Wednesday, October 7, 2009

15 comments TMQ: Gregg and I Agree On Something Edition

When I read TMQ this week, I was shocked by what I found. No, I wasn't shocked that Gregg took the time to second guess the facts in another science fiction movie, but I was shocked that I actually agreed with him on a couple issues. More on that in a minute. First, Gregg has some thoughts on this quarterback that plays for the Pack---I mean the Jet---I mean the Vikings (this year). Has anyone ever heard of this guy? Brent Favre I think is his name.

Wow, Favre sure looked good Monday night -- he proved emphatically that he can still play. That across-his-body throw for a touchdown at the Green Bay goal line was an athletic move that most recent first-round quarterbacks can't make.

This is the standard all quarterbacks should be held to when determing whether they are any good or not...what can a recent first-round quarterback do? When it comes to meeting that standard nearly every quarterback in the NFL and possibly some in the CFL or any other independent league, and I am including wherever the hell Quincy Carter is currently located, could meet the standard that JaMarcus Russell has set. In fact, I believe Greg Paulus could step into the QB position at Oakland and do a better job than Russell is currently doing. I think we may need a higher standard for quarterback play than Gregg's "what a recent first-round quarterback can do" standard.

In addition to throwing the ball well, Favre spied the open man all night -- determining the correct receiver is the least-appreciated skill of great quarterbacks.

I didn't come here to nitpick fight today, but I would actually argue that determing the correct receiver is the most-appreciated skill of great quarterbacks. Great quarterbacks don't throw that many interceptions (except Favre, he is excluded just because he is excluded) and interceptions generally tend to happen when the wrong receiver has the ball thrown to him and he is covered. Great quarterbacks see the entire field and therefore easily choose the "right" receiver. I think you get my point.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers performed well too, throwing for more yards than Favre, despite standing behind a shaky, porous line.

Rodgers' team was also down for a good portion of the game and he HAD to throw the ball to try and catch up so that should explain him passing for more yardage than Favre. Of course the Packers did do a decent job of shutting down Adrian Peterson so Favre had to throw the ball, which leads me to the difference in the two quarterbacks performance being the offensive line and therefore I am more impressed with Rodgers (there is a shock).

Something was unseemly about Favre's obsession with giving the shaft to the team, and the city, that loved him for 16 years.

(Cue "Twilight Zone" music) I agree with Gregg. Favre insisted this was just another game, which was of course another lie, because after the game he said he was as nervous as he has ever been for a football game. Seriously, when Brett Favre tells the truth, I want to be the first to know.

In winter 2008, Green Bay's management calculated the Packers would have better long-term prospects by committing to Rodgers than by keeping Favre an extra season or two, and trading Rodgers -- which would likely have happened, because at that point Rodgers was ready to run a team. Maybe Green Bay's management erred, but its position was hardly unreasonable.

Holy crap. Thank you, I am glad someone at ESPN understands this.

Favre could have simply walked away from Green Bay, saying, "OK, if that's the way you want it." Instead he became obsessed with shafting a team and city that loved him.

But now he won't be loved in Green Bay -- doesn't that count for something? Twenty years hence he won't be going back for nostalgic reunions. Isn't whether people truly admire you -- as opposed to hyping you on television -- important in life?

The fans in Green Bay are going to eventually forgive and forget, so Favre doesn't really have to worry about that so much. Favre also probably doesn't care if people truly admire him, he only cares about whether his ego gets it's fix or not. He wanted to prove to the Packers he was still a great quarterback and he feels like he has done that now. Favre had a great night last night and there was really little doubt he would, but his offensive line kept him completely untouched for most of the night so he essentially did what he was supposed to. It was weird to me the Packers could stop Peterson fairly well but they couldn't get to Favre at all when he was dropping back to pass. Seems to me the "pass rush" part of their new 3-4 needs some work.

In other football news, going for it on fourth down continues to rise in NFL popularity: Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Washington were among the teams that converted key fourth-down attempts this week when they could have kicked, and then went on to victory.

In related news, Gregg has absolutely no proof going for it on fourth down has actually increased in popularity this year. If he does, he doesn't share that proof.

Of course, going for it doesn't always work; Denver was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 try, though the "challenging players to win" mindset that going for it on fourth down instills seemed to help the Broncos down the stretch.

How about this much better example...The Ravens went for it on fourth down in their own territory around the 40 yard line and New England stuffed them. I thought the Football Gods would support this move? Doesn't fortune favor the bold? Needless to say, the Ravens would go on to lose the game (See, I can do the usually-false assumption that "going for it on fourth down is connected to the end result of the game" thing too).

