Monday, September 12, 2011

4 comments TMQ: Mel Kiper, Gregg Easterbrook, and Hates You

Gregg Easterbrook has decided he doesn't do enough to irritate his reading audience on a weekly basis, so he calls for help in the form of Mel Kiper. You would think Mel Kiper would talk about the NFL Draft, but he can do so much more than that. He discusses the weight of NFL players in the olden days compared the weight of NFL players currently in the NFL. Actually, he only talks about the weight of offensive and defensive linemen. Much like last week's safety discussion, this is an expanded topic that Gregg has brought up previously. I'm not sure he really has anything new to add, yet he types a thousand of words in this week's TMQ on the topic. Oh yeah, there are also haikus about each NFL team.

Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys, star defensive tackle of the 1970s, member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame: What a joy it was to watch him play!

I feel joyous just thinking about it.

White played defensive tackle at 257 pounds, across from centers weighing 240 or 250 pounds and guards who were considered huge if 265. Last year's Super Bowl featured defensive tackles B.J. Raji (337 pounds) and Casey Hampton (330 pounds) versus guards Chris Kemoeatu (344 pounds) and Josh Sitton (318 pounds). Either guard would have steamrolled Randy White as if he wasn't there.

Players are bigger now than they used to be. Point taken...but Gregg feels the need to extend this point into a really long column basically regurgitating the same information that leads to the conclusion "players in the NFL along the defensive and offensive lines are bigger than they used to be." Quarterbacks and linebackers are also bigger due to the more effective weight-lifting regiment many NFL players follow, but I guess that isn't as interesting of a storyline for Gregg.

As for today's biceps: Your Honor, I call to the stand America's leading expert on these matters, Mel Kiper Jr. Everyone assumes today's football players are bigger, faster and stronger than those who came before. But what does the data show? No one is better suited to answer that question than Kiper.

Because when I think of the topic "NFL players and their weight issues" I think of Mel Kiper as person #215 I would interview on this topic.

Kiper became the first successful draftnik, creating an entire professional category that had not existed before.

He essentially created a job for himself. We hear this story every year when the NFL Draft comes around. Get to the repetitive information about how big NFL players are now and then come to no conclusion about what this information means.

"Speed hasn't changed that much," Kiper said. "Deion Sanders and Barry Sanders were among the fastest players ever, and they both came out 22 years ago, in 1989.

Of course since Gregg will be comparing the weight of players from the early 1970's, like Randy White, to today's player it would be nice to know if the speed of players has increased during that time as well. You know, to compare apples to apples if speed is going to be discussed in any fashion. The weight of players on the offensive line has changed since the 1970's, but I would venture the speed of the players has changed during this time as well. It doesn't really matter in the end because Mel Kiper just throws the speed aspect into the discussion and then nothing more is heard about it. If Kiper wants to say player's speed hasn't changed much over time, that's fine, but please compare Sanders and Sanders to the fast players from the 1970's as part of an overall discussion on how weight is unchanged and speed isn't...or don't bring the topic up since it doesn't really have a reason to be in the current discussion.

One of the most famous offensive lines of all-time, "The Hogs" weighed the following:

Russ Grimm: 273 pounds
George Starke: 260 pounds
Jeff Bostic: 268 pounds
Joe Jacoby: 305 pounds
Mark May: 295 pounds
Jim Lachey: 294 pounds
Raleigh McKenzie: 290 pounds
Mark Schlereth: 282 pounds

I'm not arguing players on the offensive line aren't heavier now, but in the late 1980's and early 1990's the players on the Redskins offensive line would have been much heavier than Randy White as well. This isn't a completely new thing and it is greatly attributable to weight training in my opinion.

From 1979 to 2011, the typical top-five offensive tackle enlarged from an average of 6-foot-4, 264 pounds to 6-foot-6, 314 pounds. From 1979 to 2011, NFL-bound centers enlarged from an average 6-3, 242 pounds to 6-4, 304 pounds. In the same period, guards enlarged from an average 6-3, 250 pounds to 6-4, 317 pounds.

