Thursday, November 25, 2010

16 comments Gregg Easterbrook Makes the Starting Discovery NFL Players Have To Work Hard To Be Successful

Gregg Easterbrook is at it again with talking about how great undrafted NFL players are. Yes, there are many successful undrafted free agents in the NFL, but Gregg is out of control about the entire issue. Gregg thinks highly drafted wide receivers aren't as successful on the whole as undrafted free agent wide receivers.

Undrafted wide receiver Blair White, a walk-on in college, caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter of Sunday's tense Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots game, both times beating high-drafted safety Pat Chung. Also on Sunday, wide receiver Stevie Johnson, a seventh-round pick, caught three touchdown passes in the Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals game, twice beating corner Leon Hall, a former first-rounder. Earlier in the season, Pierre Garcon of the Colts, a sixth-round choice from Division III Mount Union, sprinted through the Washington Redskins secondary for a 57-yard touchdown reception, past defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry, both high first-round choices from football-factory colleges.

All players get beat at some point in their career. Hall, Chung, Landry, and Hall are all good NFL players. It is ludicrous to take these certain plays and make it look like these guys aren't good players. I hate it when Gregg Easterbrook does this shit.

These plays, in a nutshell, summarize a core fact of NFL life: Receivers who were unknowns early in their NFL careers often outperform megabucks glory-boy high-drafted types.

Absolutely untrue. Possibly over small sample sizes undrafted players may beat higher drafted players, but on the whole highly drafted players are better wide receivers than undrafted wide receivers. Higher drafted players tend to be better performers than undrafted free agents on defense. Yes, there are outliers, but as a rule this is true. Just look at any list of the best players at each position in the NFL and you will see more high draft picks than undrafted free agents. Gregg is lying and misleading his readers...again.

Among NFL receivers having fine seasons are Danny Amendola, Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Davone Bess, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Lance Moore and Wes Welker, all undrafted. Other top receivers include Marques Colston, Donald Driver, Garcon, Johnny Knox and Kevin Walter, all late-round draft choices from below-the-radar colleges.

Let's take a look at the list of receiving yardage leaders in the NFL right now and note where they were drafted. My readers are smart so I will just let the evidence explain itself without (much) comment:

1. Brandon Lloyd: 4th round
2. Roddy White: 1st round
3. Terrell Owens: 3rd round
4. Reggie Wayne: 1st round
5. Andre Johnson: 1st round
6. Hakeem Nicks: 1st round
7. Mike Wallace: 3rd round
8. Santana Moss: 1st round
9. Miles Austin: undrafted
10. Steve Johnson: 7th round
11. Calvin Johnson: 1st round
12. Dwayne Bowe: 1st round
13. Marques Colston: 7th round
14. Jeremy Maclin: 1st round
15. Greg Jennings: 2nd round

There is one undrafted player in the Top 15 and eight 1st round players. "Often" isn't how often undrafted players outperform highly drafted players. The same goes for defensive players. Look at the leaderboard in regard to statistical categories. Highly drafted players are all over the leaderboard in every category.

By contrast, you'd quickly run out of fingers counting recent first-round football-factory receivers who either were busts or failed to live up to their billing. Charles Rogers, Troy Williamson, Matt Jones, David Terrell, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Clayton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ashley Lelie, Reggie Williams, Koren Robinson -- not even TMQ has room for a full accounting.

How many undrafted players didn't make it in the NFL? How many undrafted players get a shot and don't make it. Yes, higher drafted players get more chances, but that's beside my point. The list of undrafted players who don't make an impact in the NFL is in the upper hundreds to early thousands. Gregg has no point. There are wide receiver 1st round busts, no one would argue otherwise.

Why do small-school and low-drafted NFL receivers excel where glory boys falter? In most cases, the answer is ego and work ethic.

Right. Everyone has to work hard in the NFL. Why do highly drafted players succeed more often than undrafted players? Gregg can't answer this question because he doesn't believe the question is even true.

And in the NFL, if a receiver doesn't block, he doesn't play. In college, glory-boy receivers often take running downs off.

Yet another misleading lie. In college, the "glory-boy" receivers are in the game most of the time. I would love for Gregg to attempt to present evidence to the contrary, which I would accept, but he doesn't do this, as usual. He makes a blanket statement that, if true, he makes no attempt to back up.

The "TM" in TMQ must stand for "Totally misleading."

In the NFL, only Randy Moss gets away with this. And Moss, a high-drafted megabucks type, hasn't exactly had a positive effect at New England, Minnesota or Tennessee this season.

Moss was very successful in New England this year until he got traded.

