Thursday, September 20, 2012

5 comments Enough of All This NFL Talk, Gregg Easterbrook Would Prefer to Criticize Television Shows Instead

Last week Gregg updated us on Pulaski Academy's attempt to avoid punting on fourth down and how it helps lead them to winning games. It appears Pulaski went two for seven (again) on fourth down, but this doesn't mean going for it on fourth down on every possession is a bad idea. Oh no, simply because Gregg judges every NFL play on it's outcome and not whether the process behind the outcome was correct doesn't mean he can't play the whole "the process is a good one" card when it is convenient for him. This week Gregg takes on the NFL coaches who dare to make decisions which don't succeed, spends time criticizing a television show and updates us on Pulaski Academy and how their season is going (spoiler alert: they lost again). It's almost like making hard and fast rules about what should happen every time on fourth down isn't necessarily a good idea.

I wondered if we got an update on last week's "The Packers are on a downward slide" topic in this TMQ. Guess what? Staring in the face of being wrong, Gregg chooses to not mention the downward slide he believed the Packers were on last week. When in doubt, cover up your wrongness rather than own it.

Some think booing unbecoming. Not TMQ. Attending an NFL game is so expensive, crowd members should be free to boo or burst into a medley of Broadway show tunes.

I would prefer it if my favorite team's crowd didn't bust into a medley of Broadway show tunes. Though Gregg, who appears to not enjoy football and seems haughty enough to enjoy Broadway show tunes at a football game, would probably have no issue with this.

As for the Giants, they are so erratic -- last season losing twice to the cellar-dwelling Redskins, then winning the Lombardi trophy -- that season-ticket holders enter Snoopy Stadium seized with a sense of existential dread. Which Giants will show up: the super-efficient Super Bowl steamroller, or the bickering crew who couldn't beat Don Bosco? Giants fans never know. Often, like Sunday, they don't find out until the final play. For fans, this is very stressful.

There is so much existential dread about going to a game and not knowing which team will win that game. To make matters worse, the game could very well come down to the last play. Who wants to see that? Football is so boring when it is full of uncertainty!

About that ending: Greg Schiano has coached two games in the NFL, and it has taken him only that short time to convince the world he is a jackass.

Don't you mean he is a weasel coach? After all, Schiano coached at Rutgers and then had the audacity to pursue a career goal of being an NFL head coach. This makes him a weasel head coach doesn't it?

Last week, after Buccaneers safety Mark Barron inflicted a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on a Carolina Panthers player, Schiano praised him.

Again, Gregg plays loose with the facts. Schiano didn't praise Barron for inflicting this hit, but praised him for playing well in his first game as NFL player.

This week, when the Giants knelt as the clock expired, Schiano had his defense charge the line and hit. At all levels of football, when the offense goes into victory formation, defenders who are good sports simply watch the snap and then shake hands. Good sportsmanship apparently is not in the Schiano playbook.

I thought it was kind of a dick move, but I also don't see it as such a big deal that a discussion about this must continue on and on. If Schiano continuously has his players do this, then I'm guessing NFL players will get their own kind of revenge. At this point, the Giants can hold a grudge and I will think Greg Schiano is kind of an asshole.

Having your players charge the line on the final snap after you've lost is the sort of thing ordered by coaches who are, deep down inside, persons of low character.

In his defense, Schiano's point was that he didn't believe the Bucs had lost. He thought perhaps there could be a fumble and Tampa Bay could recover the fumble. This was his point of view, that no matter how unlikely it might be for their to be a fumble, it could happen. So by charging the line his team was just trying to give themselves a chance to win the game. Schiano claims the game wasn't over. I'm not agreeing with him, but he claims his team had not lost yet. Of course Schiano also claims Ronde Barber can be a full-time safety and Eric Wright is worth the millions the Bucs paid him.

Just moments earlier at 1:20 and :34 on the game clock, Schiano did not have his players perform aggressively. He ordered them to stand aside and do nothing, because by quirk that would benefit the Bucs. Once the game was lost, he ordered his players to behave in an unsportsmanlike manner.

