Thursday, November 27, 2014

1 comments In Honor of Thanksgiving, Gregg Easterbrook Invites The Truth Over For a Meal and Later Murders It With His Lies and Deception

Well, it turns out Gregg Easterbrook's Authentic Games Super Bowl selection from the AFC just lost to the Raiders. It's a good thing that Gregg's Authentic Games metric changes every week, because now he has a few more chances to correctly guess the Super Bowl matchup. Actually, no worries, because Gregg's Authentic Games metric doesn't care that the Chiefs just lost to the worst team in the NFL. What a great metric to determine the best teams in NFL! This week Gregg is thankful for exciting games on Thanksgiving, updates his Authentic Games standings, and really I could stop writing now because here's the column. It's TMQ. It sucks and frustrates me. It probably always will. But hey, it's Thanksgiving weekend so I will find one thing in this column that I am thankful for. That is my vow.

Many Thanksgiving Day games have been woofers. Not 2014. This year, Thanksgiving offers playoffs in November.

It's only November and Gregg is talking about the playoffs taking place? Is this 2014 NFL Playoffs Creep? How dare Gregg Easterbrook become a part of the 2014 NFL Playoffs Creep. He should be ashamed of himself.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys pairs 8-3 teams and will decide first place in the NFC East. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers pairs 7-4 teams and, considering this season's wild-card logjam, is close to an elimination contest for both clubs.

Nope, it's "close" to an elimination contest in that it isn't at all an elimination contest because there will still be four games played after this one.

Philadelphia-Dallas should be an entertaining shootout, matching the league's fourth- and sixth-ranked offenses. The winner will hold first place in the division. The loser will be 8-4, 

Watch out! Gregg can count!

A shoddy team from the NFC South will host a postseason contest while several winning NFC teams do not receive a postseason invitation. The Boys-Birds losers get an inside track to a wild card. But the Boys-Birds losers need to go 3-1 down the stretch, since a 10-win season is not likely to cut it in the NFC this season.

The Boys-Birds loser has the inside track to a wild card until they lose their next two games, in which case they won't make the playoffs. My point is this is an important game, but it's not like if the Eagles win then they will have the NFC East or even a wild card spot locked up. The game is important, but there's no "inside track" to a wild card here, because the winner of Seattle-San Francisco will also be 8-4. If the Cardinals win the NFC West and the winner of the Seattle-San Francisco game wins their next game and the Eagles lose their next game (after beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving), while the Cowboys win their next game, then all three teams will be 9-4 and the "inside track" doesn't exist. My point is there is still 25% of the games to be played after Thanksgiving day.

Tension is higher in the Seattle-Santa Clara contest. These teams met for last season's NFC title, a down-to-the-wire event many considered the real Super Bowl of last season.

Oh really? "Many" considered this game the real Super Bowl and were discounting the 15-3 Denver Broncos led by a Hall of Fame quarterback and the best offense in NFL history? I must have forgotten that "many" were simply discounting the Broncos. I learn so much reading TMQ.

Now both are staring at the taillights of the Arizona Cardinals. The loser of this Bluish Men Group-Squared Sevens game will have five defeats and likely need to win out for a wild-card berth. Athletes boast about winning out, but it's not a good master plan, especially since Seattle and Santa Clara face each other again in two weeks.

Maybe I'm stupid, but did Gregg write that "winning out" meaning, "Winning the rest of the games they play" is NOT a good master plan? I don't think either team is planning on losing Thursday evening just so they have the chance to try and win out the rest of the games. So no, the master plan probably will never be to lose a game and then try to win the rest of the games.

Will the home field equate to Detroit, Dallas and Santa Clara wins?

Yes, they will Gregg. There's no point in even playing the games because the home team is definitely going to win.

Not necessarily. Since the three-game Thanksgiving format was implemented in 2006, turkey-day hosts are 13-11. 

Whaaaaaaaat? Thanks for clearing up the misconception I didn't have about the home field advantage equating to a win for Detroit, Dallas and Santa Clara.

That 54 percent home victor performance on Thanksgiving is below the typical winning share for home teams. For instance, in the 2013 regular season, home teams won 60 percent of the time. And it's well below home-team outcomes for all Thursday games that are not held on Thanksgiving.

Gee, if only there were a way to chalk this up to something. I know! How about pointing out that two of the teams that have played on every Thanksgiving since 2006, Dallas and Detroit, have five winning seasons between them in that time? Maybe the fact two teams that traditionally have played home games on Thanksgiving since 2006 have not been very good during that time? Detroit has only had a winning record once, so it's mostly on them. It would be crazy to chalk up the lower home winning percentage for home teams on Thanksgiving to something as logical as this.

That Detroit always gets a Thanksgiving host date, and the Lions have been awful in many recent seasons, dragging down the turkey-day home team performance statistics. 

See, Gregg DOES come to this conclusion, but only after beating around the fucking bush as much as possible. Rather than just state WHY home teams on Thanksgiving don't have a winning percentage comparable to home teams playing on non-Thanksgiving Thursday, Gregg has to ask the question, beat around the bush about why and then finally get to the right answer. It's like he is killing space, but Gregg wouldn't do that would he? Not when he has all this NFL knowledge just waiting to burst out on to the computer screen.

In other football news, if the playoffs began today, 4-7 Atlanta would host a playoff game while five 7-4 teams -- the Browns, Steelers, 49ers, Lions and Ravens -- would not reach the postseason at all. Why is a seeded playoff format a forbidden thought to the NFL?

Why is Gregg trying to predict which teams will make the playoffs when there are still five games to play? Yet again, Gregg is guilty of 2014 NFL Playoffs Creep. It's only the end of November and Gregg is talking about the playoffs that don't even start until 2015. It's just like showing the Rockettes' Christmas Show in early December or late November. It hasn't happened yet, so don't talk about it or else that's CREEP!

Stats Of The Week No. 5: The AFC North is 28-15-1; the NFC South is 13-30-1

I'm not taking anything away from the AFC North. It is clearly a stronger division this year (and that's important to note. THIS YEAR it is a stronger division. These things are cyclical), but also know that the AFC North is playing the NFC South head-to-head, so these records may be exacerbated by one of the best divisions playing one of the worst divisions during the season. It doesn't matter. The NFC South sucks, but it's important to know that these two divisions are playing each other this year.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Atlanta is 4-0 versus the NFC South, 0-7 versus all other divisions.

See? This puts things in perspective a little bit and helps prove my point. The AFC North is 10-1-1 against the NFC South this year. Obviously those games can't be removed, but when not playing the NFC South the AFC North is 18-14, while the NFC South is 12-20 against other divisions. This is still a terrible number, but puts the AFC North record in a little more perspective.

The Broncos seem to have a playbook just for deuce tries: under Peyton Manning, Denver is 4-of-5 when going for two.

Or the Broncos just have a really good Hall of Fame quarterback who is good at converting two-point conversions.

Touts lauded the return of Josh Gordon, with 120 receiving yards. Two of Brian Hoyer's three interceptions were errant throws targeted to Gordon. in both instances he might have broken up the pass but instead just watched passively as the ball was picked off. When a pass is errant, a wide receiver should turn into a defensive back. Gordon seems to consider this beneath him.

I like how Gregg's takeaway from these two plays is to blame the receiver for not turning into a defensive back and he doesn't blame Brian Hoyer for throwing the fucking errant pass. Maybe Josh Gordon should have played defense better, but Hoyer threw the damn interception. Most of the blame should go to him.

More importantly, Gregg is performing his weekly lying and deceiving tricks. Someone please tell me how the holy hell Josh Gordon was supposed to "turn into a defensive back" and stop this interception from happening. Was he supposed to turn into fucking Superman and fly ahead to push the Falcons player away from the football? It was well overthrown and Gordon couldn't have broken up the pass. As usual, Gregg wants to criticize and hope no one follows up to see if he's misleading his audience or not.

Now it's Detroit leading 3-0 at New England. The Flying Elvii face third-and-goal on the Lions 4. Presnap, Detroit is confused -- linebacker Josh Bynes is gesturing madly to the secondary. Just call time out! Continuing to gesticulate, Bynes turned his back on the opponents. Word to the wise: Do not turn your back on Tom Brady. He immediately signaled for the snap and threw an easy touchdown pass to tight end Tim Wright, the man Bynes should have guarded.

While agreeing with the point Gregg is trying to make, this isn't fucking basketball. There may be no player that Bynes is supposed to "guard." Sometimes defensive players don't have players they "guard" because this isn't basketball and teams run defensive schemes that are zone schemes. But of course, Gregg doesn't know this and just assumes defensive players are always "guarding" a man.

Also, I think Gregg meant to call him "hard-working undrafted free agent" Josh Bynes. I'm sure it's coincidence he didn't mention Bynes' draft position.

One other thing. Gregg doesn't think anyone can look at video to prove he is misleading his readers. Look. Bynes back was not to Tom Brady. He was looking at Brady at the snap. He went right and should have gone left.

The next time New England reached the Lions' 4, Wright split wide. Across from him was safety Glover Quin, who, being a safety, won't get any safety help; at any rate there wasn't any other defensive back on that side of the field who didn't have a man to guard. At the snap, Wright did a quick down-and-out. Quin stood like a piece of topiary, covering no one, as Wright scored again. 

This is a perfect example of Gregg Easterbrook criticizing an NFL team while not recognizing the type of defense that team was running. I know it's shocking to Gregg, but he is wrong sometimes. First off, the ball was on the Lions' 8 yard line not the 4 yard line, so Gregg is factually incorrect as usual. Second, Quin was in zone coverage. He clearly didn't just stand there, he was in his zone with a linebacker in front of him also running zone coverage. Also, there was no "guarding" because it was a zone defense. The defenders were guarding a zone, not a man. And for the third thing that Gregg was wrong about on this play, there WAS another defensive back on that side of the ball who didn't have anyone to cover in his zone. There was no other Patriots player on the screen in the left side of the end zone when Tim Wright caught that pass.

So Gregg has managed to get the yardage, the Lions' coverage, and his description of this play incorrect. Basically, there was nothing about the Patriots' touchdown that he described accurately. I'm sure many of his loyal readers will simply believe Gregg Easterbrook isn't misleading them and go spout off knowledge about how Lions' defenders didn't "guard" their man. Such is life with a trusted writer who misleads and lies to his audience in order to churn out a weekly column.

Last week at Indianapolis, the Patriots huddled up and mostly ran a heavy package of two tight ends and a fullback. That's the film Detroit looked at during the week.

Gregg claims to know the exact film the Lions watched during the week. Knowing the Patriots change offensive tactics on a weekly basis, I find it hard to believe the Lions only watched last week's game tape. But hey, Gregg makes up shit knows more than I do, right?

Sunday, New England used a no-huddle hurry-up with four or five wide. The game was a 1 p.m. start in late November, which means declining winter sun may be in a receiver's eyes. From about Veterans Day on, the coach who leaves nothing to chance sends someone to the field the day before the game to chart the sun, as perceived from the field, as it declines during the hours of the contest. Sunday, in the second quarter, a Detroit receiver was sent deep where, looking back, the sun was blinding: drop. New England passes went to shaded areas of the field.

Gregg wants to know why NFL teams have such a large staff? There's the justification for NFL teams having such a large staff. Somebody has to chart the sun.

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 1" just opened, the most recent in the doomsday genre that has assimilated Hollywood, television and novel writing. The "Hunger Games" books and movies denounce use of violence for mass entertainment. And hey, come be entertained by the glorified violence! 

I haven't read the books, but my understanding is that "The Hunger Games" movie is a work of fiction that isn't intended to portray a life lesson, so who gives a flying shit?

