Wednesday, September 30, 2015

7 comments MMQB Review: Andy Dalton Is Totally Different Now Because He's Playing Well in the Regular Season Edition

Peter King declared the Philadelphia Eagles as being in trouble in last week's MMQB. He also stated that he doesn't think the Seahawks are in trouble. Of course, the Seahawks have Kam Chancellor back now, which helps their defense. Peter was also somewhat surprised the NFC East was a crazy division, even though it is generally a pretty crazy division every year. This week Peter talks about the boring week of NFL action, gets the "Patriots are going undefeated, maybe" train going fairly early before the Patriots even get close to the meat of their schedule, and talks about how this Andy Dalton who is playing well in the regular season is different from the other Andy Dalton from past years who played well in the regular season and then looked bad in the playoffs. The template is following a similar template from previous season, so I'm confused as to why this Dalton may be different. Isn't the real question about Dalton getting answered in the postseason?

This morning, we can see how a few more pieces fit into the 2015 NFL jigsaw puzzle. This wasn’t a particularly good weekend of pro football, and TVs across America must have clicked off with the three late-afternoon games being decided by 40, 27 and 26 points. (Average margin of victory on Sunday: 14.9 points.) 

The NFL does this shit from time-to-time during the season. It's not that they schedule bad games later in the day, but they schedule just three or so games later in the day to where there isn't a lot of interest if a few of the games are blowouts.

But every week we find out a little more about where the year’s headed.

A larger sample size gives a better indication of what conclusions can be reached about the sample? You have to be kidding me this is true.

The Bengals are in fabulous shape in the AFC North. At 3-0 after a crushing 28-24 win at 0-3 Baltimore on Sunday, Cincinnati is set up nicely for the fifth playoff appearance in Andy Dalton’s five years. “I’m as comfortable playing this game as I’ve ever been,” Dalton said from Baltimore. A 121.0 passer rating would seem to back him up. 

I pretend Peter is reading that first sentence in the voice of Tim Gunn and it makes my enjoyment of this passage increase two-fold. Peter has been really tough on Andy Dalton over the past few years. Dalton has been pretty good in the regular season, so the question arises when it comes to the playoffs. That's been the question for Dalton, if he can show up in the playoffs. Before Peter changes his narrative, he may want to consider what his narrative is first.

Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Drew Brees … and now Roethlisberger. That’s four marquee quarterbacks hurt before the calendar turns to October. You can be sure the Competition Committee will be pushing for more offseason drill work for offensive linemen; players are now restricted from all offseason contact by the 2011 labor agreement. 

Oh sure, nothing gets done until the marquee quarterbacks start getting hurt. And also, I love how Jay Cutler is conveniently a "marquee" quarterback and not a shitty quarterback when it's important to place him in that category to prove a point. Cutler is marquee now. When he is no longer injured, then he will be a trash quarterback again.

The Patriots wake the echoes … of 2007. They’re already using the “U” word in New England. As in “undefeated.” New England went 16-0 in 2007, and advanced to a flawless-looking 3-0 Sunday against Jacksonville. More about that later, but as one of the ’07 team leaders, Rodney Harrison, opined Sunday night: “It’s 2007 all over again. Tom Brady’s playing like he’s 29, 30 years old.”

Man, Peter is jumping on the "Can the Patriots go undefeated" train pretty damn quick this year. Hey, it could very well happen, but it's not even Week 4 yet. How about not hammering readers over the head with this story this early?

Indianapolis is the most fortunate decent team in the league. AFC South standings: T-1. Indianapolis/Jacksonville/Houston/Tennessee (1-2). The Colts, their season on the brink, went from disaster to tied for the division lead exiting September in one afternoon. You wouldn’t think a 35-33 win at Tennessee would make a coach emotional after a game. But Chuck Pagano was.

The Colts were always going to be fine because they play in the AFC South. It's like the NFC South of the AFC, minus having more than one really good quarterback. It's just not a great division right now. The Colts will be fine partly for that reason. Also, Chuck Pagano deserves to keep his job. I'm Team Pagano.

There’s a reason you don’t have to worry about Peyton Manning’s health. The Denver defense is huge. “We just have ball hawks,” safety David Bruton said, a few minutes after making his third huge defensive play of the month, an athletic pick of Matthew Stafford to clinch the 24-12 win over Detroit. Stafford couldn’t breathe against the defensive pressure.

Eh, even if the Broncos defense is awesome I would still worry about the health of Peyton Manning. The Broncos defense is better than I gave it credit for a few weeks ago, but I still think it's good to worry about Peyton Manning's health. I haven't seen Brock Osweiler play yet, so I can't really comment on whether he is any good or not, but I imagine the Broncos don't necessarily want to find out while jockeying for a playoff spot.

The Raiders, usually out of it by now, will actually have a winning record as October dawns. The Raiders (2-1) play on the road next week—and they are actually favored to beat Chicago.

Jimmy Clausen, everyone! He's like Brandon Weeden, just without the skill set and ability to win an NFL game in a pinch.

The quarterback, Derek Carr, is a big reason. “Having a quarterback is everything,” said Charles Woodson from Cleveland.

Okay guys, apparently it's important to have a good quarterback in order to win NFL games. I'm still working to confirm this is true, so I don't want to speculate much more at this point. The best teams usually have really competent quarterbacks.

It’s early-bye time for New England. No team likes the Week 4 bye. This year, only the Patriots and Titans have it. Strange to have a bye before the leaves turn in Foxboro. “Rest, let your muscles chill and do what you have to do to be ready for next game,” Rob Gronkowski said Sunday. Taking stock of this team, you don’t want to make too much of the almost-too-easy win over the Jaguars,

Repeat after me, now it means Peter King will make a bit much of the Patriots' win over the Jaguars. He's not going to go overboard or anything though. He'll just start talking about the Patriots going undefeated when there are still 13 games in the regular season left to be played, plus three games in the postseason. Again, let's keep the reactions normal and not go overboard based on a 3-0 start.

That was a sick team eight years ago. The ’07 Patriots started with 24, 24 and 31-point wins, and didn’t have a game closer than 34-17 (Week 5, Cleveland) in the first half of the season. This year, New England handled Pittsburgh, which made it close in the second half. Ditto Buffalo, and then the Jaguars rout. It’s easy now to say Brady has never been better, but he was: in 2007. In the first three weeks then, the 30-year-old Brady completed 79.5% of his throws with a plus-nine TD-to-pick ratio and a rating of 141.8. This year, he’s completing 72.2%, with a plus-nine and a rating of 119.6. It’s like quibbling over whether driving a Mercedes or a BMW is a smoother ride, but Brady set his all-time standard in 2007. 

Let's not make too much of a home victory over an 0-3 team, but Peter wants his readers to see the parallels between this Patriots team and one of the greatest NFL teams of all-time. Again, he's keeping the discussion in hand and not writing something overly-presumptuous.

New England is likely to be favored in all of its remaining games—save, perhaps, for the Week 12 Sunday-nighter at Denver. 

And who even cares if the Broncos have Peyton Manning healthy or not with that Broncos defense?

Harrison told me over the summer that the league did Brady and the Patriots a huge favor with the long-running investigation into Brady’s honor—he’d be supremely motivated to stick it to the league this year, even more motivated than the hyper-focused player usually is. So far, Harrison’s been spot on.

I think a lot of people knew the Patriots were going to do a "Fuck You" tour of the NFL. But yes, so far after playing three teams that didn't make the playoffs last year Harrison has been spot-on.

And Brady still has one thing to accomplish that he hasn’t yet in his previous 16 pro seasons: winning ‘em all. Going 19-0. You’d be na├»ve to think he hasn’t thought of that—many times. 

It's fantastic to read that Peter isn't making too much of this victory over the Jaguars. He compares this team to the 2007 Patriots, says the Patriots are favored to win the rest of their games, and mentions that Tom Brady wants to go perfect on the season. It's a very low-key affair.

Think of the environment the Bengals walked into Sunday: Ravens home opener, Ravens at 0-2 in desperate straits knowing a loss would put them three games out in the division after three games, and then the little thing about the Ravens and Bengals not liking each other. And then think of Dalton getting stripped in the fourth quarter, having it returned for a score, and, after being up 14-0, trailing 17-14 with seven minutes left, crowd going nuts. 

I'm really enjoying Peter's somewhat 180 degree turn on Dalton. All Peter wrote about is how the playoffs are where Dalton will be judged, but then when Dalton has a good regular season Peter is all-in on Dalton having turned a corner.

First down, Bengals’ 20. Dalton drops. Green runs a seam route deep up the left side, bracketed by safeties Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill; the left corner, Jimmy Smith, was singled on the outside receiver. Dalton threw a perfect strike 36 yards in the air, between the two safeties, and Green won the race against them and Smith, who came over to try to help. Too late: 80-yard touchdown. But the Ravens came back to take another lead. And here came Dalton again, taking over at his 20 again. “We’re going to need every one of you here,” he said in the huddle. “I trust every one of you to make plays right now.”

