Though spectators and viewers think of games as the dangerous part of football, because it's during games that injuries are widely seen -- coaches whom I have interviewed think players are more likely to be injured at a practice than during a game.
I find it interesting Gregg Easterbrook has to interview coaches to know players are more likely to be injured in practice than a game. Anyone who follows a NFL beat writer’s Twitter account most likely notices more injuries occur in practice rather than games. That's why there may be five players sitting out a game due to injuries a fan never knew existed.
Partly this is simply because players spend so much more time practicing than performing, meaning more hours of risk.
On a side note, this is true for nearly every single sport. Nearly every single professional athlete spends more hours practicing his craft than competing at his craft. In the NFL, that means hitting each other constantly for longer periods of time.
If two players repeatedly bashed each other in the helmet during a game, flags would fly. But if this happens during practice, no one knows except the players and coaches present.
If a head coach doesn’t run a closed practice then the beat writers who follow the team would also know about this. Of course most likely they wouldn't report it, but they would know about it.
There's often no penalty for the coach who orders a dangerous drill -- he knows he can abuse his players all he pleases, and will probably never be sanctioned in any way.
But if a coach covers up the fact his players traded tattoos for signed memorabilia, then that coach should be fired immediately. Free tattoos are the real problem in sports.
Gregg actually has a point here, but it doesn’t mean his point isn’t redundant from when he made these exact points prior to this column.
This can be worst at the high school level, where most players are, legally, children under an adult's care. Coaches may scream at a child with obvious heatstroke symptoms to get up and keep running.
I haven’t viewed any high school football practices lately, but I would imagine the coaches screaming at a child with obvious heatstroke symptoms are the exception not the rule.
The National Football League sets the tone for football, and its new collective bargaining agreement sets a positive tone. The CBA states that during two-a-days, only one of the two practice sessions can be in pads. Practices are limited to three hours each. Once the season begins (to simplify a complicated new rule), teams can stage only one full-contact practice per week. During the offseason, contact practices are tightly restricted.
These new rules don't go far enough -- medically unsafe drills need to be banned.
You mean medically unsafe drills like the actual playing of the game of football? Merely playing a football game and being tackled repeatedly is medically unsafe. The game of football is an inherently dangerous sport.
The Virginia High School League, which regulates public high schools in the state, "strongly recommends" six practices without pads before contact, and no back-to-back contact in two-a-days.
We all know the same high school coaches that Gregg is painting as dangerous menaces to society and their player’s health are going to pay great attention guidelines that “strongly recommend” something. I am sure that will stop the coaches in Virginia that Gregg describes as:
“High school coaches who order such drills are thugs who don't belong in any position of responsibility.”
Coaches that don’t care enough for their player’s health aren’t going to care enough either to what is “strongly recommended” or not.
In other football news, everybody's complaining about the NFL's decision to move the kickoff spot from the 30 to the 35, in order to increase touchbacks -- which should translate to fewer kicking-play injuries.
I have grown to dislike this rule over the first three preseason games. Another way to reduce injuries on kickoffs is have every team start their drive at the 20-yard line. I would almost rather that happen than have the kickoff moved to the 35-yard line.
Kicks soaring into the end zone are dullsville. But bear in mind -- this is the preseason. Regular-season tactics have not begun yet.
What “regular season tactics” can a team use? Refuse to kickoff from the 35 yard line? The Bears have already tried that. Kick the ball up in the air really high in order to keep the ball in the field of play? That would result possibly in more fair catches called on kickoff than anything else.
I guess I fail to see how the receiving team can use special tactics to return a kick if the opposing team kicks the ball 8 yards in the end zone or out of the end zone. Really, the team kicking the ball would have the best chance of using tactics on a kickoff, but I am not sure teams kicking off would have incentive to use tactics other than to kick the ball as far into the end zone as possible.
Moving the kickoff spot to the 35 makes a surprise onside kick somewhat less risky. Now, a failed onside will give the opponent possession at about midfield, rather than in your own territory, as with a failed onside from the 30.
It is a difference of five yards, but I am not sure the idea there may be slightly more onside kicks and more excitement on that end will make up for the fact there will most likely be more touchbacks this year...which is the major complaint teams have.