I don't know if I would call this an unsportsmanlike manner or not. It wasn't unsportsmanlike in my opinion, it just lacked a certain amount of class. No matter how much Gregg wants to, this isn't a case of right or wrong. It's more a case of breaking an unwritten rule. I don't know if breaking this unwritten rule makes it unsportsmanlike or not, any more than it makes Schiano an ass.

If someone such as Eli Manning is injured trying to win the game, oh well, that's football. If Manning is injured on a meaningless kneel-down, this diminishes the economic value of the league.

Just playing devil's isn't Greg Schiano's responsibility to worry about the economic value of the league and how it is affected by an Eli Manning injury. His job is to ensure the Buccaneers win football games, hopefully within the rules, of course. I don't find this very convincing of an argument. Simply put, Schiano broke an unwritten rule and while I find him to lack class, this really isn't a black and white case of right or wrong. Schiano doesn't have a responsibility to worry about the economic value of the league over his team winning games. He gets paid to win games, while others get paid to worry about the economic value of the league.

Here is an example of the exact reverse of Schiano the Weasel's behavior. Reader Ansel Barchowsky of Pittsburgh reports, "I was at the Steelers versus Jersey/B game, and twice a video aired on the scoreboard in which Mike Tomlin talked about 'don't hit the head, don't use the head' for safe tackling awareness in youth football. I think it is great for a team that is vilified for its dangerous hits, rightly so in many cases, to be taking a stand on this issue."

Hmmm...this isn't really the reverse of Schiano the Weasel's behavior. The reverse of his behavior would be if a team didn't crash through the line during an end of game kneel down. What the Steelers did is just an example of a team helping to increase awareness about safe tackling.

James Harrison has been guilty of helmet-to-helmet hits, and Lawrence Timmons was guilty of one Sunday. Generally, the Steelers hit cleanly.

Generally every NFL team hits cleanly, at least outside of the Saints who prefer to try and step on their opponents head from time to time.

TMQ's immutable Law of the Goal Line holds: If you're going to play-fake, do it on first-and-goal, when the defense is expecting run, not on second-and-goal or third-and-goal, when the defense has just stopped a run and is expecting pass.

What? This explanation makes no sense. Don't play-fake on second-and-goal or third-and-goal because the defense has just stopped the run and is expecting pass? What if a team threw the ball on first and second down? It would be okay to play fake at that point on third-and-goal wouldn't it because the defense hasn't just stopped the run. Why does Gregg assume a team is definitely running the ball on first down? Gregg shouldn't make this rule based on the assumption a team is running the ball on first down. A team can try to throw the ball on first down on the goal line too. Wouldn't play-fake on second down then make sense?

(Beside this "immutable law" Gregg has a picture of a cheerleader. It seems he's done highlighting cheerleaders every week for their brains and has resorted to just showing them as eye candy.)

In Week 1, the Titans trailed New England 28-10 in the fourth quarter and kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 6. TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook, and indeed the game was over

What a sage! Gregg KNEW this game was over with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter and even wrote it down in his Selena Gomez Trapper-Keeper notebook.

I always enjoy how Gregg will point out that he wrote "game over" in his notebook, as if this information that only he could confirm as true gives his readers ultimate proof that this game was truly over. I wonder how many times Gregg has written "game over" in his notebook and the game ended up not truly being over? We'll never know since Gregg only tells us the times he has written this and turned out to be correct.

Leading 14-0, Buffalo had possession at the Kansas City 29. The Bills split tailback C.J. Spiller far left as the outside receiver in a double set. The Chiefs did not notice this and safety blitzed from the same direction.

Or, maybe, just maybe, the Chiefs DID notice this and the coaching staff chose not to use a timeout to change the play or the Chiefs defender decided he wasn't going to ignore the defensive coordinator's play call and continue blitzing. Gregg is under the impression all NFL defenses play man-to-man defense and any defensive player can randomly change his assignment on a given defensive play call.

This season, TMQ is following the fourth-down results at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark., where coach Kevin Kelley has for years eschewed the punt. Last season, Pulaski punted once and won the state title. TMQ contends that rarely punting should be dubbed "Arkansas-style football." On Friday, Pulaski lost to West Memphis.

But Pulaski didn't punt on fourth down? This ensures a team will win a game. How could they lose a game once their victory is assured by going for it on fourth down?