Denver's fourth-down play was too straightforward, just a dive from a jumbo set. Doing just a dive or a QB sneak gives the defense a chance -- misdirection plays seem to work better on fourth-and-short, because defenders are cranked to go straight ahead.

Yes, misdirections plays always seem to work best on fourth-and-short because if a team only has less than three feet to get a first down, you will want to make getting that yardage as complicated as possible. Maybe a team should run a good ol' fashion reverse or something like a flea flicker on fourth down. That would really confuse the defense.

I don't get why a team would want to run a complicated misdirection play and give the defense a chance to penetrate the offensive line and tackle the ball carrier for a loss. You obviously don't want to do something useless on fourth down but overcomplicating getting one yard could lead to a team not getting that one yard.

New England's fourth-and-1 play was a quick-hitter to the upback, while Tom Brady and Fred Taylor sprinted out left, faking the flip-action that sometimes produces long gainers on fourth-and-1.

I understand the misdirection involved on this play, but this play was also a basic dive up the middle, which Gregg previously said shouldn't work because defenders are queued up to go charging straight ahead. Again, I get the misdirection but if players are already charged up to up the middle they may not fall for the misdirection. Again, football is not science. When "A" happens "B" does not always follow "C."

In fact, certain defensive players will have certain responsibilities in a situation like this. I don't think Gregg realizes this. On a fourth-and-short in a simple 4-3 defense, the Mike linebacker may be responsible for charging up the middle to stuff the run while the strong/weak side LB may have to pay attention to where the ball goes in order to pursue it on their respective sides of the field. So it may all boil down to the offensive line's push regardless of what misdirection happens or doesn't happen. Just a thought...

When Pittsburgh went on fourth-and-1 from its own 30, two guys who lined up left shifted to the right, then one went in motion back left before a successful quarterback sneak; again, this drew the defenders' eyes out of the middle.

This is not misdirection, this is putting a man in motion. I highly doubt the defensive line was paying attention to the man in motion and it's really amazing that Gregg knows exactly where the defenders' eyes were looking on this play. He must have a 260 inch television that can zoom in on a player's eyes and see which way they are looking.

My guess is the man in motion had maybe 10% to do with the Steelers picking up this first down and what had 90% to do with it was the push the Steelers offensive line got and the fact there was a 6-foot-5-inch 240 pound quarterback behind that push.

And in other football news, why is Denver playing so well while Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, St. Louis and Tampa are cover-your-eyes awful?

Because Kansas City, Cleveland, and St. Louis were awful last year too, while Buffalo and Tampa Bay just aren't as good as the Broncos? I am sure Gregg has a more convoluted and less football oriented answer for us.

See below.

I guess we will have to wait for our answer. (Update from me proofreading this column before posting it...we never get the reason. We get statistics saying how bad Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and St. Louis are playing, but I don't think statistics describing how bad they are playing explains why those teams are not playing very well.)

The Steelers showed a rare formation, with four receivers left and one right. Since "trips" is slang for triple, let's call this the "quirk" for quadruple.

Or you could call it "quads" which is what it is actually called.

In trick-play sets in which a lot of people are on one side and only one player is on the opposite, the ball usually ends up going to the lonely guy. This is what the San Diego defenders assumed. Pittsburgh played to this by pump-faking to the lone guy right; the safety jumped that way; a quirk receiver faked a hitch screen to draw the other safety up; Ben Roethlisberger then threw deep to Mike Wallace on the outside left for 35 yards. Sweet.

Here is something that especially irritates me about TMQ. Gregg Easterbrook thinks NFL teams make these assumptions when designing plays and trying to figure out what play a team is going to run. He thinks the defensive team thinks things like, "they may go to a seldom used player here on the goal line," and "when there is one receiver on one side of the field and four on the other side of the field, usually the lone guy gets the ball." This isn't true.

He believes the offensive team designs plays specifically because the defensive team is thinking about these assumptions when this couldn't be further from the truth. The Steelers had probably noticed that the safeties for the Chargers were being drawn in on pump fakes from earlier in the game and wanted to isolate the safeties on either side of the field by flooding the field on one side. They may have also noticed that Mike Wallace had a good matchup when they went quads and wanted to see if they could hit long pass to him after they had drawn the safeties in. Maybe that didn't happen, but I would bet I am a lot closer to the truth than Easterbrook thinking this play was called because of the assumption "the lone guy on the right side opposite the quads usually gets the ball."

Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Houston 20-6, Oakland had a first down at its own 1-yard line. The Raiders came out in a power formation, hoping to rush for a couple of yards of breathing room; tailback Justin Fargas was tackled 5 yards deep in the end zone for a safety.