The Bengals players were all possibly thinking, "But we aren't sure if we trust you to make plays right now. Wait, it's the regular season? Well then, we trust you. In that playoffs? We are still shaky on that." 

In two drives during the last seven minutes, Dalton drove the Bengals 160 yards for two touchdowns … in a total of one minute and 58 seconds. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing,” Dalton said. “Once you’ve been in a system for a while and you know your receivers, you get a lot more confident, and that’s where I am with these guys right now.”

I will say this for Andy Dalton. He didn't have a lot to work with against the Colts last year in the playoffs and the way the Bengals have invested in offensive weapons for Dalton (Bernard, Hill, Eifert) will start to pay off for them once those players get more experience. So I haven't made excuses for Dalton in the past, but he didn't have a ton to work with in the playoffs last year and Jermaine Gresham wasn't exactly the most reliable of tight ends. 

I’d like to see Dalton’s three October tests, all against pressure defenses (Kansas City at home, Seattle at home, at Buffalo), before saying anything definitive about him. But what I saw Sunday, I liked a lot.

It sounds like you are pretty high on him Peter. For good reason, but before the season you were hinting that you aren't even sure Dalton would make it through the whole season without A.J. McCarron replacing him. 

Again: Dalton’s been a good regular-season quarterback (43-23-1, 107 touchdowns, 67 picks), and a maddening postseason one (0-4, one touchdown, six interceptions). Cincinnati won’t love him until that changes. But that can’t change in September, and what Dalton has done in September is all he can do. It’s been plenty good enough.

Excluding nationally televised games, Andy Dalton has usually done in September what he needs to do. Before any conclusions can be reached about Dalton, he would need to perform in the postseason before writers like Peter King get off his ass. 

The city of Pittsburgh sighs.

The injury is a strain of the MCL and a bone bruise. But the ACL is intact. Roethlisberger thought the worst when he left the field, because of the pain. And the Steelers have to feel good that Tomlin banged the drum to get Vick in the building as the backup, because he’s played in the kind of games he’ll have to win beginning Thursday night—against Baltimore, in a rabid-rivalry game at home.

Yes, Mike Vick has played in these types of games. Has he played WELL in these games? That's the real question. Maybe he'll even prepare for the game for a little bit. Steelers fans shouldn't worry because Vick seems to pay attention and prepare for a few weeks, then gets bored with game preparation and starts committing turnovers. By the time Vick gets bored, Roethlisberger will hopefully be back from his injury.

Three questions for… Richie Incognito.

But first, a stat: Through three games, the former Dolphins guard—as mentioned above, Pro Football Focus’s top-rated guard in the NFL—has surrendered one quarterback disruption (either a quarterback sack, hit or pressure). The Dolphins’ starting guards have given up 26.

My sense is Incognito will enjoy that one.

Yeah, in your face Dolphins! That's what you get for getting rid of Richie Incognito after he bullied Jonathan Martin. Incognito got done wrong and now he's getting vengeance by playing well. This is a lesson to the Dolphins that if they don't let their players bully teammates then they will be punished for daring to have some semblance of a backbone.

Through three weeks, NFL teams have missed 14 of the newfangled extra points, after missing 26 in the previous four seasons combined. With the line of scrimmage for the PAT pushed back from the two- to the 15-yard line, it’s obviously not such a gimme anymore. And that’s good. When a play is 99.6% successful, the pertinent question is why they play should exist. I loved what happened Sunday night in the Detroit-Denver game, when Bronco Aqib Talib blocked a Lions extra point, and cornerback Chris Harris picked it up and ran it 52 yards toward the opposite end zone before being tackled by Detroit’s Eric Ebron. If Harris had made it all the way, Denver would have been awarded two points, and a 7-6 Bronco lead would have grown to 9-6. The change was made to add some excitement to a dull play, and while I wouldn’t call a 33-yard extra point kick “exciting,” it certainly makes the point or points after touchdown more interesting than before …

Yes, the extra point is more interesting now. How often is the extra point going to get blocked? Probably not very often, but I guess there is some excitement that could occur and that's a good thing. Peter's love of the new extra point rules is finally justified based solely on this one play. 

Playing without Luke Kuechly (concussion), the Panthers bent on defense, giving Luke McCown-led New Orleans 380 total yards, but didn’t break at the end of a 27-22 win. One of the game’s rising-star corners, Josh Norman, plucked a McCown pass intended for Brandin Cooks out of the sky. “I saw a bone, and I went up and got it,” Norman said. A bone? “Yeah, a bone. The ball. God gave me wings to fly, and I went up and got it. All the guys on this defense can make plays. Do your job. Be in the defense. I’m doing some pretty good stuff. I think we all are.”

God gave Norman wings this year, but he apparently gave Norman a bad attitude and the ability to make mistakes over past seasons. Still, Norman is on a contract drive, so he should be rewarded for trying really hard this one year with a new contract where he wants to get paid like all the other overpaid Top-5 corners in the NFL get overpaid. He has earned the right to be overpaid. 

Then Peter eulogizes Yogi Berra and apparently Peter was neighbors with Berra when Peter lived in Montclair. I'm sure that was a rough period of time for Yogi when Peter followed behind Berra when he walked around in public writing down all of his conversations. I wonder if Peter ever asked Berra if he considered Derek Jeter to be the greatest player in Peter's lifetime (but not really lifetime, because Peter only meant over whatever time span makes him seem less crazy)?

“I don’t care. It’s just a ball.”

—Tom Brady, asked how he felt about Danny Amendola—the receiver of Brady's 400th NFL touchdown Sunday in Foxboro—handing the ball to a fan in the end zone after making the historic catch.

Besides, the ball was probably slightly deflated anyway, and rather than Brady keep the ball and run the risk of the NFL finding out was underinflated by 0.3 PSI, it's better if a fan keeps the keep the ball. We wouldn't want Roger Goodell subpoenaing Brady's cell phone and a blood sample in order to prove he intentionally underinflated the football by a few tenths of a PSI. That would ruin the integrity of the game.  

“I think there’s a little bit of karma coming back to him. Nelson Agholor hasn’t replaced Jeremy Maclin. Jeremy Maclin was a class-act guy. You can’t just replace people like they’re things, you know what I mean? Like they’re toys that you’re tired of playing with because you want something new. So I hope that he loses. I hope he loses every game.”

—Former Jets linebacker and current CBS NFL analyst Bart Scott, on Chip Kelly, to WFAN radio in New York.

Criticizing Bart Scott for these comments is a layup. And not just because Scott doesn't begin to realize how much stiches cost. 

2. Jeremy Maclin left the Eagles to sign a free-agent contract last winter with Kansas City. In 2012, Maclin was the 28th-leading receiver in football, with 69 catches. In 2013, he missed the season with a torn ACL. In 2014, Maclin was the 13th-leading receiver in football, with 85 catches. He signed a five-year, $55-million contract with the Chiefs, which, at the time, was tied for the fourth-richest contract (per season) for a wide receiver in NFL history. Maybe letting Maclin walk for the fourth-richest receiver contract ever will be seen as a dumb decision in the long-term, though I doubt it. Smart teams let good players take exorbitant deals in free agency, and draft good players to replace them. I don’t know if this will work out; it’s obviously a gamble by the Chiefs to pay the money, and a gamble by Kelly to not meet Maclin’s demands. But I’d rather pay Agholor $2.3 million a year for the next four years (his rookie deal) than pay Maclin $11 million.

It's almost like Bart Scott, as an NFL analyst, is shitty at his job doing those things which involve actually analyzing a situation. Scott can't put aside his personal feelings and opinions and analyze a situation from a neutral point of view. Obviously CBS had to sign him to be one of their ridiculous vapid talking heads as soon as Scott retired. It's hard to find analysts who actually suck at analyzing. 

3. Did Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome “replace people like they’re things” when he let Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee walk in the off-season, as he does every year? Did John Elway treat tight end Julius Thomas “like a toy” for letting him go to Jacksonville for $9.2 million a year in free agency? Or Jerry Jones, with DeMarco Murray, when Murray got $8 million a year in Philadelphia? No. They made business decisions.

Let's not forget that Bart Scott left the Ravens so that he could pursue a big free agent contract with the Jets. I don't think he thought that Newsome just replaced him without a second thought, but it was a business decision. This is why not every pro athlete that is loquacious should end up working in the media after his career is over. Talking and talking to where you say something smart are two different things.

It's hard to agree with Peter, but I do agree with him here. Comments like this from Bart Scott is why I don't ever watch NFL pregame shows. I don't need that type of stupidity in my life. I like football, not listening to idiots who think they know what they are talking about discussing football.

The Award Section

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Devonta Freeman, running back, Atlanta. The 2014 fourth-round pick from Florida State is supposed to be a complementary back, not a feature back.

I don't know why Freeman was supposed to be a complementary back. I guess it was his height that was the issue or something. I don't know if he was selected just to be a complementary back or anything of the like. 

