Tuesday, January 19, 2010

7 comments I Like These Two Guys But.....Not This

When I am asked to make a list of sportswriters that I like, which happens occasionally since I mostly complain about sportswriters here and sometimes people wonder which ones I do like, I always list Jason Whitlock and Stewart Mandel. I like Whitlock because he believes what he writes and he doesn't seem to have any motives for what he is writing. He is interesting to read because that's how he writes, not because he tries. Sometimes he is wrong when he takes shots at people, like today. I like Stewart Mandel because I find his coverage of college football to be very knowledgeable and informative. He seems to do his homework and know what he is talking about when he is writing his columns. It doesn't mean I don't disagree with them from time and time and feel the need to feature them here...oh no, it's not at all what it means.

Before we get to them, I wanted to display some idiocy in voting for NFL postseason awards. 4 morons voted for Brett Favre as "Comeback Player of the Year" in the NFL this year. Peter King had Favre as Comeback Player of the Year in his mid-season awards, but fortunately he found some brains and voted for Tom Brady by the end of the year. The same can't be said about the 4 other idiots though.

Tom Brady won the award, collecting 19 of the 50 votes. I think either Vince Young or Cadillac Williams made much better comeback stories,

All three are valid winners of this award. Though I know someone could argue a little bit with Young's inclusion. He may have "only" had mental problems, but he was counted out by a good portion of the population who watches football (including myself), so after essentially sitting out last year and playing well this year he has a small claim to be voted for in regard to this award.

Brady got 19 votes, Williams got 14, Young got 7, Cedric Benson got 4, and Brett Favre got 4.

Can someone explain to me exactly what Brett Favre "came back" from? He played last year. He played miserably over the last five games of the season and cost the Jets a playoff spot, but he played.

Exactly. How the hell can someone "comeback" when they played an entire season the year before and started every single one of those games as well? You can't come back if you never left.

Yeah, he also had some arm surgery, but offseason surgery isn't exactly a rarity in the NFL.

There would be a list of players a mile along who would be eligible for this award if the criteria included players who had offseason surgery. Not to mention Favre could have easily had the surgery early in the spring/summer and been back in time for training camp...assuming he cared to join his team for training camp of course.

It's an insult to the real comeback stories that make sports fun to follow. If you're just a jerk, and then you play well, that doesn't qualify as a comeback. It makes you a jerk who's good at sports.

This isn't Brett Favre's fault because he didn't vote for himself, this is the fault of 4 people who seem to think if a player plays an entire year one season and then decides he may or may not want to retire, but ends up playing again...this player actually come back from something. After this the author makes a "Rocky III" comparison but I leave all "Rocky" comparisons for Bill Simmons columns, so I will leave that alone.

-Now onto the NFL Truths that Jason Whitlock wants us to all believe.

There is no more difficult job in sports writing than criticizing Peyton Manning.

He epitomizes what we want in a high-profile athlete. He loves and respects the game. He’s committed and well-prepared. He’s highly skilled, fun to watch and maintains an air of humility. He is easy to like and respect.

Wait for it, here it comes...the twist.

When he retires, he’ll own just about every meaningful career passing record and some experts will argue that Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time.

I can’t go there. Not now. Not without significantly more postseason success.

Exactly, I agree. I think by the end of his career 250+ starts should be completely overshadowed by the 30-something playoff games he will play in during his career. I mean it makes statistical sense really to base him being the greatest quarterback of all-time on his performance in as small of a sample size as possible. So what if Manning was a great regular season quarterback in (what will be) 250+ games, he was only average in the postseason when compared to the other greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

He may not be the best of all-time but he should at least be in the conversation.

Yes, he’s battled a big-game image problem since college, and his lackluster individual performance during the Colts’ 2006 Super Bowl run did little to quiet the critics who question Manning’s ability to execute efficiently when pressure is the highest.

Manning has played in one Super Bowl, his statistics in that one Super Bowl:

25-38 247 yards 1 TD, 1 INT, 81.8 rating.