Then there's "Snowpiercer." Marketed as a highbrow, philosophical doomsday film, "Snowpiercer" contains a stark warning to humanity: After the apocalypse, nothing will make sense. Some kind of environmental blunder triggered an instant ice age that killed all but a few thousand people. They endlessly ride around the planet aboard a huge train powered by a perpetual motion engine that requires no fuel. If the world was suddenly covered with ice, why were capital and resources devoted to building a train track rather than, say, protective structures? Future technology can devise a perpetual motion engine, yet everyone has forgotten about power plants that burn coal to generate heat.

It's almost as if this movie is a work of fiction and any attempt at extracting reality from the movie is the fault of the person attempting to extract this reality.

The economics make least sense. The deep philosophical part is that the poor live in the back of the train, the middle class in the middle and the 1 percent in luxury up front. If society collapsed, wouldn't the money held by the rich become worthless?

Yes Gregg, but the power they have is still worth a lot. Power is the real money. Surely Gregg Easterbrook understands this principle. He is well-paid to write TMQ, so people think because he has this power it means he is smarter than the average football fan. See, the power Gregg has by writing TMQ means he is given qualities that he wouldn't otherwise have if TMQ was written by some dude on a blog.

Trailing 17-0 at Philadelphia, Tennessee punted on fourth-and-1 from its 34. Trailing 27-17, the Flaming Thumbtacks took the field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Nesharim 2. Tennessee entered the contest 2-8, yet coach Ken Whisenhunt used hyper-conservative tactics as if holding a late lead in the Super Bowl.

And to be clear, if a team used hyper-conservative tactics holding a late lead in the Super Bowl then Gregg would criticize that team for using hyper-conservative tactics. So Gregg doesn't really even agree with his comparison for how Whisenhunt was coaching.

Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter at New England, Detroit faced fourth-and-goal on the Patriots 2, and took the field goal. New England entered the contest as the league's second highest-scoring team -- touchdowns, not field goals, defeat high-scoring teams.

Pulling within 24-21 with 3:23 remaining versus Green Bay, Minnesota prepared to kick off following roughing the passer on a deuce. That meant the Vikings teed up on the 50-yard line. Onside! Onside! Worst-case for an onside from midfield just isn't that bad.

Two important points I believe Gregg misses:

1. He just stated that touchdowns, not field goals defeat high-scoring teams. Giving the Packers, another high-scoring team, a short field is also not a way to defeat a high-scoring team.

2. An onside kick does seem smart here, unless the Packers were expecting an onside kick, in which case the odds of success decrease. Gregg seems to consistently have difficulty understanding the success of an onside kick often depends on whether it is expected by the opposing team or not. If the Packers expect the onside kick here, the odds of success decrease.

Why Do Corners Look Into The Backfield? TMQ complains about corners looking into the backfield. Prep and college players may do this owing to lack of experience. Why do NFL players do it?

Cornerbacks will sometimes try to read the quarterback's eyes, but I think most of the time Gregg claims a cornerback "looks into the backfield" that the corner is usually not playing man defense and is in zone coverage of some sort. As I showed earlier, Gregg is terrible at figuring what defenses are run in the NFL, so I'm quite certain he's mistaken "looking into the backfield" for being in zone coverage. As always, Gregg's football knowledge is great as long as you don't look into the claims he makes in TMQ.

On T.Y. Hilton's 73-yard touchdown reception that led to his "cradle the baby" celebration, Jacksonville corner Dwayne Gratz was busy looking into the backfield as Hilton blew past. NFL corners know that future bonus offers will be heavily influenced by their interception numbers.

Does Gregg even know what he's talking about? "Future bonus offers will be heavily influenced by their interception numbers." What "bonus offers"? Is he talking about a contract extension? If so, the signing bonus the player receives isn't determined by only interceptions.

Looking into the backfield is a way to generate interceptions -- the corner may be able to read the quarterback's eyes and jump a short out. If looking into the backfield generates an interception, the corner benefits; if it causes a long pass completion, too bad for the team.

Gratz was not looking in the backfield, but was running either short man coverage or zone and expected safety help over the top. Look at the video. At the end of the video, the analyst even says, "Dwayne Gratz, wasn't totally his fault. His safety didn't help him."

It simply annoys me that there are idiots who read TMQ who will go around spouting bullshit about corners "looking into the backfield" because they think Gregg Easterbrook knows what the hell he is talking about, which he clearly doesn't. Gratz expected safety help and it is clear from looking at the coverage the Jaguars were running that he wasn't in man coverage on Hilton. Yet, Gregg keeps spewing nonsense in the place of facts.

Nobody likes to think about this stuff. In the short term these problems can be ignored, and the American political system is good at ignoring problems. But the longer pension reforms are put off, the worse the bailouts will be.

The Netherlands has a secure pension system because each generation is required to pay for itself. In the United States, the retired expect to be subsidized by the young. Millennials, why aren't you rebelling against this?

Because the retired and those going to be retired soon are the people holding the power. There aren't too many Millennials in Congress who can push through pension reform. But great question that ignores one of the most obvious answers. It's kind of hard to make changes when those in power who can make the change are those who also benefit from no change being made.

TMQ Right on a Distressingly Easy Prediction: Last month my Atlantic Monthly article on longevity trends noted that Social Security and Medicare have between $3.2 trillion and $8.3 trillion in unfunded liabilities,

The Dangerous Safety Device: Years ago for the Washington Monthly I did a story about an OSHA mandate that backfired and caused a workplace fatality.

A lot of pimping out of Gregg's other work in this TMQ.

The urban myth of being "thrown clear of the crash" is nonsense: being thrown from a crash makes a person 25 times more likely to die. (Your body is moving 50 miles an hour, passes through a window and then impacts concrete.) "I don't need to buckle up because this is a short trip" is also urban myth. Most traffic fatalities occur within 25 miles of home.

True, but this is probably because most people only drive within 25 miles of their home.

And please don't say "no one can tell me what to do inside my car." That's true if you drive exclusively on private property. State and federal law both are crystal clear that, on public roads, drivers must obey traffic and safety rules.

True, but I believe if I am over the age of 21 then I should be able to decide if I want to wear a safety belt or not. I don't need the government protecting me. But yes, the law says drivers and passengers have to wear a safety belt.

air bags reduce the probability of death by approximately 16 percent in direct-frontal impacts and 9 percent in partial-frontal impacts." Levitt and Price established that seat belts were much more effective than generally assumed, while airbags were overrated.

Why are auto regulators still in love with airbags?

Because even if they are overrated, they can still save lives if the person is wearing a safety belt. So if the regulators will force people to wear seatbelts than they will also think any other option to save lives is worth exploring.

First is that some people refuse to buckle up. Mandating ignition interlocks -- so vehicles won't start until belts are buckled -- is seen as a scandalous idea. Dangerous, expensive airbags are better?

Second is that airbags are seen as a triumph of regulation, and the intellectual left won't give an inch on regulation. Seat belts, and then shoulder harnesses, were the true triumph for regulation -- they've saved large numbers of lives in a cost-effective manner.

Third is that government programs never end. A generation ago there was a huge lobbying fight regarding airbags, resulting in new government programs and a new constituency of bag manufacturers. At this point airbags may have outlived their usefulness, if not actually become a hazard.

Also, now that air bags have been placed in most cars, if manufacturers take them out of the car then there is a perception that the car has just been made less safe. This would obviously affect sales.

Crimson star Andrew Fischer compiled 193 of his team's 404 yards from scrimmage. So maybe, just maybe, the play will be to Fischer. Yale had him single-covered going deep, no safety help. To make matters worse, Bulldogs corner Dale Harris was looking into the backfield trying to guess the play, rather than simply covering his man. 

Since Gregg often lies about whether a corner is looking in the backfield, I'm guessing Dale Harris really wasn't doing this.

TMQ contends that donations to university and college athletic departments should not be tax-deductible, since unlike education, athletics makes no larger contribution to society. No one likes taxes. But when the rich get deductions for donations, average people must be taxed or government debt must rise. Harvard has $36.4 billion endowment, more than double the GDP of Iceland. Why should athletic donations to Harvard, or to any university or college, be supported by average taxpayers?

The tax law which states donations to university and college athletic departments are tax-deductible isn't really in place for Harvard or other schools with huge endowments. It's intended to encourage contributions to smaller or medium sized athletic programs that need and can use the funds. The IRS just can't say, "All contributions to university and college athletic departments are tax-deductible, except for you Harvard. You have too much money already. Any contributions to your athletic department is not tax-deductible."

Last week Kansas City rose to second place, and immediately lost to winless Oakland. But since the Authentic Games Index doesn't recognize the Long Johns, this defeat does not alter the Chiefs' standing.

And yes, Gregg's Authentic Games metric is so useful it doesn't include his AFC Super Bowl participant from last week (and this week) losing to a previously winless team. Why would a loss to the worst team in the NFL hurt the Kansas City Chiefs in the Authentic Games metric? How could losing to the worst team in the NFL have ANYTHING to do with predicting that team's success in the postseason?

Gregg's Super Bowl matchup this week is Arizona versus Denver. Of course, Kansas City has one less loss to authentic teams than the Broncos have, but they lose out because they haven't played as many authentic teams as the Broncos.

My Non-Authentic Games metric has predicted the following Super Bowl matchups so far:

Packers and Broncos
Saints and Dolphins
Packers and Patriots

This week's Non-Authentic Games metric based entirely on which teams in the AFC and NFC won by the largest margin shows the Super Bowl matchup will be the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills. So get ready for the matchup in the Super Bowl. Orton versus Sanchez.

Arizona clock management at the end of the first half at Seattle was perplexing. Trailing 9-0, the Cardinals reached third-and-goal on the Seattle 5 with 55 seconds remaining, holding a timeout. Bruce Arians watched as the clock ticked down to 19 seconds, then called the timeout. Huh? That meant Arizona was sure to attempt a pass into the end zone, as it did, incompletion -- the odd use of clock assured the Bluish Men Group they didn't have to defend a rush.

The Cardinals were holding a timeout, so why does this mean a pass attempt was assured? The Cardinals could easily have tried to run the football and then called timeout. Gregg is using hindsight to say that a pass was assured, but the Cardinals easily could have run the football from the five-yard line with one timeout. Sometimes I don't even understand what Gregg is thinking. He tends to just make up a reality to fit the criticism he wants to make.

The Blizzard of 1979 pretty much shut down Chicago for about two weeks and had lingering impacts for a month. Snow removal efforts were terrible despite lavish federal emergency aid; much of the CTA failed; the city's political machine was discredited, opening the door to Byrne. Three monster blizzards have hit Chicago in the postwar period, and all three been poorly handled. Yet Chicago is not widely viewed as a blizzard city.

Then there's Buffalo. The hard-to-believe seven-foot snowfall in parts of the Buffalo area (most totals are much lower, "lake effect" snow can vary significantly over short distances) is perhaps best appreciated in this photo, unless you prefer the drone perspective. Most Buffalo area public schools reopened today, one week after the blizzard. Chicago needed two weeks for basic recovery (schools open, plowing of side streets) from less than two feet of snow, Buffalo recovered faster from more than double the snowfall. Having lived in both Buffalo and Chicago, I can attest that Buffalo handles snow better, and endures less disruption of daily life from snow, than Chicago.

Yet Buffalo is viewed as a blizzard capital while Chicago is viewed as merely windy.

Chicago is viewed as merely windy probably because they don't get as many snowstorms during a given year as Buffalo. So Chicago doesn't handle snow as well because it seems the city infrastructure isn't as well-equipped to handle large amounts of snow as the city infrastructure in Buffalo is equipped to handle large amounts of snow.

If snowstorms ruin your day, you'd be better off in Buffalo than in Chicago -- since in Buffalo, snow rapidly is plowed and shoveled.

