Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11 comments TMQ: Easterbrook's Passing Fancy

Gregg Easterbrook loves to convey theories to his readers for why football-related things happen. Many of these make little to no sense to me, such as the "when a team goes for it on fourth down it means something good will happen to that team down the road" and "if a coach tries to score points at the end of the game it is because he is concerned with making the score seem close to keep his job and not concerned with actually trying to win the game." Most of his theories can be explained by other means and not just by the conclusion he comes to. Today's column introduction theory falls in this category.

Kerry Collins goes out, Vince Young comes in, and immediately the Titans snap to life, winning four straight games. JaMarcus Russell goes out, Bruce Gradkowski comes in, and immediately the Raiders snap to life, with a major win.

Quarterback changes can change the momentum of a team. This isn't anything newly learned by anyone who follows the NFL on a regular basis. The same thing can happen when a team changes head coaches. Sometimes a different voice in the huddle or the locker room can change things around for a team. More often, not having JaMarcus Russell as the starting quarterback for a team helps more than anything else.

In Young's case, he does have a good sense of the field and leadership skills -- it's no coincidence Young is 22-11 as an NFL starter. Football is a team game, and there's always a lot more going on than who lines up at quarterback.

I am hard on Vince Young and will give him credit in some areas of his game like his elusiveness...but Gregg thinks leadership is one of his strengths? I know I am potentially "wrong" about Young, but I have seen him play well for a few games in a row before and then he went back to being an inconsistent passer and a moody guy. I want to see more of Young and one of those things I want to see if being a team leader is a strength for him. I don't think this is true, at least from an outsider's perspective. I'm not in the locker room, so I don't have first hand experience so I could be wrong, but I don't know if he has good leadership skills.

These past two paragraphs are what a person who has never read TMQ before should read to know what kind of writer Gregg Easterbrook is. In the first paragraph Gregg attributes the Titans turnaround to changing quarterbacks, and in the second paragraph he again states Vince Young is a good quarterback and that is why he has a good record as an NFL starter...but then states in the NFL winning has more to do with just the quarterback, which sort of discredits the Titans turnaround solely to Vince Young being named the team's starting quarterback.

But...........I thought the Titans turned the season around because of that quarterback change? You don't think the turnaround has anything to do with the fact Chris Johnson is getting more touches now that Young has been named QB do you? Look at Johnson's numbers before and after the bye when Young got named starter. That has to have something to do with the Titans turnaround also right?

Gregg writing sentences that don't make a whole lot of sense and sort of contradict each other when side-by-side is a TMQ staple.

The relationship between quarterback effectiveness and victory underscores the pre-eminence of the pass in the NFL. None of the top four rushing teams in the NFL this season (Tennessee, N.Y. Jets, Carolina and Miami) has a winning record.

Here goes one of Gregg's crazy theories. He thinks passing the football well means that a team will be successful and he bases it on the fact all the good rushing teams in the NFL don't have winning records. Because Gregg is stupid and fails to focus on what else these four teams have in common, I reject his theory. I am not saying teams that throw the ball well aren't necessarily teams that do well in the NFL, I just think it is dumb to use this season as evidence teams who throw the ball well will always have good win-loss records.

What else do the Titans, Jets, Panthers and Dolphins have in common? Either poor quarterback play or a quarterback that is injured. I would argue the reason the teams are leading the league in rushing and not winning is because they haven't thrown the ball well this year, so they have focused on running the ball well. The Jets, Titans, and Panthers have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play, while the Dolphins lost their starter Chad Pennington and are now relying on Chad Henne, who has been a starting quarterback starting this year. It's true you have to pass the ball well to win in the NFL, but rushing the ball is still important. Teams that don't have reliable quarterbacks tend to run the ball more because they don't throw the ball effectively. Any team that doesn't have a good run/pass balance (in regard to being effective) is going to struggle to win football games.

So basically the genius theory Gregg is propagating here is that a team needs a good quarterback to be a good team. Well, no shit.

Right now there are 14 NFL teams with winning records, and only three of those clubs are in the lower half of the league in terms of passing yards.

Generally good passing teams have good quarterbacks and teams with good quarterbacks tend to do better than teams with crappy quarterbacks. This isn't science. This is something NFL/AFL teams have known for going on 40 years now.

NFL teams should pass more often on first down than they do. The indicators are strong. Yet, week in and week out, many NFL teams predictably rush on first down.