I would love to know the statistics on linebackers and other players on the field as well. Are they heavier than they used to be? Gregg won't give us a frame of reference, instead he chooses to give out information without a frame of reference to compare it to other NFL positions. He and Kiper choose to compare the speed of players from two players in the 1980's as proof the speed of the game hasn't changed when comparing 2011 offensive and defensive linemen to 1970's offensive and defensive linemen. I need a better frame of reference, which of course I won't get.

Another point that Gregg mentions:

The change is in the trenches, where the lineman have gotten much bigger and stronger."

includes the assumption that many people know muscle weighs more than fat. So again, I am not saying offensive and defensive linemen aren't too fat, but it takes Gregg a while to admit the players are stronger without directly mentioning how the additional muscle may impact their weight.

The offensive line of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the NFL's perfect team, averaged 262 pounds. Today every Division I college offensive line averages well more than 262 pounds.

Does the offensive line of every D-I college offensive line average more than 262 pounds? Is this a true statement or a speculative statement designed to seem like it has a factual background. That’s what so frustrating about TMQ. Gregg hasn’t done the research on this issue and he is just making an assumption and passing it off as fact. It very well could be true and I wouldn’t doubt it. Why not go to lengths to prove its truth if you make the statement though?

And 264-pound offensive tackles? Last Friday, I watched the opening game of my local high school's season.

For the cheerleaders. Gregg went to watch the high school cheerleaders. He just happened to see a football game as well.

Kiper's numbers: From 1991 to 2011, top-five offensive tackles increased from an average of 22 reps of 225 pounds to 26. Top-five guards increased from 22 to 29 reps. Top-five centers increased from an average of 21 to an amazing 30 reps. A generation ago, coaches put quick, crafty players at center. Today centers are muscle-bound specimens.

So as I wrote a little bit earlier, the weight gains by NFL players is due to the increase of lifting and muscle-building exercises that players take part in. All this information basically says, “NFL players lift more weight and are stronger than they used to be.”

Roll Kiper's numbers together and here is what you get: Today's offensive linemen are on average 24 percent heavier than those of 1979, plus an average 31 percent stronger than those of 1991.

Some of the increase in football size traces to improvements in nutrition and training. It is possible to carry 300 pounds in a healthy manner.

Anytime a person weighs over 300 pounds it is hard to carry it in a healthy manner, just like it is also hard to carry 250 pounds in a healthy manner as well. I know where Gregg is going with this, but it is taking a loooooong time to get there, and (spoiler alert) we just have this information thrown at us with no real conclusion.

The result is bigger, stronger football players at all levels of the game, in an arms race that shows no sign of slowing.

There is a troubling side to all this. That the No. 1 sport in a nation with a childhood obesity epidemic celebrates and rewards weight gain is a public-policy aspect of football that no one has yet to address.

And guess what? Gregg isn’t going to address it here either! So Gregg has taken up 1000 words telling us players are heavier and stronger in 2011 than they were in the 1970’s, introduces the problem of obesity into the discussion, and then moves on to a different topic. It’s a pretty typical Easterbrook move.

A number of months from now when a heavy NFL player dies young, Gregg will link this column saying he warned us all that would happen when he didn’t do anything of the sort. He told us players are stronger and heavier and players are getting too fat…then got on to more pressing issues like haikus. He could easily have included a part with the "expert" opinion of Mel Kiper on how this excess fat and muscle affects a person in the long and short-term, but he chooses not to for some reason. Very frustrating for the reader.

Imagine a thought experiment -- the 1966 Green Bay Packers, winners of the first Super Bowl, play 2010 Carolina Panthers, last season's worst NFL team. The 2010 Panthers would blow the 1966 Packers off the field, on size and strength alone.

Oh no, Jimmy Clausen would find a way to lose this game.

See the end for my Super Bowl pick. Bearing in mind this column's motto: All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back. TMQ is free, get it?

