Friday, December 12, 2008

One more word, pre-Heisman

ESPN's Chris Fowler, making the argument for Florida Quarterback/H-back Tim Tebow's Heisman credentials:

"Well, he's not going to win the stats argument...his stats are down from last year"

Tim Tebow, Passer Effiency 2007: 172.5
Tim Tebow, Passer Effiency 2008: 176.8

Tim Tebow, Interception % 2008: 0.75 (!)
Sam Bradford, Interception % 2008: 1.4
Colt McCoy, Interception % 2008: 1.9

Tim Tebow, Interception % 2007: 1.7

Actually, I'd say the stats argument is a pretty good one for Tebow.

Editors Note: If I had a vote for Heisman, I would take McCoy. His completion percentage is downright insane, and he did it with the least amount of offensive firepower of the three. This post is just to show that Tebow's got a good argument for his candidacy through stats, probably better than last year. It's just that, it's college football, so why would anyone look past TD totals when they refer to "stats".

Hat tip, Dr. Saturday

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tim Tebow. Heisman Winner. H-Back?

Mel Kiper Jr. on Sports Center today (12/11, bottom half of 2 o'clock EST hour) just suggested taking Tebow in the first two rounds, and then converting him to an H-Back. I don't often agree with Todd McShay, but I have to think that he was on to something when he explained that you probably don't draft an H-Back in the first round, especially when "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW IF HE CAN CATCH".

Kiper countered that no one knew Antawn Randle El could catch "until the Super Bowl". Redskins fans disagree: they still don't think he can catch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Right now...

Right this very minute, ESPN2's First Take is interviewing a William Penn impersonator...about a curse...based on the fact that there are now buildings in Philadelphia that reach higher than his likeness perched atop City Hall. He was asked how this will affect their chances of winning the World Series and what he thought of the city putting jerseys on the statue in the past.

Let that fester for a moment.

William Penn. Impersonator. Being interviewed. On ESPN. About a "curse".

It really makes those mohawks and "9=8" shirts seem sensible and classy doesn't it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

There's a reason Merril Hoge isn't the Commish

So I had Sportscenter on today, and Merrill Hoge was talking about the Broncos-Chargers game this weekend. So the question was, whether or not he liked the gutsy call by Shanahan to go for two at the end of overtime.

Naturally, I expected him to say that he liked it. For one thing, every ESPN commentator that has said anything about it has been singing Shanahan's praises relentlessly, and for another it of course they take his side.

Hoge decides to take that plan a few steps further, or perhaps several light-years further. Merril Hoge steps up on the soap box and suggests that field goals and extra points be banned entirely during the last 5 minutes of a football game. Go for it on fourth down, even if it's 4th and goal from the 33. Go for two. As he said, "we're not going to do anything to overtime, so let's just keep games from going in to overtime".

Other things that would keep games from going into overtime: if a game ends in a tie, have the coaches whip it out and see who is bigger; if a home team can't win in regulation, the away team should be declared the winner; have Ed Hochuli arm wrestle the coaches, and the coach with less bone and ligament damage be declared the winner. All of those would make more sense than making a team go for it on 4th and goal from the 33 with 10 seconds left, trailing by 3 points. Not to mention: five minutes? How did Hoge come up with that? So if a game is tied 28-28 at the end of the first quarter and there is no further scoring in regulation, then overtime is ok but we can't have a game become tied in the last five minutes?

Oh, and just for the sake of argument, how is taking the strategy out of the coaches hands more exciting than sudden death overtime? Granted there are A LOT of problems with sudden death overtime, but remember this is the instituion that brought us the back-to-back walk-off interception returns for touchdowns by Mike Brown. Honestly, stupid shit like this is why people hated the XFL.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Have you no shame, ESPN?

So I was flipping through channels yesterday and I paused a moment on ESPN. This is what I saw. (Young readers, or those with an acute sensitivity to frivolousness should avert their eyes.)

They were showing the results of a poll on who has the cooler helmet, USC or South Florida. The show was College Football Live. I thought at first that maybe this was just a segue from the commercial break, but boy was I wrong. The show is conducting a "tournament" to decide who has the best looking helmets in college football. The international leader in televised sports analysis was devoting time to critique the logos and color schemes. I quickly checked to make sure that I wasn't watching HGTV or some What Not To Wear special on TLC. Indeed my suspicion was right, ESPN the "worldwide sports leader" had made this into a feature. In a moment that epitomizes not only ESPN's pro-frivolity bias and their pro-USC bias, Reece Davis proceeded to browbeat the voters for choosing South Florida's helmet over USC's.

So after devoting a good deal of minutes to this, they segue to some analysis. They take viewer questions about if South Florida will win the Big East, and if Notre Dame will lose their opener at home to SDSU. The answers given were a quick yes and a quick no. And then they pick the biggest future upset. After a minute or so of that, Reece Davis spends the rest of the show browbeating the voters for undervaluing USC's helmet.

Alright, I know that it's the offseason and such and they can only devote so many minutes of each show to pretending to know the things about which they're talking. Come on though, this is like their moronic "Who's Now?" circle jerk, except less related to sports. I never thought that I would type those words. Less related to sports than "Who's Now?", that's really saying something.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Thing I'll Never Understand

For some reason, sportswriters find it impossible to accept that some times good players are on bad teams, and sometimes bad players are on good teams. Jeffri Chadiha should hardly be blamed for doing something that has become the industry's bread-and-butter, but then again, the world is not fair.

Chadiha compiled a list of the 10 Most Indispensible Players in the NFL. Some of them are picks that he simply has to make: Peyton, Brady, both fine. Some are sort of unconventional. Sure Antonio Gates is a man of spectacular ability, but he's still a tight end and by last years DVOA (via Football Outsiders), not even the most valuable. Even so, Chadiha makes a good point. Likewise, four is Adrian Peterson. He is great, but he is also one of very few running backs to be have fewer in Football Outsider's adjusted yards than actual yards. His five fumbles are steep for someone with so few carries, and he shares the team with a top 20 DVOA back.