At Buffalo, Johnson beat out high-drafted football-factory wide receiver James Hardy, who was waived.

The football factory James Hardy is from Indiana University. The same Indiana University that is currently 4-7 and this "football factory" has been to 9 bowl games since 1968.

If you were an NFL coach and saw two receivers on your sideline -- one a high-drafted complainer who expects a limo waiting for him, the other an undrafted guy who works, works, works -- who would you send in?

Obviously you would send in the player who works hard. There's nothing like Gregg taking two extremes to try and prove his point. Gregg works in using generalizations. All undrafted players work hard while all highly drafted players are lazy. Sadly, 10% of his readers fall for his bullshit on a weekly basis.

Williams is in shape, working hard and saying "Yes sir, no sir" to coaches. He's becoming the player he might always have been -- if he'd attended Mount Union and been drafted late. Williams provides further evidence that how hard a player works -- not how much hype he receives -- is the secret to success as an NFL receiver.

Gregg Easterbrook is an absolute idiot. He is pretending as if he discovered the biggest secret in the history of the NFL. Yes, the players that work the hardest AND have the most talent will do the best. This is painfully obvious.

Favre leads the league with 17 interceptions -- and maybe he wouldn't be throwing to the wrong place so often if he'd bothered to attend training camp for the past two seasons. Favre also has lost five fumbles; 22 turnovers in 10 games by the starting quarterback would doom any NFL team. The Vikings are last in the NFL in turnover differential -- and Adrian Peterson hasn't fumbled this season! Yet Childress is scapegoated while Favre floats above it all. The Metrodome crowd chanted, "FIRE CHILDRESS!" They should have chanted, "PROTECT THE FOOTBALL!"

Gregg has a good point here. I have to acknowledge it when it actually happens.

In December, the Bengals were among the league's power teams: now they are on a 2-10 streak and continue to expend more energy boasting than performing.

The Bengals were 10-6 in 2009 and had a weak offense. They were easily knocked out of the playoffs by the Jets. I wouldn't call them a power team last December.

With Cincinnati leading 21-7 in the second quarter, the Bengals' Johnathan Joseph intercepted Fitzpatrick and had a clear path for the pick-six that made the lead 28-7. Joseph began celebrating wildly at the Buffalo 15, waving his arms and strutting. The game is far from over, your team is mired deep in a losing streak, and you're celebrating wildly?

Gregg bitches when a player celebrates after scoring a touchdown while being down 28-7 or after scoring a touchdown to put his team up 28-7. Every week he complains a team that is losing celebrates after scoring a touchdown too, so he doesn't believe a player should ever celebrate a touchdown. That's the only conclusion I can come to.

Celebrate after you win, not in the second quarter. The football gods retaliate against this sort of thing. After the point that Joseph taunted the Bills, Buffalo outscored the home team 42-3.

No word from Gregg on why the Bills weren't punished for Steve Johnson celebrating a touchdown by pulling his uniform up to display a quote from the movie "The Dark Knight." Apparently the football gods don't mind this type of celebrating at all. Plus, Johnson is an undrafted free agent, so he can do whatever the hell he wants and Gregg won't criticize him.

In other football news, the San Diego Chargers are ranked first in offense and first in defense, yet their record is 5-5...What have these clubs done to earn the wrath of the football gods? The Giants don't have cheerleaders, so we know what their transgression is. The Chargers … you tell me.

Special teams. That's the problem with the Chargers. This has been documented probably 1,000 times this year. I don't see why this is even a question for Gregg. I guess he just doesn't pay attention enough to what is going on. It's a simple answer for the Chargers struggles. Special. Teams.

Hosting Indianapolis and the game scoreless, Bill Belichick -- the Patriots have no offensive coordinator -- sent Welker down the middle for a 22-yard touchdown catch. Welker never goes deep; the Colts were so surprised, Welker was covered by only the middle linebacker. Sweet.

Never. Wes Welker NEVER goes deep. This is the first time he has ever run a deep route. This column should be called "NFL Generalizations" because that's all it really ever consists of.

Once 5-3, Tennessee has lost its past two games; Jeff Fisher and Vince Young are arguing openly; this sudden negative energy field around the Titans can't have anything to do with Randy Moss arriving, can it?

Yes, Randy Moss has fucked up the aura of the Titans. It has nothing to do with the football games being played but it is the ch'i of Randy Moss, the same Randy Moss that helped lead the Patriots to an 18-1 record in 2007, that has fucked the team up and could not possibly be anything else.

