Thursday, December 2, 2010

10 comments Gregg Foresees a Colts Decline In the Future...Doesn't Foresee His Own Idiocy

After last week's startling revelation that NFL players have to work hard in order to be good players, Gregg comes back this week with a discussion of what is wrong with the Colts. After all, they lost a game on Sunday, so there has to be something wrong with them. Nevermind the injuries they have suffered this season to key players or any other logical reason for why they may be struggling, it's probably because that same offensive predictability which Gregg has lauded in the past is now a bad thing. Like most things in Gregg's world, something like the Colts offense is perfect and works well until it doesn't work well, and then there is a huge problem that needs to be fixed. Gregg must not realize sometimes the scheme a team runs is dependent on good players running that scheme.

Four seasons ago, these Colts won the Super Bowl. Just nine months ago, they held the lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. For the past eight seasons, the Colts have won at least 12 games, one of the top achievements in NFL annals.

Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and others on this team, including at least Dwight Freeney and Dallas Clark, will be considered to don the garish yellow jacket in Canton. Yet the home crowd was booing, and loudly.

Three of these four players are first round picks. Since this is TMQ, and he loves how the Colts find undrafted and lowly drafted players to perform well for them, I thought I would add this. Of the four Hall of Fame-type players Gregg listed, three of them are highly paid first round picks that Gregg flogs on a weekly basis.

Stretching back to kickoff of this past February's Super Bowl, Indianapolis is 6-6.

What's wrong with the Colts? Here is TMQ's take:

Injuries and a lack of talented depth at some key positions in order to continue to be a Super Bowl contending team. It's that simple. Now that you have heard the logical reason for why the Colts are struggling, let's hear some illogical ones.

Manning has always been so efficient that it didn't seem to matter if the Colts endlessly ran the same looks from the same formation. Now it matters.

For years, Manning has rarely been sacked or hurried; he's accustomed to a clean pocket. When he's hit, he becomes antsy, and in 2010, he's being hit. Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick -- these quarterbacks seem to like chaos and excel when the pocket breaks down.

Because when I think of quarterbacks with great scrambling ability, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers immediately stand out. Manning has also been rarely sacked or hurried because he is very good at moving around in the pocket to avoid a sack. I'm not sure Drew Brees or Rivers actually likes the pocket to break down.

Ryan Lilja. After the Super Bowl loss, Colts general manager Bill Polian openly blamed the offensive line, which was a mean-spirited thing to do -- win as a team, lose as a team. He made guard Ryan Lilja the scapegoat, waiving him. Lilja was the Colts' best run-blocker, but Polian didn't care about that;

The Colts were last in rushing in 2009. The lack of a quality running game isn't to blame for the Colts woes this year. The Colts have waived good players before and developed other players to play behind that player. That's what they are known for and Gregg compliments them on doing this week after week. Of course, now it is a bad thing since the plan isn't working.

Oh, how the Colts now wish they still had Lilja.

Possibly true. The Colts also wish they had Anthony Gonzalez, Gary Brackett, Bob Sanders, Dallas Clark, a healthy group of running backs, and healthy wide receivers. Of course I am sure it is solely the loss of the run blocking Lilja that has screwed the Colts up.

Polian is good at assembling NFL teams but wore out his welcome at Buffalo and Carolina, in playoff years in both places, because he's so hard to take. How much longer 'til he wears out his welcome in Indianapolis?

Polian has been there since the 1998 season. I have a feeling he is going to be there as long as he wants to be. He left Buffalo and Carolina voluntarily, so it is not like he was forced out at either of those spots.

Dallas Clark.

Gary Brackett.

Yes, it is injuries to key players that are screwing the 6-5 Colts over. In fact, I don't know how they have managed to be 6-5. Gregg takes these injuries as a sign the entire team and offensive game plan are defective and must immediately be fixed.

But the spoiled, booing Indianapolis spectators ought to cheer while they can because this franchise might be entering a cycle of decline.

Assuming most of Peyton Manning's weapons get injured next year, and you call this a decline, perhaps this is correct. Otherwise, it is a bad year for the Colts in regard to injuries and this has affected the team's performance. Bottom line.

Now, the Flaming Thumbtacks have lost three straight; they're playing a befuddled third-string quarterback; coach Jeff Fisher and star Vince Young are openly arguing; corner Cortland Finnegan looks like a horse's behind; and, on Sunday, the Titans were shut out by the league's 31st-ranked defense.

This can't possibly have anything to do with the arrival of Randy Moss, can it?

