Wednesday, October 28, 2009

12 comments TMQ: Play Calling Problems

This week's TMQ was described by Rulebook as being horrible. He actually said, "this is his worst TMQ of the year, which is quite impressive." I didn't plan on doing TMQ every week, I swear, but how can I ignore a TMQ that may be Easterbrook's worst of the year? I can't.

I want to divert everyone's attention first to this Deadspin post about Bill Simmons and about the foreword to his new book written by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't usually link Deadspin for various reasons, though I do tend to visit the site everyday so I don't completely hate it, but I thought this was a good post. I think what it says in that post sums up well some of the problems I have with Bill Simmons when it comes to him wanting to be a GM for an NBA basketball team.

Ok, let's dive into the TMQ for this week. The title is "Coaching is Overrated."

In the cult of football, surely few things are more overrated than play calling.

I already have a problem. There is a difference in saying "coaching" is overrated and "play calling" is overrated. I think coaching is overrated, but play calling is not overrated at all in my mind. What a bad way to start off this week's TMQ.

Teams have game plans and based on those game plans they make play calls, which basically can decide whether a team wins or loses a football game depending on how the players execute the play call and what play the other team calls. This is easy stuff to understand and not overrated in my mind. Great play calling can separate a good team from a bad team and a bad from a good team and can cause a team to go 9-7 and miss the playoffs or go 11-5 and have a home playoff game. Coaching may be slightly overrated at times, but play calling is not.

Other commentary boils down to: "If it worked, it was a good call, if it failed, it was a bad call," though the call is only one of many factors in a football play.

Among sportswriters who follow the NFL, Gregg Easterbrook is by far the worst at taking part in this commentary he is criticizing here. His TMQ is based pretty much entirely on doing second guessing play balls based on the outcome of the play. He includes second guesses like this for 10,000 words every week...along with including some critiques of the US Space Program, cheerleader biographies, and obscure references to 19th century scientists. This type commentary is what Gregg does.

Good calls are better than bad calls -- this column exerts considerable effort documenting the difference.

And Gregg then judges the difference based on whether the play worked or not.

But it's nonsensical to think that replacing a guy who calls a lot of runs to the left with a guy who calls a lot of runs to the right will transform a team.

Again, Gregg sees things in black and white, while ignoring the gray he doesn't want to pay attention to. It is nonsensical to replace a guy with another guy based on the example given here, but if a team is a great running team and can't throw the ball and the offensive coordinator insists on throwing the ball for the majority of the plays, this will have a major effect on the team's ability to win football games.

In fact, Gregg uses this exact same example I just used above later in this very TMQ to criticize a coach and a team's play calling...while suggesting the play calling is submarining the team. So he opens up by saying play calling is overrated and then comments later how a team can't succeed because of the shitty play calling. This doesn't include all the examples he gives of coaches calling bad plays in situations which cause his team to lose games.

I know I contradict myself sometimes, but I try not to do so in the same post and in the first paragraph of something I write.

TMQ's immutable Law of 10 Percent holds that good coaching can improve a team by 10 percent, bad coaching can subtract from performance by 10 percent -- but the rest will always be on the players themselves, their athletic ability and level of devotion, plus luck.

This is a dumb law. How did the Dolphins go from 1-15 to 11-5 last year? They got a new coach and a new quarterback, but other than that nothing else changed dramatically. How did the Panthers go from 1-15 to 7-9 in 2002 with Rodney Peete being the new quarterback and getting a new coach being the only really dramatic change? Hell, even the Lions this year actually look like a competitive team and they have a rookie quarterback starting for them. I can list 100 other examples, but players do have something to do with it, but the coaching and play calling also has an effect. I'm not saying coaching is not overrated or this was all the result of a new coach, but coaching can hurt and help more than 10%. Shockingly, I hate this law Gregg has.

If the players are no good or out of sync, it won't matter what plays are called; if the players are talented and dedicated, they will succeed no matter what the sideline signals in.

This can be true, but also doesn't prove that coaching and play calling is overrated. Bad players can be made to look better when the play calling is great and good players can look bad when the play calling is crappy.

When Michael Crabtree finally signed with the 49ers, TMQ warned of a Crabtree Curse -- Mike Singletary had spent a year in San Francisco instilling the message that nobody is bigger than the team, and suddenly it seemed you could jerk the 49ers around all you wanted and get $17 million guaranteed as your reward.