Everyone knows a player wearing 70, Penn's number, cannot line up in an end's position and then catch a pass first without reporting eligible. But it's perfectly legal for a player wearing 70 -- or any number from 50 to 79 -- to line up as an end, and then block. An offense could field an entire seven-man line consisting of players wearing numbers from 50 to 79 and they would not need to report to officials, so long as they only blocked for rushes. That Penn went to the officials to report as eligible -- something unnecessary if the play was a power rush -- should have cued San Francisco that the call was a trick play to Penn. The Forty-Niners were clueless, which was sour.

Perhaps, just maybe, the 49ers thought the Bucs had reported Penn as an eligible receiver to confuse them and make them believe it was a throw and not a rush. It's called strategy and if the Bucs didn't report Penn as eligible, it would have stated exactly what the play was going to be. Common sense and strategy dictate they should report Penn as eligible to confuse the 49ers.

As Jersey/B lined up from the Houston 48, Texans' cornerbacks, knowing the Jets had no timeouts, should have played on the outside shoulders of Jersey/B wide receivers, to keep them away from the sidelines. Forcing any action to the center of the field, where the clock would keep ticking, would doom the host's comeback. Yet not only did Houston corner Jason Allen line up right across from Edwards as though this were a standard down -- Allen, busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play, let Edwards roar past him on a go route.

Maybe it was a zone defense? Has Gregg never heard of a zone defense? NFL teams don't play man-to-man on every snap. Why does this man get paid to write about the NFL and he doesn't seem to understand it completely? WHY?????

Just a thought -- what if the Eagles tried running Oregon's blur offense with Michael Vick?

Just an answer/question--why would the Eagles run a different offense when the one they are currently running with Vick is working? Just another answer/question--why would the Eagles want Vick running the ball more and increasing his chance of injury?

Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl has been suspended for eight games and docked $300,000 per year in salary. His offense: "Pearl acknowledged in September that he misled investigators about photos taken of him and recruit Aaron Craft, when Pearl improperly hosted the prospect at his home in 2008. Tennessee also revealed Pearl and his staff made excessive calls to recruits." Phone calls! Had his picture taken! Oh my god!

There are rules for a reason. When a coach breaks those rules then it may give him an unfair advantage. Gregg has to see how this makes sense.

The Tennessee Board of Trustees doesn't seem to care, the SEC doesn't seem to care, the Tennessee boosters don't seem to care and the NCAA doesn't seem to care. Why should public universities or the NCAA care about education? But recruiting violations are serious stuff, since they could interfere with Tennessee's ability to win games and make money.

Tennessee funds other sports at the school with the money received from the football and basketball programs. So making money is good for the whole school. Gregg is confusing his arguments by saying schools should care more about grades rather than recruiting violations. Schools can do both. Punishing Pearl for violating recruiting guidelines doesn't mean no one cares about education. It's not an "either/or" situation.

While other teams spread the field, Stanford showed a double tight end triple-back I-formation on some key downs Saturday, while Wisconsin ran behind the tackles the way Oregon throws the bubble hitch. The Badgers blew Michigan off its own field using conventional tactics; the Cardinal blew Cal off its own field in the same fashion.

Maybe this tells us that players are more important than schemes.

Maybe? Players are as important as a scheme. They go hand-in-hand. There isn't a hell of a lot of "maybe" about this. Players running the scheme well is uber-important. Again, this isn't a great revelation.

The blur offense works because Ducks players are so fast, the Wisconsin offense works because the Badger offensive line is the nation's best, the Stanford offense works because the Cardinal players have an excellent overall mix of strength and skill. Football coaches mystify themselves by suggesting that esoteric knowledge of tactical details is the key to victory. Good players are the key to victory. Would you rather have the best scheme or the best players?

Honestly, I would rather not even have to discuss this. It just seems so elementary to me. Football coaches do need to use strategy, but the right players to carry out that strategy is important as well. Teams that have a great scheme and players to execute that scheme well can succeed. Good players and a good scheme are essential for a good team. The fact Gregg feels the need to point this out worries me about his football knowledge.

The final season has begun on DirecTV, migrating to NBC in the spring. Perpetual seniors Julie and Landry finally graduated,

Anyone who watches the show knows that Julie and Landry were sophomores when the series began and the series chronology matches up with them graduating in the 5th season and going to college. The seasons of Friday Night Lights aren't actual different football seasons on the show.

Then Gregg complains about Friday Night Lights some more and doesn't seem to realize it is a fictional show.