If onside kicks increase as a result of the new spot, complaints about touchbacks will be forgotten.
Not really, because I would doubt a difference of five yards would cause teams to try an onside kick more often. This is especially true since teams kicking off now have a greater chance of ensuring the opposing team starts their drive off on the 20-yard line. I would guess the 5 yard difference on a failed onside kick would be offset by the kicking team’s advantage of having their opponent start their drive at the 20-yard line.
Of course a team trying an onside kick isn’t really doing this for field position, but to gain possession of the football. So if a team is trying an onside kick, that team may not care where the opposing team would start off their position if they just kicked the ball off, since that team wants the football. I think I’m confusing myself now.
Next week -- as a season-start treat, there will be a TMQ-Mel Kiper collaboration.
So next week TMQ will officially be even less accurate than usual!
And now, Tuesday Morning Quarterback's NFC preview.
Review. It is more of a review.Arizona has a lot invested in the notion that Kevin Kolb is the team's quarterback solution. To get him, the Cardinals gave up Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a young Pro Bowler; a second-round choice; and about $22 million in contract guarantees.
If Kolb is the franchise quarterback the Cardinals have been looking for then giving up a quality cornerback and a second-round pick will seem like a small price...as will the $22 million in contract guarantees. If the Cardinals had kept Rodgers-Cromartie around then he would have gotten a large contract extension at some point if they had chosen to re-sign him. I hope Gregg doesn't forget that when judging this trade.
Is Kolb the next Matt Cassel or the next Rob Johnson? The latter drew a similar king's ransom (first- and fourth-round draft choices) for a similar short résumé as a backup, and was a bust as a starter.
The Cardinals are hoping Kolb is better than Matt Cassel or Rob Johnson. They want him to be the next Matt Schaub.
Exiled Eagles quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Donovan McNabb fared poorly once they left Andy Reid's system.
It also helps prove Gregg's point that A.J. Feeley wasn't a great quarterback to begin with and McNabb got traded to the Redskins and had a variety of issues with them that weren't all related to performance on the field. McNabb also wasn't exactly in the peak of his career when he got traded to the Redskins, unlike Kolb who is only 27 years old.
Quarterback Matt Ryan would make Don Coryell proud. Coryell preached that anytime a quarterback sees an open man, even if only for a short gain, he should just throw the ball, then worry about a long gain on the next play. Ryan seems to play by this simple rule, which a surprising number of quarterbacks never learn.
Normally this is the part where I would mention that quarterbacks have progressions to go through and there are receivers that are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th options on a passing play, so if the 1st read on a passing play is open then he will probably get the ball. This is the part where I normally would mention I would love for Gregg to provide me a list of quarterbacks who don't pass the ball to their 1st read when he is open because it wouldn't provide enough yardage. I would also normally say I know I can't get a list of these quarterbacks who ignore open receivers from Gregg because he's just talking out of his ass. I won't say all of that though.
Falcons fans may wish their team had tried harder to retain Mike Koenen, who left for City of Tampa in free agency. Koenen was both skilled at downing punts inside the 20, and as a kickoff man, finished third in the NFL last season for touchbacks. With the kickoff line moved up 5 yards this year, the strong-legged kickoff man rises in value, and teams like Atlanta, that score a lot, benefit most from lots of touchbacks.
Since I am nitpicky, I will nitpick this statement. Actually, a player with an average to above average leg rises in value because kickoffs that once went to the edge or just short of the end zone will now go all the way into the end zone. So teams don't necessarily need a strong-legged kickoff guy since kickers don't have to kick the ball as far to reach the end zone.
After using their second pick in 2010 on quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the Cats used the first overall choice of 2011 on Cam Newton. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called this "admitting a mistake." But Newton wasn't available in the prior draft. If a better player becomes available based on unknowable turns of events, why not choose him? Economic theory says that acting on the information available at the time is, on average, more efficient than attempting to guess the future.
Interesting and true, but later Gregg writes the following and makes me wonder if he sometimes accidentally makes good points like this one:
Roughly a year ago, the Panthers told defensive end Julius Peppers to hit the road. Peppers had a great year for the Bears, who hosted the NFC Championship Game, while Carolina went 2-14. This offseason, the Panthers gave defensive end Charles Johnson, who had one pretty good year with the league's worst team, a $30 million bonus to stay. Now that was admitting a mistake -- the Peppers mistake.
