TMQ triumphantly came back last week and his return this week to actually talking about the NFL is well-received by me. Contrary to the latest discussion by Bill Simmons about Jennifer Aniston's ovaries, I prefer talking about sports, so we have an NFL-related TMQ to chew over this week and that makes me happy. Whenever I do TMQ, I always end up with a few Easterbrook fans, which isn't a negative thing. The two biggest criticisms I have gotten from those who like TMQ usually go one of two ways.
First, they will mention it is his article and he can talk about whatever he wants. I agree, he can talk about whatever he wants, and I can call whatever he talks about stupid or mock it. He has a right to write about it in his column and I have a right to mock him. Second, I will hear that if I don't like him (and pretty much everyone I cover here), then why don't I just ignore what they write? I did ignore this bad sports journalism through most of my life and now that I am aware it exists, I can't ignore it. I have a hard time leaving things alone and I enjoy (in the way of not really enjoying it) seeing what Gregg comes up with from week-to-week.
Anyway, let's get on to Gregg's AFC Preview.
In 2008, only seven NFL teams rushed more often than they passed. In 2009, the number fell to just four -- Carolina, Cincinnati, Jersey/B and Tennessee. Maybe this is because, as the Football Outsiders website long has contended, establishing the pass has more tactical value (because of more yards gained per attempt) than establishing the run.
This could very well be true, but I still believe at some point a team has to run the ball to succeed in the NFL. I may change my point of view sometime before I die, but not too much before that time.
There are still teams that run the ball well who do well in the playoffs. Gregg is conveniently ignoring the Jets were in the AFC Championship Game last year with the #1 running offense in the NFL and the Giants had a strong running game when they won the Super Bowl two years ago.
Maybe it's because rules changes (no contact with the receiver after 5 yards, no head slaps by pass-rushers) encourage the forward pass. Or maybe it's because linemen are now so big.
The first reason Gregg gave is perfectly understandable, the second one is not as much. Defensive linemen are bigger and so are offensive linemen. So while the bigger defensive linemen plug up the hole the running back would go through, the bigger offensive linemen could theoretically push the bigger defensive lineman out of the way and make a bigger hole I will say I am not trying to nitpick Gregg as much this year, so it is possible the fatter linemen fighting each other gives the running back less room to run through a hole being created by the offensive line. I can see this happening, so maybe Gregg is right.
Ultimately, the fads for pass-wacky offense and spreading the field might be driven by the fact that offensive and defensive linemen have gotten so big that there simply isn't as much running room inside the tackles.
Count me in as slightly skeptical of this conclusion. This is possible, but I also happen to think the advancement of the passing game and the rules that help out the offensive in the NFL have more to do with the lack of teams running the ball. Though I think much of anything like this is cyclical in the NFL and good NFL teams will still have to run the ball.
Because of this decision, Rolle lasted until the sixth round -- NFL scouts and touts thought placing education over football made him weird. What it made him is smart!
OMG! I bet Myron Rolle can understand hundredths and tenths of a second and why they are important in sports. What makes Myron Rolle smart also makes Gregg Easterbrook pretty ignorant!
But shouldn't Rolle now be listed as a graduate of Oxford, not of Florida State? He holds a master's in medical anthropology from Oxford. It is his highest degree earned, so he should be listed as, and referred to as, an Oxford graduate.
No, he should not be listed as having gone to Oxford. Myron Rolle is not using his degree from Oxford at this point and was drafted by the Titans after having played football at Florida State. He played football at FSU and was drafted to play football, therefore the Titans put FSU as where he graduated from. I think we would use the higher degree if we weren't talking about sports, but wherever a college player played the sport he is turning professional in is usually the school a team will say he graduated from.
Baltimore Ravens: Everybody's fixating on the $32 million the Redskins have paid Albert Haynesworth the past year in return for nothing. How come Terrell Suggs is getting a free ride from the media? Last summer, Suggs, a pass-rush specialist, signed a deal with $39 million guaranteed -- and he already has the $39 million, as it was a rare front-loaded deal.