Sounds to me like they should have run some misdirection here. That ALWAYS works.

Reader Mary Charles writes, "As an accounting student at Binghamton University, I went to the school's job fair in hopes of finding a summer 2010 internship. The event was held on September 16, 2009. Summer of 2009 ended six days later, on September 22."

I don't get this. Maybe I am dumb. I stared at this sentence for two minutes and kept re-reading it. She was hoping to find a Summer 2010 internship, so why does it matter when Summer of 2009 ended? I don't get the problem here. I may just be stupid or need to be clued in.

In addition to having a bad outing, Green Bay's offensive line committed a mistake that is understandable in high school, but hard to fathom in the pros. Often, Colledge's initial block on Allen was fine -- he'd engage the defensive end and push him back. Then Colledge simply would stop and look around to see what was happening on the play, while Allen recovered, or jumped up if knocked down, and went after Rodgers.

I didn't watch too much of the game (Thanks ESPN/ABC/blanket media coverage of Brett Favre, you took away my will to watch sports for a night), but I find it incredibly hard to believe Colledge blocked Allen once and then just stood there. Most likely he blocked Allen once and then Allen used his superior pass rushing skills to get by Colledge and it may have just looked like Colledge stood there but really he was no match for Allen superior passing rushing skills.

(Read that last sentence in the voice of Napoleon sounds like something he would say.)

If you doubt that the shotgun spread has taken over football, doubt no more. Facing a third-and-2, Minnesota went with a shotgun spread, despite having the league's best running back. On the game's decisive snap, facing fourth-and-goal at the Minnesota 1, Green Bay went with a shotgun spread, empty backfield, five wide. Everything might have been different had Donald Lee not dropped that fourth-and-goal pass.

I had some doubts the shotgun spread was taking over football, but now that Gregg has provided a mere two examples to me of when the shotgun spread is used on the goal line, I completely believe it! This is clearly evidence the shotgun spread is taking over NFL football. I bet the NFL running back goes the way of the fullback soon just based simply on this information from two plays in one football game Gregg has just provided to me.

At the endgame, Green Bay faced a tactical dilemma TMQ thinks most coaches play wrongly. Down 30-20, facing a fourth-and-6 on the Minnesota 14 with one minute remaining, Green Bay kicked a field goal, then tried an onside kick. NFL coaches in this situation almost always take the field goal, then the onside kick.

I think this is the right call. You go for the field goal there because you are going to have to get a touchdown, why waste an extra 30 seconds trying to get the touchdown when you can save time on the clock and get a field goal? I don't really see the point in wasting time trying to score a touchdown when you have to recover an onside kick and score again anyway. Don't you want there to be as much time on the clock as possible in case you recover the onside kick? A rational person goes for the field goal here first.

The Packers' chance of converting a fourth-and-6 and getting the touchdown from close range was greater than their chance of kicking a field goal and then scoring a touchdown from long range.

But here is the difference, we have to take each play one at a time. The fourth-and-6 is the first problem the team faces and there is a 90% chance the field goal kicker is able to hit the field goal and there is NOT a 90% chance the Packers will convert on fourth-and-6. Throw in the fact the field goal saves time on the clock, which also gives the team more time to score a touchdown from long range. So the field goal is the smart decision here. How much good is the touchdown going to be when a team recovers an onside kick with 18 seconds left and no timeouts on their own 40 yard line? They will probably have to throw a Hail Mary anyway in that situation.

Score the touchdown first, and if you recover the onside kick you're only 20 yards from the field goal attempt. TMQ thinks coaches almost always take the field goal in this situation because what they're really doing is playing to make the final score closer.

The clock is your enemy in this situation. The entire game depends on the onside kick anyway, so if your team recovers the onside kick you will want as much time on the clock as possible to get in field goal range. A smart team wants to get to the onside kick with as much time on the clock as possible. A completed pass when there are no timeouts left usually will take 10-15 seconds minimum for the next snap, so if you go for the touchdown there is a chance you can only get a play or two off before having to go for a Hail Mary/field goal, so the middle of the field is out of play in that situation.

If you have 50 seconds to one minute left on the clock because you went for the touchdown with no timeouts, you can still use the middle of field on one play if necessary, which at the end of a game is a part of the field where you can gain good yardage because the defense tends to give up the middle more at that point. It sounds counterintuitive initially but I think going for the field goal first makes more sense here. The touchdown first really simplifies things but trying to convert a fourth-and-six against the Vikings defense would be hard for the Packers to do, so the field goal should come first...especially when faced with a fourth-and-six.