Pulaski went for it 10 times on fourth down, converting seven. Normally a stat line like that that would mean certain victory.

This would be true in a world where the team that goes for it the most on fourth down gets extra points for converting fourth down tries. In other words, in a world where NFL teams don't score points in the way they currently score points.

A team that commits to rarely punting knows there will be games in which the tactic either doesn't work or doesn't help -- but that over the course of a season, the team will win more often than if it did the "safe" thing and punted.

In high school games where the talent level on each team isn't as strong, this may be true. In the NFL, and even in college, I do doubt this to be true. I don't think field position can be overstated enough in the NFL. I believe the talent level in the NFL is too strong for a team to rarely punt.

I also find it funny that Gregg takes the long view regarding the tactic of punting/not punting on fourth down when he usually determines whether a tactic is smart or not on a case-by-case basis.

Later, trailing 24-23,the Ravens faced third-and-2 at midfield with a minute remaining, needing to advance about 25 yards for a field goal attempt to win. For a team that averaged 5.3 yards per carry -- just run the ball and pick up the first. Instead, incompletion, incompletion, game over.

I don't agree with these play calls either, especially since it seems the Ravens had timeouts to use, but simply because they had averaged 5.3 yards per carry doesn't mean on third-and-2 they will get 5.3 yards.

Both incompletions were not home run attempts, but rather, rinky-dinky short, sideways stuff.

You mean high percentage passes that are specifically thrown to gain the first down? The Ravens averaged 5.1 yards per pass, so using "Easterbrookian math" both passes should have gotten them the first down and Gregg should not have a problem with either pass. These passes failed, so using his typical schtick of chasing outcomes, Gregg says these passes were stupid.

The replacements' worst call Sunday occurred in the Dallas-at-Seattle contest. As noted by reader Tyler Kenealey of Dallas, early in the fourth quarter, Golden Tate of the Bluish Men Group made a vicious peel-back helmet-to-helmet hit on Boys linebacker Sean Lee. Edge defenders are considered "defenseless" if they cannot see a blocker approaching from their blind side. Zebras threw a flag -- which turned out to be unnecessary roughness on Dallas, for a defender lightly pushing a Seahawk out of bounds. Tate wasn't flagged.

I'm going to try to hold my whining about the officiating to a minimum, but this is one of my big concerns about the replacement officials. Much like the Carolina-New Orleans game where it was chippy throughout the game, filled with Saints players clearly trying to step on Cam Newton's head, Cam lightly shoving a Saints player and Steve Smith picking a fight with any Saint defending him, the officials are not controlling the game. Players are going to try and get away with anything they can get away with and I am afraid at some point a player is going to get hurt. The hit on Lee was massive, but it was also illegal and should have been flagged. I don't want to see players getting hurt because the officials aren't controlling the game.

Then Gregg starts criticizing "Hawaii Five-O" for about 20%- 25% of this column. I know people who watch this show and find it ridiculous, but entertaining. That's all they want after a long day at work, to be entertained, so the show does its job. I don't get the point in criticizing it. It's not a show that is supposed to be realistic. It isn't "Glee" which is a show that claims to be an all-inclusive look into how high school should be in order to relate to the emotions some of the viewers experience, when it is a show that feeds its audiences stereotypes in place of characters and is around simply to sell songs on iTunes.

It's fine to dislike a show for its lack of realism (Gregg knows a lot about a show that has no realism and he seems to detest, but "Hawaii Five-O" seems to be a show Gregg clearly watches every single week a new episode is on), but don't spend 20%-25% of a football column criticizing the show.

Why do TV script writers promote the idea that it is unreasonable to ask law enforcement officers to establish identity? No honest cop objects to this. Fake badges can be purchased in a costume store, and criminals pretending to be police are a long-standing problem. If a guy banged on the door of a "Hawaii Five-0" producer, claiming to be a detective but refusing to show ID, that producer surely would dial 911.

(hangs head sadly and then begins to beat head against the wall)

The Patriots seemingly score at will at home. When the Cardinals twice took field goals on fourth-and-short in the first half, your columnist thought, "They'll never outscore New England at home that way."