Last week Gregg Easterbrook wondered in TMQ if the spread offense was dead. I just want to throw that in there for everyone to think about when Gregg talks about how great teams pass the ball. I can't lose focus on what Gregg is talking about here and bust his ass for something he said previously because I have to focus on this week's idiocy.

These "indicators" Gregg is talking about, let's see what they looked like last year.

Last season, the teams that passed most on first down were New Orleans (58 percent), Denver, (58), Arizona (58) and Houston (54).

New Orleans, Denver, and Houston all missed the playoffs last year and Arizona only went 9-7 until they got crazy hot in the playoffs and made the Super Bowl. It's all well and good for a team to want to be ranked high in offensive categories in the NFL, but teams also have to win for the season to be a success. This theory teams should pass more on 1st down to win games looks kind of faulty right now because it generally didn't lead to teams winning games last year.

But in general last season, throwing frequency on first down directly correlated with offensive success.

But not team success. The top rushing teams in the NFL last year were Tennessee, NY Jets, Carolina, Miami, and New Orleans. Three of those teams made the playoffs and the other two teams did not have a sub .500 record. This is just food for thought.

This season, the case for throwing on first down remains. Here are the 10 teams that pass most often on first down: Chicago (60 percent), Seattle (60), Philadelphia (59), Tampa (55), Arizona (54), New England (54), San Francisco (53), Indianapolis (52), Green Bay (51) and Houston (51).

How many of these 10 teams have winning records? 5 of these teams. This isn't exactly the best proof that throwing on first down is a great idea. I think Gregg's brain is confusing him. The purpose of a team in the NFL is not to be in the Top 10 in offense during a year, but to win football games during the year. So it's nice to be in the Top 10 in offense for a team, but that team also has to win games for Gregg's theory that "good teams throw the ball on first down" to work. Gregg and I are talking about two different things. He is talking about what it takes to have a good offense and I am talking about what it takes to win football games.

Combined record of these teams: 53-43. The only teams in this category that have inconsistent or bad quarterback play are Chicago and Tampa.

On the opposite side of the coin, here are the 10 teams that run most often on first down: N.Y. Jets (72 percent), St. Louis (61), Tennessee (59), Cincinnati (59), Minnesota (58), Cleveland (57), Carolina (57), Buffalo (56) and San Diego (56). Only three of the teams most likely to run on first down have winning records, and only one (Minnesota) is in the top 10 in total offense.

Again, the Top 10 in offense doesn't mean a team is going to win games. Plus, this is 9 teams, not 10 teams. Math is FUNdamental.

Combined records of these teams: 40-50.

Maybe Gregg has a point or maybe the fact every single one of these teams have quarterback problems except Cincinnati, Minnesota, and San Diego shows that good quarterback play means a team is more likely to run the ball because the coaching staff doesn't trust the quarterback to throw the ball as often. I like this theory better.

Most of the time, NFL defensive coordinators put out a rush defense on first down.
Does Gregg have any proof of this? Nope. He doesn't need "proof" or any type of "evidence" when making blanket statements like this. I think it is in his ESPN contract that he never use any type of evidential backing for his claims. He wouldn't want to show up any of the other Page 2 writers ESPN has.

Considering first down is when defenses are most likely to assume run, why not feature the pass then?

Because not every team has a quarterback good enough to complete a pass on first down and then if the pass falls incomplete the team is stuck in a second-and-10 situation, which is a situation teams generally try to avoid. Throw in the fact the defense will eventually figure out a team is only passing on first down and plan accordingly, and this is why some teams don't throw all the time on first down. It takes a team with a good quarterback to throw a lot on first down. I am not saying it is a bad idea, but if you are a team with a strong running game it may not make total sense to throw on first down the majority of the time.

In Christmas-is-coming news, man of the worldly mind, do you believe in the Crabtree Curse? San Francisco was 3-1 before signing Michael Crabtree and is 1-5 since.

No, I don't believe in the Crabtree Curse. It's kind of funny that Easterbrook was completely quiet and didn't mention the Crabtree Curse last week when the 49ers won their game. So what happened to the Crabtree Curse last week? Once the 49ers lose again this moron starts piping up again about fake curses. It drives me crazy how he only brings attention to his theories when they work. You rarely hear Gregg Easterbrook talk about his theories when they fail, which they do often, but we only hear from him when he is proven correct. He tries to fool his readers into believing the crap he is selling.

