Friday, November 11, 2011

8 comments TMQ: Gregg Easterbrook Fixes the Short Yardage Rushing Problem in the NFL

This week in TMQ offensive mastermind Gregg Easterbrook has decided he has had enough of these NFL offenses struggling in the red zone and thinks teams need to be more creative. Does Gregg provide evidence offenses are struggling in the red zone? Of course not. He bases all of his reasons for offenses struggling in the red zone on anecdotal evidence from what he’s seen from NFL games over the past week. Who needs actual evidence when you can base a hypothesis and conclusion on your own observations and not facts? It’s like a pseudo-JemeHill form of writing. Creating a false hypothesis and then fixing it with your own conclusion, except Gregg throws in a lack of facts to support his case for a unique twist on what JemeHill does.

Gonzo passing tactics are ubiquitous, with "Spread 'Em Out" seemingly the league's motto for 2011. But NFL teams are forgetting that sometimes you need to be able to run up the middle for a yard.

Gregg Easterbrook is forgetting sometimes a defense is difficult to run on for one yard in the red zone. It is his position the offense should always be able to run the ball against the defense, no matter what, which is a really stupid position.

Reaching second-and-goal on the Pittsburgh 1, Baltimore ran up the middle on consecutive downs, failed both times and settled for a field goal.

There are two issues at hand here:

1. Some teams aren’t built to get one yard effectively on the goal line by running the ball. They can do it, but it just isn’t that certain team’s strength. So certain teams won't be able to gain one yard on the goal line whenever they want.

2. The defense is good enough to prevent a team from running the ball for one yard on the goal line. Gregg tends to forget the defense has a say in whether a team gains one yard or not.

In this case, Pittsburgh is average the 6th in the NFL in rushing yards given up per game. They have a pretty stout run defense. Baltimore is 22nd in rushing yards per game gained, so I would venture to say the Pittsburgh rush defense has the edge.

The Ravens would go on to score the winning touchdown just ere the clock struck midnight, but had they not, this sequence would have been seen as determining the outcome.

If this sequence had not affected the outcome of the game then it very well could have affected the outcome of the game. What an Easterbrookian statement.

“Sure, my example didn’t make a difference in the game and I don’t really provide any evidence there is a problem. Still, there could be a problem. It is possible because I saw one team not gain one yard when they needed to.”

Defending champion Green Bay, with its ultra-efficient offense, led 45-38 at the two-minute warning, San Diego out of timeouts, the Packers facing third-and-2. A first down concludes the contest. Green Bay ran up the middle and was stuffed, punted, and a beads-of-sweat ending was in store for Packers faithful.

Again, some teams aren't built to run short yardage situations and the Chargers probably knew the Packers were running to chew up clock and were ready for it. It doesn't excuse the failure to pick up short yardage, but does explain it.

Rams coach-for-a-few-more-weeks Steve Spagnuolo made the right decision by going for it -- a long field goal is a 50/50 proposition, while gaining 1 yard with power back Steven Jackson would allow St. Louis to drill the clock and then attempt a closer kick. But the fourth-and-1 run too was stuffed, and St. Louis went on to lose in overtime.

I thought fortune favored the bold!? Shouldn't the football gods love it when a team goes for it on fourth down and reward the team accordingly? That's what Gregg tells us from time to time. It's weird, he only tells us this when going for it on fourth down actually works.

What do all the plays cited above have in common? The teams that failed on short-yardage rushes all simply lined up, usually in a power set, and ran straight ahead. No misdirection. Nothing to distract the defense.

On short yardage the defense doesn't get distracted by something shiny they see. On short yardage the defense is prepared to go straight ahead and cover the running lanes in order to stuff the running back. Sometimes a little motion helps an offense get the first down and sometimes it doesn't. Like most things in the football world, there are no definites.

Offensive coordinators have been studying film 'til their eyes get watery to come up with complex new passing sets and route combinations. But they're not designing plays for third-and-1, rather, simply running straight ahead.

