Monday, December 20, 2010

15 comments Gregg Easterbrook Solves the Patriots Offense For Us

Last week Gregg Easterbrook solved college football's athletic department money crisis, by not solving the crisis at all. This week he figures out the Patriots offense and knows exactly why the offense works so well. It's Gregg Easterbrook, it's TMQ, and it's terrible. I will mock him accordingly and point out just how wrong/terrible he truly can be.

Sunday's snowstorms -- the Metrodome collapsed, blizzard conditions at Soldier Field -- remind us that alone in team athletics, football is a sport performed in the elements.

Of course pretty much anyone who has ever gone to a football game knows this to be true already, but for those who believe outdoor stadiums are not subject to the elements, then yes this was a reminder to them.

Picking a nit...teams that play in domes generally aren't subject to the elements. This was an outlying case where a team had a dome and had to deal with the elements.

Most team sports are indoors most or all the time.

Except for soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and many other team sports.

Baseball clubs retire to Florida and Arizona in winter to train in ideal conditions, then call their games -- racing for shelter -- over anything more than a sprinkle.

Not exactly. It takes a pretty good downpour to get a game postponed, and even then the umpires will wait a while before calling a game for good. It's good to hear Gregg doesn't pay attention to many other sports.

Partly this tell us that by practicing outside, Belichick has learned the dynamics of bad-weather football. In snow, it's hard to rush the passer, because defensive linemen cannot get traction.

Of course this is also true with wide receivers, cornerbacks and possibly even with running backs. They all tend to start running from a position of standing still, making it hard to get traction. I can see Gregg is getting ready to try and prove a point though, so he is making an assumption that will lead his later point to be true...

Twice in the first half, Flying Elvii facing third-and-long, I counted, "One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five," with no rusher near Brady as he threw for the first down.

The Patriots should have had a hard time rushing the passer as well...unless the players have learned how to get traction because they practice in the snow. But theoretically, the same problems the Bears pass rush faces, the Patriots pass rush will also face.

In snow, when footing is bad, it's difficult to change direction -- so throw down the middle. Don't throw sideways patterns like outs, and forget sweeps and tosses.

If it is hard for the receiver to change direction, then it is also tough for the defender to change direction as well. So because the defense and offense are at the same disadvantage, it possibly should not make a difference what kind of routes the receiver runs...assuming the quarterback can still throw the ball well in the snow of course.

Guess what the Patriots did, and guess what the Bears did.

I'm guessing the Patriots only ran down the middle and ran NO patterns like an out route. I'm guessing Gregg believes the Patriots didn't run one single out route the entire game...despite the fact in his "Single Worst Play of the Season--So Far" section, he describes how two Patriots ran curl routes. So, he contradicts his own self concerning this issue.

What's making the New England offense work?

Gregg Easterbrook is going to break down and figure out the Patriots offense for me. I can't wait to read it.

Variation. The Patriots vary their tactics week-to-week more than any other NFL team. Most defensive coordinators study an upcoming opponent's past couple of games. With New England, this is a mistake.

This is a mistake? So what is a coordinator to do to prepare for New England? If preparing for them based on their previous couple of games is a mistake, what's the correct way to prepare for New England? We don't get this answer because Gregg doesn't know. Even the Patriots have tendencies, so film study is probably still a good idea.

Protecting the football. New England leads the league at plus-18 in turnovers and hasn't committed a turnover in five games, which is spectacular.

I'm pretty sure protecting the football is part of every NFL coach's game plan. This isn't exclusive to New England. They are just good at holding onto the ball. That's one of the differences in them and other teams right now.

Undrafted free agents.

You're an idiot. It is not undrafted free agents that are making the Patriots offense work, it is players that play well, who also happen to be undrafted free agents.

The Patriots started five players who were not drafted or were waived at least once; the Bears started two such players.

A player who was waived is not even close to the same thing as a player who was undrafted. Players are waived for reasons that may not have anything to do with performance. We talk about this every year at this time when Gregg makes an "unwanted" list, but he can't seem to grasp the concept of a salary cap.