No, it has absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of Randy Moss. It has more to do with the immaturity and breakdown of the relationship between Jeff Fisher and Vince Young. Cortland Finnegan got in a fight with Andre Johnson, that's all.

Finnegan was a lowly drafted player, which is a point Gregg conveniently leaves out. If it were DeAngelo Hall or any other highly drafted player he would be sure to bring up that player's draft position in this discussion.

Moss was sent packing in October by the Patriots, who are now 9-2 and are looking solid without him. He arrived at Minnesota, accomplished nothing but causing discord, and was waived. Since Moss arrived at Tennessee, the Titans have gone into an 0-3 nosedive

I guess Gregg is still conveniently the times the Patriots were very good with Moss on the roster and the Vikings had discord going on before and after Moss was on the team.

In college football news, the weekend could not have gone better for BCS proponents. Oregon and Auburn are now ideally positioned from the BCS perspective: If both win their finales, there will be no doubt they should be paired for the title.

Except for that whole "TCU is still undefeated thing," it all worked out really well for the BCS. Also, except for the whole "the Big East gets a BCS bid" thing, it worked out really, really well for the BCS in that respect too. So the good news is the BCS screwed up the other BCS games and not just the National Championship this year. Progress!

Oregon and Auburn both lose. Chaos. TCU would finish first in the BCS rankings and meet one of several possible schools, including Stanford. Your columnist would be on the first plane to attend a TCU-Stanford national title game, pitting an outsider small college against one of the few major football programs that actually requires players to attend class. Backers of Oregon, Auburn, Wisconsin and Ohio State would go nuts if the championship were TCU-Stanford. This scenario would provide the amusement value of football-factory types maintaining that it is somehow unfair that schools where the students study are playing for a football championship -- and this scenario would give ammunition to the argument that the top of Division I needs a playoff.

I am sure that is the exact argument that would be used. OSU, Oregon, Auburn and Wisconsin would publicly come out and complain a school that makes its football players go to class are in the National Championship game. How about the fact there is a possibility for three undefeated teams...that doesn't mean there should be a playoff? Or this should at least be looked at as a possibility?

But consider: The Big East winner, with at least four defeats (there's a chance the conference will produce a 7-5 champ) will attend the BCS party, while Michigan State at 11-1, LSU and Arkansas at 10-2, and at least one of Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, all highly ranked -- aren't invited. Which means this year, the BCS format will harm some football-factory cartel members.

So West Virginia and Pittsburgh are not "football factories?" They have a chance to win the Big East this year as well (or at least West Virginia does).

The football gods will chortle.

Because it is better to have an undeserving team make a BCS game rather than a deserving team where Gregg Easterbrook proclaims the student/athletes don't study?

With the score tied at 3 with three minutes remaining before intermission, Baltimore had second-and-10 on its 35. The Nevermores came out with two tight ends, suggesting a power rush, a common Ravens action. But the extra tight end was Dennis Pitta, a pass-catching tight end; the Ravens don't have a blocking tight end on their roster this season.

None of the Ravens tight ends are capable of blocking at all. This is a fact that can't be disputed. I'm going to start calling statements like this Easterbrookian facts. These would be facts that really can't be proven and are used as blanket statements so a point that may or may not be true can be proven as true by Gregg.

That should have tipped defenders to expect a throw.

Exactly. Because Pitta is physically incapable of blocking. He has no clue how.

Just before the snap, tight end Todd Heap shifted from a slot-back set onto the line while the wide receiver on his side stepped off the line into the backfield to make Heap eligible. In reaction to this common shift, all three City of Tampa linebackers changed positions. I watched the tape several times and have no idea what the Bucs' linebackers were thinking.

"We have a defensive play called that involves us shifting when these offensive players shift. Our coach has called some sort of zone man defense or something that is intended to confuse the offense. We probably should obey the play call and not ignore what the coaches want us to do."

I'm assuming that's what they were thinking. Gregg probably thinks these defensive players were moving around for no particular reason, which would be a safe assumption if a person knew very little about football.

At the snap, Heap simply ran a seam, every tight end's favorite pattern, and was covered by no one for a 65-yard touchdown.

EVERY tight ends favorite pattern. No tight ends like any other pattern the best.

With first-and-goal against Tennessee, score tied at 0, the Texans came out in the three-TE power set,

Were these blocking tight ends or tight ends that have no clue how to block? This is important in Gregg's analysis.

The blocking back went in "slide" motion right, to the side with two tight ends, cueing the defense that the action would be a blast right. Instead, it was a play fake: One tight end went into the right flat, drawing the safety on that side, while tight end Joel Dreessen ran into the end zone uncovered. This sweet touchdown set the Texans' shutout win in motion and kept their postseason hopes alive.