Yes, it's better to be in a snowstorm while located in a city that is used to handling snowstorms. Thanks for the information Gregg. I wouldn't have been able to figure this out without your help.

The Football Gods Will Smile Upon Him: On the final first half snap of Cleveland versus Atlanta, the Browns attempted a 60-yard field goal. Devin Hester was back to return a missed long field goal, which happened; got most of the way down the field and had only the holder to beat for a touchdown with time expired; Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio, who weighs 305 pounds, hustled like crazy to catch Hester from behind.

I think Gregg means "highly-paid glory boy and second round pick" Joel Bitonio hustled to catch Hester. Because Bitonio was drafted in the second round, Gregg won't be mentioning his draft position because it might ruin the narrative that highly-drafted players don't hustle like undrafted and lowly drafted players do.

Last week, TMQ complained of timid play calling by Buffalo coach Doug Marrone on fourth-and-short. In the second quarter, Bills facing fourth-and-short on the Jersey/B 45, Marrone went for it, and the try failed. The failed fourth-and-short was Buffalo's biggest down of the game! This column contends that sometimes it's better to try and fail -- this communicates to players that their coach is challenging them to win -- than to launch a timid punt. After the failed fourth-and-short, the Bills outscored the Jets 31-0.

It's better to try and fail because this communicates to players that the coach is challenging his team to win...except in situations like last week when Gregg criticized the Saints for not "doing a little dance" to convert the fourth down. It turns out that going for it on fourth-and-short challenges a coach's team to win only in cases where that team ended up winning the game. Funny how that works isn't it?

Manly Man Plays of the Week: Game tied 7-7, Santa Clara, hosting the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, faced fourth-and-2 at midfield with 11 seconds remaining, holding a time out. The "safe" thing to do is to punt. Harbaugh/West  called for a deep pass, complete, Niners field goal on the final snap of the half.

Yeah, but WHO CAUGHT THIS PASS, GREGG? WHO? SAY HIS NAME!

From the ESPN game play-by-play of this game:

(:11) (Shotgun) C.Kaepernick pass deep right to M.Crabtree pushed ob at WAS 23 for 25 yards (B.Breeland). 0-yds YAC

Michael Crabtree, he of the "Crabtree Curse" and a highly-drafted glory boy who only cares about himself, is the guy who caught this pass. Isn't it interesting how Gregg leaves this little tidbit out of his analysis of this play? It's like Gregg has an agenda he pushes in TMQ. This agenda is mainly to make up some shitty theory in order to explain why a team isn't playing well (instead of actual analysis because Gregg isn't capable of doing this) and then cover up how wrong he was when his theory is proven to be incorrect. It's all about Gregg's ego. He CAN NOT be seen as wrong nor can he allow his readers to see through his bullshit.

Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III, both once viewed as unstoppable,

They've never been viewed as unstoppable. Gregg is exaggerating.

Doomsday movies play in suburban shopping malls to amuse soccer moms; 

That's a little sexist I think. Gregg probably thinks these soccer moms catch the doomsday movies in the afternoon so they can be home in time to cook dinner and make more babies.

Doomsday and computer-generated special effects obviously fit together nicely, while dystopias create the sort of simplistic good-versus-evil contrasts beloved by scriptwriters. If a future society is run by cackling villains, that's a lot easier to write than a future run by the conscientious.

Considering these movies and books are written to be entertaining, it's also a lot more entertaining to have an actual antagonist in a story rather than a story about nice people running the future with no conflict and drama.

The Football Gods Chortled: Three days after being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, breakout Patriots star Jonas Gray was benched, active for the Detroit game but never sent in.

Again, Gregg misleads his readers. I believe he means "unwanted and undrafted" Jonas Gray. Also, Gray isn't a star because he played well in one game. Geez. Cut back on the exaggerations.

Raiders Mathematically Alive to Finish 6-10: Kansas City had just defeated the defending champion Seahawks and was looking past the 0-10 Raiders to this Sunday's confrontation with Denver.

Gregg's ability to read minds comes through again.

Miami leading 21-17 at Denver facing third-and-10 at the Broncos 12, Ryan Tannehill dropped to pass.

Well, if Tannehill dropped to pass then he's playing the quarterback position all wrong. It's hard to throw the football from the ground.

Yes, I make grammar mistakes all the time, but is it too much to expect more from a columnist who has an editor and writes for the biggest sports site on the Internet? I don't think so.

He was hit as he threw; the ball bounced off an offensive lineman

Well obviously. He dropped to throw the pass. There's no way he could get the pass over the offensive lineman while on the ground.

Next Week: Tuesday Morning Quarterback gets a chief of staff.

Maybe this chief of staff will convince Gregg to quit misleading his readers by leaving out facts that only serve to protect Gregg's ego and attempt to give Gregg's assertions some authority in the minds of readers through deception. I doubt it. Gregg would probably just hire a chief of staff to gather more information about how unrealistic science-fiction movies and television shows are.

I said I would have to be thankful for something in this column in an attempt to be somewhat positive. Here it is. I'm thankful this column is over...and I'm thankful you guys read the crap I write about the crap Gregg writes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

2 comments Apparently Whatever Team Drafted Buster Posey Would Have Won Three World Series Titles By Now

Buster Posey is a great catcher and baseball player. All four teams that didn't draft him probably would have liked to have gotten a chance to look into the future, see what kind of baseball player Posey would become, and then draft him. When he isn't causing consternation based on when he was called up to the majors, Posey is causing (supposed) consternation from the teams that didn't draft him. Bill Shaikin has written a column about how the Royals passed over Posey in the 2008 MLB draft and then talks about the other teams that passed over Posey. There seems to be an...assumption, maybe...perhaps an insinuation...or more like a suggestion that whatever team had drafted Posey would have won one or multiple World Series at this point.

Every team in every sport passes up a great player at some point in that organization's history. It's bound to happen. I guess it's an easy comparison to see that the Royals and Giants were playing in the World Series and the Royals just happened to draft Eric Hosmer over Buster Posey. It's not really news, but it is interesting. It's just...the assumption I feel like I am reading that the Royals and the Rays would have won a World Series (and the Pirates and Orioles to a lesser extent) by now if they had drafted Posey seems speculative. I'm not sure it would have worked that way.

If the Kansas City Royals lose this World Series, none of the decisions they are about to make will be as crucial as one they made six years ago.

They could have had Buster Posey.

Yes, they could have had Buster Posey. The Royals do have Salvador Perez and he is 24 years old and signed for the next five years at $18.5 million, until he is 29 years old. He had the worst batting season of his career this year and hit .260/.289/.403, won a Gold Glove and had a WAR of 3.3. He's definitely not Buster Posey, but he's also not a shitty catcher. I'm sure the Royals regret not drafting Posey, but Posey has also signed a large contract (nine years $164 million) that would not have fit into what the Royals are trying to do. They want to build the team around defense and speed. Perez plays really good defense. Posey was a better selection, but the Royals aren't stuck with chicken shit right now.

With the third pick of the 2008 draft, the Royals picked first baseman Eric Hosmer. With the fifth pick, the Giants happily grabbed Posey, who has led them to three World Series appearances in five years.

Posey was a college player and Hosmer was a high school player. Different situations for both players. Posey is obviously the better player though. 

They won in 2010, when Posey was the National League rookie of the year. They won in 2012, when 

Posey was the NL most valuable player and batting champion.

In their 52 B.P. (Before Posey) years in San Francisco, the Giants never won.

They did make the World Series in 1989 and 2002, so it's not like they were a totally struggling franchise B.P. They weren't great, that's for sure. 

"It is not a coincidence," said Bobby Evans, the Giants' assistant general manager.

It's also not a coincidence that pitchers like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez (he was good in 2010), and Ryan Vogelsong pitched for the Giants during that time and they had a really good bullpen to help close out games. Buster Posey obviously has something to do with the Giants winning three World Series, but it's not a coincidence that the Giants won a World Series with Posey on the roster like it's not a coincidence they also won three World Series when they had good young pitching. 

The standard major league team has a catcher batting low in the order, and any offense is a bonus. In Posey, the Giants have an elite batter staffing the most arduous defensive position.

It is a plus, but it also doesn't immediately lead to success. The best hitting catchers in the majors this year (300 or more at-bats) were Devin Mesoraco, Buster Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, Yan Gomes, Russell Martin, Derek Norris, Carlos Ruiz, Evan Gattis, Chris Iannetta, and Yadier Molina. Of those players four were in the playoffs and two of them lost in the Wild Card game. It's a bonus to have a great hitting catcher in the lineup. It's also a bonus to have a pitching staff that's ranked in the Top 10 in ERA and quality starts (except for 2014) every year the Giants have won the World Series. I'm not taking anything away from Posey, his good hitting is a plus, but he's not THE REASON the Giants have won three World Series.

Posey was the only major league catcher to lead his team in home runs, and he amplified the Giants' huge competitive advantage at the position by leading his team in batting average and on-base-plus-slugging percentage, too.

I think this is more of a reflection on the lack of power the Giants had, and the fact Brandon Belt only played in 61 games, than it is a reflection that this is a competitive advantage of some sort. It's good to have a catcher lead the team in home runs, but I'm not sure it's quite the competitive advantage the author thinks it is without other great players around him. I also don't understand why this is a bigger competitive advantage coming from a catcher specifically. There still has to be great players around that catcher. Todd Frazier led the the Reds in batting average, OBP, home runs, hits, and RBI's, PLUS he had the catcher who hit the most home runs in MLB on his team, and the Reds finished 76-86.

"To play the catcher position, put up a .300 average and hit 20 home runs, you should be in the MVP talk every year," Giants pitcher Tim Hudson said. "I don't care how your team finishes."

Finally, an MLB player is on record as saying winning games doesn't matter in terms of whether a player on that team should be in the MVP discussion. Perhaps Tim Hudson thinks this only applies to the position of catcher. 

The Dodgers had the 15th pick of the 2008 draft. But the Giants, who had the fifth pick, hired Barr as scouting director.

With the Giants, Barr had his chance at Posey.

"If he was there when we picked, we were going to take him," Barr said.

This turned out to be a good move and the direct cause for the Giants to win three World Series. 

The Tampa Bay Rays, run by new Dodgers baseball boss Andrew Friedman, had the first pick. In one of the all-time draft blunders, they narrowed their choice to Posey and high school infielder Tim Beckham, then chose Beckham.

I do not approve of the wording of this sentence. One of the all-time draft blunders was drafting Tim Beckham just overall, no matter who the Rays had it narrowed down to. They could have chosen pretty much anyone else drafted in the Top 10 of the 2008 draft and been in better shape than they were in drafting Beckham. So yes, it was an all-time draft blunder to draft Beckham overall, regardless of whether they selected Buster Posey.

"How many World Series would the Rays have won with him instead of Beckham?" one American League scout said. "They're always looking for a catcher."

Oh lord. I don't even know what to say to this comment. It's not like if the Rays had drafted Buster Posey this would have immediately vaulted them into winning several World Series back-to-back. If they had brought Posey up in 2010 then he would have helped that Rays team for sure. I will concede that. The Rays may have a World Series title by now, but that's pure speculation. There's no way to know for sure, but one thing I do know for sure is that if the Rays had drafted Buster Posey, he would possibly not be a member of the Rays during the 2015 season. Based on the fact he didn't sign a team-friendly contract with the Giants, he wouldn't have signed a team-friendly contract with the Rays and would be eligible for arbitration during the 2015 season. The Rays love to trade players and get a solid return in order to keep payroll at a manageable level.

It's way too much speculation to ask, "How many World Series would the Rays have won with him instead of Beckham?" It's impossible to answer and any attempt to push the argument in the direction the author wants the argument to go is arriving to a conclusion based on assumption piled on speculation. Yes, the Rays would have been a better team in 2010 and beyond if they had Posey, but to say they would have won multiple World Series is unknowable.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had the second pick, and they focused on power-hitting Vanderbilt infielder Pedro Alvarez. The Baltimore Orioles had the fourth pick, but they had selected catcher Matt Wieters the previous year, and ultimately they took University of San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz.