This is probably because at its heart, no matter how many bells and whistles or how much motion is used, a third-and-1 succeeds or fails based on the offensive line getting a push on the defensive line. Third-and-1 isn't always a play that needs to be designed and re-designed. It is hat-on-a-hat and is a matter of the running back gaining that one necessary yard by doing as little running sideways as possible. Simply running ahead works if your offensive line can get a push.

For example, the sole weakness of the fantastic Packers offense is short-yardage downs. The Pack struggled on short yardage against San Diego, seeming to use plays that were drawn up for other things, as if third-and-2 is too minor to plan for.

The Packers are undefeated. I guess they are just staying out of short yardage situations since this is apparently a huge weakness of theirs, it just hasn't shown up yet. I wonder if Gregg has any data to back the Packers perceived weakness in short yardage claim or is just talking out of his ass? Why do I ask the question when I know the answer?

Tuesday Morning Quarterback's immutable law of short-yardage holds: Do a Little Dance If You Want to Gain That Yard.

Bengoodfella's immutable law of short-yardage holds: Do a Little Dance If You Want To Not Gain That Yard.

Just like kick returners are taught not to go sideways, one of the easiest ways to fail to convert a short yardage down is try to run sideways too much. It gives the defense more time to hit the runner for a loss as well as takes the runner's momentum from forward to sideways. There aren't any immutable laws anyway, so I should be embarrassed I am arguing about this.

When it's third-and-1 or fourth-and-inches, the defense is cranked to charge straight ahead. The offensive line may not be able to get "under their pads." So use some misdirection. Line up, then rock back, then shift and quick-snap. Send a man in motion, then rush in the opposite direction.

If the offensive line can't get under their pads, then it wouldn't matter which way the run goes since the defense is geared up to go straight ahead. So if we are to believe the defense is always geared up to go straight ahead, the misdirection won't work anyway, since the defense would just run straight ahead and stop the runner no matter which way he runs.

Creating an instant of indecision on the other side will throw the defenders off from simply charging straight ahead into your backfield.

So if a team creates an instant of indecision and the defenders don't run straight ahead, then doesn't that also mean the defense isn't running straight ahead and could now be in a position to stop the runner?

I ask these questions in an attempt to show there isn't a "right" way to run a short yardage down and nearly no matter what, the offensive line has to get a push for it to succeed.

Now the counterexample. Leading Cleveland 14-0, the Houston Texans faced third-and-1. They lined up in a power set with an extra tight end, and the extra tight end went in motion left. In today's football this almost always means the power run will go left. Instead undrafted Arian Foster ran right, behind a tremendous block by the undrafted Mike Brisiel. Nineteen-yard touchdown, and the Texans never looked back.

According to the rules of the NFL, the man in motion had to stop before the ball was snapped, so the defense wasn't fooled and wasn't "misdirected" in any fashion. The motion was before the ball was snapped. The defense saw where the tight end went, but that didn't mean they weren't geared up to stop the run or were "misdirected" in any fashion. Gregg gets the very core of why this play worked, and it isn't because of the tight end in motion. It is because:

undrafted Arian Foster ran right, behind a tremendous block by the undrafted Mike Brisiel.

A tremendous block always helps more on short yardage runs than any motion or misdirection ever could.

A month ago, TMQ foresaw a Super Bowl pairing of Buffalo versus Detroit. I hope you are sitting down because right now the stars foretell a Super Bowl of San Francisco versus Cincinnati.

Never fear, Gregg will change his Super Bowl pick every month and then crow in January about how right he was.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Arian Foster is now the Texans' all-time leader for rushing touchdowns -- after just 29 starts with Houston.

It's almost like the Texans have only been in existence in 2002 or something!

"The Dark Knight" -- TMQ's nominee for the worst motion picture ever made -- used Chicago for its location shots of Gotham City.

No matter what a person thinks of comic book hero movies or the current Batman franchise, I think we can all agree "The Dark Knight" being the worst motion picture ever made just isn't true.