Also, remember TMQ’s real motto: If one prediction is right, the reader will never hear the end of it.

Talk, talk, talk: they sure
can talk. When will back it up?
The Jersey/B Jets.

You mean other than the two straight AFC Championship game appearances? Sure, the Jets haven’t won the Super Bowl, but they have gotten closer than many other teams.

Since Super Bowl ring have no playoff victory. Jersey/A Giants.

Or as Gregg Easterbrook would say if talking about the Patriots, the Giants haven’t won a playoff game since Tiki Barber was on the team. It’s the Curse of Tiki!

See, I would bet Gregg counts the Giants playoff victories as being AFTER Tiki retired since Barber tried a comeback this year. The Giants won a few playoff games after Barber retired, but Gregg doesn't count Barber's retirement as beginning until he missed a full year of games. So the Giants haven’t won a playoff game in Gregg's mind since Tiki retired, much like Spygate began after the punishment was handed down so Gregg could say the Patriots haven't won a playoff game since Spygate occurred.

Carson in exile:
Team cuts off nose to spite face.
The Cinncy Bengals.

I’m not entirely sure Gregg Easterbrook understands the Palmer/Bengals situation. He does realize that Carson Palmer doesn’t want to play for the Bengals and if the Bengals traded him their 2011 team wouldn’t be any better right? So how are they hurting themselves at this point by not giving into Palmer’s demands? Palmer wants to be traded and unless a team is willing to give the Bengals an actual player and not a draft pick, their refusal to trade Palmer isn’t hurting them this year. Andy Dalton is the starting quarterback for this year no matter what at this point because Palmer doesn't want to play for the Bengals anymore. The Bengals won’t be able to use a draft pick they get in exchange for Palmer until April anyway, so why not wait until they get a better offer or Palmer agrees to play for the team at this point?

So at one point early this summer the Bengals may have cut off their nose to spite their face, but sticking to their guns is the best move at this point in my opinion.

But while the intended audience may care only about the games, when college football players spend four or five years focusing all their time and efforts on sports, then fail to graduate, they have been used up and thrown away by the system.

You are going to have a hard time convincing me a person who had the majority of their college education paid for was used up and thrown away by the system.

Spectators and boosters get something out of the deal, namely, great entertainment. The players who don't graduate get nothing.

Then there is a moral to this story. If a student-athlete goes to school for 4 or 5 years then he/she needs to graduate with a degree. I’m not going to feel bad for enjoying a football game because some student-athletes choose not to graduate from college. It’s not my responsibility to ensure they take the opportunity given to them. If a student-athlete doesn’t care to graduate, that’s his problem not mine, and I am not going to feel bad that I got entertained while he/she played sports, even if the student-athlete blew a chance to get an education through fault of his own.

Sports figures are supposed to have nicknames, but Kiper is simply known as Mel Kiper Jr. TMQ proposes he be nicknamed The Juggernaut, as in the X-Man character. Think about his annual ESPN draft commentaries. Like The Juggernaut, once Kiper gets momentum, he becomes impossible to stop.

What a shameless plug of Kiper's abilities by Gregg. Here at BotB, we've done some evaluations of Kiper's momentum.




These evaluations of Kiper's momentum aren't terrible, but also show his momentum is much less of a science and more of a guessing game.

Cam: Blinn JC to
league's worst team. Could Cats beat Blinn?
Car'lina Panthers.’

Nitpick time. Newton didn’t go from Blinn JC to the NFL. He was at Auburn between that time. This is like saying Peyton Manning went from Isidore Newman High School to the NFL.

The original Superman could jump long distances, not fly ("able to leap tall buildings in a single bound"), and was strong but not invincible. Now Superman can travel at warp speed, go backward in time, push entire planets.

So now Gregg is complaining about the plot of a movie that came out in 1978. Apparently Gregg wants a movie about a superhero to be more realistic.