Enough of that, let's get completely crazy. Scroll down to number ten and you'll see, of all people, Eli Manning. I'll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor. I'll admit Manning put together a pretty good playoff run, but when you look at the larger sample size of the regular season, he was just awful. Football Outsiders has him listed as roughly the 35th best quarterback. His real performance was possibly not even good enough to start. Just because his team put together a remarkable run and was inspirational and beautiful all that crap doesn't change the fact that Eli Manning was bad. He really was quite bad. It has nothing to do with him not being intense, or being too intense or whatever, he was just bad. He is not the 10th most indispensible player, he is actually, seemingly, very dispensible.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Match for the Ages

Okay, we get it guys. People want the NFL to be a 12 month deal. They want year round NFL coverage ranging from the strategy behind the X's and O's to an intrusive view of the players' lives. I get that.

And still, this is not necessary.

As a blogger, I think this could be a pretty cool idea for a feature length article: take all the base salaries in the NFL, and make a 53 man roster out of the players around their league: keeping the total payroll under 116 million, which is the NFL salary cap.

It's not necessary to have this done twice.

It's really, really dumb to have the two "teams" "play".

To have the "winner" of the game decided by Dr. Z, it just defies words.

"I know you like the Lombardies and you're gonna have to lay 12½."

To recap:

1. Michael Lombardi and Bucky Brooks now are in charge of make believe teams assembled under a ficticious 116 dollar cap.
2. The teams will clash in "Dream Game 2008"
3. The line on said game is 12.5

Now, Dr. Z gives us a horrifically scary play by play recap of the game.

Seven minutes left. Brady goes to work. The Brooksies have dressed only six D-linemen and that's their undoing. They're exhausted. The rotation is killing them. The rush has died. Brady works them over with his mini-backs, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ahmad Bradshaw. With three minutes to go, he runs Jones-Drew on a sucker-trap for six points. The Brooksies get the ball at midfield, after a nifty return by Devin Hester. Will this be an overtime contest, the first one in a title game since Colts-Giants?

But the numbers game kills Brees, too. The Lombardies have loaded their lineup with D-linemen, nine, count'em, nine! On third-and-long, the well-rested pair of wingmen, Dwight Freeney and Justin Tuck, get him in a squeeze and knock the ball loose. The Lombardies only have to run the clock now, but on third and long they run a draw play, over Shaun Rogers, who is too tired to get out of his stance, and little Maurice breaks it for 40 yards and the last score of the game, which gives the Lombardies a 34-20 victory. Dr. Z's bet, taking the 12½, sinks beneath the waves with all hands singing Nearer My God To Thee.

Alright, let's recap:

1. The "Lombardi's" win 34-20
2. Those who took the Lombardi's and the points just beat the spread
3. Dr. Z lost against the spread -- on a game that was played inside his own head

Finally, since this post is in desperate need of common sense, I give you Ross Tucker, who apparently does have the mental capacity to put the basic point of this exercise into focus...the point that all 4 of the prior writers totally missed:

The key is to attempt to compile all of the young players around the league drafted after the first round that have already proven themselves to be quality NFL players but have not yet received their second contracts. That is where all of the value is, both in the real NFL and in the Salary Cap Roster Challenge. Unlike the NFL, where you have to draft well in order to create that value, the Salary Cap Roster Challenge allows the combatants to selectively scour the league and scoop up all of the young players that have clearly outplayed their rookie contracts, thereby creating an enormously attractive value proposition for both their actual franchises and their virtual Roster Challenge teams.

Players that produce at a high level for a relatively paltry sum include the Saints' Marques Colston and Jahri Evans, the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw and Kevin Boss and the Packers' Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings and James Jones, just to name a few. It also would have been easy to put a solid line together with the likes of the Bucs' Jeremy Trueblood and Aaron Sears. And there's no doubt I would have fought tooth and nail to get Devin Hester on my team -- $795,000 for a game-changer is a no-brainer.

Just remember: Michael Lombardi and Bucky Brooks actually worked on the side of football that is responsible for these decisions. Lombardi is in part responsible for the mess that is the Oakland Raiders today. Tucker, obviously, was a player. Which of course, proves that the concept of value is hardly rocket science. It's simply the most important concept in the game, and one that most execs don't quite understand as well as they should.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Top Players Leaguewide

Here are the top offensive players, by DPAR, for the 2007 season:



Tom Brady 200
Peyton Manning 134
Brett Favre 103
Drew Brees 99
David Garrard 91
Tony Romo 89
Carson Palmer 85
Matt Hasselbeck 78
Ben Roethlisberger 75
Jay Cutler 71
Derek Anderson 65
Jeff Garcia 59
Phillip Rivers 54
Donovan McNabb 53
Randy Moss 52
Kurt Warner 49
Brian Westbrook 46
Terrell Owens 44
Jon Kitna 44
Reggie Wayne 44
Jason Campbell 43
LaDainian Tomlinson 41
Sage Rosenfels 39
Wes Welker 37
Matt Schaub 36
Marcus Colston 35
Chad Johnson 34
Antonio Gates 34
Bobby Engram 32
Marion Barber 32
Jason Witten 32

These 31 players contributed roughly one "win" or more above replacement level to their teams in 2007. The point of me making this list is this: To show how important Quarterback play is. It's to show that when talking about the best players in the league: you essentially have to ignore Quarterback play to allow any other position to dominate the list.

If I were making a top NFL talents list, this would be a good place to start. Sure, it's hard to quantify individual linemen and defensive players in terms of their effect on the game, but one would think this list would be a pretty solid start, no?

This is where I bring in Pete Prisco's list of the top 50 players in the NFL.

Prisco's list isn't particularly offensive, and I'm not going to bother to tinker with his defensive rankings, but a few of the offensive talents on the list could have been better chosen:

34. Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland Browns: Edwards was second to Moss with 16 receiving touchdowns in his third season in the league. He averaged 16.1 per catch and will only get better as he hits his prime.