Not great but also not exactly terrible. This makes Manning a choker and less of a quarterback in Jason Whitlock's eyes. So according to what is being written here, Peyton Manning is not the greatest quarterback of all-time because he hasn't played well in the postseason. Manning's career spans 16 postseason games and we are supposed to be put more weight on those games than the 192 regular season games he has played.

We have already discussed Manning's record in the postseason, so it would be pointless to do it again. Jason Whitlock regurgitates the same numbers over again, while comparing Manning to the same quarterbacks I compared him to, and it would be pointless to go back over this. Yes, Manning doesn't have a great win-loss record in the postseason (He's 8-8), but football is a team game so I really am going to discount that when judging Manning's individual career.

Let's look at the players Whitlock compares Manning to for an entire playoff career with how these players performed in their career in the Super Bowl. You know, the biggest stage where quarterbacks are supposed to "execute efficiently when pressure is the highest" (as quoted by Whitlock above) and see how Manning compares. I know some quarterbacks have larger sample sizes than others and there isn't much I can do about that. Over an entire playoff career he compares favorably with Favre, Marino and a couple others among some of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. I want to clear Manning's name in his only Super Bowl appearance in the eyes of Jason Whitlock, since he kind of knocked Manning's performance in his only Super Bowl appearance.

Manning compared to other quarterbacks in the Super Bowl:

Peyton Manning (1 game) : 65.7% completion rate, 247.0 yards/game, 1 TD, 1 INT, 81.8 rating.

John Elway (5 games): 50.0% completion rate, 225.6 yards/game, 3 TD, 8 INT, 59.3 rating.

Kurt Warner (3 games): 62.4% completion rate, 385.3 yards/game, 6 TD, 3 INT, 95.9 rating.

Tom Brady (4 games): 64.5% completion rate, 250.3 yards/game, 7 TD, 1 INT, 95.1 rating.

Brett Favre (2 games): 56.5% completion rate, 251.0 yards/game, 5 TD, 1 INT, 97.6 rating.

Dan Marino (1 game): 58.0% completion rate, 318 yards/game, 1 TD, 2 INT, 66.9 rating.

Joe Montana (4 games): 68.0% completion rate, 285.6 yards/game, 11 TD, 0 INT, 127.8 rating.

The first thing I notice is that when people compare Tom Brady to Joe Montana in regards to Super Bowl performances, it is incredibly unfair to Joe Montana. Holy shit, I forgot how good he was in the Super Bowl. 127.8 rating and 11 TD's without an interception. That's some impressive statistics.

The second thing I notice is that yet again Peyton Manning was better than Dan Marino and John Elway in their Super Bowl appearances. Manning had a middle-of-the-road Super Bowl performance compared to the other quarterbacks we compared here. Remember we are comparing Manning in the postseason and in the Super Bowl with some of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, so these guys are supposed to be the best of the best. This isn't an argument against Manning as not being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, since he didn't have a BAD performance in his one appearance, just not a performance that rates among the best quarterbacks of all-time in the Super Bowl. I still think more weight should be given to the regular season statistics of Manning than Whitlock gives him credit for.

My point is that Peyton Manning has had his share of playoff struggles but despite this I still think he should be in the conversation for best quarterback of all-time based on his regular season statistics. Jason Whitlock sees it differently.

Now, let’s take the discussion a step farther. Manning is playing in the QB era, which is somewhat like baseball’s steroid era. The rules of the game so heavily favor the quarterback and the passing game that statistics are being distorted.

I will agree the rules are heavily leaning towards protecting quarterbacks, but it also has to be acknowledged that there are better athletes in today's NFL than there was even 20 years ago. Defenses are also much more complex today than they were in the past. Expansion has diluted the league to some extent, but free agency and the salary cap has also prevented teams from being able to horde talent offensively for extended periods of time. Manning may have more rules protecting him, but he also has better defensive competition (at least athletically) he has to go against. There are trade-offs that could have hampered Manning's performance even knowing the rules of the passing game does favor quarterbacks.

Throwing for 4,000 yards in a season used to be a very big deal. No one did it in 1997. Two guys did it in 2001. This past season, 10 QBs surpassed the 4,000-yard barrier.