Nitpick time: I don't know if he already has the money. He is getting $33.1 million in bonuses over the first two years of the contract, so that was for 2009 and 2010. He didn't even get $39 million upfront and I don't know if all that money has been given to him at this point. So Gregg's number is incorrect and I don't think Suggs already has that full balance of $33.1 million.
Suggs registered 4.5 sacks in 2009, or $8.7 million per sack.
He also missed 3 games due to injury, which was a first in his entire career. He had played all 16 games every year prior to that. Also, Suggs had hurt his toe and knee last year in training camp, and I am pretty sure those two body parts are helpful for a pass rusher to succeed in the NFL. Injuries aren't an excuse, but are a potential explanation for his down year.
This winter, with the $39 million already banked, he celebrated by skipping minicamp.
It was not $39 million, it was $33.1 million. This criticism of Suggs goes over much better when Gregg bases his criticisms on the right contract numbers.
Suggs skipped minicamp and this is just a typical Gregg Easterbrook statement that intends to mislead the reader. Terrell Suggs is in the best shape of his career and even the coaching staff notices this. So he did skip minicamp, but that doesn't mean he is out of shape or is a malcontent like Haynesworth. The comparison ends here.
Gregg loves to say something like, "Suggs missed minicamp" leading the reader to believe Suggs is unhappy or is not in shape, when that isn't the truth.
Suggs has been nearly as much of a disappointment as Haynesworth.
No, he hasn't. Haynesworth's attitude is the disappointment, not his performance. Suggs is not a disappointment because he was injured last year and has shown up ready and willing to play well this year. Haynesworth skipped minicamp and has made trouble for Mike Shanahan all along the way.
Together, they form an argument against guarantees in NFL contracts.
The NFL is the only professional sport among the Big 3 major sports in the United States that doesn't have guaranteed contracts. If a MLB or NBA player signed the contracts Suggs and Haynesworth signed, then their teams could not cut them and would usually have to pay them every last dime. Football is a much more violent sport than baseball and basketball, yet it doesn't have fully guaranteed contracts. The NBA and MLB would be better examples of why parts of a player's contract shouldn't be guaranteed.
Regardless, the Ravens come into the season looking stacked. How about some trick plays? In the 2009 regular season, they threw a few trick plays into the mix, then went vanilla in the playoffs.
They didn't need trick plays to beat the Patriots. I don't know the obsession some people have with trick plays. I don't recall the Saints, Vikings, or Colts using a great amount of trick plays last year and they did fine. If those teams didn't have to use trick plays, why should other teams have to?
See, I am using Gregg's own reasoning that if a team made the Super Bowl or AFC/NFC Championship game doing something then it is a blanket rule that "something" always works. He did it at the beginning of the column to show that the NFL is switching to a more passing league and good teams won't need to run the ball as well in the future. I obviously don't believe trick plays should never be used, but I like to use Gregg's own bizarre reasoning against him sometimes.
the Bills have wasted first-round choices on busts Mike Williams, J.P. Losman and John McCargo and spent lottery-level first-round choices on Donte Whitner, Marshawn Lynch and Aaron Maybin, all of whom, in 2009, were kept on the bench by undrafted free agents.
Which is, of course, proof in Gregg's mind that undrafted free agents are better players than highly drafted and highly paid players, but not proof the Bills are terrible at drafting good players...which is the conclusion I come to.
Now the coach is Chan Gailey, whose credentials are strong.
He is 18-14 in the NFL. He isn't a terrible coach, but I wouldn't call his credentials strong.
Last year, Edwards was the NFL's shortest passer in an ultraconservative offense, with only 11 percent of his pass attempts traveling more than 20 yards. Winning NFL teams -- New Orleans, Minnesota, Indianapolis, New Orleans -- do not play ultraconservative, as the Bills have for several seasons.