Is Braylon Edwards really a top 50 player in the NFL? Really?

This year, he caught 52% of balls thrown his way, posted a slightly above average DVOA, and 20 DPAR, which puts this season -- his best -- among such company as Najeh Davenport and Quinn Gray. Obviously, it's easier to acquire a RB better than Davenport or a QB better than Gray than it would be to replace Edwards, but Braylon Edwards shouldn't even be close to a top 50 NFL players list.

49. Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Taylor finally got his due last season with his first Pro Bowl appearance. At 32, he remains one of the biggest home-run threats in the league. His 5.4 per-carry average was second best among the league's best rushers to Peterson (5.6).

Fred Taylor is an underrated back. No one is going to confuse him for one of the 50 best players in the NFL.

He's now 32 years old. He might be capable of another good season, but Prisco only has 4 other RBs on this list: Tomlinson, Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, and Steven Jackson (who is defensible because he was hurt last year). Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney, and Brandon Jacobs all missed the cut that Fred Taylor made.

50. Devin Hester, KR, Chicago Bears: I don't normally put return men on these lists, but this guy has earned it. It will be interesting to see how long he can maintain it.




He's really fast and breaks a lot of games wide open with special teams plays. Good for him. He's also incredibly fumble prone and can't play on the offensive or defensive sides of the ball, yet at least.

Additionally, if you are going to count for return ability, how do you not take Josh Cribbs! The guy only had, according to the link, the greatest return season ever last year. Bonus: He can also play on offense! What a concept!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dr. Z Effectively Ends Vikings' Title Hopes

By picking them to win it all.

Last year, I locked in my Super Bowl pick early and felt very good about the choice. For once, I wasn't trying to do a roster breakdown or getting myself all tied up in strengths and weaknesses. I was looking for a team with a chip on its shoulder, one that would be coming into the season with something to prove, a hungry team, nasty, etc.

Yeah, I mean, when any sportswriter is fatigued from a long and tiring day of careful analysis and number crunching...I suppose the next step is to just make up a bunch of intangibles as a defense for picking

The Saints were my Super Bowl winner.

(the Saints) to win the Super Bowl.

Anyway, the Saints didn't really look any worse at the end of the season than they did when Dr. Z picked them. The offense, passing offense at least, really didn't go anywhere from the prior year. Per DVOA, the Saints had the very worst pass D in the NFL last season. I don't think they were expected to be that bad, but they were 22nd against the pass in 2006, so one might assume that their 11 win season was sort of a fluke.

Anyway 7-9 wasn't a particularly poor season for them. They were just a really weak Super Bowl pick.

So why do I get this real hunch about [the Vikings]? OK, yeah, right now they're my choice for the winner of Supe (sic) XXIII. And here's why:

Let's get down to basics. Run the ball. Stop the run. Best in the league at both last year. I can't help it -- I'm hooked on the fundamentals. Their middle triangle of tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, backed up by E.J. Henderson, is classic, and now there's a serious element added to that mix.

DVOA doesn't actually have the Vikings the best at either, but I think I can ignore this point for now. They had Y/C numbers in the 3-4 range on defense, and in the 5-6 range on offense: which are both phenomenal. They were the first team in NFL history to finish with a greater than 2.8 yard difference between rushing yards for and against per play. Very good.

Of course, there are two major problems with this argument:

1) Assumption that trends will carry over from one year to the next. Sure the personnel is much of the same. But ESPECIALLY in the case of Pat Williams (dude's 36!), it's not smart to assume that career high performance is repeatable. And with Adrian Peterson's rookie year: the smart money is on his second season being not as good. Tremendous talent, but if he only averages 4.8 (only?) YPC, does this SB pick look smart then? Also:

2) Last year with elite rushing and rush stopping units (that really have zero room for improvement), the Vikings won (only!) 8 games and posted a 4.9% total DVOA, losing a must win game at home to a superior Redskin team in Week 16.

So yes, Dr. Z is predicting that 1) The Vikings will sustain their run production, and 2) somehow, they will win more games.

Of course, part of that somehow could be:

A trade with the Chiefs brought them defensive end Jared Allen in April. He brings with him the 2007 NFL sack title, plus a two-game DUI suspension at the beginning of the year. A gamble? Childress says no. Allen says he's on the wagon.


It's almost a miracle to get a guy like that in a trade. Sack specialists are like diamonds, and Allen's a young one -- only 26 years old! And he's not one of those wild-angle loopers who leaves a couple of acres inside for the runners. He's a technician who honors the down home of the game.

What the fuck is the "down home of the game"?!

I honestly think that Jared Allen is one of the five best defensive players in the game. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2008 Vikings are a better defensive team with Jared Allen than without him. He's probably worth every penny he got. And the Vikings do need a pass rush.

"Why," I was asked, "did Allen's production usually fall off in the second half?" And my answer was because he was on the field too much. The way the game is now, no defensive lineman, especially an edge rusher with a high motor, can do it without relief. And the Chiefs kept Allen on the field.

Allen's production really didn't fall off in the second half. Sure, a majority of his sacks came in the first half of ball games, but the Chiefs ranked 3rd (read: Third) in adjusted sack rate last year, so that 2nd half bs was probably just a sample size issue.

Anyway, I'm helping you make your argument, which isn't my job here.

Pass rush begets pass defense, which begets better statistics than the Vikings had last year, one of their big failings. They finished last in yards allowed. Where's the fix there? Madieu Williams, an active free safety for the Bengals last year. Charlie Gordon, a good, quick, free-agent cornerback.

I'll accept Williams being a decent addition, he's younger than the departed Dwight Smith -- but probably not any better.

Here's Charlie Gordon's PFR page. Let me know if you see anything there that screams Super Bowl caliber pass defense.



Okay, then. Moving on.