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Josh Norman, cornerback, Carolina. Channeling his inner Odell Beckham Jr., with the Panthers protecting a 27-22 lead over the Saints with 80 seconds left, Norman, a rising-star cornerback,

Peter has mentioned Josh Norman three times in this column and each time he linked the story about Norman being a rising star where he labels Norman "a rising star" with the link. It just so happens to be a MMQB story and it's annoying. We get it. You want us to read the story. You don't have to link the same story over and over and over again.

Just a beautiful play, at the precise time his team had to have it. It was the difference between the Panthers being 3-0 and tied for the AFC South lead,

Yep Peter, the Panthers play in the NFC South, not the AFC South. Though even if their record were 2-1 then that would still be in the lead in the AFC South.

Norman added five tackles. He’s turning into one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Norman is more motivated than he has ever been because he is a free agent after the season and he wants to get paid. He wants to get paid, so he's motivated. Therefore I hope the Panthers don't back up a Brinks truck and pay him. He's never put together a full season of great cornerback play, but wants to be paid like a Top-5 corner.

The first nine Chicago drives at Seattle ended in punts.

The first nine New England drives against Jacksonville ended in scores.

It's almost like one team started Jimmy Clausen at quarterback against a really good defense and the other team started Tom Brady at quarterback against a not really good defense. 

Yes Peter, we get it. You like the new extra point rule and will do anything in your power to point out other people like it too and think it's the greatest NFL innovation since anonymous sources in the league office that lie to you and give you false information which you report as true, then later apologize for. The new rule is okay. You can lay off giving testimonials and having others give testimonials to the greatness of this new rule.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Police erected 40 miles of barriers in the city, and 818 tons of concrete barriers. The New York Post quoted a law enforcement source as saying security for the visit was like “a POTUS [visit] on steroids.” POTUS, as in President of the United States.
I’ve lived in Manhattan for only four years, but the prep for his visit was superb—like none I’ve seen. Nothing bad was happening to this Pope.

I like how a law enforcement "source" said the visit was like "a POTUS on steroids." Why did this source have to be anonymous or even a source? It can't be said out loud that the Pope's visit has an insane amount of security? Like this is some secret and they want to bait a person trying to kill the Pope into testing the security? Would this source really get in trouble for describing the amount of security around the Pope?

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:

Probably nothing, since it was a boring week of football and all. 

a. Tom Brady, joining the 400 touchdown club. I’ll take a bet right now that he hits 500.

I think that is bet that a lot of people would take. It's Week 4 of the NFL season and Brady has averaged 32.5 touchdowns per season since he came back from his knee injury. So if Brady gets 25 more touchdowns this season (which he is on pace to obliterate), then he will only have to play about 2.5 seasons to get to 500 touchdowns. Barring a huge, career-ending injury I do think he will get to 500 touchdowns. 

f. Lone Niner bright spot: the 37-yard punt return by Aussie Jarryd Hayne.

The media loves themselves some Jarryd Hayne. He's from Australia and has never played in the NFL before. Do you know this story? If you don't then you either (a) don't like the NFL, (b) are illiterate and can't read or (c) don't have a Twitter account or don't follow any NFL media members on Twitter or (d) are lying.

It is a great story, don't get me wrong. I've read it and heard it quite a bit.

h. You can’t stop Joseph Randle. You can only hope … aww, you know the rest.

You can only hope he doesn't steal men's underwear and cologne from a department store? 

2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 3:

a. That mangy-looking ShopVac vacuuming the field in the Ed Jones Dome after the turf caught on fire.

Yes, there should be a nicer looking ShopVac available in order to vacuum the field, you know, for all the times that the turf catches fire and all.

Look Peter, the Rams are already packing up their shit to move to Los Angeles. The nice ShopVac is in a box somewhere, so they had to go with the uglier one. Sorry it offends your senses, but it's all they had when the other was packed up.

i. Whatever rehab plan Baltimore rookie receiver Breshad Perriman is on. Sixty-one days ago, he tweaked his knee in practice, a tweaking so seemingly minor that John Harbaugh said after practice that day—I was there—about Perriman’s availability: “It could be as early as tomorrow, or a couple of days at the most.” Perriman is practicing. There’s that.

Clearly, the only conclusion that can be drawn by this is that Breshad Perriman is a pussy. Either that or he just doesn't want to play. I know it is frustrating for fans to not see Perriman on the field, but John Harbaugh isn't a doctor and it obviously was more than just a minor tweak or else Perriman would be on the field already. Maybe he should find some of that deer antler spray in Ray Lewis's old locker. 

k. St. Louis tight end Lance Kendricks, with an inexplicable drop, open behind the defense, for what should have been the go-ahead touchdown late in the first half against the Steelers.

An inexplicable drop. I bet the Steelers didn't even double-cover Kendricks when he lined up wide to the left. That's inexplicable too. You ALWAYS double-cover a tight end when he is split out wide. It's an Easterbrookian rule. 

3. I think if I were Todd Bowles, I’d be worried about Darrelle Revis. He’s 30 now. He suffered a strained groin last week, and left Sunday’s game against the Eagles with some hamstring injury. Revis said post-game he was fine, and maybe he is. But this is the cornerstone of the New York secondary, obviously, and if we’re not even to the end of September and he’s got an iffy groin and hamstring, that’s troubling.

I'm sure Revis will miss a good portion of this season, come back and play well next season, and then stage a holdout for more money. So Todd Bowles probably should worry more about the eventual holdout than anything else. 

4. I think if I were the 49ers, I’d be extremely concerned with Colin Kaepernick. His TD-to-Interception ratio in the past 10 games is 8-to-9, and he’s had one 300-yard passing game in that time. “I was 100% responsible,” he said about the embarrassing loss to Arizona on Sunday. Well, 80% maybe. But Kaepernick was awful.

I wouldn't worry about the guy that Ron Jaworski thinks could be the greatest quarterback in NFL history. He will be absolutely fine. The 49ers have simplified the offense or him (though they do have downfield passes in their system which they couldn't do with Alex Smith as the quarterback because he refuses to throw downfield) and everything will be fine. I don't know if I'm being sarcastic or not. Maybe a little bit, but Kaepernick is playing in a new offensive system. Give him some more time. 

5. I think the NFL had better have a good explanation (Ed Hochuli, too) for Cam Newton’s postgame claim Sunday concerning a borderline late hit on him. Newton wanted a personal foul called on the hit but it wasn’t flagged, and he said after the game: “The response I got [from Hochuli] was, ‘Cam, you’re not old enough to get that call.’ I didn’t think you had to have seniority to get a personal foul or anything like that.” I’m sure Hochuli will say (assuming he agrees that this is what he said) that he was joking. But it’s not something to joke about. The league’s got to get on this one this morning.

Shocking no one, the NFL was basically like, "Nah, Newton was lying about that. We believe our official over Newton."

Maybe Newton was lying, but I think it's funny this is all over a late hit that really wasn't a late hit if you ask me. It was very borderline, but clearly if you saw the video then you saw Newton's face after Hochuli said something to him. Maybe instead of saying he wasn't old enough to get the call, he said that Newton is not an entertainer and icon. Perhaps that's the reason for Newton's shocked face.

10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:

c. Jeter and Harbaugh, at the Big House. Cool sight before BYU-Michigan.

Yeah, super cool. Derek Jeter, the greatest player of Peter's generation.*

*Meaning over the last 25 years, which still isn't true.

f. Mike Trout doesn’t just hit home runs.

Yep, we know that Peter. You must have missed the last three seasons of arguments over the American League MVP award. Trout's defense was an integral part of this debate, but way to be three years late with your observations.

h. Having said that, I do hate the one-game wild-card playoff. It’s unfair for teams that have played 162 games to make the playoffs, and poof, it can be gone with one lousy inning.

I have always been against the one-game Wild Card playoff. I think it should be a three-game series. All of a sudden though, with no explanation, I think I don't hate the one-game Wild Card playoff anymore. It's like a flip switched somehow and my opinion changed after reading these two sentences that Peter wrote. 

k. Can the three teams from the National League Central—as of Friday morning, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago were 1-2-3 in major-league baseball in wins—just play a World Series round robin this year? Such a shame that, most likely, the Cubs and Pirates will meet in the play-in game, and three hours later, one of them will be out.

If the MLB playoffs still worked like they did before the Wild Card then one of these teams wouldn't even make the playoffs. Heck, if the MLB playoffs worked like they did before the second Wild Card then one of these teams wouldn't even be in the playoffs. So as much as I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate the one-game Wild Card playoff, in this case it at least gives one of these teams a chance to go further into the playoffs. 

m. If you’re Joe Maddon, do you pitch Jake Arrieta at Pittsburgh in the play-in game? If you’re the Pirates, in line to play the third play-in game in three years, aren’t you tired of facing aces? Johnny Cueto and the Reds two years ago, Madison Bumgarner and the Giants last year, and probably Arrieta this year.

If you are the Pirates, don't you understand that if you are playing a one-game Wild Card playoff against another good team then you will probably face that other team's ace? If you are the Pirates, aren't you happy that you have Gerrit Cole? I don't get this comment. Most teams who are on the borderline of making the playoffs have an ace of some sort. In a one-game playoff, that's the guy who gets the start. Maybe the Pirates should try winning the division and avoiding the one-game Wild Card playoff. 

o. Bryce Harper: 1.125 OPS. That is one insane number. No one in baseball is within 100 points of him.