For someone who is a journalist Gregg Easterbrook has a major problem getting his facts straight. The 49ers offered Michael Crabtree the slotted amount for the 10th pick in the NFL Draft and then he began to hold out of camp and wanted more money. He then signed the original contract the 49ers wanted him to sign at the original amount they wanted to pay him. So San Francisco actually won this fight and did not actually let Michael Crabtree jerk them around at all. Signing Crabtree for the slotted amount doesn't mean the 49ers believe he is bigger than the team at all. It wouldn't have made much sense to lower the original offer once he started holding out of camp because then they never would have gotten him signed and this could have negatively affected them in future negotiations.

The 49ers won this battle so there should be no Crabtree Curse.

Kickoff temperature in Pittsburgh on Sunday was 52 degrees -- so why did Brett Favre wear a woolen ski cap to the postgame news conference? TMQ has noted that while Favre once shrugged at inclement Green Bay weather, now the aging quarterback's performance declines sharply when it's cold. If 52 degrees now makes him reach for a ski cap, good luck to the Vikings when they play at Chicago on Dec. 28.

Brett Favre's performance declines as the NFL year progresses and the weather gets colder as the NFL year progresses, so maybe Favre doesn't play poorly in cold weather, he just plays poorly during the end of the NFL season when the weather gets colder. This is just a counter-theory to Gregg's theory.

Cheerleader of the Week: Johanna of the Miami Dolphins, who according to her team bio was born in Florida and works as a model.

Look! Cheerleaders!

Rather than more biographical information, Johanna's team page describes the products she likes -- Starbucks, MAC cosmetics and Viva la Juicy perfume. Cheerleader product placement! But is she receiving an endorsement fee?

I don't know, but is she receiving any type of check from Gregg Easterbrook or ESPN for Gregg using her picture in this column? Or is he exploiting cheerleaders again?

Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Houston has yet to appear in a high-profile game, so you may be missing the fun of Gary Kubiak-drawn plays.

I love it when sportswriters just assume fans of the NFL only watch the high profile games on NBC and ESPN. Simply because they as sportswriters watch those games and tend to ignore some other teams and their games, they just assume the fans do the same. Not true, many fans try to watch as much of all the games as possible. I've seen Gary Kubiak's offense before and I have seen the Texans play before and I am sure many other fans have as well. Kubiak has been running similar offensive stuff for two years now, just because Gregg started noticing doesn't mean everyone else is behind the curve as well.

Notice how Gregg is complimenting the play calling here and crediting the Texans success as being because of it? Yet he still feels the play calling by teams is overrated...

I wrote "game over" in my notebook when Indianapolis made it 14-3 in the first quarter, but considering how awful Les Mouflons are, this does not count as a prediction.

If this WERE a prediction I would say what a bold prediction to write "game over" after the Colts scored 14 points in the first quarter of a game that was supposed to be lopsided anyway. I guess it was less a prediction and more a statement of fact.

Oh and beside this passage was a picture of two Houston Texans cheerleaders. I still wonder how Gregg doesn't understand the irony of him saying the NFL exploits the cheerleaders by using their image in commericals without paying them, while he runs pictures of them (without them getting paid for him using their image) in his weekly column.

Game scoreless, San Diego had third-and-goal at the Kansas City 3-yard line. Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr lined up 2 yards deep in the end zone, meaning all wide receiver Malcolm Floyd (the man Carr was covering) had to do was step forward and turn around to be open for a touchdown pass. Which is exactly what he did.

I have to admit this was kind of stupid for the Chiefs to line up like this, but Brandon Carr is 6 feet tall and Malcolm Floyd is 6-feet-5-inches tall, so it sounds to me like the Chiefs were trying to protect against Floyd running a fade in the end zone. It's not smart to line up this far off a receiver on the goal line, but Gregg doesn't try to think too hard to explain why the Chiefs may have lined Carr up this way. Floyd has the height advantage and they may have ineffectively trying to take this away.

With New England leading 21-7, the Patriots lined up four-wide, then sent tight end Ben Watson in motion almost to the sideline; he ran a fly pattern and caught a 35-yard touchdown pass. That was sweet. He was covered deep by a linebacker because, though New England faced first-and-20, Tampa did not have a dime package on the field. That was sour.

On first-and-20 it is not automatically going to be a pass play so putting the dime defense on the field just doesn't make sense to do without thinking. Gregg always thinks in football if "A" happens then you do "B" and it just doesn't freaking work that way. I wish someone would slap him in the face and tell him this. Football is not a game where everything is linear like that, if Tampa put a dime package on the field then the Patriots could have used this to their advantage by running the ball. You don't automatically put a dime in on certain distances. Football can't work that way. Coaches have to pay attention to what down it is and what the opposing team has successfully or unsuccessfully done in the game to that point.