And I know where we're headed. Tarvaris Jackson, QB. Just 25 years old. Fine athlete, terrific scrambler, able to make big plays, but so far in his two years in the league, not enough of them. Sixth from the bottom among the ranked passers last year. When does it happen? Third year? Fourth? Not at all?

America voted: and they think it's...Not at all!

"(says Vikings coach Brad Childress) Besides the production, there's something to walking into the building every day and being the man. I mean every day. Tavaris is pretty good with that."

Tavaris Jackson, 2007

Comp %: 58.2%
QB Rating: 70.8
DVOA: -12.4%
the "man" efficency: 101.9

"I told him that when those legs go, you're going to have to learn to rely on other things," the coach says. "You've got to evolve. It's like a wounded animal. All the other senses are heightened. And he went out and had some of his most accurate games, passing the ball.

For 3 weeks (12-14), Jackson did an impressive impersonation of an NFL QB.

The next two weeks: 1 TD, 5 INTs.


(Childress, still) "When I got the job here, well, in my wildest dreams I didn't think I was going to have to get rid of a franchise quarterback. But after three weeks in the spring, it was just obvious that it wasn't going to work, with Daunte Culpepper. So I replaced him, and everybody pilloried us.

"Daunte was a guy who always used his legs. He wasn't an anticipatory thrower. He had to see the whites of their eyes. And once he got hurt, well, coming back from the injury, he couldn't play that way."

Per Wikipedia: "The pillory was a device used in punishment by public humiliation and often additional, sometimes lethal, physical abuse."

Given the circumstances: Justified.

(Again, Childress)"As a franchise quarterback, there's the matter of the work ethic, putting in your hours," Childress says. "Tarvaris knows that, how important it is that people see you working when they come in. Is he in the right place for a guy evolving? Yeah, I'm convinced he's got what it takes.

Except that

"We just have to see how he does on the field."

I suppose the next step is to just make up a bunch of intangibles as a defense for picking (the Vikings) to win the Super Bowl.

(Zimmerman here) So en fin, do I like the Vikings to go all the way? Well, yeah, why not? A feeling of destiny, that's what I sense about Brad Childress and his baby quarterback.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Making Something Out of Nothing

ESPN is on an odd streak of producing insightful content that isn't painful for me to read. Go figure. I think I actually miss the days when the front page articles made me cringe.

Luckily, the magic of ESPN's archives allow me to go back in time, and discover more sub par analysis, courtesy of Dennis Green's favorite son -- Jeremy -- who apparently thinks that the Cleveland Browns are the favorite to win the AFC North this year. Green pimps the job Browns' GM Phil Savage is doing in this article, apparently unaware that perhaps not all personnel moves have positive results.

QB Derek Anderson -- Anderson was a restricted free agent entering the offseason, and the Browns put a first- and third-round tender on him to possibly scare away potential suitors. There was some talk about listening to trade offers for Anderson, but his experience in Baltimore taught Savage that a constant quarterback merry-go-round is not good for an offense.

Derek Anderson was certainly a breath of fresh air in 2007. I won't argue this point. Going forward though, is there any reason to think that Derek Anderson will be a better pro than Brady Quinn.

Consider these facts about Anderson in 2007:

Anderson completed 56% of his passes.

His 19 interceptions ranked him one behind Eli Manning for tops in the NFL (something that his completion percentage would indicate is a very real trend).

Chase Stuart, at PFR, adjusted QB numbers for strength of schedule, and Anderson's totals came out below average -- ranking below both Chad Pennington and Jon Kitna.

KC Joyner's bad decision % totals had Anderson at second worst, ahead of only Jay Cutler with a 4.7% bad decision rate.

Now, consider that Anderson went to the pro bowl in 2007 with all these problems with his game. Is that really a recipe for improvement the next season? If anything, the pro bowl invite seems like it would falsely inflate Anderson's value in his own mind, which can be dangerous for the development of a young QB.

The process here tells Savage to sell high -- try to cash in on his value and grab a few picks. What Green fails to mention is that Savage had no serious offers for Anderson because people are skeptical. The Browns had a soft schedule, and they missed the playoffs in no small part because Anderson imploded down the stretch. 10 wins is nothing to spit on, but as we'll see later, a repeat of that performance remains a pipe dream in Jeremy Green's mind.

RB Jamal Lewis -- The team made it a priority to get a deal done for Lewis, another great move. Lewis is coming off his best season (1,304 yards, 11 touchdowns) since 2003, and his legs looked rejuvenated last season.

Jamal Lewis DVOA (Yards/Carry) 2002-2007:

02- -1.7% (4.3)
03- 3.4% (5.3)
04- 3.5% (4.3)
05- -25.2%(!) (3.4)
06- -9.9% (3.6)
07- 1.9% (4.4)

The numbers absolutely support Jeremy Green's claim that his legs looked rejuvenated last year. Of course, that rejuvenation is who Jamal Lewis is and always has been throughout his career: a league average running back when healthy who is capable of having insane games when he plays the Cleveland Browns defense. He's probably the very best practice back in the NFL.

He will also be 29 before opening day, and with the mileage on his tires, it's safe to assume we've seen his peak. The smart move would have been for the Browns to invest the money they spent on extending Lewis elsewhere, but again, Phil Savage may not be the genius that Green likens him to be.

DTs Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams -- Acquiring Rogers in a trade with the Detroit Lions was one of those risks I talked about earlier.

Williams came over in a trade with the Green Bay Packers and will add more size to a defense that was one of the worst in the league against the run last season.

These are the two moves that will for sure determine how we remember Cleveland's offseason. This is who the Browns dealt their top two picks in the 2008 draft for.

I'm skeptical on Rogers, but KC Joyner pretty much says concisely what I am really thinking here:

Overrated: Shaun Rogers, DT, Detroit -- He was named the NFC player of the week at one point during the 2007 season, but his 4.4 YPA allowed on point-of-attack runs was quite disappointing for a player who had been dominant in that area in the past. And that wasn't all: 30 of the 97 POA runs directed at Rogers gained at least 5 yards, and 11 went for 10-plus yards.