Yeah, but his team isn't winning so he isn't as a valuable as a lesser player on a better team. How can Harper be valuable if he doesn't have better players around him than another player whose team made the playoffs does? 

s. Beernerdness: So happy for the great people at Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine. Allagash White, which is only the greatest beer of all time, won gold in the Belgian Witbier category this weekend at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. That’s my little pet beer category, and Allagash White’s the best I’ve had.

(Bengoodfella shakes head sadly) I like Belgian Witbier okay, but open your mind to other beers or talk about different beers in a MMQB. Every week Peter talks about how much he likes white beers and Witbiers. I'm not sure if I have ever heard of Peter liking a darker beer. It's not a big deal, but he's really not a beer nerd if he only talks about one kind of beer, is he?

u. I know some would say, “Keep politics out of this, Pope Francis. You’re not qualified to talk about global warming, and you have no idea what’s causing the discord in the Mideast and it’s easy for you to say everyone should take in refugees—just stick to religion.” I say: “Keep the pressure on, Pope. Keep talking about things that matter, especially global warming. Go get ‘em.”

Peter's opinion is that some might say the Pope doesn't have the knowledge to give his opinion on these matters, but Peter thinks because these issues matter then the Pope should continue giving his opinion. I wonder if Peter would agree with this if the Pope started spouting off about gun rights and issues that Peter doesn't agree with? I think I know the answer. But yeah, keep spouting off about subjects that matter, because Peter agrees with you on these issues. I bet Peter doesn't like it if the Pope starts espousing opinions like those of Kim Davis. They did meet after all. 

The Adieu Haiku

Pagano can speak.
Wall broken down in Nashville.
Colts ran through that thing.

This Adieu Haiku is broken down and this is another awful one. I think Peter ran through his creative ideas for a haiku about two years ago. Make it stop. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

8 comments Fresh Off a Week of Blaming Tom Coughlin for Using a "Safe" Strategy, Gregg Talks About How NFL Coaches Should Stop Playing It Safe

Gregg Easterbrook made his non-triumphant return to writing TMQ, albeit for a different news outlet, last week. I haven't met the person who is really excited that TMQ is back, but maybe I run in company that all think like I do. This week Gregg talks about how moving the extra point back hasn't been the cure-all to get NFL coaches to be more aggressive as some (umm...Peter King) thought that it might. For some reason, the "Times" hasn't updated the picture of Gregg beside his column. This really shouldn't bother me, but it does for some reason. Find a newer picture of Gregg and not one taken when he was in his early-40's. The new, shorter TMQ is a much easier read, but I don't understand why he is explaining his ridiculous nicknames for each NFL team. Those people who have read TMQ at ESPN are probably still reading it and don't need him to explain his ridiculous team nicknames. If Gregg does the explanation for new readers, well there were probably new readers every week at ESPN.com and he didn't explain the ridiculous nicknames on a weekly basis, so why explain them now? Actually, how about just calling each NFL team by it's real nickname? I guess that's not annoying enough.

The N.F.L.’s new try rule — “try” is the correct term, not point-after attempt, which applies only to kicks —

Don't be so pretentious about correcting what the right term would be to use. Pretend for a second you like sports and aren't an academic.

is having the desired effect of making after-touchdown placement attempts no longer automatic. In the 2014 season, there were eight missed extra-point kicks. Already this season, with extra-point attempts snapped from the 15-yard line instead of the 2, there have been nine.

Great success! The NFL can fix anything once they put their mind to it. You know, except for their inconsistent disciplinary policy.

But the flip side of the new rule — encouraging the deuce — has not panned out. This season there have been 15 two-point tries. That’s not the landslide expected by those who backed the rules change, considering an average of seven two-point tries in the first two weeks of the previous 10 seasons.

(ahem, Peter King)

NFL coaches are going to suddenly become less conservative after the extra point was moved back from being a 99% probability of success to a 90%-95% probability of success. That's exactly what will happen.

At work may be the same risk-aversion that causes N.F.L. coaches to order punts on fourth-and-short. A deuce try is essentially fourth-and-goal from the 2

Nooooooooooo, you think Gregg? You don't think the same coaches who punt on fourth-and-short are afraid to try for a two-point conversion, do you? It's not like the two-point conversion was moved up, so coaches still see a guaranteed point as better than trying the two-point conversion. The idea there would be initially be a substantial increase in two-point tries amuses me. That wasn't happening with the current attitude NFL coaches have towards the two-point conversion, so why would it change if the extra point was moved back slightly? 

If the coach sends in the kicker for the singleton attempt, he’s doing the “safe” thing. If the coach orders a deuce try that does not succeed, the coach is criticized.

Gregg believes that coaches make every decision based on avoiding criticism. This is his belief. Unlike Gregg, I can't read the minds of people, so I'm not sure if this is a correct assumption or not. I do believe NFL coaches are too conservative, but also that they see the advantage of kicking the extra point and guaranteeing that his team gets an additional point. The belief is the two-point conversion won't be converted at such a high rate as to justify kicking a two-point conversion rather than an extra point. When Gregg spends time in TMQ pointing out how the Bears couldn't get the ball in the end zone on four tries during Week 1, it doesn't help conservative coaches like John Fox to believe going for the two-point conversion is worth it.

I know they aren't totally analogous situations, but I can't help but laugh at Gregg and how he eviscerated the Giants for going for a touchdown, as opposed to doing the "safe" thing and running the clock out in Week 1 versus the Cowboys. Tom Coughlin didn't do the "safe" thing and was criticized. He essentially tried a two-point conversion to ice the game (except it would have been a touchdown) and Gregg thought this was a terrible decision. Remember this when Gregg talks about how NFL head coaches should go for two more often.

Chip Kelly, case in point. At Oregon, where Kelly was worshiped by the local media, he often went for two. This season, Kelly, who is getting hammered by the Philly sports press, has not ordered a deuce try.

Yeah, but..............

Of course it’s not as if he’s had a lot of touchdowns to work with.

"Here is my criticism of Chip Kelly and I want you to take it seriously, despite the fact I'm about to point out the fallacy of my criticism. The larger point is to ignore that Kelly hasn't had a lot of touchdowns to work with and take my observation from a two game sample seriously and see how it proves my larger point." 

What do the numbers show so far? Eight of 15 on deuce tries, 146 of 155 on extra-point kicks. This suggests 100 two-point attempts would produce 106 points, while 100 extra-point kicks would produce 94 points. That seems a strong case for attempting a deuce.

I mean, it does seem like a strong case for attempting the two-point conversion league-wide when using a sample size of 100 touchdowns. I don't think this information can be viewed in this way though. Each team may have different success rates on the two-point conversion over a sample of 100 touchdowns. It's like saying college basketball teams should never shoot a two-point shot because the average 3-point percentage is 38.6%, while the average 2-point percentage is 47.0%. So if a team only shot 3-pointers for 100 shots then that team will score 116 points, while they would only score 94 points if they only shot two-point shots. These percentages aren't necessarily true for every single college basketball team, and in terms of football, each team won't convert a two-point conversion at a rate of 53%. Like much of the reason a college basketball team might make 38.6% of 3-point shots is because some of these are open shots and teams are selective when taking these shots, an NFL team may try a two-point conversion because they have a two-point conversion play they feel they can run effectively against a certain team's defense.  

Because the N.F.L. is pass-wacky, coaches who do go for two are showing an inclination to throw.

Gregg will provide information below about the percentage of successful two-point conversions when teams pass and when they run the ball. At no point will he provide information on how many times teams attempted to pass and attempted to run the ball on two-point conversions. So who knows if teams are showing an inclination to throw? Gregg never provides information showing this.

Sunday, the Steelers and the Packers went with empty backfields on deuce attempts. Rushing for two might up the odds of success, making the deuce more attractive.

Or it might not. Gregg will see the results of teams running the ball on two-point conversions and then base his opinion on the outcome, like he normally does. 

Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders — by a huge margin the best independent football website —

A huge margin. It's a landslide. Football Outsiders is 47.62% better than any other independent football website. Wait, did I use too much specificity for Gregg when rounding to the hundredth decimal?

recently analyzed all N.F.L. two-point tries from 1994 to 2014. He found that 44 percent of passing deuces were successful, while 56 percent of rushing deuces were.

I would be interested to know how many two-point attempts were rushes and how many were passing attempts. I feel like this would be interesting information for me to know in order to decide if the rushing attempts were successful because defenses predominantly are used to facing passing attempts on two-point conversions. 

The numbers show that N.F.L. coaches ought to try for two, and ought to do so by rushing. Instead they are avoiding the deuce, or when they do try for two, are ordering passes. This is National Football League resistance to change in a nutshell.

Yes, the NFL is resisting changing to a running league. For decades, passing has been the law around the NFL, while rushing has been given the short stick. But now, NFL teams need to run the ball more, despite the entire history of the NFL being a passing league and that's how touchdowns have traditionally been scored. 