At the NFL level, in many cases a guy chosen in the first round has perhaps 10 percent more talent than a guy who just misses being chosen, such as Welker.

I can't even grasp the enormity of the bullshit behind this statement. There's no way to even measure how much talent a player has in the first place, and along with this, there are much, much more high draft choices who are at the top of the leaderboard in every single individual statistical category. I am not sure this statement could have been more wrong.

10% more talent difference in players who are drafted in the 1st round and those who are undrafted free agents? Even the players in the 1st round who aren't stars play at a higher level than a large percentage of undrafted free agents do. This is assuming you could even measure talent outside of the statistics a player puts up.

But high-drafted megabucks players tend to devote a lot of time and energy to complaining, while the undrafted give you what they've got.

This is a complete stereotype. Making a blanket statement that megabucks players tend to complain is incorrect. Yes, there are players who are drafted highly who complain, but there are many more that do not.

Undrafted or unwanted players learn the playbook and watch film. High-drafted glory-boy types think they can just show up and wing it.

There is a reason Gregg is able to highlight the teams that have undrafted players that play well and he can't really list the highly drafted players that play well. It is because there are more highly drafted players that play well than there are undrafted players that play well. If this statement above by Gregg is true then there would be as many successful undrafted players as there are highly drafted players.

Working with humble players allows Belichick to nearly eliminate the blown assignment.

It must be nice to see the entire world through a narrow focus by using blanket statements that are untrue. It just seems more simple to me.

Belichick uses sets with double pass-catching tight ends, a tactic few NFL teams show. Catches by the tight end drive safeties crazy and make other things possible.

Deep analysis here. You can see why Gregg gets paid the big bucks. In fact, I would say he is a megabucks columnist who whines all the time and doesn't want to put in the work to write his weekly TMQ.

But this being the Patriots, there's a dark side. In 2007, Belichick admitted to years of what seemed to everyone except him as cheating. If New England returns to the Super Bowl, the sports world might have to relive Spygate -- including the unresolved questions of why Belichick wouldn't come clean until forced, and why he never really apologized.

Why will the sports world have to relive these questions that have already been answered from 2007? Probably because the sports media will constantly bring this old news story up and make the public re-live Spygate. It's like they can't help themselves at all. They just have to bring it back up at every opportunity, even though it is clear the public doesn't seem to care that much anymore.

If the Patriots win this year's Super Bowl, people might wonder if they are cheating still.

No, we won't. Lack of proof of cheating isn't proof of cheating.

Many football enthusiasts, including in the league front office, might not mind if the Patriots are knocked off early in the playoffs, and Spygate: The Sequel doesn't happen.

So Gregg Easterbrook has just spent 1/6 of his column telling us and giving us the reasons as to why the Patriots are a superior team to the rest of the NFL. Now he is saying there is a chance they are cheating and that is how they are as good as they are. I'm not sure how I can justify these two positions. Either the Patriots are cheating and that's how they are superior to other teams (very unlikely) and all the reasons Gregg just gave for their superiority are false, or the reasons Gregg just gave are in fact correct and the Patriots are just a really good team.

Just in case the Patriots aren't scary enough -- they are holding two picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2011 draft.

I bet they cheated to get those picks too!

If John Heisman, who was a center and tackle for Brown and Penn before going into coaching, were alive and playing today, there's no chance he could win the award that bears his name.

I bet he wouldn't understand how we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway either. The irony!

TMQ thinks the best college football player of 2010 was left tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin, recipient of the Outland Trophy.

But Carimi is going to be drafted high in the NFL Draft and become a lazy megabucks player who complains a lot! That's what all high draft picks do, isn't it?

Carimi made the 2010 Academic Big Ten team, which means at least a 3.0 GPA. Does Newton have a decent GPA? Maybe,

Why do the research and potentially prove that he is in fact wrong? It is best to be ignorant and assume you are right to prove a point, rather than do research and possibly have to face the fact you are wrong.