If the Bucs put in a dime defense and the Patriots run a draw for 10 yards then it is merely second-and-10 and the Patriots will have a good chance of getting the first down. I am not saying the dime defense is wrong here, but you don't just automatically put that defense in the game on first-and-20.

Why is the Wildcat being called a gimmick? Nobody says it's a gimmick when the Patriots run the shotgun spread. Nobody says it's a gimmick when the Steelers or Packers go with an empty backfield. There's a presumption that only a conventional set with a quarterback standing in the pocket counts as real offense.

There is not a presumption that a conventional set with a quarterback in the pocket is the only thing that counts as a real offense, there is just a presumption that any offense run without a quarterback behind center or in the shotgun is a gimmick offense. This is partially because no offense that does not involve the quarterback being behind center in some fashion hasn't stayed popular in the NFL for longer than a couple years...therefore the offenses like this are seen as gimmicks.

Miami facing third-and-long, Williams had his defense show big-blitz, then rush only three. Novice quarterback Chad Henne was so confused, he basically threw the ball away, though under no pressure. Then on fourth-and-13, Williams again didn't call a blitz -- Henne again seemed confused, and threw the pick-six that ended the contest.

On the last play Henne was probably not confused, he just couldn't find anyone open because the Saints had rushed only 3 or 4 guys and dropped 7 or 8 guys into coverage. Most likely Henne was not confused, there was just no one open. Maybe Gregg feels better thinking Henne got confused about this, but I don't know if that was true or not. I hate how he just constantly assumes things to be true and I am not sure he thinks it all through before making these assumptions.

With five seconds remaining in the first half, the officials signaled that Marques Colston of New Orleans had scored a touchdown. But a booth review was called, and it was clear the touchdown would be nullified and the ball spotted at the 1-yard line. New Orleans had no timeouts; the moment the overturn was announced, the clock would start. Boy Scouts coach Sean Payton had sent his kicking team onto the field and told it to be lined up, awaiting the decision. (That is, New Orleans effectively announced to the referee that it knew the touchdown should be overturned.) Could New Orleans have launched a field goal with just five seconds remaining after the ready-for-play signal?

The clock doesn't start the second the referee overturned the call, but the clock starts the second the ball was spotted, in which case New Orleans could have spiked the ball and stopped the yes New Orleans could have launched a field goal and didn't have a clock problem.

We'll never know, because Miami coach Tony Sparano then called a timeout! That meant the clock was stopped when the review decision was announced. And, while the replay official was reviewing the play, Saints quarterback Drew Brees lobbied Payton to let the offense go for the touchdown -- and convinced him. So New Orleans sent its offense back onto the field and scored a touchdown on the final snap of the half; essentially, Sparano gifted the visitors with an extra four points. When New Orleans had a clock problem, why did Miami call timeout?

I don't know if Sparano gifted the Saints with four extra points, it was actually the Dolphins defense that gifted the Saints with the extra points. Really the Saints could have decided to go for the touchdown after they had spiked the ball. Due to the fact they could have spiked the ball, the Saints didn't have a clock problem. For someone who starts this column off with the idea that coaching is overrated and doesn't have a lot to do with a team's failure and success, Gregg sure does a lot of bitching about how bad coaching has cost teams points from week to week.

Then Gregg starts talking about NBA trades and how they don't make sense to him, even though he explains exactly why each of the trades he mentioned were made, which is salary cap reasons, so I don't know exactly what he is confused about.

Then Gregg starts talking about NBA trades again and explains what each team got in the Shawn Marion trade, which was cap room for Memphis, and then wonders if Memphis is part of a collusive process in the NBA because they didn't really benefit from the trade...other than the cap room they got of course, which was the benefit. He can't list the benefit a team got from a trade and then question what benefit the team got from a trade and expect this to make sense.

By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Cedric Benson ran for 189 yards against Chicago, the team that not only waived him but bad-mouthed him around the league.

I spoke about this on Monday but the Bears bad mouthed Benson because he was a locker room cancer and underperformed his entire career in Chicago. Of course Gregg doesn't follow the NFL close enough to know this, so he just assumes Chicago was in the wrong, which they weren't. A team that drafts a locker room asshole who gets paid a ton of money for being a high draft pick and then underachieves has the right to badmouth that player for being a jerk and not playing well. I still think it is funny Benson now has the carrot of a new, even bigger contract that gets him to play well for the Bengals and then he will probably tank again if he gets a new, longer, more expensive contract.