Keep in mind that Joyner wrote this about a month before Rogers was dealt to Clevland: for a third round pick and shutdown corner Leigh Bodden. Cleveland has (or, at least had, prior to Daven Holly's season ending knee injury) corner depth, and though Rogers' impact on the Browns is yet to be seen, it's hard to see a scenario where the Browns' improved their team in this deal.

Also: Getting fleeced by Matt Millen is grounds for dismissal in 40 states.

I think Williams is a good pickup for the Browns D. Keep in mind though, the price on him was a second round pick -- a price that no team was willing to pay the Browns for Derek Anderson. Certainly, Anderson could have been a Packer for the price of Williams, but the Packers certainly don't think Anderson is franchise QB material.

Yes, it's early, but I'll make two predictions: The Browns will win the AFC North, and Savage will be the GM of the year.

Based on his track record this offseason, I'll make a bold prediction also: Dennis Green gets another job in the NFL before Jeremy Green gets a single prediction correct.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dynamic Running Duos

Jeremy Green, y'all:

One recent trend in the NFL is that teams are creating depth at running back and more and more teams are using a two-back system. Here's a look at [five] duos that will have success this season and [five] others that will struggle.

Five and five here. That's one third of the NFL. Fine. Green mentions Minnesota and Jacksonville at the top of his list. Both are totally deserving tandems. So far so good.

Dallas' Marion Barber and Felix Jones
As soon as the Cowboys selected Jones, I started envisioning how this backfield would shape up in 2008. The rest of the NFC East likely started having nightmares. Now that Julius Jones has left for Seattle, Barber is now the lead back. He is one of the most physical runners in the NFL and leaves a mark when he runs over a defender. Jones' quickness and speed make him the perfect complement. One of the toughest adjustments a defense has to make is when it goes from seeing a physical, between-the-tackles runner to a speed guy. In terms of pure explosiveness when combining strength and speed, this duo is unmatched.

Okay, Marion Barber is very good, runs with power and authority, is a great receiver out of the backfield. But he doesn't break the big run, so we give him...Felix Jones. Who did not start in college. And has never played a down in the NFL.

This would be one think if it was Barber and Darren McFadden. But it's pure speculation right now that Felix Jones will ever be an NFL quality back. Well, whatever. You're stretching here, Jeremy Green, but you still have two more chances to,

Pittsburgh's Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall
Pittsburgh wasn't supposed to be on this list. But then the second-best rookie running back in the 2008 class fell into the Steelers' laps. Though Parker is a speed back who has shown he can carry the load, depth has been a concern for the Steelers. Plus, Parker is coming back from a season-ending injury, so adding Mendenhall made sense. He is a physical runner who should provide nice balance in the backfield to "Fast Willie" and a Pittsburgh offense that will try to re-establish its tough, blue-collar mentality this season.

Willie Parker DVOA (2007): -11.3%
Willie Parker DVOA (2006): 1.1%
Willie Parker DVOA (2005): 0.2%

Alright. In Willie Parker's BEST season, he was an average back. Last year, at age 27, he averaged 4.1 yards/carry. He was a probowler the last two seasons, though in 2007, Najeh Davenport was twice as valuable in half as many touches (20.4% DVOA). Willie Parker also broke his leg in December 2007.

Willie Parker is good enough to start somewhere in the NFL, but he's not a top running back in the league. Probably not even top 25.

Mendenhall has never played a down. He's a good prospect with a lot of hype, and that's the kind of player that Jeremy Green wants on his team. Of course he just tried that Felix Jones could improve the Running Back situation in Dallas now that that lazy bum Julius Jones is finally elsewhere.

Seattle's Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett
Unhappy with his backfield, Mike Holmgren decided to shake things up. In a rare move, the Seahawks dipped into the unrestricted free-agent running back market twice in the offseason in an effort to get one star running back via two bodies. A change of scenery will help Jones, who was never given a full opportunity to succeed in Dallas. Once he got the "soft" label, his days of being given the opportunity to carry the load went by the wayside. Duckett is a journeyman but is a proven backup with solid size and the power to run between the tackles.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Gentlemen, your fifth most feared RB tandem in the NFL today: some guy who got replaced by a rookie in Dallas, and TJ Duckett.

TJ Duckett -- one of the very worst first round running back picks of the last ten years. Literally did not carry the ball 20 times in 2005, his 4th and final season in Atlanta, despite being healthy the whole year. Got traded to Washington, and posted a DVOA of -20.8% in a (rightfully) small sample size. Better last year, still didn't qualify for the DVOA leaderboard.

Now (apparently) part of one of the five best duos in the NFL. Better than Bradshaw and Jacobs. Better than Turner/Norwood. Better than Tomlinson/Sproles. Better than Westbrook/Booker.

For the rest of the article, a good case could be made for each of the five "Destined Duds" to be more successful this year than TJ Duckett and Julius Jones, and especially so with Ronnie Brown who was so good last year before getting injured that his combined rushing and receiving DPAR in seven games ranked fifth for all RBs...over the entire fucking season.

And yes, he is coming off a torn ACL and Ricky Williams can no longer be counted on, but remember: Willie Parker broke his fucking leg.

Friday, May 9, 2008


noun: A word used by Qadry Ismail on NFL Live to describe the situation in which photos featuring Matt Leinart and multiple women engaging activities involving boozing and schmoozing with the Cardinals' Quarterback surfaced on the internet.

Forget for a second that this happening is a totally irrelevant story with regards to the Arizona Cardinals, but c'mon. Can't someone--anyone-- come up with a more creative headline for a scandal than a formula that looks like:

A noun that refers to an (non) essential feature of the scandal, + -gate

Spygate was a D- grade name for the Patriots videotaping scandal. Cell phone gate? Cell phone gate? What's next, Finalsgate? Midsummerclassicgate? Applepiegate?

