Monday, July 13, 2009

8 comments MMQB Review: Non Peter King Edition 3

Today's MMQB guest author is Chris Cooley of the Washington Redskins. This is the 3rd week of Peter's vacation and the 3rd week Peter has asked a player to be a guest author...and they have all been white guys who have written the column...that doesn't include Matt Light, also white, who wrote the MMQB-Tuesday non-mail bag edition. In a league that is X% (I don't really know but I think 50% is a fair number to use) minorities, Peter has chosen four white guys so far to write his column. I just found this interesting.

I was actually pretty disappointed in what Cooley wrote for MMQB. All I really know about him is that he seems like an intelligent guy, he accidentally showed his penis to the world when taking a picture of his playbook (a picture I was fortunate to never see), and I know he has a blog. I thought it might be interesting to read what he wrote...except he only wrote one page. Come on, you can do better than that, Peter King spends one page complaining about the woven fabric structure of hotel bathroom hand towels, you can get two pages about your NFL experience.

Anyway, here is Cooley's version of MMQB. Warning, you are about to enter a Easterbrook-ish type idea zone.

I was very excited to be asked to fill in for Peter King this week, though I'm slightly disappointed to be the third person asked -- I mean, seriously, Trent Green?

Uh-oh, Chris is going to be the sarcastic, off the cuff type MMQB writer! Trent Green wrote two pages and in retrospect has probably done the best job replacing Peter. I think I know this was a joke...I think.

A couple weeks ago, I squatted over my helmet next to Sean Suisham on the practice sideline of Redskins Park. It was your everyday water-cooler dialogue, the kicker being the guy who has nothing to do, ever, and then lingering around, begging for someone to scheme with.

I think part of the idea of having football players write the column was to see what is was like for these players to interact with their teammates and to get a glimpse of football life. So far we have gotten a guy who is now retired (Trent Green), a guy who doesn't know anyone on his team because he just signed there as a free agent (Matt Birk), and a discussion with a kicker (Chris Cooley)...possibly not the best way to get a "real life football" glimpse.

Every so often, we even talk about football, but with a kicker it's usually something about how a holder's chubby, jittery hands can mess up an entire season or why adding two games to the regular season would be so much harder on a kicking leg.

See? Sarcasm. Clearly, Chris has not given up on seeing if sarcasm can be understood through the Internet. I gave up a year ago. You have to be a great writer to get sarcasm to work for you when typing on the Internet.

Our recent talk actually led to a profound idea. The topic was actually brought up in a kicking state of mind, wondering why the goal posts don't continue upward for another 10 yards, thus eliminating any judgment call about whether a field goal attempt is good when the ball is kicked above the end of the bar.

Many a person has wondered this and I think one of the reasons is that if you put the goal posts 30 more feet up in the air the bottom single yellow post may no longer be able to hold the entire goal post up. Even if it could, I can't help but wonder what would happen if a ball hit the uprights, could the single post at the bottom hold the entire goal post up with that force? That's my best guess why they don't raise it, along with the fact the rules say how high the posts are supposed to be and it is probably not smart to obstruct the view of people with longer goalposts.

Then the brilliance of Smart Football was born!

When it's called "Smart" Football, you immediately know it will probably be dumb.

Many judgment calls should be taken out of human hands. Just ask anyone from Baltimore if Santonio Holmes crossed the goal line or any Chargers fan about the Ed Hochuli blunder that led to San Diego losing to Denver last season...

The correct call in every crucial situation would purge a lot of ugly emotion and relieve tension, but can the human eye be correct every time? Seriously, look at the Holmes catch again. Watch it from every possible camera angle, then try to decide for sure whether it's a touchdown or not. Smart Football eliminates the guesswork.

I feel like Chris should be speaking in the voice of Billy Mays right now. If anyone has ever read a TMQ with Gregg Easterbrook, you know where this clusterfudge of an argument is going.

Really smart football would be to just train the officials correctly, allow instant replay on some plays the NFL doesn't currently allow replay, and make sure the officials get the call correct before continuing the game. But why not use technology to slow down and complicate the game further? Actually, I am not against the technology, just the idea that is being put forth here.

The system begins by placing sensors in both tips of the ball and then it works with a laser or GPS system.

I am not linking a TMQ column but suffice to say this is very similar to what Gregg Easterbrook wants to do as well. I usually accuse Gregg not knowing anything about football...I don't know if that argument holds water when it comes to a NFL player who comes up with the idea. I don't know what to blame the bad idea on here.

At that point the possibilities are endless.

Very true. The plane of the ball could pass over the plane of the goal line or first down marker in any certain direction. For example, what if the tips of the ball are not what crosses the goal line? How will Smart Football handle that? What if any point on the ball passes over said marker and the point never actually does pass over? There are endless possibilities of how a ball can be held by a receiver or runner so there is a chance on a crucial play the system won't work.