Pierre Garcon of Indianapolis, low-drafted out of Division III Mount Union, and low-drafted unknown Julian Edelman of New England, are also playing well at wide receiver, while numerous high-drafted big-bucks receivers perform poorly. My guess is that Austin, Garcon and Edelman don't have ego problems. They are happy to be in the NFL, work tirelessly, and don't whine if everything is not exactly precisely what they wanted. And what two running backs are getting most of the carries for the league's top offense? Undrafted Pierre Thomas and undrafted Mike Bell.

Oh my God, there are two examples of undrafted players who are doing well on the New Orleans Saints! That must mean undrafted players are better than drafted players in nearly every single case. The Saints have a QB drafted in the second round, a running back/wide receiver drafted in the first round, two receivers drafted in the first round, a tight end drafted in the first round and that doesn't include the defensive line which has three first round draft picks out of the four spots in the starting lineup. I'm going to stop there because you get the point. The Saints have two undrafted players but the majority of their key players are highly drafted.

There are great undrafted players in the NFL, but the majority of players who are impact players were drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. This isn't just a trend for the Saints, this goes for pretty much any team in the NFL.

Carolina managed to lose to Buffalo despite a 425-167 edge in offensive yards; three Jake Delhomme interceptions doomed the home team. TMQ has been asking all season and asks again, with Delhomme playing poorly and the Panthers' rush offense strong, why do Carolina coaches continue calling so many passes? Against the Bills, counting sacks and scrambles, Cats coaches radioed in 25 rushing plays and 46 passes. The Panthers gained an average of 4.6 yards per rush, facing a team that is ranked last in the NFL against the run and allowed 318 yards rushing in its previous game. Delhomme may be throwing to the wrong team -- but it's Carolina coaches who are telling him to throw.

I referenced this earlier in this post, but Gregg is criticizing the play calling of Carolina and infers the play calling is causing the team to lose games. This goes against his idea that play calling and coaching can't lose or win games for a team, but instead insists good players are good players no matter what. This is a great example of Gregg contradicting himself and a team that has its strength in running the ball being hurt by poor play calling.

For its part, the Buffalo defense has a hard-to-believe nine interceptions in its past two games -- but doesn't hold sole possession of the league lead in picks! Buffalo is tied with New Orleans for No. 1 at 13 -- another indicator that the Saints' defense is a bigger factor than generally realized.

I am afraid I am going to have to stop Gregg's tunnel vision once again. Maybe the reason the Saints defense has so many interceptions is because the Saints offense scores points quickly and teams are forced to come back and beat the Saints by throwing the ball. Obviously this isn't the case for every single game the Saints have played, but this could also explain the reason why the Saints are tied for the league lead in interceptions.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Dallas leading Atlanta 27-14 with nine minutes remaining, the Falcons faced fourth-and-2. Matt Ryan pleaded with coach Mike Smith to go for it -- Atlanta averaged 4.6 yards per offensive play. Smith did the hyper-conservative thing and ordered a punt. So what if the ball was on the Atlanta 28 -- a conversion was likely, while punting all but assured a Cowboys victory. Outraged, the football gods allowed Dallas to return the punt for a touchdown.

We've discussed this "football gods" thing 100 times and it is never not seen as bullshit. Gregg just cherry picks these situations when going for it on fourth down doesn't pay off and tries to portray it like punts are returned for touchdowns all the time when a team doesn't go for it on fourth down. It's funny that Gregg has mentioned so many punts returned for touchdowns lately since two weeks ago he indicated a punt would be as likely to be blocked as it would be returned for a touchdown when talking about the decision by New England to set up a return against Denver instead of going for the punt block. I think he has short term memory loss and can't remember what he wrote from week to week, so he doesn't even know he is contradicting himself.

I would love to know exactly why the odds of a conversion here were "likely" on fourth-and-two? Gregg loves to just announce things like this with no statistical proof to back it up.

Gregg also inserted a picture of a Dallas cheerleader beside this paragraph. Seriously, he exploits more cheerleaders by showing their image without compensation more than any 30 second DirectTV commercial ever could.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 3: Trailing Arizona 24-14, Jersey/A faced fourth-and-1 on the Cardinals' 2 with nine minutes remaining. Tom Coughlin did the hyper-conservative thing and sent in the field goal unit; it would have been better to try and fail, pinning Arizona against its goal line, than settle for a field goal when close to paydirt. On its final possession, Jersey/A was in Arizona territory but had to play for the touchdown, and failed; had the Giants gone for it from the Arizona 2 and succeeded, at the endgame they could have played for a field goal.

