Friday, September 14, 2007

Intellectual Arrogance

Or, Being a Snarky Blogger

I read something recently where somebody was comparing the management styles of football teams as opposed to baseball teams. Football teams, as the story went, were owned largely by families, who were less likely to be enthralled by former players and were more likely to look at factors other than whether somebody "played the game the right way." Thus, such idiocies never came to dominate the NFL the way they had MLB. I have no idea if there's really any truth to this, but it's a nice little story.

That brings me to my actual point. While football players may be good football players and enjoyable to watch and analyze, that doesn't mean they actually know very much about the game. And, alas, the Titans have provided two recent examples of this.

The first was uttered by Vince Young. Jeff Fisher made the unfathomably bold statement that the Titans would probably have to score more than 13 points to win this Sunday's game against the Colts, to which VY replied, "We scored 13 points against them the first game (last season) and almost won the game, so you never know what's going to happen on any given Sunday."

Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, we can see how many points the Colts have scored in each game lately, to see whether we should expect the Titans to have a decent chance at winning if they only score 13 points. In 2007, the Colts have played one game, and scored more than 13 points. In 2006, the Colts played 20 games between the regular season and the playoffs, and scored more than 13 in every single one of them. In 2005, the Colts played 17 games and scored more than 13 points in 14 of them, with one of those games being after they had already clinched home-field. By the way, the Colts won both of those games where they scored <14 points and the result mattered. In 2004, the Colts played 18 games and scored more than 13 points in 17 of them, the lone exception being the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. In 2003, the Colts played 19 games and scored more than 13 points in 18 of them (they also won the game where they scored fewer than 14). So, over the past 4+ seasons, the Colts have played 74 games and scored 13 or fewer points a grand total of 5 times. If the Titans want to win Sunday's game, and I really hope they do, they will almost certainly have to score more than 13 points.

Our second moment of brilliance came from the mouth of Kyle Vanden Bosch, who noted in commenting on Sunday's game that, "With few exceptions, there is a magic formula in the league[.] If you can stop the run and you can move the ball well on the ground, you're going to win more games than you are going to lose." This is a popular idea, but also a very silly one. In fact, teams run the ball when they win, not win when they run the ball. If there is a magic formula for success in the NFL, then with few exceptions, it's (1) passing the ball and (2) defending the pass.

Thankfully, neither VY nor KVB is in charge of game strategy. Coach Fisher well knows that if the Titans score 13 points against the Colts, they'll almost certainly lose. I certainly hope VY will try to improve throwing the ball from last week's performance, and won't try to score just 13 points and win the game that way. I certainly hope KVB won't only try on rushing downs and slow down when rushing the passer. In fact, I'm loath to even suggest these things, because they're inconceivable. VY and KVB are both fine football players, who would almost certainly be key components of any Titans win this Sunday. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're saying something intelligent about football when their lips are moving.

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