Friday, June 5, 2015

3 comments Peter King Does a Little Public Relations for the St. Louis Rams

I am sure everyone remembers this post and Peter King column. It's the one where Peter's agent used Peter as a conduit to essentially explain how another NFL team could sign Alex Mack as a restricted free agent and guarantee the Browns won't match the offer sheet. It was fairly egregious that Peter allowed himself to be used in such fashion by his agent. It was obvious that Peter was doing Demoff's bidding for a couple of reasons. First, read the article. If it doesn't sound to you like Mack's agent is in Peter's ear giving a full plan on how he plans to get around the offer sheet, then we will just have to agree to disagree. Second, when has Peter ever written another article where the premise is "Here is exactly how Agent X plans to structure an offer sheet in order for Player X's team to not match that offer sheet"? I can't recall another time Peter did it to this extent. Well, now Peter has written an article about the St. Louis Rams and why they are confident in drafting Todd Gurley, even knowing the running back position is being devalued by many NFL teams. If you have read this blog at all, you probably know that Marvin Demoff's (Peter's agent) son, Kevin, is the COO of the Rams. Jeff Fisher is also a client of Marvin Demoff, so Peter has a sort of double conflict of interest here. I feel like Peter has always given the Rams and Fisher more favorable coverage than deserved. It's not a real conflict of interest because on it's face, because Peter is supposed to report on NFL teams. That's his job. Buuuuuuuuuuut, Peter was in the Rams' draft room two years ago to do some PR for the team describing how they drafted THE EXACT PLAYERS THEY WANTED. Peter also breathlessly reported on the bidding war between the Dolphins and Rams a few years ago for the services of Jeff Fisher, which I am sure didn't make Marvin Demoff sad to read. Peter King has a history of working closely with the Rams organization, withholding criticism for moves the Rams, and has a history of pimping out Marvin Demoff clients in some fashion. At best, Peter is naive enough to make himself available to do positive PR for Demoff clients at times, and at worst, he knowingly helps his agent's clients out through some of the columns he writes.

And to be clear, I love Todd Gurley. I think he is a franchise back and possibly the best player in the 2015 draft. The Rams drafting Gurley was a smart move. The problem is that Peter King has a history of writing self-serving columns for the sake of his agent's clients and son. Not to mention, while discussing how some NFL teams don't care about the devaluing of running backs, at no point in this column does Peter mention the Chargers drafted a running back five picks after the Rams drafted Gurley, AND the Chargers traded up to get that running back. "Gordon" nor "Chargers" are mentioned in this column, despite the fact they drafted a running back early just like the Rams did. One would think at least a mention of the running back taken five picks after Gurley could be found, but one would be wrong. There is a reason for this. This column is only supposed to be about the Rams, as most public relations pieces only focus on the subject for one specific entity. The subject isn't about running backs being devalued and teams who draft running backs early anyway. It's about the Rams and the direction they want to take their team and the plan they have to take the team in that direction. Marvin Demoff is smiling that his mouthpiece has done good again.

In part because NFL news is never-ending, and in part because you just can never read enough about allegedly deflated footballs, one off-season story has gotten a small fraction of the attention it would have gotten during a quieter May.

The St. Louis Rams bravely selected the best running back in the draft at the #10 spot. How crazy are they to do this? This is a team that must know where it's going (Los Angeles) and how it wants to get there (luring St. Louis football fans to pay for one more season of mediocrity before leaving town). I mean, what team drafts a running back in the first round (the Chargers did this too, five spots later) knowing the position is being devalued (the Chargers traded up to get their running back)?

It's a confident team that drafts a running back in the first round, especially when that team drafted a slot receiver in the Top 10 just a few years earlier. The Rams must have a real plan of action to win the Super Bowl this year. Perhaps it's time to give Jeff Fisher that contract extension he deserves.

In a time of radical devaluation of running backs, a tailback five months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL was selected 10th overall in the 2015 NFL draft.

Oh, so if Melvin Gordon had blown his knee out then he would have gotten mentioned in this column too? Makes perfect sense. Gordon didn't blow his knee out, so even though the running back position is being devalued, his being drafted five spots later than Gurley is not news. 

