Sunday, April 8, 2012

0 comments Taking a Dip Into Peter King's Mailbag

I don't normally cover Peter King's mailbag. If I do, it is usually to focus on one of Peter's readers who asks him a stupid question or just seems overall clueless. Peter usually doesn't give an exciting enough response to a question in order to merit a response from me. This week Peter responds to two questions in his mailbag and I think these responses are worth covering. Also, I simply can't ignore Joe Flacco's latest burst of confidence in his own abilities and have to comment on his comments. I'll cover what Flacco's burst of confidence first.

1. I am sure many of you heard Joe Flacco thinks he is the best quarterback in the NFL. The way this was quoted by many media outlets takes it out of context a little bit, but I still think Flacco is delusional. Here is Flacco's full quote:

“Without a doubt. What do you expect me to say? … I assume everybody thinks they’re a top-five quarterback. I mean, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way. I mean, c’mon? That’s not really too tough of a question. But that doesn’t mean that things are gonna work out that way. It just means that that’s the way it is, that’s the way I feel it is, and that’s the way I feel it should be.”

So while I am getting ready to rip him a bit, I do see where Flacco is coming from in a way. He is a starting quarterback in the NFL. He has to have faith in his abilities, right? That's almost a part of the job description. So Flacco basically says he considers himself to be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he also realizes he is deluding himself. It makes sense, but then it also doesn't. Flacco wants a new contract and I think that's pretty much what any quote that comes out of Flacco's mouth is intended to achieve.

While it is true that Joe Flacco thinks he is the best quarterback in the NFL, he mostly says this to pump his own self up. That would lead me to ask why he has to pump himself up about his abilities? Do you think the real best quarterback in the NFL has to convince himself or tell a reporter he is the best quarterback in the NFL? Probably not. Brees, Rodgers, Brady, etc simply allow their performance on the field speak for itself without having to rate their abilities amongst their peers. The question gets asked of Flacco because he clearly isn't the best quarterback in the NFL and to hear him say so provides a good quote.

There is a disparity in the Ravens accomplishments as a team and the perceived ability of Flacco to lead his team to even greater accomplishments. So in my opinion, by stating he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL, Flacco shows us he doesn't really believe this to be true. The quotes read almost like he is trying to convince himself this is true. Eli Manning stated he was an elite quarterback and then showed us this was true. He didn't say he was "the best" quarterback though. He didn't rate himself. It's almost like Flacco has to convince himself his statement is true or he has to believe it to be true to do his job well. Flacco is saying he is a top-five quarterback because he knows his performance on the field doesn't reflect this. It is almost as if he keeps reassuring himself he is one of the best, he will stay confident.

So the question of who is the NFL's best quarterback comes to mind. I would say Aaron Rodgers, but that can be argued. I do know Flacco isn't even a Top 10 quarterback in my mind. Here is a list of quarterbacks I would rather have than Joe Flacco (and no, these are not in order of how I rank these quarterbacks):

Philip Rivers
Eli Manning
Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Drew Brees
Ben Roethlisberger
Aaron Rodgers
Matt Schaub
Matt Ryan
Cam Newton
Jay Cutler
Tony Romo
Matthew Stafford

So that's my list. I'm glad Flacco thinks he is the best quarterback in the NFL. I'm guessing he is the only who believes this...even though Flacco probably doesn't really believe it in reality.

2. Here is Peter's mailbag for this week. In the mailbag is this question:

"Isn't Ryan Tannehill just this year's Blaine Gabbert? Do you really think he's worth a first-round pick, not to mention a top five pick? Also, I don't understand why St. Louis isn't banging down Cleveland's door to make a deal for the fourth pick to get Justin Blackmon. Are the Rams just not that impressed with him or are they banking that he'll fall to them?''
-- From Ash, Cincinnati

PK: The stats say that about half of the first-round picks over the past 20 years are washouts, or just OK. So it's possible that Tannehill is that.

I hope Peter realizes he can answer any question about any NFL Draft prospect beginning with this sentence. Basically, saying half of 1st round draft picks are just OK or washouts isn't really an answer.

Re: Blackmon, be careful about him.

He bites?

I like him too, but he's not nearly the size of the franchise big receivers playing now -- Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald.

From what I have seen and heard, Blackmon isn't the consensus best receiver in this draft. That could very well be Kendall Wright from Baylor. So my personal feelings about Blackmon aside, I absolutely think Peter is wrong about his "size of the franchise big receivers playing now." A franchise receiver doesn't have to be big. So comparing Blackmon to franchise big receivers is pointless because there are franchise "smaller" receivers. Yes, Blackmon is "only" 6'1" (maybe slightly smaller) and 215 pounds, but there are franchise receivers who aren't "big" receivers. So based solely on Blackmon's height and size, there is nothing to be careful about. I've done this before, but since Peter absolutely refuses to do any type of research and prefers just spouting off nonsense, I will do it again.