It it is true the offenses in the NFL have become more passing oriented, but is this because of the change in rules to help the quarterbacks or is it because of the increase in the usage of multiple receiver sets and the fact passing offenses are becoming more sophisticated? I would argue it's a mixture of both, so we can't discount what Manning has done over his career. I don't know if I would argue quarterbacks have become better at what they do, but passing games have evolved to where offensive schemes teams are spreading the field on the defense and throwing the ball instead of running the ball. An example of this is how the fullback is slowly being phased out of the game in some offenses.

I am not sure the fact Peyton Manning has put up great numbers as a quarterback can completely be attributed to the fact the league has started protecting receivers and quarterbacks more.

In 1990, three quarterbacks -- Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Joe Montana -- completed more than 60 percent of their passes. Nineteen years later, 21 quarterbacks -- including future career backups David Garrard, Alex Smith and Chad Henne -- connected on at least 60 percent of their throws.

Again, I would also argue that quarterbacks have gotten better over the past 20 years due to what I have stated above about passing offenses becoming more sophisticated, and yes, the fact the NFL has changed some rules to protect the quarterback. I don't know if this should still reflect poorly on Peyton Manning and his accomplishments. I don't think it is easier to be a quarterback today than it used to be 20 years ago because of the sophistication of the defenses and athleticism of the players on the defensive side of the ball.

Also, Chad Henne is not a "future career backup," he actually looks pretty good out there at times for the Dolphins.

No one has benefitted more than Peyton Manning. He’s collected four MVP trophies in seven years by taking advantage of league’s insistence on providing quarterbacks PEDs -- performance-enhancing defenses.

The lone remaining venue where a QB can distinguish himself from the pretenders is the postseason.

This makes absolutely no sense. How has Manning been able to benefit from quarterback PEDs any more than Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, or any other good quarterback during this era? If Jason Whitlock is going to discount Manning's statistics for this reason, he will have to do the same with many of the other quarterbacks currently playing as well. That includes nearly all of the top quarterbacks in the NFL over the last 10 years, because they have played against the same defenses Manning has. So the same argument against Manning can be made for Warner, Brady, Favre, and several other great quarterbacks of the last 10 years.

To say the postseason is where the players set themselves a part is ridiculous. The same rules that quarterbacks and defenses have to obey in the regular season are present in the postseason. There is no difference in the rules for a game in the postseason and in the regular season, so the game isn't different and there shouldn't be a reason the postseason is where the "old school defenses" are allowed to change the rules. The pressure is different but there is no difference in the rules during the regular season and the postseason.

In fact, Manning and his team the Colts played in a game that provided the impetus for some of the rule changes in 2004 when the Colts receivers were manhandled by the Patriots secondary in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots defenders were strategically being rough with the Colts receivers. The Colts lost that game because they didn't adjust to this, so it's not like he has had smooth sailing at the quarterback position over his entire career. Not to mention Manning hasn't been that bad in the postseason over his career. His numbers have been merely above average and compare favorably to other Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Manning needs a good showing and a victory on Saturday. If not, he’s a Dan Marino upgrade and a slice below Brett Favre.

Manning would be below Favre and just above Marino in terms of the postseason, which is the smallest sample size next to the Pro Bowl to choose from when evaluating Manning's career.

Manning's numbers on Saturday: 68.2%, 246 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 87.9 rating.

(Manning also took two sacks that Dan Dierforf gave him credit for taking. Yes, it's gotten to the point Manning is being credited for taking sacks)

That’s not bad company. But it’s not Montana, Elway and Brady. Hell, Manning could fall behind Kurt Warner, if Warner wins another Super Bowl.

So Peyton Manning could potentially be considered below Kurt Warner on the list of "greatest quarterbacks of all-time" if Warner wins another Super Bowl? Again, we are going to take a team award and help it decide an individual award. This makes perfect nonsense. I am not going to deny Warner is a great quarterback in the postseason, but does it really make sense to weight the postseason more than the regular season when comparing the greatness of quarterbacks?

9. The media and fan cry that it’s time to end the Donovan McNabb era just so the Eagles can take a flyer on Kevin Kolb is a bad joke.