In college football news, even TMQ would have punted! Leading Harvard 10-7 with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, Yale faced fourth-and-22 on its own 25-yard line -- and went for it! The call was a fake punt. Fake kicks are most attractive when only a few yards are needed for the first down. The fake gained 15 yards, but that still handed Harvard the ball on the Yale 40-yard line; Harvard scored the game-winning touchdown four snaps later.

I thought fortune favored the bold? Isn't this bold call going to pay off for Yale down the road because the team is going to know that the head coach will do anything in his power to win the game? Wasn't the team supposed to be pumped up that the team was trying to bury their rival? Why is that not the case here? Any other time Easterbrook would have said this would all be the case but not here...

Indianapolis stopped a third-and-1 rush for a loss -- undrafted free agent signee Daniel Muir made the tackle. Baltimore reached first-and-goal on the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, and Indianapolis stuffed three consecutive rushes before the Nevermores settled for a field goal -- Muir had a tackle on that series, as did undrafted free agent signee Gray Brackett.

Joseph Addai, who is a first round pick, scored a touchdown in this game.

(Undrafted free agent signee Melvin Bullitt made the tackle that stopped New England in the final minute last week.)

1st round pick Peyton Manning threw the game winning touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne, another 1st round draft pick, after 1st round draft pick Joseph Addai ran the ball to the 1-yard line. See, two can play at this game. Don't let Gregg Easterbrook fool you into thinking the entire NFL consists of undrafted free agents who are better than 1st round draft picks.

A bit of misdirection is essential for success on short-yardage downs, since the defense is cranked to go straight ahead.

Gregg Easterbrook always says stuff like this with no proof. I try to disprove him every week and yet he just cut and pastes the same damn sentence in his column every week. Why do I make myself suffer by having to read TMQ every week?

It's cheerio to Dick "Cheerio, Chaps" Jauron. What in tarnation was the point of retaining Cheerio Chaps last offseason only to fire him midway through this season -- did Buffalo management suddenly discover that he was Dick Jauron? Buffalo's recent blown first-round draft picks (J.P. Losman, Mike Williams, John McCargo, Donte Whitner, perhaps Aaron Maybin) and disastrous player-management decisions (megabucks for Langston Walker, who two years later was waived and out of the league, while Jason Peters, Pat Williams, Jim Leonhard, Mario Haggan, Justin Bannan and Jabari Greer were shown the door and all are now starters for better teams than the Bills) were front-office decisions, not head coach decisions.

All year Gregg Easterbrook has been wondering when Dick Jauron will be fired for his coaching ineffectiveness and every week TMQ has contained parts where Jauron is made fun of for his coaching decisions. Now Jauron gets fired and Easterbrook blames the Bills' troubles on the General Manager and not Jauron. It's all madness.

John Marx of Scranton, Pa., writes, "On November 18, a Lego catalog arrived at my house titled Late Holiday 2009. Apparently the week before Thanksgiving is now late in the holiday season."

When should the Lego catalog for the Christmas season arrive? A week before Christmas? Two weeks before Christmas? That wouldn't be a whole hell of a lot of time for parents to pick out and order gifts for their children would it? Let's quit focusing on the title of the catalog in regard to when it appears in the mailboxes of America and start focusing on why it actually makes sense to call it "Late Holiday" since most of the Lego structures will be Christmas gifts which take time to freaking ship in time for Christmas.

Ersal Aslam of New Milford, N.J., notes the Telegraph of London has already named "Avatar" one of the top 100 movies of the past decade -- though no one's seen the film, which opens next month.

Both Ersal and Gregg need to learn to read. (Now Ersal will write in the comments on this blog defending what he sent Gregg and I will feel 15% bad for telling him to learn to read) Click on that link and you can learn the Telegraph did not name "Avatar" as one of the top 100 movies of the past decade but one of the top 100 movies that DEFINED the decade. There is a huge, massive difference. The technology used in the movie defines the technological advances over the past 10 years in movies. Gregg didn't even read the damn article in the link that was sent to him, he just saw what was written in his email and blindly linked it in his TMQ. Well the joke is on him because this article never says "Avatar" is one of the best movies of the past decade.