First, the Panthers offered to make Peppers the highest paid defensive player in the NFL during 2009 and he declined the contract offer. So they didn't exactly kick him out the door. Carolina didn't admit the mistake of not re-signing Peppers by re-signing Johnson. That's just bizarre thinking. Statistics and ages for Peppers in 2010 and Johnson in 2010:
Peppers: 31 years old, 54 tackles, 8 sacks (He was 30 years old and had 10.5 sacks when he was a free agent)
Johnson: 25 years old, 62 tackles, 11 sacks
So re-signing Johnson wasn't "admitting a mistake," it was Carolina (over)paying one of their players who was younger and more productive in 2010 than Peppers was.
So really Carolina didn’t re-sign Johnson because they were admitting they made a mistake with Peppers, they re-signed him because he is younger than Peppers and has a reasonable chance to duplicate Peppers’ production over the length of his contract. Or Johnson may not duplicate this production, but either way Carolina signed a younger player than Peppers who they perceive to be worth the contract the player was requesting.
In college and junior college, Newton always was on stacked teams that were all but certain to win much of the time.
The 2010 Auburn team was not stacked. No matter how much Gregg wants to make you believe it was. There’s a reason Auburn is barely projected to be in the Top 25 and it isn’t because boatloads of talent left the roster. A loaded college football team doesn't lose 4-5 quality players to the draft and then drop out of the Top 25.
For the Cowboys, reputation seems to matter more than performance. Despite going 6-10 in 2010, the Boys will appear in five prime-time games in 2011, plus their annual Thanksgiving game, which is for intents and purposes a prime-time event.
In deciding which teams appear on nationally televised games, reputation matters as much as performance. Dallas has a huge fan base, which is why they appear on nationally televised games frequently. This isn’t new.
Ndamukong Suh is a tremendous football player but also a dirty player -- he deliberately body-slams quarterbacks,
Is this as opposed to a defensive lineman who accidentally body-slams quarterbacks? How does that work?
So why not carry the idea to its logical conclusion and eliminate the kickoff, simply giving the receivers possession on their 20? Maybe allow the kickoff in the final two minutes of each half, and then from the 30, so there's a chance of excitement. If the NFL wants touchbacks in order to reduce injuries -- and this is a fair choice -- let's get rid of the annoying snap-commercials-kickoff-commercials sequence.
I have to say, I already am very annoyed with the amount of commercials between play after a touchdown. I am not in favor of getting rid of the kickoff, but Gregg may have a point here. If the NFL wants to reduce injuries and keep the fans interested in the game then this commercial-kickoff-kneel-commercial sequence may become a problem to where NFL may decide teams should just have the ball at the 20-yard line.
I would miss having the kickoffs, no doubt about that. Who knows, maybe it won’t be a problem, but it already annoys me slightly more than it used when the kickoff was from the 35-yard line because I enjoyed seeing returns and don't like the commercial-kickoff-kneel-commercial sequence. I would rather than NFL just go back to kickoffs from the 35-yard line.
For years the maxim in football has been that only 10 percent of expected onside kickoffs succeed, but 60 percent of surprise onside kicks do. That's why Tuesday Morning Quarterback long has touted the surprise onside. There's a 60 percent chance of creating a turnover, versus a 40 percent chance of surrendering about 30 yards of field position. TMQ likes those odds.
And I have always responded if more teams start doing surprise kickoffs then teams will no longer be as surprised and the amount of successful onside kicks will decrease.
But as noted by Football Outsiders, in the 2010 NFL season, only 20 percent of surprise onside kickoffs were successful. Why? The New Orleans surprise onside to start the second half of the 2010 Super Bowl -- that game's signature play -- was etched on everyone's minds. Special-teams coaches and players were keenly worried about the surprise onside.
Exactly as I suspected. Though it is hard to tell the exact reason “surprise” onside kicks failed 80% of the time, Gregg’s hypothesis seems reasonable.