I wouldn't call it "taking a flyer" on Kolb, he has shown himself to be a serviceable quarterback when he has had the opportunity. This year his statistics in 3 games are:

64.6 completion rate, 247 yards/game, 4 TD, 3 INT, 88.9 rating.

I don't think Donovan McNabb should be replaced next year, but Kevin Kolb has seemed to present himself as a viable solution at some point in the future. It may take a little bit of time before he turns into a quality quarterback, but I like some of what I have seen from Kolb. Sometimes Whitlock's hating goes a little bit wayward and I think this is an example of that. I don't think replacing McNabb with Kolb in 2 years is that bad of a joke.

But Philly’s offensive line was terrible and Andy Reid’s management of his offense suspect. Legitimate playoff quarterbacks can’t be found on every street corner.

Agreed that McNabb shouldn't be replaced this year or possibly next year, but we really have no idea what Kolb can do in the playoffs so it's a bit unfair to write him off this soon. I think what would help the Eagles a lot is pretending to try and establish a running game of some point.

The Carolina Panthers gave Jake Delhomme a contract extension last season. And people want the Eagles to discard McNabb like he’s spoiled milk?

I am not sure what this comparison is supposed to prove, but that contract extension has cost Carolina $20 million dollars in money they can't get rid of and pretty much assured Delhomme stayed the quarterback long enough to submarine the entire 2009 season for the team. The contract extension also made sure the team has a difficult choice next year since the most successful quarterback in franchise history could potentially be on the roster as a backup because he is too expensive to release. In retrospect, this extension may not have been a good move.

So if Whitlock is suggesting McNabb get a contract extension, the Delhomme comparison is a terrible one because it is actually an argument AGAINST giving McNabb an extension. If he is suggesting Delhomme sucked and got an extension and so should McNabb, it's a bad comparison because Delhomme should never have gotten the extension.

7. There are several holes in all the Green Bay whining about the uncalled facemask penalty on Aaron Rodgers’ game-deciding fumble.

It's not really whining and is instead a potentially valid argument?

The refs miss calls all the time. Rodgers missed Greg Jennings deep on the first play of overtime.

These are two completely different issues and are in no way able to be compared to each other without me laughing at the absurdity of Whitlock saying a ref has a right to miss a call because Aaron Rodgers missed a 50-yard pass to a receiver. I don't know in what world a ref missing a call is fine because a football player didn't throw a complete pass...and these two events are supposed to be comparable.

The fact is, Brett Favre would’ve connected with Jennings. Packers fans know it and that’s why they’re whining about the hit on Rodgers.

I know Jason Whitlock tells it like it is...but would Favre have hit Greg Jennings in this situation? Would the Packers have even be able to comeback in this game with Favre at the quarterback position? It's entirely possible given Favre's performance on Saturday, but it's absurd to make concrete statements that can't be proven in an effort to make a point. I don't think Packers fans are upset by this completely unjustifiable and unprovable idea that Favre would have connected with Jennings, they seem to be upset with the officiating.

I like Rodgers. I like the way he played in that game. He has yet to justify Ted Thompson’s decision to run Favre out of Green Bay.

One last time:

Brett Favre over the last two seasons:

2008: 65.7% completion rate, 217 yards/game, 22 TD, 22 INT, 81.0 rating.
2009: 68.4% completion rate, 262.6 yards/game, 33 TD, 7 INT, 107.0 rating.

He is 40 years old and could retire/unretire at any point over the next couple of years.

Aaron Rodgers over the last two seasons:

2008: 63.6% completion rate, 252.4 yards/game, 28 TD, 13 INT, 93.8 rating.
2009: 64.7% completion rate, 277.1 yards/game, 30 TD, 7 INT, 103.2 rating.

He is 26 years old and would be a free agent after this season if Favre had not gotten traded. What would the Packers plan have been at that point? Favre is going to do the retirement dance this offseason, if he really does it this time, and doesn't come back, the Packers would have Matt Flynn as the projected starter for next year unless they sign or draft a player who doesn't know their offensive system. I talk about this ALL THE TIME, but the Packers made the right move. Yes, it sucks right now since Favre is playing well for a team that is superior on defense to the Packers and therefore a better team, but it will make more sense when Favre retires.