I've got it! The Raiders should poison all the fluids in the Denver Broncos' athletic training center! Then we'll have a really great headline: Watergate!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Old news, but pretty bad

So remember last week when stations like CNN were reporting that Nancy Pelosi was suggesting that President Bush not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics? That same day, ESPN was reporting that Nancy Pelosi was advocating the boycott of the Olympics.

That's right, if you had watched CNN on Wednesday Morning you probably saw the former story, however, if you were listening to Mike and Mike in the morning, you heard Golic and Greenberg talking about how it would be unfair to forbid athletes from participating in the Olympics simply because of China's government. Golic then proceeded to go on a self-indulgent rant about how athletics transcends politics and about how athletes have to work day and night to get to the Olympics and tells us that an athlete should only boycott if he personally cared about Tibet. Golic expressed the opinion that Pelosi's suggestion fails to take into account an athlete's sacrifice.

Now, I know ESPN doesn't have a huge fact-checking budget. They are just a tiny little network trying to scrape by in today's fast-paced world. I assume that it's just a mom and pop operation (run by Ma and Pa Essen-Penn). BUT FUCKING HELL, didn't their producer have CNN on or something so that he could see the actual story and whisper in Greenberg's earpiece, "hey Mike, tell Golic to shut up or I won't have his usual two dozen low-carb doughnuts waiting for him after the show." I don't know how you can get a story this wrong when it is being reported correctly on the major news networks, let alone rant for several minutes about it.

Pelosi was calling for the President to stay home from the opening ceremony. Have you ever seen one of those opening ceremonies? Someone inspirational says a couple of words, people parade by with flags, China gets to show how awesome they are, and then they light the flame with the other flame. The President is going to fall asleep anyway, does any athlete in their right mind care if Bush is watching the pomp and circumstance in the arena as opposed to back at some hotel?

OH BUT GOLIC IS AN ATHLETE. He understands this shit better than Nancy Pelosi and EVERY MAJOR NEWS ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD. Nice job, fat ass.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patties Day!

Here at Turn Off ESPN!, we don't take a lot of time to compliment half decently written articles about sports. Naturally, we spend a lot of time breaking down work from resident CBS moron Pete Prisco. In a new (and likely only) attempt at defending a sportswriter in this space, I'd like to turn your attention to Prisco's latest article, and some good points he makes in it.

Put simply, and oddly enough, correctly:

" It's so bad that Quinn Gray, the man who was third team behind Leftwich in Jacksonville, is visiting teams, while Leftwich just hopes for a shot.

How can that be? There's a reason Gray was listed third on that Jaguars depth chart. Gray simply isn't as good as Leftwich. "

Leftwich played an above average season in 2004, posting a 2.3% DVOA and 30+ DPAR. In 2005, he posted a 19.3% DVOA and 43.5 DPAR. He was below average in 2006, and missed the final ten games of the season prior to the playoff game.

Here's the point: Everything we know about Byron Leftwich tells us that he is a very talented, and historically productive QB. He's 28 years old, and right in the prime of his career. He's done enough to justify his first round draft status. He's probably NOT a better QB than the man who replaced him, David Garrard. Leftwich, however, should be starting somewhere in this league. If you are the Raiders, Vikings, Lions, Ravens, or Dolphins, why wouldn't you pay Byron Leftwich to play QB for you?

With all the talk about African-American QB's not getting a fair shake in this league, why is Leftwich not getting a chance? Why do Quinn Gray and Cleo Lemon get to bounce from team to team following in the steps of Jeff Blake and Tony Banks, and Byron Leftwich gets no job offers, despite being one of the 32 best QBs in the world and a harbringer of positive PR for a bunch of team's that badly need it.

I just don't get it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One more thing

Mariotti isn't the only to invoke this argument, but since he's an extraordinarily irritating individual who shouldn't have a job, I'm going to name him.

About Andy Pettitte, can we shut up about some "ball-players code"? That is absurd. It is laughable. IT IS NAUSEATING. Like him outing Clemens violated some kind of "code". He was under oath! He was under oath!

Should he go to prison to save Clemens' ass? We're not talking about if A-Rod had come forward and told us that Robinson Cano looks at gay porn. We're talking about Congress MAKING him talk, with a potential prison sentence on the line. C'mon!!!

Actually, during his press conference today, Pettitte said he didn't what on Earth "ballplayer code" meant. It's just another instance of some pathetic journalists over romanticizing something that is just a game. They are trying to live vicariously through the players they cover and act out some childhood fantasies of "clutch"ness and "ballplayer codes". It's a game. You try to hit the ball with the bat and run around all the bases; you want to keep the other team from running around all the bases. It really is that simple.

Just a game....I love watching it, but it's just a game.

Keyshawn Johnson is Burning?

Well let him.

So Keyshawn was doing a little guest host gig today for Jim Rome on that abomination of a show that Rome has. On the bright side, there was no noticeable drop off from the usual. Unfortunately, that's a bad thing.

So Keyshawn or whoever writes for the show referenced a study that found that Derek Jeter is THE worst fielding starting short stop (presumably with a minimum sample size) in the majors. This is sort of something that sabremetricians have been hinting at for a while, so it was quite exciting to hear it mentioned on ESPN. The study evidently goes on to say that the Yankees made a mistake by moving A-Rod to third and keeping Jeter at SS. Again, I totally agree. In all likelihood A-Rod would be a much better fielder if he were playing his natural position, and he would do a better job than Jeter.