It's tough to throw deep when your offensive line doesn't block for the quarterback and there are no receivers on the roster (other than Lee Evans and Terrell Owens) who make the defense respect the deep pass. It is more of a personnel problem than a play-calling problem to me.
Ochocinco might give the best Twitter of any pro athlete.
What the fuck does "give the best Twitter" mean? You don't GIVE Twitter to someone, like it is an STD or a present.
Last season, the Bengals faced a meaningless season-finale game against the Jets, rolled over, and the next week lost again to the Jets at home in the playoffs: two losses to Jersey/B in consecutive weeks, by a combined 61-14 score. Not trying to win that season-finale game surely was a factor in Cincinnati's early playoff exit.
I am sure it was the only factor in the Bengals early playoff exit. Otherwise, the Bengals would have beaten that crappy Jets team that almost made the Super Bowl and had the #1 defense and rushing offense (wait, so teams CAN win running the ball?) wouldn't they? Those Jets would have lost to the Bengals if only the Bengals had tried harder the week before when those two teams played. Did the Eagles not try hard enough to beat the Cowboys and that is why they lost in the playoffs to them?
If Gregg's theory isn't pure idiocy then why the Cardinals beat the Packers in the Wild Card game this past year after they lost 33-7 the week before? Shouldn't they have gotten beat the next week in the playoffs since they didn't try against the Packers in Week 17?
This season, Cincinnati plays at the Jets on Thanksgiving night. The Bengals had better have that contest circled -- it could define Cincinnati's season.
I can't even comment on how stupid this comment truly is.
Cleveland Browns: What is it that new Browns president Mike Holmgren saw on tape of Jake Delhomme that no one else sees?
Delhomme is having a pretty good preseason. I know Gregg doesn't know this, but it is true.
Holmgren has continued the yard-sale ethos. The net is that Cleveland has surrendered two recent first-round choices (Quinn and defensive end Kamerion Wimbley), plus fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round draft choices, for Sheldon Brown, Peyton Hillis, Chris Gocong, Seneca Wallace, third- and sixth-round choices and a conditional pick from Denver in 2012. That's an awful lot of roster turbulence.
Does it really make sense to keep a bunch of players on a shitty 2009 Cleveland Browns team? What part of that team last year was supposed to make Mike Holmgren think he didn't need to make any changes? In fact, if Holmgren did not overturn nearly the entire roster he should have been immediately fired. Roster turbulence is great when a team is trying to get rid of shitty players and build a winning team.
this year, two high-profile quarterbacks were brought in (Tebow and Quinn)
It doesn't matter if they are high-profile if they aren't good at playing quarterback. High-profile just means they are popular players, not necessarily effective players.
while defensive starter Elvis Dumervil was granted a monster contract and almost immediately lost for the season to injury.
I am sure this was completely intentional on Dumervil's part.
Denver now has three prominent, big-salary quarterbacks on its roster (Kyle Orton, plus Quinn and Tebow), but only one established player at guard (Chris Kuper). McDaniels had four No. 1 choices in his first two drafts, and used three of four on a quarterback, running back and wide receiver. It's a lot more fun to draft quarterbacks, running backs and receivers than trench performers.
I'm nitpicking again, but for fear of defending Josh McDaniels, I have to say if he is going to get rid of great offensive players he has to try and replace them somehow. That means he has to draft or sign in free agency these replacements. He may have a shitty plan in my eyes, but it does make sense. The offensive line in Denver isn't terrible either. I don't know how much work should really have been done to the offensive line when McDaniels has stripped the offense of most its weapons.
In 2008, the final season for Shanahan and Cutler, Broncos coaches called 693 passes (counting sacks and scrambles) and 397 rushes -- 64 percent passes. McDaniels came in vowing to establish the rush, and in 2009, he and his staff called 612 passes and 420 rushes -- 59 percent passes. That's not much difference.