And so you think one of two things about Todd Gurley: Either he’s really good, or the Rams really reached to pick him in the top third of round one.

I think Todd Gurley is really good. I would have drafted him in the spot where the Rams drafted him. My complaint isn't in the Rams drafting Gurley, but how Peter discusses the Rams when discussing their drafting of Gurley, without even mentioning another running back went five picks later. This reads like a piece on the Rams' team website and not a column from a national sportswriter. Peter talks about how Fisher finally has the type of running back he always wanted (sorry Isaiah Pead, apparently the Rams never liked you). He shades this column less in terms of Todd Gurley being drafted high and more in terms of how the Rams feel like they are getting back on the right track. It reads like a PR piece.

I like how Peter is all like, "The Rams could have really screwed this pick up. It's always a possibility. But rest assured, if this is the case then I will not make mention of it, much like how I haven't made mention when talking about how the Rams fleeced the Redskins in the RG III trade that the Rams haven't done a hell of a lot with the three extra first round picks they received from Washington."

So Peter is sure to mention drafting Gurley could have been a bad move, but in reality it's not like Peter will ever follow up on whether it was a bad move or not.

“It’s never been a big thing to me, where I get drafted, who drafts me,” Gurley said in the wake of the Rams’ choice—and the revelation (per The MMQB) that St. Louis had the rehabbing runner as the No. 1 overall player on its 2015 draft board.

I love the wording used here. The "revelation" that the Rams had Gurley as the #1 overall player on their draft board. It sounds like THE MMQB broke some news that isn't quite as exciting as they think it is.

First, a few factoids about the value of running backs:

You know it is a Peter King column when the word "factoid" starts getting thrown around. "Factoid" essentially means a false or fabricated statement, yet Peter has used it for years as if the word means "a small, tiny fact of some importance." Here is a little factoid: Factoid isn't supposed to be used in the way that Peter King uses the word.

1. Of the 13 leading rushers in the NFL in 2014, one (Marshawn Lynch) was a first-round draft pick.

I like how Peter randomly stops at the 13th leading rusher. Mark Ingram is the 14th on the list. It's a funny place to stop and there is a reason Peter stopped there. The rest of the leading rushers for 2014 were drafted in the following rounds:

2nd round: 5
3rd round: 3
4th round: 1
6th round: 1
7th round: 1

In 2013, the top 13 leading rushers were drafted in the following rounds:

1st round: 6
2nd round: 3
3rd round: 3
6th round: 1

In 2012, the top 13 leading rushers were drafted in the following rounds:

1st round: 5
2nd round: 2
3rd round: 3
6th round: 1

In 2011, the top 13 leading rushers were drafted in the following round:

1st round: 6
2nd round: 3
3rd round: 2
5th round: 1

So, the Rams drafting Todd Gurley at #10 in the first round is a risk in the same way drafting any player early is a risk. Details from the past four seasons show that if a team wants to draft a running back who stands a chance of being one of the Top 13 rushers in the NFL, then the first two rounds, and the first round specifically, is where that running back will be found. It's just how it is. Even in 2014 when only one of the top 13 rushers was a first round pick, five of the thirteen leading rushers were found in the 2nd round. It's not a huge risk to draft a running back in the first round if you want to try and find an elite running back. That's where these elite running backs are found.

2. In the 2014 draft, the first running back came off the board at the 54th overall pick. That was Bishop Sankey, taken by Tennessee.

This was an outlier draft when there wasn't a strong group of running backs. Data from one season doesn't necessarily show a future trend.

3. In the four drafts between 2011 and 2014, only one running back was picked in the top 25 of any draft. That was Trent Richardson, selected No. 3 by Cleveland in 2012.

Okay, and yet 17 first round picks were in the Top 13 of rushing yards over a three season period.

4. Number of teams that have employed Trent Richardson since 2012: three.

Trent Richardson is a bust. Can we please get past Trent Richardson and stop pretending like Richardson is THE EXAMPLE of how all running backs will perform in the NFL from here until the end of time? Instead of saying the running back position is devalued, it would be easier to just say, "Hey, Trent Richardson is a bust and so does that mean all running backs drafted in the Top 10 will be busts from here on out?"