Coaches don't care about how close games are, they care about wins and losses. They aren't judged by how close they make the games, but by how many games they win.

Fortune Favors the Bold! No. 2: After the Redskins failed on fourth-down tries -- when they could have kicked -- in three straight games, Jim "Dan Snyder Hasn't Fired Me Quite Just Yet" Zorn still went for it on fourth-and-2 from the City of Tampa 36. For your faith you will be rewarded, spoke the football gods!

Fortune does not favor the bold in this case. Jim Zorn is 1 for 4 over the last three games in going for it on fourth down, that isn't a really good case for going for it on fourth down, which is something Gregg thinks everytime should do...all the time. This is a good example of how even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Zorn went for it on fourth down enough to where he got it right once.

Jeff Fisher didn't just bench Young last season, Fisher got mad at Young for struggling and for admitting that he had bouts of depression, something manly men aren't supposed to admit. Now Young is a bad-vibes presence in the Tennessee locker room, and it is Fisher's job to fix that -- Fisher is the grown-up in this situation.

It wasn't that manly men weren't supposed to admit they struggled with depression, it was also the fact that Vince Young kept saying to others was going to commit suicide or wanted to quit football all together. It's kind of hard for a team to get behind a quarterback that doesn't seem to want to be there 100%.

Also, Vince Young is a grown-up in this situation also. He isn't a child anymore, so fixing the situation isn't completely Jeff Fisher's responsibility.

With the Titans at 0-4, logical coaching would say: Put in Young and shake things up. Fisher seems determined to maintain that the quarterback is not the problem, which is the same thing as Fisher saying, "My decision about the quarterback is not the problem." All that matters is how Tennessee might escape from this slump. Put in Young and shake things up.

At least with Kerry Collins at quarterback the Titans have some semblance of a passing game. If Vince Young was behind center throwing the ball (or looking like he is trying to fling shit from his hand, which is what his throwing motion looks like), the Titans may end up with Nate Washington and Kenny Britt wanting to commit suicide or quit the team before the end of the year. Tennessee's problems are defensive problems because they are running the ball well and throwing the ball as well as Kerry Collins can, so I agree with Jeff Fisher a quarterback change isn't really the answer right now.

Pittsburgh did open the game throwing, but that was game-planning for San Diego's bungling secondary. The Chargers are 18th in passing yards allowed per game, despite fielding three defensive backs drafted in the first round and a second-rounder.

Again, Gregg's simple look at everything doesn't completely explain the situation. Passing yards per game are not always the secondary's fault, especially if there is no pass rush. It doesn't matter how many first round picks are in the secondary if there is no pass rusher who can get to the quarterback. If you give the quarterback all day to complete a pass the secondary is going to look bad, but it may not be completely the secondary's fault. I can't believe Gregg doesn't get this.

Why did Charles Woodson and Al Harris look bad last night against the Vikings? Is it because they suck or is it because the Packers could get no pass rush on Favre and he had all day to find an open receiver? I think we know the answer to this simple question.

The Chargers have 6 total sacks this year. Could that have an effect on how well the secondary is able to cover receivers? I think so.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: Giants leading 14-3, winless Kansas City punted on fourth-and-4 from midfield at the two-minute warning of the first half. That's not going to change a losing psychology!

I agree with this. If you are the Chiefs and are still within striking distance of the Giants you need to take every chance you can get to score more points.

Let's hear some "Star Trek" whining about how the science fiction movie is not realistic...

A single password taken from Captain Pike via mind control is used by the Romulans to shut down Earth's defenses, including all Federation starships, rendering the planet totally helpless. In Battlestar Galactica, a single code shuts down the defenses of all 12 Kobol worlds, rendering these planets helpless. Military organizations do not have single passwords that completely shut down all their weapons!

I can't believe the inaccuracies that are contained in a science fiction movie about how intergalatic military organizations design their planet defenses. If there is anything a person should expect in a movie about space travel, technology that is light years (no pun intended) from what the military can create now, and humans at war with aliens (who all speak English by the way) is a little bit of realism.

Inside the mega-enormous Romulan battlecruiser are open areas with thousand-foot drops. Cavernous spaces seem improbable aboard starships; in vessel design, space is always at a premium. At any rate, the open areas with thousand-foot drops are crossed by narrow footbridges that lack guardrails. If for some reason your mega-enormous starship really needed internal areas with places where you could fall to your death, why would you span them with footbridges that lack guardrails?

I don't know, but I guess guardrails seem like a good idea. Why can't Gregg just enjoy a movie and not analyze it to death?

