Thursday, October 20, 2011

3 comments TMQ: Gregg Easterbrook Suddenly Discovers the Tight End Position

Gregg Easterbrook is like a 5-year old child in regard to how he discusses some topics. Allow me to clumsily explain and use this poorly structured and overly-long analogy. Gregg will briefly mention a topic in his TMQ, like concussions, cupcake schedules for college teams, and other topics like this. It doesn't end there though. The readers of TMQ know at some point there is a possibility of a much larger discussion and possible obsession (through the topic becoming a running theme in TMQ) with that topic the more it is mentioned in TMQ. Much like how a 5-year old will mention certain toys, a movie, a television show or any other topic he/she likes at a given point in time. You know as a parent the more the child discusses that toy, television show, or movie, the better chance it has of becoming the child's latest obsession.

Sometimes some of the "likes" of the child go away, much like Gregg's 3-4 defense being a fad discussion and his cupcake schedule discussion have gone away this year. Other times the "likes" don't go away and become an obsession. An example of this occurring in regard to TMQ is the discussion of undrafted free agents and the discussion of unrealistic science-fiction television shows. In regard to children, all of a sudden a "like" turns into an obsession and for his/her next birthday you are buying everything that is related to the child's latest obsession and you wonder if it will ever end.

Today one of the topics Gregg has mentioned in passing becomes a potential obsession. Gregg has mentioned the tight end position being important in the NFL quite frequently of late. Of course he is about fifteen years too late with this observation, but timeliness and relevance of a topic isn't always Gregg's strong suit. So today, Gregg's brief mention turns into an column about how great and important the tight end position is. Naturally, again, Gregg is very late in this revelation since the rest of the NFL-loving public knew this 10-15 years ago. We'll see if this topic turns into an obsession.

Quarterbacks, left tackles, pass-rushers -- they're a dime a dozen. I want my team to win. Lend me a tight end!

A team still needs quarterbacks, left tackles and pass rushers to win games.

The more football your columnist observes, the more TMQ becomes convinced the tight end is the essence of the modern game.

I don't know about the essence, but I'm pretty sure the importance of a quality tight end can't be overstated. This has been true for quite a few years now. Ask Brent Jones, Jay Novaceck, Ben Coates, and Eric Green.

Seven of the league's top 10 tight ends play for winning teams. Is that simply because good teams produce good stats? Only three of the league's top 10 rushers play for winning teams.

Or it could just be a coincidence. There's always that. God forbid Gregg looks at some statistics and doesn't immediately assume it is part of a larger trend.

In 2010, among the league's top 10 tight ends (in terms of receptions) only three of them played for a team over .500. If you base the best tight end on how many receiving yards that player has, among the top 10 tight ends in 2010 only two of them played for a team with a record over .500.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is four catches shy of grabbing the second-most receptions of all time. Assuming that happens, Gonzalez, a tight end, will have caught more passes than Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Terrell Owens, Isaac Bruce, Hines Ward, Randy Moss and Andre Reed -- all wide receivers.

This speaks to Tony Gonzalez's greatness as much as it speaks to the importance of the tight end in modern football.

Four of the five most recent Super Bowl winners (the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints) featured the tight end.

Every single offense features a tight end. None of these four teams had a tight end with receiving yards over 619 in their Super Bowl winning season and two of them (Giants, Saints) had the same tight end as their "featured" tight end (Jeremy Shockey). None of these tight ends were in the Top 5 in the NFL among tight ends in regard to receptions or receiving yards. So these teams did have quality tight ends, but tight ends have been important for quite a few years now, a great tight end doesn't necessarily correlate with team success.

The Indianapolis Colts reached the Super Bowl twice in four seasons with tight end Dallas Clark in the lineup, then stumbled the following season with Clark out injured.

Of course the Colts have stumbled in the playoffs in other years when Clark was completely healthy as well. This year is a good example. Clark isn't quite as great with Curtis Painter throwing him the ball.