5. Number of 100-yard rushing games by Trent Richardson in his last 40 games: zero.


6. And finally: If you take the top 10 rushers in the NFL in 2014 and figure the average overall draft pick spent on those 10 players, that number would be 95, around the last pick of the third round. (That includes one undrafted free agent, Arian Foster. There were 256 players drafted the year he was not chosen, 2009, and so for the sake of figuring this average, I gave Foster the number 257.)

This number means jack shit. What does mean something is the fact 9 of the 13 leading rushers in 2014 were drafted in the first three rounds of the draft. If an NFL team wants an elite running back, better get one before the 4th round, and it's best to get one in the first two rounds. That's how it is, no matter how Peter wants to show differently.

Strangely, in light of all that, when I called around in the days after the draft about any number of topics, I didn’t hear one GM or personnel man say, The Rams are crazy. In fact, I found out that Tampa Bay had Gurley No. 5 on its board.

Obviously this means the Rams are brilliant and doesn't mean that NFL teams are idiots like Peter King who assume just because Trent Richardson busted then all highly drafted running backs will bust. NFL teams know how to find an elite running back, that's all it tells me when no NFL teams say the Rams were crazy. Just because Peter King doesn't understand how to use numbers or statistics to examine when the best time to draft a franchise running back would be doesn't mean NFL teams don't understand how to use these numbers and statistics.

Peter seems to want to paint the Rams as this team that are rebels and controversially pulled the trigger on a running back early in the draft. It's simply that they have a need at the running back position and there is a running back considered elite in this draft. The same can't be said for every draft over the past few seasons. 

Andrews told teams the week before the draft that he’d put his professional reputation on the line that Gurley, when fully healed sometime late this year, will be as good as he ever was, and no more susceptible to chronic knee problems than any other running backs.

It's easy to say this when you are the only one that NFL teams go to in order to fix these types of knee injuries that Gurley sustained. Andrews seems to have a monopoly on the blown knee/elbow market in sports. He doesn't need a professional reputation as long as he has success with the majority of the athletes he does surgery on.

The other reason: NFL teams saw Gurley as the best back to come into the draft since Adrian Peterson was picked seventh overall in 2007. The comparison is interesting. Peterson is 6-1 and 218; Gurley is 6-1 and 222.

Well obviously that means Todd Gurley is Adrian Peterson. Jeff Fisher just drafted Adrian Peterson under the rest of the NFL's noses. I bet they feel stupid. But that's just the genius of Fisher.

Peterson has reportedly run a 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds, and Gurley, who ran the 110-meter hurdles at the World Junior Championship in 2011, has been recorded below 4.3 in the 40 too. Peterson has made his living being strong enough to make the tough yards between the tackles and fast enough to hit the home runs outside the tackles. Ditto Gurley.

So the only conclusion I can come to is the Rams just drafted Adrian Peterson. Yes, Todd Gurley looks like he could be a stud running back, but let's back off the Peterson comparisons until Gurley plays one regular season snap. Of course, don't forget Gurley ran that fast in 2011 before his knee injury.

Peterson’s official 40 time is 4.40; Gurley’s estimated 40 time is 4.40.

And when have estimated 40 times ever been wrong?

St. Louis has been dying for a franchise running back. Since Steven Jackson left for Atlanta two years ago—and even before, actually; the Rams thought Jackson was declining in 2012—coach Jeff Fisher has wanted a back like Gurley.

It sounds like the Rams are a team on the rise. Next stop, Jeff Fisher's first playoff win in a decade. You can feel the tension in excitement in Los Angeles St. Louis as the team is ready to finally be the team on the rise that Jeff Fisher has always promised they would be. Jeff Fisher has always wanted a running back like Todd Gurley and he finally has him.

Fisher is a throwback coach.

"Throwback" meaning "Go back in the past to find where he has been successful, but only pay attention to the seasons where his team made the playoffs and ignore the vast majority of the seasons where his team had a .500 or losing record."

Most of the league craves an offense with a 60-40 pass-run split. Fisher would love it to be 50-50, or even 55-45 run. He likes to play offense with a back capable of wearing down defenses with long drives early in games and eating the clock in the fourth quarter.