"Philip Rivers should win the MVP award this year because he has at least 3,000 passing yards. Does Tom Brady have as many passing yards as Rivers? Maybe. Is Brady more important to his team? Possibly. Is being the most valuable player on your team a big part of the criteria for winning the MVP? It's debatable. Let's not do too much research and focus on how many passing yards Rivers has and that is why he should be the MVP."

Instead, to the Heisman voters, integrity and academic performance have become irrelevant. All that matters is hype and ratings.

If hype was important, then that undeserving piece of shit Mark Ingram would have not gotten the Heisman Trophy last year and the massively hyped Ndamukong Suh would have won the award.

Place-kicker Jay Feely of Arizona scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, then later kicked a 55-yard field goal. It was the first NFL touchdown by a place-kicker in a decade. Arizona facing fourth-and-2 at the Denver 5, the holder simply flipped the ball to Feely, who ran around right end. The Broncos had lined up with an "overload" rush to the offensive right -- surely something Arizona saw in film study -- and had no contain on the outside.

Gregg Easterbrook whines and moans about why teams don't try to block punts more often...this is why. Denver went hard after this field goal attempt and opened themselves up to Arizona running a fake. The same thing could happen on a punt attempt. This is one of many reasons why a team doesn't try to block every punt attempt.

When an extra Cincinnati offensive lineman entered the game at the goal line and Whitworth lined up as a tight end, reporting eligible, the normally sharp Steelers defense did not guess what that meant.

Or they thought that, you know, an extra offensive lineman would mean the Bengals want to run the ball. The tackle reports as a strategy to make it look like the Bengals may run or throw.

Flaming Thumbtacks corner Cortland Finnegan, who's a lot better at starting fights than playing football, had man coverage on Reggie Wayne, who ran a simple "go." Rather than keep his eyes on the receiver -- proper technique for man coverage -- Finnegan made the high school mistake of looking into the backfield trying to guess the play.

Perhaps the Titans were running a zone defense? This is possible. Gregg is too busy trying to make a point to think about this.

Looking into the backfield not only is fundamentally poor, it shows Finnegan is lazy. He was hoping to see that the Colts' call was a draw or something short, which would allow him to quit on the play.

So the lowly drafted, hard-working Corteland Finnegan got beat on the play by highly paid, lazy, complaining 1st round pick Reggie Wayne? Is that what Gregg is reporting? Notice how Gregg failed to mention these player's draft positions? It's not a coincidence.

Instead, Mike Shanahan sent out the kicking team for a singleton to force overtime. This is fraidy-cat thinking: If Shanahan goes for two and the play fails he is blamed; if he does the expected and kicks, the players are blamed for any loss. Beyond that, it was plain dumb given the game situation. Struggling Redskins place-kicker Graham Gano already had missed a 24-yard field goal attempt and barely made his sole PAT kick. The odds of a blown PAT here -- what happened, of course -- were much higher than usual.

Yes, but the odds of a successful PAT is much higher than 65%, which is the odds of a successful rushing attempt in this situation (according to Gregg). So just playing the odds it makes more sense to kick the PAT.

Gano will be waived soon, if he hasn't been already, and Shanahan will blame him for the loss. Shanahan should blame his own poor decision.

So by relying on his kicker to make a PAT, Mike Shanahan screwed up? Trusting his player to make an easy kick was a big mistake? Rather than relying on his offense to score a 2-point conversion? If Donovan McNabb drops the ball from center on the 2-point conversion does Mike Shanahan deserve blame for that too?

It wasn't the only Shanahan bungle of the day. Leading 10-3, Washington ran a snap on second-and-goal from the Bucs' 2 with 1:05 remaining in the first half, holding one timeout. The play was stopped for no gain. Shanahan then watched the clock tick all the way down to 20 seconds before calling his timeout. This made no sense; it told the City of Tampa defenders that the play on third down would have to be a throw into the end zone, which is what happened.

Incorrect. The Redskins could have run the ball and had time to get set for another quick play in that situation. It made sense to run time off the clock so the Buccaneers could not have time to score.