TMQ tracks the Crabtree Curse: Mike Singletary is 8-5 without Michael Crabtree and 8-14 with him. Matt Kerr of Adelaide, Australia, asks, "What about the Dez Dilemma? Without Dez Bryant at Dallas, Wade Phillips was 33-15 and earned the Cowboys' first postseason victory in 15 years. With Dez Bryant, Philips was 1-7 and fired. When Bryant came to the Cowboys and started getting away with little things like refusing to carry a vet's shoulder pads because he thinks he is above this, that had to harm team chemistry."

Is Gregg going to ignore that Dez Bryant has had something to do with the Cowboys 2-0 record since Jason Garrett took over?

The Cowboys are 2-0 under Acting Temporary Interim Provisional Semi-Coach Jason Garrett. How long until a Dez Dilemma sets in?

I guess Gregg will ignore that Dez Bryant had something to do with those victories. The only Dez Dilemma should be how to get him the ball more often. Mostly, Gregg shouldn't make up fake theories and then ignore that his fake theories are not only fake, but false.

Bachman and Turner -- combined age 134 -- sing at halftime of the Grey Cup, making recent geriatric Super Bowl halftime rock acts seem spry by comparison.

I still can't believe ESPN pays him to write this column every week.


HH said...

And in the NFL, if a receiver doesn't block, he doesn't play. In college, glory-boy receivers often take running downs off.

Yet another misleading lie. In college, the "glory-boy" receivers are in the game most of the time.

I think you're misreading TMQ here. What he means was that star college receivers don't try very hard to block on running downs, not that they sit out the play on the sideline. I believe this to be false, of course, but not in the way you read it.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, thanks for pointing that out to me. I did misread that. I thought he meant they came off the field at that point, which I found to be incorrect.

I misread that. College wide receivers don't always block the hardest on running downs. So it wasn't misleading at all. I stand corrected.

Chris W said...

That said, there are certain NFL WR's who are known for being great run-blockers and certain NFL WR's who are known for being mediocre run-blockers. And it very rarely has anything to do with their value as WR's. Yeah it's nice that Hines Ward is an excellent blocker, but he's a star because he's a great WR, not because he's a great blocker

Martin said...

And for all his love of Garcon, the wide out has had a pretty bad season actually. He's dropped a lot of balls, and not fought particularly hard for others on some deep routes. That's just games I've seen.

Football Outsiders has him rated the 84th of 85 receivers who've had 35 or more passes thrown to them. Dude has gotten open on some bombs, but with Gregg, it';s praising some guy for hitting a dozen 480 foot homers and not understanding that his .200 batting avg and 250 obp really aren't helping the cause much.

Bengoodfella said...

Chris, you are right as well. Gregg is just looking for ways to criticize the "glory-boy" wide receivers that he seems to greatly dislike. For example, he puts Terrell Owens down as a great WR from a small college, but Owens' specialty isn't run-blocking, though from what I have seen he isn't terrible at it. Gregg just seems to have a hard time evaluating players when they are high draft picks.

Martin, once Garcon makes a great play then Gregg will be sure to immediately mention it and talk about how he beat a highly drafted player. He will take one play and make it representative of the skill level of each player.

That's not great...84th out of 85 receivers who've had 35 or more passes thrown at them. Gregg would only mention that if Michael Crabtree had that ranking.

ivn said...

As deadspin pointed out, lazy football-factory pretty-boy Ashley Lelie and gritty lunchpail hero Davone Bess actually came from the same football program. nice research, TMQ.

and there are 64 players taken in the first and second rounds each year; there are about 200 taken afterwards and lord knows how many undrafted players each year. of course there are going to be more successful players from the latter group. the math is fairly simple.

a line like "the Stanford offense works because the Cardinal players have an excellent overall mix of strength and skill," is such a copout; you can say that about every successful offense. it tells us absolutely nothing about Stanford's team. in fact, you could almost argue that schemes do matter a lot in college. over the past 20 years Nebraska and Wisconsin have been incredibly successful running teams (well, mainly the 1990's/early 2000's for Nebraska) but how many successful NFL running backs did they produce? how many successful NFL quarterbacks have come out of Hawaii or Texas Tech? remember how Ty Detmer, Andre Ware, and David Klingler fell flat on their face in the pros?

it seems preposterous to make a blanket statement that "players matter more than schemes." I know I'm not the first to wonder if Joe Montana would have been as successful a quarterback without Bill Walsh. I remember specifically that Warren Sapp--an incredibly talented defensive lineman--was unstoppable as a three-technique in Tampa's 4-3 but awful as a 3-4 defensive end in Oakland. a talented player on his own is pretty worthless without a scheme that accentuates his particular skills.