Aaron Rodgers has already justified the decision to trade Brett Favre when Favre wanted to come out of retirement by putting up comparable (better?) numbers over the last 2 seasons and being 14 years younger. Yes, I also know Favre's team beat Rodgers' team twice this year, but that's more of a reflection on each team than each quarterback when I am doing a head-to-head comparison.

Whitlock is wrong about Rodgers not justifying the move yet. It's the end of these two being compared here for two weeks, you have my word.

At the beginning of the year I wrote that we may never see Fearless Tom Brady again. His knee injury would produce timidity in the pocket. That’s exactly what happened against Baltimore. Under duress, Brady made poor throws.

I would love to know what quarterback is able to make great throws to Brady's receiver corp under duress? In the playoffs, any quarterback under duress is going to struggle generally. I don't know if the knee injury was the reason Brady didn't look comfortable in the pocket against the Ravens, I think it was more the fact his offensive line didn't do a great job of blocking for him and he doesn't have a great running game. I would blame it on Welker being injured, but teams have backups for a reason, in case of injury. That injury did play a part as well of course in Brady looking uncomfortable in the pocket. I think the knee injury played a 5% role (at most) in Brady's performance.

Reading and reacting takes time and allows the defense to get to the QB. The Ravens hit Brady early in the game and Brady started thinking about his knee. It’s natural.

I hope that someday I can have the special superpowers that many sportswriters have. It's the superpower that will help me look into an athlete's brain and know EXACTLY what he was thinking about. Somehow my telepathic powers aren't as great as Jason Whitlock. He KNOWS Brady was thinking about his injured knee even though it seems like Brady didn't seem to think about the knee at any other point this year to the point it affected his play.

I usually like Whitlock, but he can do a little better than he did here. He's done better and he can do better again. There is a difference in shooting from the hip and saying things that are debatable in their accuracy.

-Stewart Mandel has a college mailbag up and some of his answers really didn't make sense or please me in the least.

Jim Tressel resigning to begin new career as late-night talk show host ... South Florida to hire Holtz -- Lou Holtz.

Is there anything we wouldn't believe at this point?


RuleBook said...

I don't know why I have never seen this argument made, but college coaching contracts are not the same as regular working-world contracts. The problem with coaching contracts is that if they are close to expiring, they hamper recruiting. A coach with one year left on his contract will not only hurt himself in his last season, but will hurt the school as well by having a poor recruiting class, as no student wants to attend a school with a guaranteed coaching overhaul. When was the last time anyone can recall a coach's contract expiring?

The only way for a coach to leave a school without severely damaging himself or the school is to leave mid-contract. Otherwise, once a coach got a job at any school, he would be stuck there until he got fired. It's a crappy system, but there is no real solution.

For example, after last season, Mike Leach was nearly fired for refusing to accept a contract extension. He was willing to play out the last year of the contract, and move on, and that was so unacceptable, Texas Tech nearly fired him before they gave in to his demands (and that bitterness sparked the firing this year).

Peter King says that he would never break his contract to make more money. That's great, and I'd like to think I wouldn't do it either. However, if King had to have 4 years remaining on his contract at all times in order to fully do his job, all of a sudden, breaking the contract doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Coaches cannot have expiring contracts and recruit top players. Coaches can be fired by the university mid-contract. Therefore, coaches should be able to go to another school mid-contract, and not be vilified for doing so. This seems so simple to understand, yet I've never seen this mentioned by any sports writer.

I am a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, yet I can see that Kiffin cannot be faulted for going to his dream job. However, somehow, national sportswriters are enraged by such gall. At some point, everyone has to understand that there is no fair solution, and just accept it. There is no reason to be angry.

KentAllard said...

I think part of the reason that Kiffin has been vilified and Kelly has gotten mixed reviews over their manner of leaving (Full disclosure: Kelly is now the coach of my college's team, while Kiffin coaches our rival) is the surprise value. Once Notre Dame was sure they were going to change coaches (if not after the third loss, certainly after the fourth) Kelly was the most likely candidate, and he never hid his interest in the job. Cincinnati had time to get used to the notion of losing their coach, even if they didn't want it to happen, while the Kiffin move happened out of the blue. Not saying that makes Kelly any more ethical in his departure, just the perception is a little different.