Looking at the Top 10 wide receivers in the NFL (in receiving yards) every year since 2006...these are how many of these receivers are listed as 6'1" or shorter were in the Top 10 in the NFL in receiving yards:

2006: 7 (Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Donald Driver, Lee Evans, Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt, Steve Smith)

2007: 5 (Wayne, Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, Torry Holt)

2008: 7 (Smith, White, Greg Jennings, Marshall, Antonio Bryant, Wes Welker, Wayne)

2009: 5 (Welker, Wayne, Santonio Holmes, Smith, Hines Ward)

2010: 6 (Brandon Lloyd, White, Wayne, Jennings, Mike Wallace, Santana Moss)

2011: 7 (Welker, Victor Cruz, Smith, White, Marshall, Wallace, Hakeem Nicks)

So you can see that Justin Blackmon can still be a franchise-type receiver at his present height. You can also see there are quite a few names on that list more than once, which means these are "franchise" type receivers. So while Peter can list the height of Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and other "big" receivers as a way to dismiss him or have concerns about Justin Blackmon, I think he is off-point.

How much tape on Justin Blackmon has Peter watched? I am guessing not very much and the criticisms of "He just doesn't look big enough" is how players like Mike Wallace and Steve Smith fall to the later rounds of the draft. Peter needs to be careful about taking the height of a college player and believing this height will necessarily negatively affect the player's ability to perform at a high level in the NFL. It's a good way to end up wrong about a player.

3. Peter received another piece of mail that asked the following question about everyone's favorite broadcaster:

"I watch the Jon Gruden specials with the quarterbacks also but mostly because I am a draft junkie. I wonder though if Gruden is so good working with young QB's, why didn't he develop any in the 10 years he was a head coach in the league?''
-- From Jeremiah Stadt, Jacksonville

How dare you question Jon Gruden's ability to develop a young quarterback simply because he has never developed a young quarterback! Peter is offended.

PK: Complex answer.

Not really. The answer is complex if you want it to be made complex. The answer is Jon Gruden always preferred veteran quarterbacks when he was a head coach and he isn't an expert on developing young quarterbacks. Gruden does the QB Camps with quarterbacks because ESPN thinks he is photogenic and fun to hear talk, not because he is supposed to be an expert on developing young quarterbacks. Still, Peter defends Jon Gruden as if Gruden just didn't have many quarterbacks to work with in the NFL. This isn't entirely false, but Peter takes an odd path to defend Gruden.

Gruden didn't have many premier, highly drafted quarterbacks to work with.

Reading comprehension skills are good to have, Peter. The questioner asked why Gruden didn't DEVELOP any young quarterbacks. He didn't ask why Gruden didn't draft one high in the NFL Draft. If you pay attention to the question, you can provide a better answer. Yes, Gruden works with (probable) highly drafted quarterbacks on his QB Camp show, but the question wasn't about whether Gruden had highly drafted quarterbacks to work with when he was an NFL head coach. The question was about why Gruden is considered an expert on your quarterbacks if he didn't develop a young quarterback.

Remember, he cultivated veterans like Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson instead of taking young quarterbacks high in drafts and then working to get them to be long-term starters.

No one will argue Gruden can cultivate veteran quarterbacks. Peter's answer still doesn't answer the question of how Gruden is qualified to work with young college quarterbacks since he doesn't seem to have a history of working with them while he was a head coach.

When he was the head coach of the Raiders they drafted only one quarterback and Gruden didn't really have a chance to work with this quarterback (Marques Tuiasosopo) since Gruden left to coach Tampa Bay in 2002.

When Gruden was in Tampa Bay, they drafted three quarterbacks. Those quarterbacks were Chris Simms, Josh Johnson and Bruce Gradkowski. So the question of why Gruden didn't develop a young quarterback while he was a head coach is still a viable question. It doesn't mean Gruden isn't a good quarterbacks coach, but the question is still viable.

Except for third-rounder Chris Simms, Gruden had mostly lesser guys to work with -- Shaun King, Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown and a few others I'm forgetting.

But again, the question was asking why Gruden didn't develop any young quarterbacks. That means help work with Shaun King (who was a 2nd round pick) and Chris Simms (who was a 3rd round pick) and turn them into viable NFL starting quarterbacks.

That's not to say he's a great quarterback coach,

No one is saying he isn't a great quarterback coach.

It's just to say he didn't fail with a couple of first-rounders.

No, he didn't fail with a couple of first-rounders, but the question didn't seem to be about Gruden failing with first-round picks. The question was why he has a QB Camp on ESPN when he didn't develop any young quarterbacks. So mentioning he never had any highly talented quarterbacks to work with sort of doesn't answer the question.

I'm not saying Gruden isn't a good quarterback coach, but the real answer to this question isn't to defend Gruden's record or try to pretend a quarterback drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round can't be developed by Gruden. The real answer is, much like how ESPN hires many of their "experts," Gruden doesn't need to be an expert on young quarterbacks. He simply has to look good in front of a camera and put on a good performance when talking to the young quarterbacks. So it doesn't matter if Gruden has a history of developing quarterbacks or not. At ESPN a person doesn't have to be an expert or necessarily have a history in working with young quarterbacks, he/she simply has to look good on camera and sound like an expert.

Don't mistake ESPN's hiring of an individual for a chosen job as an indication that person is supposed to be an expert in that chosen job.