Gregg then advocates teams continuing onside kicks in large amounts because coaches will forget about the 2010 Super Bowl onside kick to start the second half. I forgot that Gregg believes NFL coaches have the worst long term memory among all professions in the United States. Gregg is the same guy who thinks the 3-4 defense is a “fad” that comes and goes because offensive coordinators forget how to score against 3-4 defenses every ten years.I am not kidding about this. So it should not shock me Gregg thinks NFL coaches will forget about the impact of surprise onside kicks. I think Gregg has me rambling now.
A minor mystery is why Green Bay, which came into the 2011 draft with five choices in the sixth and seventh rounds, used them all, rather than bank a couple by trading for 2012 picks. Typically it's hard for late-round draft choices to make the roster of a winning team, and the Packers just won the Super Bowl.
This could be because other NFL teams know 6th and 7th round picks rarely make a dent on the roster and so they won't give much in return for a package of these picks. Mystery solved.
One more thing...isn't Gregg Easterbrook the guy who tries to tell us every single NFL season that lowly-drafted players outperform highly drafted glory boy draft picks? He has an entire TMQ dedicated to this sort of thing and if I hear him talk about Pierre Garcon and how he is better than highly drafted bust wide receivers I am going to throw acid into my eyes.
In fact, just last week Gregg stated the Colts and Patriots stayed at the top of the NFL so long because they get contributions from lowly and undrafted players. I quote:
Indianapolis gets more from undrafted free agents than any other team except perhaps New England -- a reason the Patriots and Colts are Nos. 1 and 2 for most wins over the past decade.
So wouldn't a team like the Packers want to keep these 6th and 7th round picks that are better than 1st and 2nd round draft picks, since those types of players are what have helped keep the Colts and the Patriots on top for so long? We will probably hear 100 times this season from Gregg instances where a lowly drafted player will outperform a highly drafted player. Yet Gregg still criticizes teams that don't trade draft picks in the 6th and 7th round to accumulate better picks, even though he himself believes lowly drafted players have less of an ego and are better players than highly drafted players.
This is further proof that Gregg Easterbrook always wants it both ways. He wants to criticize teams for not trading their late round picks and compliment teams that have productive 6th and 7th round picks, while also claiming lowly drafted players perform at the same level as highly drafted players. Gregg will change his opinion around depending on who and what he wants to criticize at that time. Depending on what he is trying to prove, a team should go for more undrafted or lowly drafted players or trade these picks away for better draft picks.
Jersey/A: The G-Persons seemed awfully blasé about letting Steve Smith and Kevin Boss depart in free agency. Both had monster plays in Jersey/A's Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
I can't believe the Giants got rid of Boss and Smith when they had made good plays in the Super Bowl three years ago! That's so relevant to their injury history and performance in 2011. The Giants should have re-signed Plaxico Burress for the reason he played well in the Super Bowl against the Patriots. You know he caught three passes in one preseason game this year, which means he is going to make the Pro Bowl and the Giants will weep and gnash their teeth that they didn't make him a larger contract offer.
For those new to Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Hidden Plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.
For those of you new to this blog, Hidden Plays aren't hidden and are very important to a drive, and what makes a highlight reel should not be the judge of what plays in a game were important and what plays were not.
Teams coming off a disappointing season often give their quarterback ye olde heave-ho. The Vikings gave the heave-ho to two quarterbacks, Brett Favre retiring and Tarvaris Jackson traded.
And here the Vikings thought they didn't make an offer to Tarvaris Jackson making him an unrestricted free agent. I bet even the Vikings didn't know they had actually traded Jackson the Seahawks since they haven't gotten compensation from the Seahawks for Jackson leaving as a free agent. Who needs the statements in TMQ to be completely factual?
The Rams used their first draft choice on Robert Quinn, one of nine University of North Carolina players chosen in the draft, tied for most of any school. Four Tar Heels went in the draft's first two rounds alone; nine USC players also were drafted, though most not so high. Yet North Carolina and USC both were 8-5 in 2010, unexceptional by the standards of football factories.
Holy shit, really? North Carolina went 8-5 despite many of their best players being suspended for much or all of the college football season. So tying how many picks the Tar Heels had to their record is misleading. Anyone who follows college football knows UNC played a good portion of the year without some of their best players.