The Steelers’ try succeeded, putting Pittsburgh ahead, 8-0, and firing up the home crowd. Seeing their coaches go all-in to win, rather than stick with “safe” tactics, seemed to fire up Steelers players, too, setting in motion a runaway victory.

These aggressive tactics fired up the Steelers team and that's why they won the game. The natural question would be why the aggressive tactics that Tom Coughlin showed the week before when trying to score a touchdown rather than running out the clock didn't fire up the Giants, but don't worry about the failure of non-"safe" tactics in helping the Giants lose a game and just focus on when "safe" tactics win games for NFL teams. There's no need to pay attention to when Gregg's contentions don't seem true and he instead criticizes a head coach for not playing it "safe." Do whatever ends up working, that's all Gregg asks for head coaches to do.

Did Bill Belichick Stage the PSIcheated Scandal to Get Brady Fired Up? Last season’s No. 1 pass defense was Seattle, and the No. 3 unit belonged to Buffalo. At the Super Bowl, Tom Brady threw for 328 yards against the best pass defense; Sunday, he torched the third-best pass defense for 466 yards. At times, Brady was toying with the Boastful Bills.

It's almost like Tom Brady is a really good quarterback or something. 

He completed 18 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and it just never seemed to occur to Buffalo that Gronkowski and Edelman were being targeted.

OR, Gronkowski and Edelman are really good football players who find a way to get open when running the offensive plays called by Josh McDaniels, who is most likely calling plays in an effort to get these two players open. Simply because a team knows a certain receiver is being targeted doesn't mean that team can stop that receiver from catching the football. If that were true, then the best wide receivers in the NFL would barely catch any passes. There is a difference in knowing these two players are targeted and actually being able to stop these two players from catching the football. Because Gregg makes everything black and white, I wouldn't expect him to understand this difference. 

At Buffalo, the recent waiver-wire acquisitions Dion Lewis and Scott Chandler combined for nine receptions for 121 yards. Lewis, dubbed a bust by the Eagles, the Browns and the Colts,

Dion Lewis was a 5th round pick. I don't think any team will call a 5th round pick a "bust" by any stretch of the imagination. Gregg consistently fails to understand that some running backs fit the system one team may run better than he fits the system another team may run. The Patriots like pass catching running backs and lost Shane Vereen in free agency. The Eagles had Darren Sproles to catch passes and LeSean McCoy to run the football, so they didn't need Lewis on the team. I can't speak for the Browns and Colts, but maybe the Patriots know how to utilize Lewis better within their system. Either way, not one of those three teams think a 5th round pick is a "bust."

blitz-blocked well and ran two perfect “wheel” routes, the most challenging pass pattern for a tailback.

Yes, this wheel route is the most challenging pass pattern for all tailbacks. Every single one of them believe this. There are no exceptions and don't question this. 

Two undrafted free agents started on the New England offensive line and noticeably outperformed Buffalo’s megabucks defensive line of three Pro Bowlers.

How did the left tackle and right tackle for the Patriots do in this game? You know, the first and second round picks who have a combined cap hit of $12.6 million. Did they do okay during the game or they don't merit a mention since they aren't undrafted players? 

What is Belichick injecting these guys with? I’m guessing grape Ovaltine. But I’m still trying to confirm that story.

This is remarkably unfunny and incoherent. 

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Jersey/A leading Atlanta 20-17 with 1:53 remaining, the host Giants big-blitzed, leaving Julio Jones single-covered deep for a 38-yard touchdown reception that gave the visitors the lead.

Yeah, but why would any team double-cover Julio Jones? He's just a highly-paid glory boy who doesn't block in the run game and is singlehandedly to blame for the Falcons not making the playoffs in a given season.

I still love how Gregg considers Jones to be one of the best receivers in the NFL when it was just last year Gregg was discussing how the mega-trade for Jones didn't work out for the Falcons because of the team's record since drafting Jones. Gregg wants his readers to choose to not remember or simply forget about all the things he's written about Julio Jones since 2011. 

Defensive Tackles Cash In, Zone Out. Coming into the season, defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Marcell Dareus signed mega-contracts, each with around $60 million guaranteed. Both are celebrating by seeming to take the 2015 season off. Sunday, Suh’s stat line was one tackle, nothing else, as Miami lost to the woeful Jaguars. Sunday, the Bills’ Dareus was totally outplayed by the undrafted New England free-agent rookie David Andrews.

Yes, Suh is paid to get tackles, but that's not really all he does as a defensive tackle. Same thing for Dareus, but I get Gregg's point based on a one game sample size.

In the Dolphins’ opener, the cloak of invisibility was draped over Suh by the Washington rookie Brandon Scherff.

What else would you expect from a highly-paid, glory boy like Brandon Scherff? Though the Redskins are now 1-2, so the Redskins decision to draft Scherff has not paid off with wins. Using Gregg's logic to criticize Julio Jones, this must mean that Scherff was not worth the draft pick.

Sunday, Scherff neutralized Aaron Donald, who has been playing well.

Here is a great example of Gregg Easterbrook lying to his readers and hoping that no one has the energy to look his lie up. Welp, I have the energy and Gregg is a liar. Donald's line from the game:

0.5 sacks and three tackles. Is the really "neutralizing" Aaron Donald? At that rate, he would end the season with 8 sacks and 48 tackles. I'm pretty sure that would make him one of the best DT's in the NFL if those were his statistics over a full season.

N.F.L. received wisdom is that guards should not go high in the first round. Chosen fifth in the 2015 draft, Scherff is the highest-drafted guard since 1975, when Ken Huff was selected third over all.

Facts are so annoying! The Redskins drafted Scherff as a tackle and not a guard. Yes, he is currently playing tackle, but the plan was for Scherff to be a tackle in the NFL. So he can play both positions, but he wasn't drafted as a pure guard. 

All units, all units, be on the lookout for the Seattle Seahawks, who stretching back to last season have lost three straight. Then again, in 2014 the Seahawks opened 3-3 and looked blah: They ended that season one snap away from a Lombardi Trophy.

"Here's the point I want to prove about the Seahawks, they are just not very good, but don't listen to me because they have been not good in the past before and almost won the Super Bowl. Well, do listen to me, but don't listen to the parts I don't want you to pay attention to, which is mostly that you shouldn't be listening to me." 

All units, all units, be on the lookout for an explanation for the Washington defense, currently ranked No. 1.

After two games against the Rams and Dolphins. That was before they gave up 363 yards to the New York Giants. 

Undrafted and in the News. Undrafted Seth Roberts of Division II West Alabama — school of undrafted Malcolm Butler, Super Bowl hero — caught the winning touchdown pass as Oakland upset Baltimore.

Who threw the ball? Oh yeah, highly-paid glory boy second round pick Derek Carr. Nice how Gregg leaves that out.

Bot Meets Barbie. Maybe The Upshot’s 4th Down Bot should ask A.I. Barbie out. Their first-date conversation:

4th Down Bot: How’s your burrito? Hey, can you believe Chip Kelly punted on fourth-and-1 at midfield against the Cowboys?

A.I. Barbie: I love what you’ve done with your grappling hooks! And those new treads really complement your look.

4th Down Bot: People say I’m just a machine. Nobody understands me. You’ve been dealing with “she’s just a doll” for like 50 years. How do you handle it?

A.I. Barbie: I believe in gurl power! Why don’t you use your parents’ credit card to order some genuine Mattel fashion accessories for me?

This is shockingly unfunny. There's no punchline and no point to it. 

Johnny Football Report. Last season, Johnny Manziel started a game for the Browns in which his team had 38 snaps, a season low for the league. (N.F.L. teams average 64 snaps per game.) Sunday, Manziel started and the Browns won, with just 47 snaps. Nearly all of Cleveland’s passing offense came on two plays, completions of 60 and 50 yards. Defenses are choking up to stop Manziel from scrambling, which allows the occasional deep throw. But if Cleveland doesn’t snap the ball more, the Browns won’t go far.

I mean, yes and no. Yes, they won't go far if they don't snap the ball much because their defense is on the field and the offense can't manage to stay on the field. But no, they could go far if the Browns are possessing the football on long drives that lead to points on the board for the offense. 

I’d Rather Be Blue. Boise State is on a 94-4 run when playing at home. This has something to do with its recruiting edge over many opponents — the Broncos just had their way with lower-division Idaho State — and with Boise’s 2,700-foot elevation. But T.M.Q. thinks the blue turf is a factor. 

Yet all N.F.L. turf remains standard-issue. The City of Tampa Buccaneers (see explanation below) could make their ugly new video-game-icon uniforms less visible by playing on Creamsicle orange turf that harks back to the founding of the franchise. The Cleveland Browns could make their new kids-pajamas uniforms less visible by playing on turf that’s Tootsie Roll brown. The 49ers could install black turf as camouflage for their Black-Widow-inspired new unis. Why don’t N.F.L. teams explore the possibilities?