Again, saying that a team should NOT have selected Buster Posey is an argument I can't make. Teams in every sport pass up great players all the time. I'm not sure if you have heard, but Michael Jordan was not the #1 draft pick in the 1984 draft. But having selected Matt Wieters, who was also a college catcher, it makes sense the Orioles didn't draft Posey. That is unless they liked them both so much they wanted to see which one made it to the majors first and then trade the other. That doesn't seem like the most efficient use of resources. 

"We were taking the best player available," General Manager Dayton Moore said. "We liked Buster Posey a lot. The thing we liked about Hos, the thing that separated us, was that we felt he was going to be a plus offensive player and a plus defender. Not that we didn't think Buster Posey would. He's a great player.

And Hosmer hasn't been the great offensive player on par with what a corner infielder should be or what Buster Posey has been. He has been a very good defensive first baseman. Hosmer looked like he was going to take off during the 2014 season after hitting .302/.353/.448 with 17 home runs during 2013. This didn't happen. 

Hosmer was drafted out of high school, so his development took longer. That was of little consolation to the Royals in 2012, when Hosmer was batting .232 and Posey was the MVP, batting champion and World Series champion.

Was it consolation to the Royals in 2011 when Hosmer .293/.334/.465 with 19 home runs in 128 games while Buster Posey only played 45 games because he's a fucking catcher who got run over at the plate and injured like happens to catchers? Was it consolation to the Royals during the 2014 postseason when Hosmer hit .351/.439/.544?

I'm not arguing the Royals shouldn't want Buster Posey, it's just the whole assumption and/or gist of this article is "These teams fucked up irreparably because they didn't draft Posey and this cost them at least one World Series" when I'm not sure this is entirely true. Posey is a great player and he's a catcher, which apparently is even more impressive while ignoring he will have to change positions at some point most likely, but the Royals would not have won a World Series by now with Posey and I have no idea how many World Series the Rays would have won with Posey. Maybe one, maybe two, perhaps zero.

The Hosmer pick might yet turn out all right for the Royals. He batted .302 last year. He is batting .448 in the postseason, and he has reached base 20 times in 36 appearances.

That, and he is 25 years old. There is time. 

If Moore had a draft regret, it was not the selection of Hosmer. In 2010, the Royals liked the left-handed pitching in their system and decided to pick Cal State Fullerton infielder Christian Colon. 

They passed on the guy who has turned into the best left-hander in the American League.

"We beat ourselves up on Chris Sale a lot," Moore said.

Now not drafting Sale if the Royals liked Sale a lot, I can't get behind. I'm a fan of "You can never have too much pitching" and "Quality left-handed pitching is so hard to find so get it when you can" that I would have gone with Sale if the Royals had liked Sale the most. That's IF they liked him the most. Colon hasn't been great, but he's not been a bust on a Tim Beckham level either. He's moved slowly through the system. If the Royals had drafted Colon instead of Posey then I could see the issue, but Hosmer should not be a huge draft regret.

In 2005, the Angels selected Posey out of high school, in the 50th and final round. Posey said the Angels never made him an offer.

It was pretty clear that Posey was going to Florida State. A player with the talent that Posey showed in high school doesn't get drafted in the 50th round if MLB teams aren't very, very sure he is going to be completely unsignable and instead choose to go to college. 

Posey had told major league teams that he planned to attend college. Eddie Bane, then the Angels' scouting director, had watched Posey throw 93 mph in high school and wanted to reserve his rights if he blossomed as a pitcher that summer.

Exactly, Posey was going to college. Let's not let the "This team fucked up because they didn't draft Buster Posey" story get out of hand. If Posey was drafted in the 50th round, every MLB team passed on him 40+ times, so it would just be fair to say, "Every MLB team wishes they had drafted Buster Posey."

The Angels' first pick in 2005 was pitcher Trevor Bell, who won four major league games.

Drafting a player in the first round who was clearly going to college would have been a very dumb move for the Angels to make. I get the author wants to show the Angels drafted Posey and didn't sign him, but he wasn't going to sign and they, like every other team did that year, should not have drafted him earlier than he was drafted. The Angels did draft Peter Bourjos in the 10th round of the 2005 draft. They should get credit for that.

"I can't remember who our first pick was that year," Bane said, jokingly. "But it should have been Buster, and we should have given him whatever he wanted."

Well, unless the Angels were willing to turn their MLB team into a college where Posey could play baseball for the Florida State baseball coach with other Florida State baseball players, I don't think the Angels could have given Posey what he wanted.

And guess what else? Mike Trout should have been drafted by every MLB team prior to the point he was drafted by the Angels. Four MLB teams wish they had drafted Buster Posey, but if the Rays, Royals, Pirates, and Orioles had drafted Posey, then that doesn't mean they would have won multiple World Series by now. Posey is important to the Giants winning three World Series, but it's just not his performance that led to those three titles. Madison Bumgarner turned into Sandy Koufax during the 2014 postseason and Pablo Sandoval turned into Babe Ruth during the 2012 World Series. That helped the Giants win those World Series titles. It's pure speculation to just assume the Rays would have won multiple World Series with Posey as their catcher.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

3 comments So Apparently Luther Campbell Writes a Column

Good things never last. Mitch Williams had a blog and then he got fired and his blog went bye-bye. I've lost Joe Morgan, Jay Mariotti has disappeared, and Rick Reilly stopped writing. But there is hope on the horizon. Now apparently Luther Campbell has a column he writes on a semi-regular basis. Yes, that Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew. He writes. Hat tip to the reader who only I know by his email address, so I won't hand it out here, for alerting me to Campbell's columns and the specific column he wrote about LeBron James and Michael Jordan. So Luther has taken time away from 2 Live Crew (I'm kidding, I have no idea if he even works with them anymore) to talk about how LeBron James is already better than Michael Jordan. Why? Because. And yes, Campbell is still going by "Uncle Luke" which is starting to seem a little creepier to me as time goes by for some reason. Here is the picture that accompanies this column. 1989 Luther Campbell would not be impressed with 2014 Luther Campbell.

The slightly tilted head with the glasses pulled down with his eyes looking over the top of the lenses. It's uh, very 1990's sitcom-y. Either that or it's very "I'm middle-aged and staring at some attractive co-ed's"-y. Either way the V-neck pullover with the sly smile would probably have 1989 Luther Campbell wanting to beat this guy's ass. He's getting involved in politics in Miami, so good for him on that count. But not good for him that he thinks LeBron James is already better than Michael Jordan. This is an older article, but nonetheless still pretty not good.

Last week, in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James broke Michael Jordan's playoff record for most games with at least 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists.

Best of all-time based on these arbitrarily picked statistics.

As the Heat heads to the NBA Finals for the fourth year in a row, it's time to admit that James has now taken Jordan's place as the greatest of all time. But you will never hear the former-players-turned-commentators admit it.

NO ONE WILL ADMIT THAT WHICH ISN'T PROVEN TO BE TRUE YET!

Guys like Steve Kerr (who recently left TV to coach Golden State), Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neal will never give LeBron the crown.

That's only because the crown has to be earned and LeBron hasn't earned it yet. We must protect this HOUSE!

Barkley and friends all played in the Jordan era and are endorsed by Michael. They wouldn't say anything to make him mad.

This is as opposed to Uncle Luke who is totally neutral on this subject since Campbell lives in Miami, has long been affiliated with Miami teams and LeBron played for the Heat at the time. Not that Campbell would take the opinion of a homer while calling out others for their biases. Never.

LeBron has surpassed Jordan in every facet of the game, though. Jordan had to learn to pass the ball, but finding the open man is part of LeBron's instinct since he was winning championships at the high school level.

Jordan's five highest assist totals per game came when he was 25, 26, 28, 21, and 24 years of age. His five lowest assist totals per game came when he was 22, 39, 34, 33, and 32 years of age. So the statistics don't exactly bear out that Jordan had to learn to pass. In fact, it says the opposite is true. Maybe his teammates forgot how to make shots. Out of LeBron's five highest assist totals per game, only one of those seasons was with the Miami Heat. It goes to prove LeBron did have the instincts to pass, but as his teammates got better his assists when down, which also happened with Jordan. That's pretty interesting to me.

More importantly, much of Luther Campbell's case for LeBron over Jordan is based on the fact LeBron is a better all-around player. I think that's true, but it doesn't mean LeBron is better than Jordan...yet.

Every dunk Jordan did, LeBron can do better.

Irrelevant. Though if this were relevant to this discussion, it would also be relevant to point out Jordan went up against the best dunkers of his era in the Slam Dunk Contest and beat them. LeBron has not done that.

He can cover five positions on the court, even center. Jordan couldn't do that.

Shaquille O'Neal can't play any other position but center or power forward. It doesn't mean Shawn Marion is a better player than O'Neal.

Off the court, LeBron is a better teammate than Jordan was. Michael would never have visited a teammate having a poor series to cheer him up like LeBron (and Dwyane Wade) did with Chris Bosh.

In terms of irrelevant points regarding which player was better on the court, how sweet and gentle Jordan/LeBron was to his teammates is up there in terms of irrelevancy. Notice how Uncle Luke is conspicuously leaving out the whole "6-0 in the NBA Finals versus 2-3 in the NBA Finals" thing. It's not fair to judge LeBron based on NBA Finals accomplishments only, but if Campbell is going to drag off-the-court kindness, versatility and dunking ability into the discussion, the record in NBA Finals contests becomes more relevant. 

Jordan was always flying out to the casinos or wherever he hung out on his own. 

Then coming back and winning games anyway. Carry on...

Now we get to the real reason Luther Campbell doesn't like Michael Jordan and won't consider him the best NBA player of all-time. I'll give you a hint, it has absolutely nothing to do with Jordan's performance on the court and it's personal.

Whenever the Chicago Bulls came down to play Miami during the Jordan era, all the players would come to my nightclub.

Guess who didn't show up to Uncle Luke's nightclub? GUESS WHO? It's a toughie, so I will give you three guesses. Make them NOW, then scroll down.

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The only one who didn't show up was Michael.

What? Such an unexpected turn of events this is! Michael Jordan didn't soothe Luther Campbell's ego, so that's why he isn't the best NBA player of all-time.

Remember back in this column when Campbell said guys like Barkley, Kerr, and Shaq are friends with Michael Jordan, so that's why they claim he's the best NBA player ever? Isn't it possible Campbell is saying Jordan isn't the best NBA player ever because Jordan didn't come to Campbell's nightclub when the Bulls were in town and Campbell is a Heat fan? Maybe? Just a little?

See, Michael Jordan wasn't a good teammate because he wouldn't come to Luther Campbell's nightclub. Only good teammates show up at Uncle Luke's place. Therefore, Jordan isn't a team player.

Jordan never faced the criticism and opinions of ex-players as LeBron has either.

Really? Jordan didn't face the criticism through the many outlets that fans and players have now to express their criticisms and opinions, but he faced criticism. Jordan had an entire book written about what an asshole he could be. Sam Smith wrote that book. Scott Raab wrote "The Whore of Akron" about LeBron. I vividly remember when Jordan wasn't considered good enough to carry a team to the NBA Finals and he wasn't considered enough of an unselfish passer and teammate to make the players around him better. Phil Jackson turned up, Scottie Pippen was drafted, the Bulls surrounded Jordan with good role players and six NBA Finals victories later nobody remembers the negative shit said about Jordan.

Jordan never had to worry about someone like Barkley saying Wilt Chamberlain was the best because he's the only player to score 100 points in one game. 