The first season of "Fringe" was filmed in New York, though the setting was supposed to be Boston. Now the show is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, though the action has shifted to New York. So New York is Boston and Vancouver is New York, while Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York all are Gotham City. Here's a crazy thought: Why can't producers simply use Boston to represent Boston?

I always love it when Gregg shows an ignorance for something other than just football. The reason a producer can't use Boston to represent Boston is possibly because of tax credits being offered, Boston won't let them shoot a movie there, the places they would shoot in Boston can't be interrupted/disturbed to shoot a movie over a few days or for a variety of other reasons. It isn't like the movie producers just randomly pick a city and then shoot a movie there.

In the show, Harvard is in Manhattan. Exterior scenes of the Harvard lab building were shot at Yale.

Maybe Harvard wouldn't let the show into their labs. Have you ever, ever thought of this? Use your brain instead of just second-guessing fictional television shows.

Trailing, Jersey/A reached the New England 10-yard line with three minutes remaining. Your columnist said aloud with witnesses, "In this situation at the end of the Super Bowl, the Patriots ran a big blitz and Eli Manning threw a stutter-go left against man coverage for the touchdown." Yea, verily, the Patriots ran a six-man blitz and Manning threw a stutter-go left against man coverage for the touchdown. The only difference was Mario Manningham instead of Plaxico Burress as the receiver. Verily, history repeats.

Gregg has thrown away the infamous "Game Over" notebook and now he is making his proclamations in front of "witnesses." Wasn't it just a few weeks ago Gregg was mocking people who quote or cite individuals with no proof they exist? Not amazingly, Gregg takes part in some good old fashioned hypocrisy and does the exact same thing here. "Witnesses" heard Gregg proclaim this. Of course, Gregg has a habit of making proclamations or saying there is a problem (like the short yardage running problem above) without using any type of evidence to cite his opinion as being true. He wants others to prove unnamed individuals exist, but doesn't hold himself to the same standard when citing unnamed individuals as witnesses to his massive football intelligence.

All those banked 2012 draft choices Belichick did not use -- perhaps he should have expended them on a speed receiver and a pass-rusher.

As rookies, they players would immediately join the Patriots team and make a huge difference in their win-loss record. It's a guarantee!

As for the Giants, fortune favors the bold! Trailing 20-17, they faced third-and-goal on the New England 1 with 19 seconds remaining, holding no timeouts. There was a good case for taking the field goal and advancing to overtime,

Why the fuck would the Giants kick a field goal on third down when they are on the opponents 1 yard line? There is zero reason to kick a field goal here.

since a failed third-down snap might leave the clock moving and not enough seconds to run in the kicking team.

If the Giants run the ball. As long as they don't run the ball there isn't an issue. In this situation, there isn't a reason to kick a field goal on third down. I would love for Gregg Easterbrook to coach an NFL team for a season. He would be hung in effigy for kicking a field goal on the 1 yard line on third down and then contradict himself seven times in the press conference after the game when trying to explain why he did this.

Giants coaches ordered a roll-out play-fake on third-and-goal from a power set with three tight ends.

Eli moved left. He didn't really "roll out." The fact Gregg commonly gets some NFL terminology wrong or mis-sees something on the field should tell us he isn't the most reliable witness.

Falcons leading hapless Indianapolis 14-0 at Indy, Atlanta faced third-and-3 on its 20. The call was a simple quick slant -- every team's favorite play when needing 5 yards -- to Julio Jones. He outran the corner, then turned undrafted rookie safety Joe Lefeged inside-out with a move, then legged it 80 yards to the end zone.

But Gregg, didn't you say a few weeks ago the Falcons were struggling because Julio Jones is a diva? Of course you said this with no citation on who had said this and used your opinion as fact. There was no citation for who had said this because Gregg made the idea of Jones being a diva up to create a false storyline about the Falcons.