I am sure Gregg also wonders where the bathrooms for the crew members are located. Since there is usually one female crew member does she get her own bathroom? It wouldn't make sense logistically but I am sure she would appreciate the privacy. These are the things I would wonder about if I was trying to kill space in a football column or second guess movies that are supposed to be entertaining and not fact based.

There are more examples of his "Star Trek" complaints but I don't know if I have the energy to wonder why Gregg expects movies to be ultra-realistic.

Who are Andra Davis, Ronald Fields, Mario Haggan, Ryan McBean and Kenny Peterson? Starters for that defense. All were cut by somebody -- Cleveland, San Francisco, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Of course, you know Brian Dawkins, let go by Philadelphia, is also on this defense. Starter Renaldo Hill has been cut three times, by Arizona, Oakland and Miami; starter Andre' Goodman has been cut twice, by Detroit and Miami. That's eight of 11 defensive starters unwanted by another NFL club.

Not all were unwanted by their previous teams. Many of these players did not play well at their previous NFL stops, so they weren't unwanted they just stunk for the amount of money they were making. In the case of Brian Dawkins, the Eagles wanted him back, but they knew he would require more money than they were willing to pay. How Easterbrook understands the logic behind why the Packers got rid of Brett Favre for Aaron Rodgers but he can't get why the Eagles got rid of Brian Dawkins for younger safeties is beyond me.

Here is what he said about Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre previously in this column:

Years from now, Rodgers could still be winning games for the Packers, which probably wouldn't have happened had Favre stayed.

The same principle applies to Philadelphia and Brian Dawkins, except they thought Quentin Demps was the key to replace Dawkins when it was really Major Harris. Either way, it's the same principle of replacing 1-2 years of good production from a declining player for 8-10 years of production from a younger player.

Knox, from Division II Abilene Christian, and the Colts' Pierre Garcon, from Division III Mount Union, are running circles around Division I players who were drafted much higher. Against Seattle, Garcon had a 35-yard catch -- the third consecutive game this low-drafted small-college gentleman has made a big play against high-drafted football-factory types.

Gregg has this obsession with players who weren't taken in the early rounds of the NFL draft. I don't know if he is specifically comparing Garcon and Knox to wide receivers taken much higher in the draft, because there are D-I players taken high in the draft who are outperforming these guys, or if he is talking about D-I players on the defense these players are running circles around. Either way, he takes any chance he can get to point out when small school players do well and ignores pretty much every example of a high draft pick doing well.

For example the quarterbacks that throw the ball to Knox and Garcon, Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning, were 1st round draft picks. If I had the time and energy I would look at every team in the NFL and how many high draft picks play and play well for these teams. Players from small schools like Knox and Garcon who do well in the NFL are the exception, not the rule. It's not like small college football players can't excel in the NFL.

It does seem ridiculous for high schools to be flying around to games, even as, if happened here, a private party (Paragon Marketing) paid all costs (Lakeland is a public school). But this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a high school. Colleges that schedule long-distance travel all the time are a bigger concern.

So Gregg thinks it is fine for a high school to play a football game halfway across the nation because that is a once in a lifetime experience but he doesn't think it is fine for a college football team to do the exact same thing? Logic would actually dictate this is backwards. Keeping high school kids at home to learn so they don't fall behind on school work seems a bit more important to me than grown up college kids falling behind. It may just be me.

Not only did multiple Cowboys defenders miss Brandon Marshall on the 51-yard zigzag scamper that won the game with two minutes remaining at Denver, other Cowboys didn't even try to chase the runner. Marshall cut back across the field twice; if more Cowboys had hustled to chase the play, Marshall would have run out of room. Linebacker Bradie James switched from running to jogging when Marshall was still at the Dallas 10. Dallas Cowboys, you are guilty of the single worst play of the season -- so far.

I am all for hustle, but at the 10 yard line Bradie James was not going to catch Brandon Marshall. The Cowboys should have hustled more possibly but I think this play was more of an example of bad tackling by a team than necessarily a lack of hustle. They wouldn't have had to hustle if they had tackled well.

Covering TMQ is slowly hurting my brain less and less. I think I am becoming numb to it.

-Here are my playoffs picks and I may have more in depth thoughts tomorrow:

National League

Colorado v. Philadelphia: 3-1 Phillies

St. Louis v. LA Dodgers: 3-1 St. Louis

St. Louis v. Philadelphia: 4-2 Phillies

American League

Minnesota v. New York Yankees: 3-0 Yankees (My gut says it will be 3-1 or 3-2 Yankees because I think Burnett is going to bomb in Game 2. The Yankees should have gone with Pettitte in Game 2 and Game 5 in my opinion.)