The Buffalo Bills had the fewest tight end receptions in the NFL in 2010, finishing 4-12 with the 28th-ranked scoring offense. This season Buffalo added tight end Scott Chandler, who is tied for second in touchdowns at his position.

I hate how Gregg cherry picks stats. He uses receptions to show how the top teams in 2011 have great tight ends. Then when receptions doesn't prove his next point he switches to "touchdowns" as showing a tight end's worth in a desperate attempt to prove his point. Chandler has 13 receptions and 98 yards. I don't think he is a major reason the Bills are on a roll.

Why are tight ends so important to modern football? Because defenses don't know what they are going to do.

Well, that and the tight end position has evolved into a glorified receiver position with players who are athletic enough to be covered by a cornerback, but can block well enough to support the running game. There's that, along with the overly simple reasoning Gregg is using for why tight ends are important in football and why this has been true for over a decade now.

Assume a tight end is blocking on the play and you could end up with an uncovered receiver when it turns out that he was simulating a block, then running a pattern.

Does Gregg really believe his audience doesn't understand this? The tight end has been a weapon in many offenses over the last couple of decades. This isn't a new development.

So lend me a tight end! And as defenses continue to focus on stopping the many wideouts of the fashionable spread offense, look for more tight ends running posts, goes and post-corners -- the sort of routes that defensive coordinators don't expect the tight end to run.

Defensive coordinators don’t expect a tight end to run a post-corner or a post because tight ends never run these routes. EVER! Every NFL defensive coordinator thinks like Gregg Easterbrook does, in a Tecmo Bowl-like NFL world where an offensive player only runs two possible routes on each passing play.

Sunday, Atlanta played a conventional defense against Carolina, with safeties back. This resulted in a ho-hum passing numbers for Newton, though he ran well. Over the course of time, defenses will find that frustrating Newton's throws, while allowing the occasional scramble, is the formula for containing him.

Look at how smart Gregg Easterbrook is! He already knows how to contain Cam Newton and “over the course of time.” Those less-smart-than-Gregg Easterbrook individuals, NFL defensive coordinators, will figure out how to stop Newton as well eventually. You just frustrate his throws and allow him to scramble occasionally. How easy is that to do?

Over the course of time, defenses will figure out you contain Tom Brady by getting pressure on him and frustrating his throws and getting in his passing lanes. There’s the formula, so you can pretty much assure Tom Brady will never make another Pro Bowl now this information is out there.

Stats of the Week No. 4: > Newton is 1-5 as a starter this season, after going 25-1 as a starter in his previous two seasons.

This statistic is pointless because Newton has played three straight seasons on different levels of football. Junior college, D-I college, and NFL. This doesn’t show us anything except he plays for a bad team in the NFL. Gregg is the master of useless statistics.

Stats of the Week No. 6: There is so much noise at Ford Field, the Lions' last two visiting opponents, Chicago and San Francisco, committed 14 false starts.

But the Lions lost to San Francisco? How did the Lions lose a game where the other team committed a lot of false starts? Obviously because the Lions have a roster full of highly paid, highly drafted glory boys who only care about their next paycheck and aren’t real team players. Obviously that’s the reason. I'm actually surprised Gregg didn't chalk the Lions loss up to this very reason.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Since taking their home field for the NFC championship game in January 2010, the Vikings are 7-16.

What an amazing statistic. Especially since the 2010 NFC Championship game was played in New Orleans and not Minnesota. No wonder the Vikings lost the game, they showed up in Minnesota to play the game when it was taking place in New Orleans.

The Bills, with a reliable placekicker, already are in field-goal range. It's an excellent situation in which to milk the clock, score, and leave the hosts little time to reply. Instead Fitzpatrick again sends Johnson on a go along the deep left sideline, again covered by Webster, again an interception. Jersey/A takes the ball the other way for the winning kick.

Yeah, why did you send Johnson deep again Ryan Fitzpatrick? What a terribly designed passing play. You are a terrible offensive coordinator/quarterback.