Arizona leading 20-18, Danny Woodhead scored a touchdown with a minute remaining, but the Patriots were flagged for holding. Your columnist thought, "This actually favors the hosts, because now Belichick can grind down the clock and kick a field goal as time expires." Might it actually have been better for Arizona to decline the penalty, force New England to take the touchdown and give itself one minute to reply?

Probably not in this situation. The Cardinals were on the road and needed a touchdown to win the game. Kevin Kolb had thrown for less than 200 yards on the day, so it wasn't like he had a good chance of leading the Cardinals down the field to get a touchdown. There was probably a better chance of the Cardinals defense stopping the Patriots offense. After all, the Cardinals defense had done a good job holding down the Patriots offense all day.

Tom Brady threw to the Cardinals' 18, where New England had first-and-10 with 46 seconds remaining, out of timeouts. Belichick had Brady dive ahead to position the ball, but the Patriots were offside. Now New England was back at the 23 -- from there, a field goal is likely but hardly automatic. Belichick had Brady dive again, this time losing a yard; Brady spiked the ball to stop the clock at 5 seconds, and New England's hope sailed wide left.

Why was Belichick content to play for a 42-yard field goal attempt? New England might have run at least one snap, maybe two, to move the ball closer.

Belichick was content to have a field goal kicker who had made four field goals already that day and is the most accurate kicker in the history of the franchise try the kick because he thought he could make it. I don't see a problem with Belichick's strategy here. He chose to have Brady dive ahead and then Brady spiked the ball with 5 seconds left. If the Patriots had run a running play then there is a good chance the clock would have run out without the Patriots even getting a field goal attempt off.

Think about it, Brady spiked the ball with five seconds left after diving ahead. Had the Patriots tried to hand the ball off to get more yardage, handing the ball off to the running back would have taken an extra second off the clock, then the running back would run with the football as the offensive linemen blocked. If the running back breaks through for five or six yards now the line of scrimmage is moved up, the offensive line has to move up and get set and refs have to place the ball after the defensive players take their time getting off the running back of course and time runs out. I believe this whole process would take five seconds longer than a simple dive with the quarterback.

Even if the running back was tackled immediately, the offensive line still has to get set at where the ball carrier was tackled (and the defensive players surely would try to stop him from getting up quickly) and the ref has to set the ball up for Brady to spike it. I don't think the Patriots would have gotten a field goal attempt off even if the ball carrier was tackled immediately. Diving ahead with Brady meant the offensive line didn't have to move far to get reset and Brady and the officials didn't have to move far to reset the ball so he could spike it. Another running play after the false start would have possibly ended the game without a field goal attempt.

In a Times Square Defense, defenders just shuffle back and forth till the snap. Manning could not figure out the pattern because there was no pattern. Often Falcons defenders pressed the line as if to blitz, then, as Manning began the snap count, sprinted backward into coverage. This worked, and Denver needs an answer for it.

It's called "film study" and that's about the only answer to figure out any defensive tactic.

Reader Jim Clair of reports, "Archie Manning was just on the Colin Cowherd radio show talking about the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Program he's working with. Manning encouraged voters to vote every day between now and Dec. 31. Not only is it crazy to vote for the college coach of the year after two weeks of play, the voting closes before most bowl games take place and many important coaching decisions are left to be made."

Most bowl games take place before December 31st I believe and the vast majority of games have been played and coaching decisions have been made before that date. It is difficult to vote for college coach of the year after two weeks, but to have the voting close on December 31st isn't that crazy. The Heisman Trophy winner is announced three weeks prior to that date, so to name the best college coach three weeks after the Heisman winner is announced isn't very crazy at all.

Now it's Giants 41, City of Tampa 34 with 18 seconds remaining and Bucs' ball on the Jersey/A 45. Where oh where might the pass go -- maybe to the end zone! Yet backup corner Justin "Two Garments Only" Tryon,

It still doesn't make sense to have the "Tryon" come after "Two Garments Only." This is some weak Berman-like humor. We don't call Eli Manning, Eli "Up" Manning because "Up Manning" isn't a word. If Justin Tryon's name was "Justin Garments" then this joke with "Tryon Two" as his middle name would make more sense, yet still wouldn't be funny.