No, Jordan had to worry about everyone saying Magic, Kareem, Larry Bird, Thomas, and other players from his era who had won NBA titles were better than him because they had won multiple NBA titles while Jordan couldn't even get his team to the NBA Finals. But no, I enjoy a little revisionist history where it's pretended that Michael Jordan didn't face criticism about the achievements of other players during his era and their accomplishments compared to his own accomplishments.

Hell, Barkley is the biggest hypocrite. He says LeBron should go back to Cleveland, yet Barkley bounced around teams like a groupie chasing a ring throughout his career.

Barkley played for three teams in his career. Three teams. That's not exactly bouncing around like a groupie throughout his career. But again, Luther Campbell apparently doesn't deal in facts, he deals in hot sports takes.

It's time these hall-of-fame pundits acknowledge LeBron's place in history.

Yes, it's time to induct LeBron into the Basketball Hall of Fame now!

Wait, what? What the hell does the Hall of Fame have to do with whether LeBron is a better NBA player than Michael Jordan? Does Luther Campbell believe Shaq, Barkley, and Steve Kerr are saying LeBron James won't be in the Hall of Fame after he retires? "LeBron's place in history" will probably include induction into the Hall of Fame, who is denying this? I'm very confused, but I'm not as confused as Luther Campbell seems to be.

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 comments Tom Jones (Nope, Not That One) Turns on The Taylor Swift Music and Writes An Angry Break-Up Letter to Joe Maddon

Tom Jones (nope, still not that one) of the "Tampa Bay Times" (winner of 10 Pulitzer Prizes!) wants Joe Maddon to know that they are never ever getting back together. It's not a love story anymore between Maddon and the Rays. Jones thinks the Rays should have said "no" when they learned the Cubs were looking to hire Maddon, but knowing the vision of Maddon managing the Rays again was just another picture to burn and the story of them was over, it was time to begin again, shake it off, and recognize that everything has changed. Now that Tom Jones knows Joe Maddon was trouble, he also knows the deal with the Cubs was shady so the Rays continuing to win games without Maddon will be better than revenge.

It smells rotten and it looks shady and it feels dirty.

This is why you don't visit the red light district on Friday nights. Nothing good can ever come from it.

No matter how you slice it, it all just feels wrong.

Who knows if the Cubs tampered with Joe Maddon or not? Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. The bottom line is that Joe Maddon was going to be a popular manager once he left Tampa Bay even if the Cubs weren't interested in him. If the Cubs had not jumped on him, some other team would have suddenly found fault with their manager, fired that manager and hired Joe Maddon. It's not like Maddon would not have had options if the Cubs didn't exist. No team had to tamper with Maddon, he had to know his services would be wanted by another MLB team.

Joe Maddon is gone. It's official now. The Cubs introduced him as their manager Monday.

Considering the Rays have duped unsuspected MLB teams to sign players like B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford in free agency, I think karma bites them in the ass that they actually lost a member of the organization who may not suck once he is out of the Rays' employ.

He put on their hat. He put on their jersey. And that's when it truly sunk in.

Just start singing "Teardrops On My Guitar" and you will feel better, Tom. Don't be a sad fanboy. The Rays gave Maddon an opt-out clause, he used it, and now everyone moves on.

He isn't coming back to Tampa Bay next season. It's over.

This type of writing seems too mournful for a professional sportswriter. 

He belongs to someone else now.

Oh boy. Maybe the Taylor Swift music isn't working. Perhaps some mid-90's Alanis Morrissette is a better option. You live, you learn.

On Monday, he talked about young talent and promise for the future and winning pennants and, naturally, he did it in his oddball and charming way. Except, this time, he wasn't talking about your team.

Yes, I'm pretty sure Rays fans are aware at this point that Joe Maddon is no longer talking about the Rays when he refers to talent and promise.

But, you know, Maddon leaving is not the awkward part. It's how he left. That's the part that's hard to swallow.

You mean the way he left in that he took advantage of a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave? Yeah, it is hard to swallow that he exercised his contractual rights to become a managerial free agent.

As far as leaving, who can blame him? He wanted more money and the Cubs gave him more money.

Then I fail to see the issue. Maddon wanted to leave if he wasn't going to be paid what he perceived as his market value. He wasn't getting a contract he wanted and so he left. Then a team who was willing to pay his market value jumped in, fired their manager (in a classy way if you ask me...in a tough situation the Cubs handled it really well), and hired Joe Maddon. Was there tampering? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, Maddon was getting a new job either this season or next season if he wasn't managing the Rays. It was happening. Whether the Dodgers planted crack cocaine in Don Mattingly's car in mid-January, the Braves suddenly remembered that Fredi Gonzalez didn't in fact know "The Braves Way," or the Yankees disconnected the brakes on Joe Girardi's car, Joe Maddon would be managing for an MLB team in the next 12-15 months.

Maybe he thought the Cubs gave him a better chance than the Rays to win a World Series. Maybe he wants to work with Cubs president Theo Epstein.

And honestly, that could very well be it. I would want to work with Theo Epstein while making more money, as opposed to working with a new GM in Tampa Bay while making less money. It's a pretty easy decision. Work with a GM who has won a World Series in a large market for more money or work with a new GM in Tampa Bay while making less money and ending up on the manager free agent market at some other point in the future when Maddon's stock may not be as high. It's not a tough call.

Whatever the reason, Maddon has every right to live his life how he wants.

Yes, he does. So what's the problem again?

Wanting more financial security, wanting to call Wrigley Field his office, wanting the challenge of turning baseball's lovable losers into champs doesn't make him a traitor.

So your point being that your point about this situation stinking to high heaven is wrong, because even if the Cubs did tamper with Maddon, he would have wanted to manage the Cubs anyway? This isn't a "J.D. Drew goes to the Red Sox" type of situation where Maddon wasn't sure he could get more money as a free agent manager and a team potentially tampered with him allowing him the knowledge of realizing for sure there were green pastures. Maddon was getting paid to manage a team. No team needed to tamper with him for him to know this as a fact. Maddon's value is too high in baseball circles for him to make less or the same money as he was making in Tampa Bay once he left the Rays.

He's not, suddenly, a bad guy.

But it felt shady. Nothing really was wrong with what Maddon did, but something was wrong with what Maddon did.

This was strictly business

Strictly shady business.

And you could bet your bottom dollar that the Rays would have had no problem firing Maddon if he started losing more games than he was winning.

You are killing your point that the move was shady by acknowledging the Rays could fire Maddon, it was strictly business and Maddon isn't a bad guy. 

But it's how Maddon left that feels a little slimy.

It felt like the use of a contractual clause.

Let's start with the moment Andrew Friedman, the Rays vice president of baseball operations, left to join the Dodgers. At the time, Maddon told Tampa Bay Times baseball writer Marc Topkin, "I'm a Ray, I've said it all along, I want to continue to be one. I still believe … it's the best place in all of baseball to work, but I also stand by the fact that the ballpark needs to be improved."

Yes, I think a quote like, "I will be investigating the use of a contractual clause that allows me to become a free agent" might have caused a greater stir than was required at that point. Joe Maddon has the right to leave his options open without stating outright that he will be leaving his options open and can do so contractually. Also, notice Maddon said he "wants" to continue to be a Ray and his mention of the ballpark needing improvement (and let's be honest, going from The Trop to Wrigley Field...that's "movin' on up" like hasn't been done since The Jeffersons took the plunge) tips off that all isn't 100% well. In that phrasing, it's clear that there is some reciprocity required for Maddon to continue to be the Rays manager past his next contract.

Fair enough. The Rays need a new ballpark. But other than that, Maddon said right here was the best place in all of baseball.

Yes, he also said he "wants" to be a Ray. I want to be a millionaire. I "will" not be a millionaire for the foreseeable future. One is a wish, the other is a statement of a current, more permanent condition. I want Chipotle for dinner. I will be eating something else.

He was signed through next season, and the Rays were trying to sign him to an extension. All seemed hunky-dory.

Did it though? I had not thought about it because I'm focused on the Braves manager who has won a lot of games, yet I still think he's incompetent at times. Did it make sense that the Rays would be able to sign Maddon to an extension and things seemed hunky-dory? If I remember correctly, and I do remember correctly, it took about 0.25 seconds for Maddon's name to be linked to the Dodgers after Friedman was hired by the team. So things did seem hunky-dory, unless you choose to ignore the immediate rumors that Joe Maddon would leave Tampa Bay to follow Friedman to the Dodgers. Once Friedman said Mattingly was the manager, it took 0.35 seconds for the Cubs to appear as a possible landing spot for Maddon.

Not to go Bill Simmons on everyone, but Tom Jones saying "all seemed hunky-dory" is like a guy and his very attractive girlfriend still dating while she goes to college and he stays at home to get a job after high school. She sees multiple opportunities to further herself personally and professionally, while he thinks everything is cool because nothing has changed for him. Yeah sure, if you want to ignore the life change (Friedman leaving), everything seems great, but she is attractive and potentially available to a whole new pool of men. Just because things didn't change for the Rays didn't mean things didn't change for Maddon. It all seemed hunky-dory only if the Rays wanted to ignore the reality they had a very attractive (talent-wise) manager and one of the reasons he seemingly stayed was just removed from the equation.

But then came the stunning news that Maddon had a brief opt-out clause in his contract that was activated when Friedman left the organization. Maddon took advantage of that window and, before you know it, he's putting on a Cubs hat.

This is where the story gets a little more messy.

Things like this always are a little messy. It doesn't mean there was tampering. If I were in Joe Maddon's place (or any manager's place really), unless I were with a team I couldn't see ever leaving I would ALWAYS have a list of teams I would like to manage in my head. I would be focused on my team, but have a list of teams I wanted my agent to call ASAP if shit goes bad at my current location. So it's pretty easy to think that once Maddon used his opt-out he had a list of teams he wanted his agent to call. Again, Maddon has to have known he was wanted by other teams if he were ever not the manager of the Rays.

Maddon said he didn't even know he had an out clause until his agent, Alan Nero, told him. 

I think he's lying. It doesn't matter if he is lying or not though, because the fact remains the clause was in the contract.

Seems hard to believe that Maddon left the Rays and walked away with no idea that the Cubs were willing to fire their manager and give him $5 million a year for five years.

If you are in denial about Maddon's value then this could be hard to believe. I am not in denial. I know Maddon worked for a small market team that had a low payroll and he is considered one of the best managers in the game. Maddon had to figure he would get a raise of some sort when he went to a new team and he had to figure that even if he sat out a year his not managing would only make him more attractive. This has happened in other sports. How many times are Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher considered candidates for an NFL job? Absence makes the heart grow fonder of overpaying for a manager because if a team's current manager sucks there is always Joe Maddon sitting out there. I find it hard to believe that Maddon wouldn't know he had really great market value if he and the Rays ever parted ways.

Nero says the tampering charges are "silly'' and "insulting.''

Nero is just fiddling while the city burns to the ground.

No, what's silly and insulting is expecting reasonably intelligent people to buy that Maddon left the Rays with no job lined up, especially when rumors that he was headed to the Cubs cropped up almost immediately.

I have no idea if there was tampering. It is NOT insulting to think Maddon had no job lined up. The fact the rumors said he was heading to the Dodgers before the opt-out clause was known goes to prove that. The rumors of Maddon heading to the Cubs immediately after opting-out is proof of Maddon's value. It's not silly and insulting to think Maddon would have a job soon after leaving the Rays. It's logical.

And, by the way, Nero calling the Rays' accusations "really sad'' as his client is walking out the door? That's just poor form. Allow the Rays to pout for a moment and leave it at that.

I understand, but "pouting" isn't accusing the Cubs and Nero of breaking MLB rules against tampering. Pouting is being sad and writing a column like this. Accusing the Cubs and Nero of violating MLB rules is more than just pouting.