Jeff Fisher and Vince Young are arguing openly; this sudden negative energy field around the Titans can't have anything to do with Randy Moss arriving, can it?

hasn't Vince Young always been a little immature? I seem to recall him refusing to re-enter a game two years ago.

Welker never goes deep; the Colts were so surprised, Welker was covered by only the middle linebacker. Sweet.

the Colts weren't "so surprised" because "Welker never goes deep." Welker lined up in the backfield as a modified H-Back and went into motion before the snap; the only Colts defender who could cover him was a linebacker. the Patriots created and exploited a mismatch in the defense, it wasn't like the Colts thought, "eh, Welker never goes deep. fuck it, throw a linebacker on him and let's call it a day."

Matt Kerr from Adelaide, Australia, is probably the only person on the planet who thinks Dez Bryant has had a negative effect on the Cowboys. the truth is, they had a very talented team...three years ago, and they haven't done much to improve it since then in terms of schemes or personnel. you can see it in their offensive line and you can see it in how predictable their defense has been. and it isn't Dez Bryant's fault that no one in their defensive back seven knows how to tackle.

Anonymous said...

NFL all-time recieving yardage leaders:

Jerry Rice-1st round
Tim Brown-1st round
James Lofton-1st round
Marvin Harrison-1st round
Randy Moss-1st round
Isaac Bruce-2nd round
Terrel Owens-3rd round

No too many late picks there.

I undersatnd theres guys like pierre garcon and colston, but Gregg is acting like 1st rounders are useless, when in reality, they usually pan out alot more

ivn said...

also, it's kind of sad that TMQ is ESPN's voice of reason when it comes to Brett Favre. "TMQ" and "voice of reason" should never be synonymous.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I didn't see where Deadspin pointed that out. Obviously, I should have probably pointed it out as well.

I thinks schemes and players go hand-in-hand. I would think the scheme means more in college. Nebraska was a great running team, but they only produced, in the 90's at least was really Ahman Green. They actually put more successful D-lineman and O-lineman in the NFL than 90's than running backs.

I've always wondered how Montana would have done in a different system. I don't take anything away from him, but it is something I think about. Same thing with Jerry Rice...

Vince Young has always been immature in some ways, it's not just Randy Moss. He refused to re-enter a game and I have read some stories a/b how he doesn't practice as much as he should.

I'm glad you saw that play by Welker. I didn't see it, but Gregg can't seem to grasp the concept of a team setting up a good matchup in the passing game and it isn't necessarily that the opposing team didn't cover that player.

There's no way Dez Bryant is bad for the Cowboys. No way. He's been great for them this year and he has a great future in the NFL. It's stupid to think he has been bad for the Cowboys or there is a "curse" b/c he is on the field.

Anon, I didn't do all-time leaders, but you just help prove my point. That's what irritates me most about Gregg...he can't seem to understand there are good UFA players, but most of the great receivers were high draft picks.

I am actually concerned I agree with TMQ on Favre. I may need to re-think my position.

Martin said...

As Podcast guy, I'd like to recommend Rich Eisen's NFL Podcast, available on iTunes or Eisen is a great host, and does a good job on these podcasts. Interviews players, analysts, celebrity fans. He just started this season, and I've enjoyed it a lot while driving in the car.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich Eisen? Really? I wouldn't expect that to be very good. I had a chance to listen to some Bill Simmons podcasts this week and they weren't that bad. I will have to check Eisen's out then.

Martin said...

With Simmons you have to pick and chose. Try and avoid the ones where he's picking lines or interviewing his buddies. Ones with real guests are pretty good. You don't like eisen on NFL Access? I think he's really good. His podcasts tend to be of the "Randy Moss got traded...again! Jay Glazer, Mike Lombardi...what the hell's going on?" and then gets out of the way.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I don't have NFL Network and isn't that what NFL Access is on? I wish I did. The Simmons podcasts weren't bad, I will try to avoid the ones you suggested though.

Martin said...

Ohhh, yes it is. I'm sorry. I get it free with FiOS. It's a good channel. Not as good as what the NFL keeps trying to get cable companies to pay for it, but nicely in behind MLB Network.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, I do love me some MLB Network, but for some reason my cable provider won't seem to get NFL Network. I guess my cable bill isn't high enough to justify it.

Anonymous said...

Geesus, reading your drivel is ridiculous. The point of the argument of late round/undrafted players is that a good player can be found everywhere. It is not a slight on 1st round picks, who are EXPECTED to be good and are being paid to help the franchise. And because of the money they are paid, they can feel a sense of entitlement.

TMQ is a great column, the best football column around. You are an idiot for critiquing, and if it was so horrible, how come you dissect the column every week. Please answer THAT question for me.