Here's the biggest reason why I can't stand Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ. He writes it every week and makes predictions and says things like "Julio Jones is a diva" with ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE this is true. He just gets away with it. No one at ESPN says, "Gregg you may want to point out where this was said about Julio Jones," but they don't. It's like Gregg is writing his own fan-fiction on the NFL every week in TMQ. What he believes is true, whether it is or not, gets printed. Don't even get me started on Gregg not saying he was wrong about something. He'll go on and on about an issue and then fail to mention how wrong he was. The Crabtree Curse stands out foremost in my mind as an example of this. In fact, Gregg explains the Crabtree Curse in this very TMQ and manages to embarrass himself even further while doing so.

Cleveland trailing 27-3 late in the third quarter, the Browns kicked a field goal. Who cares if it was fourth-and-10 on the Houston 33? The Browns came into the game 3-5 on the season and on a 17-39 streak. They had to get a touchdown on this possession, or everyone could just head home for blueberry-almond martinis. As the field goal boomed, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

If the Browns had scored a touchdown in this situation the game still would have been over since they had only the fourth quarter to score 17 points. So while the field goal attempt seems a bit odd, it isn't like the Browns were coming back even if they scored a the mention of "Game Over" in a notebook reeks of obviousness and does not represent any insight Gregg has made into the situation.

Let's see, one team's quarterback has 24 touchdown passes versus three interceptions, the other team's quarterback has 11 touchdown passes versus 14 interceptions. Hmm -- who will win?

My head hurts. Why do we even play NFL games when they could just be decided based on the touchdown to interception ratio of each quarterback from the last season?

The Bolts seemed to expect Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers to rush three, as he usually does when protecting a late lead. Instead Capers called blitzes on all of San Diego's final snaps. Philip Rivers, surprised, threw three incompletions and a game-ending interception on San Diego's last five snaps.

Here is some good old fashion "You should have done what worked" criticism of Norv Turner. So Dom Capers traditionally rushes three when protecting a late lead. Viewing tape of the Packers during the season would verify this. But, Caper blitzed. So he confused Norv Turner by doing this and it was a good move, right? Turner didn't expect the Packers to blitz, but Capers fooled him. After all, Gregg states the Packers tend to only rush three at the end of the game and Turner knows this from watching film and viewing Capers' tendencies. There's no way Gregg can criticize Turner...but he does.

How could San Diego's Norv Turner have known Capers would call blitzes in this situation? Because that's exactly what he did on the final four Pittsburgh snaps in an almost identical situation in the Super Bowl.

The Chargers screwed up by watching this year's tape of the Packers when they should have been watching last year's tape. I get it now! Gregg always finds a way to criticize a player or coach and refuses to acknowledge everything isn't black or white. By Gregg's own admission the Packers rush three at the end of the game with a lead, but he expects the Chargers to ignore what the Packers have done this year and focus on what the Packers did last year. This doesn't make sense to criticize Turner for information and play calling Gregg readily admits makes sense based on the Packers tendencies. For some reason, Gregg needs to criticize Norv Turner so he preposterously expects the Chargers to ignore this year's game film and focus only on what Capers did in the Super Bowl last year.

What is really going on is Gregg wants to be able to criticize the Chargers no matter what happened. If the Chargers lost and the Packers only rushed three guys Gregg would say the Chargers should have expected this. If the Chargers lost and the Packers blitzed, well he'll say they should have expected this too. Whatever the Packers defense did, against all logic, that's what the Chargers should have expected.

Leading 20-16, Pittsburgh faced third-and-5 on the Baltimore 29 with 2:37 remaining. The Steelers threw incomplete -- stopping the clock -- then drew a penalty on a field goal attempt, then punted. Baltimore took the ball the other way and scored the winning touchdown with 14 seconds showing. Had Pittsburgh simply rushed on third-and-5 and then attempted a field goal, the Ravens might have run out of time.