It actually is a fairly significant difference. The Broncos had about 5% less offensive plays in 2009 over 2008 and they called for 5% more rushing plays than the year before. It's not a huge, huge difference but there is a difference to be seen here.
The Colts have shown that a mature winning team does not need a strong rushing attack to advance to the playoffs, but the Texans are not a mature winning team.
Do you know why they aren't a mature winning team? Because they haven't won a playoff game yet. Once they win a playoff game they become a mature winning team. If this doesn't make sense to you or you don't understand what a mature winning team is, don't worry, it is gibberish.
Indianapolis Colts Last season, the Colts opened 14-0 and closed 2-3. Guess that pretty much settles the argument about whether a team that has locked up its best playoff seed should stop trying to win.
This one example absolutely proves the rule is correct. Possibly Gregg would be more correct if he mentioned the Saints also rested their players and won the Super Bowl, but he prefers just to use this one example and say it settles an argument that can never really be settled.
Then later when Gregg is talking about the Colts he says,
Reggie Wayne was criticized for dropping the touchdown pass that would have given Indianapolis a last gasp in the final minute, but why wasn't Manning criticized for his bad fourth-quarter pass that was returned for a touchdown? Why wasn't Jim Caldwell criticized for putting the Colts into the tank late in the season
I guess that doesn't settle the argument about whether a team that has locked up a top playoff seed should continue to try and win? Why should Caldwell be criticized for this if the argument is settled it was the right call?
All this bad-vibe blame assigning -- but only to lesser persons, not to Manning or the coach -- is not a good harbinger for 2010.
I guess Bill Polian should have called out his Hall of Fame quarterback for throwing a bad pass. I am sure that would have been a great harbinger for 2010.
In the past two drafts, Jax used two first-round, one second-round and two third-round choices on offensive and defensive tackles. In the previous draft, counting trades, Jax spent first-, second-, third- and fourth-round choices on defensive ends. And this offseason, Jacksonville signed defensive end Aaron Kampman to a big-bucks free-agency deal. So far, there isn't much return on the investment.
It's going to be hard for Kampman to give the Jaguars return on the investment since not a single NFL game has been played yet. Can he wait to criticize players for not playing well until AFTER the season has started?
New York Jets: Since Rex Ryan took over the Jersey/B Jets in winter 2009, you'd think the emphasis would have been on defensive trench types.
Holy shit, that's exactly what I think. He's like Bill Simmons, he always knows what I am really thinking.
You'd think wrong:
Gregg outsmarts me once again.
Jones is 32, Tomlinson 31, and tailbacks tend to tail off at age 30. But we forgot -- Jones didn't play much in his first two NFL seasons. If you use carries and receptions as a rough approximation of how many times a back has been hit, Tomlinson has been hit 3,410 times in the NFL, Jones 2,569 times. That's 25 percent fewer hits on Jones, suggesting that Jones might have more yards left in the tank. The contracts signed by Tomlinson in Jersey/B and Jones in Kansas City were similar, so in effect the Jets traded Thomas Jones for LaDainian Tomlinson. In star-power terms, the Jets came out ahead; on the field, the Chiefs might benefit, at least in 2010.
I agree with Gregg on this. Tomlinson is pretty much done I believe. If anything saves him this year it will be that the Jets offensive line plays well.
Then again, in preseason games, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has twice sent Tomlinson deep on "wheel" patterns. LT never ran deep pass patterns at San Diego, only screens and flares.
NEVER. Tomlinson NEVER ran a wheel route. All of his 3,955 receiving yards with the Chargers came on two types of passing plays.
The Dolphins tended to fade in the fourth quarter, being outscored 140-116.
They were outscored by 24 points over a 16 game season in the fourth quarter. It's not a good thing to be outscored in any quarter, but it doesn't really point out to me incredibly strongly the fourth quarter was the main source of the Dolphins problems last year or anything.
