Wednesday, September 23, 2009

17 comments TMQ: Punt, Blitz and Stupidity

Another week, another TMQ full of Easterbrook and his loose grasp of knowledge about the NFL second guessing the decisions that professional head coaches make in the heat of a game. This week Gregggggggggggggg is vindicated in a way and he is proven incorrect. Of course he never actually will admit he was proven incorrect (I will give you a hint, it involves the Jets and Patriots), but instead makes excuses for why he was wrong.

Has courage broken out in the NFL? This weekend, team after team went for it on fourth down, eschewing fraidy-cat kicks.

I am sure they all worked incredibly successfully because going for it on fourth down is ALWAYS the best move. Gregg thinks you should never take the situation and the time left in the game into account when making the decision to go for it on fourth down, but if your team is in a fourth-and-1 you should always go for it according to him.

Washington went for it twice on fourth-and-1 on its final possession, converting the first time, failing the second time -- but the failure left St. Louis pinned on its own 4 at the two-minute warning.

I think this was the play call that real NFL experts have criticized. (Go to #4 and read what he wrote)

Gregg thinks this was a smart move, but I am not shocked that someone who covers the NFL on a regular basis disagrees with Gregg's position on this. The Rams only needed a field goal to tie the game at that point. It was not a smart move, but of course Gregg thought it was. It tickles me to death there is a real NFL expert who actually questioned the decision by the Redskins for being dumb that Gregg thought was brilliant.

Of course, some of the tries backfired.

Because going for it on fourth down is not always smart. I know the Panthers went for it on fourth down late in the 4th quarter of their game and Jake Delhomme threw an interception. If they have kicked the field goal then they would have had a chance to win the game at the very end instead of just tie it at the end of regulation.

In Week 2's lowest moment, taking the field riding an 18-game losing streak, trailing by a touchdown in the second half, Detroit punted on fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 42. The public-address system should have broadcast the sound of a chicken chuckling buck-buck-brawckkkkkkk; the football gods punished the Cowardly Lions by helping the Vikings return the kick to the 29, netting only 13 yards of field position.

There are no football gods. They don't exist. Pinning the Vikings deep in their own territory was a smart move to try. Expecting a rookie quarterback to convert a fourth-and-2 against the Vikings tough defense is not a smart move. These are the kind of things Gregg needs to take into account when deciding whether to go for it on fourth down or not. The Lions have a rookie quarterback, they can't see into the future so they don't know how far the Vikings will return the punt, and the Vikings have a tough defense so punting was probably a smart move here.

Why this sudden burst of manhood? Maybe the statistical arguments in favor of going for it on fourth down are finally catching on. Back in 2006, I detailed why probabilities favor going for it on many fourth-down situations. Back in 2007, I asked AccuScore to run thousands of computer simulations of NFL games using a go-for-it metric; going for it much of the time added one win per season to a team's record, and one win is often the difference between the playoffs and the couch in January in the NFL.

I am not Gregg Easterbrook, I don't definitely say a team should always go for it on fourth down all the time, but I do believe going for it on fourth down does make sense in more situations than teams usually go for it. I do believe Gregg is on to something in that coaches should maybe go for it on more occasions but I don't think there are set situations when a team HAS to go for it on fourth down. Maybe I am not smart but I can't help but think if a team went for it on fourth down more often the conversion rate would drop. I don't know why I feel this to be true but I do.
I don't want to be too hard on Easterbrook for saying teams should go for it on fourth down because I also believe it is a good gamble to make, especially if a coach knows he will be going for it on fourth down it can benefit his play calling (Of course in that situation the coach knows he is going for it on fourth down and the situation does not dictate if he chooses to go for it or not like I previously suggested should happen). For example, a team doesn't have to throw the ball on 3rd-and-6 if they know they will be going for it on fourth down. I believe the situation should dictate the call overall. The difference in Gregg and me is that I don't believe this:

football teams usually should go for it on fourth-and-4 or less in opposition territory, and on fourth-and-short in their own territory.

I don't think there should be hard and fast rules like this. I also don't like it when Easterbrook nitpicks certain coaches for not going for it on fourth down and he doesn't look at the situation. A good example of this is his criticism of Jeff Fisher for not going for it on fourth down against the Ravens in the playoffs...and instead went for the field goal. It didn't turn out well for the Titans but the decision to kick a field goal was a good one.