Or if the Giants had gone for it on fourth down and failed they would have been completely out of the game. This is a judgment call and the only reason Easterbrook brings this up as a bad call is because it did not succeed at the end of the game, otherwise we wouldn't have heard him say anything about it. Most of Gregg's criticisms are dependent on knowing the outcome of the game and second guessing coaches based on that outcome. It's annoying.

Michigan State led undefeated Iowa 13-9 with two seconds remaining, Iowa ball on the Michigan State 7. All the Spartans need is a stop and the game ends with a monster upset. A sack is not needed; in fact, meaningless. As seven Michigan State defenders crossed the line at the snap, yours truly said aloud, "Iowa wins." And yea, verily, it came to pass.

Ok idiot, a sack is meaningless but pressure on the quarterback is not meaningless because it could cause the Iowa QB to throw an interception or rush his throw and throw an incomplete pass. Quarterback pressure is not meaningless. The Iowa quarterback did a great job of recognizing where the blitz was coming from and throwing the ball. I would not have sent the house in this situation but teams also don't rush the quarterback just to get a sack, but also to get quarterback pressure. I think that was the purpose here.

There's no "right" to be a 19-year-old doctor or airline pilot, and no "right" to play in the NBA. The league is a private enterprise that sets its internal rules, and a 20-years minimum would very much be in the interest of the NBA.

I sort of agree. I think kids should have to spend 2 years in college at a minimum but I understand why this rule is not in effect.

The current "one and done" exception -- one year of college, then declare for the pros -- means players who might have become well-known college stars, and arrived in the NBA with high public standing, instead are barely known at the college level, then enter the pros as unknowns with little promotional potential.

I disagree. This statement has limited factual basis. I think Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, and Michael Beasley would disagree as well. The teams they played for (except Miami and sort of Minnesota) built their team lineup and many of their promotions for the team around these players. The one-and-done rule actually allows the player to get known at a college level and gives him increased exposure once they go to the least more exposure than allowing high school kids to go straight to the NBA and skipping college. Few people knew who Kevin Durant was before he enrolled at Texas and after just one year he was a household name. Gregg really has no point here.

God, I thought Gregg Easterbrook was bad at talking about the NFL. He's not so hot at talking about the NBA either.

Consider JaVale McGee, who left college for the 2008 draft as a 19-year-old sophomore. McGee went in the first round to Washington, but is a raw talent who did not play particularly well in his one year on the court in college. Had he stayed in college and become a great player, fans would say, "Wow, the Wizards got JaVale McGee!" Instead fans say, "Who is JaVale McGee?" Because McGee jumped too soon, odds are he will have a hard climb to be more than a journeyman in the NBA, because at the pro level, he's not getting the minutes he needs to learn.

Gregg Easterbrook knows JaVale McGee is going to only be a journeyman because he hadn't heard of him coming out of college and he didn't play much as a 19 year old rookie. That's the only reason he states this. If Gregg hasn't heard of a player, he must not be very good, which of course goes against his infatuation with undrafted players in the NFL.

It's a little bit early to say McGee is going to be a journeyman in the NBA.

As a rookie he averaged six points and four rebounds -- dismal figures for a 7-footer advertised as a power center.

He is 19 years old! He is advertised as a power center once he grows into his body and actually reaches legal drinking age. For a 19 year old rookie center six points and 4 rebounds isn't great but it also isn't absolutely terrible.

Kevin Garnett averaged only 10 points and 6 rebounds his first year in the NBA and he is on track to make the Hall of Fame. Let's hold back a little bit before judging a 19 year old backup center.

I am not saying players should make the jump to the NBA too early and I think JaVale McGee made a mistake in jumping to the NBA when he did, but for some players that is the route they want to take. Gregg explains how this could actually hurt their career earnings down the road and I actually agree with this in principle, but this is just how the NBA works right now.

Every NBA team wants the player Sebastian Telfair might have become, had he not jumped directly from high school to the pros. No team wants the player Telfair actually is -- a me-first type who won't listen to coaches.

Would this attitude really have changed by playing a couple years in college basketball? Probably not. Telfair was supposed to go to Louisville so who knows if Rick Pitino would have whipped him in shape or not. Sometimes a player's attitude is a player's attitude and it won't change. Think of some other point guards from Telfair's local area who made it to the NBA, like Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury, their attitudes didn't change dramatically just because they spent a year or two in college. There is no guarantee Telfair would have matured if he had been in college for any period of time. He always believed he was hot shit and that probably wasn't going to change.

Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives. Trailing Pittsburgh 13-10, Minnesota reach first-and-goal at the Steelers' 10, from which Brett Favre threw a touchdown pass that appear to put the Vikes in the lead. But the play was nullified by a tripping penalty that made me scratch my head: What Jeff Dugan did not only looked clean, it looked like textbook blocking. Three snaps later, on third-and-goal from the 8, Favre fumbled and the rock was returned for a touchdown by Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

This is the second or third time I have heard this play referred to in an NFL column this week. This play was in no way "hidden" because it had a HUGE effect on the game and I am pretty sure this bad call made a few highlight reels as well. So basically, again Gregg describes a play as "hidden" when it is a vitally important play to the outcome of the game...and again, just because a play is not in the highlight reel doesn't mean that play is unimportant.

Gregg then begins to talk about the NBA and how crazy the contracts are in the league. We get it. It doesn't make sense the way teams sign players just to waive them. Either figure out how it works or shut up about it because I can't handle this all season.

TMQ has long contended that football rules are too complex; also, the NFL refuses to reveal its officiating manual, which explains such things as how a zebra determines what counts as pass interference. The NBA by contrast recently put its rulebook online, complete with multimedia examples of what is and isn't legal. Great idea -- do the same, NFL. In the new rulebook, I did find this interesting definition:
TRAVELING. If the player with the ball walks off the court and out of the arena, hails a cab, goes to the airport, and buys an airline ticket, at the point that he boards the plane, he shall be whistled for "traveling."

Ladies and gentleman, it's Rick Reilly! Thanks for the joke Rick!

Rick will be providing the jokes in TMQ from now on...which is ironic since TMQ itself can be a joke at times.

New England showed the "quirk," four receivers on one side. (Trips is short for triple, so TMQ contends quirk should be short for quadruple;

I am pretty sure this is called quads.

Also, beside this paragraph Gregg has a picture of a New England cheerleader. This is the last time I will say this, but he exploits the cheerleaders far worse than the NFL does. His whining about the cheerleaders in DirectTV commercials not being compensated for their image while he uses cheerleader's images every week with no compensation screams of hypocrisy.

Finally someone, in this case D'Antoni, made that clear. On the day Marbury signed with defending champion Boston, the Celtics were 47-12 (.797). Boston immediately lost to Detroit on national television, and for the remainder of the season went 23-15 (.605) and was bounced from the playoffs. Sure, the injury to Kevin Garnett was a huge factor, but Garnett was out well before Marbury arrived.

I don't think having Stephon Marbury on the team was the cause of the team "only" going 23-15 to end the year, but it had much more to do with teams figured out how to beat the Celtics without Garnett on the court, as well as the loss of Leon Powe to an injury in the playoffs. I like how Gregg admits Garnett being injured was the real reason the Celtics started losing, but this doesn't stop him from still putting the blame on Marbury. But.........

Let's do a little fact check: Kevin Garnett missed 25 games last year due to injury. Stephon Marbury played 38 games with the Celtics. So obviously Gregg is extraordinarily wrong in saying Garnett was "out well before Marbury arrived." Essentially Gregg has absolutely no point with his "Marbury theory" and the Celtics decline had much, much more to do with the loss of Kevin Garnett.

Running Up the Score Watch: Possession results for Nebraska versus Iowa State: fumble, punt, touchdown, interception, punt, fumble, punt, fumble, fumble, fumble, punt, interception, interception (noted by reader Andrew Miller of Arlington, Va.). Can it be coincidence that Nebraska is 1-2, with a disastrous eight turnovers Saturday, since the day the Cornhuskers ran up the score to 55-0 against hapless cupcake Louisiana-Lafayette?

Yes, it is coincidence.

And as noted by reader Steve Sayre of Redmond, Wash., perhaps the football gods are punishing Texas Tech -- which lost big at home on Saturday -- for scoring a touchdown on the game's final play against New Mexico, despite leading 42-28 with two seconds remaining.

But Gregg, Texas Tech is one of the teams the "football gods" had beat Nebraska as punishment for running up the score, but this happened AFTER Texas Tech ran up the score on New Mexico. Texas Tech beat Nebraska in Nebraska, so Texas Tech only got punished with one loss for running up the score, while Nebraska was punished with two losses for running up the score. Care to explain how and why the "football gods" chose to punish Texas Tech less than Nebraska even though they committed the same crime of running the score up? I guess this answers the question of what happens when two teams cursed by the "football gods" meet...and the answer is there is no such thing as the "football gods."

Reader Tom Lewis of Seattle notes that the University of Washington just dropped BYU, a tough opponent, from future schedules, while adding two Division I-AA cupcake schools, Eastern Washington and Portland State .