The sensors indicate the instant the ball crosses the goal line, or any line for that matter. This eliminates officials having to slog in from the sideline, peering over 22 enormous men and trying to determine from memory where the ball may have reached.

Here's a question. How do the officials know where to put the ball? I am going to assume there won't be a display on the actual football that will show where to put the ball. So it would involve the officials getting information from another official who has the information go to him in a booth somewhere in the stadium right? What if the reading takes a few seconds to come to the official on the field during the last few seconds of a tight game and the officials don't know exactly where to put the ball? Do you stop the game or penalize the team with the ball by waiting for ball placement because the readout of where the ball was supposed to placed took a few seconds longer than expected?

Look if Chris Cooley can use extreme and fairly rare examples to show why this technology is needed, I can use extreme and fairly rare examples to show some glitches in the idea.

I just don't think putting a sensor in the tips of the ball will always cause this problem to go away. I also don't think we need this technology used for 1st downs and every ball placement. The officials seem to do a competent job as it is and if there is a question, there are always the chain markers and instant replay. I don't hate technology, I don't think we should necessarily complicate the game any further...and really if it is too hard for an official to remember to put the ball at the 33 and a half yard line as opposed to the 33 or 34 yard line immediately after a play has occurred, he shouldn't be an official anyway.

It doesn't have to stop with the end zone, the league can sensor all the first down markers, as well. Furthermore, it wouldn't be so hard to tell when a ball started or stopped moving forward or backward, which would, accordingly, determine forward progress.

I know it is possible to determine all of these things but it seems to me like this would take some time and slow the game up a little bit. Every play that happened on the field would have to be overseen by an official in a booth and he/she would have to tell the game officials what to do with the ball at that point. It feels like a lot of communication and logistical problems to me for Smart Football to work on every play.

On a throw by a quarterback, I would love to see how this technology would be able to coordinate the rules of football with the exact point where the ball stopped moving backwards or forwards. It can't, you will always have to have someone using the information given by the ball to interpret the NFL rules. The official would have to look at the point where the ball stopped moving forward or backward and then make a ruling from there...which is exactly what happens during instant replay or with a call on the field now. The technology will help but someone still has to interpret what information the technology gave us and what that means for the play on the field. You are basically substituting a computer for the human brain.

I am getting way off track from the original main problem. The fact the ball may go over the plane of a 1st down, goal line or anything else not at either point of the ball is a major problem. Sure, players are taught to carry the ball under their arm with the point of the ball out, but that doesn't mean the point always breaks the necessary plane first.

I'd be willing to bet that Al Davis would have paid Smart Football to give Oakland the opportunity to take Tom Brady's fumble and go on to the Super Bowl.

If you could convince Al Davis that Smart Football ran a 4.3 40 and caught 30 catches for 340 total yards his junior season while underachieving then yes, Al Davis would pay for Smart Football. Otherwise, he is not interested in paying for anything that actually works.

I think I need to get something straight. The fumble caused by Charles Woodson on Tom Brady, it was correctly called yes? I always thought it was correctly called but the league changed the rule after the season. So Smart Football would not have helped here if I am correct, which I may not be. There is only so much football you can pay attention to when your favorite team goes 1-15...let's just say I detached from football during those playoffs.

Goal posts are simply extended by shooting a laser upward, easily determining whether ball went through.

The editor of this column has turned Chris Cooley into a caveman. "...easily determining whether ball went through (grunting sound)."

So does this mean the goal posts don't need to be extended another 30 feet? I would hope so because that was a pretty dumb idea.

Oh, and before complaining about how much this would cost, consider that I'm talking about the NFL. The league in which defensive tackles receive $100 million contracts.

Um, ONE defensive tackle got this much money and it was your stupid owner who gave this money out. I want Chris to get back to us on how much he likes $150 million being spent on DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth. That much money on guys with character issues...not too smart in my mind.

I also like how he takes one incident of a defensive tackle getting a $100 million contract and uses it as the new standard. Only an athlete who likes getting a new contract can do that.

1. I think the Washington Redskins are going to have an outstanding season and win a ton of games. We've done everything a team can do in the offseason to get better. Jason Campbell is so close to being one of the best QB's in the league; he will have a great year. Note -- I have to say all this regardless, but it's nice to actually believe it.

It is nice to believe it. Now you just have to actually do it. I don't know if they did everything they could in the offseason to get better, I think the Eagles and Giants did more to try and improve their team. I just don't know what the Redskins did besides overpay for two guys and draft Brian Orakpo who is a great athlete...just like Vernon Gholston. Ok, maybe not that bad, but I wasn't as sold on him as others were.