Stats of the Week No. 1: Drew Brees is on pace to throw 72 touchdown passes this season. The NFL record, held by Tom Brady, is 50.

New Orleans is on pace to go 16-0! The Titans are on pace to go 0-16! Small sample sizes are the best. Let's make a big deal out of them!

Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: With Carolina leading 10-7, Atlanta reached the Cats' 10. Rarely used Falcons running back Jason Snelling entered the game. Surely he's in to block, right? TMQ loves the tactic of bringing in a guy who never plays, then calling something for him.

Bengoodfella loves it when a team brings in it's third string running back, Jason Snelling, to give their first string running back a breather when the team's second team running back, Jerious Norwood, is injured. It was a play called for a running back and Snelling was the next running back on the depth chart. I seriously doubt the Falcons went up and down the roster looking for a player who never gets the ball to throw the ball to just for this situation. Little things like this are what Gregg misses. The Falcons aren't looking for a rarely used player, Michael Turner was tired and Norwood was injured, so Snelling was next on the depth chart.

Tony Gonzalez ran into the left flat, drawing defenders; Snelling ran behind him, then cut to the center of the field. The result? An easy touchdown pass to the uncovered Snelling.

I think the lesson for this story is that Tony Gonzalez draws a great amount of attention near the goal line, not that using a player who never plays is a smart move. This lesson may be too obvious for Gregg.

Reaching fourth-and-1 on the Oakland 5 on the same drive, Haley elected to kick a field goal. Kansas City racked up 173 yards rushing in this contest -- why not go for it on fourth-and-1 on the 5, either advancing for a touchdown or pinning the opponent against its goal line?

Now this is a fourth down conversion attempt I can get behind. Of course Gregg is going to use this one example and say the team should always go for it in this situation, even if the score is 13-10 (in favor of the team on defense) and there are 20 seconds left on the clock.

The defending NFC champions blocked a Jax field goal attempt, and Antrell Rolle returned the rock 83 yards for a touchdown. That was sweet. There weren't any speed players to chase Rolle -- Jax had offensive linemen, two tight ends, a punter (holder) and kicker on the field. That was sour -- every kick unit should have a speed player on it.

So Jacksonville needs to bring in skinnier, weaker guys to block on 95% of the field goal attempts, thereby weakening the blocking up front and on the edges, potentially allowing more punts to be blocked so when the 5% (just a guess) chance of a kick being blocked occurs one of the speed guys can chase down the guy with the ball and not allow him to score a touchdown. This makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. None. The skinnier, speedier guys would have to be on the outside of the punt protection formation and even if the kick is blocked there is a good chance the speedy guys still will not be able to catch the guy with the ball. Why chance this for the 5% occurence when it doesn't happen that often? A team should use good blockers for field goal attempts and extra points and if a skinny, fast guy is a great blocker that's even better.

There cannot be a greater contrast in styles than what happened on "Monday Night Football." Miami played much of the contest with no quarterback on the field, rushed 49 times for 239 yards, kept the Indianapolis offense on the bench, tired out the Indianapolis defense with an incredible 45:07-to-14:53 edge in time of possession, yet lost.

As I started to read this sentence I was wondering what happened to Gregg's "no-huddle offense makes the defense tired" theory that he used last week for the Buffalo-New England game and for the Michigan-Notre Dame game. I guess the answer is that the Indianapolis did get tired despite being on the field three times as much as the Dolphins defense but it didn't make a difference in the game........which would cause any rational person to call Gregg's "no-huddle offense/defense gets tired" theory into question in my mind.

This is a reason time of possession can be a deceptive stat: A team that scores really fast has poor time of possession, but don't you want to score really fast? Even though it wasn't on the field much, by the fourth quarter the Dolphins' defense looked tired, at least mentally, from the relentless Colts pace.

So now Gregg is going to completely contradict himself and say that the no-huddle offense actually makes the other team's defense tired...mentally. Now he says "time of possession is overrated, despite the fact I indicated differently last week." The pace of him changing his mind is relentless. So the Colts defense didn't get tired from being on the field as long, instead the Dolphins defense was mentally tired from being scored on so quickly!

Gregg always has a bullshit reason for why something happens. He is so great at second guessing everyone else, but when he says something wrong there is always a reason...and in this case, it was a made-up reason.