Schiano the Weasel made one of the worst calls TMQ has ever seen. Bucs leading 27-19 midway through the fourth quarter, Tampa faced fourth-and-1 at midfield. That cannot be the punt unit trotting on! You know the Giants are a fourth-quarter comeback team; control the ball!

Schiano the Weasel traded possession of the ball, the most important factor in football, for a small gain of field position against a team his defense couldn't even slow down.

This isn't entirely true. Gregg is using hindsight to make this criticism. The Buccaneers had held the Giants to 19 points at this spot in the game. Until this point the Bucs had done a pretty good job of slowing down the Giants offense. Gregg knows NOW the Giants offense couldn't be stopped, but at this point in the game the Giants only had one touchdown, which was scored back in the second quarter. Otherwise, the Bucs had held the Giants to four field goals. It's not fair to criticize a coach for what you now when this coach doesn't have the benefit of hindsight like you do. At the time, the Bucs had done a good job of slowing down the Giants defense. Gregg can pretend like this isn't true in order to make it look like his criticism is valid, but it is just another example of him trying to mislead his readers.

Buffalo leading 21-0 in the third quarter, Kansas City kicked a short field goal, which was bad enough -- hey guys, now we're down by only 18! -- then, rather than onside, kicked away. When the kick was not an onside, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

I bet you $100 Gregg wrote "Game Over" in his Selena Gomez Trapper-Keeper notebook when the Giants punted in the third quarter while down 27-13.

Last week TMQ noted of cupcake-for-hire Presbyterian College, "Georgia Tech [just] paid Division 1AA Presbyterian, which last autumn lost to Furman, $400,000 to come to Atlanta and be pounded, 59-3. Last season, Presbyterian accepted $400,000 to fly to Cal and be pounded, 63-12." On Saturday, Vanderbilt paid Presbyterian around $400,000 to be pounded, 58-0. The Tennessean reported that sum is "the customary rate for Presbyterian to play an SEC or ACC team." The customary rate!

As we discussed in the comments last week, these games are a good chance for Division I-AA teams to get some exposure and play teams from major conferences. While they will many times get their ass kicked, the school and the players don't always mind it because they get to see how they match up against teams from major conferences. Not to mention, as it was pointed out in the comments last week, this is also a good chance for players from small schools (which is a group of players Gregg loves to talk about because they are so hard-working and tend to become the undrafted players he loves) to get some exposure from NFL teams. So one would think Gregg would love it any time a hard-working, small, non-football factory school and its players get some exposure.

Many sports commentators have noted this knucklehead move by Morgan deprived the Skins of a makeable field goal to force overtime. But consider -- it would have been fourth-and-1 on Les Mouflons' 29. Washington rushed for 176 yards on the game, a 6.1-yard average. The Redskins could have gone for the first down and positioned themselves to win outright with a touchdown.

They absolutely could have done this. The Redskins also have a kicker who has a career-long of 56 yards and this game was being played in a dome. It was a judgment call. Simply because the Redskins had a 6.1 yard per rush on the game doesn't mean the Redskins have a good chance of converting this fourth down. In a situation like this on a fourth-and-1, the defense is expecting run which affects whether the Redskins could pick it up or not. Again, it was a judgment call, not a right or wrong call.

The only reason Gregg is criticizing the decision is because the decision failed. If the Redskins had gone for it on fourth-and-1 then Gregg would have criticized them for not using motion or running the wrong play on fourth down.

Besides, it doesn't even matter if Josh Morgan committed a penalty in this situation or not to push the Redskins back 15 yards. Hasn't Gregg told us possession of the ball is more important than field position? The Redskins had the ball, that's all that matters.


rich said...

Which Giants will show up: the super-efficient Super Bowl steamroller, or the bickering crew who couldn't beat Don Bosco? Giants fans never know.

Ya, every time I watch the Giants now, I'm terrified about which team will show up, the one that has two Super Bowls in 5 years or the one with two Super Bowls in 5 years.

Yes, it's frustrating to watch the Giants play like shit, then follow it up in the fourth by playing like an unbeatable juggernaut, but to say:

For fans, this is very stressful.

Is fucking retarded. When you've won 2 Super Bowls in 5 years, you can suck ass for a decade and the fans have no reason to be "stressed."

Having your players charge the line on the final snap after you've lost

I'm also in the "it was a dick move" camp, but it wasn't really a 'they should be punished' thing.