2. I think all the talk about making young quarterbacks wait their turn and learn before they go in the game is B.S. The best way to get better at something is doing it, so if they're ready to play, let 'em play. I know teams are very considerate about a player's psyche, but if a quarterback can't handle the scrutiny of throwing a pick in his first season, how is he going to handle it throughout his career?

I can't help but agree with this. It depends on the team's depth at the QB position of course but I am coming to the conclusion you can't hold a guy back if he is your best shot to win...even if he is a rookie.

4. I think sticking with the game integrity theme, why are touchdown celebrations being eliminated? I'm not a celebration guy myself, at all, but it's part of what makes our game exciting. A touchdown is a huge moment in a game and a huge accomplishment for a player, so take it easy on fining guys for having a little fun celebrating.

I don't think the NFL has a problem with touchdown celebrations, they have a problem with props being used after the touchdown to celebrate the touchdown. I don't mind the celebrations and my favorite team has a receiver that does great celebrations (I will never forget the row boat celebration against the Vikings), but they don't always have something to do with the accomplishment and focus more attention on the receiver, which the NFL does not like.

5. I think adding two extra games to the regular season would be great if the league would shorten the preseason two weeks. Also, the pay raise would have to fit accordingly.

I'm sorry, do you not understand the idea of working on a salary? Not to mention if the preseason is shortened by two weeks, why do you need a pay raise for two extra regular season games? You are essentially playing the same amount of games, though I know the good players don't play during the preseason, so there is no need for a pay raise. If you don't like the amount you are paid in your job or feel overworked, do what everyone else does and find a new job. Working on a salary sucks.

6. I think I made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons.

It's such an honor, he can't remember if he made it or not.

7. I think the Pro Bowl should never leave Hawaii. No questions asked, it is the best place for all the players to get together with their families and celebrate a great season. Miami, the site of the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, will be too crazy the week before the Super Bowl for anyone to relax.

Well I certainly want to make sure the players are able to relax so they can celebrate the honor they may or may not ever remember receiving.

8. I think if athletes/celebs are out having a good time, I don't think fans should try to take advantage of them by sneaking photos online.

I think if normal people are out having a good time, I don't think athletes/celebs should try to take advantage of their celebrity by having certain parts of the bar cornered off so the athlete/celeb can party in peace. You stop doing that, the people who take pictures will stop taking pictures.

Here are some random examples that may or may not prove my point:

Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson, and Nick Lachey one time took over the entire downstairs of a bar here in Greensboro to drink. That didn't stop the bar from putting the rest of the bar in full capacity upstairs...and it was a nightmare. People were trying to sneak pictures of them the entire night.

Charles Barkley and Mr. Belding one time came to a bar in Raleigh and immediately cornered off an entire part of the bar so no one, except attractive women, could talk to them. People tried to sneak pictures.

I have been to a bar in Charlotte and saw Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at separate times there. They did not corner off any part of the bar and were glad to take pictures with people. No one sneaked pictures. The point is play nice in public and the public will play nice with you.

Oh, and I know that if someone tries to video me taking a piss again, I'm not going to hesitate to punch them square in the face.

I wonder if Chris has ever thought he may be going to the wrong type of bar?

10. I think athletes are usually terrible writers.

I don't "think" this, I think I am starting to know this.

To be honest, most of the time I can't stand to read anything football players write -- sorry Matt Birk.

I like how he has semi-insulted two authors of this column over the past two weeks.

Now after stopping for a minute, I'm pretty concerned about what I've put together,

It's not so bad, if you don't include that example which is a rip off of an ESPN writer's bad idea...the very same ESPN writer I accuse of not knowing anything about football and not understanding the game.

Oh well, one thing's for sure, I can take a hell of a lot of criticism.

Ok...MMQB needs to be longer than one page (you can't make remarks about other writers of the column and then do less work than them), the idea about the football feels like a logistical nightmare to me, the Redskins won't do any better than third in the division this year, and you need to stop hanging out at places where people take pictures of you urinating.


The Casey said...

I will say this. If you have sensors in both ends of the football, then, knowing the ball's dimensions, you should be able to re-create the location, including ball orientation, with modeling software.

That being said, I think you're adding too many potential failure points when you talk about something like that. A computer's going to crash, or a sensor's going to go out, or something. I just think that something is sure to break down in a complicated system like that. Also, how is the sensor going to know if a player's knee is down?

RuleBook said...

*pulls out soapbox*

I hereby declare that no sportswriter or current/former athlete shall ever be allowed to write anything involving technology again.

I work in the computer vision field. I'm familiar with the technologies. This GPS thing has got to stop. GPS is only accurate to 1-2 meters. So it could tell me that you were within 2 yards of the goal line.

Cooley also mentioned lasers. A laser would have still have to have a clear line of sight to the ball. Thus, it would suffer from the same obstructions that officials do.