In the fourth quarter, the Dolphins' defense folded, allowing the Colts to go 79 yards for a touchdown in 3:17 and 80 yards for a touchdown in a mere 32 seconds, as Miami's coaches panicked and started calling blitzes, which only made matters worse.

Panicking or trying to throw Manning off his rhythm, it's the same thing in Gregg's mind. This is where Gregg's simplistic mind really doesn't allow him to to analyze a situation accurately. The Dolphins were trying to throw Manning's timing off, they weren't panicking.

They're clearly having trouble running the ball. So don't fall for their play-fakes unless they prove they can run! Yet not only did the Miami front seven bite on Manning's play-fake on the first snap, so did safety Yeremiah Bell.

Of course Gregg conveniently ignores the fact Peyton Manning has one of the best play action fakes in football. Easterbrook would never fall for Manning's play action fake...or thinks he wouldn't, but he doesn't realize there is little time to think while on the football field, there is usually only time to react and when you have a guy like Manning running a play action fake it's very effective.

Meanwhile, as Miami rolls up yards with the Wildcat, I wonder: Where is the X Run? My high school produced a state championship team in 1969 using a veer-option offense only slightly different than the Wildcat, and our big play was the X Run -- making the lateral downfield instead of in the backfield.

Well gee Gregg. if your high school won a state championship in 1969 using this play then it will definitely work in the NFL. That's just logical to assume.

Numerous times Monday night, Brown and Ricky Williams rolled right in the pitch-or-pull situation. Each time Brown kept the ball, Williams just came to a halt and watched. Why can the pitch happen only behind the line of scrimmage? Once you cross the line, defenses automatically ignore the pitch man. Lateral to him then, and he's in the clear for a touchdown.

It's so simple! The defense "automatically" ignores the pitch man...always. Let's ignore the fact these are professional athletes and it would also be equally simple for a cornerback or a linebacker to snatch the ball being pitched BACKWARDS and run it back for a touchdown or at least get the turnover. The ball HAS to go backwards to not count as a forward pass, so the runner would need to make sure the guy he wants to get the ball to is behind him, yet still in his field of view to pitch the ball. This play would maybe work a couple times and then the other times the defense would catch on and take the ball out of the air or at least bat it down for a fumble. Pitching the ball to another player in traffic doesn't strike me as the best idea in the NFL.

I bet Obama gives 10 speeches for every one given by John Kennedy. At the current rate, by 2010, an Obama speech will no longer be viewed as an important moment.

You "bet" Obama gives 10 speeches for every one given by John Kennedy? So you don't know but you are just guessing. Hey, if there are no facts supporting your argument just make up some facts and see if your audience is stupid enough to believe you. I am also pretty sure there is not a saturation point for the American public when it comes to hearing the President speak. He is everywhere right now but he is trying to sell his health care program, much like movie stars are everywhere when they try to sell their movies. I am pretty sure a speech by Obama will always be a semi-important moment, especially if it contains important information.

Though TMQ is mainly anti-blitz, of course this tactic sometimes works. Jersey/B blitzed 26 times on Tom Brady's 47 pass attempts.

Here's the big question. How is Gregg going to justify hating blitzing when it allowed the Jets to help beat the Patriots this past weekend? The answer is that he barely acknowledges it and then says it won't always work.

If the Jets blitz like this on a regular basis, they are sure to get burned. On Sunday at least, the tactic worked.

Oh I am sure. The Jets must have gotten lucky blitzing like this in this one game. It will never work for them in the long term, that's Gregg's opinion. So basically he just chalks this up to the Jets taking the Patriots by surprise and Gregg thinks the Jets will end up giving up big plays because of the blitzing they do. Nevermind, the Jets have advantages like Darrelle Revis is a lockdown corner so they can put him in man coverage on good wide receivers and Rex Ryan's blitzing tendencies worked out really well in Baltimore...Gregg doesn't believe they can continue to blitz and be effective long term but he doesn't really base it on much other than the fact he doesn't like blitzing.

TMQ contends that it is an illusion -- cultivated by agents, of course -- that tough-guy agents screaming into cell phones translates into big increases in dollars to players. The market sets a player's value, not the agent. A good agent improves the details of an agreement, but no agent argues a sports franchise into paying more than the player's market value.