And yet, it's taken Fisher four years to get to that point with the Rams. It must be nice to have such job security to know as a head coach you have four years to get the team you are coaching to resemble the team you would like it to resemble. I'm hard on Jeff Fisher, but at no point does Peter King acknowledge that Fisher has had three full seasons to get the Rams team how he wants it and has so far seemingly failed to do so? Why is this not a relevant point? Peter presents it as Fisher accomplishing the equivalent of a coup to get Todd Gurley so the Rams team can run it's offense how he wants it to. IT TOOK THREE FUCKING YEARS THOUGH! Why? Is this not a question that should be asked while up the organization's butt hole for drafting Gurley? What took so fucking long? It's the same thing as the quarterback position for the Rams. I feel miserable for Rams fans to have a coaching staff that seems happy to dick around for a few seasons knowing there is job security.

“Here’s what it came down to for us,’’ said GM Les Snead. “Todd, for us, was one of those once-every-few-years talents, one of the best players we’ve seen come out in a while. We just felt he was somebody we couldn’t pass up. This wasn’t about Week 1 against Seattle, whether he’d be ready to go then; we will let nature takes its course on that. This was a long-term decision.

Great, it's nice to know the team's mindset. What about the mindset of the Chargers who traded up to #15 from #17 to draft Melvin Gordon. Why isn't this "devalued running backs" story about them as well? Specifically since the Chargers tried and failed (mostly) with Ryan Mathews just a few years ago and felt the need to invest in a running back in the first round yet again? Isn't that a somewhat interesting story? Of course, painting the Chargers as rebels for taking Gordon in the middle of the first round would take away from going inside the head of Les Snead and Jeff Fisher to find out why they drafted Todd Gurley. Peter King has so much access to the Rams organization he probably has an office in the building at this point. Access is great. Using the access to come off like you are there for PR purposes is not great.

I asked Snead about the Adrian Peterson comparisons.


"So how about the comparison that people (I) are making of Todd Gurley to Adrian Peterson?"

“I can see people thinking of him at that level,’’ he said. “When you watch him, you see him run like that sometimes.”

Right, because Les Snead will say anything different about the running back he just took at the #10 spot in the first round. Snead wants to look smart and he has a national sportswriter in his lap ready to regurgitate every word he says about Gurley. What else would he say?

Mike Mayock said he likes the Marshawn Lynch comparison more. “St. Louis wants to win games the same way Seattle and San Francisco in the same division do—running the ball and playing great defense and playing great special teams,” the NFL Network analyst said. “I like the fit in St. Louis.”

Peter King wants us to know this was another brilliant move by the Rams. And in no way is this article affected by the fact that Peter shares an agent with Jeff Fisher and Kevin Demoff is Marvin Demoff's agent. It's just a pure coincidence that Peter has access to the Rams team in the way he does and consistently lets Fisher off the hook for three seasons (and let's be honest, a good portion of his coaching career) of treading water while not living up to the expectations his salary calls for him to meet.

Fisher really hasn’t had a workhorse back with some outside burst since Eddie George in Tennessee.

Yeah, when I think of outside burst I just don't think of Eddie George. His career long run is 54 yards and he averaged 3.6 yards per carry (with a career high of 4.1 (!!!!) in 1996 and 1999) during his career. I don't think of George as having outside burst. I think of him as grinding out 3.5-3.8 yards per carry. In fact, that's pretty much what he did his entire career.

But the story here is not just Gurley helping Fisher play football the way the coach has always wanted to.

Haha...I just laugh at this. The amount of job security that Jeff Fisher has is ridiculous. He's going on his fourth year and he's finally getting around to building the Rams in the way that he would like. It's inexcusable to me.

If Fisher had his way, the quarterback would be a complementary player. He doesn’t want to play a Drew Brees or Peyton Manning game—in part because he doesn’t have Brees or Manning, but mostly because he’s more comfortable playing football the more traditional way.

So is this an article about the devaluing of running backs through an examination of Todd Gurley being drafted at #10 or an article about how old school Jeff Fisher is and how he likes to run his offense?

If the rest of the NFL wants to move the chains with 40 mostly short passes every game, Fisher understands. That’s the way teams are being built. He’d preferred to win with a strong ground game, and a mashing line.