Meantime, there's the ugly business that Maddon appeared to have gone after a job that was already filled by someone else.

Okay. It's a business. Do sportswriters get mad at B.J. Upton for going after a centerfield job that was someone else's prior to his joining the Braves? 

It's hard to blame the Cubs. Epstein correctly pointed out that he had an obligation to do what was best for the Cubs and, in his mind, firing first-year manager Rick Renteria and hiring Maddon was the best thing to do. Frankly, you can't argue with that.

And they did it in a really nice way. This does lead the world closer and closer to the Cubspocalypse where the Cubs win a World Series and Cubs fans in pink hats becoming 100 times more annoying than Red Sox fans in pink hats became in the mid-2000's. The world will be filled with new Cubs fans and real Cubs fans will go crazy knowing they were there from the beginning while the pretenders wear Rizzo jersey's and think Jerome Walton is Sam Walton's younger brother. I'm just saying, it's going to be a disaster when the Cubs win a World Series. By "disaster" I mean it's going to make the bandwagonism in other fan bases look small in comparison.

But did Maddon break some sort of code? Did he betray a member of the fraternity?

Don't be so dramatic. Players take the jobs of other players all the time. The same thing can happen with managers. What does it matter if the Cubs fire Renteria behind the lie of "cause" or just admit they wanted to hire Maddon? Maddon has a right to get money if another team wants to pay him.

Yeah, it feels like it. Put it this way: I'm guessing Maddon would not have appreciated someone going after his job when he lost 101 games in his first season as a major-league manager.

No, he would not have appreciated it. He would have eventually understood that the Rays had a chance to hire a really great manager and accepted a managerial job with another team or accepted a coaching job with another team.

If you're a Rays fan, it's easy to feel like a jilted lover. If you watched Monday's news conference, it felt like Maddon had already forgotten about you.

Oh, quit being such a drama queen. He's the Cubs' manager now and will only talk about how excited he is to be their manager. He's not going to cry tears and show a slideshow documenting his years in Tampa Bay with the Rays.

It took him until the 36th and last minute on the podium to finally get around to thanking the Rays. He spoke almost exclusively about his future with the Cubs and very little about his past with the Rays.

Because he had just been hired as the Cubs manager and didn't think anyone would act like a jilted lover if he didn't mention the Rays 10 times per sentence. Get out of the bitter barn and come play in the hay. Seriously, why should Joe Maddon talk about his past with the Rays when he takes a new job with the Cubs? Would Tom Jones (no, not that one) talk about his time at the "Tampa Bay Times" during most of his first day at his new job?

There were no apologies, no regrets, not even an acknowledgement that many Rays fans are upset to see him go.

I think it's laughable you wanted this from him.

He has clearly moved on and now the Rays must move on, too.

I feel like Jones is crying as he writes this sentence.

In the end, it's hard to blame anyone.

Except for the part of this column where Tom Jones (no, not that one) blames the Cubs for maybe, possibly, who knows, tampering with Joe Maddon and blames Maddon's agent for lying about whether the Cubs tampered. As long as a reader ignores the entire premise of this woeful column, it's hard to blame anyone. In the end, it's hard to see how Jones could write in this article that it's hard to blame anyone when the entire column is about blaming two parties.

Everyone tried to do the right thing. Maybe they even did the right thing.

Maybe they did or maybe they didn't do the right thing. The important thing is to ignore Joe Maddon's market value away from the Rays and focus on what the sadness surrounding Maddon's departure says. Be bitter, see that the Cubs tampered. Know that Maddon knows his market value, see that it doesn't matter if the Cubs tampered or not.

Still, the whole thing just feels wrong.

Turn the Taylor Swift as loud as possible and just dance until it doesn't hurt anymore. After you get done dancing the pain away, please understand that Joe Maddon knew a team would want to hire him as their manager and the rumors about him going to the Dodgers before he even opted-out support this statement as true. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 comments Gregg Easterbrook Remembers His Preseason Analysis That Never Actually Occurred Regarding Why The Seattle Seahawks Wouldn't Make the Playoffs

Gregg Easterbrook figured out the NFL's playoff seeding issue in last week's TMQ, as well as didn't understand the use of decimal points and typically left out an undrafted player's draft position when he made a bad play on the field. This week Gregg discusses the increase in flags called on defensive players, updates his Authentic Game standings (as I update my non-Authentic Games standings), and uses hindsight and deception to explain why he thought he Seahawks wouldn't make the playoffs.

I love the consistency of TMQ. Every week it's consistently awful. It's like a cold, wet blanket I can hold on to every Tuesday afternoon during the NFL season.

Green Bay and New England have outscored opponents by more than 100 points. Touchdown passes are lighting up the night sky. Seven NFL quarterbacks already have at least 20 touchdown passes -- 20 years ago, only eight reached this mark on the entire season. Scoreboards are spinning as never before

There are only so many times that Gregg can re-phrase "Current NFL teams have great offenses and rules have opened up these offenses" before he's essentially just saying the same shit week after week.

Is the reason better athletes on offense -- or is the reason more penalties?

The major reason is probably neither of these. It has more to do with more protection for quarterbacks and rule changes that favor offenses. Gregg is about to further the idea that NFL offenses are scoring more points because of more penalties against the defense. Not surprisingly, he chooses to do this while providing very little data to support his conclusion. The data he does use compares the NFL today to the NFL a decade ago. Yes, the game has changed in the last decade. It's another example of Gregg saying, "Here's a conclusion I have reached that I haven't researched that well, so go ahead and totally buy my conclusion as reasonable because I write for ESPN.com and I wouldn't lie would I?"

I wouldn't doubt that part of the increase in scoring is a result of more penalties. Absolutely, but the root cause isn't the increased penalties, but the rule changes favoring the offense. Gregg doesn't really get to the root cause, which is the rule changes which have resulted in more penalties. It's not just more penalties that are the problem. It would also help if Gregg used data from the last 2-3 years using the rule changes protecting the quarterback and receiver as a constant, while showing how increased penalties have led to a further increase in offensive scoring. Yes, scoring is up from 10 years ago due to rule changes, but what caused scoring in the NFL to be up from even two years ago?

Peter King showed in MMQB this week that flags per game are increased, but only by one flag and 6.2 yards per game. So the reason for more offensive scoring IS due to more penalties being called. It's the rule changes that cause these penalties. It's been a slow increase and not as dramatic for the 2014 season as expected (at least from what Peter and even I expected).

It's well known that defensive holding flags have increased this season -- blame the Seattle secondary for that. But there's a 10-year trend toward more flags against the defensive secondary. These trends translate into more first downs and fewer punts. Result? More scoring drives.

Part of what Gregg won't acknowledge is that defensive holding seems to be called in place of defensive pass interference. So part of the increase in defensive holding (0.845 calls per game this year from 0.678 calls per game last year) is also seen in the decrease in defensive pass interference calls (0.857 calls per game this year from 0.925 calls per game last year). There definitely has been an increase in defensive holding being called, but there is also a decrease in defensive pass interference being called.

By the way, there is an increase in offensive pass interference calls too. There are 0.391 offensive pass interference calls per game this year compared to 0.247 offensive pass interference calls per game last year. Gregg has a point, but the offense is also getting more interference calls against them. Offensive holding is also up to 2.453 calls per game this year with 2.199 calls per game last year. Again, these aren't numbers that Gregg wants to acknowledge because it might go to hurt the point he wants to prove.

I'm not doubting that there are more flags being thrown and that the rule changes have caused NFL offenses to score more points, but there is an increase in offensive holding and offensive pass interference, with a decrease in defensive pass interference and an increase in defensive holding. I would say there is some equaling out possibly going on here.

Considering only accepted penalties, so far there have been 137 defensive pass interference walk-offs this season, compared to 110 at the same point in the season a decade ago. That's a 25 percent increase. There have also been 137 accepted defensive holding penalties, compared to 99 at this juncture a decade ago. That's a 38 percent increase.

Defensive pass interference means a chunk of yardage, and both fouls provide an automatic first down. A decade ago at this point in the season, there had been 568 first downs by penalty. This season it's 652, a 15 percent increase. More first downs means fewer punts. A decade ago, 1,581 punts had been launched at this juncture. This season it's down to 1,468.

I'm not sure where Gregg is getting his numbers from because he fails to cite his source for this information. I based the information above on the same site where Peter King got his information about penalties on Monday. It shows that when comparing the 2013 season to the first 11 weeks of the 2014 season, there has been more defensive holding called, but more less defensive pass interference called. Gregg is comparing numbers to a decade ago, which is fine, but there have been so many rule changes that have resulted in these penalties in the last decade. The reason for the increase in offense is the rule changes implemented by the NFL, not the penalties called as a result of the rule changes. It may be nit-picking, but also gets to the root cause. It would be helpful if Gregg would compare penalties called over the last 2-3 years with the new rule emphasis on defensive holding for 2014. I think that could better explain how "penalties" have increased offensive scoring during the 2014 season.

And now Gregg Easterbrook, who has pounded the drum for player safety and reducing concussions, thinks the NFL makes too many ticky-tacky calls.

New rules against deliberate helmet-to-helmet contact also help the offense. Sunday at New Orleans, Cincinnati facing third-and-long, A.J. Green ran a stutter-go and beat the cornerback. Saints' safety Rafael Bush was closing but pulled up one step before he would have drilled Green, who made a 38-yard reception that proved the game's decisive down. Five years ago, Bush legally could have laid Green out, which might have broken up the catch. This year, Bush knew that contact with Green's helmet would be an automatic first down whether the catch was made or not. So he pulled up and hoped the pass would be dropped.

That's exactly what reformers want defenders to do in potential helmet-to-helmet situations-- and if reducing helmet-to-helmet contact favors the offense, so be it. Vicious hits on defenseless players are "substantially down," which is good news.

YOU! That's exactly what YOU want defenders to do in potential helmet-to-helmet situations. Gregg loves taking credit for being among those who first claimed the NFL needs to use different helmets to prevent concussions, but when it comes time to reduce contact in the secondary, Gregg thinks the NFL is going too soft, like little pansy boys.

This is typical Gregg Easterbrook. He wants it both ways. He wants to be a reformer, while also criticizing the NFL for rule changes that attempt to reduce concussions and contact in the secondary.

But much of the increase in flags against the secondary comes from what seems like a trend toward ticky-tacky calls, as if there is now an assumption of guilt against pass defenders. 

For God's sake. Now the calls are too "ticky-tacky" for Gregg's taste. He wants to reduce concussions, he wants to criticize the NFL for not taking steps to reduce concussions, but he also wants to criticize the NFL for the rule changes that are intended to make the game safer for a receiver to catch the football without being contacted by a defender. Interesting. Just interesting.

Just as defensive holding was an officials' "point of emphasis" this season, ignoring incidental contact should be next season. At Rule 8, Section 4, Article 4 says: "Beyond the five-yard zone, incidental contact may exist between receiver and defender as long as it does not materially affect or significantly impede the receiver, creating a distinct advantage. Additionally, Rule 8, Section 5, 3 (a) says: If there is any question whether contact is incidental, the ruling shall be no interference."

The zebras need a refresher course in this standard.

Maybe they need a refresher course, but the officials have been told to emphasize this penalty and they are doing so. The rules favor the offense, that's for sure.

Rather than automatic first down, defensive holding should be 10 yards and replay the down, just like offensive holding. 

Maybe, but this would do nothing about the "ticky-tacky" penalties that are called in the secondary against defensive players for incidental contact. If anything, it gives the defensive player incentive to make more illegal contact, which would result in a rise in defensive holding calls, which would result in Gregg Easterbrook complaining about "ticky-tacky" calls. I don't think the increase in defensive holding penalties have ruined the game of football, just as long as these penalties are called consistently against both teams. It also doesn't help that the offensive players know if they act a little bit they can get a defensive holding call from the official.