Andy Studebaker, out of Division III Wheaton, ran an interception back 94 yards against Pittsburgh, setting up a score in Kansas City's huge upset. Now a linebacker, Studebaker was a defensive end in Division III; on the play, he outran several highly drafted Division I gentlemen.

So there was one play in the NFL this week where a player who played in Division III football outran players who played Division I football? Obviously this means all Division III players are better than Division I players. Since I assume Gregg is not an idiot outside of writing his weekly TMQ, he probably knows one piece of data doesn't prove a trend...yet he ignores this.

Adventures in Officiating: In the Washington-at-Dallas contest, there was an eight-minute stoppage in play while officials and coaches argued about whether the Redskins should be called for … delay of game.

Haha! Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?????????????

Last week, TMQ supposed of Bill Belichick's failed fourth-and-2 attempt from his own 28, "Though the fourth-down try failed to defeat Indianapolis, Belichick might still profit down the road. By being hyper-aggressive, he challenged his young Patriots offense to show it can finish games." On Sunday, New England delivered an excellent offensive performance.

Clearly these two events are completely related. If Belichick had punted against the Colts, then the Patriots would have lost to the Jets I am sure.

Had one of the football gods appeared to Belichick two weeks ago and said, "You may beat either the Colts or the Jets, now choose," Belichick would have answered the Jets without hesitation, since division games are more important to most playoff calculations.

Absolutely not. By losing to the Colts, the Patriots essentially gave up their chance to get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Belichick would probably have chosen the Colts to beat for this reason because the Colts would be 9-1 now and the Patriots would have been 8-2. The Patriots would have had a shot at homefield advantage in the playoffs. Maybe Gregg should stop speaking for other people.

Kevin Boss of Jersey/A -- an afterthought in the 2007 draft, when he was chosen late out of Division II Western Oregon -- caught two touchdown passes, and now may be the NFL's best tight end.

Oh sweet Jesus, please tell me Gregg is kidding.

Let's look at the numbers:

Kevin Boss- 24 catches, 359 yards, 4 TDs
Antonio Gates- 52 catches, 709 yards, 2 TDs
Tony Gonzalez- 52 catches, 583 yards, 5 TDs
Dallas Clark- 65 catches, 771 yards, 4 TDs
Jason Witten- 54 catches, 481 yards, 1 TD

Just compare Kevin Boss to other great tight ends in the NFL, not even including Owen Daniels in my short study, and it is clear that Boss isn't even the best tight end in the NFC East, much less the NFL. This is just another case of Gregg Easterbrook writing words down that have no factual basis. Even if this is an opinion, it's a wrong opinion.

Dallas Clark and Tony Gonzalez are better pass-catchers, but Boss is the better blocker:

No amount of run blocking can make for the difference in the numbers between Kevin Boss and the other NFL tight ends.

If NFL general managers held a draft of tight ends, I bet Boss would be the first selection.

I would bet Gregg Easterbrook is an idiot for saying this. Here is how this hypothetical tight end draft would go:

1. Dallas Clark
2. Antonio Gates
3. Owen Daniels
4. Jason Witten
5. Tony Gonzalez (it's the age thing that makes him go behind these other guys)
10. Kevin Boss (at the earliest)

I respect Kevin Boss but Gregg Easterbrook is absolutely wrong that he would be the first tight end drafted in a tight end draft.

Hidden plays are ones which never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives. Jersey/A leading 24-14, Michael Jenkins of Atlanta dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the end zone on the snap before the Falcons settled for a field goal. Ultimately, the Giants won in overtime; had Jenkins caught the pass, the fourth quarter of this game would have been very different.

This was not a hidden play, this was a very important play in regard to this game. VERY important.

Gradkowski's four final pass attempts were directed to the unknown Schilens or the little-known Murphy, who were single-covered as Cincinnati doubled up on the mega-hyped, mega-bucks, underachieving Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Who the hell is "mega-hyping" Darrius Heyward-Bey? Is anyone doing this? In fact, if anything no one is hyping Heyward-Bey up because it is recognized he was drafted too early this past year. Gregg just assumes any 1st round draft choice is mega-hyped. Louis Murphy was also not "little-known," he played for the Florida Gators last year and was their second best receiver to Percy Harvin. Maybe he was little-known to Gregg, but we have already established I think he is an idiot, so that doesn't shock me he doesn't know who Murphy is.