Here we go.

The problem, Sarkisian further told the Seattle Times, was that the Huskies are only willing to host Division I-AA schools, not to engage in a home-and-home. That's what the boosters want, to party-party-party by the home field on the day of a 50-point auto-victory.

Unsurprisingly Gregg misses the issue here. The issue is that Washington doesn't want to schedule a road game for 2011 because they need the income that "X" amount of home games will provide them. It doesn't make this any more right necessarily, but Washington can not afford to already give up one more home game in 2011. Home games provide revenue for schools like Washington which is used for many other athletics at the school. So basically the school is playing "cupcake" teams because they need money to fund other athletic programs at the school and can't afford to lose a home game by playing a better opponent who will want to play a home-and-home. This is looking way too deep into this situation for Gregg though, so he just takes one look at the situation and starts criticizing away.

I made it through another TMQ. Tell me if I missed anything.


RuleBook said...

- From TMQ's AFC preview:

Who had the third-ranked offense in the NFL last season? Not plodding Houston! Yes, the Texans. Statistically, the Houston offense was red-hot: 37 touchdowns, almost 3,000 yards gained between Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton, 6 yards per play, good stats everywhere you look. So how come the team finished just 8-8? They are the Houston Texans, that's why! The NFL's least interesting team. The Texans are so unexciting that even a statistically impressive season was monotonous.

Except for the fact that they were an incredibly entertaining team last year. The Saints had a statistically impressive season last year and finished 8-8 as well. Surely, TMQ thinks they were boring as well.

Twice in today's column he makes some comment referencing how Houston has "suddenly" become interesting. Anyone who watched football last year (or had Andre Johnson or Steve Slaton on their fantasy teams) knew exactly how interesting they were. Obviously, this excludes TMQ.

- And what two running backs are getting most of the carries for the league's top offense? Undrafted Pierre Thomas and undrafted Mike Bell.

And what running back is getting most of the carries for the league's top RUN offense? Thomas Jones, drafted 7th overall.

And what two running backs are getting most of the carries for the league's second run offense? Ronnie Brown, drafted 2nd overall, and Ricky Williams, drafted 5th overall.

To further this point, let's look at the current top five players in passing, rushing, and receiving yards, and see where they were drafted:

- Matt Shaub (3rd round)
- Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall)
- Tom Brady (6th round)
- Peyton Manning (1st overall)
- Philip Rivers (4th overall)

- Cedric Benson (4th overall)
- Adrian Peterson (7th overall)
- Steven Jackson (24th overall)
- Thomas Jones (7th overall)
- Chris Johnson (24th overall)

- Andre Johnson (3rd overall)
- Hines Ward (3rd round)
- Steve Smith (2nd round)
- Chad Ochocinco (2nd round)
- Randy Moss (21st overall)

So clearly, TMQ is right, the egoless undrafted players clearly are preferable to those obnoxious high draft picks.

- The Saints have ... two receivers drafted in the first round

Slight tweak here. The Saints only have one 1st round WR (Robert Meachem)

- I would love to know exactly why the odds of a conversion here were "likely" on fourth-and-two?

Well, Jason Snelling was shredding the Cowboys. What's funny is that if they had given it to him at that point and converted, Easterbrook would have talked about how the Cowboys saw little used Snelling and assumed he wouldn't get the ball.

Bengoodfella said...

Shit, I thought Devery Henderson was a 1st round pick, I should have put a 2nd round pick in there for him. I looked up Meacham because I wasn't sure about him...sounds like I should have looked up Henderson as well.

Of course TMQ doesn't think New Orleans was boring because they weren't the Texans, who were boring because nobody was paying attention to them. I felt stupid for saying the Texans could make the playoffs this year, but I feel pretty good about it now. You are absolutely right, the Texans did not just suddenly become a good football team, it was happening last year.

I understand his need to tout undrafted players but he does it and never mentions nearly every leader in individual categories in the NFL are high draft picks...just like you showed. I get that undrafted players are awesome, but don't make it seem like undrafted players are taking over the league because it just isn't true. If I had the time, I would go through every team and point out what amount of drafted and undrafted players they have on each side of the ball. That is a tough task for me to pull off though.

Good point about Snelling. Either way, we have an annoying comment by Gregg. The reason I asked why it was likely they would have converted is because Gregg didn't give the information you just gave us. He just threw it out there and gave no reasoning.

cardrunners said...

I think this will be the season that tells us a lot about whether Greg Oden turns into an elite center in the league, or if he is another injury plagued Sam Bowie type of guy.

Gene said...