When superheroes have incredible powers, merely having them fight criminals quickly loses appeal, since obviously they'd win. So superheroes end up battling immortal entities from other dimensions, and every issue concludes with two gleaming figures in capes hurling energy bolts at each other.

Bring back the era when Batman was foremost a detective, rather than a symbolic being dueling other symbolic beings.

This is very close to what happened in the new Batman movies, which Gregg still had a problem with because it weren’t realistic enough. The lesson as always is that Gregg wants to complain no matter what. He wants a Batman movie where Batman is a detective, but not the movie that came out where this happened because it isn’t realistic enough. His movie about a multi-millionaire dressing as a bat fighting crime has to be realistic dammit!

I have a feeling if Christopher Nolan asked Gregg Easterbrook to write the next Batman movie and he can have free rein to do whatever detective-related things he wants to with Batman, Gregg would still complain about the film somehow.

"On Aug. 29, the Costco in Yonkers had a two-row display of Christmas related items, including multiple nativity scenes and light-up snowmen. In fairness to Costco, I must admit I fell for the idea, buying family members UCLA, Georgetown, Oklahoma and Indiana sweatshirts for Christmas for less than $15 each."

This is the point where reality and this whole “creep” junk Gregg talks about every week collide. Yes, it doesn’t make sense for Christmas-related stuff to be available during the summer, but Christmas-related items are cheaper at that point so it is a chance to save money. This reader, while remarking at how silly it seems to have Christmas items out on the shelf in August, chooses to purchase some Christmas-related items. Stores put out Christmas-related items early because consumers will buy these items and stores like to make money.

Four straight coaches fired.
Steve, surely you feel secure.
The St. Louis Rams.

After sarcastically saying the Rams head coach should feel secure, Gregg picks them to win the NFC West.

Cards outrushed by a
thousand yards. A scary stat.
AZ Cardinals.

Gregg has shown us on near-weekly basis that teams which rush the ball well don’t always make the Super Bowl. So why is it a scary statistic for the Cardinals to be easily outrushed by the opponents? Gregg points out quite frequently (correctly) that teams don’t need to run the ball well to win games, yet seems to indicate the Cardinals would be in trouble if they didn’t rush the ball well.

For the next big game, TMQ again likes Indianapolis versus New Orleans -- which would make the Colts the first-ever home Super Bowl team.

Look for Gregg to somehow change his prediction of the Super Bowl participants as the year goes along and pretend he did that. Gregg claims in 2009 he predicted Indianapolis v. New Orleans, but I am 95% sure he had given a different Super Bowl prediction prior to that. I say this because I am pretty sure 2009 is when I accused him of choosing two different Super Bowl matchups, one in his column and one on a radio show. I need to see if the BotB research department can find verification of this for me.

Age will end -- Narnia ended, too -- but isn't over quite yet. If Manning goes on injured reserve, my AFC choice switch to New England.

Yeah, I’m not sure that’s how these things work. Usually one solid prediction is the way a Super Bowl prediction works.

My choice for the Super Bowl is the New England Patriots versus the Atlanta Falcons, but if both teams don’t make the playoffs then I am changing my pick to the New Orleans Saints versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. If either of those teams struggle this year or face too many injuries AND the Patriots and/or Falcons don’t make the playoffs then my pick is the Green Bay Packers v. San Diego Chargers. I will update everyone on my Super Bowl pick if neither the Packers or Chargers play well this year.

(I’m kidding of course. It is not time yet to reveal my Super Bowl pick)

During the preseason, Tuesday Morning Quarterback uses "vanilla" items designed to confuse scouts from other sports columns. Next week when the season starts for real, I will come at readers from all directions using unorthodox sentence structures and sudden unexpected amphiboly, appositives, recursive categorical syntax, tertium comparisons and hypocatastasis.

So while Gregg uses big words so everyone knows he is smarter than the rest of us, the contents of next week’s TMQ will say differently.


HH said...

Daniel Bell of Rome, Ga., reports a Halloween City store has been open in his town since early August.