Actually, I bet Tony Sparano dressed too warmly for games and that caused the Dolphins to fade in the fourth quarter.
New England Patriots: By trading away veterans (Richard Seymour, Deion Branch) and endlessly trading down, New England attained a phenomenal 15 choices in the first three rounds of the past three drafts -- yet which of those guys can you name?
We all know name recognition is simply the best way to judge whether a player is any good or not.
The guys Bill Belichick chose with his extra selections so far have been injured or duds: Terrence Wheatley, Shawn Crable, Kevin O'Connell, Brandon Tate, Ron Brace, Tyrone McKenzie, Darius Butler, Pat Chung.
I am pretty sure five of these "duds" were drafted in the 2009 draft and have played one full season in the NFL. It's a bit early to call them duds or be too negative about them isn't?
Last season, the Flying Elvii had a severe lack of impact players, and no one from all those extra second- and third-round choices is threatening to become an impact player.
(Gregg Easterbrook looks into crystal ball, tries to see the future, but can't because five of these players haven't played more than one year in the NFL. He can't see the future, so he goes ahead and makes this prediction regardless)
The Patriots are one of the league's oldest teams;
Just to give a little more background on this, which Gregg refuses to do, the average age in the oldest and youngest team in the NFL only differs by 2.33 years. What's really important is at what positions are teams old.
Perhaps Belichick's strategy of endlessly trading down for extra picks reflects his awareness of a need to remake the Patriots roster: Belichick has banked extra first- and second-round choices in 2011, too. But if instead he had traded up for someone explosive -- C.J. Spiller, Dez Bryant -- New England's prospects might be brighter.
I think Belichick's strategy isn't the greatest strategy, but Gregg is being pretty critical regarding the makeup of a team that has gone 21-12 since their 18-1 season.
Last season, the Patriots had no offensive coordinator, with Belichick covering that post; this season, they also will have no defensive coordinator. It's Belichick, Belichick and more Belichick -- no coordinators.
TMQ has been complaining for years that NFL clubs are overstaffed at coach, since it's hard to believe a head coach needs 19 more coaches, which is how many Mike Shanahan has at Washington, including a safeties coach, a tight ends coach and an assistant coach for the special-teams coach. Belichick is veering to the other extreme.
Gregg goes to great lengths in his TMQ to point out how many pointless coaches are on staffs around the NFL, then when a coach has a small staff he complains about that. What is the optimum amount of coaches on a team that satisfies Gregg Easterbrook? I would love to know that number.
Raiders fun fact No. 4: I like the Rams over the Raiders on Sept. 19 -- because Oakland has lost seven consecutive home openers.
Of course you do. Team talent level means nothing in situations like this.
Weasel Coach Watch: Clancy Pendergast accepted a job as secondary coach of the Raiders, then two weeks later quit to become defensive coordinator at Cal. George Edwards accepted a job as defensive coordinator at Florida, then quit two weeks later to become defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. One week before training camp began, Titans running backs coach Kennedy Pola quit to become offensive coordinator at USC.
Two of these moves were promotions. I have a hard time arguing a coach is a weasel in some situations where they take a promotion.
The latest example came over the winter when Henry Holt withdrew a book called "The Last Train from Hiroshima," which contained extensive fabrications regarding the Hiroshima bombing. Holt said it did not question the book because the author, Charles Pellegrino, had "a long history in the publishing world." He does have a long history -- as a science-fiction writer!
I am not defending publishers for not doing research or Pellegrino, but he has a long list of non-fiction books he has written as well. So he isn't purely a science-fiction writer.
Why do the Chargers of late perform well in the regular season then wheeze out in January? Maybe it's the San Diego lifestyle: They want to take off the athletic tape and hit the beach. Or maybe this team lacks mental toughness. All football games are hard physically, but playoff games are notably harder mentally than regular-season games. The further into the postseason a team advances, the more important psychology becomes -- because if you lose, you are embarrassed and your season is over, whereas if you lose in the regular season, that's annoying, but maybe you'll play better next week.