Stricter enforcement of the pick play by the offense.

This is a sentence fragment which has no meaning to me.

This season on two-man combo patterns, many wide receivers and tight ends look like Fuzzy Thurston pulling on a Green Bay Packers 1960s power sweep. No secondary can cover a receiver who for intents and purposes has a downfield blocker before the pass is released.

I don't disagree. I think the offense gets away with a lot of contact prior to the pass being thrown. I don't know how strictly enforcing the pick play by the offense would really affect the NFL's tilt toward favoring offensive players over defensive players, as offensive coaches would simply teach players the correct way to run a pick play or just not run the play.

And a fabulous suggestion from reader Zac Maodus of Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

When Gregg says it is a fabulous suggestion, you know it isn't a fabulous suggestion.

"If defensive pass interference results in automatic first down, shouldn't offensive pass interference result in an automatic fourth down?"

Um, no it should not. Maybe a loss of down, but not an automatic fourth down. The assumption behind a defensive pass interference call is that if a defensive player had not interfered then the offense would have gotten a first down. There is no assumption that if an offensive player had not interfered then his team would have had to punt on fourth down. If it's first-and-10 and an offensive player pushes off, then it simply would have been an incomplete pass (or interception) had he had not interfered, so it should be first down plus a penalty, or even second down plus a penalty. There's no real reason the offensive pass interference should result in an automatic fourth down, as a fourth down wouldn't always be the direct result of there being offensive pass interference. The offense gets an automatic first down in the case of defensive pass interference because the assumption is the offense would have gained a first down had the defensive pass interference not occurred.

So this was a terrible idea from Zac in Florida and he is probably to blame for many of Florida's troubles when it comes to voting for political office.

That rule change would discourage pick plays and pushing off by offensive receivers, swinging the pendulum toward officiating parity between offense and defense.

No, it's a stupid rule.

The NFL's goofy playoff formula is marching toward its worst outcome since 2008, when 8-8 San Diego hosted a postseason party, but 11-5 New England wasn't invited to the playoffs. 

And the Chargers beat a 12-4 Colts team in the playoffs that year. Carry on, while ignoring information that may be contradictory to what point you want to prove.

Unless you think its worst outcome was 2010, when 7-9 Seattle hosted 11-5 New Orleans, while two 10-6 clubs did not reach the postseason.

And the Seahawks beat the Saints during that postseason. Again, Gregg has a point about seeding, but he also ignores information contradictory to the point he wants to prove. If he acknowledges in both of his examples the 8-8 and 7-9 teams won their home playoff game over a favored opponent with a better record, it could submarine his point that the NFL needs new playoff seeding because it rewards bad teams in bad divisions.

Since NFL players are adults who are well-compensated for knowingly assuming risks, why should anyone care if they become addicted to narcotics? Because, as in head injury and weight gain, the NFL is setting a terrible example for society. Prescription drug overdoses now cause more deaths than street-drug overdoses, and 72 percent of the deaths are from opioid painkillers. The United States is in the midst of a painkiller-abuse epidemic. Having NFL players popping painkillers -- and then performing with abandon, as if football doesn't hurt -- sends the wrong message. That taxpayers subsidize this wrong message should be seen as an outrage.

Consider me outraged and not at all surprised. Though there are many other things I subsidize as a taxpayer that outrages me more than pain-killer abuse by adults which leads to a bad example for "the kids." 

Stats Of The Week No. 3: Ryan Mallett threw his first touchdown pass in his four-year career.

This is probably one of the most pointless facts that Gregg has conveyed over the years. Mallett was a backup quarterback (or third-string quarterback) to Tom Brady for four years. I wouldn't expect him to have thrown a touchdown pass. 

Leading 24-20, Kansas City had the defending-champion Seahawks facing second-and-goal on the Chiefs' 4 with eight minutes remaining. A completed pass produced no gain; the Chiefs held Marshawn Lynch to 2 yards; on fourth-and-goal from the 2, incompletion. Now it's under four minutes, same score, and the Bluish Men Group faces fourth-and-1 in Kansas City territory. Lynch up the middle -- no misdirection, just a dive -- stuffed, Chiefs' ball.

Obviously if the Seahawks had "done a little dance" or used misdirection they would have gotten the first down. The same Chiefs defense that got penetration to stuff the run in this situation couldn't have gotten penetration to stop Lynch in the backfield if the Seahawks used misdirection.

Jordy Nelson running a "go" up the right sideline, with no safety help, was the play that killed Chicago the previous week. Now Nelson runs a "go" up the right sideline, touchdown and the rout is on. Sweet for home fans who have the simple common sense to wear plastic cheese on their heads. For the Eagles, they'd just spent a week watching film of this play torching the Bears and then allowed exactly what the Bears had allowed -- and to boot, no safety in sight. Sour.

Yes, the Eagles should have played two safeties over the top for the entire game simply so they could have stopped the Packers from successfully running this one play. Forget whatever else their defensive game plan was, they needed to always make sure a safety was over Jordy Nelson the entire game to prevent this very play from happening. It's not like the Packers have other good receivers or anything.

Benjamin Freed notes Maryland cut support of the fine arts in order to funnel subsidies to "House of Cards." Rather than fund local nonprofits producing music and theater -- a public-purpose case can be made for that -- Maryland subsidizes big-commercial efforts by Netflix, which ought to pay its own way. And it's not going out on a limb to suppose that Kevin Spacey or other Hollywood grandees involved in the show have said, "Why don't politicians do more to support the arts?"

Gregg is assuming that actors like Kevin Spacey are capable of their very own thought or any type of in-depth thinking which would allow them to be self-aware enough to notice that the tax credits their series received came at the expense of supporting the arts. Considering actors are a group of people who essentially pretend to be someone else for money and have all of the words they need to say handed to them, actors aren't always the most self-aware or in-depth thinkers.

There's a reason Scientology has used actors as their recruiting tool for the cult. It's not because actors are just really nice people who like to think for themselves.

Running the APR formula, we find that if all players are present at practice and have at least a 1.9 GPA (or whatever the school sets as a minimum standard), the APR is 1000. One thousand is a perfect score on the APR scale. To the NCAA, a C-minus is perfection! What gets a football program to 935? If all 85 players are living in dorms and coming to practice, and 74 have a GPA of at least C-minus, while 11 are flunking out, the result is an APR of 935. This sort of thing is why the NCAA likes the mysterious APR rather than the easily understood graduation rate.

While I understand Gregg's point, in my experience many football athletes don't necessarily live on-campus in a dorm. Some are required to live in a dorm, while others live in off-campus housing.

PC Watch: My children are graduates of the Montgomery County, Maryland, public school system, which annually proves that public schools can provide excellent education and do so in a cost-effective manner. Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post: "Montgomery County Public Schools regularly rates among the top-performing districts in Maryland and spends $12,649 per student, according to a new study of the 2011-12 school year, far less than the public school system in the District of Columbia, which spent $15,743 per student but ranks poorly nationwide."

Great point, Gregg! Why doesn't every parent send their child to an upper-middle class high school where they receive a great education in a cost-effective manner? Every parent should love their child enough to send their child to a great public school.

The Authentic Games standings are refreshed as the NFC South is exiled and prior games versus New Orleans removed from consideration. Kansas City rockets to the second position, while San Diego -- pasted at Miami, then taken to the final snap by the woeful Raiders -- verges on Authentic elimination.

Again, it's a constantly changing metric that can produce a new result every week. What could go wrong?

This week Gregg's Super Bowl prediction is Arizona and Kansas City, which is different from his prediction over the last two weeks. This is what happens when teams move in and out of being "authentic" in Gregg's metric. A team that might have played five "authentic" teams last week could now have only played three "authentic" teams and been moved down in the metric. Regardless of whether that team won or not, they get moved down in the metric because of circumstances out of their control. One week a team may be "authentic," the next week that team may not be "authentic," though they could end up being "authentic" again the following week.

Can the Rams really be an Authentic team even with an overall losing record? They've defeated both of last season's Super Bowl entrants, Seattle and Denver, which sounds pretty Authentic, so they're in for the moment. 

They have also lost to the Vikings, but I guess that doesn't matter.

Down the stretch, the defending champions play five of six versus Arizona, Philadelphia and Santa Clara. Even if the Niners are themselves on the verge of fade-out, there is no love lost between them and the Seahawks, so the home-and-home contests should be hotly contested. In the preseason, your columnist said Seattle not only was a long shot to repeat, but that the Hawks were a long shot to reach the playoffs.

Of course, the Seahawks would reach the playoffs under Gregg's new playoff seeding metric, but he wants us to ignore that his new playoff seeding metric would result in his prediction the Seahawks won't make the playoffs being incorrect.

This week in my Non-Authentic Games standings, which are based on which teams won by the largest margin in each conference over the past weekend, I am predicting the two Super Bowl participants will be Green Bay and New England. So far my metric has predicted the Super Bowl participants will be,

Packers and Broncos
Saints and Dolphins

and now the Packers and the Patriots. Hey, the metric has picked the Packers twice so it must be working, right?

One reason I was skeptical about Seattle's chances was free-agency losses on the defensive line, and now defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is out for the season, too.

Except Gregg never actually wrote this reasoning down in his column, but instead is using hindsight to make believe there was some real analysis into his prediction the Seahawks wouldn't make the playoffs. Gregg based his prediction on this statement:

The 2013 NFL season ended with the Seattle Seahawks crushing Denver in the Super Bowl. But will they even reach the playoffs this season?

Recent precedent says no. The two prior Super Bowl victors, the Ravens and Giants, failed to reach the postseason the following year. Those two clubs were a combined 17-15 in the seasons following their confetti shower after the final contest. Fifteen of the 48 Super Bowl winners -- nearly a third of those to hoist the Lombardi Trophy -- didn't make the playoffs the next year.

He based his reasoning on "precedent" and not any real on-the-field analysis that he had done. In fact, only once in that column do the words "defensive line" appear and that was in reference to the Lions. But now Gregg wants to mislead his readers into believing he isn't simply using hindsight based on seeing the Seahawks play 10 games. He's reaching a conclusion based on seeing how the Seahawks have played during the 2014 season and then tries to go back and pretend that conclusion is the same one he reached in August when that's not true at all. The ballsy part of it is that Gregg links the column where he mentions nothing about the Seahawks defensive line, because he knows his readers will believe him and not check to see if he is lying, which he is.

Here is what Gregg wrote about the Seahawks in the column he linked:

Seattle: In Super Bowl matchups of No. 1 offense versus No. 1 defense, defense is now 5-1. The Super Bowl story might as well have been Seattle Defense 9, Denver Broncos 8, given that the Bluish Men Group's defense not only contained the Broncos' record-setting offense, but the Seahawks' defense also outscored the Denver offense.

Playing a conventional, position-oriented defense in 2013, rarely blitzing -- in the Super Bowl, Seattle blitzed six times on 64 Denver snaps, well below the league average of 20 percent blitz -- the Seahawks not only allowed the fewest points in the league, but they also allowed just 131 second half points in 19 games. That's seven points allowed per second half, a stat every bit as hard to believe as Denver's 2013 offense numbers. Seattle also led the league in takeaways with 39.

It's a passing league, and Seattle stops the pass, with its 172 passing-yards allowed average the league's best, plus 12 more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed. Yet somehow the Seahawks won this passing league without throwing well themselves -- Seattle's 26th rank in passing yards was the lowest ever for a Super Bowl victor. That said, the Seahawks did finish the regular season with 27 passing touchdowns, better than pass-wacky Atlanta, Green Bay and New England.