Tell that to Scott Boras and the Texas Rangers. Boras got the Rangers to almost double the next highest offer for Alex Rodriguez. Actually tell this to pretty much any Scott Boras client or a team that has signed a Scott Boras client. Andruw Jones got 2 years at $36 million coming off the worst year of his career. If TMQ contends agents don't make a difference when it comes to the ultimate number amount in an agreement, then TMQ is sometimes wrong about this. Sometimes a good agent sets the market value for a player by playing the teams against each other.

Another illusion about NFL agents is their pay level. On his latest Dr. Lou segment, Lou Holtz declared that Michael Crabtree's agent will take in "millions of dollars" when Crabtree signs a deal, assuming this happens during the historical period of mankind. NFL agents are limited by their trade association's rule to 3 percent commissions; Crabtree's guaranteed money, the only part of an NFL contract that can be believed, will be at most $15 million; 3 percent of that is $450,000.

It's generally a bad idea to take anything the Daffy Duck sounding Lou Holtz has said as fact, or even suggesting what he says represents what the general population believes. This one example of Holtz talking about Crabtree and his agent should show what I just said to be true. Lou Holtz said he thought Notre Dame would be in the National Championship Game this year. He has no credibility in many ways, which is why ESPN hired him. They only hire analysts who have little to no credibility. Every once in a while a good analyst slips through the cracks but generally the hiring process is pretty stringent that an analyst be sort of mindless.

Adventures in Officiating: With the game tied at 31, Tennessee punted to Houston on the final snap of the third quarter. Houston's Jacoby Jones signaled fair catch; the ball popped out of his hands and into the hands of a Titans player; initially, zebras marked it as Flaming Thumbtacks' ball on the Texans' 9. But a player who signals fair catch receives an "unimpeded" opportunity to catch a punt while it has not yet struck the ground. So officials correctly overruled themselves and flagged the Tennessee player who snatched the ball for fair-catch interference -- since the ball hadn't yet struck the ground and only Jones had the right to the catch. Jeff Fisher went ballistic, though after the game, acknowledged the ruling had been correct. Houston went on to win 34-31.

Wow that's a lot of text to put up for just a simple officials call such as this. I wonder what Gregg's point for all of this was?

Overlooked in all this: The Titans were punting on fourth-and-1 from near midfield! If Fisher had gone for it, Tennessee might have won the game.

It's not really about the officiating, it's all about going for it on fourth down. If Fisher had gone for it there, Tennessee also might have lost the game by an even bigger margin. As usual though, Gregg only focuses on the outcome that he wants to see happen in the situation and would go to show that he is correct.

The Titans could have won the game or they could have lost anyway. Why does he only focus on the outcome that would have made him look right?

Reader Mickey Boland of Harlingen, Texas, adds of the game, "Has there ever been a great quarterback who wore his hat backwards when on the sideline? Bart Starr, Johnny United, Norm van Brocklin: I think not."

Who the hell is Johnny United? Again, ESPN doesn't do a good job of editing Gregg's column or at least editing this guy's email to Gregg.

Mickey from Texas is talking about Tony Romo here. Many times you will find sportswriters have readers who are smarter than they are and make good points in their email and other correspondence with the sportswriter. When it comes to Gregg's readers who write to him...not so much. It seems they catch the stupidity disease that Gregg sometimes has.

Game scoreless, Buffalo came to the line on third-and-1 at the City of Tampa 32. Expecting a run, the Bucs were in a rush defense, and the call radioed into Trent Edwards' helmet was a run. Seeing the defense he audibled to a double-go pass, and hit Lee Evans for six. Short-yardage situations are often the best time to throw deep.

The best part is that if the long pass doesn't work, which is also likely even though Gregg will never let us hear an example of where this occurred, you can go for it on fourth-and-1...........EVERY SINGLE TIME NO MATTER WHAT! Then if that team doesn't get the first down on fourth down, they can know they were at third-and-1 and turned the ball over on downs, which is really pathetic. Gregg Easterbrook will then criticize them in his TMQ even though he would have suggested that team do exactly what they just did.

Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.

Highlight reels are maybe a minute long for each game, except when it comes time to discuss a game Manny Ramirez or Brett Favre has played in where ESPN gives us 10 minutes of discussion and a press conference, so there are probably dozens of "hidden plays" that affect the game and don't make a highlight reel. I am nitpicking Gregg pretty bad here but this is a horrible definition for a "hidden play" since highlight reels are so short and only usually show the scoring for the game.