Because the NFL has a strict dress code about players can wear their socks and what celebrations a player can and can not do after a touchdown. Does Gregg really think the NFL will allow the Colts to paint their turf all blue? The NFL had a six month investigation into whether a football was missing air by a few tenths of the regulation PSI, but they are going to let the Saints have a gold field? Get the fuck out of here if this is a real question. 

Ye Gods. The Eagles have 70 yards rushing this season. DeMarco Murray has carried 21 times for 11 yards. At Dallas, Murray played behind the league’s best offensive line. Maybe his Boys stats were a reflection of the blocking.

Maybe a running back's statistics are partly dependent on how well his offensive line blocks for him! This is such an obvious observation I have no doubt that Gregg will have an entire TMQ dedicated to trying to figure out the answers. Yes, maybe the fact the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL does have something to do with DeMarco Murray's great rushing statistics last year. Look for Gregg to explore this idea further in an upcoming TMQ. I have no doubt he will. 

Does Belichick Have Hillary’s Missing Emails? Bill Belichick is so paranoid that the team’s website says UNOFFICIAL DEPTH CHART lest an opponent glean some minute tactical advantage from knowing who’s third string at tight end.

Or he just wants everyone to know the Patriots have no official depth chart and will start certain players (especially running backs) depending on the matchup and which players he perceives will give the Patriots an advantage. I'm not sure Belichick is paranoid about opposing teams knowing the depth chart more than he wants people to be aware the depth chart changes on a weekly basis at times. 

College Punting Follies. Hosting Florida State in a high-profile N.C.A.A. game, Boston College punted on fourth-and-2 at midfield, then punted again on fourth-and-2 at midfield. Just to prove it was no fluke, the Eagles also punted in Florida State territory. With five minutes remaining and the visitors up, 14-0, then Boston College went for it. This demonstrates a pattern in coaching decisions on fourth down. Early in the game, when going for it on fourth down might help a team win — but also would expose the coach to criticism if the conversion attempt fails — coaches do the safe thing and order punts.

Yes, it was a "high-profile" NCAA game. I don't know if I understand what "high-profile" means in this situation, other than Florida State is a highly ranked team, but I don't think even Gregg knows what he's talking about much of the time. 

Adventures in Officiating. In the closing seconds of Texans at Panthers, there was confusing over whether a throwing motion was a pass or fumble; whether if a pass, it was grounding; whether Houston could avoid a 10-second runoff by calling a timeout after the fact; and what the clock should be reset to. Zebras required 6 minutes 15 seconds to figure out the spot, down and time remaining.

The official did go to the review booth I believe, so there seems to have been four separate things that needed to be determined on this play. So it's not shocking that it took over six minutes to figure it out, given the fact the official went to the replay booth and had to determine four separate issues on this play. 

Many big-college football coaches, including Nick Saban, yell four-letter-words at players on the sideline, behaving in abusive ways that would get a college professor suspended. Many college football coaches seem to view themselves as little gods;

Probably because the school treats them like little gods and therefore they end up viewing themselves that way. When the coach is the highest paid person at a university and he gets almost anything he wants, then you can see how he would view himself as a god. 

St. Louis at Washington Note. Since the 2012 RG3 mega-trade, Les Mouflons and the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons are a combined 38-61-1, with only one above-.500 season in the six between these two clubs. This suggests the transaction was lose-lose.

This is partly why Gregg wrote last year in TMQ that mega-trades don't work. Except for that mega-trade for Julio Jones, which Gregg doesn't talk about anymore because the ridiculous bullshit he asserts about Jones being responsible for the Falcons record is even now too ridiculous and bullshitty for even Gregg to keep asserting.

Rex Ryan Boast of the Week. Ryan is nothing if not entertaining — his news conferences should have an opening monologue. Before the New England game, he mocked the Steelers for a blown coverage that left Rob Gronkowski uncovered, then assured “we’ll have somebody on him.” When Gronkowski flanked wide left in a goal-to-go situation — usually he flanks wide right — the Buffalo defense was confused. Cornerbacks were gesturing and shouting at one another; Ryan did not call a timeout. 

Maybe Rex Ryan should have called a timeout. That's a possibility. The problem is a team only has so many timeouts per half and coaches really don't like burning these timeouts. There's no way for a head coach to predict that if he doesn't call timeout then the other team will score a touchdown. Maybe I'm being too kind to head coaches, but by the time he sees the confusion then it's possible the offense has snapped the ball or he can't the attention of an official to call timeout. Gregg's suggestion is always just "Call a timeout" when that's not always a reasonable solution that can take place. 

Clearly the Patriots have zero respect for Ryan’s boasting, and hoped to increase the victory margin. Ryan talks a great game, Belichick barely talks at all. Which approach works?

Probably the approach that has Tom Brady as his team's quarterback. That is the approach I would take. 

T.M.Q. Lexicon Note. Tampa is the name of the place where the Buccaneers perform. Tampa Bay is a body of water. Thus to T.M.Q. this franchise is the City of Tampa Bucs. Since Green Bay is the city name, Green Bay Packers is fine.

Congratulations, Packers! Your name is fine and Gregg won't rename you with some stupid nickname that is the Gregg Easterbrook version of Peter King's Adieu Haiku. 

The Washington franchise name is offensive. The Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons nicely captures the spirit of the team, plus it’s pleasing to see Dan Snyder’s name near the word “drainage.”

I don't know why Gregg insists on giving an origin story for why he calls NFL teams these ridiculous nicknames. I'm just thankful that we missed the TMQ NFL season preview that really isn't a preview because all it does is talk about what happened with these NFL teams last year.

Friday, September 25, 2015

4 comments The Long National Nightmare Has Returned

You may recall that Gregg Easterbrook was let go by ESPN, which means his TMQ had no home. I figured it would find a home, but when TMQ's new home was linked in the comments of a different post, I couldn't help but laugh. TMQ is now at "The New York Times." It's part of "The Upshot" section online at the "Times." It's interesting that Gregg has partnered with this specific newspaper because he used to run a list of hilarious (to him) retractions the "Times" had to make over the past year in his TMQ that appeared on ESPN. I've shown multiple, multiple, multiple times that Gregg contradicts himself and this move is no exception. One month he is mocking the "Times" for it's inaccuracies and the next month he's collecting a paycheck from them. Life comes at you fast. And what is even more hilarious is that in Gregg's first TMQ, there is a correction at the bottom. Yes, Gregg can no longer go in and make covert corrections to his factual inaccuracies, but they will be noted at the bottom of the page. In this TMQ it reads:

Correction: September 15, 2015
An earlier version of this article misstated that Eagles Coach Chip Kelly called running back LeSean McCoy “jingle-footed.” Kelly said in 2008 that he does not like “jingle-footed” running backs, but that was not a reference to McCoy.

Oh no, does this mean TMQ is going to have to be factually correct and Gregg can't just assert shit without any real factual backing? Of course not, but he will see what he can get away with I'm sure. One month Gregg is mocking the corrections in the "Times" and the next month he is the one having a correction to his TMQ that appears in the "Times." Life is funny sometimes, but this irony will simply be ignored by Gregg and he'll just continue to pretend his shit don't stinks as he second-guesses the decisions made by NFL coaches and players that he doesn't even understand in the first place.

Sorry I'm a week late on this TMQ, but I'm trying to catch up. This is TMQ from Week 1. I didn't even know it existed until a few days after it posted. Also, TMQ is much shorter now. It seems he was told to bloviate less. And also also, the picture that runs beside TMQ features Gregg from what looks like about 20 years ago. Couldn't they find a more modern picture? Why not just run a baby picture of Gregg beside the column?

What did Eli Manning know and when did he know it? This seems to be the question as the New York Giants — the last time you will see that name in this column —

Oh no, more cutesy nicknames for the Giants. Please stop.

face the aftermath of their botched outing at Dallas, the team’s worst epic fail since the 2010 contest in which they allowed the Eagles to score four touchdowns in the final seven minutes to overcome a seemingly bulletproof 31-10 mid-fourth-quarter advantage.

Let me guess, the Giants punted on fourth-and-one and this told the team that Tom Coughlin didn't really want to win the game?

The Giants’ faithful are rending their garments and gnashing their teeth over the team’s nutty pass attempt on third-and-goal at the Dallas one-yard line with 1 minute 43 seconds remaining and a 3-point edge on Sunday night. Had the Giants run, either they would have scored, almost certainly icing the contest, or would have kept the clock remorselessly advancing toward double-naughts.

It's not long before we get the first "almost certainly" assumption that Gregg will make in order to further his point. I've discussed this play in MMQB Review, so I won't do it again, but Gregg continuously talks about how NFL head coaches aren't aggressive enough. He thinks if NFL head coaches are more aggressive then it tells their team he is super-serious about winning the game, which motivates his team to play better. But alas, when Tom Coughlin is very aggressive and shows confidence in his team to win a game by making an aggressive play call and it fails, Gregg is all like, "Why did you do that? How stupid!"

Nothing has changed. Gregg has no beliefs and will always base his criticism on the outcome of a play and not on any certain belief that he has espoused previously. His contentions are always correct, unless they don't work in reality, in which case he pretends he never advocated for that contention and proceeds with his criticism.