Trailing defending champion New Orleans 14-6 with 1:30 remaining before intermission, Les Mouflons reached second-and-4 on the Saints' 15, holding all three timeouts. New Orleans was in a conventional Cover 2. Sam Bradford, who's playing well for the most part, saw a receiver running a curl "released" by the cornerback. He telegraphed the pass, and New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had lined up deep in the end zone, cut in front of the intended receiver, Brandon Gibson, and went the distance for a 96-yard pick-six, turning the contest into a blowout. The Rams went into the locker room at halftime without having called any of their timeouts. A timeout before the interception might have given the rookie quarterback a moment to settle down.

This is complete second-guessing. The only way to know Bradford needed to settle down was by knowing he would thrown an interception on the next play. If the coaching staff didn't know that they would not have known to call a timeout to get Bradford settled down. That's like saying the Colts should have called timeout before Manning threw the pick-six to Tracy Porter in the Super Bowl. They should have predicted the future and then known to calm Manning down!

To top it off, when Tennessee got the ball back trailing 30-21 -- two scores -- with three minutes on the clock, the Titans threw only dink-and-dunk short passes, reaching the end zone on the game's last snap to make the final Indianapolis 30, Tennessee 28. Sounds like a close game; it was not. Down two scores in the waning moments, Tennessee had to throw long to have a chance of a touchdown followed by a recovered onside kick.

But if there is no one open, then why throw the ball deep and risk an interception? I get it, they do need to take a chance, but there's no point in taking an unnecessary risk and throwing an interception if there isn't a reasonable chance the ball wouldn't be intercepted.

The Texans seemed finished when trailing the Ravens, a power-defense team, by 21-0 just before halftime. Results of the next five Houston possessions: touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, the last including a deuce conversion with 21 seconds in regulation to force overtime. The Texans staged fourth-quarter touchdown drives of 99 and 95 yards, and without big plays: Houston's longest fourth-quarter gain was 23 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Nevermores rushed three or four, didn't blitz, kept their safeties deep: the Texans endlessly completed intermediate outs and comebacks.

So Gregg Easterbrook, a guy who constantly talks about how blitzes are terrible, thinks the Ravens should have blitzed MORE instead of dropping more men into coverage? This is completely contrary to everything he suggests in his column every week. It is guaranteed that if the Ravens had blitzed, then Gregg would criticize them for running a mega-blitz.

Exhaustion seemed the theme of last night's fourth quarter. Ravens' pass-rushers had no push, giving Schaub time. Regulation ended with Baltimore holding two timeouts -- why didn't John Harbaugh use them on the Texans' final drive, allowing his defense to catch its breath?

So strategically it makes sense to give the offense time to switch personnel and put 1-2 plays together? Remember, the offense catches its breath also during a timeout and the Ravens would have possibly been doing the Texans a favor by giving them time to discuss what effective plays might be.

Had Schaub taken the sack, the game would have ended on a safety; if he'd grounded the ball, the same. Houston offensive linemen Mike Brisiel and Chris Myers looked exhausted as they barely brushed Ngata, who shoved them out of his way.

So maybe that is why Harbaugh didn't call a timeout, the offensive line for the Texans looked tired.

Oakland leading 24-14 in the third quarter at Jacksonville, Jags star tailback Maurice Jones-Drew ran twice, then left the game for a breather on third-and-2. Long John's defenders seemed to relax with Jones-Drew out -- and allowed backup Rashad Jennings to run 74 yards for a touchdown. Often, defenses relax when an offensive star jogs off.

Of course. This is commonly known. This isn't bullshit at all.

On the play, tackle Eugene Monroe and backup wide receiver Jason Hill had terrific downfield blocks.

Would that be highly-paid, whiner, 1st round pick Eugene Monroe? I believe so. I guess he took time away from being overpaid and lazy to make a great play.

Game tied at 31, Jax had first down on the Oakland 30 just inside the two-minute warning. Jones-Drew went up the middle untouched for the winning points as backup middle linebacker Ricky Brown, starting for the injured Rolando McClain, was seriously out of position.