Defenses that choked up to stop Pete Carroll's power runs paid the price when Russell Wilson threw over them. Run, run, run then play-fake and throw deep is a venerable football tactic. Wilson's 28 victories in his first two seasons are the most ever for an NFL quarterback. Seattle not only has won three straight at home versus rival San Francisco, but it has also outscored the Niners 84-33 in those contests. Seattle's challenge is to win in San Francisco, where the Niners are on a 5-0 streak versus the Hawks.

As usual, if I'm being polite, I will say Gregg is misleading his readers. If I'm being honest, he's lying and claiming that he stated something he really didn't state. I'm proud of him for lying and then being so gutsy to not worry about someone easily being able to research his lie. Gregg was skeptical because of a reason that he didn't actually state. Sure, I believe that.

Santa Clara is struggling -- 32 sacks allowed, ye gods -- but remains in the Authentic Games Index out of respect for three straight NFC title game appearances.

The Crabtree Curse strikes again!

Unified Field Theory Of Creep: Your columnist likes Starbucks' Thanksgiving blend and always picks up a couple of pounds in whole bean around this time of year. Apparently, I waited way too long. Reader Joe Hodanich of Bethesda, Maryland, reported on Nov. 12: "I couldn't get Thanksgiving blend today at my Starbucks, which has already switched to Christmas blend -- 15 days before Thanksgiving."

That's one Starbucks out of the thousands that there are. The Thanksgiving blend was on shelves when I visited Starbucks earlier this week.

Song I'm Blaring: That thing where you can't stop playing the same song: I can't stop playing this new song.

(Bengoodfella immediately removes this song from his iPod...he's angry he even had the song now and even angrier the lead singer looks like a hipster Johnny Manziel)

Many readers, including Anand Iyer of San Francisco, have been protesting my use of "Santa Clara 49ers," including by asking why I don't refer to the Arlington Cowboys and the Orchard Park Bills.

Jerry Jones' flying saucer is about 19 miles from Dallas and within an area that has long presented itself to the nation as DFW. Ralph Wilson Stadium is about 11 miles from Buffalo and is part of the same county. Levi's Stadium is at least 42 miles from San Francisco and is in a different county; Santa Clara and San Francisco differ sociologically in countless ways. That's why the Santa Clara 49ers but not the Arlington Cowboys or Orchard Park Bills.

I know there was writing here, but this is all I heard as Gregg wrote these sentences.

Coach Will Muschamp was shown the door at Florida for the unimaginable sin of going only 27-20 so far in four seasons. Just two years ago, when the Gators were ranked second, Muschamp was being proclaimed a great coach -- in the past two years, he must have forgotten everything he knew!

Florida's latest football graduation rate is an admirable 81 percent, which puts the Florida program in excellent company -- near academic leaders Notre Dame, Duke, UCLA and TCU.

It also puts Florida right ahead of Gregg Easterbrook's football factory punching bags Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia. Of course Gregg wants us to ignore that he is essentially complimenting a team he would describe as a "football factory," as well as ignore the fact there are other teams he calls "football factories" with graduation rates right below the graduation rate of the team he is complimenting. He must mislead his audience by leaving out information as much as possible. It's not important that Gregg be intellectually honest, he just must be right and convince others of how right he is. That is all that matters.

Analyzing the Muschamp dismissal, did any sports touts even mention the strong graduation rate -- that is, regard "student-athletes" as actual student-athletes? Maybe Muschamp's error was working to make sure his players were in class rather than spending every second in the weight room or film room.

Yes, maybe that was Muschamp's error. I'll remember this the next time Gregg criticizes the University of Florida for being a "football factory" and not caring about their student-athletes. And again, Muschamp's main priority is winning football games. As the head coach of the football team, that's his job. Just like an English professor wouldn't be fired for the University of Florida football players in his class losing too many football games, Muschamp won't keep his job because his players are graduating. It doesn't make it right, it makes it college sports.

TMQ's prediction of Indianapolis to the Super Bowl is fading fast.

Don't worry Gregg, you update your predictions every week, so next week you may have a better Super Bowl prediction you can brag about.

Meanwhile, has any NFL team ever rebounded as spectacularly as the Patriots?

Yes.

Once again, Bill Belichick is doing it with guys you've never heard of.

Thanks for telling me who I had heard of. I wasn't sure if I had heard of someone or not until Gregg told me.

Starters included several players most other teams didn't want -- Brandon Browner, Michael Hoomanawanui, Chris Jones. 

Part of the reason the Seahawks didn't want Browner is because they had the cornerback position covered (no pun intended) already and he has been suspended twice for violating the NFL's drug policy. Why would Gregg mention this when there's a good narrative to be told?

In swirling snow at Chicago, Jay Cutler was hit before his arm started forward, losing the ball in an "empty hand" gesture. Three Vikings scrambled for the ball, one falling on it after several bounces. Officials incorrectly ruled incompletion. After a Minnesota challenge, officials ruled fumble but that possession could not be awarded to the Vikings because replay can only award possession if a fumble is recovered "immediately." Huh? Set aside that it was only a couple seconds from when the ball hit to the turf to when a Minnesota player recovered, which sounds fairly immediate. The rulebook says possession may be awarded if "the recovery of a fumble by an opponent or teammate occurs in the action that happens following the fumble." Perhaps there's some reference to immediate recovery in the officiating guidelines the NFL won't disclose. If there's any reference to this concept in the rulebook, I couldn't find it.

I'm guessing the officials determined that the ball bouncing a few times meant the recovery of the fumble by the Vikings didn't occur in the action that happened following the fumble.

Upholding the A.J. Green fourth-quarter touchdown catch that put Cincinnati ahead 27-10 at New Orleans, referee Craig Wrolstad announced, "The receiver's left toe was inbounds." Replay can see a player's toes?

The official can see Green's shoe, which was inbounds, you smartass.

Arizona leading Detroit 14-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals tried to pin the visitors deep with a punt. A coverage man stopped the punt at the Detroit 1, held the ball for an instant, then pushed it back up the field; a Detroit player snagged the ball and ran to the Arizona 46. Bruce Arians challenged, and officials brought the spot back to the Detroit 1, saying that because the coverage man had "possessed" the ball, it should have been whistled dead. Had the action of the down been the same except the coverage man was a wide receiver trying to make a reception, zebras surely would have ruled incompletion.

This is not a good comparison because possession on a kickoff and possession on when a wide receiver catches a pass are determined in different ways. Nice try though.

Note that for the late-slot start, Fox had the call for both Philadelphia at Green Bay and Detroit at Arizona and chose to show most of the nation the former contest, though the latter offered the best combined records (15-3) so far this season.

It's almost like networks choose to televise games that will get the best ratings. That would be crazy to do though.

Why Certain Teams Are On A 2-19 Road Streak: Trailing San Diego 13-3 with four minutes remaining, Oakland faced fourth-and-2 on the Bolts 7 -- and took the field goal. Yes, the Raiders needed 10 points, but a field goal can be launched from long distance, while touchdowns require crossing the goal line. Needless to say, Oakland would not get close to the goal line again.

A field goal can be launched from long distance, but if the Raiders don't convert the fourth down here, then they have essentially lost the game. I may have gone for it if I were Tony Sparano, but he took the guaranteed points so it was a one score game.

TMQ had an item about MIT football three years ago and noted the MIT football team has cheerleaders. Here is a proposed MIT cheer: "Our hands are high our feet are low/and into the clouds our IQs go."

Why do this to your readers?

This action is the "pop pass," a standby of high school offenses, a favorite of Tim Tebow when he was at Florida and a play that is fun to watch. Mississippi State -- coached by Dan Mullen, who was Tebow's position coach at Florida -- tried the pop pass Saturday at Alabama, though the ball clanged incomplete. I've never seen it called in the NFL, perhaps because professional coaches don't want people to say, "You're so desperate you're using high school trick plays."

Yeah, I am sure this is true considering Gregg has detailed at-length how NFL teams are using high school plays in the hurry-up offenses they are running. Gregg wants his readers to believe that NFL coaches are stealing offensive plays from high schools that run up-tempo offenses, but NFL coaches are afraid of using high school trick plays.

In NCAA action, leading by two points at Arizona, mega-underdog Washington had first-and-10 near midfield, 1:33 showing, the hosts down to their final timeout. Had Washington knelt three times, the worst case was punting back to Arizona with about 20 seconds remaining. True, such a punt might have been blocked, but the likely result would have been forcing Arizona to go about 50 yards in 20 seconds with no timeouts.

Or, as often happens, the punt block being run back for a touchdown. Gregg shouldn't only use the assumptive scenarios that support his conclusion, yet he does.

Notre Dame faced a nearly identical situation. Leading Northwestern by three points with 1:35 remaining and the Wildcats out of timeouts, the Irish faced second-and-8 on the Northwestern 31. Notre Dame could have knelt twice, then punted into the end zone with about 20 seconds showing. Instead, Notre Dame ran a play, and that's all you need to know.

But "fortune favors the bold," Gregg! Isn't that what you always used to write? If a head coach is bold then he is telling his team he is playing to win the game and they will respond accordingly by winning the game. Isn't that what Gregg has rammed down his readers' throats for the past few years? Now when a team is bold and the play doesn't work, Gregg ignores his own motto and criticizes the team for being bold and playing to win the game. As always, Gregg bases his criticism on the outcome of the play. What a hack.

True, a coach can't be afraid to have his team run plays, but in the last-minute, clock-killer situation, when the defense is close to certain the call will be a rush between the tackles, risk of a fumble rises as defenders all swipe at the ball.

Does the risk of a fumble rise in this situation? Where's the data you have to support this statement? It seems like Gregg is just spouting bullshit again, basing his bullshit on data he doesn't provide and most likely doesn't even have, while using this bullshit data to support the point he wants to prove.

Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk No.3: Trailing 14-6 at the end of the third quarter at Arizona, Detroit punted on fourth-and-1 from midfield. You don't need to know anything else.

Actually I do need to know more. Jim Caldwell was trusting his defense to get the ball back to the offense without the Cardinals scoring more points. How many points did the Cardinals have at this point in the game? 14. How many points did the Cardinals end the game with? 14. So Caldwell was trusting his defense in this situation to hold the Lions without points and they did. I may have gone for it personally, but the whole "you don't need to know anything else" comment is dumb. It's important when judging this decision to know how the Lions defense played after the punt. They gave up zero points. Caldwell was playing field position and this decision did not backfire.

Obscure College Score: Augsburg 62, Bethel 61. The Bethel Royals joined The 500 Club by gaining 589 yards and losing; they also joined The 600 Club by scoring at least 60 points and losing. In heavy snow, Bethel went for two and the win in a second overtime and was denied.

Fortune favors the bold!

Last week the Bears won this accolade for failing to have anyone at all cover Jordy Nelson as he streaked deep for a 73-yard touchdown. TMQ blamed a bad defensive call by Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that Lance Briggs made the bad call: "I saw something, tried to check out of it and we don't have a check out of that defense." TMQ has been maintaining for a while that a reason for increased scoring is that NCAA and NFL defenses now make so many last-second, pre-snap checks and shifts, they end up only confusing themselves. This is a prime example.

So Gregg was wrong in attributing this mistake to Mel Tucker, but he was right in that Lance Briggs tried to check out of their defense, and wasn't able to. This goes to prove that NFL defenses make too many pre-snap shifts and checks, so Gregg was right based on his theory that I don't recall him having ever espoused in TMQ. As we learned earlier in this TMQ, Gregg would NEVER claim to have made a statement in TMQ that he didn't actually make, would he? Fortunately, Gregg can now smile smugly at himself in the mirror and know he wasn't wrong.

Next Week: Should punting on fourth-and-short in opposition territory be a penalty?

It should be an automatic touchdown for the opposing team in the opinion of some dude from Florida.