But what did Eli know and when did he know it? Bill Pennington reports that Manning told tailback Rashad Jennings not to score on the snap before the fateful incompletion.

I know "what did Eli know and when did he know it?" sounds interesting and cutesy, but it's not really pertinent to this situation.

At work is what Isaac Asimov called “psychohistory.” In the 2012 Super Bowl, Eli told the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw not to score in a somewhat similar situation, to keep the clock moving. Bradshaw couldn’t resist, and scored anyway.

In a similar situation in the Super Bowl, Eli was right because the decision worked out for him, but in this similar case Eli was wrong, because the decision didn't work out for him. That's how it works in Gregg's world. Whatever worked was the correct decision.

Two years ago, when Peyton Manning’s Broncos were at Dallas in a somewhat similar situation, the Broncos deliberately did not score, to keep the clock moving. During family holiday dinners, the brothers may swap tales about how Peyton got this situation right and Eli got it wrong.

Then Eli and Peyton swap tales about how it's harder for Eli to hold his hand steady with the weight of two Super Bowl rings on his fingers, while Peyton only has one Super Bowl ring holding him down.

Except on Sunday night in the endgame at Dallas, a touchdown would have put the Giants ahead by 10 with less than two minutes remaining and with the Boys out of timeouts. There wasn’t any need for elaborate game theory. Just run the ball into the end zone and the Giants win.

And there is no way the Cowboys could have scored with no timeouts left, even though they did score a touchdown with no timeouts left, and then get the onside kick and tie the game with a field goal. Yes, it wasn't the best decision on the part of the Giants and Eli Manning, but the Giants chose to be aggressive. Not to mention, there is no guarantee Jennings would have scored a touchdown. It's not like he dove to the ground at the goal line and tried to prevent himself from scoring like Bradshaw did in the Super Bowl. So who knows if Jennings would have scored and the Giants tried to show faith in their offense (which always leads to victories!) and pass the ball to secure the victory. It didn't work, therefore Gregg criticizes them. If it had worked, Gregg would have written about how this aggressive play call showed faith in the offense, which led the Giants to victory.

Note the 74-word lead says the fiasco at the goal line “seems” to be the question about the Giants-Dallas contest. Maybe it’s not. Thrice in the second half, the Giants used too-conservative tactics and kicked on fourth-and-short. Just to prove it was no fluke, Jersey/A (see explanation below) also punted in Dallas territory.

So the Giants lost because they kicked on fourth-and-short, but they wouldn't have lost the game if they had just run for a touchdown and gone up 10 points? So the punting on fourth-and-short is why the Giants lost the game, unless it ends up not being the reason they lost the game. The Giants weren't aggressive enough, which cost them a victory, but then they were too aggressive, which also cost them a victory. Whatever works, that's what the Giants should have done.

Had the Giants gone for it on fourth-and-goal from the Dallas 1 with 1:37 remaining and the Cowboys out of timeouts, they either would have scored a touchdown to sign-and-seal the victory, or would have pinned the hosts on their 1. As it was, Coughlin did the “safe” thing and took the field goal, meaning a 6-point lead that Dallas could overcome with a touchdown.

Yeah, but didn't Coughlin's insistence on doing the not "safe" thing by throwing the ball on third down inspire his team to play well and let the Giants know he was serious about winning the game? Using Gregg's prior contention that coaches who go for it on fourth down inspire their team to victory, shouldn't the Giants offense have converted the third down because they knew Coughlin wasn't trying to be safe? Fortune favors the bold and it's bold to pass on third down when doing the "safe" thing and running out the clock can win the game. Gregg thinks the Giants were too "safe" on fourth down and then they weren't "safe" enough on third down. It's all very confusing.

Consistently, N.F.L. coaches make the “safe” choice and lose. Atlanta leading, 26-24, with 2:37 remaining in the “Monday Night Football” opener, the Eagles faced fourth-and-1 on the Falcons’ 26. Philadelphia’s Blur Offense had gotten hot in the second half: On their previous three possessions, the Eagles went touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. For the night, they averaged 5.9 yards gained per snap.

But again, passing on third down isn't "safe" and I don't know why Gregg doesn't address this. Well, I do. He wants to complain NFL coaches are too conservative while also criticizing an NFL coach for making a decision that wasn't safe but didn't end up working out for his team.

Instead Kelly sent out the place-kicker, who missed. “Safe” fourth-down tactics meant defeat.

But "safe" third down tactics mean victory. 

Next week, The Upshot’s 4th Down Bot returns — buzz, whir, clank — from vacation at a robot resort on the dark side of the moon. Tuesday Morning Quarterback will delve into the deep-seated psychohistorical reasons that coaches send out kickers on fourth-and-short.

Imagine how much MLB sportswriters would hate it if there was a machine that determined whether a manager's lineup was optimal or he made the correct decision during a game. Their heads would spin, followed by 100 "Baseball is played people, not robots" columns that most certainly would end up on this blog. Murray Chass and Jerry Green would be responsible for about 75 of these articles. 

Sweet Play of the Week. Thanks to “safe” tactics by the Giants, Dallas had hope when reaching the Jersey/A 11 with 13 seconds remaining.

The Cowboys set a trips (three-receiver set) left with the reliable Jason Witten as a flexed tight end. Witten “got off the line,” evading an attempted jam, then ran a simple curl to catch the winning touchdown pass. Sweet!

Yes, Witten "got off the line" which means I have no idea why "got off the line" is in italics in this situation. I don't know why I ask these types of questions anyway. 

In the Super Bowl, the Flying Elvii (see explanation below) split tall tight end Rob Gronkowski wide to the right, almost along the sideline. The Seahawks’ secondary was confused — a linebacker went over to cover Gronkowski, while no safety shaded to that side. Seeing his defense confused, why didn’t Pete Carroll call time out? Touchdown pass and emphatic spike.

This is an example of where Gregg has a total misunderstanding of how defenses work. The call by Dan Quinn may not have involved doubling Gronkowski or providing safety help over the top. Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor can't just decide on their own that they don't give a shit what the defense call was and they are going to double whichever receiver they feel like they should be doubling on a specific play. Maybe Carroll didn't call timeout because he didn't think the defense was confused. He thought he had a linebacker on a tight end and figured that was the play call Dan Quinn made in that situation.

Gregg Easterbrook is under the impression that a defensive player can just do whatever the fuck he wants to do on a play.

(Defensive player) "Oh, Julio Jones is lined up in the slot? I'll just not play Cover-1 on this defensive play and provide help over the top to the corner."

(Another defensive player) "There's Rob Gronkowski over on the right side of the field. Sure, I'm supposed to be covering the running back out of the backfield...but I think the linebacker is going to need some help. I'll probably ignore the defensive play call and shade Gronkowski's way." 

Sweet ‘n’ Sour Play of the Week. Trailing, 31-24, with 59 seconds remaining in regulation, St. Louis had the ball on the Seattle 39. St. Louis lines up with a trips right, tight end Lance Kendricks flexed wide left, doing a Gronkowski imitation.

Generally, I'm betting that Lance Kendricks does a really crappy impression of Rob Gronkowski. You know, based on each player's production over his career. 

On the down, Seattle was in Cover 1, meaning just one safety deep — though the Seahawks knew the Rams had to reach the end zone.

The Seahawks trust their corners and the rest of the secondary to cover guys in man coverage on certain plays. So the safety often plays centerfield and when that safety is Kam Chancellor there tends to be few things that go wrong. So I don't know if Gregg thinks the Seahawks should have played Cover-2 or some other defense in this situation, but they trust their secondary enough to only have one safety deep. It's what had made the defense so good in the past that they are able to do this. 

The lone deep safety shaded toward the trips side, meaning strong safety Dion Bailey had single coverage — no help — versus Kendricks.

It's Lance fucking Kendricks. Why the hell would the Seahawks need to double him? Jesus Christ, Gregg wants a defense to double every single receiver on the field, as if the defense can trot 20 guys out there at a time. Kendricks has 132 receptions over his five year career. The only reason the Seahawks would double him is if they were trying to be ironic. Really, does Gregg not understand if Lance Kendricks gets doubled then that means other offensive players can score? Does he understand numbers and why a defense shouldn't double every single tight end that lines up on the far right or left side of the line of scrimmage? 

Yet the entire Seattle secondary looked surprised when Kendricks took off deep.

Probably because they didn't know what route he was going to run. Again, it's Lance Kendricks. He's not T.Y. Hilton or another really fast receiver who sees a safety lined up on him and immediately thinks of making a play deep. Kendricks is a tight end. It's very possible he could have run another route that didn't involve going deep. 

BOLO of the Week. All units, all units, Be on the Lookout for the Seattle defense. It disappeared in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl and has not been seen since. All units, all units, Be on the Lookout for the Detroit Lions’ defense. Ranked second in 2014, Detroit’s defense was torched for 483 yards at San Diego, allowing a fourth-quarter third-and-19 conversion that helped the Bolts ice the contest.