Shawn Harris of High Point, N.C., notes that a week ago, Murray State, a Division I-AA team, traveled to Division I North Carolina State in the paid-cupcake role and got steamrolled, 65-7. Bad sportsmanship, obviously, on the part of the Wolfpack for running up the score. But should we feel sympathy for Murray State? No -- because the previous week, the Racers hosted paid cupcake Kentucky Wesleyan, a Division II program, and relentlessly ran up the score to 66-10,

This "cupcake" team crap has got to end. Some teams play very bad teams and sometimes both teams get paid pretty well to do it. It happens and will continue to happen, get over it or at least only focus on it in one column and not every single week.

This weekend, Cal left on Thursday for its Saturday afternoon game at the University of Minnesota, giving the players ample time to overcome jet lag. Rested, they won, all well and good as regards the BCS standings. But aren't football players of the University of California at Berkeley students, at least on paper? All colleges, including the Ivy League, occasionally excuse student-athletes from class for sports events. But leaving Thursday morning for a game Saturday means two full days of skipped classes, which seems to explode any pretense that football-factory football players are "students."

Here is another issue that has to be dropped ASAP by Gregg. Yes these athletes are also supposed to be students but they get treated differently because they are athletes. This happens at nearly every school and will continue to happen. I don't know why Gregg is so shocked.

Who's to say the students didn't get their class assignments before they left and will have the assignment turned back in on time when they return? Sure, it's not plausible but there isn't only traditional "book and pencil" learning going on at schools now. There are online assignments and classes where a student never has to physically be in the classroom. These students may only need computer access to do their assignments. These players could also get excused from the assignment or get an extension, we don't really know...even though Gregg thinks he does.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback repeats my proposal that college teams in any sport be forbidden to cross more than one time zone for games, except bowls and playoffs.

Which would lead to more schools having to schedule teams more in their immediate vicinity, which means the talent pool of available teams would be diminished, which means teams like Ohio State would have to schedule a potential "cupcake" for the beginning of the season instead of a team like USC, and then Gregg Easterbrook would bitch about it.

I guess Gregg doesn't realize it is sometimes hard for some programs to get teams to play them in a football game, so the idea of a team not being able to cross more than one time zone could cause there to be more cupcake teams scheduled. Actually there are so many problems this is just one of them. It would probably take me the rest of the day to list other problems with this suggestion. Can anyone think of other problems?

Colleges should play only schools in their region, so football team members can be in class on Thursday and on Friday morning.

Because college athletics are all about going to class and learning. Even if they only played teams in their time zone they would still have to leave after class on Friday (assuming they don't have afternoon classes) and travel for a potential 12pm game on Saturday, which doesn't make a lot of sense logistically.

Next Week: Barack Obama gives separate interviews to all seven ESPN television channels

If he talks about football he may be more knowledgeable than Gregg Easterbrook. At least if Obama talked about football we wouldn't have to hear about why teams ALWAYS should go for it on fourth down in certain situations.


Jeff said...

I'm glad you didn't touch the AIG paragraph that I'll be posting about later! No, seriously, the AIG paragraph irked me the most.

His Sweet play number 2 is the type of thing that drives me nuts (the Snelling play). Last year he said on a fourth down play to Ahmard Hall that the defense had totally ignored him because earlier in the year Hall had fumbled on a fourth down play. Like the entire defense has a robot mind with an encyclopedia of every play each offensive player has made so far that year.

Rob said...

I really hope that emailer was trying to be 'cute' to impress Easterbrook with the name "Johnny United" We all know Easterbrook has stupid nicknames for NFL teams (that I can't stand) and maybe this emailer thought Easterbrook would like this. I mean, this is Johnny Unitas were talking about.. show some respect! Ive never heard him referred to as Johnny United.

Then again, it might be worse if it truly was a mistype that his editors didnt catch.

Rob said...

I left out something.. if the emailer was trying to be 'cute' with that name.. it was the dumbest thing I've heard in awhile.

Bengoodfella said...

I try not to touch his non-football related stuff. I probably shouldn't but I skip it.

His sweet play number 2 was retarded. You are exactly right and I you were write in that post as well, that the defense doesn't know who usually get the ball. Players watch film but they can't remember shit like that.

I thought maybe the emailer was trying to be cute but if they were trying to be cute it didn't work and if they weren't trying to be cute, someone needs to find an editor.