Mark LeVoir, New England's third-string left tackle, was pressed into service in the second quarter against Jersey/B, and mainly played well, though the Patriots' offensive scheme does not give help to the left tackle.

Bart Scott burned him badly on a swim move and hit Tom Brady as Brady released the ball. On the next snap, LeVoir had help blocking Scott; New England coaches reacted immediately to indication of a problem.

And here I thought Gregg had just said the New England offensive scheme did not give help to the left tackle, yet on the very next play LeVoir got help. I guess they make exceptions.

As for the Texans, this is the franchise's eighth season, and it has yet to win a high-profile game.

Other than their nationally televised franchise opener in 2002 against Dallas of course.

Monday night should have been their coming-out party, considering it was "Monday Night Football" at home.

A coming-out party even though the team has been around for about eight years now. That makes sense.

But they run when they need to. Indianapolis picked up a power-rush touchdown against Baltimore, after winning on a power-rush touchdown the week before.

Really? I am 95% positive the Colts beat the Patriots on a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. I am pretty sure a slant is not a power-rush.

(Everytime I point out something obviously wrong that was written by a sportswriter, I re-read the statement several times to make sure I didn't misunderstand what was said. I don't think I did misunderstood this last sentence by Gregg.)

TMQ contends NFL coaches don't try to block punts as often as they should. Use your DVR, and observe that usually only three or four men rush the punter; most of the time, most are peeling back to set up the return. But a punt block, which is as good as a turnover, is more likely than a monster return.

I searched the Internet for this information and couldn't come up with any good data, but I am pretty sure there is a better chance of a punt being returned for a touchdown than a punt being blocked. I feel very sure about this. Of course Gregg Easterbrook doesn't give any data when he made the proclamation (based on no facts), so I guess I shouldn't have to give any evidence either to say I think he is wrong.

But if the season ended today, Favre might best Brees and Peyton Manning for MVP.

As I described on Monday, this would be pure lunacy if this happened. Brett Favre is on a team that went to the playoffs without him last year. I don't think the Colts or the Saints would go to the playoffs without Manning and Brees, respectively.

Oprah Creep: As many readers, including Grace Leon of Lincoln Park, Ill., noted, Oprah said goodbye to her viewers almost two years before she actually plans to leave.

When is Oprah supposed to announce her departure from the television show? A month before it ends, maybe at the end of her last episode? She probably announced the end of her show so early so everyone involved could find other jobs or plan for their future...or because it is her fucking television show she just wanted to announce it early. Gregg is always criticizing people/places/things for happening too early and says they "creep," so I wonder when the proper time for these people/places/things to occur would be? Gregg never tells us, he just keeps bitching about them.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2: Trailing San Diego 13-0 in the third quarter, Denver's Josh "When Does the Frat Party Start?" McDaniels sent the kicking unit onto the field on fourth-and-goal from the Bolts' 5. Needless to say, Denver went on to lose, by a final of 32-3.

Apparently that four point swing from a field goal to a touchdown would have made up 29 points in the final score of the game. Logically this would happen of course. It makes total and complete sense.

In the endgame, trailing 26-3 and facing fourth-and-15 on the San Diego 19, then McDaniels went for it. This is the classic example of the football coach who does the conservative thing when a gamble might still win the game, then gambles when it makes no difference.

Now Gregg is bitching when teams do exactly what he wants them to do, but not exactly when he wants them to do it. I would love to see Gregg Easterbrook coach a football team. He is the worst kind of second guesser. The kind who bases his second guessing on the outcome of the game and not whether the decision made sense at the time or not. I would have probably gone for it on the fourth-and-goal on the 5 yard line but I can understand why a coach would not go for the touchdown in this situation.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 3: Leading 3-0 in the third quarter, Washington punted from the Dallas 38. Knowing only this fact, which team do you think won the game?

The team with the most points at the end of the game?

And, as noted by reader Lee Albacker of Boston, after furiously running up the score to 63-6 against Division I-AA Delaware State -- including continuing to throw passes when ahead by 50 points in the fourth quarter -- Michigan went on to lose its next five games and drop out of bowl contention.

I am sure running up the score against Delaware State is the exact reason Michigan went on to lose their next five games. That has to be the exact reason.

Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: Chambers caught for what looked like a short gain: He was surrounded by Steelers, and the Steelers tackle better than any other NFL team. Then he started to motor up the right sideline, and Pittsburgh defenders Ryan Clark, Tyrone Carter and Super Bowl MVP James Harrison all quit on the play...All three jog rather than sprint after Chambers, each assuming somebody else will get him. But wait, Kansas City tight end Leonard Pope also quit on the play -- he's on the same sideline as his teammate but makes no attempt to block or hustle into the action; he just stands there watching. Chambers himself quits on the play! Reaching the Steelers' 4, Chambers simply steps out of bounds, rather than cut back, though there's only one man left to beat. Kansas City kicked the winning field goal on the next snap, but why didn't Chambers try to get into the end zone and conclude the matter? Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, you are both guilty of the single worst play of the season -- so far.

So Gregg Easterbrook's "worst play of the season--so far" is a play where a wide receiver went out of bounds to ensure his team could kick the game-winning touchdown and clinch an upset over the Super Bowl Champions? That doesn't sound like a very bad play. Maybe Chambers was afraid he would have the ball stripped by the player he had left to beat and didn't want to take the chance, so he just went out of bounds. Either way, the Chiefs won the game so the single worst play also clinched a win for the Chiefs.

I am not being hyperbolic when I say I have a headache right now. My head really hurts.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thanks for reading our drivel.


HH said...

This post hits on so many annoying things about TMQ. In no order:

1. Trailing teams pass more because they're trying to catch up. They throw against looser defenses that are just trying to prevent the big play. Other than Brady, who's something like 26-3, the majority of 300 yard passing games are thrown by losers.

2. It annoys me to no end when TMQ uses the Colts to show how low-drafted and undrafted players make an impact. The Colts HAVE TO field a defense of cheap young players because most of their money is tied up in their highly-drafted, big-money offense. Manning, Wayne, Gonzalez, Clark, Addai, and Brown are all first rounders, and Ugoh is borderline. [Gonzalez and Ugoh may not play, but they still take up salary cap space]. This leaves very little cash for the rest of the team, which is why the Colts have to replace veteran starters [like Nick Harper] with cheap young players [rather than high picks] just to fit under the salary cap. It's a legitimate way to build a team, of course, but that's no reason to exalt undrafted players. [And I love an underdog as much as anyone.]

3. KC Joyner has actually done decent analysis that I happen to agree with that shows that Dallas Clark is basically barely better than average as a TE, but the offense he's and his fantasy value give him a reputation as a great player. I'd probably replace him with Witten at the top of the TE list.

Bengoodfella said...

There was a lot of the annoying parts about TMQ present in this one. I am not going to say teams that throw the ball well don't have certain advantages, but the one big factor that Gregg completely misses is that it is really the quarterback which makes the difference. Teams with shaky quarterback situations can't throw the ball as much as crappy teams because they don't trust their quarterback.

Great passing is important, just like great running is important. Gregg is getting being a good offensive team and being a good team in regards to win-loss record completely mixed up.

I was thinking about that Colts thing while I was typing this TMQ. He always uses the Saints and Colts as his example of teams with great undrafted players. I didn't think of the reason the Colts had so many undrafted players and it is because of what you said, that they have so many expensive, highly drafted players who they are paying big money to. They have to find guys who don't make as much money and those are lowly or undrafted players. They do a good job of finding these guys but you are right it's no reason to exhalt undrafted players.

I am a sucker for a good offensive tight end since my favorite team hasn't had a decent pass catching tight end since Wesley Walls. For some reason I value pass catching more than blocking, which is obviously stupid. So I probably overrate Clark a little bit in regard to the running game. I like Daniels as much as Witten honestly. You have a point with that comment and I didn't put too much thought into my ranking, other than to say Kevin Boss is NOT the best TE in the NFL.

Go said...

Another hidden play.
In Super Bowl XIII, a wide open Jackie Smith drops a pass in the endzone. Dallas kicks a fg later in the drive and lose 35-31.
Pay attention because these seemingly small plays can determine the outcome of games.

Bengoodfella said...

Good job on noticing hidden plays. Here is another one that I have noticed that has bothered me. John Kasay kicks the ball out of bounds on a kick off with the Panthers in the lead and a minute left against the Patriots, giving the ball to the Patriots on the 40 yard line. The Patriots would score a touchdown and win the game.

Few noticed this play had any effect on the game.

Fred Trigger said...


