the revelation of Jackie Smith at #6. Talk about revisionist history. Why not just put Jay Novacek in front of Gonzalez instead? You know how many times Smith was acknowledged as the best tight end in the league by all-pro voting? The same number as me. Gonzalez--five times. You would have to engage in some serious "I walked to school uphill both ways, and every player was so much better back in my day" thinking to justify this ranking of Smith ahead of Gonzalez. Jackie Smith was a good tight end and had a nice long career, but he certainly was no Tony Gonzalez.

The remaining top five were (in order) Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe, Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow, and John Mackey. I could continue to complain and rant, but let's get to some objective analysis first. Probably the best place to start, similar to what I talked about in comparing Jackie Smith to Gonzalez, is how the tight end was perceived at the time he was playing. Tight end is a unique position, in the sense that we have some statistics and can see how many receptions and touchdowns the tight end scored. But it also entails other things that aren't measured by statistics directly, such as how the tight end affected the game plan, and how good or bad of a blocker he was for the running game--all things that are part of the job description. Also, I wasn't around to see Ditka, Mackey, Smith, or Casper, and I have some vague memories of Winslow in the 1981 playoff game against the Dolphins.

So I'm not going to rely on my own opinions. And I'm surely not going to rely on the opinions of someone thirty years after the fact, particularly about a former teammate or contemporary that they are biased towards, as absence may tend to make the heart grow fonder. No, I'm going to rely on what writers and other people said about each tight end at the time they were playing, as represented by all-pro voting. This is especially important because it allows us to see how a tight end was perceived, beyond his raw numbers, when he was playing.

28 Comments | Posted in History, Rant

The Patriots: J.A.D.

Posted by Doug on May 27, 2008

Until now, I had been quite proud of the fact that this blog was one of the very few --- possibly the only --- Spygate-discussion-free football website in existence. Unless I've forgotten about something, not one word about the topic has been written here. And this really isn't a Spygate post either. It's more of a meta-Spygate post. But in order to set it up, I have to say just a few words about Spygate itself.

I think the Patriots knowingly broke rules with the intent of gaining a competitive advantage. I think the competitive advantage they gained was probably somewhere between negligible and very small, somewhere on the order of one or two expected wins during the course of the Belichick era. I think it's possible that other teams are as guilty as, or even more guilty than, the Patriots, but that New England is probably in the top five or top ten cheatingest teams of the last decade. I have very little basis for any of these beliefs.

But as I said, this post isn't about Spygate. It's about the reaction to Spygate. It's about what morality means in team sports. It's about double standards. It's about win-at-all-costs being an admirable motto and a disgraceful one, depending on how the costs are counted.

Matt Walsh had nothing. But his eight tapes' worth of nothing ignited another round of columns about how evil the Patriots were. Walsh's and Ross Tucker's allegations that the Patriots misused the injured reserve list to their advantage would have been No Big Deal had it been any other team. But it was (is?) a Big Deal because it was the Patriots. Why? The easy answer is jealousy, and that's part of it.

But far more important is the way the Patriots have portrayed themselves, and have been portrayed by their supporters, since February of 2002: as not just a great team, but a team that was great because of its morality.

In team sports, the ultimate Moral Good is devotion to the team above self. Just behind that is the will to win, and for some reason intelligence is considered a moral virtue as well. These were the cornerstones of the Patriots' schtick. The Pats didn't win because they have more talent; they won because they play better as a team. They didn't win because they had better athletes, they won because they were smarter and harder-working and more willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of the team. They wanted it more.

When a team goes out of its way to break from the norm and introduce itself as a team --- and when its fans fall all over themselves praising this choice --- there is a clear implication of moral superiority. The Rams could have won that Super Bowl if they had had the courage to put the good of the team above their own personal glory. The Patriots didn't just win. They won The Right Way. They won only because they did things The Right Way. And that's what Pats' fans have been emphasizing for the last five years.

And I don't blame them for emphasizing that. Winning The Right Way is something to be proud of. It is better than just winning. But the problem is: if you want credit for winning The Right Way, you have to, you know, actually win the right way.

That's why "they didn't really gain a competitive advantage" and "other teams have admitted to similar violations" fall on deaf ears that surround an angry face. If you've been lecturing me for five years on how you win because of your ability to do the little things right, I don't want to hear that this was just a little cheating. If the secret of your success is having the strength of character to do what other teams aren't willing to do, I'm going to react badly when you tell me that sure, you cheated, but no more than anyone else probably. And I'm not going to find it too much of a stretch to believe that maybe the other secret to your success is that you had the weakness of character to do what other teams weren't willing to do.

The Patriots are taking more heat about this than other teams would for the same reason that a televangelist takes more heat than a rock star when he turns out to be a drug-using adulterer.

Has the Patriots' dynasty been tarnished? Yes and no.

No. Their on-field accomplishments stand, as far as I'm concerned. It probably was a very small competitive advantage (if any) and other teams probably were cheating at nearly a similar level. The New England Patriots are the legitimate dynasty of this decade. But eight months ago, they were more than that. They were some sort of transcendent super-dynasty. That hasn't merely been tarnished. It has disintegrated.

The Patriots: Just Another Dynasty.

12 Comments | Posted in Rant

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