There are technologies that can give you precise locations, but as mentioned already, you'd have to cover the ball in sensors, not just the tips. In addition, the balls would have to have active sensors rather than just antennas, which require power and are much more expensive. To manufacture the 36 balls used each game would cost a ton. Even estimating very conservatively, lets say each ball cost $300 dollars more. Is $5000 per game worth it just to see if the ball crossed the plane?

Beyond that, the question is rarely if the ball broke the plane of the goal line (or the first down marker). It's if the ball broke the plane before the players knee hit the ground. This would require every player to have sensors in their uniforms, and they could easily be tampered with. Beyond that, timing the sensors in the uniforms with the sensors from the ball would be very difficult and prone to errors.

Believe me, as a football nut in this field (and there aren't many), if such a thing were currently feasible, I would be developing it as we speak. I've researched the topic, and much more thoroughly than anyone who will ever write an article for espn or si ever will. This idiocy needs to stop.

*puts soapbox away*

To clarify a few other things:

Calculation times would be insignificant. From this technology, a number could be obtained and transmitted in a fraction of a second. That of course assumes every sensor works all the time. Which won't ever happen. However, it wouldn't really slow the game down, as long as the referee can figure out what the 33.4567 yard line is.

I think I need to get something straight. The fumble caused by Charles Woodson on Tom Brady, it was correctly called yes? I always thought it was correctly called but the league changed the rule after the season.

The tuck rule was in place already. In fact, it had come into play just shortly beforehand. This is coming off the top of my head so I may have the wrong opponent or week, but in a game between the Rams and Bucs that season, I believe in week 15 or 16, Kurt Warner had a fumble overturned by the same rule. I remember this because, of all people, Troy Aikman wrote an article for where he explained the tuck rule following that Rams/Bucs game.

The reason that the Brady play had so much controversy is that to many people, it looks like the ball was already well tucked before the fumble occurred. The controversy is not the rule (though many would argue that it is a bad rule), but rather whether Brady had finished bringing the ball back to his body before the fumble.

Bengoodfella said...

I am not against the technology necessarily, I don't know enough about this stuff to say that you could model the entire ball based on the two sensor points. So I guess my argument against that would be negated.

I guess my point is what you ended your comment with, and that is there are other external factors that have to work in cohesion with the system, like when the player's knee is down. That is something that human error will still be in play. With a separate system determining where the ball crossed the plane, I don't know if that system will be able to determine when his knee hit the ground, so the play will then be open to instant replay. Good point. The players would have to have sensors on them as well.

Rulebook, as always you come through with some knowledge on the issue. It's a little different than usual considering it is not exactly rules oriented but is related to your job field.

After doing the math, it doesn't seem very convenient to implement this technology, especially since things will invariably go wrong with it through the season. Basically, it is impossible because the lasers would not be able to pinpoint the exact location of the ball due to the players around the ball...and again, how do we know when the player's knee was down? There is no way the player's can have sensors on them.

I like your soapbox and will probably quote what you said when TMQ comes back and thinks of this "brilliant" idea in a couple of months.

Thanks for clarifying that tuck rule. I really did not pay that much attention to those playoffs, I was so depressed about the Panthers season, I had no real urge to see anything but the Rams lose...they were relevant at the time and I did not like them.

So the controversy was the application of the rule and not the actual rule at the time? I think I have it. Hopefully I will not detach from football ever again because those were some interesting playoff games.

KentAllard said...

If you put sensors into the balls, you would hear an unholy amount of bitching about how the added weight threw off the balls balance, made it difficult to throw, catch, kick, etc. This would be true even if the sensor weight doesn't affect the ball at all.

Bengoodfella said...

Kent, I don't think you understand, we are trying to incorporate technology into making it easier to resolve the 1% of calls that are questionable during a game. We don't care how it affects the actual game, we have to make sure all the calls are correct.

If it takes a ball heavier than a bowling ball with thousands of sensors inside to make sure the yardage is accurate, it will be done.

Sarcasm aside, you are right. Even if it wasn't true, it would be in the player's heads.

KentAllard said...

Back in the 70s (I think), baseball changed the threads on the balls to a slightly different shade. Cue an entire year of pitchers bitching about how the "new" ball flew out of the ballpark, and the hitters complaining the new thread was easier to grip, enabling pitchers to make physics defying breaks with the ball, driving down hitting. At the end of the year, overall batting average and ERA was within the margin of error of the previous year.

KentAllard said...

The announcers of the day took both sides of that, BTW, simultaneously arguing that the change hit pitching and hitting at the same time. And that Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

Bengoodfella said...

I remember that and I believe it was Charlie Finley's idea to change the color of the ball and I think it was yellow or of those two. It's the same reason no one would eat yellow or orange ketchup.

If it is in the player's head things are different then they will complain.