Boston v. LA Angels: 3-1

Boston v. New York Yankees: 4-3 Boston

World Series

Boston v. Philadelphia: 4-2 Boston

I predicted they would win the World Series at the beginning of the year and I can't exactly back down on my prediction now.


Dubs said...

Someone at ESPN eventually has to point out to Gregg how every week he uses an example of a team going for it on 4th down and winning when at the same time there was another game where a team went for it on 4th down and lost, right? I mean, this can't go on forever, can it?

One thing though, the Eagles should have never let Dawkins go. The replacements are stiffs. Little different situation than having Rodgers backing up Favre.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't think anyone at ESPN is willing to point anything like that out at all. They may feel the same amount of resigned sadness that his readers feel. I can think of a couple situations this weekend when a team went for it on fourth down and it didn't work. Gregg's theory is that if you go for it on fourth down enough, the football gods will reward you...much like the Jim Zorn example he gave this week. So in essence he believes if you go for it on fourth down enough, you will eventually convert one. It's not exactly getting me excited to go for it on fourth down every down.

The Eagles probably shouldn't have let Dawkins go, they seemed to have thought Demps was the guy. It is the same premise as the Rodgers situation, not exactly the same, but they have had two different outcomes. Dawkins is younger and the Eagles may have given up on him a year or so early.

RuleBook said...

Thank you for putting Gregg in his place with the FG/TD issue. What's funny to me, is that in my observation (no statistical evidence to back me up), it seems as though most coaches do not kick the FG first unless it's 4th down, so I think he's wrong with that observation.

Someone needs to teach Gregg the term "Expected Value"

I'm going to make several assumptions here (that I would consider reasonable or generous to Easterbrook) to explain why you kick the FG there

Likelihood of converting 4th and 6: 60%
Likelihood of scoring the TD if conversion is successful: 80%
Chance of making 31-yd FG: 90%
Chance of making 50+ yd FG: 70%
Chance of recovering onside kick: 10%
Average time on clock if FG is kicked: 50 sec
Average time on clock if TD is scored: 30 sec
Likelihood of gaining 60 yds for a TD in 50 sec: 20%
Likelihood of gaining 22-27 yds with clock stopped for a 50+ yd FG in 30 sec: 50%

Now, let's use these numbers to determine the chance of tying the game.

Going for it: .6*.8*.1*.5*.7 = 1.68% chance of tying
Taking the FG: .9*.1*.2 = 1.8% chance of tying

I made up these numbers before calculating so that I wouldn't bias the results. I think my numbers are very favorable towards Easterbrook. So, using these assumptions, taking the FG has a slightly higher chance of tying the game. Beyond this, the Packers only need 3 make-or-break situations to go in their favor if the take the FG now, whereas they need 5 make-or-break situations to go in their favor if they go for it.

Feel free to question my numbers if you think one is egregious. I just made assumptions, so I could be way off.

Giants leading 27-15 with five minutes remaining, Kansas City, which just scored, took a single PAT rather than go for two. That's not going to change a losing psychology! Miami leading 31-9 in the fourth quarter, Buffalo, which just scored, took a single PAT rather than go for two. Cheerio, chaps! Pittsburgh leading 28-6 at the end of the third quarter, San Diego, which just scored, took a single PAT rather than go for two

Easterbrook used to be a big proponent of "kick early, go for it late". I actually support this opinion with regards to 2pt/xp. In the last 2 or 3 years, he's decided that all FGs are a sign of weakness. Now, this week, he starts attacking teams for not going for 2 points? According to this, the chances of converting a 2-point conversion is 44%.

Allow me to break down the important factors:

NYG/KC 27-15:
This is a tricky one. If you make the XP, than you allow the Giants 2 kick a FG, and still just need two TD+XP. If you miss the 2pt, you at least are already aware that you need two TD's, so you won't take a FG early (which Gregg would criticize you for). I'm actually in favor of doing the 2 point in this situation, but I can't criticize the decision to kick the XP.

MIA/BUF 31-9, PIT/SD 28-6:
KICK!!! In order to win, you are going to realistically have to hold the opponent to no more than a TD. Let's break it down, shall we:
This is a list of number of posessions that BUF/SD will trail by if they (a) make the XP, (b) miss the 2pt, (c) make the 2 pt, respectively
MIA/PIT scores 1 TD: 4, 4, 4
MIA/PIT scores 2 FG: 4, 4, 4
MIA/PIT scores 1 FG: 3, 4, 3
MIA/PIT doesn't score: 3, 3, 3
As we see here, making the two or the XP has no bearing on number of possesions. However, missing the 2 point has the potential of requiring another scoring possession. Couple that with the fact that the 2 point conversion percentage is less than 50%, and no coach in his right mind would go for 2.