Wouldn't the Chargers, if they bought into the San Diego lifestyle, have a better record in the playoffs since there is more at stake then? If the team wants to hit the beach, wouldn't this be evident during the regular season when if they lose a game, "that's annoying, but maybe you'll play better next week?"
I would think if the Chargers wanted to be beach bums that would affect the regular season more than the playoffs, since those games are less crucial according to Gregg, so therefore the Chargers would be lazier about preparing for them according to their "San Diego lifestyle."
Turner ordered the Chargers to punt from the Patriots' 36 yard line. It was the conference championship -- the Super Bowl invite game -- and the Chargers' coach quit on the game with 9:21 remaining. Plus, no one went nuts on the sideline when Turner ordered the punt unit onto the field:
How dare the Chargers not publicly question their coach's decisions in the AFC Championship game! These players should do the right thing and show up their coach.
The veteran players should have insisted on going for it.
Obviously they have the "San Diego lifestyle" disease.
Jeff Fisher has the third-most wins of any active NFL coach -- trailing Belichick and Shanahan, with an outside chance of passing the latter this year.
An outside chance of passing Shanahan? There's almost no chance. Jeff Fisher is at 136 wins and Shanahan is at 146 wins. I doubt the Titans will win 11 more games than the Redskins this year.
It's great that he has stayed in one place so long and won so many games. But Fisher hasn't won a Super Bowl -- 16 years of trying, no ring.
It's pretty clear Fisher sucks as a coach based on this.
Tim Roberts of Waxahachie, Texas, reports, "On June 28 the trailer was released for 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' Parts 1 and 2. Most of the trailer focused on Part 2's action sequences -- though Part 2 isn't set to be released until July 15, 2011. The trailer was advertising a movie that is more than a year away from theaters."
Isn't that against the law or something? I'm glad Tim Roberts "reported" this to us. Movie teasers have been misleading the public for way too long.
Tara McCook Segal of Arlington, Va., writes, "In Tysons Corner Center, just outside D.C., on Aug. 9, I took the accompanying picture. It's a Christmas store with a Halloween sign in the window: two forms of creep occurring simultaneously. Even creepier, the Halloween store sign says, COMING IN SEPTEMBER."
Has no one who reads TMQ ever heard of advertising or marketing? A Halloween store will open earlier than the week before Halloween, this is just rational business, and if a new store is coming, malls traditionally announce what the store will be and when it opens well before it does open so the public is aware and chooses to come to the store. It doesn't make business sense to secretly open a Halloween store on October 24th.
Many readers, including Laticia Gayle of Atlanta, noted that the NBA had the Heat and Hawks replay the final 52 seconds of a game after a gross officiating error.
We had this discussion last week about turning over games that were decided on the last call, but this doesn't fit the definition. Gregg (again) misleads his audience. It was not an officiating error that caused the replay of the final 52 seconds, but an error by the official scorer. The official scorer is not an official, so I wouldn't categorize it as an "officiating error," which makes it sounds like the game officials screwed the final 52 seconds up. It was the official scorer who worked for the Hawks, so you can see the problem when the Hawks benefited from his error.
Cory Soukup of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, notes, "There have been many instances where a baseball game ended and the official scorer later that day, and sometimes the next day, changed a hit to an error or vice versa. This creates precedents of game rulings changed after the game concludes."
There is a difference in changing a hit to an error, which is a call by the official scorer, and changing an umpire's call. The official scorer and the umpires are two different people employed by different groups who are held to two different standards.
Next Week: NFC preview, plus only 487 shopping days till Christmas 2011.
I can't wait. I think we should get an MLB-NFL summit together. Joe Morgan and Gregg Easterbrook talking about their respective sports...and Chris Berman can be the moderator.