Reaching third-and-goal with the contest scoreless, Miami threw short left to Brandon Marshall, incomplete. Reaching third-and-goal on the next possession, Miami threw short left to Marshall, interception returned for a touchdown. The canny plan was to go at Darrelle Revis, the Jets' best player. Just to prove it was no fluke, later reaching third-and-goal a third time, Miami's surprise strategy was to throw short left to Marshall, incomplete.

I know going at Revis seems a bit stupid, but Marshall did have quite a few receptions and receiving yards in the game. He was one of the few offensive weapons for the Dolphins.

And yes, Revis should have been called for holding on the pick-six play. But the Dolphins brought that outcome on themselves.

“And yes, the only reason one of the passing plays to Marshall didn’t work is because Revis committed a blatant penalty which prevented Marshall from catching the ball…but my point should stand because I really want it to.”

The new flick "Real Steel" posits that robots replace people in prizefighting…As TMQ has noted, Hollywood tends to assume technological advances happening too soon to be probable.

We know NOW the technological advances in movies as happening too soon to be probable, but (a) movies aren’t supposed to be realistic, so please please please understand this and (b) Hollywood screenwriters aren’t terribly concerned with making what-they-believe-to-be-correct predictions when making a film. A screenwriter doesn’t feel stupid because the movie he wrote 20 years ago that took place in 2015 is scientifically more advanced than the technology truly is in 2015.

Trailing defending champion Green Bay 24-0 with seconds remaining before intermission, Les Mouflons reached the Packers' 18 and launched a field goal. The Rams would not enter the Green Bay red zone again until garbage time. St. Louis entered the game on a 1-7 streak, needing to regain its swagger. Going for it might have failed, but also might have changed the team's season.

I don’t have a huge problem with some of Gregg’s second guessing concerning teams that don’t go for it on fourth down, but second-guessing the Rams decision failed at the time and fails even when knowing the outcome of the game. The Rams had not scored until that point in the game. They needed 24 points to tie the game, but they also needed to get on the board at some point in the game to gain some confidence.

This point is arguable, I understand that, but having complete information and knowing how the game turned out shows the Rams wouldn’t have changed their team’s season by going for it on fourth down. The Rams didn’t enter the Packers red zone until the end of the game. The Rams would not have won the game whether they had scored a touchdown or a field goal before the end of the half. So it is fine to criticize them for being cowardly, but it is misleading to pretend this potential fourth down conversion and eventual touchdown would have changed the Rams season unless the Rams knew of a way to score a 24 point touchdown before the end of the half.

Unified Field Theory of Creep: Jonathon Gulbrandsen of Wittenberg, Wis., reports, "Here was the headline on the front page of on Oct. 14: 'Watch Midnight Madness on ESPN3 at 7 p.m. ET.' Even midnight now comes early, it seems."

(shakes head sadly) The festivities actually started before midnight, but teams could not practice until midnight. Hence the name “Midnight Madness,” it is an indication of when college basketball teams can practice, not when the festivities start.

The Bengals are an unexpected 4-2 based on the league's second-ranked defense. Can you name any Cincinnati defensive starter without peeking?

Yes, I can. I follow the NFL. Again, not everyone is as ignorant about the NFL as you assume they are. It is very important to remember this.

Starters for the second-ranked Trick or Treat defense include Dan Skuta, undrafted out of Division II Grand Valley State; Chris Crocker, let go by Cleveland, Atlanta and Miami; Thomas Howard, let go by Oakland; Nate Clements and Manny Lawson, both let go by San Francisco. This is a defense after TMQ's heart!

Gregg frustrates me when he does things like this. Nate Clements and Manny Lawson are both ex-first round draft picks. Lawson was a bust with the 49ers and he is exactly the type of player Gregg would view as a highly-paid glory boy first round draft pick. Gregg loves to play it both ways. So when Lawson busts in San Francisco, Gregg can call him a highly-drafted glory boy, but then when Lawson plays well for another team he all of a sudden becomes “unwanted.” It is magical how Gregg manages to criticize a player for being a bust and then when that player performs well he criticizes the team that let the player go for getting rid of him. Perhaps Gregg should use the infamous “Game over” notebook to write down exactly why Lawson was unwanted by the 49ers so he can remember this when calling a player "unwanted."