One of the reasons QB ratings for Super Bowls trend lower than the regular season is the QB is facing a better-than-average defense in the Super Bowl compared to the season. Most Super Bowl teams have an excellent defense or they wouldn't have made it, and it is rarer for a team with an awful defense to make it than people think.

And in light of that, holy hell but Montana's numbers in the Super Bowl were great. I mentioned a while back one of the problems pro scouts had with Montana come draft time was his perceived inconsistency, and in a way it shows with how he was able to raise his game when he needed to. What does a 127.8 rating translate to when playing a defense like, say, the Lions? 892.9?* Joe had a tendency to play down a little to weak competition, then step it up when he needed.

* I know QB ratings don't go that high, I'm being sarcastic.

Bengoodfella said...

Rulebook, that's an interesting way of looking at it. It's also a very accurate way to look at it. I know the Panthers are going to into their last year on Fox's contract and everyone is nervous about the team, so I would imagine for a college student a coach in the last year of his contract pretty much means he won't end up staying at the school. I can't recall a non-retiring coach having his contract expire.

I wish you could email Peter King and make this great point to him, that most contracts have to be broken in one form or another so as not to damage recruiting.

Texas Tech pretty much hated Leach and gave him a contract extension because having a guy they hated for a few more seasons was better than having a lame duck coach.

You make a great point a/b PK as well. I wish he could realize this, but he won't.

Look, I hate Lane Kiffin and think he is a recruiting violation waiting to happen. I was surprised he took the UT job and was surprised less when he left it. He's an ass and possibly may not be a good coach, but he can recruit and has a great defensive coordinator (his dad), so he is an attractive candidate. There is no way to get out of a contract in college football other than to break it like this and you are right.

Kent, don't get me wrong, I like Brian Kelly more than Lane Kiffin, but Stewart Mandel treats them very different from each other. I am not sure Kelly making his intentions known makes it any better for me. From a ND/UT perspective I can see the outrage, but I can't understand why Mandel didn't have the same perception of both.

Kelly landed at ND softer because he has more class and is a quieter person, while Kiffin doesn't. I still think UT is in good shape as far as recruiting. Derek Dooley is going to be a good coach.

You are exactly right a/b the defenses a QB faces in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Plus, Whitlock is comparing Manning to the best of the best. So being middle of the pack in that group isn't a bad thing...so maybe based on the postseason Manning isn't the best ever, I don't think it should reflect on his career more than the regular season.

I compared Brady's Super Bowl performances to Joe Montana...no offense to Brady but he isn't in the same league. Montana was fantastic in the Super Bowl and I never realized it. Kurt Warner was just a few steps below him, which surprised me.

Martin said...

John Clayton has an interesting article up right now on tWWL about the Top 10 Qb's of all time, and by interesting, I mean terrible. It's like reading an article by a 65 year old baseball writer. He does everything but call Brett Favre "gritty". He meanders all over the place, rates guys based on Super Bowl wins...and then doesn't. Jsut really badly done. Disappointed by Clayton.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, you just had to tell me about that article didn't you? That article was pretty bad, I may have to see if I can take a shot at it.

Dylan Murphy said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who could not stand Clayton's article. I don't understand how he attempts to rank these players. Manning can pass Brady if he wins the Super Bowl. If he doesn't, does that really make him less great of a QB? Football is a team game. Put Dan Marino on the Patriots of the early 2000's, and he becomes the greatest QB in history. Brett Favre is having a great year not because hes all of a sudden resurrected, but because he has a ferocious defense and the best RB in the game. For argument's sake, I would put Manning over Brady already. Quarterbacks should be rated by who you would rather have, and outside of a few seasons where Brady was out of his mind, I'd take Manning almost every time.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, I decided to write a whole lot of words for Thursday on some of those same issues. Clayton's article confused me, primarily because he only used postseason data and was very arbitrary in his rankings.