Didn't the Titans know Dreessen is a pass catching tight end? What idiots!

With St. Louis leading 33-20 in the fourth quarter at Backgammon Field, the Rams had third-and-goal against the Broncos. Rookie Sam Bradford rolled out, saw no one open and simply threw the ball away. Often simply throwing the ball away is the smartest move a quarterback can make. On the next snap, Les Mouflons kicked a field goal that would prove to be the game's winning points.

That's pure genius! It is a great move by Bradford, but I am not sure it is worth a mention in TMQ. The Rams were up 13 points in the fourth quarter on a third-and-goal. Halfway decent quarterbacks throw the ball away, so this isn't an extraordinary play.

Tim Layden notes in the fine new book "Blood, Sweat and Chalk" that Don Coryell taught quarterbacks, "I will never complain when you throw an incompletion." Interceptions are disasters. Sacks are problems. Incompletions? We'll just make it up later.

To a point. A quarterback has to complete a pass or take a chance at some point during the game. Taking a sack isn't always a bad thing. Sure, it involves a loss of yardage, but if a quarterback is in the pocket then he may not be able to throw an incompletion.

With Jacksonville leading 20-17 with three minutes remaining at The Stadium From Which You Can See New York, the Giants faced third-and-10 on the Jax 32. The Jaguars blitzed seven -- both an invitation to score an easy touchdown and puzzling, given that Jersey/A was already on the edge of field goal range. Easy 32-yard touchdown to Kevin Boss, who wasn't covered by anyone.

The Jags were on the road and probably wanted to make the Giants kick a longer field goal or keep them out of range to avoid going into overtime on the road. I am sure they had their reasons. If this had worked, Gregg would not have questioned the blitz. He only questions the outcome, not the strategy used.

Now Jax, trailing 24-20, has first-and-10 on the home team 29 just inside the two-minute warning. The Giants run a choreographed blitz on which Osi Umenyiora, the right end, sprints straight up the field and allows the Jacksonville left tackle to drive him behind Jax quarterback David Garrard -- an action that opens a lane for safety Antrel Rolle to come through unblocked for the sack. Normally, a left tackle who drives the right end behind the quarterback has won the down; in this case, Umenyiora was cooperating to leave a lane for Rolle. Garrard was sacked on each of the next two snaps, closing out the contest. So blitzes themselves aren't bad -- but there's smart blitzing and dumb blitzing.

So this was smart blitzing, using a safety to blitz, which Gregg tells us nearly every week is a stupid thing to do. This is as opposed to a dumb blitz. I know everyone is dying to know the difference. I will tell you. The difference is that a dumb blitz doesn't work and a smart blitz does work. It all depends on the outcome. It's a pretty stupid way to judge whether a blitz is smart or not, but it is the way of Easterbrook.

With Oakland leading 14-10 late in the first half, the South Florida Dolphins faced third-and-10, beyond field goal range. The Raiders blitzed seven, and an easy completion to the Oakland 20 set up a field goal, helping spark the visitors' comeback win. Why mega-blitz when the opponent isn't in field goal range? Just play coverages and get an incompletion.

It's that fucking easy. Just play coverage, give the quarterback plenty of time to throw the ball and he will throw a guaranteed incompletion. See how simple it is? Of course a logical person may say, "but Gregg, what if the quarterback throws a complete pass because he isn't pressured, so his team gets a first down and the team manages to get in field goal range anyway?" Well, that wouldn't happen in Gregg's world.

Angie Hernandez of Alexandria, Va., reports, "Every year I make my pilgrimage back to El Paso, Texas, my hometown, for Christmas. On November 24th, I got an email from Southwest Airlines headlined, 'A reminder about your upcoming trip to El Paso.' One month before the trip."

What shitty customer service! Shouldn't they send this email the day before the trip? Why would a company want to keep in contact with a customer before his/her flight?

TMQ dislikes that the Spider-Man movies have given Peter Parker far more powers than he had in the comics. Spidey in the movies can fly and can shoot unlimited amounts of web (we never find out where the web material originates), whereas the comic-book Spider-Man could swing short distances and use his web shooter only occasionally (two or three shots used up the fluid in tiny tanks strapped to his wrists).

Why can't the fictional movie stay completely true to the fictional comic books? There has to be SOME realism between two completely fictional stories, doesn't there?