I know (or at least I think) everyone here agrees with me in disagreeing with Easterbrook, but I thought it might be nice to actually use actual numbers to support my claims.

Martin said...

The Cowboys went for it on 4th down, they lost. The Packers ran non-shotgun formations on downs 1-3 at the goal line, and then didn't score on 4th down. If they had kicked the field goal there, they would have only needed a touchdown to tie the game when instead they were faced with a need for two scores.

(Yes, while we can nod and say "If they kick the field goal, then everything from that point on changes" Gregg never can. He thinks the world is static, even if you change one important event in a timeline of a game. So I'm TMQing my responses)

I love how you pick up on the fact he is bravoing Zorn for going for it on 4th down....again. After having failed the previous 3 times. Hey Gregg, at what point does a coach stop going for it? If they miss 10 times straight? If they miss 10 times straight and the other team scores on 7 of them? Yeah if a team goes for it on 4th down often enough, they are going to 1- Finally succeed 2- Win a game in which they succeed. the Vikings won without ever going for it on 4th is that possible?

I think the Red Sox will take it all also. I think of them as the 87 Twins or 2001 Diamonbacks. Couple dominate starters, good bullpen, good lineup. The 5 gamer against the Angels completely plays to the Red Sox strengths, while I don't think the Yankee starters are good enough on a nightly basis to win a 7 game series against the Sox. The Phillies might beat them, but I see the Cards as the team they face in the World Series.

Martin said...

Oh I forgot to put in something i agree with Rule on. I almost never see coaches go for the field goal, then swing back for the TD. I see them go for the TD, which makes a better argument for Gregg's "Make sure it's close" theory.

"Hey we lost by 3! If only we had gotten that onside kick with 9 seconds left and no timeouts, I'm sure we coulda got the field goal to tie!"

I think it's because they think getting the TD is a tougher option, so they want to get it out of the way first, when they should be thinking time management as a priority.

KentAllard said...

I wish, wish, wish Greggg was right about going for it on fourth down. Since Charlie Weis goes for it on fourth more than anyone else in college football (or used to), my team would be cruising to its fifth straight national title. Instead, I am being taunted by Wolverines.

When you line up with receivers bunched on one side of the field and one on the other, you are hoping for one of two things: Either the lone receiver will end up with single coverage since most of the DBs are covering the scrum on the other side of the field, or that in the confusion of the scrum breaking up, a DB will miss an assignment. If neither of those happen, its just another pass play. Sometimes, people over-think these things.

The reason big college programs can fly across the country to play a game is those programs are enormous revenue generators, and the return on investment is high.

Gene said...

I would like to agree with our host when he mentions people like Gregg talk about what the defense is expecting or who they are "keying on". The example here is Gregg says when offenses line up in trips it almost always goes to the guy on the weak side and defenses know it.

Anyone that says something like this has never played football. Defensive players don't guess. They have responsibilities based on the defense they are in and they follow it. You can't have eleven guys on the defense each making assumptions about what the offense will "usually do" in a situation.

You can't have three guys follow a guy around because you think he will get the ball in a certain situation. You might double team a guy, but these writers act like the defense makes an assumptions on who is going to get the ball and deploy half the defense in that direction. I am not saying this very well, but just want to make the point that Gregg knows nothing about football which is the point I think bengoodfella is making as well.

Gene said...

If you did not get superlatives from Monday night with Favre, they are doing the same thing with Jeter on the Yankee game: So far in one inning they said he:

Loves the game
There is nothing he can't do
Plays the game right
Has a lot of fun out there
Might play "forever"

You put Favre and Jeter in a room together and it would probably combust in a nuclear blowup of sheer goodness.

Martin said...

Oh Ben, you have to go read the Yahoo blog, Shutdown Corner. He contradicts himself in three paragraphs about why he doesn't like Gruden, it's classic.

1- He's too wonky (which usually means overly technical) 2- uses too much jargon, loosing even the most knowledgable of fans.

Next paragraph...Gruden speaks in too many cliches.

Ur, which is it Sparky? I've read a couple columns by this Chris Chase guy, and he's just lousy. You'll love it.

Bengoodfella said...

I am back and have a lot to comment on here. First, Chip Carey almost said a fly ball to left field was a base hit again. He did it again in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Then the Jeter homered and all was well in New York...and I remembered how much I hate the Yankees.