Johnny United sounds like an action hero from a 1950's anti-Communism comic book.

The Casey said...

Actually, Snelling gets a pretty good number of snaps for a #3 RB. He's in on a lot of 3rd downs and shotgun formations for the Falcons. But honestly that's not really something I would expect Gregg, or anybody whose favorite team isn't the Falcons, to know.

RuleBook said...

- To begin, I understand and agree with your point that Easterbrook seems to think that there is a hard and fast rule of going for it, neglecting the fact that teams are different, and different game situations call for different tactics.

However, I will agree with Easterbrook and argue with Adam Schein about the Redskins decision. If the Redskins kick the FG, they kick off. Their kicker isn't very good, meaning the return will likely be to the 25 or 30 yard line. Granted, the Rams need a TD now, but they also have 70-75 yards left to go. On the other hand, from the 4 yard line, the rams needed to go at least 60 yards or so to get the FG. Essentially, the Rams offense would have to go the same distance to score, but it is much harder to start at your 4 than your 25. I actually have a much more detailed argument, but no one probably cares that much.

There are no real NFL "experts." I don't know why Schein deserves that distinction. His opinion is no more valid than anyone on ESPN.

- When I watched the Lions kick the FG to take the score from 14-31 to 17-31, I said to myself "This will be in Easterbrook's column." The FG was the right decision there, as they cut it from 3 possessions to 2.

- every kick unit should have a speed player on it.

I think the holder should be that speed guy. (Warning: Homer alert!) The Cowboys holder is David Buehler, their kickoff specialist. What's fun about him is that he ran a 4.56. He also benched 225 25 times. He is actually on the Cowboys punt coverage team, and is a good tackler. I think every team should choose a fast player to be the holder. That way, they don't interfere with blocking, can chase on a blocked kick, and in the case of a botched play, are more likely to be able to run for a 1st down. (Think 2006 playoffs if Romo was a little faster).

- I think that forced time-zone restriction would hurt national recruiting. If a player in California know he could never play on the west coast if he joined an SEC team, he might be less likely to go. I could be totally wrong about this.

Bengoodfella said...

Rulebook, it's ok to disagree with Schein. I should not have cited him with as much authority as I did because it made it seem like I worshipped. I did call him an "expert," which was also dumb. I am so focused on proving Easterbrook wrong I am siding up with other enemy sportswriters and making them out to be greater than they really are. This is what TMQ does to me.

Your argument makes sense to me, I think if you do believe it will be harder for them to score from the 4 yard line then that would be a decision you would make. I don't know what I would do, but I can see how there is actually an argument for both sides. Naturally a team would like to be up by a touchdown or more but if the Rams return the kick fairly far, they may not have but 60 yards to get a touchdown that wins the game. Easterbrook likes it when teams going for it on fourth down and sportswriters like Schein like to second guess "bad" coaches like Jim Zorn. I need to be careful who I cite in the future.

I watched another game this weekend and knew one of the fourth down conversions would be in TMQ also. I don't remember the game but I do remember I hated thinking about what Easterbrook would write before he actually wrote it.

The holder would make some sense as a speed guy, especially if it is a guy who has good hands, because he wouldn't have to be a guy to block. There is no problem with having a speed guy on the field, just generally really fast guys are also not the greatest blockers in the world, so I don't see the need to disrupt the kick protection just in case the kick gets blocked. It is smart to use the holder as that person because he is also closer to the other team's end zone and may have a better shot at catching the player who recovered the blocked kick.

Your idea about the time zone is a good one. It could hurt national recruiting because that person would know he never gets to play even in the Western Time Zone either, which would rule out some good teams out there.

Casey, I knew I could count on you to tell us how much Snelling is used. I didn't think the Falcons just randomly put him in there. Easterbrook feels like he knows enough to give the reason Snelling was in the game but he doesn't really know, he just pretends to.

RuleBook said...

(Warning: rant ahead)

I need an outlet to complain about something, so here we go. I have read so many articles and heard so many people on the radio say how terrible the 0-2 start is because "Since 1990, only 13.75% of the teams that started 0-2 have gone on to the playoffs."