Gregg wrote this last week, but I had to post it here because just days after, NPR explains it all:

The basic and obvious answer is: because that's what customers want and it helps the store maximize profit.

You are going to have a hard time convincing me a person who had the majority of their college education paid for was used up and thrown away by the system.

I'll speak up for the players here. A division I recruit is basically held hostage by the team: your tuition is paid for, but your scholarship must be renewed every year. As a result, especially at football factories, players are forced to devote basically all their time to the sport, and it makes it extremely difficult to carry a full course load and do well enough to graduate in anything useful.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, exactly. Consumers like deals and stores are able to make money. I may just quit writing about the "creep" stuff b/c the cause is pretty obvious to everyone outside of Gregg.

I understand what you are saying, but nearly any scholarship (academic or otherwise) is subject to being reviewed every year. So some students may be forced to dedicate their time to studies in order to keep their grades up, which impacts their ability to make enough money to pay for the things they want to pay for in college. I just think it cuts the same way for players and students. Obviously players have to attend practice and all of that, but they aren't subject to the same academic criteria a "regular" student who gets a scholarship has to meet in order to keep their scholarship.

rich said...

rewards weight gain is a public-policy aspect of football that no one has yet to address.

It's not rewarding weight gain, it's rewarding athletic ability and strength. Sure, some NFL players are obese, but according to various metrics, so is Reggie Bush, Brandon Jacobs and Brad Pitt (no joke on that one, according to his BMI Pitt is morbidly obese).

Look at the average NFL player and tell me there's a reward for being big. Brandon Jacobs weighs 260 pounds as a RB and he's in better shape than 99% of Americans.

So superheroes end up battling immortal entities from other dimensions, and every issue concludes with two gleaming figures in capes hurling energy bolts at each other.

Batman works because of his character and because it's more realistic. Superman works because it's not realistic and it gives readers the sense of being a total badass. They're on opposite ends of the spectrum and guess what? Both are perfectly okay because sometimes you need an escape from reality and watching a dude jump really high really isn't that exciting.

Now about the scholarship thing, I think people who are on either extreme are probably wrong (as in most cases, the truth lies in the middle).

Specifically those who use up their eligibility and don't manage to graduate, the onus is on them. If you're good enough to go pro, then it doesn't matter if you graduate or not, so the only people affected by not graduating are those who aren't good enough to go pro.

For those individuals, I have to say, tough. If you're two years into school and your pro chances don't look too good, then you really need to realize that and switch your focus.

Like you said HH, it's not a perfect system in the sense that the players are often overloaded with sports, but at the same time, if you realize that your future doesn't involve the sport, you need to focus on the opportunity to leave school with college degree.

The last thing I'll say is that by and large, unless you get a completely useless degree and specific degree (like art history), you can find a job. After I graduated, I went to work as a consultant and was surrounded by non-technical degrees (English, journalism and even a "romance language" major), so no one is saying that the athletes need to major in Physics, but again, if sports aren't your future, making sure you end up with a degree that can at least give you a chance to land a job is a good idea.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, you have a fairly good point about weight gain and how these players are in great shape, even if they are big. The smart players start to lose that weight when they retire. I think a lot of the weight gain has to do with the fact they have a lot of muscle as well.

I don't feel bad for players who get a free ride to college and don't get an education or some sort of degree to help them in the future. I know they were overloaded with sports at times, but at a certain point they need to decide what they want to do with their life, whether it be sports or school. I know sports are tough to juggle with school, I get that, but if a person graduates college and doesn't have a degree to do something with then I don't know what else can be done for a person. They didn't have to pay for the education they received b/c they were on scholarship and they had a chance to get an education for free they would have had to ordinarily pay for.

I don't want to come off as harsh but plenty of athletes graduate with a degree to fall back on in case sports don't work out. It's not like it is impossible to do. It can't be had both ways. Gregg can't complain the system is spitting them out b/c they have to play sports, but also ignore the fact these student-athletes can get a free ride or a large scholarship b/c of sports.