Holy shit Rulebook, seriously you need to be hired as a stats guy somewhere. I wouldn't necessarily expect a team to go for the FG at the end of the game unless it is fourth down. That would make more sense to me. I don't think I can question your assumptions at all to be honest with you because they seem to reflect what my main point is in regard to this is that you are giving up precious time by going for a TD with less than a minute left or even a little more than a minute left because you are still going to need to recover the onside kick and gain 20-25 yards to be in range for a FG.

What Easterbrook misses is in the late game situation down 10 points it is not a question of maximizing your points but it is a question of maximizing your points with the least time possible going off the clock. So if it is fourth down and there is a 90% chance a FG would get hit in the situation, you go for it, rather than waste precious time trying to get the TD because if a team has no timeouts then you want the ball with as much time as possible on the clock.

I think your situation seems pretty clear to me that FG is the right decision. It feels like a team is leaving points on the board, but that's not true, because a team can't worry about scoring the most points, they have to worry about giving themselves as much time as possible on the 2nd possession (assuming they recover the onside kick) because it is more manageable than assumed to go 60-65 yards with 50 seconds on the clock. Honestly, if a team tries to get a FG with 20 seconds left, it will be very hard to get in field goal range. Good stats, thanks.

As far as the 2pt conversion information goes, that is a great way to look at it. What value will missing/making the extra point gain/lose your team down the road. At a certain point a team, and Gregg, have to realize a team isn't going to get all the points back in one possession so going for two in that situation doesn't make sense. I would go for two if I were the Chiefs, but the conversion rate of 44% isn't exactly high enough for a team to risk having to get an extra score and justify going for it.

Martin, yes Gregg does think the world is static and that's what irritates me the most about him. He doesn't get that there can be a change or a different outcome if "A" happens. Congratulating Zorn there was dumb because like you said, if you go for it enough, eventually a team is going to convert the fourth down. The idea at some point the conversion will work doesn't mean you should try to get it everytime. I don't know why he thinks there is a correlation between winning and going for it on fourth down a lot. I don't see it.

I don't see the Angels beating the Red Sox this year and I think the Boston starters are a little stronger than the Yankees starters in the series. We will see because I have a feeling it is going to be those two teams again.

Maybe coaches do think a little bit about making the game close, but at the end of the game time management is more important than scoring points outright.

Kent, if going for it on fourth down was a key to success then the Irish would be 5 time champs. Unfortunately that is not the case. You have the idea behind the bunches right because you are using football knowledge, which Gregg doesn't use or seem to know too much about.

I don't see the problem with big time college football programs flying across the nation. It's exciting for me and really the kids aren't there for school no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves they are.

Bengoodfella said...

I had to separate my comments because they were so long. My comments continued:

Gene, I am glad you agree with me and understand what I was saying. Football can't be played completely on instinct, players have assignments. Just like on a bootleg the defensive end has the responsibility for containing the opposite side of the bootleg so he can't always chase the quarterback, the MLB can't always read and react, he has to do what the play was designed to do, which sometimes will be to stuff the middle and the safeties/OLBs/CB's may be responsible for containment or following the ball a little more. Players can't free lance because that is what turns a 4th and 1 into a 65 yard TD run or pass.

If the defense can assume they know who is getting the ball then they are probably already fooled by the play. As a defender you can't assume you know where the ball is going because it may put you out of position or cause confusion on the defense.

The Jeter is a real Yankee. That homerun tonight shows this to be true. Sportswriters love to throw superlatives on The Jeter and most of them include "plays the game the way it is meant to be played" which means absolutely nothing at all. I would love to see the media have their heads explode if they had to choose whether to back Jeter or Favre, it would be hard...I think they would end up choosing Tebow.

Shutdown Corner huh? I have started a post for tomorrow but I will bookmark that and see what this guy has to say. I have read the blog a few times but haven't paid too much attention to it. I will now though.

Martin said...

Oh, and it wasn't a Romulan battlecruiser, it was originally a mining ship, which might explain the giant interior open space.

Course it doesn't quite explain why it appears to be the deadliest mining vessel ever created. Makes the warships look kinda sad....

Bengoodfella said...

I haven't seen the movie, though I would like to. It would be my first initiation into the Star Trek universe. I haven't seen a movie or any of the television show.

Then maybe I would have an idea of what you are talking about.

Gene said...


You have achieved lifetime non-nerd status by having never seen Star Trek. I share this with you and as a double bonus have never seen Star Wars, E.T. or Harry Potter. Can you match that?


Bengoodfella said...

No Harry Potter and I have seen E.T. a few times. Star Wars (looks down in shame) I have seen those quite frequently. I am shamed.

No Star Trek though, I really wouldn't mind seeing the new movie but I don't think I will ever see the old ones.