These are typically articles that talk about how the 0-2 teams have their backs against the wall, and must win this week, and they use these statistics as evidence. This is a horrible statistic, because the teams that start 0-2 are typically the bad teams that finish 6-10. Of course most of them don't make the playoffs! It's a case of correlation vs causation. Though I have no statistics to back me up, I would wager that teams that lose in weeks 3 and 6 also made the playoffs about 13.75% of the time. (Yes, I just pulled an Easterbrook there)

Being 0-2 does not make a team less likely to make the playoffs. It's the converse: a bad team which should miss the playoffs is much more likely to start 0-2 than a good team.

I read this column by Len Pasquarelli and it set me off, because it's the 100th time I've heard this statistic poorly used in the last two weeks.

An 0-2 team isn't less likely to make the playoffs because they're 0-2. Rather, and 0-2 team is less likely to make the playoffs because it is more likely to be a bad team.

(rant over)

Bengoodfella said...

I love a good rant. There's nothing wrong with it. Though I think it is just a way to get me to link to the article and remind me the Panthers are 0-2. If so, job well done, I am depressed now.

My favorite part about the article is how he wrote no one expected those three teams to start off 0-2...excuse me but those three teams played Atlanta (twice), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Philadelphia. Of those five teams, four of them made the playoffs last year. It's not like they lost to bad teams. Sure no one predicted all three would go 0-2 but the simple fact remains I thought at least one or maybe two of those teams could be 0-2. It's not like it is unforseen. It's a two game sample size against good teams.

Your argument makes sense, and I have skipped over articles like this all week because I am tired of seeing them, because a bad team would probably not start 0-2. Again, I don't have facts either but I can't help but think if a team starts the season 0-2 it is because they are not a good team. If they are not a bad team, they are most likely only an average or an above average team.

I am actually glad you wrote about this because it drives me crazy too. Bad teams lose games, so therefore teams that start off 0-2 are going to probably be bad teams. It's almost a chicken and the egg situation but its not. This is sort of an overreaction to everything in my opinion. I split the seasons into four sections and right now these teams can only go 2-2 in this section, but that doesn't mean they won't go 3-1 in the next three which would put them at 11-5, which is usually good enough to get in the playoffs (sorry New England). It's a small sample of two games that may or may not be indicative of anything. If it is indicative of anything it's that the team who starts 0-2 is not a very good team...unless they start that way against really good teams and feel like they can improve as the season progress, which is what I am deluding myself into.

Jeff said...


1.) Good point.
2.) I'm pissed you made it because now that will bother me all the time too.

Bengoodfella said...

Rulebook, you are only allowed one good point per week. You have reached your limit. Bloggers are not allowed to be smart, merely snarky and angry all the time.

Mickey said...

I'm the Mickey who made the comment. "Johnny United" was a typo by ESPN/Easterbrook. I actually said "Johnny U" in my e-mail. I'm a marginal Cowboys fan and, yeah, I'm tired of seeing grown men wearing baseball hats backwards.

Bengoodfella said...

That's exciting you commented. I don't think I touched the hat backwards but referring to typing the Johnny United thing. I guess you typed "Johnny U" and it came out to Johnny United. Interesting, I guess we can deduce that it was a typographical error then and should have been edited.

If you typed Johnny U and he came out with Johnny United, sorry for calling you as stupid as Gregg. It's good to hear you don't call players/teams by silly nicknames.

Mickey said...

I'm thinking ESPN has some rogue spell-check software that translated "Unitas" into "United". Sadly, I am old enough to have seen Johnny Unitas actually play, so I wouldn't have made that mistake.

I think you're a little harsh on Easterbrook on some things. Yeah, he's a little over the top and has some pet peeves, but he does make some interesting observations, and it is nice to read a pro football column that is offbeat. But, for instance, his Sweet Hidden Play not making the highlight reel is just metaphorical, not literal.

Friend of mine pointed me to your blog and I think I'll become a reader.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't know what kind of software they have but I really thought it was a thing where TMQ just thought of a creative nickname for Johnny Unitas.

I have been told before I do nitpick Easterbrook a bit much. I give out criticism so I should be able to take some of it as well. His column is very much offbeat, I will give him that. I have always thought his Sweet Hidden Play was metaphorical, of course I take everything literally even though I am not literal all the time.

Glad to hear you may become a reader and glad you commented.

Martin said...

I'd be better able to handle his offbeat columns if they were about half as long.

Anonymous said...

You sure let yourself get worked up over an article that's 80% written by autotext. It's entertainment; it's parody and everyone knows it. Stop with the hating and take a chill pill.