Then Keyshawn says that the study is wrong because it fails to account for how "clutch" Jeter is and that Jeter should just laugh it off. Fine, I guess he should laugh it off, because he is making millions of dollars and probably doesn't care. However Keyshawn attempting to say that the study is actually wrong, by citing some voodoo "clutch" argument and Gold Gloves, is downright appalling. First of all, we all know that 99% of why people think Jeter is clutch is because he made that heads up play to flip to Posada in the ALCS years and years ago and nail a sluggish, roided up Giambi. The only sort of honorific that is affected MORE by some small sample size, pretty memories than the Gold Glove, would have to be the moniker "clutch". Neither one of them is an achievement in and of itself, they are both popularity contests that are loosely linked to some isolated achievements and not actual quality of play.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fred Dean on Who Made the Hall Of Fame

"Cris Carter and 4 other guys"

That's news to Mr. Carter. Congratulations! In fact, Chris Carter did not make the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Perhaps Mr. Dean knew that only one receiver had made it and he logically assumed that it was Carter:

Cris Carter : 234 games, 209 started / 130 TDs / 59.4 YPG
Art Monk : 224 games, 193 started / 68 TDs / 56.8 YPG

Not bad numbers for Monk or anything, but in like 1 additional season worth of starts Chris Carter has double the touchdowns. Plus, he had more yardage, even adjusting for games. Now I know Carter played for that one freakishly good Minnesota offense, but he also played for some pretty bad teams. Of course the biggest crime is that these two are not mutually exclusive. Just because they put in Monk doesn't mean they couldn't put in the other guy who is pretty obviously better.

So anyway, I was watching the AFC Pro Bowl team play the Cowboys + Adrian Peterson when I heard the quote that inspired this.

Friday, February 8, 2008

National Signing Day is Over

And the results are in.

Notre Dame's recruiting class ranks well, but some services like it more that others. More specifically, ESPN is being it's usual sourpuss self:

2nd - Rivals
2nd - Scout
2nd - CSTV
9th - ESPN

Well I'm shocked the Giants won it all

and after you see this quote by the Architect if their run, you will be too

"What difference does it make what we gave up?" Accorsi continued. "You better be right about the QB, but if you are, you can't overpay for a great QB and we think he's going to be a great QB. What would you give up for Elway? What would you give for Montana or Unitas? Just like you can't overpay a great player. Can you overpay for Mays or DiMaggio? That's all fodder."

In case you missed it, he said:

"What difference does it make what we gave up?"



The article goes on to agree with Accorsi and attribute great foresight to him just because what is by all accounts a terrible move did not cause them to not win the Superbowl. Of course forgetting that Eli's not even mediocore regular season did rather little to get them there, and that within such a small sample size as ONE GAME, fluke plays tend to have more of an effect on outcomes (flukes such as a renowned special teamer jumping 3 feet off the ground and catching a football, in coverage, with his helmet.)

Just a reminder, this is a former GM. He made a career of being the man paid large sums of money to care about what they do and do not give up. You might say that it was his "job". As you might have noticed, he goes onto say "you can't overpay for a good player". Mike Ditka approves! Notice that I'm not blaming Ricky Williams for the Saints making the playoffs once in his three years, and going 3-13 in his first year, and Ditka getting fired. I'm just saying that trading your entire 53-man roster for somebody is bad. I don't care if he's the love child of John Elway and Barry Sanders, coached/trained by Dick Butkus and Joe Montana. Vincent "Buddy" Elway-Sanders couldn't play every position on the field could he? YOU HAVE A SALARY CAP AND A LIMITED SUPPLY OF GOOD PLAYERS. You have a budget constraint. You can not give up everything for one player.

More importantly, you might have noticed that Eli isn't that good. He's actually been kind of bad, if you just look at the numbers. His career QB rating is 73.4, which would be good for 26th this season, right behind--you guessed it--Eli Manning. His career completion percentage, 54.7 puts him squarely between Grossman and Cleo Lemon, at 31 for quarterbacks qualifying this year.

Now, I know this isn't the be-all end-all of statistical analyses, but surely if you could have say Philip Rivers, an assload of draft picks and his 86.6 career rating and 60.8%, you'd at least have to think about it. Obviously, Rivers has a better offense, and anything could happen in the future. Plus, he looks weird when he throws. HOWEVER, he is by all indicators available to us, a better quarterback, and a better quarterback that came with an absolute assload of draft picks mind you.

I mean for heaven's sake, one such draft pick ended up being Shawne Merriman. Granted evaluating the acquisition of a draft PICK ex post facto ignores that there is some uncertainty involved in the actual picking. However, this is Shawne Merriman. He was a high 1st round pick. He was the very same roid-addled giganteur that won Rookie of the Year. How's that for instant impact? An almost certainly better quarterback, a freakishly good defender, and two more draft picks for Eli Manning. If that's not over paying, then I don't know what is.

[Edited to fix author's complete ignorance of Ernie Accorsi.]

Who should starts for the Browns next year?

NFL Live, February 8, 2007.

Mark Schlereth debates the Browns' QB situation. I'm paraphrasing here:

We don't know what Brady Quinn can be in this league. We KNOW that Derek Anderson is a 'playa'.

They bounce the conversation back to Michael Smith, who agrees with Scheleth, and then right before the segment ends, they go back to Schlereth:

You can't fix it if it is not broken!

Or something of the sort...

Anyway, lets check out what's wrong with this logic:

#1) It's circular. If the reason for not starting your first round pick from 2007 is because he hasn't played yet...then he's in for a pretty long career.

#2) It's ignorant. Derek Anderson looks like a decent QB. But to say that a guy who led the Browns to a 10-6 record and not-quite-the-playoffs has proved to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the only QB of the Cleveland Browns going forward--that's pretty ignorant.

Presumably, Schlereth would want the Browns to commit financially to Derek Anderson, play him until he flames out...and then move to Quinn if he's still on the roster.

Some plan.

Maybe you can trade the guy to a desperate team while his value is high, get as many picks as you can, and let the Quinn era begin.

That might make too much sense.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I read an article today. It was about Quarterbacks.

And it was written by Scouts Inc!

The title is: In updated QB rankings, Eli Manning rises, Quinn falls

Here are some things I read in the article:

"Brady Quinn's ranking plummeted from No. 37 to No. 58 because he barely saw the field."