And if it's the last snap of the game, it by definition IS NOT OVER. They could have very well forced a fumble; improbable? Absolutely, but impossible? Nope.

I'm going to try to hold my whining about the officiating to a minimum

Not me, they're fucking awful. When it takes a full goddamn hour to play a single quarter of football... embarrassing.

Why do TV script writers promote the idea that it is unreasonable to ask law enforcement officers to establish identity?

I'd love to see a realistic tv show, where every cop not only flashes his badge, but signed papers as well.

Fuck the plot, I want to see less storyline and more paperwork!

I mean, have you noticed how little paperwork cops do in tv shows? Seriously, with all the murders and arrests, you'd think they'd be up to their eyes in paperwork, but noooooooooooo.

TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

I wrote game over on a napkin after the Bills went up 14-0 within the first minute of the second quarter.

Or you know... when they had a chance to make it 21-7 going into half time and.. fumbled the ball into the end zone.

Washington rushed for 176 yards on the game, a 6.1-yard average.

::sigh:: again with this? Fourth and fucking one with the game on the line = run. Unless the Rams were sticking 10-11 guys at the line to stuff the run, the 6.1 average means absolutely nothing.

Eric C said...

Gregg writing in a Selena Gomez trapper keeper image is priceless. I picture him with one of those feather head pens with pink and purple hair.

I am a Giants fan, but the Bucs were down by 7 points. If they were down by 9, that would have been a total dick move. If it had worked, you know damn sure Gregg would have praised it, and you know the rest of the NFL would start doing it. Another case of him judging the outcome, not the innovation.

Icing the kicker used to be considered unsportsmanlike, and now it's commonplace. There are plenty of things - the hard snap count, all the crap that goes on at the bottom of the pile when there is a loose football...heck, even the Dan Marino's fake spike, or the play with Kolb where only he and the center ran in to the end zone - that could be considered unsportsmanlike, but happen anyway.

Besides, isn't this the guy who constantly tells us "Fortune favors the bold" and is in favor of unconventional stuff like not punting?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, it's always so stressful to go to a good football game. Like last night's Car v. NYG game, I got offered tickets and I couldn't make it, but I really wish I could have so I could see a non-stressful football game. I go to see one team get absolutely blown out, not to see competitive football. Who wants to see a quality matchup?

I don't think the Bucs should be punished either. I think it was a dick move and that's that. The Giants will get their revenge. It's an unwritten rule, not something that deserves to be discussed on Friday morning like I am discussing it right now.

The idea television shows are there to entertain completely evades Gregg. No one wants realism in a cop show. Being a cop is boring 99% of the time. It also evades Gregg as to how a 6.1 ypc average means a team many not convert a fourth-and-one. If these stats were a true, a team would never have to punt because most teams average over 4 yards per play during a game.

Well, except Carolina last night, but that's a different story.

Eric, I am guessing there is some One Direction playing in the background as well while Gregg writes in his Selena Gomez trapper keeper.

That is true if the play had worked most teams would do it. I don't know if it was unsportsmanlike, but the issue I have with it is the way the defensive line ended up knocking down Manning like that. Maybe you are right, and teams will start attacking the snap like that on kneel downs. I think the fake spike is a bit unsportsmanslike, but teams do it and I am not terribly bothered by it.

He does tell us "fortune favors the bold" and that play by Schiano was definitely bold. I wouldn't have done it if I were the coach, but I don't think anyone should be punished.

jacktotherack said...

His idea that the Cardinals should have declined the holding penalty and let the Patriots score so they could attempt a comeback is incredibly stupid. I understand why the Bucs did it in their game, the Giants were inside the 5 and there is virtually no chance of Tynes missing that kick. But in the Patriots game there was less than one minute left and the ball was on the 30. The hloding penalty brought the ball back to between the 15 and 20, but to voluntarily give up the TD with under a minute left, when Kevin fucking Kolb is your QB, seems ridiculous.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, I'm for teams letting another team score at the end of a game in certain situations, but the Patriots were too far from the end zone to make the kick a chip shot. Plus, they had Kevin Kolb as their quarterback. He threw for like 140 yards on the day. That would be terrible coaching.