Since Nick Saban joined the ranks of weasel coaches, TMQ hadn't rooted for Alabama. I did on Friday because I am suspicious about Auburn, a school that has shown favoritism to football players in the recent past. No accusation regarding Cam Newton has been proved, and it may well be that he has done nothing wrong. But if he and Auburn have nothing to hide, why has coach Gene Chizik taken a "how dare you criticize us" stance, lashing out at the media?

Because he wants to believe Auburn is innocent and didn't do anything wrong and is tired of the criticism? It has been a pretty big story and I am sure if you are the head coach of a team that could win the National Championship you don't want your best player's attention diverted.

If he calmly presented the reasons Newton should be believed, he'd be credible. Instead, Chizik gets angry and denounces the media. Funny -- he doesn't denounce the media when they laud Newton or hype Auburn football.

He doesn't denounce the media in that situation because he believes the media to be correct in their hyping of Auburn. Really...Gregg can't see the difference in Chizik's reaction to the media accusing his school of recruiting violations and the media covering his team with a positive slant?

Back to Saban, who screamed at players repeatedly on the sideline as the Crimson Tide lost their 24-0 lead, and the game, to Auburn. Screaming is a sure sign of poor coaching. Saban screamed at the punter after a shanked punt. Did he think the punter intended to shank the ball?

No, he's screaming because the punter obviously didn't listen to the coaching (in the mind of Nick Saban) he received or else he wouldn't have shanked the ball. Someone needs to tell Bill Parcells that screaming is the sure sign of bad coaching.

Trailing San Francisco 14-3 in the second quarter, the Arizona Cardinals faced fourth-and-inches on their 40. The Cardinals, at 3-7, would run up the white flag on the season if they lost this game. They're playing at home on "Monday Night Football." Their opponent, also 3-7, is one of the league's worst teams, and its star, Frank Gore, has left the game injured. If the Cardinals are going to change their 2010 fortunes, it's got to be now.

If the 49ers have lost their best offensive player and are a bad team, wouldn't it make sense to not give that team the ball at the 40 yard line? Assuming the Cardinals didn't believe they could get the first down on the fourth down play, it makes sense.

What I really want to know is, where's all the talk about the Crabtree Curse this week? That's right, the 49ers won so Gregg doesn't bring that up.

Trailing 28-20 in the fourth quarter, fifth-ranked LSU faced fourth-and-3 on its 39. As the punt boomed, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook. When LSU next saw the ball, the Tigers were down by 11 late in the fourth quarter and it was panic time.

LSU punted the ball and Auburn got a field goal, clearly proving they could move the ball well against LSU. Why would LSU give Auburn a chance to get the ball even closer to their own end zone? So even in retrospect it kind of made sense to punt the ball and not give Auburn a short field. Maybe LSU should have gone for it here, but Gregg always pretends like there isn't an argument to be made against going for it on fourth down in some of these situations when this isn't true. It may have been a chicken move, but it was defensible.

Under the rubric Unified Field Theory of Creep, TMQ noted that the Mercedes "Winter Event" sale began in mid-November, six weeks before the solstice marks the arrival of winter in North America, and ends on Jan. 4, just after winter starts. Brian Holland of Dublin retorts: "Mercedes is a German company, and for Germany, winter is considered as beginning on Martinmas or St. Martin's Day, 11 November. In past centuries, this was the day by which farmers were to have completed their preparations for winter: women would work only indoors beginning on this day, while men would work only in the forest because the fieldwork was finished and the meat animals had been slaughtered for preservation. The United States is rare in thinking that winter begins around Christmas. In most of Europe, winter is thought to happen from mid November to mid February."

In your face Gregg Easterbrook. So there is no creep, it's the United States that is out of touch with when winter actually begins.

Mark Marriott of Brookfield, Wis., adds, "When Favre threw 29 interceptions in 2005, he blew up the Packers and got the head coach, Mike Sherman, fired. In 42 games of 2005, 2008 and 2010, Favre threw 68 interceptions and got three head coaches fired. Not to mention 1999, when he threw 23 interceptions and got head coach Ray Rhodes fired." Obviously, if Favre throws picks, the only possible explanation is that the team's coach has failed to kiss Favre's feet!

This is not exactly true, but I still like the Favre-bashing with this comment. I am sure there were other factors that got some of these coaches fired, so it wasn't all about Favre...much to his own dismay I am sure.

Single Worst Play of the Season -- So Far: The Eagles are talking return to the Super Bowl. On their opening possession at Chicago, facing third-and-8, Michael Vick danced in the pocket trying to buy time for a receiver to get open and was sacked, setting the tone for what would become a loss. On the play, after their initial blocks, all five Philadelphia offensive linemen stood around doing nothing, not even attempting to help Vick, just watching him try to evade defensive linemen -- all four of them unblocked at that point.