I wonder if Kam Chancellor's absence had anything to do with the Seahawks defense struggling? Probably not, because that would be crazy. Also, the Lions lost much of their defensive line and one of the best defensive linemen in the game to free agency, so it's not that the defense is lost, but that the defense is struggling to replace certain players. Go ahead and send the BOLO, but there is a reasonable explanation for the struggles of the Lions and the Seahawks are still in the middle of the pack on defense without Chancellor. 

Purists may lament the situation, but to fans, roster churn matters not. Football’s Rule of 90/90 holds that 90 percent of the fans have no idea who 90 percent of the players are.

Gregg Easterbrook doesn't know who 90 percent of the players are either. I'm glad Gregg thinks he knows enough to say roster churn matters not. Ask Panthers fans when Steve Smith was released if roster churn matters. Ask Lions fans who lost Ndamukong Suh in free agency how they feel about roster churn. It's very hard to know 90% of the players in a league full of 1696 players, but I'm guessing fans care about roster churn on their own team. Of course, who I am to argue with Gregg? 

So long as a team has a couple of well-known stars, the identities of the wedge guys are irrelevant.

This shows how disconnected Gregg really is from what fans think. Any person who follows his favorite team regularly sees how other fans get excited about wedge guys and the 50th man on the roster who did something great in training camp and could he be the next great tight end for the team? If anything, fans know these wedge guys too well in training camp and put too much faith in these wedge guys to be difference makers. But whatever, Gregg. Whatever. You know more about what fans think while high up on your pedestal.

New England just won the Super Bowl. How many of its starting linemen can you name without peeking at the Web?

Four. I can name four of them. David Andrews, Tre Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, and Nate Solder. How many can you name, Gregg? Zero? Or just the highly-paid glory boys like Julio Jones who you pretend to know something about? 

Great Moments in Football Management No. 1. On “Monday Night Football,” Julio Jones caught nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns — none too shabby. Netting the 2011 Cleveland-Atlanta trade and subsequent transactions, the Browns gave up Jones, one of the N.F.L.’s best players, for Johnny Manziel, one of the N.F.L.’s players.

Wait, what is this? Gregg Easterbrook says Julio Jones is one of the NFL's best players? But the Falcons didn't make the playoffs last year and that is all Jones' fault. I'll let Peter explain better than I can. From his August 2014 TMQ:

Since they took their home field for the NFC title game, the Falcons are 4-13. General manager Thomas Dimitroff gambled the club's future on the 2011 kings' ransom trade for Julio Jones, and the gamble failed. Not only did Atlanta fail to reach the Super Bowl, but Jones also has failed to justify the trade.

It's amazing how Jones has gone from being a part of a failed trade where he hasn't justified his abilities enough to one of the NFL's best players in the matter of a season. Not to mention, the Falcons had a losing record last year, but Gregg somehow fails to blame Jones for this losing record in 2015 when in 2014 the Falcons losing record proved how Jones failed to justify the picks the Falcons gave up for him. It's almost like Gregg constantly contradicts himself and talks out of his ass.

One year Jones fails to justify the trade the Falcons made to get him, the next year once the Browns have gotten rid of all the players in that trade, Jones has suddenly justified the trade and is one of the NFL's best players. This despite the fact that the Falcons didn't make the playoffs last year, so the reasoning Gregg used to bash Jones is still relevant, except now Gregg realizes how fucking stupid his assertion was and wants to pretend he never wrote anything negative about Jones.

It's not a one time thing either that Gregg bashed Jones. From 2012:

Rookie Julio Jones is playing well, but the king's ransom of draft choices Atlanta gave for him has already resulted in decline of the Falcons' power game.

Or from November 2013:  

The king's ransom in draft choices paid two years ago for Julio Jones led to talent depletion of the Atlanta roster.

You will notice in there that Gregg called Jones a "diva" for some inexplicable reason.

The Falcons might right themselves, but for now, there seems a concern that the Julio Jones trade will explode in their faces. Atlanta gave a king's ransom for Jones, not only depleting its ability to restock other positions but inserting a diva character into a locker room that previously was cohesive.

Or should I point out the TMQ dedicated to why mega-trades (like the one for Jones) don't work?  

Gregg Easterbrook is a contradicting hack and anyone who employs him should be prepared for him to mislead his audience and write things he will later contradict or try to pretend he never wrote. Facts aren't things that Gregg worries about. He passes his opinion off as fact and then tries to pretend it never happened when he contradicts his previous facts.

Great Moments in Football Management No. 2. With Robert Griffin III selling popcorn in the stands and Kirk Cousins looking befuddled on the field, consider: Netting transactions, in the last five years the Washington franchise has invested three No. 1 draft choices, two No. 2s and a No. 4 on quarterbacks, and is in panic mode at quarterback.

Yes, the Redskins traded many of these picks to the Rams for Robert Griffin III, but I don't know if I consider that investing the pick into a quarterback. And also, Gregg has taken great pains to criticize the Rams for this trade as well. It's not like the Rams did much with the picks anyway. I actually don't think the Redskins are in panic mode at quarterback. I think Gruden likes Cousins and McCoy pretty well. 

Maybe It’s Just as Well George Halas Did Not Live to See This. Trailing Green Bay by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Bears, playing before a raucous home crowd, reached second-and-goal on the Packers’ 2. On the day, the team rushed for 189 yards. So did Chicago punch the ball in on three tries from the 2? Incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, and I wrote “game over” in my notebook.

There was 7:42 left in the game at that point. I'm glad Gregg felt the need to write "Game Over" in his notebook, though I wonder how many times he erases "Game Over" after he's written it, because the Bears in fact did score another touchdown in the game, so it wasn't totally over after this failed fourth down conversion. 

McCoy, now running for the Bills, has walked his comments back so many times it’s no longer clear exactly what his point is, other than that he dislikes Kelly. Kelly has said he does not like tailbacks who are “jingle-footed,” whatever that means.

Chip Kelly has said this repeatedly. He has said he likes running backs who make one cut and hit the hole, then run downhill. A "jingle-footed" running back is a running back who doesn't hit the hole and then run downhill. It's really not complicated at all to figure out what Kelly means. I like how this is the comment that required a correction to TMQ. Previously, Gregg would have just changed this sentence from referring to LeSean McCoy to referring to all running backs and pretended it never happened, all while criticizing others for making mistakes in their column. Because the "New York Times" publishes corrections, Gregg can't pretend his shit don't stink while pointing out the mistakes of others. I like it. 

Super Bowl Flashback. Reaching the New England 1 in the closing seconds of the Super Bowl, all Seattle had to do was hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch and a second Lombardi Trophy was likely.

Yes, it was "likely" because that's the conclusion Gregg wants to reach in order to prove his conclusion. Sure, maybe Lynch would have scored, but is that "likely" Lynch would have scored? Who knows? It's dangerous to just make assumptions like this, but as long as it proves the point Gregg wants to prove he doesn't care.

The folly of Seattle’s final offensive call prevented the sports world from noticing something else: The Seahawks committed pass interference on the play.

Hang with Gregg on this. He says the final offensive call prevented the sports world from noticing the pass interference on the play. So the way Gregg is working this contention is that he noticed pass interference that the rest of the sports world didn't notice. Others were unaware of the pass interference...well, until Gregg decides that's not true. No one noticed, except he needs people to notice the pass interference in the very next sentence. 

Had Seattle scored on the play, millions today would believe that an officiating blunder awarded the wrong team the Lombardi Trophy. Millions would think the 2014 N.F.L. season built up to a conclusion as badly botched by zebras as the ending of the 2012 Fail Mary game,

Millions would believe that an officiating blunder awarded the wrong team the Lombardi Trophy, because they saw the pass interference on the play that Gregg just claimed the sports world didn't see. I guess Gregg is assuming everyone is too stupid to catch those things that he catches, like there was offensive pass interference on the play, because we saw the ball get intercepted. So yes, the millions would wonder about the officiating blunder that Gregg claims the sports world didn't notice. 

Human nature says we pay more attention to what happens than to what doesn’t happen. What did not happen was that the 2014 N.F.L. season — which began with the extreme unpleasantness of the Ray Rice videotape, then proceeded to another Patriots cheating accusation — did not end with Seattle receiving a tainted win because offensive pass interference was not called.

The pass interference no one noticed would taint everything. And also, I'm not sure that would have been pass interference. The Patriots run plays like that themselves and aren't often called for pass interference. Gregg has now created a whole new controversy that doesn't exist and may have never existed. I wonder how many times he'll mention this controversy that never was over this upcoming football season, in between writing a TMQ on concussions, blur offenses and how offenses are far ahead of defenses early in the season? 

Scandal Nickname Note. Aren’t you weary of “____”-Gate? Yours truly contends the ball-inflation hullabaloo should be called PSIcheated.

I'm weary of your nicknames for NFL teams. Hopefully the "Times" will keep TMQ at an abbreviated length and possibly I can look forward to a correction every week in TMQ. God knows if the editors are doing their job, the list Gregg used to make of "Times" corrections will look small compared the list of corrections made on a weekly basis to TMQ.