Here is a list of who else is on the Bengals defense, they aren’t all unwanted or lowly drafted players, no matter what Gregg wants his audience to believe:

Robert Geathers: 4th round pick

Domata Peko: 4th round pick

Geno Atkins: 4th round pick

Michael Johnson: 3rd round pick

Manny Lawson: 1st round pick

Rey Maualuga: 2nd round pick

Thomas Howard: 2nd round pick

Nate Clements: 1st round pick

Chris Crocker: 3rd round pick

Reggie Nelson: 1st round pick

Leon Hall: 1st round pick

Gibril Wilson: 5th round pick

Carlos Dunlap: 2nd round pick

Pat Sims: 3rd round pick

Jonathan Fanene: 7th round pick

Frostee Rucker: 3rd round pick

Dontay Moch: 3rd round pick

Dan Skuta: undrafted

Brandon Johnson: 5th round pick

Kelly Jennings: 1st round pick

Morgan Trent: 6th round pick

Taylor Mays: 2nd round pick

So there are 14 guys on the Bengals defense drafted in Rounds 1-3 of the NFL Draft and 1 undrafted player. Don’t let Gregg fool you. He cherry picks the undrafted guy on the Bengals defense to mislead his audience. The Bengals have built their team through the draft and the excellent use of early draft picks. Let’s not even get started on the offense, which contains numerous 1st/2nd round draft picks or “highly paid glory boys” as Gregg calls them when they don’t succeed.

Then a litany of readers inform Gregg how wrong he was to theorize male students aren’t getting into college because of football. Gregg never says he was wrong or defends his point of view. He just lets the reader comments hang out there, presumably because he knows his theory was pretty awful.

Trailing Baltimore 26-14 in its own territory with three minutes remaining, Houston was throwing super-short rinky-dink passes. You've got three minutes to score two touchdowns, why are you throwing short?

He is criticizing Houston for throwing short passes, but I would be willing to bet if Matt Schaub had thrown deep Gregg would have criticized him for throwing an interception when short passes would work. As usual, Gregg’s rule is a team should do whatever won the team the game in retrospect and should not have done what the team did that lost the game for the team. His criticism isn’t based on any actual principles of what he believes works for teams nor is it credible criticism, but is based completely on the outcome, which was only revealed after the game was completed (obviously).

On the final drive, Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan fielded only one or two defensive linemen on all but one snap. The one time Ryan lined up his charges in a regular defense was Tom Brady's sole incompletion on the drive. On every other snap, Ryan showed some type of funky front, and Brady ate the funky fronts for lunch…TMQ got the feeling Ryan kept calling funky unconventional defenses because he wanted to be able to boast that his super-ultra-genius alignments stopped Brady.

How many times has Gregg told us about the “Times Square” defense where defensive players are just milling around seemingly without a position and how this is a great defense because it confuses the offense? How many times has Gregg criticized blitzing and complimented teams for running a defense where the offensive line didn’t know where the defenders were rushing from? All of a sudden when these defenses don’t work at the end of a game, then these unconventional defenses are just the defensive coordinator showing off.

How I wish there was swelling music when I said things! And maybe weapons of 2149 are manufactured by Halliburton. Here is TMQ's bet on the series finale, assuming "Terra Nova" lasts long enough to have one.

Every television series has series finale. Otherwise the show would never end.

Trailing 26-20 at City of Tampa, the Saints faced fourth-and-2 on the Buccaneers' 4-yard line with 3:24 remaining. Backup head coach Joe Vitt, sent in for injured starting head coach Sean Payton, decided to go for it.

Not a bad move. Good decision, I would think.