That would be undrafted free, hustling, hard working Ricky Brown that was seriously out of position.

In the Stanford-Notre Dame contest, Marecic became the first Division I football player in five seasons to score an offensive touchdown and a defensive touchdown in the same game. Plus he's got a 3.5 GPA in biology. No one has ever been a better "all-around" college football player than Marecic.

Owen Marecic is the best all-around player ever. This of course depends on your definition of "all-around," which of course Gregg just assumes means "a player who can play different positions on the football field" and not necessarily the best player who can do multiple things at a high level.

I noted many big colleges have more staff in the athletic department than in the English department. Matt Howland of Penn State replies, "I think your comparison of ratios with employees serving the football team and the English department serving the entire student body is flawed. The proportionate amount of time needed to teach one student in one English class is tiny compared to the amount of time football players and other athletes spend preparing to compete. I think a more fair comparison is relating the English staff to English majors, rather than to the entire student body."

Matt Howland, you made the exact point I made last week. You are clearly a genius and a scholar. You are also exactly right.

That's more than I generally say for Gregg Easterbrook.


Anonymous said...

"Just in case the Patriots aren't scary enough -- they are holding two picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2011 draft."

- Why would that be scary of undrafted players are better then early draft picks....?

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, touche. I guess we should be more scared of the Patriots if they didn't plan on drafting any players and just wanted undrafted players from this upcoming draft.

Fred Trigger said...

Its nice that the pats have all these undrafted players, but cmon. Jerod Mayo, Pat Chung, Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, Logan Mankins, Matt Light, its not like they are The Replacements.

Did anyone see Dan Connelly's run last night? How do you let that happen? He has played C before and he makes a 71 yard return? Craziness....I noticed Bill Simmons tweeted that is now one of his top 10 pats plays of all time. I dont know about that. I know off the top of my head that at least 3 of the top 10 memorable plays would have to involve Vinateri FG's.

Bengoodfella said...

Fred, Gregg Easterbrook is incapable of seeing the players on the roster who are first and second round picks. He is blind to those. All he sees are undrafted players, because that's all he wants to see.

I did see Connelley's run. That was insane and I am embarrassed for the Packers they let him do that. I don't know. You Pats fans would have to tell me if that is a top 10 play. It was really cool, I am not sure if it would crack my Top 10 though.

Anonymous said...

The Patriots offensive line is generally the one of the best in the league. Of course Greg won't mention them because generally Belichick drafts Oline early in the draft

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I have noticed how Gregg doesn't talk about the offensive line too much. I know he has mentioned the line a few times, but he mostly talks about the guys who catch the ball and are undrafted FA.

Gregg isn't going to bring up any issues that may contradict what he is trying to say. He doesn't work that way.

Anonymous said...

It was a nice play but Bruschi ripping the ball from the colts in the playoffs, Troy Brown tearing the ball out of Vincent Jacksons hands in the playoffs, At least 5 AV FG's. Troy Brown blocking and returning a FG against Miami.

All ahead of Connollys return in my mind

Bengoodfella said...

That play by Bruschi was clutch. I remember that one. Those other plays I remember as well, but those are also just from the past decade. I am sure there are more Patriot highlights that would be above Connolly's...not to take anything away from it because it was awesome.

That's actually a good idea for a post. The Top 10 plays in a franchise's history.

Nunyer said...

I am a shameless TMQ reader. It's not that I don't see the warts... Like his handful of recurring themes that he picks at the start of every year and then beats mercilessly into the ground... or all the fuzzy retardo logic... or his elitist claptrap of how everything would be better if only power could rest with smart guys like himself...

Well, really, now that I'm writing this, I don't have any single good reason to read TMQ or recommend it to anybody else. But I still enjoy it every week. I think I must be a sucker for obscure college scores and learning about how NASA squanders money.

That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog take him to task for previously mentioned fuzzy logic.

Dylan said...


That's how we all feel. It's something you just cannot turn your eyes away from. It's like a car crash when every car slows down. You know you shouldn't slow down and potentially looking at dead bodies is something you don't want to see, but you can't help it anyway. Now maybe that example was a little extreme, but hopefully you get my point.