"About the only thing we agreed on was that Tom Brady was No. 1 and Peyton Manning was No. 2."

""The top 10 was very difficult after we got through the top five."

"Despite losing several key players to injury, Manning still completed 65.4 percent of his passes and threw 31 TDs."

"There is no longer a debate over who the best QB in the NFL is -- Brady has moved ahead of Manning."

"Favre made every player on the offense better."

"[Romo] is mentally tough"

Roethlisberger has responded with improved leadership.

"[Hasselbeck] is a rhythm passer who can be a little streaky."

"Brees is not the type of player who can carry a team without solid weapons around him."

"When healthy, McNabb has shown he can still be an elite starting QB."

"The last time he played a 16-game season was 2003."

"[Eli] lacks that emotional drive that gets you excited."

This one is the best:

"[Vince Young] didn't have much success in 2007 because former offensive coordinator Norm Chow's game plans didn't always take advantage of Young's strengths as much as they did in 2006."

And the best of the rest:

"Physically, none of his traits stand out, but he is not a major liability in any one area, either."

Guess who that guy is. Give up? Whatever, it's not important.

"The number of interceptions remain worrisome."

Same Guy.

"Starting quarterbacks are hard to find."

"[Clemens] has a lot of upside"

The Russell saga:

"[Russell] was the first overall choice in the 2007 draft for a reason."

"He didn't play all that much football at LSU compared to other top prospects."

"But wow, is he intriguing."

Why we love Steve McNair:

"On guts alone, he threw for over 1,000 yards this season."

Just a few more:

"[Sorgi] has a fragile-looking frame"

"He was pulled from a game by coach Belichick after throwing an interception, so it's obvious Cassel is not ready to be a starter for any NFL team."

"While [Quinn] showed flashes of potential in the preseason, whether that translates well in the regular season is unknown."

Just remember their position on this guy:

"[Russell] was the first overall choice in the 2007 draft for a reason."

"Wow, is [Russell} intriguing."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Consistently Moronic

Just to prove how blatantly wrong Joe Buck is, I will write this entire post like a bad 7th grade essay:

Consistency, what is it? Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines it, in definition 2a, as "marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity : free from variation or contradiction". One might say, therefore that to be inconsistent is to change frequently, for instance be different from one week to the next.

However, I will show that morons and overpaid analysts think consistent just means good. To show this, I will cite Joe Buck during the Giants-Buccaneers game (on Eli Manning): "He wasn't inconsistent last week against the Patriots!! OMGLOL!" (OMGLOL being the best possible transcription of Joe Buck's excitement at himself). You can't of course, be "consistent" in a sample size of one. You can be "good" but you can't be marked by regularity or steady continuity in a sample size of one!

In conclusion, Joe Buck is a pretty crappy analyst. But don't think Joe Buck is a bad man. There are many bad analysts that think consistency means good. Of course, these people forget that if the baseline is #35 this year in DVOA and #25 in QB Rating (as Manning is) then inconsistent is good. The Giants should pray before each game that Manning be inconsistent with the way he played this season. Therefore, this is proof that "consistency" says nothing about quality, just about repetition. Luckily for the Giants, Eli Manning is playing pretty inconsistently good today.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wait! There's More!

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for Footnote

They watch the games! Holy crap. I guess if you watch the games, you are instantly qualified to begin a business selling expert information to the public at a fee. I'm gonna have to get Robocats on the horn, there's a living to be had here.

Anyway, they ranked all the playoff teams in the most intelligent manner one could think of: they gave them a number ranking (quantity 1:12), broke it down by position, and got really tricky when they summoned the gods of addition to come up with an end result. That's right: Scouts Inc. has a team evaluation system that involves not one, but each and every fault of general analysis:

-no scale
-no average or control group
-assumption of equidistant skill level seperation...
-between all tweleve teams...
-at every postion...
-assumption of equivlent position value
-assumption that coach value is perfectly equal to any other position...
-like Quarterback for example

and of course the clincher:

-totally subjective rankings to ensure that no two intelligent people could ever agree on the same rankings.

What I am about to show you here is only their defensive rankings of the twelve playoff teams. Rest assured that the rest of their crap is more of the same.

Anyway, here are the Football Outsiders numbers for all of the defensive data from 2007. FO has about 1/4 the resources of Scouts Inc, works half as hard, and knows roughly thirty eight times more about football.

You don't have to be a big fan of DVOA to use it for a loose standard of actual real defensive power rankings. Here are the 12 playoff teams ranked in order of defensive effeciency (in bold):

1. Tennessee -13.5%
2. Pittsburgh -12.5%
3. Indianapolis -10.8%
4. Tampa Bay -10.2%
5. San Diego -9.8%
6. Washington -7.2%
7. New England -6.1%
8. Dallas -5.8%
9. Seattle -5.4%
10. Jacksonville -3.3%
11. New York Giants -2.9%
12. Green Bay Packers -1.3%

And the Scouts Inc rankings:

1. Dallas Cowboys 12
1. Green Bay Packers 12
3. San Diego Chargers 13
4. New England Patriots 14
5. Indianapolis Colts 18
5. Seattle Seahawks 18
7. Pittsburgh Steelers 20
8. Tennessee Titans 21
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
10. New York Giants 25
11. Jacksonville Jaguars 27
12. Washington Redskins 30

That's actually correct, Football Outsiders system which uses every play of the season as a data point ranks Green Bay's defense as the least effective. Scouts Inc, which uses some anonymous dudes' "professional" opinion, finds them to be the best.

Great system.

This one makes me Smile a little Bit

Scouts Inc decided to take their decisive man power and knowledge and apply it towards a good cause: subjectively ranking all twelve playoff coaches.

Just because that wasn't nearly enough, no, they had to drop this gem:

4. Washington Redskins
Joe Gibbs is one of the best coaches of all time and will eventually be in the Hall of Fame

One problem. Joe Gibbs has been in the Hall of Fame. For eleven years.