I like how Peter is speaking for Fisher. He's literally being his mouthpiece in this article. Peter is taking Fisher's thoughts and putting them into the column so everyone understands what Fisher wants to accomplish.

Now that he has his preferred front five and running back, we should see by late this season (when Gurley is back to form) if he’s right.

Yes, NOW Jeff Fisher is ready to win some football games. He hasn't had a winning season since 2008 and six winning seasons over his 19 year head coaching career, but he's ready to win some games now that he has the Rams team just where he wants them to be. It's a team on the rise!

“It’s been a long time coming,’’ Fisher said after the draft,

Oh, Fisher is acknowledging his own mediocrity. Wow.

speaking of his desire to get a back he can make his go-to offensive key. “Clearly, he was set back because of the injury, but the athletic ability, the strength, the explosion, the acceleration, the instincts that he has as a runner, and he’s also got great hands out of the backfield. He’s that complete back.

Welp, nevermind. Jeff Fisher was talking about Todd Gurley, the only running back in this year's draft to be drafted in the first round as long as you ignore the existence of the other running back that was drafted in the first round. Running backs are being devalued, now let Peter King tell you about Jeff Fisher's philosophy and why the Rams are ready to make noise in the NFC West this year.

He’s referring to the board that had Gurley as the draft’s No. 1 overall player. It’s a risk, particularly when recent history says running backs can be found low in the draft (and after the draft too).

Oh, Peter. Just give up. Running backs can be found low in the draft, but the best running backs are found in the first three rounds. All of the data supports this contention. The Rams know this and other NFL teams know this. You clearly don't know this.

Fisher might be putting his future with the Rams on the line

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Peter King is pretending there are real stakes here. There are not stakes. The Rams organization has let Fisher dick around at the running back and quarterback position for three years now. If Gurley ends up busting, which he won't do, they will just give Fisher a contract extension. It beats all I have ever seen. A highly paid coach who has consistently not provided the results his contract calls for him to provide...and yet, his job is safe.

with Gurley, and one thing is sure: He’s happy to do it.

Of course he is. This is the type of column that should appear on the Rams team website, not on THE MMQB. It's poorly researched and a fluff piece that appears to have one goal, which is to get Jeff Fisher's coaching philosophy out there and indicate the Rams are a team that's finally gotten the players they want. They are on the rise. Marvin Demoff is smiling. 


Snarf said...

Fisher really hasn’t had a workhorse back with some outside burst since Eddie George in Tennessee.

If only fisher hadn't been stuck with 2009 Chris Johnson...

Steve said...

Your comments on Fisher are spot on. If he isn't the most overrated coach in the NFL I don't know who is.

Fisher has definitely been fumbling around with the RB position the past two years. After Jackson left, Daryl Richardson was the starter going into the 2012 season. He was ineffective and once Fisher installed Stacy as the starting RB he took off. Why did it take so long for him to make this change? The same thing can be said for last season. The Rams went with a bizarre combo of Stacy/Mason/Cunningham before giving the majority of the carries to Mason, who was clearly the best back of the 3. Perhaps they didn't feel that Mason was able to shoulder the load of 250-275 carries as a rookie.

I think that Fisher deserves some credit for establishing a very good defense, but it's hard to defend a coach who has a 20-27-1 record in his tenure with the Rams.

Bengoodfella said...

Snarf, great point. I forgot about Chris Johnson. He wasn't a workhorse because...ummm...he was too slow? Nope, that's not it.

Steve, I actually like Jeff Fisher, but it constantly amazes me how he's considered such a great coach. His job security was rated secure as Belichick in last year's "SI" NFL Preview guide. Based on what? His name? Every other team in that division has been successful quickly with a new head coach except for the Rams. The Rams even pay (paid?) Fisher more than any other coach in the NFC West and he's the least successful. It just amazes me. I just feel bad for Rams fans. The fact there is no seemingly no urgency combined with the possible move to LA makes me feel like they are getting really screwed over. He's put a good D together, but he's dicked around at the most important position on the field for 3-4 years now. The bottom line is that more should be expected of him, but it's not.