The Ravens might have run out of time or the Ravens may have stopped the clock after stopping the Steelers from rushing for the first down. The Steelers could have fumbled running the ball and then the Ravens returned it for a touchdown. 10 different situations could have happened, but Gregg chooses the situation that supports his contention as the only logical outcome.

Readers including Claire Mitchell of San Francisco have written to note that the Crabtree Curse proclaimed by TMQ no longer afflicts the Forty Niners. The Crabtree Curse was that Mike Singletary finished 8-5 without Michael Crabtree and 10-17 with him. This year the Niners are rolling. Singletary was cursed because he drafted Crabtree. Harbaugh/West did not, and so the curse does not impact him.

THIS DOESN'T MAKE SENSE! Much like when Spygate actually occurred, Gregg is screwing around with his own theories to make up why his theories were wrong. It wasn't the presence of Singletary that caused the Crabtree Curse, it was the presence of Michael Crabtree on the roster. Hence, why it is called the fucking CRABTREE CURSE and not the SINGLETARY CURSE. Gregg is just pissed his stupid curse didn't end up being true and rather than hurt his little feelings by saying he was wrong, he makes up shit to make himself sound right. Instead, he finds a way to sound even more petty and stupid in his defense of the Crabtree Curse.

Also, the 49ers were the team cursed because Crabtree was on the roster, it wasn't the coach that was the only one cursed. That's why Gregg used the TEAM'S record to show the curse existed...because the curse of Crabtree on the roster caused the team's bad record, hence Crabtree (himself) had an impact on the team's record. He didn't have an impact solely on Mike Singletary. So the curse should stand regardless of the head coach. This is like someone saying the 2004 Red Sox didn't break the Curse of the Bambino because they had a different manager from when the curse started.

Next Week Christmas Creep 2012 begins.

I hope Gregg knows when he tells us what next week's TMQ will contain before next week's TMQ exists he is subjecting this readers to TMQ Creep. How can he know what is contained in next week's TMQ when it doesn't exist yet?


HH said...

Groupon just had a successful IPO, raising $805 million. Eleven months ago, the same company turned down a $6 billion purchase by Google. Had Groupon accepted the Google proposal, its early investors and founding management would have $6 billion; instead, following the IPO they are holding a much smaller sum. ...Your columnist noted 11 months ago that Groupon someday may wish it had accepted the Google offer. At any rate, rather than getting $6 billion in 2011, Groupon insiders got $805 million. Groupon issued discount coupons for itself, offering 87 percent off!

I know you didn't mention this, but it's such a huge error that any editor should have caught. Groupon only sold about 5% of their equity holdings. Google was offering $6 BN for the entire company. Because 5% of the company is worth over $800 MM, that means that the company itself is valued at over $16 BN. So far, at least, this is the opposite of a mistake.

Sidenote: there is a joke to be made though: Groupon shares were priced at $20 but immediately jumped to $28 after the IPO (common occurrence). Had Groupon sold at $28, they'd have made even more money - they did, in fact, offer a discount. Yours truly made the joke here, where everyone should follow him:!/kingharis/status/132471283475689472

jacktotherack said...

Easterbrook is such a shithead. Thank you for the brilliant takedown and calling him on his bullshit for the Julio Jones and Crabtree comments.

And I love how he is bragging that he called "game over" in his little notebook when Cleveland kicked that field goal to make the score 27-6. No shit Sherlock, you knew the game was over late in the 3rd quarter with the Browns trailing by 21? Good for you. I think anyone with a brain could have written "game over" down the minute they saw Chris Ogbonnaya starting at RB for the Browns. They're the Browns for fuck sakes, they're terrible!!!

Reading Gregg discuss X's and O's is like reading a 3rd grader explain NFL offenses.

JimA said...

How can he know what is contained in next week's TMQ when it doesn't exist yet?

Because he just pastes his generic paragraphs together and plugs in names and scores.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, first off, consider yourself followed. I didn't know that about the company, how much they sold off. Gregg Easterbrook doesn't understand what you mean by an "editor." What is that?