I'm not sure if this play happened exactly like Gregg mentions it did here. I would imagine one of two things happened. Possibly, the Eagles linemen did not move towards Vick because they couldn't have moved fast enough to help him or possibly they didn't want to block one of the defensive linemen because they didn't want to be called for a block in the back or holding on the play.

TMQ notes that it's surprisingly common, during an NFL down, to find a player who is doing nothing at all, just standing there watching.

This is another Easterbrookian fact. Sure, it may happen, but many times if a player is standing around not doing anything there isn't much for him to do on the play or the play is taking place away from him. Now Gregg has me defending lazy football players. Great.


Dylan said...

If our friend Gregg ever watched LSU before, he would know that Les Miles is the ultimate risk taker. Faulting him for punting once when he routinely runs fake field goals, punts, reverses and trick plays on 4th down is like telling Rex Ryan that his blitz packages are not creative enough. Further proof that Gregg makes his judgments based on out of context opinions to support his flawed arguments. He may think that he has many leather-bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany, but it does not.

HH said...

Gregg, November 1:
Just before the snap, tight end Todd Heap shifted from a slot-back set onto the line while the wide receiver on his side stepped off the line into the backfield to make Heap eligible. In reaction to this common shift, all three City of Tampa linebackers changed positions. I watched the tape several times and have no idea what the Bucs' linebackers were thinking.

Gregg, October 26:
Defenses: Don't race to get back to the same spot. Jump around. Vary your positions pre-snap. Allow front-seven players to move of their own volition, if that's all you can signal in quickly. Gamble by shifting pre-snap.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, they don't call him the Mad Hatter for no reason. He's a very risky coach, I wish I had mentioned that. I love to watch LSU games b/c of the tricks he pulls.

Nice Anchorman reference.

HH, that I believe is a direct contradiction. He has absolutely no consistency in what he believes or what he writes. It's ridiculous.

Martin said...

Shouldn't the Rams have gone for the touchdown on 4th and Goal? The field goal only put them up by 16, while a team that goes for it shows that they want the game more and even if tehy don't make it, the enemy is pinned deep in their own territory. Or so I've thought i read from Gregg about 10k times in the last 5 years.

ivn said...

I believe that TMQ said also that Gary Brackett was "largely unknown" or something to that degree, which is true to people who don't watch football. I fucking hate that sportswriters assume that sports fans don't know the top players on a given team, especially a team that's as part of the national NFL discourse as the Colts.

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, you are right. The football gods should have punished the Rams b/c they failed to show they wanted to turn around the losing culture.

Ivn, I hate that too. Brackett was only (arguably) the most important defensive player on the Colts last year. He is unknown to people who don't follow the NFL closely, as are many other players.

HH said...

In "defense" of TMQ, he does work for ESPN which doesn't give a rat's ass about guys like Gary Brackett. For example, there are three separate "Brady vs Sanchez" articles regarding the Monday night Jets at Patriots game. A game that will be defined by guys like Kyle Arrington sticking on Santonio Holmes, or Kyle Wilson covering Wes Welker in the slot. ESPN, and much of the sports media, hype individual players (because they want to appeal to the "casual" fan who only knows of 6 players plus whoever they drafted in fantasy two years ago). Real fans know much more. Gregg's failure here is merely symptomatic of ESPN's star culture.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, that is a valid point. I have to admit this. It's easier to hype the players everyone knows and it is also a bit lazier. No one wants to hear how the Patriots have to stop the run to force Sanchez into throwing situations or anything like that.

I should realize more often that I am in the minority and follow sports very closely. Most people probably don't follow sports to the extent I do.

HH said...

Actually, Bengoodfella, the maddening part is this: real fans read columns on Casual fans don't. The column is written for real fans who know who Gary Brackett is but they're talked down to like they're those people in sports bars who aren't going to think about how the Patriots will generate a passrush. Gregg is probably surrounded by people who aren't real fans and takes this to be his audience, but trust me, if you're trudging through 3000 words on the off-chance that Gregg will give you an interesting stat (the only useful part of TMQ is that he presents interesting facts and statistics that are otherwise difficult to locate), you are the kind of person who knows who Gary Brackett is.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, I can see that. I didn't mean that I was smarter than anyone else. I am not sure if it came off that way, but I just re-read what I wrote and it sounded like I thought I was a genius.

Anyway, I see your point. If you read all this crap, you have to be a person who likes football and are willing to trudge through the mess to get to the good stuff. I wonder why he writes like he does then?