Also, thanks for the kind words about the blog. While I only started writing for it a few weeks ago, I know Bengoodfella appreciates it as well and hopefully you'll continue reading our rants and ramblings.

Nunyer said...

He could make perfectly valid points using measured, reasonable arguments... but he goes so overboard, any merit is lost in his onslaught of fuzzy logic and overstretched comparisons. I almost think he is doing it on purpose just because he knows most of us will be driven crazy reading the columns. I am fairly certain he has occasionally stated that blitzing can provide positive benefits for a defense... but it's a shame that reasonable-TQM is drowned out by 15,000 examples of "stop me before I blitz again!".

I suppose now that I reflect on his work a little more, I genuinely enjoy his non-football related utopian pontifications about how fucked up everything is and how it should all be better. He presents this stuff in the typical fashion of somebody you'd want to slap in the mouth at a dinner party if you were forced to listen to the same dissertation in person... But at least it makes me critically think beyond "Christ, this guy is a hack" like I would with Wociechowski or Mariotti.

Bengoodfella said...

Nunyer, I guess I am a TMQ reader too. Of course I only read it because I cover it all week. I don't cover it too much, but he does say some things I agree with. He is right about helmet safety, his view on Brett Favre, and a few other things. If he would stick to not criticizing as much of the NFL coaching moves/plays and all of that, I don't think it would be a terrible column.

Thanks for reading and I really tend to only focus on the stuff I don't agree with when it comes to Gregg. His column is so long I try to keep it short and so I go with the negative only. I'm like the nightly news in that way.

For me, what is the biggest irritant is the way he talks about undrafted players and how he seems to have these hard and fast rules about the NFL, but will ignore them when convenient. I do appreciate his research on NASA and all of the other well-researched items he puts in his columns. Sometimes I wish he would do more of that kind of research on the actual NFL part of the column.

His "unwanted" column is easily my least favorite. I'm not sure it is even a contest.

Bengoodfella said...

You are right that I wouldn't consider Gregg Easterbrook to be as bad as Mariotti overall. He was just terrible. The only reason he got hired by AOL was because so many people hated him they would read his column just to hate him.

Nunyer said...

Oh yea, the "undrafted" player thing has always been a little pet project of his, but this year he has elevated it to full blown obession. I think when it's all said and done, he wants all of America to kick Danny Woodhead in the balls purely out of spite.

And don't get me wrong, I get what you guys are laying down here and I'm really enjoying it. I'm certainly not trying to say you need to play thumbs up or thumbs down with every statement from every column you feature. From what I've read, you all appear to be pretty much even-handed. I don't even recall how I found this place a few days back, think it was linked in a comment section on ESPN... But when I first started reading, I was expecting just brutal hatchet jobs... and that's not what this is at all. Taking columnists to task for lazy thinking and general hackery is a rather noble service in today's sorry state of hit count attention whore writers.

Bengoodfella said...

Nunyer, I like undrafted players as well. It is an obsession with Gregg and he blows it out of proportion by mentioning every single time an UFA does something positive and ignores it when they do something negative. He always compares them to higher drafted players and I believe in his head he thinks UFA are better players than highly drafted players. As pointed out before, the Patriots keep accumulating picks in the Top 100 so while they seem to like UFA they see value in highly drafted players.

I like Danny Woodhead and think he is a great story. I agree it is an obsession, and he does have a point sometimes, but he goes overboard.

I did a hatchet job a few years ago on Cliff Corcoran and he actually commented and took me to task. I learned at that point I was diluting my point by being petty. I try to stick to the principles of what they are writing and not try to be overly mean or mock them for their mere existence in the world. Sometimes I succeed.

We would probably have more hits if I was exceptionally brutal or called people more names...or maybe people would see how terrible I was at it and stop reading all together. Thanks for the niceness.

Sometime I am too evenhanded. I hated the Mike Shanahan hire for the Redskins but didn't want to rail him and now I should have.