Jack, random, untrue comments like those about Jones/Crabtree irritate me to death. Julio Jones is nothing but a good teammate and willing blocker. I have tried to find negative talk about him being a diva and just can't find any. Gregg essentially just made something up. I will always be glad to call him on this bullshit. The same thing goes for the Crabtree Curse. The way he tried to weasel out of that one amused me. He needs to just say his theories are all shit, because we know this as true already.

I think he just puts the "Game Over" stuff in the notebook to fuck with people like me. Fortunately, it only raises my blood pressure when I read it and I don't dwell on his idiocy.

JimA, good one. He uses a system that autofills stuff in if I am not wrong.

rich said...

"The Dark Knight" -- TMQ's nominee for the worst motion picture ever made -- used Chicago for its location shots of Gotham City.

Seriously? Even if you didn't think the Dark Knight was a good movie, to nominate it for the "worst motion picture ever made" is pretty indefensible.

Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York all are Gotham City.

Gotham City doesn't exist, so I have no idea what Gregg's point is supposed to be here. Oh no, they used multiple cities to represent this fictional one! The horror!

Oh and as an aside, Dark Knight didn't film in Pittsburgh. I checked it out (, so I looked at the Gregg's steaming pile of shit.

The image he says is evidence of them shooting in Pittsburgh is the Chicago Board and Trade Building, something most people from Chicago would recognize instantly. (

If you're going to nitpick about something that inane, at least have the decency to be right.

Honestly, if you're goi

In the show, Harvard is in Manhattan. Exterior scenes of the Harvard lab building were shot at Yale.

Maybe 15 people care about this. The original transformer movie used an exterior shot of the Quad at Penn, but used the interior of an actual dorm at Princeton... who cares?

The only difference was Mario Manningham instead of Plaxico Burress as the receiver. Verily, history repeats.

And it wasn't the Super Bowl? And like half the other players are different too?

All those banked 2012 draft choices Belichick did not use -- perhaps he should have expended them on a speed receiver and a pass-rusher.

But aren't undrafted free agents supposed to be super duper awesome? Is this Gregg admitting that the Patriots had a better chance of improving via the draft than through undrafted free agents?

Zidane Valor said...

If you need a counterexample to TMQ's "immutable law", look no further than Dallas. Jason Garrett almost refuses to call rushing plays at the goal line. One of the reasons Dallas is near the bottom in Red Zone offense.

As a Dallas fan, I am begging Garrett to just call some rushing plays up the middle with Murray for the time being.

koleslaw said...

For no real reason, I looked at Gregg's Wikipedia page and someone had edited the opening paragraph fairly recently:

His columns regularly take polar opposition to meaningless situations, such as the location of the fictitious city of Gotham from the batman move, the Dark Knight


Of all the bad sports journalism Ben covers, TMQ is the one that makes me actually angry. I mean, even Simmons and Mariotti don't sound like complete tools 100% of the time like Easterbrook does. If he wrote about any other subject with the amount of inaccuracies, I think he'd have been fired ages ago. I guess it's just okay to make up stuff when you're talking about football.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, it's ridiculous to think "The Dark Knight" is the worst movie ever. Just dumb.

Don't you know to represent a fictional city there has to be some sort of realism to what this fictional city looks like!

Being right isn't necessary for Gregg. He just has to state what he believes is the truth and then expects us all to believe it.

Good point about the UFA. I thought the Pats could just pluck them off the waiver wire and then put them in the game. They are better than highly paid glory boys any day!

Zidane, I hope for your sake that happens. I think teams should run the ball in the red zone, but some teams just can't do it very well. I'm not Dallas is one of those teams.

Koleslaw, I followed the link and that is funny. I think that sentence sums it up well. That's why I cover it each week. It is inaccurate so often, or at least misleading so often, I don't see how it keeps getting printed. There is some stuff I don't even cover like the Groupon and TDKR stuff that is just wrong, not to mention the stuff a/b football. I guess no one cares.