I didnt pay much attention to that play, either. But I do have the slightest of slight recollection of the Pats kicking a game winning field goal. I dont think it was that big of a deal, though, since no one seems to remember it. Damn hidden plays.

Gene said...


Greg's analyis (which he did not do) between punts blocked for a touchdown and punts returned for a touchdown does not nearly tell the complete story.

The issue is that when you let all 11 put their hair back and rush the punter, the case of a roughing penalty increases dramatically and this gives the punting team an automatic first down. This is a much more likely scenario than the two which Greg names and is absolutely horrible for the receivng team.

As I have said, analysis likes this makes it evident that Greg never even played Pop Warner football.

RuleBook said...

- Adventures in Officiating: In the Washington-at-Dallas contest, there was an eight-minute stoppage in play while officials and coaches argued about whether the Redskins should be called for … delay of game.

Actually, the largest portion of that stoppage was that the previous play was under review. Yes, the delay of game debate took longer than it should have, but it was no more than two minutes.

- Cowboys Homer Alert: I will gladly place Witten as the best TE in the league, as he is the only TE that would be in my top 5 in both blocking and receiving. Yeah, for fantasy purposes, I'd rather have Gonzalez or Clark or Gates, but all three of them are glorified wide receivers. Jason Witten and Chris Cooley are, in my opinion, the only two TEs in the league that excel in both blocking and receiving, and I like Witten better, for obvious reasons.

- But a punt block, which is as good as a turnover, is more likely than a monster return.

So far this season we have had 6 punt return TDs and 5 blocked punts, so I fail to see how the monster return is less likely.

Martin said...

And a monster return could even be for say, 40 yards, and not be a touchdown.

For a guy who bitches about "pass whacky" he doesn't even seem to grasp the basic idea of passing and rushing. Years ago I was reading, I think, Sport Magazine, and they went through and showed it was the teams that continually had the most yards per attempt, were the most successful. They also tended to be among the teams that rushed most often, making people think they were winning with a running game. As the author pointed out, they weren't rushing to get the lead, they were rushing to hold it. The P. Kings and TMQ's of the world though saw only stats and said "Well, it's all about running the ball!"

Having all the facts show that a balanced attack is best, and a team that can get the big plays for more yardage are the most successful. Not brain surgery there, but as we all noted, that usually involves a superior QB and good to great receivers. A team needs to run the ball to keep the defense honest, and it needs to make big strikes when it can off play action or what have you, when the defense keys for the run. TMQ acts like he's discovered cold fusion.

Bengoodfella said...

Gene, we talked about that same issue a few weeks ago and it's something I can't find data on, but if you send players at the punter then there is a better chance at a roughing penalty AND there is very little chance to set up any return. I am not against rushing everyone but I don't know if it should be a golden rule to do or anything.

Thanks for those numbers Rulebook, I kept getting college stats but not NFL when I tried to look it up. I like Witten too but I do tend to favor a better pass catching tight end, so I always just assume Dallas Clark is better which may not be true. The rule I need to learn is that before I start ranking players quickly, I should make sure I think more.

Martin, that's another good point. A big punt return doesn't have to be just a touchdown. A lot of great teams do throw the ball to get the lead and then run the ball to hold the lead. It's not rocket science that the whole idea of a strong offense tends to go back to a good QB. I don't know why Easterbrook and others miss this point sometimes.

HH said...

I forgot to mention Easterbrook's worst habit that always drives me crazy: accusing cornerbacks of ignoring their man and looking into the backfield. He doesn't seem to grasp that NFL defenses are complex and very and he probably has no idea what a player is being asked to do on any given play. I've reviewed as much footage as I can, and usually, what Easterbrook calls "looking into the backfield" are just defensive backs covering the short zone, where their job is NOT to follow the first man past them, but to remain in the zone.

This lack of knowledge about defense isn't surprising, since Easterbrook doesn't seem to understand the difference between "offensive success" and "team success"

Bengoodfella said...

Easterbrook doesn't seem to have much knowledge of a zone defense does he? I know he is writing from the perspective of a person who second guesses everything, but you would think he would at least try to have some knowledge of defensive football before trying to criticize. It's like me going to a NASCAR race and criticizing the drivers for what they do when I don't understand the intricacies of the sport.

I think Gregg feels like a defensive back is always playing man coverage...and no he doesn't understand either that offensive success doesn't equate to win-loss success. The man is a mess at times.