When Brees threw an interception into the end zone, the Bucs took possession on their 20: a failed run would have pinned City of Tampa against its own goal line with three minutes to play and New Orleans holding all its timeouts.

Is Gregg seriously suggesting the Saints try to run the ball on the 4-yard line when they have Drew Brees as their quarterback? Isn’t giving the ball to Brees a better decision? Also, an incomplete pass also pins the Bucs on their own goal line with three minutes left to play. Brees made a terrible pass, but it wasn’t a terrible decision to throw the ball.

Also, why would the Saints run the ball in that situation if they think they can get more yardage throwing the ball? Tampa Bay would be pinned, but they would also have the lead and the ball. In a best case scenario, the Saints stop the Bucs, use their timeouts and get the ball back at the 50-yard line with no timeouts left. It just doesn’t make sense to run the ball with Brees as the quarterback. The Saints only had 70 rushing yards on 20 attempts for the day, so it wasn't even like they were running the ball well.

And another thing…after the interception Tampa Bay got the ball at the 20-yard line and the Saints had three timeouts, so they conceivably could have gotten the ball back and scored a touchdown anyway. They didn’t though, so even if the Saints ran the ball and got stuffed, the Saints defense still had to stop the Bucs offense.

But it's fourth down at the endgame and all five New Orleans offensive linemen simply brushed their men then turned around to watch the play, making no attempt to do anything.

And these are the guys we want blocking on a running play in the red zone?

Next Week: In Real Football, the sequel to "Real Steel," NFL players are replaced by robots programmed never to question their coaches.

Which would be a smart move because Gregg thinks all NFL coaches are egotistical idiots who don’t care about their team and only care about pushing the blame for a loss off on someone else.


rich said...

Seven of the league's top 10 tight ends play for winning teams. Is that simply because good teams produce good stats? Only three of the league's top 10 rushers play for winning teams.

Could it be that teams with shitty quarterbacks tend to run the ball more? And teams with shitty quarterbacks tend to not be very good?

Oh and two of those top 10 rushers are on teams that are .500.

Also: small sample size.

Also also: Two of the top 10 TEs play on the same team.

Four of the five most recent Super Bowl winners (the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints) featured the tight end.

Um... the Steelers and Giants did not "feature" TEs. Sorry TMQ.

Ben, you say the Giants featured Shockey, but Shockey was hurt and didn't play the last two games of the regular season or at all in the playoffs.

Going for it might have failed, but also might have changed the team's season.

Yes, a TD to end a half down only 17 instead of 21 would have changed the team's season. Holy shit that's some hyperbolic bullshit right there.

Nate Clements and Manny Lawson, both let go by San Francisco. This is a defense after TMQ's heart!

Nate Clements? You mean the guy who was given an 80M contract by SF?

TMQ got the feeling Ryan kept calling funky unconventional defenses because he wanted to be able to boast that his super-ultra-genius alignments stopped Brady.

I got the feeling that those funky unconventional defenses had confused Brady most of the game.

For a guy who says stuff like "keep doing what you were doing before" with respect to teams running prevent defenses, he sure doesn't seem to understand that unconventional defense are what got the Cowboys to that point in the game.

Anonymous said...

2 of the 7 top TE's have Brady for a QB. Coinicdence Greg?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, the answer I give is that it is a small sample size. I knew Shockey was hurt and the Giants turned to Boss, but I was trying to give Gregg some credit since Shockey had 600+ yards receiving. I didn't want to make it seem like Shockey wasn't a part of the offense at one point, but I do realize he wasn't a part in the playoffs.

I never knew going for a TD instead of a FG could change a team's season like that. Amazing.

Yep, that is the same Nate Clements that got a huge contract...but he is an unwanted player now apparently.

Great point. The Cowboys defenses got them to that point in the game. Why change then? If the Cowboys had run a traditional defense, Gregg would have criticized them for that also.

Anon, it's just so weird how two of the best TE's have the same QB. It is almost as if that has something to do with a QB's success.