Why were so many North Carolina and USC players chosen? Perhaps NFL general managers assumed that because North Carolina and USC are coming off NCAA scandals involving agents who were raining cash, therefore these schools must have premium athletes.
Or perhaps, and this is just a guess based on logic, quite a few North Carolina were taken because they had a lot of talent on the team, including players who didn't get to play last year...like Robert Quinn. In fact, if Quinn had played last year he would have possibly been a Top 5 pick. He's really good at the whole football sport-thingie.
Daniel Bell of Rome, Ga., reports a Halloween City store has been open in his town since early August.
People do think about what they are going to wear for Halloween well before the actual day comes. Most likely parents of young children pick a costume out well before October 31.
Last season was a disaster for the NFL's playoff format, which TMQ has long maintained should be replaced with a seeded tournament. Two teams finished 10-6 and missed the postseason, while the Seahawks finished 7-9 and hosted a playoff game.
Which is a playoff game the Seahawks won. I have no problem with Seattle not hosting a playoff game, but they did beat a team that had finished 10-6 during the regular season. So in retrospect it seems they deserved to be in the playoffs, while a seeded format would have eliminated them. Just food for thought.
Financial note: When the free-agency period began, there was a slight difference between the Bucs and the defending champion Packers -- City of Tampa had $59 million in salary cap space, Green Bay had $63,000.
Based on last week's TMQ, I am sure Gregg thinks the Bucs have all that cap space because they are really, really cheap and not because they want to have money to re-sign their young key players like their 22 year old quarterback.
I wrote, "The New England Patriots have not won a playoff game since Spygate." Many readers including Melissa Foster of Weymouth, Mass., protested that Spygate began in September 2007; the Patriots won their first two games of that postseason; then, at 18-0, faltered to the Giants in the Super Bowl, setting in motion the current string of playoff losses.
My wording left much to be desired.
No amount of proper wording can cover up for the fact you were dead wrong. Gregg's opinion on when Spygate actually began is just plain stupid.
In my view, the serious part of Spygate commenced two days before the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl, when The New York Times ran the allegations that Bill Belichick cheated in his Super Bowl victory against the Rams.
Oh, so Spygate began AFTER the Patriots got punished for Spygate and two days before the accusations that led to jackshit being discovered about the Patriots cheating against the Rams in the Super Bowl? The serious part of Spygate, which was proven incorrect if I am not wrong, began after the proven allegations were made, investigated and punishment was handed down? I am not sure how logic can defend Gregg's point of view.
So did World War II begin when Japan surrendered? Or did World War II begin once Europe was completely rebuilt after the war was over? Did Watergate begin with the break-in at the hotel? I bet Gregg thinks Watergate began after Nixon resigned.
Since that story rolled off the presses, the Patriots have not won a playoff game. I don't think this was caused by The Times story, or the next day's more damning account -- since retracted -- in the Boston Herald.
Again, I don't know how anyone can defend this point of view. Spygate started after the serious accusations, that were proven false, were alleged? Wouldn't it make more sense if Spygate began when it was proven the Patriots were actually spying on other NFL teams and the Patriots got punished for this?
I think the reason is the football gods will continue to punish Belichick until such time as he may admit he was wrong to set up an illegal taping system.
Oh! So Gregg doesn't think the Times story is what caused a curse to be put on the Patriots, but the curse is caused by the football gods? Ok, that sounds pretty crazy.
As silly as this theory of Gregg sounds, it is fine to believe this. People are entitled to their opinion, no matter how insane. Unfortunately, Belichick got caught and didn't admit to it in September 2007. The Patriots also got punished at this time. THEN the Patriots won two playoff games. So they have won two playoff games since Spygate and since Belichick refused to apologize.
Gregg can argue however the hell he wants to, but Spygate began before the pre-Super Bowl Boston Herald story came out. I would consider this to pretty much be a fact proven by the truth that the Patriots were found out and punished before the Super Bowl and this fact can't be disproven by a theory Gregg produces to prove some bullshit about football gods and the New England Patriots not winning playoff games. So Gregg is wrong about when Spygate began and it really doesn't matter anymore.
Next Week Still America's original all-haiku NFL season forecasts.
I hate haikus, so I will be debating whether to even cover TMQ next week. It remains to be seen.