This column exposes Easterbrook as someone who has never played and does not understand football. I think his worst statement is this:

"If the players are talented and dedicated, they will succeed no matter what the sideline signals"

He does not realize there are certain plays that WILL NOT work against a certain defense due to blocking schemes, etc. That is why you see a guy like Peyton Manning audible so much. The initial play call is very important, but the most important thing is what they END UP running and this is why a very smart QB is so important. Greg seems to either not understand this or failed to mention it.

Net, good personnel cannot make the wrong play work against the wrong defense. If the play is not changed the defense wins every time unless there is some kind of glaring missed assignment by the defense.

Gene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bengoodfella said...

Gene, you are exactly right. It's not like all sportswriters have to be geniuses who were all-state in high school in several sports, but Gregg should at least know what he is talking about when discussing the sports he covers.

Players are vitally important to a play working but the play calling HAS to be good or else the play will not work. You are exactly right that is why Peyton Manning audibles so much becaue he is either trying to confuse the defense or change to a play call that works. No matter how good he is or how good anyone else on the offense is, if the play call is wrong for the defense being shown, the play will not work.

I don't get how he can't seem to get this. Coaching can be overrated at times, but I find it ironic a guy who has a career based on second guessing the play calls and coaching of head coaches in the NFL seems to think this it is all overrated.

You are right, the right personnel can not generally work against a good play call.

KentAllard said...

I think this may be the dumbest Easterbrook column yet, and that's a high standard.

Coaching never matters. It's just a coincidence the coach in Miami who admitted he wanted to run off Ronnie Brown finished last, while his successor decided to use Brown and turned things around.

"Dallas leading Atlanta 27-14 with nine minutes remaining, the Falcons faced fourth-and-2. Matt Ryan pleaded with coach Mike Smith to go for it -- Atlanta averaged 4.6 yards per offensive play. Smith did the hyper-conservative thing and ordered a punt. So what if the ball was on the Atlanta 28 -- a conversion was likely, while punting all but assured a Cowboys victory. Outraged, the football gods allowed Dallas to return the punt for a touchdown."
I don't want to sound like a brainiac or anything, but there is a possibility Dallas would have used a different defense on 4th and 2 than the one that allowed the 4.6 yards a play.

Obviously the football gods (The holy triune of Thorpe, Grange and Layne) punished Nebraska. It's stupid to think Nebraska lost the next two games because they played teams better than UL-LaFayette.

Martin said...

I hate to tell Gregg this, but no matter how well they execute and how much desire they have, his high school son's football team is not going to succeed against the Ravens or Steelers or Vikings defense. There is something to be said for size, strength and speed.

He's become such a dumbfuck he makes P.King look like a genius.

Bengoodfella said...

It is a high standard to say this is the worst TMQ ever, but it could be close just based on the idea that coaching is overrated. The players do play but you are right, it's not coincidence Brown started playing well after the Dolphins got rid of Saban and Sparano started using Brown more effectively.

The Cowboys may have had trouble stopping the Falcons from gaining yards but I really don't think a conversion was likely. That's just my opinion. If Easterbrook was going to say that I would have also liked some reasoning as to why he said it.

It is stupid to think Nebraska lost two straight games at home because they aren't as good of a team as Texas Tech and Iowa State (which sucks for them) or their quarterback should have been benched two weeks ago. It wasn't the football gods, it was a crappy offense that did it.

Martin, you could tell Gregg Easterbrook that until you are blue in the face, but somehow he believes that it is all about the players and not the play calling. I don't think he will get that though and I am not sure what world he lives in. You can have good players but the correct play calls also have to be made.

Gene said...

I read Martin's post as agreeing with Easterbrook in that both are saying it's all about the players and their ability and it does not matter what the plays are. In his extreme example I agree, but in the NFL the talent discepancy is not that big and the PLAY CALLING matters a lot as I said before.

Martin said...

Oh no, Gregg specificly says at one point that if the desire and execution are there, a team will always be succesful. He fails to take into account the other team...cause only one teams desire or execution apparently count. I was pointing out that no matter how well an overmatched team executes, it is not going to win.

It would be like us taking on a 6th grade girls basketball team. I'm 6 foot 3, I jsut don't see them stopping my power game in the paint, along with my 5 1/2 inch vertical leap.

Bengoodfella said...

Gene, I am glad I didn't misread Martin's post because I would have felt dumb. I think we both agree there is not as large a talent discrepancy in the NFL between teams so play calling makes a huge difference in whether teams can win or not.

Unsurprisingly Gregg is wrong about pretty much the entire principle of what he is talking about this week.